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Merry Christmas! Here's the first chapter of a new story for everyone on the forums... and only on the forums. It's a DW-sized chapter; Firefox estimates that it'll take 4-5 hours to read.

As of when I posted this chapter, I was already 119kb into the next chapter. No promises as to when it'll be finished. I'll update this header with direct links to future chapters after they're written and posted, since we don't have threadmarks on this forum.
The first five chapters of this story, without the omake bits but with some visual accompaniment, are also available in a PDF, at this elegant and finely-crafted link.

Unfamiliar ceiling. Where was I?

Then I realized what I'd thought. Better take a look around.

It was a small bedroom... no, a studio apartment, and I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Not a mattress, a futon. Japan, or someplace inspired by it?

More importantly, why was I here, instead of in my own bed?

I got up. Rather more easily than I thought I would.

Looking around, I saw on a desk an envelope addressed to Rob Donaldson.

That was my name. Except that it wasn't.

The letter inside the envelope was written in Japanese, using a mix of all four character sets. I had no trouble reading the first few lines.

Somebody had messed with my brain. Quickly, I grabbed a pencil and paper, and checked whether I still knew how to read and write in English. Thankfully, I did.

The letter told me that I was in a different world, and in a rejuvenated body.

I ran for the washroom - which after the fact I realized I already knew where to find - and looked in the mirror.

My face looked back at me. My young-teen face. No acne, though.

Right. Of course I'm going to be at the peak of health if I'm going to be trapped in another world. Stupid genre conventions, making me live my teenage years all over again. I wasn't particularly fond of the first time around. Although I had to admit that my teen years, the first time around, were better than many people's.

I went back to the desk and finished reading the letter.

Apparently, I had some superhuman powers to go along with my youthened body.

Which meant I was going to need them. Stupid genre conventions. I expected that "Stupid genre conventions" was going to become my catch phrase in this world.

It would have been nice if the letter had told me what my powers were. Stupid genre conventions.

The letter - unsigned, of course; we can't expect the Random Omnipotent Being who did this to me to actually identify itself - ended with "Don't be late for your school transfer interview." Insert my new catch phrase here. Again.

So, which school was I transferring to, where is it, and where did they expect that I was transferring from?

And what was today's date? I switched on the TV, and discovered it was September 5, 1992. Which means everything I took for granted in the way of IT didn't exist yet. On top of the TV - of course the 1990s didn't have flat-screen TVs - I found another letter, this one addressed to me and having been sent from Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou.

Ah, no.


I've been dropped into Sailor Moon, haven't I?

In 1992. What was waiting for me outside - the Dark Kingdom or the Black Moon?

Isekai by Moonlight
Chapter 1

There was only one way to find out. I had to go look. After breakfast. Please tell me there's something in the fridge.

Good - I found eggs, ham, and bread. White bread, but what could I do? Ham and egg sandwich for breakfast. And coffee. With stevia instead of sugar because Japan sold stevia for decades before anybody in North America did. That's one less worry for me when watching my weight.

Fed and dressed, and the dishes cleaned, I realized somehow that I'd better hurry if I was going to make my appointment. I gathered up everything I needed and headed out...

...only to literally bump into a very attractive young-teenage girl.

"I'm terribly sorry!" We said it at the same time. Then, after a beat, I added, "I should have looked before stepping outside."

"No, it was my fault. I should have looked for people leaving their apartments." She looked to be my own age, to within a year or two - my new age, that is. Stupid genre conventions. She was tall for a Japanese girl; I guessed taller than five and a half feet. She looked surprised when she realized she had to look up to me. Even in Canada, I was on the tall side; I had a few inches on her. And she had lovely green eyes, and she wore her auburn hair in a ponytail, and she had rose piercings in her earlobes. She was gorgeous, despite the old-fashioned school uniform that she wore.

Stupid genre conventions. But maybe this one wasn't so stupid.

"Oh, but I'm being rude. I'm Rob Donaldson, and I'm pleased to meet you."

"Kino Makoto. Happy to meet you. But I have to be going; I have an appointment at the school I'm transferring to."

I held up my letter from Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou, making sure that she could see the school's logo. "We wouldn't happen to be transferring in to the same school, would we?"

"What a coincidence!"

Stupid genre conventions. Although I expected this one as soon as I heard her name. "Shall we go together? Once I lock my door, that is."

She thought for a moment. "Why not? Us outsiders need to stick together, after all."

As I locked my door, I confirmed that I was in apartment 201. Which meant Makoto wasn't, so this wasn't the manga continuity. We headed down the stairs together, then out to the street ... where we noticed an Asahi vending machine.

Makoto-san smiled. "That's convenient."

"I thought people our age weren't supposed to drink alcohol in Japan."

"Who cares about that silly rule?"

"The neighbours, and the police." I sighed theatrically. "So don't get caught."

Her smile turned into a grin. "As if I would."

Once we were on the bus, I asked, "If you don't mind me asking, why are you changing schools at this time of year?"

She thought for a moment, then decided to give me the same answer that I knew she'd be giving a certain blonde shortly. "I'm being carried by the wind. I have a feeling that I'm needed here. So here I am. Why are you changing schools now?"

My mouth worked on automatic while I thought that I needed to look out for the Dark Kingdom. "In North America, September is the start of the school year. Although I just got to Japan, so that doesn't really matter, does it?"

"I guess not."

We continued to chat about matters of great import, such as the weather and where to find a decent convenience store near our apartment building. Then, after a lull in our conversation, Makoto announced, "Neither of us are going to fit in, you know."

I nodded. "I know. But, hey, we're neighbours and schoolmates. We have each other. And maybe we'll find somebody who'll accept us for who we are."

"You're a lot more optimistic that I am, Donarudoson-san."

I couldn't tell her that I fully expected that at least she would become friends with Usagi. And I suppressed a wince at her pronunciation of my name - my new name. "Kino-san, I know that we just met, but, please, call me Rob."

"Did I mangle your name that badly?"

I smiled to show that it wasn't that big a deal. "Well, yes. But I'm also used to being on a first-name basis with my friends. And I hope we can be friends."

"It's against all the unspoken rules to be on a first-name basis with somebody you just met less than an hour ago... Robu-san," she finished with a sly smile.

I'd forgotten just how much of a rule-breaker Makoto-san was shown to be in her first few episodes in the first season, despite her wearing an older school uniform instead of the sailor fuku that I knew was our new school's girls' uniform. And I never knew how devastatingly attractive she was with a sly smile on her face.

Then she added. "Will you call me Makoto?"

"We're neighbours and schoolmates - and friends." I used the Japanese word nakama there, not tomodachi, and hoped that I had the correct shade of meaning for what I wanted to say. "Of course I will, Makoto-san."

And the bus was at our stop. Not at the school - Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou was a block and a half away. Makoto sighed. "Here we are," she said with a bit of trepidation.

"Let's do this," I replied with as much optimism as I could muster.

According to my transcript, Rob Donaldson's father was in Japan at the invitation of the government, and I was staying in Tokyo to get a stable education while he traveled from city to city doing... something. The records specifically didn't say.

Great. That meant I was probably a target even if I did nothing but study, because somebody was no doubt going to be inconvenienced by what he was doing.

Assuming he even existed, and wasn't somebody made up to justify my presence in Japan.

Stupid genre conventions.

The school's principal, one Naoya Takeuchi, raised an eyebrow at this part of the transcript, but let it pass without comment.

Once our paperwork was completed and approved, we were assigned to our classes - Makoto-san to class 6 and me to class 5.

I remembered that Usagi-san, Naru-san, and Umino-san were in class 1, so I didn't need to worry about being pestered about my private life by the first and third person on that list - at least, not until Usagi met Makoto and my neighbour introduced her new friend to me. Maybe I'd be lucky and nobody that I knew from the anime was in class 5.

No, of course I wasn't that lucky. Stupid genre conventions.

"The seat at the end of the first aisle is available, Donarudoson-san."

The homeroom teacher mangled my name just as badly as Makoto-san had. At least I had a seat in a corner, so I wouldn't have too many people around me. But who I did have sitting right next to me... May as well bow to the inevitable and run with the stupid genre conventions.

"Hello, I'm Rob Donaldson. Please be kind to me, sempai."

The student beside me looked up, and almost smiled. She replied in English, "I'm Ami Mizuno. I'm pleased to meet you. But I'm not your upperclassman, I'm your classmate."

I smiled and answered, "Thank you for the correction. I hope that we won't get into trouble for speaking English in class."

Ami-san looked surprised, then said in Japanese, "We shouldn't be having a private conversation in class, no. I'm sorry."

I bowed my head slightly. "I also apologize for my rudeness to the class."

The class appeared to accept our apologies. Some of them looked nervous, though. But I couldn't help towering over them; if they were intimidated by me being taller than anyone else in the room, there was nothing I could do about it.

Some of my braver classmates introduced themselves between subjects. A few - the ones who I walked over to visit, instead of them visiting me - suggested that I was wasting my time trying to get Mizuno-san to open up to me... to which I replied that it was my time to waste if I wanted. That shut most of them up. One persisted, although he was smart enough not to say anything negative, or have his say when she could hear him.

"Donarudoson-san, she only studies. There's no way you could convince her to look at you, or at anything that isn't a book."

"Sato-san, I'll be honest with you. She reminds me of me, back in Canada, before I learned that I needed to talk with other people. Doesn't she have any friends at all?"

He frowned. "Only Tsukino-san in class 1. But we're all convinced that Tsukino-san is only using Mizuno-san as a free tutor."

"That's rather unkind to this Tsukino-san, isn't it? But even if it's true, that means Mizuno-san doesn't spend every single minute of her time reading books."

Sato's frown deepened; I guessed that he didn't like being corrected by somebody he'd just met. "Maybe not, but she doesn't open up to anybody in class, either."

"I'm here in Japan to learn and to make friends, Sato-san. And the 'make friends' part of that means I have to at least try."

"I see what you're saying, Donarudoson-san. But I still think you're wasting your time." The English teacher walked in, and we returned to our desks as she walked to the lectern.

I didn't bother speaking with Sato-san again that day.

And Sakurada-sensei mangled my name, too.

The school day ended uneventfully. When the class representative asked me which club I wanted to join, I asked whether there was a Conversational English club in the school. There wasn't, so I told him that I would need to think about which club I might want to try out.

As I packed my school bag, I heard Sato-san talking with one of his friends about a sukeban who had just transferred in to class 6.

That's at least two people he was judging by superficial features. Makoto might be an iconoclast for now, but she wasn't a hoodlum. I had no desire to find out what he really thought about me, being a foreigner. But I didn't expect to find out, because at that point I didn't want to spend any more time with Sato-san than I absolutely needed to.

Makoto and I decided to walk home, which lead us to discovering a supermarket reasonably close to our apartment building. We each bought groceries for two days and small gifts to give to our neighbours when we introduced ourselves to them, and she offered to make dinner for the two of us. Since I wasn't a fool, I accepted her offer.

The next morning, as I was changing shoes at school, I noticed Sato-san talking with a boy with slightly-messy hair and extremely thick glasses.

Which explained where Umino-san got the rumour about Makoto-san from.

I did not point them out to Makoto-san; her shoebox wasn't close enough to mine that we could talk quietly. I nodded to her and headed for class 5, passing the two boys along the way.

Wondering whether the powers that the anonymous letter said I had included clairaudience, or even really good hearing, I did my best to listen to their conversation as I continued walking.

Of course I couldn't. Why couldn't the letter writer simply tell me what I could and couldn't do? Stupid genre conventions.

Classes ensued.

Lunchtime came around, and Ami-san... no, I had to remember to call her Mizuno-san, at least for now... was kind enough to direct me to the closest door to the school's courtyard. Of course I wasn't about to eat lunch in the classroom or the cafeteria; I think I already mentioned that my simple presence was making some people nervous. Just because I towered over every other student in the school, and most of the teachers as well, was no reason to hate me, really. But I've said that already, and I knew better than to disrupt the harmony of the school if I could help it. It was in the student guidebook, after all.

So I headed outside... to discover that Makoto-san was already having lunch with a cute blonde girl who had not yet been introduced to me so I had to pretend I didn't know who she was.

Stupid genre conventions. But I wasn't going to let this one get in my way.

I made my way over to them, held up my bento, and asked with a smile, "May I join you for lunch, ladies?"

They looked up at me. And up. And up. The blonde squeaked out, "Oni!"

I pouted theatrically, which made her giggle, then I smiled. "Sorry, miss, but I don't own tiger-striped shorts or a spiked club. I'm just a normal if somewhat tall exchange student. I'm Rob Donaldson; I'm happy to meet you."

"I'm sorry!" Rising to her feet and bowing, she continued, "I'm Tsukino Usagi. Nice to meet you!" She was a short girl, and not just compared to Kino-san and me.

After I returned her bow, we sat down on either side of Makoto-san. "I see you're making friends here, neighbour-san."

"'Neighbour'?" Usagi-san asked with a puzzled look on her face.

"We're next-door neighbours, in fact," Makoto-san confirmed. "Robu-san is in the apartment right beside the stairs. And it's nice having to look up to somebody who's my age, for a change." She turned to me. "If you don't mind me asking..."

"I'm 183 centimetres tall - six feet exactly." I still had an inch to go before I was my full height, but that last inch wouldn't show up for a year yet.


Smiling, I commented, "You get impressed easily, Tsukino-san."

"Call me Usagi! Just like Mako-chan does!"

I raised one eyebrow, Spock style. Then I grinned and chuckled. "'Mako-chan'? Maybe I should call you that, too."

"Don't you dare! I don't want people thinking we're dating."

"So, in order for people to not think we're dating, you want me to call you Makoto-san instead of Mako-chan."

She thought for a moment, frowning at the start and sighing at the end. "Since you put it that way, maybe you should call me Mako-chan."

"Agreed." I turned to Usagi-san. "And I'll call you Usagi if you call me Rob, Usagi-san."

She smiled and nodded. "Okay, Robu-san!"

We chatted about the school and our experiences during our first day and a half. When I mentioned having the desk next to Mizuno-san's, Usagi smiled. "Oh, good! Ami-chan needs more friends."

Time to look puzzled for a brief moment. "'Ami-chan'? Oh, yes - one of our classmates mentioned that you knew Mizuno-san. I take it that you'd prefer I get to know her better."

Usagi nodded. "Yeah. She needs somebody to talk with who isn't me, or Rei."


Usagi nodded again. "A friend of ours. She goes to a different school."

I noticed the time, and stood up. "Speaking of school, afternoon classes are going to start soon. It would look bad if Mako-chan and I were late for them on our second day."

The girls also stood up, and we all headed for the door back into the school. "And we mustn't make a bad impression during the first week," Makoto grumbled.

"I know. But if I'm going to be Mizuno-san's friend as well as yours, then I have to be a good boy, don't I? She has a reputation of being one of the best students in the school."

Makoto grinned. "Are you gathering a harem, Robu-san?"

"Are you volunteering, Mako-chan?" I countered with a grin of my own. Without waiting for an answer, I shook my head and continued, "But seriously, absolutely not. I doubt I could keep up with more than one girlfriend. Not that I have a girlfriend yet."

Afternoon classes were uneventful, as was the trip back home. We parted ways at my front door and I got ready to do my homework... when I noticed a familiar thin box hiding in a larger box beside my futon in the closet.

Was it...? Yes, it was! My laptop! Windows 11, NVIDIA GPU, a half-terabyte SSD... easily the most powerful - and most irreplaceable - personal computer on the planet at the moment.

With the possible exception of the Mercury Computer. But, judging from the anime, my laptop at least had better graphics. Heck, my cellphone had better graphics... and I found that sitting beside the laptop. Not that a 5G phone had any chance of connecting to the brand-new 2G network in Japan, but it was still nice to have if only as a music player. And, yes, I also had that dongle that let me plug wired headphones into the phone.

My multi-terabyte external drive had made the trip as well, so I also had the software and data files to do... not "deep fake" images, but close to photorealistic images that nobody in 1992 would suspect were CG. And the laptop's North American power brick and cable worked just fine with the Japanese grid.

I didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth. Even if it was an obvious trap for me. All I had to do was use it where somebody else could see it and my secret was out.

Stupid genre conventions.

But it was so tempting.

I also wasn't expecting to get very much use out of it - there were fewer than fifty websites in the entire world at this point, and I obviously didn't have Internet access at my new home. Good thing that I never trusted my files to OneDrive (entrusting them to said external drive instead) and that I'd installed the Japanese fonts for the OS and the Japanese language packs for LibreOffice, so I could at least use it as a typewriter... once I figured out how to connect a current printer's RS-232 port to my laptop's USB-C ports.

Then I noticed the kludge cables, right beside the external Blu-Ray burner.

It was definitely a trap. I mentioned the stupid genre conventions already, right?

A good chunk of my music collection was on the laptop. I could at least listen to something that hadn't been written yet... once I had a decent set of headphones.

But that was a treat for later. Much later, once I had figured out some way to keep it secret from my neighbours.

Including Mako-chan. At least, for as long as she didn't have just as big a secret that she was comfortable sharing with me.

I put the laptop away, and covered it with a blanket... just before Mako-chan showed up for homework. I was going to help her with English, and she was going to help me with Japanese history.

Including, much to my surprise, Nikkōjanbokitsuirakujiko.

Damn it, that was less than a decade ago! Why were they teaching it in history class?

Because it was the worst aviation disaster in history, of course. And it would keep that record until 9/11, at which point it would become the worst single-aircraft disaster in history. But here and now, anybody in Japan who said "plane crash" without saying which crash was talking about this plane crash.

And I had to pretend that I didn't know how Makoto would take it.

She took it poorly, of course. And quietly, which I didn't expect.

After the third time she didn't say anything for a few seconds, I closed my textbook. "Mako-chan, what do I need to know about what happened in 1985?"

There was another pause.

"If you don't want to tell me, that's okay. Am I prying?"

She nodded.

"Then I won't ask any more."

"Thank you, Robu-san," she whispered. Then, after a long pause while I re-opened my textbook and re-found the correct starting page for today's homework, she added just as quietly, "But I need to tell you before you find out from the textbook."

I gave her my complete attention.

She turned the page and pointed at the list of survivors... a slightly longer list than the one back home, in that I needed more than one hand to count them all, and it ended with the name Kino Makoto. "That's me."

I knew from the anime that her parents had died in an aircraft crash. However, the anime didn't say that she had also been aboard JAL123.

"Mako-chan... Makoto-san, every instinct I've learned is telling me to give you a hug, because you're my friend and you so obviously need to feel the touch of somebody who cares about you. But you Japanese don't do that, do you?" I finished off somewhat sadly.

She didn't try to hide the tears that she'd started crying. "Not as a rule, no," she said quietly. "But you already know what I think of rules. My parents, and a lot of other people, could have survived if it wasn't for somebody blindly following the rules."

I could tell an agreement when I heard one. We both stood up, and I gave her the closest hug that I thought a Japanese big brother would give his little sister. After a moment, she returned the hug. "Thank you, Robu-san."

"Any time, Makoto-san. And I mean that. You are my closest friend in Japan. If you need me, I'll come running." I almost said that I'd come flying, but I caught myself in time.

Eventually (less than a minute later), she let go of me, and I let go of her and stepped back.

"It's almost dinner time. May I make dinner for us, Robu-san?"

I was about to point out that she'd made dinner last night when I realized that she wanted... no, needed... to keep busy. "I'd like that."

Another few days of classes, another few days of making excuses why I wasn't looking at school clubs (my best excuse was that I had to catch up on lessons that I hadn't yet learned in Japan), and another few days of being annoyed at the almost-unconscious racism displayed by so many of my classmates and teachers. But it had gotten out that my father - whom I still hadn't met yet - was here as a guest of the government, so nobody actually tried to provoke the gaijin oni.

Which I appreciated, because I was not a fighter.

Unless that was part of my powers. Stupid genre conventions.

Apparently, Mako-chan was having almost as hard a time as I was at fitting in. She was taller than her classmates, and she had trouble following rules. I wasn't about to point out in public that I thought her behaviour was rooted in the fact that it was the government following rules that led to so many people dying around her in 1985; she'd already said as much in private.

But we had each other. And Usagi-san. And, if I worked at making friends with her, Ami-san. Three or four of us against the disapproval of the world. I was betting on the four of us... and not just because three of us were Sailor Senshi, because this wasn't a fight that could be won with Silver Millennium magic.

And that required Mako-chan and me to make friends with Ami-san. Makoto-san had an advantage there that I didn't, of course... but I also had an advantage that she didn't, which I'd decided to use even if I didn't want to use it. Just as the lunch break began, I turned to her. "Mizuno-san, would you be willing to help me with a small problem?"

"What sort of problem, Donaldson-san?"

Once again, I was quietly happy that she didn't mangle my name.

I held up an oversized bento. "I made plans to have lunch with Kino-san in class 6 and Tsukino-san in class 1, but I'm afraid that I may have made far too many sandwiches for the three of us. Would you care to join us for lunch?"

"You know Usagi-san?"

"I do. She was the only person at school brave enough to try making friends with Kino-san - she's my next-door neighbour - and I was caught in the halo of Usagi-san's friendship effect, much to my benefit," I finished with a smile.

Ami thought for a moment, then nodded. "I'd be happy to have lunch with you all, Donaldson-san."

We headed out to the courtyard together... and even if she didn't notice the envious or jealous looks aimed at me from half the boys in the class, I certainly did.

I dropped a note on Sato-san's desk as we passed him. It read, "This is what happens when you put in the effort to take an interest in somebody."

Fifteen minutes after we had shared our sandwiches with each other, Ami-san was - at Usagi-san's insistence - on a given-name basis with Mako-chan and me.

We decided to visit the local game centre on the way home.

Well, three of us decided to visit the Crown. Ami-san had cram school... no, she wasn't cramming for a test. Supplementary lessons... no, she didn't need help to pass. I'll just use the Japanese word juku because there isn't really a good match in English.

I was walking through the arcade's doorway when it struck me how apropos the game centre's name was, considering that in many realities it was also the secret base for the Sailor Senshi. It was only right for the Moon Princess to have a Crown.

Mako-chan and I gave the Sailor V game a try. She did better than I did, but we both placed in the top ten.

Which surprised me immensely, since I knew that the Sailor V game was a Senshi training simulator. Something was going on; maybe my superhuman abilities were finally making an appearance.

I wondered whether I could port the game to my laptop and improve the graphics to photorealistic. For the girls' benefit as a training tool, of course.

Then I noticed the boy who was winning big at the crane game.

No time for wondering about improving the simulator. The plot was interfering. And I had to let it.

Stupid genre conventions.

By the time I had made my way to the crane game, the boy wasn't there any more, and Makoto was making her excuses to Usagi. She noticed me and said, "Sorry, but I have to go."

To follow the young man who was hosting a youma, and to become Sailor Jupiter, I knew but didn't tell her. This was something she needed to do on her own. "See you later?"

"Sure," she answered over her shoulder as she left.

"Ano... I should be going, too."

"I can find my own way home, Usagi-san. Don't worry about me."

"O'kay! Bai-Bai!"

The way she pronounced "okay" reminded me of that scene from "Girls und Panzer" with Anzu and Kay. And that reminded me that I'd never know how the sequel movie series ended. I had to cheer myself up somehow. I turned to the crane game and looked at the prizes, and decided to sacrifice a 50 yen coin to the owner's piggy bank. If I recalled correctly, said owner was a white cat with a crescent moon mark on his forehead, so the money was going to a good cause. Then I gave the machine a second coin, and got a Sailor Mercury plushie for my trouble. Three more coins and I had a Sailor Moon plushie to keep her company, two more coins and I got a Tuxedo Kamen plushie - the cape actually got in the way of me getting a Sailor V. Four more tries got me the Sailor V doll that I had been trying for, and another five coins got me a Sailor Mars plushie to complete the set. A bargain at 800 yen... and, I realized later, too easily won unless I was unconsciously using one of my powers.

All I wondered at the time was how long it would be before I would be able to try for a Sailor Jupiter plushie.

A few hours later, Makoto-san knocked on my front door, looking slightly the worse for wear. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, fair damsel?" I asked with a smile.

She noticed the plushies that I had arranged on my desk, and smiled in response for a brief moment. "I was hoping maybe you still had a sandwich or two left over from lunch."

"Sorry, those were my supper. I can fry an egg and make a sandwich from it and some bread if you want one that badly."

"Actually, yeah, I do. Don't bother taking the time to cut off the crusts."

I raised an eyebrow. "That isn't like you. Did something happen?"

"If I just say 'yes', will you keep asking questions?"

"Only if you want me to, Mako-chan."

"I'd rather you didn't."

One fried-egg sandwich later, eaten in silence, and she was half-asleep. "Mako-chan, either you're going home right now or you're sleeping here. And I only own one futon."

"In that case, good night, Robu-chan. Robu-san," she corrected herself with a blush.

I smiled and prepared to escort her home, one door down the walkway. "You can call me Rob-chan if you really want to, Mako-chan."

As Ami-san and I walked out to the courtyard the next day to have lunch, we overheard Makoto saying to Usagi, "Motoki-san reminds me of my sempai, but Robu-san reminds me of my sempai, too."

"Oh?" Ami-san asked as we joined the others. "How so? And who is this sempai?"

Mako-chan blushed as she noticed my presence. "I couldn't possibly tell you that right now," she said quietly as I sat down between her and Usagi-san.

I said nothing, being so surprised at her comment that I was at a loss for words. I thought for sure that Makoto-san had me placed firmly in the "friend" zone, along with Shinozaki-san who I didn't expect to meet for a while yet. But then, I didn't really know what Mako-chan's relationship was with that fandom-famous sempai she had left behind when she transferred to Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou. Maybe they were just close friends.

"Mako-chan said you have a full set of Sailor Senshi dolls in your apartment, Robu-san!"

Ami-san looked surprised at Usagi-san's comment. "I wouldn't have taken you to be the sort who collects dolls."

"I'm not, normally, but the Sailor Senshi are a special case. They're young women who are sufficiently self-confident that they don't wait around for a prince to fight for their honour; they go out and do their own fighting, and from everything I've read about them in the newspapers they aren't trying to act like men when they do it. They're women in a men's world but they're sill women, not fake men. I'm sure that a generation from now, people will call them an inspiration to be the best people they want to be, not just merely adequate people that society squeezed into gender-specific roles. And I think that a time when everybody can live up to their fullest potential is something to not just look forward to, but work toward."

Nobody said anything. But they all had smiles on their faces... smiles that I carefully did not comment on.

Time to change the subject, for their sake. Little did I know at the time that I was starting a tradition. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be making speeches at lunch. Speaking of lunch, what did everybody bring? I have hamburger patties, potato salad, and cherry tomatoes."

"And a fork instead of chopsticks, right, Robu-san?" Makoto-san opened her bento as I nodded in acknowledgement. "I made rolled egg, daikon stewed in miso, sausages, and rice."

"You're going to make somebody a happy husband someday, Mako-chan!"

Quietly agreeing with Usagi-san's comment, I began to seriously wonder who that person was going to be. To my surprise, I found myself becoming jealous of him.

Makoto-san and I didn't get together for homework that evening; she was in a study group with Usagi-san, Ami-san, and their friend Rei-san instead. And, no doubt, Luna, with their conversation incorporating Senshi business. I wondered for a moment when if ever I'd get to meet Rei-san.

And we wouldn't get together tomorrow, either, because Usagi-san had invited Makoto-san to Yokohama so that they could keep one of her other friends company. Which meant I was going to miss both another youma battle and an opportunity to meet Naru-san.

Oh, well. I hadn't experienced any youma battles yet, so I didn't miss them.

If I was going to be of any use to the Senshi - assuming they wanted an ally - then I had to figure out what my powers were. But every attempt I made to trigger something at home failed.

Finally, I put that project aside and looked at my other project: setting up the laptop so that I could use it without anybody else noticing. Thick drapes would block any view from outside... at the expense of making me look like a hikikomori. Moving my desk to the corner of the room and setting up a screen so that I'd have a "study nook" was a better option. My apartment was cozy by Canadian standards but big by Japanese standards; I had room for a divider.

Once that was done, I spent some time on the bus and a half-hour on the subway, visited Akihabara, and looked at both good headphones and good printers. The headphones were easy to choose; I found a display of Koss headphones, including some Porta Pros, in the same store that lured me in with a display of computers running the brand-new Windows 3.1. (I'd have to wait a year for the QZ1000 with noise reduction.) The printer was less easy. I immediately dismissed the idea of a laser printer; they cost more than my laptop did, even without adjusting for inflation. I finally found a monochrome inkjet PostScript printer that fit both my budget (I hoped, since I didn't know when I'd be getting more money in my bank account) and the space I had available in my new study nook. They accepted a cheque (which I wasn't sure about in 1992 Japan), promised that my purchases would be delivered the next day, and included my first pack of paper.

By the time I was home with convenience-store katsudon and a Ramune for supper, so was Makoto-san; I saw a light on at her apartment. In order to let her know I was coming, I started singing a tune that wouldn't be written for a quarter-century as I climbed the stairs. By the time I got to the lyrics "I will never be deceived, I'm a guy that sees through lies" (well, I am a guy, not a girl, so I had to change that line), Makoto met me at my own door.

"Good evening, Robu-san. It's unusual for you to be coming home so late."

"Good evening, Mako-chan. I was doing some shopping."

She looked at my supper. "You didn't buy very much!"

My smile almost matched hers, except that mine wasn't teasing. "The rest will be delivered tomorrow. Would you like to come in?"

Of course she would. Why would today be any different from every other day since we met? As we settled in and I set my supper aside to pay attention to my guest, I asked, "What would your guardians think if they found out you were visiting a foreigner every day?"

"Oh, they'd be scandalized," she answered matter-of-factly. "Do you think I care?"

"Of course not. But I think maybe you should care at least a little bit, even if it's just for Usagi-san and Ami-san's sake. They're proper Japanese teenagers, not like us."

Makoto-san grinned. "You might be surprised."

I chose to misinterpret her inadvertent hint. "Yeah, Usagi-san is a lot more genki than a proper Japanese girl our age should be." My stomach chose that moment to grumble.

She noticed. "I've already had dinner. Don't mind me; eat up!"

"If you're sure..." She was sure, so I started making short work of my meal.

She took the opportunity to tell me about her visit to Hikawa Shrine. I made the appropriate encouraging noises, and by the time I'd finished my supper, Makoto-san had told me as much about Rei-san - not Sailor Mars, just Hino Rei-san - and where she lived as I could have learned by watching the anime up to episode 25. Which meant that I no longer needed to hide what I knew about the shrine and its most famous miko any more.

I gave the plastic box a quick rinse and set it aside to wash properly later. Makoto-san noticed that I wasn't simply throwing it away. "Why are you keeping that?"

"Waste not, want not, as we say in English. I can re-use this a few times, and put off buying a proper lacquerware box for a few days."

"That makes sense," Makoto said with an approving nod of her head. "But I could look at the housewares in Yokohama Chinatown when I'm there tomorrow, if you want me to do some price checking for you."

I smiled and chuckled. "If you do that, Usagi-san is going to ask whether you're my girlfriend, you know."

"Would it be so bad if she did?"

"Mako-chan, we've only known each other for about a week. Isn't it a little early to be thinking of becoming closer than just friends?"

She lost her smile. "I guess."

That wasn't good. I needed to keep her as a friend. And, I realized, I wanted to keep her as a friend, which made me feel better since I now knew that I wasn't using her as an introduction to the Sailor Senshi. "I'm only saying 'not yet', not 'no'. And weren't you going to Yokohama to help cheer up Usagi-san's friend? That's more important than running an errand for me."

Her smile returned, but only as a shadow of what it was before. "You're right. Do you always think of other people instead of yourself?"

"Not always, but often enough."

The printer and my headphones arrived early, and hooking the printer up to the laptop was easy with the kludge cable. My laptop even recognized the hardware. (That must have been an ancient device driver, despite it being a PostScript printer.) After doing a test print of a single page of text, I shut down the system and made sure the laptop was stashed where nobody could find it.

There were a lot more videos on the external drive than I remembered having copied from my collection at home. Read that as: there were videos copied from my collection at home. I hadn't ripped anything in my collection, but there they were. Including all of Sailor Moon through to the end of SuperS.

It had been a while, but it was time to say this again: Stupid genre conventions.

I had other things to do today. So I headed out and tried to find out what those things were.

It turned out that "meeting somebody I only knew from the anime" was one of those things, and we met in, of all places, a beef-bowl restaurant. He was my age, clean-cut, about as tall as Ami-san, and looking at me with the oddest expression on his face.

After waiting long enough that "looking" became "staring", I walked over to the counter and sat down beside him. "One house special, please," I told the cook, before turning to the boy. "Is there something wrong?"

"What? No, I just didn't expect to see you here, Donarudoson-san."

"You have the advantage on me, sir."

He bowed in apology. "My apologies, sir. Urawa Ryou." As I was thinking the nickname that Shadowjack had given him, he asked in bemusement, "'Ryou the Psychic Boy'?"

My eyebrows went up in surprise. "I thought you were a precog, not a reader."

"Well... yes. I sensed that you might have been about to say it."

"Might have been."

"I'm having trouble sensing your future." he continued more quietly, "I thought you were going to be my competition for Mizuno-san's attention, until I actually met you just now. I'm happy that you aren't because she's already noticed you but not me, but I'm surprised, too."

"She's a lovely young lady, well worth whatever friendship you choose to give her. I could introduce you to her, if you want."

"Oh, you don't need to do that."

I began to think that I did, the way he was fading into the background. The poor kid had almost no drive where Ami-san was concerned. But that was something for another day. After a moment, I continued, "So you know who I am."

He nodded. "Who and what, yes. But, please, this isn't the time or place to discuss what we are. Except: Don't force it, let it flow."

"Let what flow?"

Instead of answering, he left a few coins on the counter and went on his way as my order arrived.

Stupid genre conventions.

The next day, after school, Usagi-san took a candid photo of Ami-san eating a hamburger, then dashed off. Which surprised Ami-san to no end, and let me know that we were almost ready to see Ryou-san become a youma. Poor kid.

After a beat, I wondered whether I was thinking of Ryou-san or Ami-san there.

And it wasn't until I got home that I thought of the "I Can Has Cheezburger?" meme. She probably wouldn't have appreciated it anyway.

And the day after that, I just happened to see Usagi-san and Ryou-san together.

Because I "just happened" to have been following Usagi-san in order to let her lead me to Ryou-san. Somehow, she never noticed me... which, at the time, I attributed to stupid genre conventions.

She was giving him a photograph. I wondered how she got the film developed and printed so quickly, until I remembered that her father is a magazine editor who sometimes pinch-hits as a photographer. She probably did it at home.

"How long before Zoicite shows up?" I muttered, not remembering the exact timing of the episode in question. As if in summons, said Dark General appeared. Stupid! Genre! Conventions! Summoning the enemy had better not be my power!

Ryou-san and Usagi-san split up, him to lead Zoicite away from Usagi-san and her to find some place private to get changed. Not that anybody other than me - and Ryou-san - knew both of those things. I dithered on who to keep an eye on, and as a result lost track of them both... until I saw Sailor Mercury.

It was the first time I'd seen any of my real-life friends in Senshi uniform. That girl's got legs.

I followed at a discreet distance. After a couple of minutes, I realized I was keeping up with her.

I've never been a particularly fast runner. Heck, Osaka-san from Azumanga Daioh could probably beat me in a foot race. But there I was, moving as fast as a Senshi.

It looked like, whatever my powers were, quick movement was one of them.

As I was wondering whether my other abilities were speed-related, Sailor Mercury found Ryou-san. I stopped far enough away to give them privacy - I didn't need to embarrass my new friend by overhearing that somebody else knew her secret identity - but close enough that I could still race in and help if Zoicite showed up unexpectedly.

Unexpectedly by Ami-san, that is. Ryou-san and I both knew it was only a matter of time.

Which meant I saw Zoicite attack from longer range than he had in the anime, as the attack passed over my head.

I didn't force it. I flowed. Suddenly I was between Ryou-san and the attack - not a teleport, "just" a high-speed run - and there was a shimmering field of... pure force, for want of a better name, and I privately cursed "Doc" Smith for popularizing that imprecise term in the SF lexicon... centred on my outstretched hand, serving as a shield. The attack struck my shield and stopped, falling to the ground.

As Sailor Mercury moved to get the Mercury Computer out, presumably to analyze Zoicite's attack, my forcefield, or both, I said, "Mercury-san, get Urawa-san out of here! I'll hold off the girly-boy!"

"What did you call me?" Zoicite shouted in anger, paying attention to me instead of Ryou-san and Ami-san's escape. Just as planned. If you could call something thought up on the spur of the moment a plan.

"You heard me, Dark General Zoicite! You look enough like a girl that you could probably be mistaken for one if you wore a wig!" And that comment, I hoped, just might dissuade him from impersonating Sailor Moon later on.

"You will pay for your impudence!"

"Yeah, sure, whatever. But I think you're going to make the down payment," I said as I looked over Zoicite's left shoulder and grinned.

He turned to look. The fool. Sailor Moon was coming up on his right.

And she threw away the element of surprise. "Hold it right there! Heaven may forgive you for coming between two young lovers, but I will not! In the name of the Moon, I - oof!"

What do you know - Zoicite attacked her in the middle of her speech. Even I wasn't expecting that. I must have riled him up more than I planned.

Note to self: No more insulting Zoicite's self-image unless all of the Senshi were ready to attack him.

Moon looked like she was stunned. In an instant, my forcefield was between the two of them. "I'm your opponent!"

Zoicite turned back to me, a snarl on his face. "Don't interfere! You're an annoyance, kid! She's a threat!" Before I could reply, he added, "And I don't have time for this," and teleported away.

I hoped I'd given Ami-san and Ryou-san enough time to hide somewhere. Walking over to Sailor Moon, who was being tended by a black cat with a crescent-moon mark on her forehead, I asked, "Are you alright?"

She nodded. "I will be, as soon as I catch my breath."

"Good. Do you know where Sailor Mercury is? I told her to get Urawa-san to safety, so they should still be together."

She shook her head as I offered her an arm to steady herself. "I'm sorry, Robu-san. I can't track my teammates."

"We need to figure out a way to do just that. And it's only because you're still catching your breath and your wits are still scrambled a bit that I'll overlook you knowing my name." She looked startled when she realized she'd let that slip, followed by worried. "But we'll talk about this later, at my place since you already know how to find it."

"I do?"

"You'll remember soon enough. Don't say it - Zoicite could be listening."

"Yeah, right." Then, after a moment, she asked, "You know who I am, don't you?"

I nodded. "Being an outsider, I need to pay attention to things like the shape of your face, the colour of your eyes, and the way you speak. And you do have a unique hairdo." Seeing that she was worried, I quickly added a lie; the only one I've ever told her. "I doubt your friends have noticed." It was time to change the topic. "Are you ready to look for Mercury-san?"

"Mercury! We have to find her!"

So we went and looked for her. And Ryou-san. I gave Sailor Moon a quiet moment alone with her cat, so that Luna could tell her that the Moon Stick can find the Rainbow Crystals, then joined her in the search. We finally found them in a park, just like in canon.

And, just like in canon, Ryou-san had been turned into a monster, and Sailor Mercury had grabbed the Rainbow Crystal that had been released from him in the process.

Cue attacks from allies in three, two, one...

"Fire Soul!"

"Supreme Thunder!"

Right on time. I grabbed Zoicite in a forcefield so he couldn't interfere, then shouted, "Sailor Moon! I've got the Dark General!"

She nodded and readied the Moon Stick. "Moon... Healing... Escalation!"

The attacks from the other Senshi had worn him down enough that Sailor Moon was able to turn him back into Ryou-san... just as I felt the tension against my forcefield disappear. "Blast it! Zoicite's teleported away!"

Note to self: Never turn your back on a Dark General, even if you're certain you have him secured.

"Not again!" Sailor Moon moaned.

Sailor Mars, on the other hand, was looking at me suspiciously. "Who's this?"

Before anyone else could answer, I quickly said, "No names, please. Zoicite might still be nearby and spying on us. Sailor Moon called me 'oni' the first time she saw me; that's as good a code name for me as any."

And the matching looks on Sailor Moon and Sailor Jupiter's faces let me know that they both got the message that I couldn't come out and say. I wondered whether Mako-chan realized that that meant I also knew who she was.

I continued, "You four -- sorry, neko-san, you five -- probably already know how to evade being followed. Get out of here and go meet up wherever it is you have your after-action debriefings and talk all you want about me. Including everything that you know about me, Sailor Moon, and yes, I know that you know that I know who we are, even if Zoicite doesn't know. I'll make sure Urawa-san gets to a hospital."

"No. I'll do that." Sailor Mercury insisted. This was the first time I'd ever seen a determined look on Ami-san's face outside of anime, and I've already mentioned that 2D is no comparison to 3D. That girl looked scary.

"Alright. I'll take my leave now."

As I headed off, I heard Sailor Moon ask, "What's an after-action debriefing?"

Partway home, I realized which power set I had been displaying. I'd rolled up the character years ago as a favour for a friend, but never actually played him.

Standing in front of a sufficiently-reflective window, I wrapped a forcefield around myself and willed it to divert light around me. Sure enough, I faded into invisibility.

While making my way home while invisible just in case Zoicite had been following me, I wondered whether I also had the brainpower boost and the other power on his character sheet. I also wondered how I could possibly test for them.

It was nearly midnight before I heard a knock at my door.

Which had given me plenty of time to consider how much I was going to reveal about myself. I stood up and walked over to the door. "Hello?"

"Robu-san, may we come in?"

In response to Mako-chan's question, I unlocked and opened the door, to see all three of my usual lunch companions. Rather tellingly for anybody who knew her, Ami-san wasn't carrying a book. "Please come in, ladies. I apologize that I don't have enough furniture to go around. All I can offer is cushions."

They waited until I had closed the door behind them before saying anything. "That isn't a concern, Donaldson-san," replied Ami-san.

"I suppose it isn't," I commented while getting cushions out of the closet anyway.

Once the cushions were out and I had moved to my kitchenette to prepare tea for everyone, Ami-san and Usagi-san sat down. Makoto-san didn't. "How much do you know about us? And how do you know? Don't give me that 'unique hairdo' line, because we already know that Usagi's family doesn't recognize her when -"

I cut her off there. "Are the walls here thick enough to hold in secrets?"

Mako-chan sighed. "You know that they aren't."

"Then we whisper." I had already lowered my voice. Opening my desk drawer while the tea steeped, I added, "The easiest way to answer your questions is with a question of my own. Ami-san, can you interface the Mercury Computer with my computer from the future of another reality altogether?"

"Your computer? That's a computer?"

"What do you mean by 'another reality'?"

"Yes, Usagi-san, this is a computer. It's easily breakable and completely irreplaceable for three decades, so please, all of you, keep your hands off of it. As for another reality," I opened it and brought it out of sleep mode, to reveal VLC Media Player already had episode 25 of Sailor Moon queued up and ready to go. "Mako-chan, want to see how the week we met would have gone without me?"

A half-hour later, everybody looked pole-axed.

Makoto-san was the first to recover. "So that's supposed to be me. They didn't do a very good job of showing who I really am."

I nodded. "She's a bit one-dimensional at this point in the story. The scriptwriters don't actually know you, after all. But they did show your sense of justice."

"Which character is supposed to be you?"

"I'm not in the story. I implied before I showed you this that I'm from another universe, remember?"

Ami-san took a sip of tea to steady herself. "Does that mean we can use this anime to tell the future?"

"Good question." I sighed. "I've already changed things just by being here, and I've changed them even more by showing you this one episode. And don't ask me to show you any more. I'm tempted to erase the lot of them. But they do show what your opponents are doing, so we might be able to notice their plots earlier than any of you did in the anime story."

"But that changes the future."

I nodded in agreement with Usagi-san. "Right. So the episodes will become useless for particulars rather quickly."

"We could still use them to learn more about our opponents, though," Ami-san pointed out. "Now we know who Queen Beryl is, just from this one anime episode."

"But we don't know where she is," I pointed out. "This knowledge is about as useful as knowing that Sailor V is Sailor Venus."

Mako-chan grinned. "I think maybe you shouldn't have said that."

I sighed. Again. It was too late at night; I was tired and making mistakes. "I think you're right." I reached over and shut down the laptop, being careful to close the lid completely. "No more temptation, at least not tonight."

Usagi-san finally asked the big questions. "Robu-san, does this anime say who the Moon Princess is? And who Tuxedo Kamen is?"

I nodded. "Yes to both questions. No, I'm not going to tell you right now. You're going to find out soon enough."

Usagi-san sighed deeply. "You're an oni," she complained.

"Fine. I'm a monster. But I have your best interests at heart."

Mako-chan looked me straight in the eyes. "Did you use me to meet Usagi-san?"

"No!" Lowering my voice back to a whisper, I continued, "No. I never used you for anything, Makoto-san. And I was completely truthful and honest when I told you that you are my closest friend here. Please believe me."

"How many friends do you have, Robu-san?"

I turned to Usagi-san. "In this world? Including the people in this room?" She nodded in reply to each of my questions. "Three. Considering that I've been in Japan, and this world, for less than a month, already making three friends is pretty good. And you're good friends."

Makoto-san and Usagi-san smiled at hearing my compliment. Ami-san blushed.

After a brief lull, Makoto-san asked, "Is there anything else that we need to know about you? Or should know about you, considering you probably know a lot about us from that anime?"

I nodded. "'Need to know': I have some superhuman powers, too. Usagi-san and Ami-san saw two of them this evening, and unfortunately so did Zoicite. 'Should know':..." I hesitated, because I didn't know what I should tell her. "Later, once you've come to terms with everything that I've told you already. As for what I know about you, that you haven't already told me... Mako-chan, you dream of owning your own shop, but you don't know whether it's a cake shop or a flower shop or both. You don't look the part, but you have a lot in common with the Yamato nadeshiko stereotype."

"I'm not feminine at all!"

I let that slide for the moment. "I was thinking of the 'silk hiding steel' part of the stereotype. And you compare almost every boy you like to your ex-sempai," she blushed slightly, "although I don't know what that actually means."

Her blush faded. "You know things that only my closest friends know about me."

"Mako-chan, I'll say it again. You're my closest friend in this world. Does that help at all?"

She thought for a moment, and finally replied, "A bit." Then she noticed the pile of textbooks sitting beside my laptop. "Eep! Homework! I have to do mine, too!"

"You had to remind me. Makoto-san, Usagi-san, Ami-san, would you promise me that you won't say anything about the anime or me to anybody unless I'm there with you? Please?"

Without hesitation, Makoto-san replied, "Yes, Robu-san, I promise."

"So do I," added Usagi-san.

"I promise, as well," Ami-san completed the set.

I smiled in relief. "Thank you, ladies. And I promise that I will not tell anyone who any of the Sailor Senshi are unless you give me permission. Mako-chan, go do your homework, and I'll do my homework, and we'll all have lunch together tomorrow. Okay?"

"Sure." As they stood up to leave, Makoto-san added, "Robu-san... I think you already know this, but you remind me of my sempai."

I stood up to accompany them to my door. "Yes, I remember that you told Usagi-san that. I really like you, too, Mako-chan. And now I have something to think about while we're keeping each others' secrets."

The next day, after school, Ami-san and I saw Ryou-san off; he was going back home to Niigata. I carefully did not notice Ami-san give Ryou-san a better photo of herself.

Once the train's doors closed, she sighed.

"You'll see him again."

"You're sure?"

I smiled. "You already know how I know."

Ami-san and I spent most of the next week, outside of school and juku, figuring out how to interface the Mercury Computer with my laptop.

After I moved the "Sailor Moon" images and episodes I had on the local drive over to the external drive, and then leaving that drive unplugged. No more letting secrets slip out; my new friends were nowhere near ready to learn about Chibiusa, let alone the other Sailor Senshi.

I left the soundtracks on the laptop, which of course let Ami-san discover that they wouldn't meet Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune for a while yet.

As a result of working on that project, we missed Usagi-san and Mamoru-san's debut as portrait models.

Makoto-san made sure we didn't starve... or get up to anything inappropriate. Not that I would; Ami-san is a lovely young woman who deserves better than me. For that matter, so are each of the other members of the Sailor Team. But Makoto-san coming over regularly meant that we didn't miss her tears of heartbreak, the day that we finally kludged Teams on both the laptop and my cellphone to act as a terminal for calls from the Mercury Computer. (Of course, our test text message was "Merry Christmas," echoing the very first SMS message... that wouldn't be sent until December 3 of that year.) Not that my cellphone could connect to anything other than the laptop, of course.

"Motoki-san has a girlfriend!" the poor girl wailed.

"You just discovered that today?"

"Less than an hour ago!"

I nodded grimly as I plugged in the external drive and started up episode 29. "Good. That gives us some breathing room." As both Makoto-san and Ami-san looked at me in surprise, I continued, "Motoki-san's girlfriend Nishimura-san hosts one of the Seven Great Youma. Let's see whether we can break Zoicite's streak at getting Rainbow Crystals."

I must say that having a beautiful girl on each side of me makes watching anime much more pleasurable, even if our attention was on the screen rather than each other. Simply knowing that they were there made a difference.

A half-hour of taking notes later, Makoto-san sighed. "It looks like my attack is going to be nearly useless this time around."

"Yeah," I sighed in sympathy, then had an outside-the-box idea. "Wait. Maybe you can use it indirectly."

"What do you mean?"

"I'll show you." Half a minute later and my laptop was playing the short version of fripSide's "Only My Railgun", with visual accompaniment. Half an hour later and Mako-chan was grinning from ear to ear.

The next day, after school, I escorted Ami-san to her juku. "OK Shingaku Juku?" I continued with a smile, in English, "I would have thought you'd be attending a juku that's better than just okay." She smiled slightly. "Ah, there's the smile that I haven't seen since Urawa-san left." And that comment made her smile disappear.

"Why did he have to leave, Donaldson-san?"

Our relationship was an odd one at that point, with us being on a given-name basis when Usagi-san or Mako-chan were around and on a family-name basis the rest of the time. That was all that Ami-san was comfortable with at the time. "I don't know, Mizuno-san. All I'm sure of is that he'll be back. Not soon, but before the end of the school year."

Ami-san's half-smile returned. "Thank you. I have to go now."

"Of course. Have fun!"

"I'm here to study, not to have fun."

"I thought that studying was your way to have fun. I'll see you in class tomorrow."

And she went inside while I headed off to a hardware store.

The next day, when Ami-san and I met Usagi-san and Makoto-san for lunch, I smiled and patted my jacket pocket. "Mission complete."

Makoto-san grinned while Usagi-san looked puzzled. "What mission?"

"Sore wa, himitsu desu."

"You're quoting somebody there," Mako-chan said.

Surprised, I asked, "How could you tell?"

"You've never been so formal to say 'desu' in all the time I've known you."

Ami-san shook her head. "Rob-san is a perfect gentleman in class; the teachers have never found fault with his formality. He says 'desu' all the time."

"Ah, but Usagi-san and Mako-chan don't hear me in class. Usagi-san, are you busy after school?"

"I have no plans at all!"

"That isn't something to be proud of, Usagi-san," Ami-san chastised her.

I nodded in agreement. "You really should study more. But today it would be better if you were to spend time with Mako-chan."

Makoto-san looked upset at that. "But I had plans to... Oh!"

"Right. I'll go straight home after class. Give me a call when he leaves."

Usagi-san looked from Makoto-san to me, and back. "What are you two talking about?"

It was Ami-san who answered. "They've been watching that anime again."

"That we have. So, what did everybody bring for lunch?"

It didn't take long for Makoto-san to call me. "Robu-san! He just left! And it sounded like he was worried!"

"Is the Moon Stick reacting to a new Rainbow Crystal?"


Damn - the story had changed from what I knew. We should have had a few hours; now we only had minutes. "I'm on my way. Where are you?" She gave me the address.

Instead of texting Ami-san the way I wanted to, I locked up my laptop and headed out at a run. Then I went invisible and went to my top speed. I was at Motoki-san's apartment in less than three minutes, to discover Usagi-san and Makoto-san waiting for me outside. Fading back into view, I asked, "Which way?"

"That way!" Usagi-san gestured with the Moon Stick.

"Right. Get changed and let's go."

"But..." Usagi-san started to complain.

Mako-chan cut her off. "There's no time for modesty. Jupiter Power, Make-Up!"

I quickly learned three things. First, the transformation didn't take nearly as long in real life as it did in the anime. Second, yes, there was a noticeable moment when Makoto-san was completely naked, which I expected after seeing that one time in "S" when Sailor Uranus transformed back to Haruka-san. Third, an animated drawing doesn't compare at all to a three-dimensional woman.

I quickly turned my back to the girls, in order to give Usagi-san as much privacy as I could. And to hide my nosebleed. Stupid genre conventions.

As soon as Sailor Moon told me she was ready, we headed out - Moon in the lead, and Jupiter carrying me piggyback while the two Senshi roof-hopped to the scene.

Of course Mako-chan noticed my ... nosebleed. "Is that my fault?" she asked with a smile in her voice.

I'd spent enough time with Mako-chan to know that lying to her about this would be both pointless and rude. "It is," I replied with a smile of my own, not that she could see it.

"I was beginning to wonder whether you thought of me that way at all."

In front of us, Moon was slowing down. "I think this conversation will have to wait. Time for Oni to fade into the background." And I made myself invisible as Jupiter landed beside Moon.

"That is freaky," Moon said.

Jupiter added, "You're still here, I can tell from your weight, but I can't see your arms at all now."

As I let go of her, I replied, "Let's hope Zoicite can't see me at all, either. At least until it's time for me to make an entrance. Time for you two to pretend I'm not here," I finished as I took Jupiter's hand and handed her what I had picked up at the hardware store.

Nishimura-san had already been transformed into Rikoukeidar, but it looked like the transformation had just finished. Zoicite already had the Rainbow Crystal.

The fight went remarkably similar to canon, up to the point where Rikoukeidar manifested the big flask - the one that could catch and return Jupiter's attack. I used the time to get closer to Zoicite without being observed. I hoped.

The flask appeared, Jupiter grinned, and I saw that Zoicite was still holding the Rainbow Crystal. While remaining invisible, I created an equally-invisible forcefield sledgehammer and anvil. Yeah, I know how derivative that is.

Jupiter called her attack. "Supreme..." And she tossed one of the steel ball bearings I'd just given her into the air. "Thunder!"

Rikoukeidar caught the attack, but the electrically-propelled ball bearing inside the attack shattered the base of the flask. Rikoukeidar took damage from the electrical attack, the ball bearing, and the glass shards.

Zoicite was stunned by the sight. "What? How?"

So I put his fingers between hammer and anvil, forcefully, which caused him to drop the Rainbow Crystal... which I quickly grabbed with a forcefield after dispelling my forcefield weaponry.

"Ow! It hurts!" And Zoicite teleported away while Sailor Moon healed Nishimura-san.

At which point Motoki-san finally showed up. I decided against letting him see me, instead quietly tugging on Jupiter's sleeve. Either she took the hint or she was already thinking the same thing that I was. "As Sailors of Love and Justice, we have served Justice here today, and now it is time for us to serve Love! Fare well, both of you!" And she grabbed Moon's arm and headed off at a quick pace.

It wasn't until I got in front of them that I saw the tears on both their faces. Fading back into view, I said, "I'm sorry, girls. He does love her."

"Oni," they both complained at my bursting their bubbles. Moon added, "At least tell me you got the Rainbow Crystal."

I held it up for their perusal.

"That's the important thing." After a moment, Moon added, "Would you, er, mind...?"

"Ah! Say, that's quite the rosebush over there," I said while turning to look at the shrubbery instead of looking at Moon and Jupiter.

After a moment, Makoto replied, "That's a poinsettia plant."

"Oh, so it is," I answered, just before turning back to Usagi-san and Makoto-san.

"That's one Rainbow Crystal that we didn't get in the anime," Mako-chan commented. "Can we get another?"

I thought for a moment, then said, "We're going to have to tell Mars and Luna who I am. Each of them are directly involved in the remaining two manifestations of the Seven Great Youma. Usagi-san, could you set up a meeting while I figure out how much to tell them, please?"

Makoto-san and I stopped at the 7-12 convenience store on the way home. Yes, 7-12, not 7-11. Somebody was writing around trademarks. Stupid genre conventions.

"How much are you going to tell them?" Mako-chan asked while picking out a few staples for tonight's dinner, just in case I botched the meal.

No, I wasn't about to let her cook every night. Even if she was a better cook than I was. I would, however, let her teach me how to cook. It was only fair to let her take the lead in our studying sometimes, even if what we were studying were life skills instead of schoolwork.

"How much should I tell them?" I wondered aloud.

Makoto-san sighed at my question. There was a bit of annoyance in her voice as she asked me in return, "How much do you trust them?"

Yes, of course. I had to trust them. "Thank you, Mako-chan. From what I know about them, I trust them completely, so I tell them everything."

Two days later, after we'd shown off what we brought for lunch, Usagi-san asked me whether I'd ever visited a Shinto shrine.

"No, I haven't. Would it be alright for an unbeliever to make a visit like that?"

"Why would that matter?" Mako-chan replied. "It would be good for you to visit, Robu-san."

"Especially at the Hikawa shrine," Usagi-san added. I suddenly understood what she was really asking me... but my classmate Sato-san was nearby and could overhear what we were saying, so I couldn't tell them as much.

Ami-san added, "If you're polite and follow the instructions, you'll be fine."

I nodded in understanding. "Then my failure to visit before now might be taken as rudeness. I should pay my respects as soon as possible, shouldn't I?"

"Let's go right after class!" Usagi-san grinned.

Ami-san shook her head. "I have class duty today. You three go on without me."

"You two go ahead without me," Mako-chan added. "I have class duty today, too."

And so we visited the Hikawa shrine. I let Usagi-san lead me through the rituals, and finished off with making a donation to the shrine and making a prayer. "May the Sailor Senshi be successful in their actions against the Dark Kingdom."

"That's a fine thought, young man," came a voice behind me. I turned to see a short, bald, old priest.

Bowing in respect, I replied, "There is nothing that I want more than that, sir."

"Your desires are for others. You'll be a fine man after you graduate from school." He turned to Usagi-san, who was standing beside me. "Good afternoon, Tsukino-san. Are you here to become a miko, by any chance?" he asked with a smile.

"Not this time, ojiisan," she replied with a matching smile. Even if I hadn't seen the anime, I would have been able to tell that this was a private ritual of their own. "I brought my schoolmate here to present him to the kami, and now I'll introduce him to Rei-chan."

"Good, good. It's good that some of you youngsters care enough about the old ways to do so much. Rei was in her bedroom ten minutes ago,"

"Thank you, Jiijii!" Then she turned to me. "Come on, Robu-san, Rei-san should be off this way."

Bowing again to the priest, who was obviously Rei's grandfather, I let Usagi-san lead me "this way" to the house behind the shrine. An outsider like me wouldn't have been able to tell that it wasn't one of the shrine's outbuildings.

And that was because it was one of the shrine's outbuildings, repurposed to be a place to live, I realized as Usagi-san stopped at the door and said, "Rei-chan! We're here!"

A moment later and the door was opened to reveal a lovely young woman with long black hair. "What took you so long?"

"That was my fault," I replied. "This is my first visit to the shrine, and I felt it proper to pay my respects to the resident kami."

She turned to look at me... and looked up, and bit back whatever comment she was about to make. "It's not usual for people who aren't Japanese to do that, but it is good manners. I'm Hino Rei; pleased to meet you."

"I'm Rob Donaldson; happy to meet you," I replied while bowing.

She returned my bow, then said, "Please come in." Once we were inside - shoes off and slippers on, not just through the doorway - and she was sure we couldn't be overheard, Rei added, "Where are Ami-chan and Mako-chan?"

"They both had class duty," Usagi-san replied. "We thought you should meet Oni - Robu-san - without waiting for them."

"U-sa-gi..." Rei began with menace in her voice.

"Hino-san, I already know. And I will repeat the promise that I have already made to Usagi-san, Ami-san, and Mako-chan: I will not tell anyone who any of the Sailor Senshi are unless you give me permission."

Rei's attention was still on Usagi. "Why did you tell him?"

"I didn't! He already knew!"


I replied, "The short answer, which is somewhat misleading, is that I come from three decades in the future."

"Oh, great. Everybody is going to find out about us."

Usagi-san turned to me. "Tell her about the anime."

Hino-san was suddenly suspicious. "What about an anime?"

By the time Ami-san (with Luna in her arms) and Mako-chan arrived, Hino-san was at the acceptance stage of the coping path. "This is really a separate Sailor Moon series, not the Sailor V show that I saw last week?"

"I didn't know you were a Sailor V fan too, Rei!"

"It's kind of difficult to be a Sailor Senshi and not like Sailor V," she admitted.

"Yes, it's a separate show," I confirmed.

"Does the anime tell all of our secrets?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Well, I don't know. I don't know whether I know all of your secrets. But I suspect they do tell enough of your secrets that you'd be upset. Which is another reason why I'm not letting anybody see all of the episodes."

She sighed. "Thank you for that much, at least. Did they get a big name seiyuu to play me?"

Usagi-san was surprised by that question. "Rei-chan, what does it matter?" Then she turned to me. "What about the rest of us?  Who plays us?"

"You got to read the credits of the episode that I showed you, Usagi-san."

"They were in English!"

"You should be able to read names by now, Usagi-san," Ami-san commented. "You're played by Mitsuishi Kotono-san."

"What!? But she plays a dog..."

"Look around you, odango-for-brains," Hino-san said. "Does this look like Mary Bell?"

"It could if you'd let me plant some flowers here," Mako-chan replied before Usagi-san could.

"You're not helping. And who plays you?"

"I have no idea, and I don't really care, either. It's not like I know how to read English, either."

Ami-san sighed. "You're going to have to learn, Mako-chan. Somebody named Shinohara Emi-san is your voice actress."

"Who?" Hino-san and Mako-chan asked in unison.

"B-ko?" asked Usagi-san.

"Who?" Hino-san and Mako-chan asked in unison again.

"You've gotta watch Project A-ko. I'll bring over the tape next time." Usagi-san turned to Ami-san. "What about your voice actress?"

"Well... I'm played by Hisakawa Aya-san."

"Oh, wow! Sumire from Sally the Witch? You might be the biggest name of all of us, Ami-san!"

"Am I? I don't know the names of the people who work in anime," she pointed out. "Luna is played by Han Keiko-san."

"I take it back," Usagi-san replied. "Luna's the biggest name of us all."

The Mau in question simply preened... which finally gave me a chance to answer the question that started off that digression. "Hino-san, your character was voiced by the same seiyuu who played Kasuga Manami on Kimagure Orange Road."

"Oh, that's fine. Tomizawa-san has a nice enough voice." Then the penny dropped. "But she wouldn't be working three decades from now. Would she? Or any of the others, either?"

Mentioning that her seiyuu had retired and come out of retirement would be yet another digression from what mattered. "Amazingly enough, they would, but they play older roles in the 2020s." Then I remembered Crystal. "Except Mitsuishi-san; she's still playing Usagi-san in the remake. That's why I said that my answer was misleading, even thought it's true. I came from the year 2022, but not this world's 2022. In my world, the anime that I showed Usagi-san, Ami-san, and Mako-chan was made in 1992."

Mako-chan added, "So it should be on television right now. Except that it isn't."

"Which means that either you've been mislead or your claim is correct and you aren't originally from our reality," Ami-san added.

"I did mention that I'm from a different reality when I showed the three of you the anime, ladies," I replied. And this was feeling like an expository recap filler sequence. But then the anime, especially during the Seven Great Youma storyline, was filled with expository recap filler sequences. Which meant I was going native. Stupid genre conventions. I decided to change the subject, and turned to the one person who I hadn't been introduced to yet. "Oh, but I'm being rude. You must be Luna. I'm Rob Donaldson; I'm happy to meet you. I've never met a Mau before."

Hearing me say her species name surprised Luna. "A... Mau? Why do I know that name?"

"It's as much your name as 'human' is mine."

She looked puzzled for a moment... which looked adorable on a cat's face. Then her face lit up with a smile of recognition. "I'm a Mau! I can ... what is it that I can do?"

This wasn't the time for her to try to remember that she can change into a human form. "You can talk, for one thing. Luna-san, might I impose on you to find someplace else to sit for a moment?" She hopped out of Ami-san's arms. "Thank you. Ami-san, I have something for you to hold onto for safekeeping." I pulled the Rainbow Crystal that we had taken from Nishimura-san (via Zoicite) out of my pocket and handed it to her. "I feel much more comfortable knowing that an actual Sailor Senshi has that."

"Thank you, Rob-san," she said as she put it with the crystal she had recovered from Urawa-san.

"You're just giving us a Rainbow Crystal?" I nodded in reply to Hino-san's question. "I guess you do trust us, after all."

"So," Usagi-san asked, "why's somebody from 2022 watching an anime that was made before he was born?"

So much for changing the subject.

"Because of cool and stylish characters like me," Hino-san explained, not entirely wrong.

"There's a place for style and a place for presence. And we all know who here has the most presence," Mako-chan said with a smile. She wasn't entirely wrong, either.

"Why, thank you, Mako-chan!"

"U-sa-gi..." Hino-san growled. Again.

I really didn't want to hear them fight. "Before I answer Usagi-san's question, I want the same promise from Hino-san and Luna-san that I already have from the rest of you. Will you promise me that you won't say anything about the anime or me to anybody unless I'm there with you?"

Hino-san thought about my question for a moment, then nodded. "You've already promised to keep our identities secret. And you're willing to trust us with a Rainbow Crystal. You can trust me with your secrets, too. I promise."

Luna... hedged her reply. "I won't tell any human being about you or your anime."

"Luna-san, I've already told you that I know you're not human. And your reply is making me think that you're in contact with another Mau. I need that promise from you."

"Luuu-naaa..." Usagi's tone of voice was verging on threatening.

I cleared my throat. "No coercion, please."

Everybody was silent for a moment. Finally, Luna said, "I promise that I won't say anything about the anime or you to anybody unless you're with me."

"Thank you, Luna-san. As for your question, Usagi-san... the anime is not older than I am. I've been rejuvenated to this age."

"That means you're as old as my father!"

I shook my head. "A bit older than that, Usagi-san. I'd rather not give my exact age."

"You aren't that old." Everybody turned to look at Mako-chan. "You have to be delusional." And you're in denial, Makoto-san, but why? "You can't be that old. I know! You're sick and saying things that you don't mean!" She leaned over and touched her forehead to mine, the way that Japanese mothers check their children for signs of a fever.

When we touched forehead-to-forehead, I suddenly "heard" her thoughts. « - over forty! He can't be that old. It's a lie! I can't be interested in somebody older than papa. I don't want another papa. Why - » And the flow of thoughts stopped when she pulled away from me. "You aren't running a fever."

I didn't say anything for a moment. Then I remembered that other power on the character sheet: memory copying. It shouldn't have worked this way, though; that was more like telepathy. I supposed surface thoughts were the easiest to get... and skin-to-skin contact was the easiest way to get them.

"Are you okay, Robu-san?"

"What?" I blinked a couple of times. "I think I'm okay, Usagi-san. Mako-chan, we need to talk. In private. Later. Right now, it's time to discuss youma."

"Right," Hino-san agreed with me. "That anime says who the other two hosts are, right?" I nodded. "Who's the next one we'll face?"

"Your grandfather."

"He's nowhere nearby, so he won't overhear us." I just waited for her to realize I wasn't raising a concern. "Oh, no. Ojiisan is a youma?"

"He hosts a youma." I turned to Usagi. "So when - not if - he starts acting strangely, it is not 'endearing' or 'cute' or 'a pleasant change'; he'll be fighting to keep the Rainbow Crystal inside himself. And he'll end up losing."

"I have to be the one who brings him down when he finally loses control," our hostess announced with steel in her voice.

"Of course," Usagi-san replied. "He's your family."

"The only family I have left that I care about."

That interaction was much better than how they acted in canon over the same issue. I decided to give it a bit of a boost. "Hino-san, Usagi-san can bring him back with her Moon Healing Escalation, but only after you bring him down to human-level power. The two of you will have to work together to save him from a fate worse than death."

We spent the next hour talking about the best ways to bring "Youma Jiji" back to human and how to handle the final Youma - the one sealed in the body of the cat called Rhett Butler.

Then we did our homework, after Usagi-san called home to tell them she'd be late and where she was. As long as we were together, we may as well have a study session. Ami-san impressed the others by actually having a conversation with me in English, and I impressed the others by helping her with basic matrix mathematics, which she was learning at juku. (Even Hino-san had no idea what matrix mathematics was.) And Ami-san helped me with science (I never was good at biology the first time around, being too squeamish to dissect a frog), we both helped the others with English and math, and the others helped me with Japanese history and Japanese literature. All in all, it went well, and we finished off our assignments just as Hino-san's grandfather brought in a simple dinner for everyone. Of course we invited him to join us at the table, and she acted as our hostess.

I had trouble sleeping that night. I literally could not forget Makoto-san's thoughts.

Just how was she "interested" in me?

It wasn't until Saturday that I had a chance to speak with Mako-chan alone.

Hino-san was at the shrine and Usagi-san was with her. The elder Hino was acting oddly, and Usagi-san - instead of dismissing his behaviour the way she did in canon - decided that the best way to keep an eye on him was to accept his offer of becoming a miko, at least part-time. Which I completely approved of, and not just because she'd be in a better position to watch Hino-san's grandfather. She needed a bit of self-discipline in her life.

Ami-san was unavailable for the best of reasons; her mother was not on-call at the hospital, and the elder and younger Mizunos were taking the opportunity to spend time together. (When she told us her plans, I carefully did not ask about her father.)

This left Mako-chan and me with an afternoon all to ourselves. Assuming, of course, that Hino-san's grandfather didn't go youma on us.

We started by stocking up on specials and staples at the supermarket. There weren't any baseball playoff specials this year - neither the Swallows nor the Lions were owned by companies that owned supermarkets - but we still managed to find decent deals on rice and soy sauce.

Once we had our purchases safely in our own apartments, Makoto-san and I made ourselves comfortable at her place. "What's so important that we couldn't talk about it where the others could overhear us, Robu-san?"

I'd had some time to figure out how I was going to open the topic, but I still wasn't sure how she'd take it. "I discovered that I have another power."

"Sonething you can use to fight the Dark Kingdom?"

I shook my head. "Not unless we can pin a Dark General down and keep him from teleporting away. When the two of us touched foreheads, I heard your thoughts."

She blushed more deeply than I've ever seen her blush before.

"Yeah. I don't want to be your father, Makoto-san."

"What... do you want to be?" she whispered.

In response, I reached for her hand... and she let me take it.

« - please Kami-sama oh please tell me what I want to hear Robu-san please - »

I let go of her hand. Quickly. "Oh, my. I want to be close to you, but just holding your hand let me hear what you were thinking. You really want something. I didn't hear what it was."

"Does this mean we can never touch each other again without you hearing my thoughts?" Makoto-san looked aghast.

And I realized that I didn't want that either. "Oh, I really hope not."

"Why can you read my thoughts? And why can't I read yours?" she added sadly.

"I don't know, Mako-chan. If my theory is right and whoever it was who rejuvenated me did give me powers based on a character I created a while ago, then I should be getting a copy of your entire mind over a ten-minute reading, not your surface thoughts as you're thinking them in real time."

"Sounds like your theory isn't right, then."

I nodded. "It would have been nice if the power did work that way, and you'd let me copy your mind."


"Because..." I thought for a moment, and realized what I'd been carefully avoiding thinking about since I met Mako-chan. "Because I don't want to lose you."

That got a smile from her - the first smile I'd seen on her face all day. "I'm not going anywhere now, Robu-san."

"It isn't that."

"Then what is it? Are you going somewhere?"

"I'm not planning on leaving. Although I didn't plan on coming here, either."

"Then why ..." She stopped for a minute, and her smile disappeared. "This is something you saw in the anime, isn't it? Robu-san, does something happen to me?" I didn't say anything, but my thoughts must have shown on my face. Makoto-san kept talking, but there was a note of fear in her voice. "Robu-san... do any of the Sailor Senshi get hurt while we're fighting the Dark Kingdom?" Again, I didn't reply. "Somebody dies, doesn't she? Who... who is the first Sailor Senshi to die?"

I wasn't about to lie to her. I whispered, "Sailor Jupiter. And I don't want that to happen."

She hugged me tightly. "I don't want that to happen, either."

Then I realized that I wasn't hearing her thoughts - she'd said that aloud. Surprised, I commented, "My telepathy is turned off."

She looked disappointed. "Oh."

Then I had a thought. Extracting myself from her hug and turning away from her, I asked, "Would you transform, please? I want to try something, and you need to have some control over electricity for it."

"I don't mind being seen, if it's by you."

"I don't mind seeing, if it's you, but I don't want to be distracted."

"Alright. Jupiter Power, Make-up!" And a moment later, she said, "It's done."

I turned back to Sailor Jupiter. "If you can, I want you to use your power to look at the electricity moving through my brain." And I hoped my mental power would activate.

Without touching her, I heard Jupiter's thoughts. « - he ask for that? I can't see power. No, wait, I can. Isn't that what we learned in science class yesterday? Thoughts are electrical. And it looks like Robu-san is trying to help, I guess. He's such a good person. I want - no, we're working right now. His mind's doing something weird over there. I wonder if I could do that. Concentrate here, and here, and - Wow! Echo! »

She could hear her thoughts in my thoughts?

« Yeah, I can! That's so great! »

« Can you turn it off? I don't want your brain to burn out. I just realized how special you are to me. I don't want to lose you. »

She smiled when I thought that she was special. A moment later, Jupiter said, "It's off now. Is yours off?"

I nodded. "Yeah. I saw in your thoughts how you turned the power on and off, and I can do the same thing now."

"Good," She grinned... and transformed back to her non-Senshi form without giving me any warning.

She flashed me on purpose. Didn't she?

Her smile turned into a grin. "Yep!"

"Did I say that out loud?"

"No, but I wanted to see whether I could do that mind-reading thing without being Sailor Jupiter."

Oh, boy. Are our neighbours safe? Don't turn into a monster and make me stop loving you, Mako-chan.

Her grin disappeared, replaced by a hopeful smile. "You love me?"

As I sorted through my own emotions, she continued, "I'm trying to read other people's minds, but I can't. I can only read yours."

I turned my power back on. « - when is he going to take the hint oh there you are! I don't want to read anybody else's mind, just yours. Do you really love me? Stop thinking of pink elephants and answer my question. Please? »

She deserved an answer. And I finally had one for her. "Makoto, I love you." And I thought about how I loved her - her strength, both moral and physical, her sense of justice, her ability to make me happy just by being nearby, her beauty, and more - as I said the words.

« Squeeeee!!! » "I love you too, Robu!"

And I could sense how she loved me, too - my readiness to comfort her, my willingness to accept her as she is rather than trying to change her into a proper student, my not asking about her past despite knowing her two biggest claims to fame, my desire to help her rather than tell her what to do, my friendliness toward her and her friends, my thinking her height was an asset instead of a liability, and more. « This is going to be a weird relationship, isn't it? »

« Yeah, but it's our relationship. Oh I like that idea. And that one, you'd look good in the green that I wear sometimes. Not that idea, that's too kinky. Hey, no fair switching to thinking in English. You're an oni sometimes. I may as well turn the mind-reading off now. »

As I turned my mental power off as well, I wondered what was so kinky about kissing in public. Then I remembered that the Japanese equated kissing with foreplay. "Let's leave that power turned off for the rest of the day, okay... my dearest?"

"That's a good idea, darling. Mind reading is harder work that I thought while I was doing it. But at least I know you aren't lying to me, the way some boys did." After a moment, Makoto asked, "What do we tell everyone else?"

"Good question. This isn't Senshi business yet; right now, it only concerns the two of us."

"I can't tell Usagi-san that you finally said you love me?"

I could read her mind, but I couldn't read her mood. Go figure. That would come later, as it does in any relationship. "I was thinking of whether we can teach the others how to read minds. And I don't want to try any experiments there until Hino-san's grandfather is safe."

She pouted. "You're an oni, thinking of other girls right after confessing your love to me."


She grinned. "I'm kidding! If you didn't think of helping other people, I wouldn't love you as much."

I slipped an arm around her waist, and she moved in to reciprocate. It wasn't our first hug, but it wasn't a chaste hug, either.

"There's something else I want to try after Hino-san's grandfather is safe and before we tell the others. I still want to copy your mind into mine."


"So I'll still have you even if we can't change the future."

That wiped the smile off of Makoto's face. "Yeah. I guess living on inside you is better than being completely dead. But you're right; we can't take the time to try when we could be called by Rei-san and Usagi-san."

"And we can't go out on proper dates, either," I sighed.

"Oh, you'd better believe we're going out on dates, darling!"

We spent the rest of the afternoon at a mall, finding a shirt for me that matched the shade of green of the top she'd bought just after the first time she became Sailor Jupiter, then having dinner out together. It wasn't a bad date - heck, it was a great date made even better by each of us knowing exactly what the other thought of the two of us being a couple - but it also wasn't as much fun as it could have been since we were half-expecting one of the other Senshi to page Makoto.

They didn't. And that made me wonder when we'd need to deal with Youma Jiji.

We discovered the next day that we didn't need to deal with Youma Jiji - Hino-san and Usagi-san, working together, had taken care of him on their own and managed to grab the Rainbow Crystal. Zoicite was moving more slowly than he had in the past, and he was wearing armour. I assumed that those two facts were related.

His armour included gauntlets. Aw, poor boy; I must have cracked or broken a bone the last time we met. Anything that made his job harder and our job easier was fine by me.

The girls were far more impressed by Makoto and me showing up at the Hikawa shrine in matching outfits. They mobbed her and demanded details, leaving me alone to meet the shrine's new hire, Yuuichirou-san. My first impression of him was that he was a big, lovable dork; if I didn't know from the anime that his family was as rich as (but not as important as) the Hino family, I would have dismissed him as a wannabe social climber who was trying to use Hino-san as a stepping-stone to a better life.

Hino-ojiisan was doing fine. This was the first time that I'd had the opportunity to talk with somebody who had been "refreshed" after the fact. He remembered the experience, but wasn't willing to give any specifics on the people who had rescued him from it. And that made me uncork my mind-reading to find out whether he really didn't know or was protecting his granddaughter's secrets... only to discover that I couldn't read his mind.

I couldn't read Yuuichirou-san's mind, either. Or Usagi-san's. But I'd never made skin-to-skin contact with any of them, either. This was something that I... no, Makoto and I... would have to investigate later.

Mako-chan and I managed to keep our relationship secret at school.

For three days.

We really needed to find some friends other than the Senshi. But we both had the same problem: we were so tall that we intimidated our classmates. When I visited her in class 6 at the start of lunch break that day, I heard one of her classmates say, "He's even worse than Kino-san!"

Which I shrugged off, but Makoto didn't.

Which lead to us ending up in the vice-principal's office. Makoto was required to be there; I went along as moral support and as a witness. The student who made the comment showed up eventually, after her classmates helped her calm down.

Don't get the wrong idea. Mako-chan didn't raise a finger against her classmate. But the vehemence of her verbal defence of me was enough to give the poor girl a horrid fright.

I did my best to protect everybody from official censure. I honestly didn't know who the girl was; I hadn't learned Aoyama-san's name before the vice-principal used it. So I was able to say honestly that it was somebody I didn't know who'd made the comment. And Makoto was obviously coming to my defence as required by the camaraderie rules in the students' handbook.

So nobody was expelled or suspended, but we all had to listen to a lecture about considering our classmates' feelings that took up most of the lunch break.

The vice-principal was not happy to hear that somebody who wasn't Japanese was dating a survivor of JAL123. But it wasn't his call to make, and I quite politely told him so before Makoto could complain the way she did in class an hour earlier. I could tell that I didn't convince him, but he let us go without further punishment.

And Aoyama-san - a girl with a depressed nose root and projecting cheekbones, which hinted that she was from Hokkaido, and who wore her raven hair in a shoulder-length cut - apologized to both of us once we were out of the vice-principal's office.

The next day, everybody in school knew that the two tallest students were an item. It wasn't Aoyama-san who told the world, it was her classmates, repeating what Makoto had said when she was angry.

Aoyama-san asked whether she could buy lunch for us, in order to make up for being responsible for us missing an earlier lunch. Instead, we invited her to have lunch with us.

By the time we had to go back to class, Ichigo-san was on a given-name basis with all of us. Thanks to Usagi-san, of course.

I don't care what the fans say. Sailor Moon's most impressive power is the Power of Friendship. And I don't mean Nanoha style. Drop Usagi-san into Equestria and she'd be in charge in a week.

Ami-san visited Makoto after school the next day. They spent an hour or so alone together, then Mako-chan knocked on my door and invited me over.

I closed my English textbook - I was reading up on what the Japanese did differently from native English speakers - and headed next door, to discover Ami-san was getting Makoto's help with her Home Economics homework. "We need a taste tester," Makoto grinned.

It looked like I was going to have curry for dinner - home made, not from a mix. "I'd be honoured."

Ami-san is many things, including a genius, beautiful, kind, an introvert, and Sailor Mercury. She is not, however, a gourmet chef.

Not to say that the curry was bad, mind you. It was easily as good as what I could make when I wanted something mild. But I'm not a gourmet chef, either.

Makoto and I both offered our opinion of the meal. I was more generous in my assessment than Mako-chan was, but Ami-san accepted both of our criticisms in the spirit that they were offered.

While I helped clean up after dinner, Ami-san remarked, "You two are working together so well that I'd almost think you're a married couple."

I smiled at the thought. Makoto replied, "Oh, I hope that'll happen some day. But not now, while we have to worry about the Dark Kingdom."

"And we're both too young to get married in Japan," I added.

"That, too," Mako-chan agreed dismissively. "No, we work so well together because we're reading each other's minds."

"You're what?"

I sighed. "I guess we have to tell her now."

So we did. At length. Including her testing us by whispering a question in one person's ear and hearing an answer from the other person.

She insisted on taking measurements with the Mercury Computer. Which we both sat through with as much dignity as we could muster.

After a few minutes, Makoto said, "This would be the perfect time for you to try copying my mind."

Ami-san looked shocked. "You can do that, Rob-san?"

"I don't know. Maybe. I hope so."

Ami-san's shock turned into curiosity. "Why would you want to copy Mako-chan's mind?"

After a short moment, I answered, "I'd rather not say." I wasn't about to lie to either of the ladies in the room or to Usagi-san, but that didn't mean I needed to tell the whole truth.

"Coward." We both turned to look at Makoto. "You're afraid of losing me. I'm afraid of you losing me, too."

Now Ami-san was puzzled. "Why? Are either of you going somewhere?"

I sighed deeply. How could somebody that book-smart be that naive? Rather easily, I realized later but not then. "According to the anime, which I'm doing what I can to change, that 'somewhere' is the undiscovered country."

Ami-san dropped the Mercury Computer in shock. Apparently she knew Hamlet. After a long moment, she whispered, "When?"

"After you locate Queen Beryl's base and take the fight to her."

"And Robu tells me that Sailor Jupiter is the first to fall."

Ami-san leaned over and picked up the Mercury Computer. Without looking at us, she asked, "Is she the only one to die?"

I still wasn't about to lie to her. "No."

Ami switched to English, and hesitantly asked. "When... when do I die?"

She'd finally figured out the situation. In the same language, I replied, "I'm so sorry. Unless things change, you're the second Senshi to fall."

"I don't want to die..." And the quiet introvert forced herself onto me, head touching head. "Copy my mind. Please."

Unlike when Makoto did the same thing, I couldn't hear her thoughts. I couldn't hear Mako-chan's thoughts while I was touching Ami-san head-to-head, either. But I did sense Ami-san's memories and personality flowing into my mind. I quickly set up a compartment for her... "brainprint" is as good a name as any... so that her thoughts wouldn't mix with mine. Then I wondered how I knew how to do that. I'd never done any exercises that would have let me set up something like a memory palace or some other form of thought container in the past.

I just knew. Stupid genre conventions.

Finally the flow ceased. "It's done. Are you okay?" I asked in Japanese.

"I'm still me," Ami-san replied. "And I'm sorry that I forced you to do that."

"It's alright, Ami-san. I don't mind... although I would have preferred to have copied Mako-chan's mind first."

Makoto giggled, then asked, "Still thinking about me even when you have another pretty girl in your arms, Robu?"

I smiled as I let Ami-san stand on her own. "Of course. I always have you in my mind, my dearest."

"Not yet, you don't!" As she moved in to take Ami-san's place, I sensed her think, « What is "Head on! Apply directly to the forehead!" supposed to mean? »

« Just a bit of silliness. Brainprint now, explanation later. »

So Makoto and I spent ten minutes sitting together with forehead touching forehead. Ami-san had the Mercury Computer out, recording the entire process.

At the end of that time, I said, "And now I'll never be alone. I'll always have my girlfriend and our closest friend to keep me company." I was in no hurry to let go of Makoto, the way I had let go of Ami-san earlier, but we stopped our hug out of consideration for our closest friend.

Then I had a thought. "Did you get a brainprint of me?"

Mako-chan sighed and frowned. "No. I think that's something only you can do. Unless Ami-chan can help us there."

Ami-san shook her head. "I can barely decipher these readings. There's no way I can turn them into something useful so quickly."

"Let's not worry about that right now. Oh, and despite having a copy of your mind inside my head, I can't read your mind the way I can read Makoto's."

"Can you still read my mind?" Mako-chan asked with a bit of worry in her voice.

"Yes," « and I can tell you're reading mine. My dearest. »

« With a lot of trouble, my darling. You're about to fall asleep. »

I nodded, then turned to Ami-san, and said in English, "Putting two people into me took a lot out of me. I need to go get some rest. Thank you for making dinner."

"Thank you for giving me a chance to survive in even the small way that you have."

"Good night, ladies," I said in Japanese as I left.

I had a lot to think about... and two new perspectives to help me think.

After a nap but before I turned in for the night, I finished my homework. It wasn't until I was halfway through my science homework that I realized I was pulling some of the answers out of Ami-san's brainprint.

I'd left the curtains open, so the morning sunlight woke me up before my alarm did. I spent a quarter-hour going through my thoughts as I thought them, and came to the conclusion that my thoughts were my own, not Ami-san's or Makoto's.

I skipped ahead in my Japanese history textbook - something Ami-san would know but I wouldn't - and did a sample quiz. The Ami-san in my head wasn't thinking on her own; it was more accurate to say that I had a massive database of her thoughts and personality up to the moment that I completed the brainprint.

And the brainprint of Makoto was also a vast memory database. I found myself crying as I looked at her memories of JAL123... and resolved then and there to stay out of that part of her brainprint forever.

Then it was time to wash up, eat, and get changed into my school uniform. In that order. The morning rituals done, I met Makoto just outside my door and we walked to the bus stop, hand in hand.

Lunchtime, and after what we were calling the Revealing Of The Lunches, Aoyama-san - sorry, Ichigo-san - commented on what Mako-chan and I had brought. "Neither one of those is a balanced meal... but they complement each other to make two balanced meals."

Makoto smiled, and I answered, "I'm getting better at knowing how Mako-chan thinks." That caused Ami-san to smile as well.

Usagi-san didn't smile... or notice.

"Tsukino-san, is something wrong?"

"How often do I have to ask you to call me Usagi, Ichigo-san? Yeah, my cat Luna isn't feeling well. I think maybe she got into a fight this morning."

"Oh, dear," I commented, while wondering how I was going to proceed with Ichigo-san sitting right beside us.

« Proceed with what? »

« Telling you that it's time to get the last Rainbow Crystal, my dearest. We're not going to Shinagawa, but it's time to see cats. »

« Darling, that's a terrible pun. »

« Sorry. »

"Look at these two, just staring into each other's eyes as they eat out of each other's bento," Ichigo-san commented. "I wish I had a boyfriend."

"Oh, I'm sorry!" Mako-chan and I said in unison.

That made everybody laugh. Yes, even Ami-san.

Mistaken identities. Cats. More subtle references to Gone With the Wind than you could shake an Academy Award at. Youma cat. Zoicite. Sewers. Rats. Zoicite covered in sewer rats. Tuxedo Kamen getting the final Rainbow Crystal.

And I couldn't change a thing.

This did not fill me with hope that I could change the final fight and keep Makoto alive.

All I could do was remind myself that tomorrow is another day.

The next day, I made my apologies to Makoto and visited the post office to withdraw enough cash for a couple of weeks. I do appreciate the "one stop service" mentality that led Japan to offer banking service at the post office. Instead of using the ATM and paying the service fee, I stood in line and had my passbook updated when I received the cash that I needed.

I sat down in a quiet corner and checked my passbook after it was updated... to discover that my balance was close to what it had been before I bought the printer. Which made me curious. I flipped back a few pages and discovered two things: first, that there was activity on the account before I arrived in this reality, and second, that somebody was replenishing the account at least once a week. During normal working hours. My balance had been stable, almost to the yen, since late August. Despite my not being in this universe until September, and my buying a printer.

Somebody out there was looking after my financial affairs, and from the timing of the transactions I doubted that it was the father that my paperwork said I had but I still had yet to meet or hear from.

Of course, the anime never explained where Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune got their money from, either.

Stupid genre conventions.

As I headed home from the post office, I noticed that I was being followed by a man who was about as tall as me, wearing formal evening wear, a cape, a top hat, and a mask. Either Kunzite was impersonating Tuxedo Mask or the genuine article had taken an interest in me. Or somebody was cosplaying as a super, but how many people in a culture that prizes conformity are both our height and interested in obvious cosplay outside of conventions? I dismissed the cosplayer idea immediately, which left me with two possibilities; either way, I knew I needed to check it out.

I headed into an alleyway. Sure enough, "Tux-boy" followed me in. "Do you have some business with me?"

"I believe you have something that I need."

I decided to play dumb. "The cash that I just withdrew is in my wallet." I reached for my pocket, slowly.

"I'm not a thief. I need the Rainbow Crystal that you have."

"Ah. Why should I simply hand it over to somebody who I've never met before? For all I know, you could be a youma dressed up for a formal ball."

In response, he threw a rose past me. I heard it "thunk" into the wall.

"All right, you're probably Tuxedo Kamen. But I can't be sure. Not that it matters, because I don't have the Rainbow Crystal any more."

"Where is it?"

"Some place safe. I don't know the specifics."

"Who has it?"

I knew that my answer would determine whether this person was Tuxedo Mask or Kunzite. "I'm not going to tell you that."

He turned on his heel and left. Since he didn't attack me, I assumed that he wasn't Kunzite.

I skipped grocery shopping and went straight home. The first thing I did there was get out the laptop and call Ami-san, to let her know what had happened... and to alert her that she was probably the next in line for a visit from our caped ally.

Only after that did I go next door and ask Makoto whether she had plans for the weekend.

"I was going to sit at home and do nothing, but I guess I could spend time with you instead," she replied with a grin. « Especially if this is a date, or Senshi business. »

« It might be both. » "I have two tickets for Dreamland. Would you care to spend Saturday afternoon with me?"

"I'd love to!" « What's going to happen? »

"I'll meet you here right after we get changed out of our school uniforms." « Zoicite's probably going to try to get our Rainbow Crystals. »

"It's a date!" « And if he doesn't? »

« Then we enjoy a date at the theme park. » "I'll see you then!"

She smiled that lovely smile of hers.

I returned to my apartment, but Makoto and I kept reading each other's minds while we did our homework. Nice to know that she didn't need to be in the same room for us to be able to make contact that way.

Saturday arrived, as it has a habit of doing once Friday leaves.

Classes ensued, but only for the morning. Usagi-san left before the rest of us could, but we weren't too far behind her.

Makoto and I wore the matching outfits that we had worn when we visited the Hikawa shrine after Rei's grandfather was "refreshed". There was a line to get into Dreamland when we arrived, but it was short; we ended up behind a blonde girl with twintails.

"It looks like they're letting rabbits into the park now," Makoto said quietly.

Usagi-san turned around and held a finger up to her lips. "Shhh! Don't let them know I'm here!" Then she lowered her hand. "What are you doing here?"

"We are on a date," Mako-chan announced as she took my arm in hers. "What are you doing here?"

"Well..." She looked at the ground as we moved closer to the front gate. "I want to make sure Naru-chan's feeling okay. Is that going to be a problem?"

"Not at all," I replied. "In fact, it's probably a good thing you're here," I added while using one finger to draw a crescent moon shape in the air.

She blinked, then sighed. "I'd better stay close to her," she announced just as she was let through the gate.

"See you later!" Mako-chan said as we followed her in, then turned to go in a different direction. We were easily the two most visible people in the park; we didn't want to spoil Usagi-san's shadowing of Naru-san and Umino-san.

Makoto enjoyed the roller coaster. I didn't. « I'm sorry, darling! If I knew you couldn't handle jet coasters, I wouldn't have insisted. »

« No, I should have told you ahead of time, » I thought as I emptied my stomach's contents into a bag, off where nobody could see us.

As a result of my ... issues ... we ended up sitting at the outdoor cafe nearest the special events stage just as the Redman show was beginning. "Too bad that isn't Red Lad instead of Redman," I commented while thinking of Kohran from Sakura Wars, both in her Red Lad costume and in her kohbu.

« I want one of those! » Makoto grinned mentally. "Oh, the kids look like they're enjoying watching it," she commented aloud as I looked over the crowd.

After I spotted Usagi-san, I replied, "The kids and the rabbits both. Somebody should make a note of this, but I didn't bring a pen."

« Is that a subtle hint that I should get my transformation pen ready, darling? »

« Got it in one, my dearest, » I thought back at her as we both stood up and took the remains of our drinks to the second-closest wastebin... the one that was in a nice, quiet corner.

But we didn't make it there before Zoicite arrived.

Stupid genre conventions.

Of course he wanted the Rainbow Crystals; he had out the black crystal that could track them down. "I know you're here somewhere, Sailor Moon! Give me the Yellow and Indigo Rainbow Crystals and nobody gets hurt!"

One of the children in the audience asked his friend, "Is this part of the show?"

I raced away from Makoto; having already seen in my mind what I had planned, she took off in the opposite direction. Then I shouted, "NO, IT ISN'T! RUN! NOW!"

"Aah! Oni!" Some of the younger kids ran for their parents. I turned my attention to Zoicite. "We meet again, Zoicite! This time I'm ready for you!"

"And just what do you plan to do this time?" he sneered.

"Isn't it obvious? Distract you!" I answered as a thrown rose came from the direction Zoicite wasn't looking in and cut his cheek. "By the way, nice armour." I created a nice, sparkly forcefield battering ram and knocked him down with it.

That got most of the rest of the children to run.

Zoicite stood up, unharmed except for the cut on his cheek, as Tuxedo Kamen walked toward us. "You're both here. Good. I can take the crystals you have," he pointed at the caped hero, "and then kill you unless Sailor Moon hands over the crystals she has." Needless to say, he was pointing at me when he said that.

I laughed. "The last time we met, you had to teleport away to get free of me."

"Oh, but I'm not your opponent this time." He pointed that damned black crystal at what was left of the Redman show's audience - and shot a bolt from it.

From the anime, I knew that the bolt would transform whoever it hit into a youma.

Unlike in the anime, Zoicite didn't miss his target.

Naru Osaka-san. Student. Friend of Usagi Tsukino-san. The only actual friend that Nephrite had before Zoicite killed him. Youma magnet. And, now, a youma herself.

Her short-sleeved dress looked like a slice from the night sky had been used for the fabric, and her kumadori makeup looked fierce, although her hair was still wavy, short, and just a shade darker brown than mine. She looked nothing like Queen Beryl did in the anime; if I ever met Shadowjack, I'd have to tell him he got that detail wrong.

"She's your opponent while I deal with him!" And Zoicite proceeded to ignore me and go after Tuxedo Kamen.

I had no choice but to let them fight it out without me. I had somebody more important to deal with. Somebody whose date, I might add, I saw cut and run as soon as she was transformed.

"Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho!" Aargh. That was the second-most-annoying noblewoman's laugh I'd ever heard. But at least she was focused on me. "Kneel before me and your death will be swift and painless!" she announced as she manifested a Zweihänder sword made from a single diamond. "Otherwise, it will be slow and agonizing!"

"You're not going to kill him at all! Guarded by the Planet of Thunder, Sailor Jupiter is here!"

« You were supposed to get Usagi-san! »

« I did! » I saw through Makoto's eyes Sailor Moon heading for the battle from behind the stage where I couldn't see her directly.

Youma-Naru-san laughed again. Please stop laughing. "Another sacrifice for master Zoicite!" She pointed her sword at Jupiter, one-handed and arm fully extended, and a bolt of energy shot from it directly at my girlfriend.

I hit top speed from a standing start and got in its way.

At least she wasn't hurt. I, however, was completely encased in a giant diamond. Uncut and not polished.

No other option. Manifest a cutting forcefield right at my face - sharper than obsidian, tougher than diamond - and slice a hole in the diamond. As soon as I could breathe, I made a forcefield tube to make sure the diamond wouldn't "heal" the hole that I'd made.

Then I turned my attention back to the battle. I couldn't hear a thing, but I could see that Jupiter was attacking Naru-san's sword with a "Jupiter Railgun" attack. Alas, the ball bearings simply bounced off. And here I thought diamonds were brittle.

Then I saw a spinning tiara hit Naru-san from the side. Everybody turned to look in the direction it had come from, except for me; I couldn't turn my head at all. I also didn't bother listening to Sailor Moon's speech through Makoto's ears; I was busy carving slices off of my prison in an attempt to get free and join the fight.

Then Moon kicked Naru-san. Much to my surprise, a Sailor Kick actually knocked her down.

I finally got a look at Usagi-san; she looked pissed off. I'd be pissed off too, if my best friend was turned into a youma. She launched a Moon Healing Escalation from point-blank range.

Suddenly I was free, just in time to hear Naru shout "Refresh!" and return to herself.

I'd never seen Sailor Moon take down a youma that quickly, and, judging from Makoto's thoughts, neither had Sailor Jupiter. « That rabbit's dynamite, » I thought.

« No time for pop-culture references, darling! Zoicite turned the Redman actor into a youma, too! »

Looked like I had changed things... for the worse. The bad guys were getting smarter.

We got to the other fight just in time to see Zoicite take Tuxedo Kamen's Rainbow Crystals and teleport away. Tux-Boy looked to be in bad shape, being trapped in a giant marimo ball like that.

Somebody needs to learn how to dodge.

Yes, I know the hypocrisy inherent in that statement. I did it on purpose.

I was still catching my breath and in no shape to help Moon and Jupiter take down the second youma. Nor did I particularly care. The entire afternoon had gone poorly, other than my interrupted date with Makoto. For the Redman actor and Tuxedo Kamen's sake, I asked, "Ladies, has anyone seen my girlfriend? Tall girl, wearing the same colour top that I'm wearing..."

"We'll go look for her!" Moon announced as she and Jupiter took off. Turning back to the others, I saw that Tux-Boy had disappeared as well, leaving me to help the actor to the aid station behind the stage.

Once he was in the hands of somebody who could do a better job of caring for him than I could, I headed out to find the others. At human-normal speed. I knew that the party was over, so I saw no reason to be speeding around the park.

I finally found Usagi and Makoto, comforting Naru. Makoto noticed me first and touched her eyelid with a finger pointing toward the sky. "Eye in the Sky" was a code we'd worked out that we wanted the other person to read our mind. Yes, it's from the Alan Parsons Project song that some people say equated reading minds with falling out of love, but Makoto and I had found that reading each other's minds made us fall more deeply in love with each other. Usually. And we loved each other enough to respect each other's boundaries. As soon as I had that power back on, I thought, « What's wrong? »

« She remembers everything that she did. And everything Umino-san did. »

« Or didn't do, » I thought with disgust.

« Be fair. If he'd stayed, he would have been the first victim. »

« Yeah. Mindreading off for now; I want to concentrate on talking. » And I joined the others. "There you are, my dearest!"

Makoto looked up. "Robu! You're safe!"

"Thanks to Sailor Moon, yes. Oh, hi, Usagi-san. And you are...?"

"Osaka Naru," she said quietly.

"Rob Donaldson. I wish the circumstances of our meeting were better, but I'm still pleased to meet you."

She looked up at me. "You're the one that Sailor Moon called 'oni', aren't you? I'm sorry."

That must have been while I couldn't hear anything. "Yes, I am. You weren't yourself, Osaka-san. And, as you can see, I'm perfectly fine. Oh, and before you ask whether I know who Sailor Moon is, consider this: Do you think she'd appreciate me telling other people her secrets?"

"No, of course she wouldn't." Usagi-san sighed in relief; I think Naru-san didn't notice.

Makoto turned her attention from me to Naru-san and Usagi-san. "I'm going to be terribly selfish and spend the rest of the afternoon with my boyfriend. Usagi-san, can you take care of Osaka-san?"

"I'll make sure she gets home safely."

"Then let's go, darling," Makoto insisted as she took my arm.

As son as we were out of earshot of whispers, I quietly asked, "What's the rush?"

"Naru-san's date who cut and run is heading over here."

"Right." We intercepted him. When big people want to intercept somebody, that somebody gets intercepted. "Kid," Makoto said in a decent Yakuza imitation, "she don't wanna see you right now."

"But I'm her boyfriend!"

"She's with her best friend," I replied, not unkindly. "Talk to her later. Right now, Osaka-san needs Tsukino-san, not you. I hear they've been friends for years."

Umino-san looked like he was going to argue, then deflated. "You're right. If anybody can get Naru-chan to cheer up, it's Usagi-san." Then he turned and headed for the park's exit.

As I watched him leave, I said quietly, "I really hope that that was the right thing to do."

It wasn't until I'd escorted Makoto home after dinner that I realized Naru-san's makeup in youma form had been blue, not brown.

By kabuki standards, that meant she was no mere monster at the time.

I immediately fired up the laptop and sent a text to Ami-san, asking her to ask Usagi-san to invite Naru-san to lunch on Monday and telling her why.

Lunch on Monday did not go well. Or it went fantastically well. I'm still not sure which.

It started, as always, with the ritual Revealing Of The Lunches. Ami-san brought sandwiches, of course. Usagi-san brought three different kinds of onigiri, and Ichigo-san had zangi (which was the second hint I'd had that she was from Hokkaido), gyoza with negi, and noodles. Naru-san's bento held pork katsudon. Makoto and I went vegetarian because she was short on cash: inarizushi and kappamaki, with edamame and pickles.

"Hey, yokai for the oni!"

Makoto and I both looked at Ichigo-san, to see the smile on her face. "Cute," I replied before Makoto could get upset.

She still asked, "Which of us is the oni?"

"Isn't it obvious? You both are! Robu-san is the red oni who wants to be everybody's friend, and Mako-chan, you're the blue oni who charges to his defence."

"I'm not planning on going anywhere, though," Makoto quickly insisted.

Seeing my puzzled look, Ami-san explained, "It's a reference to 'Naita Aka Oni'. We learn it in kindergarten here."

Eating commenced.

Then Ichigo-san had to try to find out more about Naru-san, which is when things started going downhill. "Osaka-san, do you have a boyfriend?"

Which she could have handled if somebody hadn't been passing by behind us at the moment. At least I hope he was passing by and not stalking Naru-san. "Excuse me, but I couldn't help but overhear. I'm Umino Guiro, and I'm Naru-chan's boyfriend."

"No, you're not."

Naru-san had said it quietly, but it rang out like a gunshot.


"You ran away when things got dangerous. Donarudoson-san jumped in front of an attack that was aimed at Kino-san. I know how boyfriends act. I have no boyfriend."

Oh, boy. I wanted to change things, but not that relationship.

Then I realized she'd said "Kino-san", not "Sailor Jupiter". Oh, boy, again. I'd seen Umino-san run when we were at Dreamland; there's no way he could have seen what had actually happened. I sincerely hoped that nobody else within earshot had been at Dreamland last weekend.

"You can't mean that!" Oh, gods, he was whinging.

Ami-san looked crossly at Umino-san. "It appears that you are not wanted here." That was the rudest phrasing I'd ever heard Ami use; it certainly shocked him.

I handed my bento to Makoto before she could hand hers to me. In as emotionless a voice as I could manage, I said, "Umino-san. Please don't force me to stand up and make things worse than they already are."

He took the hint.

Makoto, Ami-san, Usagi-san, and I exhaled in unison as we watched him walk away.

Ichigo-san was looking at me in awe. "You jumped in front of an attack? You must really love Kino-san." Then she realized how Naru-san was taking the conversation. "Oh, I'm sorry, Osaka-san. Kino-san can tell you that I sometimes talk before I think."

"But don't yell at her for doing that, unless you want to end up in the vice-principal's office," Makoto added as she handed my bento back to me.

It was Ami-san of all people who came to the rescue. "Ichigo-san, are you still having trouble with mathematics?"

"Yes! Yes, I am. I'd appreciate some help with some of the problems we were given for homework today."

"We don't have math until this afternoon. Perhaps you could show me the homework in your classroom," Ami-san suggested.

"I'd be happy to." And the two of them headed back inside, leaving Naru-san alone with Usagi-san, Makoto, and me.

Nobody said anything for a moment. Naru-san finally remarked quietly, "If it was supposed to be a secret, you shouldn't have dropped so many hints."


Naru-san turned to Usagi. "Yes, hints. Oni jumped in front of the only attack I launched so that it wouldn't hit Sailor Jupiter. Then Donarudoson-san didn't deny being Oni."

"Would you have believed me if I had?"

She shook her head slowly. "No. How many two-meter-tall white people are there in Minato?"

"Considering the number of ex-pats and embassy workers here, I'd expect more than one," I replied.

"And he's only 183 cee-em tall," Makoto said.

"And then you called him your boyfriend."

Nobody said anything for a moment. Then Naru-san turned to Usagi-san. "And you!" she hissed. "How many times did you call me 'Naru-chan' when you were Sailor Moon and I was a youma?"

I guess that I should have paid attention to that discussion. But I was busy staying alive.

"What makes you think I'm Sailor Moon?"

I sighed. "Don't insult your best friend's intelligence, Bunny-chan. She's figured it out."

"'Bunny-chan'?" everyone else asked in unison.

"Sorry, it just slipped out. But don't you know that much English, at least?"

Naru-san smiled. "I like it. You have a new nickname, 'Bunny-chan'."

"Will you keep our secrets, Osaka-san?"

"I'll keep Usagi's secret. You two... On one condition."

"What condition?" Makoto asked before I could.

"That you call me Naru instead of Osaka. If I'm going to be in on this, I want to actually be part of the group."

I could live with that. "If you're going to be part of the group, then please call me Rob, Naru-san."

"And 'Bunny-chan' says I'm 'Mako-chan', Naru-san."

"I'm stuck with that nickname, aren't I?"

"Serves you right for keeping secrets from me." After everybody but Usagi-san laughed, Naru-san asked, "Do the others know?"

I touched my eye with a finger pointing upward, as if I was wiping away some dust. « I don't want to lie to her, but telling the truth would break my promise. »

« Then I'll answer. » "Ichigo-san doesn't know. Ami-san does."

Naru thought for a moment. "Yes, she is smart enough to figure it out. How long did it take her?"

This one I could answer. "Ami-san knew before I met her."

She accepted that answer at face value. I think.

Monday was followed by Tuesday. Who would have guessed?

The last period before lunch was English. Sakurada-sensei asked me to stay behind at the bell.

"Donarudoson-san, are you still interested in joining a Conversational English club?" she asked in English.

If I hadn't become involved with Senshi business, I would have said yes immediately. I replied in the same language, "I understood that the school didn't have one, ma'am."

"We don't, yet. But if you can find somebody else who would be interested, I'd be willing to be the club advisor for you."

"That's quite kind of you, Ms. Sakurada. But don't the school rules say there is a minimum of three people in a club?"

"They do. We just had another student transfer in from England and she expressed an interest, so you and she would be two club members. Although she also asked whether she could join the volleyball club."

For a moment, I thought that it couldn't be her... but then I realized that she was about due to show up. "Assuming we can find a third person, I'm in. Perhaps Ms. Mizuno would be interested. Where would the club meet, ma'am?"

"You only need a room to talk in. You could meet in classroom 1, my homeroom."

"Thank you, Ms. Sakurada." I bowed as she left the classroom, presumably to get lunch.

Which I wanted to do as well, but Sato-san was at the door. "What did you say to Umino-san yesterday?"

Oh, great, Umino and Naru-san's breakup was on the grapevine. I hate gossip. Switching back to Japanese to match him, I said, "I asked him to not let things get worse than they already were."

"Ah. I guess he just misunderstood. So, what did Sakurada-sensei want?"

As if it was any of his business. "She told me about a new student that wanted to join a Conversational English club, and asked whether I wanted to start one with her."

"The new transfer student? That ice queen?"

Maybe she wasn't who I thought she was. "Ice queen?"

"Yeah," he said dismissively. "I asked her out this morning and she turned me down flat. She's not a wallflower like Mizuno-san used to be, so she must be an ice queen."

Or maybe she just doesn't like you, Sato-san. I'd ask him whether he was an incel, but that word won't be coined for another seven years.

"And you're going to be in a club with her? Good luck, Donarudoson-san, and don't let your girlfriend find out."

"Is the new girl that cute?"

"Aino-san is hot, not cute."

It was her! Good. "I'll keep that in mind. Now if you'll excuse me, lunch is waiting. And so is my girlfriend."

"And you don't want to keep her waiting. I heard what she said to Aoyama-san."

"You did?"

"Everybody in the classroom heard. She's got a good set of lungs." He grinned. "Considering..."

"Maybe you'd better stop there, before she yells at you."

"Yeah, sure." And he finally let me go.

When I made it outside, I discovered that everybody had waited for me. "You didn't have to do that."

"Bunny-chan insisted that it wouldn't be the same without the Revealing Of The Lunches, Robu-san," Naru-san pointed out.

Of course I ignored Sato-san's advice and told everybody about the Conversational English club and the apparently-attractive-female new student who wanted to join it, before asking Ami-san whether she would join as well. She mentioned juku, and I promised to make sure we'd work the schedule around her extra classes... as I quietly made a "V" shape with my chopsticks while shielding the sight of them from Naru-san and Ichigo-san. As soon as she noticed that, she agreed immediately.

Ami-san's the smartest girl I've ever met. I wondered for a moment what it would have been like if she was my next-door neighbour, instead of Makoto. Maybe there was a different reality somewhere where I shared an apartment building with her... but I wasn't in that reality, I was here. And then I thought that maybe I could do something to get Urawa-san to stick around the next time he showed up. Usagi-san was going to get Mamoru-san eventually unless I changed something there, and Makoto already had me; Ami-san deserved some happiness, too.

It took a few days for the Conversational English club to have its first meeting, what with the paperwork needing to be approved, Ami-san's juku, and the weekly volleyball team practice. We didn't get together until Friday, and that was just a "getting to know you" meeting. In which nobody actually mentioned the truly important things about ourselves, because Minako-san didn't know us yet and Sakurada-sensei sat in for the first few minutes of the first meeting.

Of course we spoke English. Sakurada-sensei insisted.

"I'm Mizuno Ami, and I'm happy to meet you."

After a moment, I sighed. "Ami-san, it's okay to boast a little bit."

"Do I have to?"

"Yes. You can't possibly carry out a conversation if you aren't willing to talk."

She sighed quietly. "Oh, alright. I placed at the top of the entire school during the last exams, and I'm taking high-school level courses at cram school."

"Ooh..." Minako-san said in appreciation.

I waited for another moment, then decided to give her a break. "I'm Rob Donaldson, and I'm pleased to meet you. I grew up in Canada, I just came to Japan in September, and Ami-san and I are in the same class. And I've just started a new hobby: taking walks with my girlfriend."

"That's so romantic," Minako-san replied. "Does your girlfriend speak English?"

"Not well enough to take part in a casual conversation, no. But I'm sure you'll meet Makoto some time soon."

Minako-san smiled as if she was keeping a secret. Of course, so were we. "I'm sure that I will. I'm Minako Aino... Aino Minako," she corrected herself, "and I'm happy to make your acquaintance. I've spent the last few years in London, but circumstances have brought me back to Japan. I like singing and playing volleyball."

"At the same time?" I asked with a grin.

"Don't be daft," she replied with a smile of her own.

"'Daft'?" Ami-san asked.

Seeing that Sakurada-sensei was as confused as Ami was, I replied, "That's British for 'silly' or 'stupid', depending on the context."

We continued chatting about where we each grew up for a quarter-hour or so, although Sakurada-sensei left five minutes in. Then we decided to wind up the meeting and have a longer one next week.

"What are we going to talk about next Friday?" Minako-san asked.

I smiled. "I'm sure we'll have something to talk about, the next time we meet."

Makoto and I got together to do our homework that evening, so that we wouldn't need to do it over the weekend. Well, except for whatever homework we were assigned Saturday morning.

Partway through, she put her pencil down and stretched. I watched. Judging from her smile, she didn't appear to mind.

Not for the first time, I wondered how lucky I was to have caught her eye... and then I remembered that whichever anonymous being it was who had dropped me into this reality had obviously intended us to meet. Stupid... no, this particular genre convention wasn't stupid at all, because it let me meet my dearest.

"Darling, how closely does the anime about us match our reality?"

"Where did that come from?"

"Just idle curiousity."

I thought for a moment. "Well, the events so far have been pretty close."


"Yeah, I don't like that idea either." We both knew why. "The timing, though... The only point that matched the timing of the anime was the day we met. Everything else has been moving faster than the schedule in the show."

"I'm almost afraid to ask, but how much faster?"

I thought for a moment, then the implications hit me. "I'll put it this way: If we were on the anime's schedule, I'd be giving you a birthday present the day after tomorrow."

"But it's only October..." Then she frowned. "You're telling me that things are happening on a three-to-one ratio between the anime and real life?"

"And speeding up."

"How many more episodes before... D-day?"

I sighed deeply. My policy of not lying to my girlfriend was starting to hurt. "Three months worth, as broadcast."

"Which means that if we don't change things, I'm not going to make it to Labor Thanksgiving Day, let alone my next birthday. I might not even make it to 7-5-3 Day."

Neither of us said anything for a moment.

"I'm still going to buy you a birthday present. No matter what. And I will do my very best to be able to hand it to you, my dearest Makoto."

We went shopping after school the next day.

No, not for a birthday present. I needed a warmer jacket, and Makoto decided we needed to match.

Which meant we were in the shopping district when the window-washers' platform's support wire broke. "Oh, no!"

« Doubly, » I thought. « Zoicite dressed as Sailor Moon will be along to rescue them shortly. And I thought telling him he'd look like a girl if he wore a wig would prevent this! »

« Awfully convenient that Zoicite has somebody to rescue... Oh. He put their lives at risk, didn't he? »

As I nodded, we heard somebody in the crowd say, "Look! It's Sailor Moon!"

Damn it, I was going to change something! "Hold my bag," I said as I passed it to Makoto and looked up. I hadn't tried using any of my powers at that range yet, so I needed to concentrate. "That's it... swing over... closer... just like that... There!"

My forcefield reached the impostor, and knocked the wig off his head.

"That's not Sailor Moon! She's a fake!"

So Zoicite decided to drop the people he'd rescued from the peril he'd put them in.

I'd never created a soft forcefield before. But I managed it, and they sank into it the way a pair of stuntmen sink into an air-and-foam pad the height of a person. And, as I dissolved the forcefield, they got up and walked away, while everybody around us cheered.

Makoto gave me a big hug. "You saved them!"

"After putting them in danger." « Zoicite's getting more ruthless than I remember. »

« But you changed things. »

« For the worse, not for the better. »

« But you changed things. Give me a straw to grasp at, darling. »

Then we saw Usagi-san and Naru-san heading toward us. « Time to go. »

A few minutes later, the four of us were in a quiet corner of a fast-food place, enjoying the best that The Colonel could offer in Japan. Which was pretty good, actually.

"Was that Zoicite?" Usagi-san asked.

"Oh, that was definitely Zoicite," Naru-san looked angry. "I'll never forget the man who killed Nephrite."

I'd forgotten that he'd already displayed a ruthless streak. Mind you, that happened before I arrived.

"Why would Zoicite impersonate you, though?" Makoto asked.

"Dunno," Usagi-san replied with a shrug of her shoulders.

"I could understand if he was trying to lure Tuxedo Kamen out and attack him, but Zoicite got his Rainbow Crystals at Dreamland," I mentioned.

"Maybe they were trying to lure you out," Makoto suggested. "They don't know that you gave your Rainbow Crystal to Sailor Mercury."

"But they should also not know that I had one."

"Can't they track the crystals, though? Maybe they know you used to have one. They definitely know you work with Sailor Moon."

"There is that, Naru-san," I agreed.

"They're going to try again, you know."

We all nodded in agreement with Usagi-san.

Makoto and I continued our shopping trip after lunch, but with a side of uneasiness. In canon, Zoicite and Kunzite lured Tuxedo Kamen out by pretending to capture Sailor Moon. We'd already derailed that, so how were they going to lure Sailor Moon out? And when?

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid genre convention.

"Sailor Moon!" Zoicite's voice boomed from above, like a wrathful ... No, Zoicite's never been a god, or even a demigod. "You and your followers must bring your Rainbow Crystals to the 300-year-old pine at Hamarikyu Gardens at once, or we will destroy this city! You have one hour!"

"Do they really expect that to work?" Makoto asked while the visage of the Dark General faded from the sky like an afterimage on a TV screen.

The shoppers around us started to panic. "It's just like a few months ago!"

I nodded. "It worked when Jadeite tried it."

"That was before my time."

"Mine, too. Let's go."

We were halfway to the subway station when Makoto's pager went off. "Mako-chan! Did you see that?"

"We saw it! We're on our way!"

But when we got to the subway station, there were people walking away from the platform for the Oedo line, enough that the crowd slowed us down and made us miss the first train. Although the four-minute delay did let Usagi-san catch up with us. Once we finally reached the platform, we learned why there was a crowd; there were subway staff being all apologetic while announcing, "Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Metropolitan Police have asked us that we not allow anyone to ride past Daimon Station for the next two hours. We apologize for the inconvenience." One of the staffers was even hand-writing apology letters for anyone who wanted one.

Makoto, Usagi-san, and I exchanged glances, smiled, nodded, and got on the train anyway. The car only had one other passenger: Hino-san. "Fancy meeting you here," I said.

"This is hardly a time to make jokes," she snapped at me.

"I'm completely serious, Hino-san. I didn't expect to see you until we reached Hamarikyu Gardens."

"Do you have the crystals?"

I shook my head. "Mercury has them."

Guess who boarded the train at Akabanebashi Station. If you guessed "Ami-san", then you know the stupid genre conventions, too.

We double-checked that we were the only people in the car. Then I raised a nice, sparkly, nearly-opaque forcefield around the ladies and looked out the window anyway.

"Mercury Power, Make-Up!"

"Mars Power, Make-Up!"

"Jupiter Power, Make-Up!"

"Moon Prism Power, Make-Up!"

I went invisible. Saying anything would have been counterproductive.

By the time we reached Daimon Station, the forcefield was gone and everyone was ready for action. A subway staffer looked into the car while saying, "We apologize for the inconvenience... Oh! Yes, of course the four of you may continue to Tsukijishijo Station. Good luck, ladies."

Two stops later and we were there. It's normally an eleven-minute walk from Tsukijishijo Station to the 300-year-old pine; the Senshi covered the distance in five, and it only took them that long because they were avoiding detection.

Now that I knew I had sufficient range to pull off the stunt, I made an invisible forcefield bridge across the Sumida River and got there in four... and was immediately dogpiled by youma, including one wearing very thick and large glasses who was directing the others. So much for invisibility being useful.

I really needed to learn some actual hand-to-hand combat skills, and stop relying on my powers during combat. By the time I realized I already knew all the martial arts that Makoto knew, it was too late. Once they had me pinned, a tall, white-haired man levitated over to me.

"Dark General Kunzite, I presume."

"And you would be Oni. Be a good boy and stay still, or my youma will rip your throat open. I don't suppose you'd like to drop your vision cloak and let me see your face, would you?"

In reply, and because I spotted a white cat with a crescent mark on his forehead in the branches of the 300-year-old pine, I misquoted the Dread Pirate Roberts. "No. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future. They're terribly comfortable."

"And you're a fool if you seriously believe that. Now, where are the Sailor Senshi?"

"Right behind you!" shouted Sailor Moon. "The heavens may forgive you for terrorizing the city, but I will not! In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!"

With that, I used a forcefield to grab those big thick glasses and throw them into the river. "Now, Sailor Jupiter!" I shouted.

"Sailor Kick!" She'd never done it in canon as far as I remembered, but she was a martial artist, so she pulled it off anyway. That left only one youma holding me down, and Makoto standing by my side. A forcefield battering ram took care of said youma.

The other Senshi rushed to Jupiter's side as she helped me up. "Are you okay, Oni?" Moon asked.

Still invisible, I answered, "I think so. Now, somebody tell me why Kunzite's smiling."

The man himself answered, "Because you've fallen into my trap!" And a dark forcefield surrounded the five of us and started to constrict. "That forcefield is invulnerable to all of the powers you've shown so far. I'll simply return later and take the Rainbow Crystals from your dead bodies. Good-bye, Sailor Senshi."

I sighed deeply. "I should have seen that coming."

"Let me guess," Jupiter replied. "Straight out of the anime."

"Except that we're in a park instead of a freight yard." I saw Mars stand and pose, and yelled, "Duck!"

"Fire Soul!" The flames bounced off Kunzite's forcefield and nearly fried us all, before I caught them in a forcefield of my own.

"Don't do that!"

"Are you saying we have to wait around for Tuxedo Kamen to come rescue us?" The thought obviously annoyed Sailor Mars.

Before I could answer her, an orange beam punctured Kunzite's forcefield from outside, kept on going over our heads, and punctured the forcefield again on its way out.

As the field collapsed, I replied, "No, we had to wait around for Sailor V to come rescue us."

And said defender of love and justice made her grand entrance, removing her mask as she did. As she walked over to us, her costume changed from a mirror of Sailor Moon's to a white-and-orange number, with a dark-blue bow that looked like the ones on Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars's outfits.

"I'm not using that name any more, whoever you are. Sailor Venus has arrived!"

"Sailor V! Venus!" Moon was going ga-ga as if she was meeting a celebrity. "Are you the Moon Princess that we're looking for?"

She smiled. But before she could say anything, I said, "Kunzite or Zoicite might be listening in."

The white cat that had been perched in the 300-year-old pine jumped onto her shoulder and whispered in her ear. She nodded and replied, "I'll see you tomorrow, where you usually meet."

"At tea time?" I suggested.

She nodded, and was off.

"Where we usually meet?" Moon asked with a puzzled look on her face. "How would she know that? And how would she know when we have tea?"

"All will be explained tomorrow," I replied.

Just to be sure, Makoto, Ami-san, Luna, and I were at the Hikawa Shrine at 2:50 the next afternoon.

Rei had a pot of tea waiting for us. "Where's Usagi?"

"I don't know," Luna answered. "And I'm worried."

I accepted a cup of green tea from Hino-san. "Ladies, will you allow me to make the introductions?"

"Why would you need permission to make introductions?" Minako asked.

"Because I made a promise to each of you."

"Ah. Those introductions." Hino-san thought for a moment, then continued, "if you're introducing us to Sailor Venus, then yes."

"You have my permission on the same terms," added Ami-san. Luna nodded in agreement.

Makoto smiled. "And I trust you to know what's best. Go ahead and introduce us."

"Thank you, ladies," I replied just as a blonde girl approached us... a girl that Ami-san and I had already met, who was carrying a white cat.

"Donaldson-san? I didn't expect to see you here," she commented.

I sipped my tea, then gave the cup back to our host. "Thank you, Hino-san." I turned to the newcomer. "Aino-san, I believe I said we'd have something to talk about the next time we met. Please allow me to make the introductions."

"Shouldn't we wait for Usagi-san?" Ami-san asked.

I shook my head. "We can't." I turned back to Minako-san. "You've already met Mizuno Ami-san, who is also known as Sailor Mercury. The cat she's carrying is named Luna, and she's actually a Mau. This is our host, Hino Rei-san, also known as Sailor Mars. This lovely young woman is my girlfriend, Kino Makoto, also called Sailor Jupiter. Everyone, this is Aino Minako-san, also known as Sailor V, now calling herself Sailor Venus. And her cat, or rather her Mau companion, is named Artemis. I'm Rob Donaldson; Usagi-san calls me Oni when she's Sailor Moon."

The white cat looked at me and asked, "How do you know all that?"

"No time to explain. We only have a few minutes and we need to go over some things that there's no point in keeping secret now. Tsukino Usagi-san is the reincarnation of Princess Serenity; there never was a Sailor Moon in the Silver Millennium." Luna's eyes went wide at that revelation. "Chiba Mamoru-san is Tuxedo Kamen and the reincarnation of Prince Endymion." It was Hino-san's turn to look surprised. "And since Aino-san just showed up right here right now, Usagi-san and Mamoru-san are both trapped by Zoicite and Kunzite, most likely in the Star Light Tower."

"That's where they are, yes," Artemis said.

Hino-san put the teapot down and said, "What are we waiting for? Let's go rescue Usagi and Mamoru before the Dark Generals call us out and demand the Rainbow Crystals again!"

"Who are you, Donaldson-san?"

As Makoto took Minako-san's arm and half-guided, half-dragged her along with the rest of us, she said, "We'll fill you in on the way."

We didn't have a subway car to ourselves this trip, so we had to have our discussions in whispers. As Luna explained the Silver Millennium to the Senshi and Makoto explained me to Minako-san, I had a quick talk with Artemis about how I knew what I knew. Our conversation was in English.

"So, you aren't from this time or this world at all. I can sympathize with you there, Donaldson-san."

"I thought you would, which is why I'm telling you so much, Artemis-san. And please, feel free to use British rules of politeness when we're speaking English."

"That might be harder than you think, Rob. I never did convince Minako to drop the honorifics or call me 'Artie', so I never got into the habit of using English rules of polite procedure."

"Well, you're her co-worker and in many ways her supervisor. There's a certain level of professionalism required there. I'm just an ally who doesn't need to be treated with the same level of politeness that your staff does... Artie." I said the last with a grin.

"Does that mean we can go drinking some time?"

"I'm too young for alcohol here. And I don't know what the local spirits would do to a cat."

He raised an eyebrow, or rather he would have raised an eyebrow if he had one. "You said that you know Luna and I are Mau."

"Luna has forgotten what that means."

"Ah. I'd better not transform to human where she can see me, then."

"And we'd better finish this conversation. We're almost there."

Artemis meowed and I bowed to the people who were watching us. Switching to Japanese, I said, "Thank you for being interested in my ventriloquism act. Look for me again on another train!"

I passed Artie to Minako-san, to carry out when we left the station. Finding a quiet corner nearby, we copied the drill we'd done last time; I put up a privacy screen, the girls transformed to their Senshi forms, and I went invisible. It was faster for the Senshi to roof-hop and me to run to our destination than it would have been to take a bus or a taxi.

The Star Light Tower was what I'd call an early version of Crystal Tokyo architecture, all crystal-like glass with no apparent metal skeleton. It looked a bit out of place among the steel and concrete towers of 1990s Tokyo.

And, when we approached it, it suddenly looked even more out of place when its entryway's appearance shifted to Early Modern Demon Lair. I didn't know whether that was Zoicite or Kunzite's doing, but whoever it was, he had no sense of style.

"Why'd they bother doing that?"

I turned to Artemis. "Beats me. It's bad tactics; they've just told us that they know we're here. And it isn't frightening any of us. Sailor Moon might have been unnerved by it, but she's already their prisoner."

"Are they boasting? 'Look at how much energy we can afford to throw away', and all that?"

"If they are, then they're going against their queen's direct orders. The Dark Kingdom has been operating in Japan specifically to gather the energy they need to resurrect their dark god."

"I wasn't aware of that."

"We can talk more after we rescue the hostages." I turned to Ami-san. "Mercury, can you map that tower?"

She already had the Mercury Computer out. "Whatever that effect is that changed the building's appearance is making scanning the building impossible, Oni."

"That explains why they're doing it," Artemis said.

"Yeah. Please do your best, Mercury. At least keep an eye on a path out."

Mars looked cross at that comment. "We're not going to retreat."

"But we do need to know how to get Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen out of the building," Jupiter pointed out.

"Okay, that's different."

Minako-san lowered Artemis to the ground, to join Luna (who'd already freed up Ami-san's hands). "You two are staying out here, where it's safe."

"Or at least safer," Jupiter added.

"Right. Have fun storming the castle!"

I stayed invisible when we raced inside, so Artie didn't see me roll my eyes. May as well force the bad guys to spend some energy tracking me so they couldn't use it against us.

Once we were five meters past the doors, the entryway collapsed. "So much for keeping track of our way out," Mars grumbled.

"Which way?"

« I'm staying silent for as long as I can. Tell Mars "up". I don't know how far up, but it might be all the way. »

« Good idea. » "We go up. As far as we have to. Maybe to the top."

And we headed for the stairs. But before we got there, the Rainbow Crystals that Mercury was carrying floated out of her pocket or wherever, and shot almost straight upward.

I dropped my invisibility and formed a forcefield platform under everyone's feet. "Track them!"

"Already tracking!"

Before Makoto could say anything, I said, "The time for stealth is past. Sailor Moon just created the Ginzuishou, which means Tuxedo Kamen is seriously hurt. Start blasting holes in the ceilings, ladies, we're going up!" And I raised the forcefield on a forcefield pillar as fast as my companions could clear the way, following the trajectory of the Rainbow Crystals.

On the way up, I mentioned, "You know, a coherent light beam could blind somebody if it hits them in the face."

"I already know that trick," Minako commented with steel in her voice.

I had to change anchor points a few times because my forcefields reached maximum extension, but we got there faster than we would have by taking the stairs. Assuming we could take the stairs.

We came up through the floor between Sailor Moon and the Dark Generals. I had to duck to avoid being hit by the Moon Tiara.

Turning around, I saw that Kunzite already had Mamoru-san and was teleporting away. We weren't fast enough.

Zoicite and I played tag for a few minutes; I grabbed him in forcefields and he teleported out of them. "Stop wasting my time, Oni!"

"I'll keep wasting your time for as long as it takes my friends to get in position, Zoicite!"

"Crescent Beam!"

Sure enough, Venus's attack hit him in the face. I couldn't imagine a better sight than a blinded Dark General.

"Fire Soul!"

Mars pointed out my lack of imagination. A blinded and on fire Dark General looked even better.

Zoicite got off an unaimed attack, which I blocked easily. Mamoru-san wasn't here to say it, so I shouted, "Now, Sailor Moon!"

She didn't do anything.

Damn. She's in shock. "Now, Sailor Jupiter!"

"Supreme Thunder!"

Dazed and staggered, and still on fire for whatever reason, Zoicite nonetheless rushed us... and fell through the hole in the floor that we'd arrived through.

He didn't teleport away. After a moment, we heard the thud.

Sailor Mars threw up.

"Is this the first time you've seen death, Mars?" Venus asked. She got a nod in reply, then Mars threw up again.

I wasn't doing too well, either. "It's the first time I've seen a violent death. Let's get out of here."

Ami-san guided Usagi-san out of the room and into what could pass for a corridor in an H. R. Giger nightmare. Minako-san helped Hino-san, and Makoto and I covered our retreat. Not that there was anybody left attacking us.

"He must have been out of energy."

"Not a pleasant way to go," I replied.

"I've seen worse."

Yes. Makoto, you have. I'll shut up now.

« Thank you, darling. »

We just missed witnessing The Slap Heard 'Round The World, Except In The North American Broadcast Dub. I put my arm out to keep Makoto from walking in on the drama. « Neither of them want to see a happy couple right now, my dearest. »

We waited for a few minutes, until Minako-san walked back to find us. "It's over. Mercury is just finishing calming them down."

"Thanks, Venus."

We joined the others. "Is everybody okay now?" asked Makoto.

"I'm not okay, but moping won't solve anything," Usagi-san replied. Her cheek was already turning red.

"Then let's get out of here," Minako-san suggested. We headed off, with Mercury and Venus supporting Moon.

"Didn't I just say we needed to do that?" Hino-san grumbled.

"Was that before or after you slapped your princess?"

"You can keep your mouth shut, Oni."

By the time we'd reached ground level, the Dark Kingdom's spells had ended and the Star Light Tower was back to normal. Including not having holes in all of the floors where we'd punched through them. That was convenient.

We didn't have an after-action debrief that afternoon.

We did have a study session, but not at the Hikawa Shrine.

The study session was at Ami-san's apartment, for a change. And I was very impressed by the building. "How can you afford to live in a place like this?"

"Oh, the hospital owns it. They bought it at a bargain price last year, and mother and I moved in not too long afterward. It's a much better building than the one the hospital was using for staff housing before the asset bubble burst, and it's closer to the hospital, too."

"Are you talking about the apartment again, Ami?" I heard somebody with a voice very much like hers ask. Then I saw the speaker. She looked like Ami's older sister, and she was wearing a blouse and slacks ensemble with an ID card on a lanyard around her neck.

"Only because my classmate asked, mother."

I bowed to who I now knew was Dr. Mizuno. "I'm Ami-san's classmate, Rob Donaldson. I'm honoured to finally meet you, Mizuno-sensei."

She returned my bow quickly, then talked to me while putting her shoes and coat on. "I'm happy to meet you, Donarudoson-san. Ami's told me that you're helping her with English. Thank you for looking after my daughter. And I hope we can talk properly some time, but I have to be going now. Don't forget to eat, and not just sandwiches, Ami!"

And she was out the door.

"But sandwiches are so convenient..." She was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Come in!"

It was Usagi-san, with Luna in her arms. "Hi! Pardon the intrusion! Ami-chan, I held the elevator for your mother just now. Another emergency at the hospital?"

"'Another'?" I asked.

"Mother and I don't see each other very often. She's been on call for months. The extra money pays for my juku."

"I see." Then I felt a tickle at my mindreading sense. "Hang on a minute." « Can you sense me? »

« Barely. What's up? »

I had to concentrate to sense Makoto. « Ami-san's mother just told her to have something other than sandwiches for dinner, then took off for the hospital. »

« Not a problem, darling. » And I saw through her eyes what she was carrying.

« I love you, my dearest. Shutting off the mindreading now. » "Ami-san, you don't need to worry about dinner. Mako-chan's almost here, and she's loaded down with grocery bags. Tonight, we feast!"

By the time Minako-san and Artemis arrived, we were just about to start the sukiyaki party. But they insisted we wait until they gave us some gifts, the way somebody who just moved into an apartment building would give gifts to their neighbours.

They'd put some thought into the gifts, too; each suited the recipient instead of being something useful but generic. Ami-san got a leather-bound book that I didn't see the title of, Makoto got a collection of Twinings teas, and Usagi-san got a promise that Minako would take her for an afternoon at a beauty salon next weekend.

Then I discovered that a particular revelation took place earlier than in canon. "I cannot believe you were 0091 all along," Luna complained as she opened the envelope that Artemis gave her... to see a simple card with one thing written on it with a brush: I'm sorry. "Oh, how can I stay mad at you now...?"

Then it was my turn. "Artemis-san said that Luna-san told him that Usagi-san said you have a collection of Sailor Senshi crane game dolls."

"I have the complete set," I replied.

"No, you didn't, but you do now, Rob-san," Minako-san said as she handed me a small package.

I opened it to discover a Sailor Jupiter plushie, and a maker's card authenticating that it was the first one off the production line. "It's... the perfect gift. Thank you so much. I trust you'll excuse me for leaving the table for a moment just before we begin dinner; I don't want her getting stained."

Unfortunately, they went home with one gift ungiven. Hino-san never did join us.

I hoped we hadn't finally come together just to fall apart.

Ami-san told me in class the next morning why Hino-san didn't join us. It turned out that Yuuichirou-san had been burned while tending to the sacred fire, and she had to take him to the hospital. Which, by the way, was why Mizuno-sensei was called in.

We let the others know at lunchtime. Including Minako-san, who we pretty much drafted into our unofficial lunch club.

It was amazing how well Ichigo-san and Mina-chan got along. Naru-san and Mina-chan didn't get along quite as well, though; I heard Naru-san mutter something about another person taking Usagi-san away.

We... no, I had to do something about that. My meddling had already cost Naru-san her boyfriend; I didn't want her to lose her best friend as well.

So I asked Ami-san whether she was busy after school.

Then I asked Ami-san whether she was busy after juku.

She got the hint, and agreed to come over after dinner.

"What's on the agenda tonight, Rob-san?" Ami-san asked once she had joined Makoto and me in my apartment.

"A little homework, one episode of an anime, and some brainstorming," I replied. "In that order, and our homework is almost finished."

Ami-san looked over Makoto's shoulder. "You're doing a lot better now than you were when we met, Mako-chan," Ami commented.

"I'm finally used to the textbooks you use here," she replied.

Ami walked over to me. "Should I bother checking your homework?"

"You already are. Or, rather, your brainprint is." That comment soured the mood a bit. Not because I'd made the comment, but because of why we'd made the brainprint in the first place. I closed my textbook. "Speaking of, I think it's anime time."

Once Makoto had her homework put away, I started episode 36.

An hour later, the ladies had come to terms with the idea of a brainwashed Endymion, and we had a plan to protect Usagi-san from discovery when Minako-san took her to the beauty salon this weekend. Teal Deer, since the hair dryers/scryers were networked together, spoof the network so that everybody would be identified as Sailor Moon. We considered having nobody be identified, but then we'd be condemning a half-dozen women to remain youma, and nobody wanted that.

"Can I impose on you to deliver the virus to their network, Ami-san?"


I smiled as I explained to Makoto, "It's designed to make the system sick, and cough up something wrong. Thus, it's a virus."


Ami-san nodded. "I can do that as soon as I write it," she said.

I smiled. "We're lucky to have you as a friend, Ami-san. Thank you,"

"Are we going to warn Usagi-chan?"

"She and Minako-san did a pretty good job on their own in the anime. And do you really think she'll believe us about Tuxedo Kamen?"

Makoto thought for a moment. "No, that's something she needs to see for herself. What are we going to be doing while Ami does her part of the plan?"

I sighed. "We are going to be doing something else altogether: Salvaging Usagi-san and Naru-san's friendship."

"Their friendship is in trouble?"

"Naru-san is feeling crowded out. Before Bunny-chan became Sailor Moon, Naru-san was her best friend. Now, who looks like she's Bunny-chan's best friend? Hino-san? Ami-san? You? Me? Ichigo-san? And Minako-san was just added to that list."

"I never thought of it that way."

Ami-san thought for a moment. "Perhaps if we let Osaka-san in on one of our secrets, that might make her feel like she's still valued."

"She's already figured out who Sailor Moon, Oni, and I are," Makoto said. "And if she's still feeling left out even after that..."

"Then that might not work," I finished. "Mind you, she had to figure it out for herself; we never told her. What if we brought her all the way in, and asked her to help us?"

"We'd need to tell her that I'm Sailor Mercury."

"Yeah. Are you okay with that, Ami-chan?"

"Let me think about it, Mako-chan, I'll tell you tomorrow."

"Sure. And if you say yes, we need everybody else to agree to let Naru-san know who they are, too."

We ended up warning Usagi-san and Minako-san anyway, the one day that Naru-san and Ichigo-san got drinks for everybody at lunch.

Needless to say, Minako-san had something to talk about during the Conversational English club meeting that week. In English, of course; not only was that the whole point of the club, but we could mention some things that we couldn't talk about in Japanese without spreading our secrets around to all and sundry.

"How do you know all these things about us, Donaldson-san?"

"Aino-san, I hoped we could be friends. Please call me Rob. As for how I know about you, didn't Artemis tell you anything about me?"

"Call me Minako, then. Artemis said something I couldn't believe. You're supposedly from another universe altogether, where all of this," she waved a hand around, "and all of us are in a work of fiction."

"I've seen episodes of the anime we're in," Ami-san said quietly. "Which reminds me that our countermeasure for this weekend is ready."

"Thanks, Ami-san. Minako-san, I'm not going to make any copies of that anime, so if you want to watch it, you'll have to come over to my place."

"Is this some ploy to get me alone with you?"

"Rob-san isn't like that!"

"Thank you, Ami-san. Minako-san, I would expect Makoto, Ami-san, or both to be with us to act as chaperones."

"I might come visit some time, then. And no honorific for Mako-chan?"

I just smiled in response.

"Oh, ho! When's the big day?"

"You're a nosy one, Minako-san. We haven't set a date, but we've agreed that we aren't going to get any closer that we already are while we're fighting the Dark Kingdom."

"How close have you gotten?"


I was happy that Ami was willing to come to my defence. "It's alright, Ami-san. We have hugged. And I've seen her transform."

"Woah!" Minako blushed at that last statement. Interestingly, Ami-san didn't; maybe she's become used to the idea. Minako-san kept following this chain of thought (and, yes, I was tempted to call it a love-me chain) despite the blush. "Aren't you tempted to go any farther than that?"

"I'm curious about that, as well."

"Alright. Yes, we're both tempted. But we know we mustn't, at least not now."

"Why not?"

Ami-san answered before I could. "We're not even fifteen yet. Our bodies are still developing."

"That alone is good and sufficient reason to wait. I don't want to hurt Makoto."

Ami-san continued, "Also, imagine what would happen if a pretty warrior was taken out of action by something like morning sickness."

"Birth control is a thing," Minako-san pointed out.

"No birth control is 100% effective," Ami-san countered.

"Ladies! Can we talk about something else, please?"

"Oh, is the big bad ogre getting embarrassed?"

"Yes," I lied. Hey, I never promised not to lie to Hino-san or Mina-chan, just Usagi-san, Ami-san and Makoto. And it wasn't a complete lie, but if we explained the other reason why Makoto and I had yet to kiss, let alone go any farther than that, Minako-san would wonder why Makoto needed a reason to survive the fight. And then I'd have to tell Minako-san that she was third in line to fall in battle.

And she didn't need the burden of knowing that she was fated to die if I didn't change the timeline. It was bad enough that Makoto and Ami-san knew.

"Fine, fine. we'll talk about Usagi-san instead. After we get our hair done, I was thinking of taking her somewhere for tea. Do you think she'd like that?"

"Usagi-san loves cakes," Ami-san answered.

"I'll take that as a yes."

"It sounds like you're planning on pampering our princess," I commented.

Minako-san nodded. "I know what it's like to lose a boyfriend," she said wistfully. "She needs this."

"You're a good friend to our Bunny-chan." Ami-san smiled.

"Speaking of Bunny's friends... She's close to losing one. Naru-san is feeling crowded out, and while she has an idea why, she doesn't exactly know."

Minako-san grimaced, then asked, "How can I help?"

"Rob-san and Mako-chan have an idea, but it involves telling Naru-san who we are."

"And it has to be unanimous. Would you talk with Artie about bringing Naru-san into our confidence, please? Both of you have to agree. And so do Bunny-chan, and Luna, and Ms. Hino."

Minako nodded. "I'll ask him. Why is Rei-san the only one of us you don't call by her given name, Rob-san?"

Ami-san looked surprised. "I hadn't noticed that."

"She's never told me that I'm allowed to. And from her attitude toward guys who aren't Chiba-san or Yuuichirou-san, I don't want to assume that I have that right unless she says I do."

"Oh, okay." Minako-san turned to Ami-san. "So, cake shops. Where are the good ones?"

I let them talk, but took notes on a sheet titled "Where to take Makoto on a date"... which caused both of them to smile.

While Usagi-san and Minako-san were battling at the salon and Ami-san was making sure nobody had proof of who they were, I was talking with Luna at my place.

"Most people arrange these so that Sailor Moon is in the center," she complained about how I had my crane-game dolls displayed.

"Most people aren't dating Sailor Jupiter," I replied.

"There is that." After a moment, she continued, "Usagi says we can tell Naru-san about me and the others. I've been watching Naru-san for a while and I think I know what I'm going to say, but I have some questions first. What do you want to have her do? She isn't a Senshi."

"Neither are you and Artemis, but you help the team simply by giving us advice. I'm hoping that Naru-san could cover for Usagi-san at school, make excuses and take notes for her when Sailor Moon needs to be elsewhere, and simply remind everybody exactly why we're fighting the Dark Kingdom. And now that I'm saying that, maybe we should bring Aoyama Ichigo-san into the inner circle so she can do the same for Makoto."

"I have no idea who Aoyama Ichigo is."

I waved one hand dismissively. "She's Makoto's classmate. Bringing her in isn't important right now. Naru-san is the one we need to worry about today."

"Do we really need to worry about Naru-san?" The way she asked, I could tell she already knew her answer to the question; she wanted to know mine.

"For love and justice, I think we do."

"You're right, of course. We can't just say we support an ideal and then not live by it."

"Then we're agreed there. But we can care about Naru-san without bringing her all the way in to the inner circle."

"Are you arguing against your own idea, Robu-san?"

"No. If I can't see the flaws in an idea, then I haven't thought it through."

"I can understand that. What did Rei-san, Minako-san, and Artemis say?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "I don't know. Makoto is talking with Hino-san this afternoon. And it was only yesterday that we asked Mina-chan to ask Artie."

"'Artie'?" Luna's eyes went wide in surprise.

"He complained that Mina-chan never called him that, so I decided to make him happy that way."

"I couldn't possibly call Artemis 'Artie'."

I smiled. "Not now, but who knows what the future holds?"

"Apparently you do."

"Only in broad strokes at this point. And I don't know what you're going to say about Naru-san."

She thought for a moment. "I'll let you bring Naru-san all the way into our group."

Much to my complete lack of surprise, Makoto convinced Minako-san, Artemis, and Hino-san to go along with our plan. "Love and Justice" covers a multitude of virtues.

But then Usagi-san couldn't join us after school at all that week. She had plans. And considering what she'd learned at the salon about what had happened to Tuxedo Kamen, I wasn't about to pressure her.

In retrospect, I should have realized what those plans were, but I was still hoping that my actions were changing the timeline away from canon events. I had my nose rubbed in that mistake when I wanted to discuss our plan to bring Naru-san into the inner circle and discovered Makoto wasn't home, and I tried calling Ami-san on the off chance that she was there.

Ami-san's mother picked up. "I'm sorry, Donarudoson-san, but Ami is out this afternoon. She's attending a special dance session."

"That doesn't sound like her usual behaviour, Mizuno-sensei."

"Oh, I insisted. She needs to learn how to interact with people if she's going to become a doctor, and the Princess Seminar is willing to teach her at least this much."

The Princess Seminar. Oh, crap.

"Did she leave the address of this seminar, by any chance?" I asked while securing my laptop.

Mizuno-sensei told me, and I thanked her and wished her a pleasant day.

Then I was out the door, invisible, and running for the estate where my girlfriend and our best friend were about to walk into a trap.

Not at full speed - I couldn't maintain my top speed without tiring myself out - but fast enough that I made it there before public transportation could have.

It wasn't until I was at the wall surrounding the estate that I was able to hear Makoto's thoughts. « Robu's going to be so proud of me that I passed! »

« No! Makoto, get out of there and take everybody else with you! It's a trap! Damn it, why aren't you reading my mind right now? Makoto! NOOOOO!!! » I was too late.

Damn it. I like it when my girlfriend wears green, not when she is green and covered in wax.

There was one small comfort that applied to all of their previous victims: I couldn't hear her thoughts. Which means the victims were in suspended animation, not imprisoned and slowly going insane.

That didn't stop me from feeling righteous anger, or using a forcefield battering ram to break the window so I could go through it.

The youma Shakoukai was ready for me, but I was also ready for her. The wax that she thought she was shooting at me only covered a pair of forcefields. I pushed her out of the room we were in, both to protect her victims and to bring Sailor Moon into the fight.

"Why is there a youma here?"

"She's your teacher! And all of the girls who passed her course are trapped in wax in the next room!" I put up another forcefield to protect Bunny-chan, Mina-san, and Hino-san.

"Ew, ick! Moon Prism Power, Make-Up!"

"Mars Power, Make-Up!"

"Venus Power, Make-Up!"

I sighed as I blocked another attack from Shakoukai. "Since when do you transform right in front of a youma?" I asked with some steel in my voice.


"We just need to defeat her first! Fire..."

"Mars, no! Don't melt the wax statues that she turned people into!"

She aborted her attack. Quickly. As Mars reached for an ofuda instead, Venus launched an attack of her own: "Crescent Beam!"

I'd never seen a wax impression of a laser beam before that day.

"Enough playing around," I said as I slammed Shakoukai into a wall and pinned her there, making sure she couldn't launch another attack while leaving her forehead uncovered.

"Akuryo Taisan!"

Venus took Tuxedo Kamen's usual role. "Good work, Mars! Moon, now!"

"Moon Healing Escalation!"

And suddenly I had Countess Rose pinned to the wall, not Shakoukai. She cried "Refresh!" and fainted as I let her loose, and Venus caught her.

Then we heard screams of panic from the next room. I was never so happy to hear panicky screaming girls in my entire life.

Ten minutes later, we very carefully confirmed that Countess Rose had no memory of the Sailor Senshi's identities.

While escorting Makoto and Ami-san home, I idly wondered why Hino-san didn't pass the course.

"Why would you expect that she'd pass?"

"Because of her family... Oh, wait. She doesn't like her father, does she?"

Ami-san nodded. "That's right, but if she didn't tell you that, then don't mention him in her presence."

"Wait a minute," Makoto interrupted. "Rei-san is part of that Hino family?"

"Yes, and you can imagine the scandal if her secret identity was revealed."

I added, "I wouldn't be surprised if she deliberately didn't learn the skills of high society."

"It looks like Bunny-chan didn't learn them, either," commented Makoto.

"Too bad," I replied. "It looks like you two will have to be the group's elegant members until Sailor Neptune shows up."

"Oh-ho! So there's a Sailor Neptune, is there?" Makoto grinned.

Oopsie. "To quote Rubeus Hagrid, I shouldn't'a told ya that."

"Who's Rubeus Hagrid?"

Before Makoto and Ichigo-san joined us for lunch on Monday, Usagi-san asked, "Naru-chan, are you busy after school?"

"I don't have any plans," she replied. "What are you thinking about doing?"

"I want to introduce you to some people I know."

Naru looked surprised. "You want me to meet... them?" she finished as she noticed the last two members of our group approaching. "I'd like that."

"Great! I'll meet you at your place after school."

I looked up at the latecomers. "Ah, there you are! Neither of you are usually late for lunch."

Ichigo-san looked miserable. "I'm not going to be allowed to go on the school trip next week." That was a special trip; instead of having a sports festival for Sports Day this year, we were all going into the mountains for a week to learn how to ski. And so were the middle-school students from Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin. Yeah, TA Girls' School. "And I really wanted to win the contest, too."

"Contest?" I asked.

"The night skiing event, only for the girls. The winner will be named the Moonlight Princess."

"Oh, that." It's a trap, of course.

« We figured that out already, darling. »

"Why can't you go?"

"Hang on to that question," Minako-san insisted. "We haven't done the Revealing Of The Lunches yet."

Other than Minako-san's lunch, there wasn't anything special. Ami-san had to comment on that one lunch, though. "Mina-chan, if you eat like that very often, your arteries will end up clogged."

"You don't think I should eat pigs in blankets?" Ichigo-san looked puzzled. Minako-san explained, "These. They're pork sausages all wrapped up in bacon like they're in blankets." And Ichigo-san was enlightened.

"Not every day, but once in a while is okay," Ami-san allowed.

"Now that that's settled, there's still a question in the air that hasn't been answered," Makoto pointed out.

Ichigo-san sighed. "Oh, right. My Japanese History grades aren't good enough. I have to stay here and take supplementary classes."

"We can do that?" I asked.

"I have to do that. Who'd want to stay behind and take classes instead of going skiing?"

"Well..." I started. "Even though I grew up in Canada, I was never very fond of winter sports. And I'm struggling with Japanese History, too."

Makoto looked sad, but said, "I suppose academics are important. But don't you dare try to get out of skating class when we have that."

That's right - figure skating was Makoto's sport. "I'll let you teach me, m-Makoto." I almost called her "my dearest", but we all knew how poorly Bunny-chan was taking Chiba-san's brainwashing.

We chatted about various and sundry things, and after lunch I asked my homeroom teacher whether I could stay behind and take the supplementary Japanese History classes. He almost declined until he checked my grades; then he told me that I was showing initiative in making the request before he had to tell me to remain behind, and approved my absence from the school trip.

School ended, and we went home to change out of our school uniforms. Then we headed for the Hikawa shrine. Makoto and I were the first to arrive, followed shortly by Ami-san, then Minako-san and Artemis, and finally Usagi-san, Naru-san, and Luna.

After paying our respects to the shrine and the resident kami, we joined Hino-san in her home. "Thank you for visiting, Osaka-san," she said with a smile on her face.

Looking around, Naru-san formally replied, "Pardon my intrusion." Then she asked, "Do we all know the secret?"

As previously discussed, I took the lead and bowed deeply to Naru. "Osaka-san, I must apologize to you for my misleading statement earlier. While it is true that Mizuno-san knew that Tsukino-san is Sailor Moon before I met either of them, I did not explain how she knew and I allowed you to reach an incorrect conclusion."

Then it was Ami-san's turn to bow. "And I apologize to you for not telling you this earlier. I'm Sailor Mercury."

"Oh, raise your heads, you two. I suspected as much. Thank you for telling me the truth." Then she turned to Minako-san. "How do you know the secret, Aino-san?"

"My cat told me," she replied.

"Your cat."

"That's right," Artemis replied.

"Gaah! Talking cat!"

"Naru-san, this is Artemis. He's a Mau, not a cat," I explained.

"What's a Mau?"

"An alien who looks like an Earth cat," he explained. "Although, as you can hear, we can talk."

"Sure. Of course you are." Naru-san turned to Usagi, who was still holding Luna. "And I suppose your pet cat is a Mau, too."

"I am," Luna answered.

"Would you care for some tea, Osaka-san?"

She nodded. "I'd like that, Hino-san. How is it that you know Usagi's secret?"

"I'm Sailor Mars."

"That makes sense, I guess. So the only Sailor Senshi that I haven't met yet is Sailor V?"

Artemis replied, "You didn't ask why I told Minako about Usagi-san."

Naru-san blinked. Twice. "You're..."

"I call myself Sailor Venus now."

"I've been having lunch with four of the Sailor Senshi and Oni for how long, now? And I only figured out three of your identities."

"That's three more than Aoyama-san has figured out, we think." Usagi-san said.

"Oh. Good. I'm not a complete idiot." Naru-san turned to me. "I suppose you're Tuxedo Kamen, too."

I shook my head and gave the reply that we'd prepared for a question like that one. "No. Tuxedo Kamen is somebody else who I don't have the right to name at the moment. And now we start telling you things that only the inner circle know." I made a motion with my hand that encompassed everyone in the room... including Naru-san. "Tuxedo Kamen has been kidnapped and brainwashed by our enemies, the Dark Kingdom."

"The group that Nephrite was part of."

"And Zoicite, who I watched die," Makoto confirmed.

"He's dead? That's good to hear," she said with some venom in her voice. "I've been afraid ever since that bastard killed Nephrite that he'd come after me next." After she sipped her tea, she asked, "How did you find out about Usagi-san, Donarudoson-san?"

"Please, call me Rob.  Not everyone in this room knows my entire story, so I'll only share part of it with you. I'm from the year 2022."

"Time travel is impossible. They said so in science class."

"Yet I'm here. And it isn't impossible for Sai..." I cut myself off before saying the name.

Makoto wouldn't let me stay silent, though. "Oh, no. That's a secret that we need to know. It might give us an advantage over the Dark Kingdom. Which one of us can travel in time?"

"Since you put it that way..." I sighed. "Sailor Pluto."

"And how do we contact Sailor Pluto?" Hino-san demanded.

"I have no idea. According to the records I have access to, she contacted you."

"So much for having another ally in the fight."

"Sorry, Bunny-chan. And please stop asking me about Sailor Senshi other than the people in this room."

Naru-san took pity on me. "If you're from 2022, why are you here in 1992, Robu-san?"

"That's a good question, Naru-san. And I don't have an answer for it."

"Are you here because the Senshi need your help?"

I shook my head. "They're quite able to fight their own battles."

"I should hope so," Hino-san muttered.

"Did you volunteer to come back in time?"

"No. To be honest, this world is primitive in many ways, and I'm not completely comfortable here. You don't even have internet connections in every home yet."

That caught Ami-san's attention, but she didn't ask about it then.

"Is there anything about this time that's better than in 2022?"

"Yes," I replied instantly. "Makoto."

She smiled. "Robu has let me see a few of those records of his. I didn't have a boyfriend in the reality where he didn't come to 1992."

Naru-san thought for a moment. "So you've changed history."

"Only in ways that don't affect the Dark Kingdom."

"What do the Dark Kingdom want, anyway?"

Everybody waited for the answer to that question.

After a moment, I decided to tell them. "You have a right to know, but please don't tell anyone else. We don't need mass panic. They're trying to gather enough energy to revive their dark kami, Metaria, and take over the world."

Nobody said anything for a moment.

Finally, Naru-san whispered, "I never imagined that what you were doing was that big."

"Are we going to win?"

I turned to Usagi-san. "Naru-san has already told you that I've changed history. I certainly hope we'll win, and if you'll have me I'll fight by your side to help make that happen, but I can't make any promises."

"Mako-chan, are there any hints in the records Robu-san let you read?"

Instead of answering, she ran out of the room.

Before Ami-san and I followed her out, I said more harshly than I intended, "Never ask that again."

Between the two of us, Ami-san and I calmed Makoto down to where she was coherent again. "Why did Usagi have to ask me that?"

"Because she doesn't know what the answer means," I replied.

"And she mustn't know," Ami-san added. "We should never have learned."

I swept both of them into a hug. "And I'm so sorry that I told you. But I'm never going to lie to either of you. Or to Usagi-san, either."

We stood there for a moment, simply feeling each other's friendship. Skinship is a wonderful way to grow closer, as long as everybody involved agrees to it and respects each other's boundaries.

"Thank you for telling us, Rob-san," Ami-san finally said.

"And thank you for being here for me," Makoto added.

We let go of each other. "And thank you both for being yourselves. Remember when I said that you and Usagi-san were my only friends here? That's changed - there's Artemis and Minako-san and Ichigo-san, and I hope Naru-san, and even Luna and Hino-san, but the two of you are still my closest friends."

"Even Hino-san?" the person in question asked from her bedroom doorway.

"Well, we don't spend very much time together," I pointed out. "But I still hope you're my friend."

"You're as clueless as Yuuichirou-kun," she complained. "Of course we're friends. But I'm not ready to be on a given-name basis with you. Are you three ready to come back inside?"


She nodded to Ami-san. "Yeah, let's go."

We discovered Usagi-san bowing to us when we returned. "I'm sorry, Mako-chan. I shouldn't have asked that question. I don't know why I shouldn't have asked, but I'm sure you have your reasons."

"U-sa-gi..." Hino-san growled.

"Please ignore that last sentence!"

Naru-san giggled. "Now I know why you want me involved in the group. You need somebody with some common sense."

We all joined in on the laughter.

Then I had an idea. "This faux pas reminds me of an idea one of you had, I forget who, to make it look like there was a rift between the Sailor Senshi."

« When did we have this idea, darling? »

« Let's see; we're almost at episode 38 now, and it showed up in episode 43, so... »

« Oh. One of those ideas. » "I think that was my idea."

"But why?" Naru-san asked.

"So that the Dark Kingdom would think they could recruit one of you, and then we could finally find their base. Right?"

Makoto smiled upon my explanation of "her" idea. "That's it exactly."

"It could work," Artemis said. "But we'd have to put a lot of work into it."

"Which is why I was thinking we should start now. Naru-san, your role in this would be... let's see..."

"The friend who refuses to abandon Usagi." She must have seen the surprised look on my face. "Well, who here would the Dark Kingdom most want to recruit, if not Sailor Moon?"

We continued tossing around ideas until it was time to go home for supper... at which point we had the beginning of a plan.

I decided to listen to some music that evening... but when I switched on my laptop, I discovered that there was a message waiting for me.

Untitled. And from an unknown sender.

Was I finally about to get some answers as to why I was here? Or was this the first spam message in this world's existence? I opened the email.

"Please be more careful about what you say to others. --Meioh"

I hit reply... only to discover that the address was "example@example.com".

I quickly examined the message source... only to discover that the email appeared to originate from localhost.

Stupid genre conventions. And stupid internet conventions.

While the girls were off skiing, and Bunny-chan and Hino-san were getting caught in (and getting out of) a youma trap, I was sitting nice and warm in a Japanese History classroom for four hours a day. And so was Ichigo-san.

We were the only two students in the class. But not in the school; Sakurada-sensei had a half-dozen students in her English class, to name one.

At least we didn't go all the way back to Emperor Jimmu. But going back to Emperor Meiji was bad enough. We were getting the "Greatest Hits" version of recent Japanese history.

I won't bore you with any of that. If you're interested, you can watch Rurouni Kenshin, The Wind Rises, Zipang, and Grave of the Fireflies just like everyone else.

Ichigo-san and I continued the tradition of the Revealing Of The Lunches, and we learned a lot about each other. At least, I learned a lot about her; I wasn't about to let her know that I was anything other than a normal if mysterious transfer student. Yet.

She was born on September 3, in Wakkanai, which I did not previously know was the northernmost city, railway stop, and point in Japan. She knew a smattering of Russian, which she admitted to speaking with a thick Japanese accent, from the occasional trip to Korsakov. She loved skiing; she went to Komadori "all the time" before her family moved to Tokyo. (I later discovered that the longest run at Komadori was 300 meters, and felt sorry for her that she didn't get to ski on a real mountain with everybody else.) She wanted to be a biologist and go back to Wakkanai to study the harbour seals. Yes, she admitted that what she really wanted was to go back to Wakkanai. And she absolutely hated Japanese History.

The way they were teaching it, I didn't blame her.

The night before the make-up exams, Ami-san texted me to tell me that Hino-san and Bunny-chan were taken out of the Moonlight Princess race by a youma attack. I thanked her and didn't tell her that things were still proceeding as much like in canon as they possibly could, given the compressed timeline. She didn't need to know just how happy I wasn't.

But, at the end of the week, we both managed to pass the make-up test. Barely, but scores in the low-60s were enough to keep us from failing.

We met our friends at the school, which was the designated drop-off point for the buses returning from the mountains, with our passing marks clearly displayed. Usagi-san congratulated Ichigo-san while Makoto congratulated me. (No hugs, at least not in public.)

And Makoto mentioned picking up a flyer at the ski resort, advertising a special session with the professional figure-skating duo Janelyn and Misha. "It looks like you're going to get that chance to skate with me sooner than we thought."

I pointed at the fine print without looking at the flyer. "What does it say here?"

"'Limited to groups of five females only'. So you've seen the flyer already."

I made sure Ichigo-san wasn't listening before I replied. "No, except in an anime."

"Ah. Trap?" she asked as she picked up most of her own luggage.

"Trap. But we should still spring it," I added as I picked up the last of her bags and the largest of Ami-san's. The three of us headed for the bus stop just down the road. "If we're very lucky, we might turn it to our advantage."

It took me a couple of days to find skates in my size. Then Makoto and I went for a practice skate after school.

At which point I discovered that I didn't need any practice to keep up with her. And I wasn't pulling the skills out of her brainprint, either.

"I thought you said you didn't like winter sports," she said while lazily doing a double axel. "When did you get so good?"

I concentrated and pulled off a double axel of my own. "I don't know. What time is it?"

"Don't tell me that you've never done this before. Nobody gets that good in one session."

"Well, I haven't. But nobody becomes fluent in Japanese in one night, either."

"Oh." After a moment, she asked, "Is this where you say something about genre conventions?"

"Yes, it is. And they are stupid."

"No, they're not. We just discovered that we have something we can do together for fun." She skated over to me, took my hand, and started spinning, so I dropped and let her lead a gender-flipped forward-outside death spiral. Then I wondered how I knew the terminology for what we were doing.

"When we're up against Janelyn and Misha this weekend, we have to do one of these," I grinned. "There's no way they'll be able to pull one off."

"They're professional level skaters!" she pointed out while pulling me back to vertical.

And then I revealed how little I knew then about the performing arts. "And their attitudes are firmly rooted in the 1990s, when gender roles on ice are, pardon the pun, frozen. I have no doubt that Misha could lead a Love Spiral, but could Janelyn?" I put one arm around her waist. "No, that's something that I think only you can do here and now."

"You say the sweetest things, darling," she said with a smile.

"Only because they're true, my dearest," I replied with a smile of my own.

We worked on our elements for as long as they'd let us use the rink, reading each others' minds to get our timing down and turning the sport into the beginnings of a martial art.

After they finally kicked us out, we grabbed a beef bowl each at the counter where I'd first met Urawa-san. "What gave you the idea for martial arts figure skating?"

"A couple of things. First, you were enjoying skating with me and I wanted to make it something that's all our own. Second, the dancing martial art of capoeira. Third, one of Rumiko Takahashi's manga stories."

"Oh, now I remember reading that! It's completely unrealistic to freeze over a swimming pool, though."

"That story had people who changed sex or species when they got wet, and you're complaining about realism?"

"Consider that we both know about people who transform into Sailor Senshi," she replied as our orders arrived.

"If you're saying that that could happen in real life, I'm going to have to ask for proof. And I'm not going to China to find it."

Makoto pouted. "So we're not going to China for our honeymoon. Meanie."

"I assumed we were going to honeymoon somewhere in Japan, that we can reach without needing to fly."

Her mood darkened. "I should slug you for mentioning that, but I know you were thinking of my feelings. Just... don't bring it up again, okay?"

"Sure. And I'm sorry." I'd forgotten that it was a sore spot for her.

Since it seemed that I had an unlimited budget for relatively small purchases, I took Makoto shopping in Shibuya the next day, and we picked out matching green outfits for the weekend - the same shade of green as Sailor Jupiter's uniform.

She was surprised to find outfits that fit us both, matched, and gave us enough room to move, all on short notice and in the same shop - a place called "Atelier Lucent" about halfway down Center Gai. After seeing the designer's tag on my shirt, I wasn't surprised. I most carefully did not point out that we had just picked out some Setsuna Meioh original outfits.

I guess I didn't piss Pluto off as much as I thought I had.

And then the big day arrived. We met near the rink where Janelyn and Misha were offering the free class. "Robu-san, this is for girls only," Usagi-san said.

"Groups of five girls," I replied. "Who's the most famous group of five girls in Minato right now?"

"Five girls and a guy or two," Makoto added. "But they've already got your guy." Usagi-san pouted at the reminder.

"So we're not actually going to get a free skating lesson?"

I smiled. "No, Mina-chan, you'll get that lesson. But you'll also get ID'ed unless we're careful. And that's where I come in. Or, rather, where I go in with some other group who they aren't watching as closely as they're watching people our age. I'll see you in there." I faded into invisibility and snuck in with a group who looked old enough to be OLs.

At least, I looked like I thought I snuck in. I assumed Kunzite could duplicate his youma's see-invisible trick whenever he wanted.

By the time I'd found the control room for the scanners, the girls were on the ice. And nobody was in the scanner control room.

I rectified that shortcoming and locked the door behind me. Then I took a look at the scanner's control system.

It was running Windows for Workgroups. Oh, look, a trap. But I'd brought my cellphone and a kludge cable, and viruses for Windows in this day and age weren't going to touch the Android OS from three decades uptime. So I looked for a data port.

Five minutes later, I was in their system, downloading their files... other than the viruses that they were trying oh-so-hard and failing to plant on my phone.

Ten minutes after that, I had their data, and had corrupted the biometric information that they had on the Senshi. Mission accomplished. Now to find some place to lock up my things and prepare to go skating.

I noticed on the big display Makoto lifting Misha over her head, much to her delight, his surprise, and Janelyn's annoyance. I had to get ready now. Remaining invisible, I unlocked the door and headed to the change rooms.

By the time I got to the ice, Janelyn was kicking everybody else out. I watched for a while, wondering when Usagi-san would get back... then I realized that, since I'd corrupted the biometric data, there was never going to be a match for her to discover and a reason for her to return. I headed back out with forcefields protecting my skate blades, and looked for her. I quickly found her near the control room.

"Bunny-chan, over here," I whispered.

"Oni? Where are you?"

"Down the hall, toward the rink. The party's about to start at centre ice, and Sailor Moon's invited. See you there!"

As I headed back to the rink, I heard behind me, "Moon Prism Power, Make-Up!"

When I made it back, Misha and Janelyn were arguing with each other, and she was threatening to break up their partnership if he didn't do something about "that girl" - Makoto - right away. I knew my cue. I dropped my invisibility and did a slow clap from the corner of the ice. "Ah, such teamwork! Such professionalism! Who made you two a team for Japan, the Russians?"

As soon as their attention was on me, Makoto made a break for it.

"Don't interfere!"

"How dare you!"

"Are you upset that I'm here, or that I called your relationship so well?"

Makoto was just clear of the door when Kunzite made his appearance. "We meet again, Oni! And I finally get to see your face. I was hoping to kill some Sailor Senshi with this trap, but their ally will do just as well."

"How many times have you Dark Generals tried to kill me, again? I've lost count!" « Hurry up and change, my dearest! »

« I just finished transforming, darling! Since Kunzite's watching, Moon and I are going to make an entrance like you've never seen before! »

"We only need to succeed once. Janelyn! Misha! Transform!"

And they did. But just as they finished their transformations, two doors burst open and two Senshi raced for the rink... and ran into each other just before they reached the ice.


"Watch where you're going, you clumsy crybaby!"

« Don't overdo it! Kunzite's not stupid. »

"I'll show you who's clumsy!" Sailor Moon stepped onto the ice and skated while giving her speech. "You have turned the ice rink that should have been a place for girls to dream of the Olympics into a place of fear! Kristi Yamaguchi might forgive you, but I will not! In the name of the Moon..." and she pulled off a quadruple axel "... I will punish you!"

I was impressed. « I'm about to make you jealous, my dearest. Sorry. »

« Good, I can work with that. »

"Wow, a quadruple axel! That's better than even Itō Midori-san can do!"

Jupiter sneered: "Is that so?" And she performed a more elegant quadruple axel of her own, landing right beside me, "Pay attention to your own partner, Oni!" Then she turned to Kunzite. "We will not be defeated by your youma! The Emerald Pair is here!"

« 'Emerald Pair'? Really? »

« Martial arts figure skating was your idea, darling. »

The youma Janelyn finally found her voice. "We should be learning from these two, not attacking them."

"We have our orders. Die, Sailor Moon!"

But before they could attack us, a rose came flying from the rafters and embedded itself in the ice.

A black rose.

Everybody looked up - except for me. I kept my eyes on the youma. Besides, I didn't need to see Chiba-san to know he was in full Tuxedo mode.

"Sailor Moon! Give me the Ginzuishou and I'll let you live!"

"Tuxedo Kamen-sama!"

"How many times do I have to tell you? I am Endymion. What is your answer, Sailor Moon?"

"Tuxedo Kamen-sama, won't you come back to us?"

"Join them and die!" Youma-Misha shouted.

"I won't let you kill her!" And he leapt down to the ice, landing beside Sailor Moon.

« Is this how the anime played out, darling? »

« Different words, but the same general idea, my dearest. »

"What about the other two?"

Sailor Moon put an arm around Tuxedo Endymion's waist and posed as if they were about to begin a pairs performance. "Nobody kills anybody today!"

"You're crimping our style, Moon!" Jupiter shouted. "But what do you care, as long as you get to spend all the time you want with Tuxedo Kamen! Fine! We'll do the real job here!" We both started skating toward the youma.

Misha threw Janelyn at us.

We ducked together, hydroblading in unison, and let her fly over our heads.

She landed on her skates. Of course, she was a professional, so we should have expected that. "Now we have you flanked!"

"There's only two of you!" Jupiter straightened up but I didn't, and we performed a gender-flipped forward-outside death spiral just like we'd practiced... but with me extending a forcefield to knock both of the youma off their feet.

Although I accidentally-on-purpose clipped Sailor Moon as well, sending her into Tuxedo Endymion's arms. Since Jupiter and Moon were supposed to be at odds, we needed it to look good.

"Watch it, you two!"

As I straightened up, Jupiter asked, "Oh, are you finally going to take part in this fight?" We did synchronous twizzles to face and close with them instead of the youma... and then stopped, pretending we didn't know our opponents were preparing to attack us from behind.

"I'll show you what I can do! Moon... Healing..."

Jupiter and I pushed off of each other, giving Moon a clear shot at both youma.

"Escalation! Hey, you dodged!"

But she'd hit her actual targets. Janelyn and Misha said "Refresh!" in unison - the first thing they'd actually done in unison since I stepped onto the ice.

"You incompetent idiots!" It looked like Kunzite bought our little show. "Die with the others! I'll freeze you all and take the Ginzuishou from your cold, dead hand, Sailor Moon!" And he teleported away just after cranking the aircon up to eleven... thousand.

I had my hands, and my forcefields, full protecting Janelyn and Misha from the cold. So it was up to Tuxedo Endymion to save everybody... just like in canon.

As far as I was concerned, this battle was just another missed chance to change things for the better.

"I will leave you now today, Sailor Moon, But rest assured that I will have the Ginzuishou from you."

"Tuxedo Kamen-sama..."

Janelyn and Misha looked at Moon, then at Jupiter and me. "Do you remember when we used to work together like them, Misha?"

"We still can, Janelyn."

The three of us left the two of them to their future. By the time I'd changed and secured my belongings - including my cellphone with all of that Dark Kingdom data - Minako-san, Ami-san, and Hino-san had met up with Makoto and Bunny-chan, and we were all ready to head out.

"I never want to go skating again in my life," Ami-san commented.

"You looked like you were enjoying yourself at the time," commented Minako-san.

"I had to concentrate on keeping my balance. I couldn't skate and read at the same time..."

I smiled. "Ami-san, don't ever change. We like you just the way you are."

Over the next few evenings, Ami-san and I carefully sorted through the data that I was able to grab from Janelyn and Misha's computers, being doubly certain to ensure no viruses, trackers, or other malware ended up on either my laptop or the Mercury Computer.

There wasn't much that we didn't already know. I'm assuming the girls already knew their own weights, heights, three sizes, and other distinguishing features... but I kept those data models anyway since I was still considering upgrading the Sailor V game to photorealistic. Why reinvent the wheel?

We did find five locations that the Dark Kingdom liked anchoring their teleport tunnels to. They had designations, not names: "A", "B", "C", "D", and "E" points.

I just knew we were going to end up visiting D-Point as a team. Because canon said so. Stupid inexorable genre conventions.

I said nothing about that to Ami-san.

There were also notes about a Papillon project, which was already underway and expected to end with the death of Sailor Venus. This, I did tell Ami-san about, mentioning that we needed to warn Minako-san about it.

And the scanning software that Janelyn used caught Ami-san's eye. She copied it to the Mercury Computer for later study and possible upgrades.

As long as she was interested in upgrading her hardware, and we were at my apartment so I knew we wouldn't be overheard by anybody but Makoto, I suggested tying the communicators in with the Navstar array so we could find each other.

"I considered that, but I couldn't make it work properly. The GPS coordinates were always off, sometimes by as much as thirty-five meters," Ami replied.

I wondered why, then remembered that this was a feature, not a bug, and it would remain on until May 2000. "They're programmed to be off by as much as fifty meters on a pseudorandom differential and schedule, so that the system can't be used against the US military," I replied. "But if we set up a secondary transmitter with a known location, we can use that to counter that feature, and use the satellites with close to the same precision that the US government enjoys as long as we're in the same general area as our transmitter."

"Using the known location's reporting error as a counter-differential to apply to the system's reported location!"


Ami smiled. "We work well together, Rob-san. And I'm glad that you're on our side." By this time, we were long past the family-name-basis stage of our friendship.

I smiled in return. "I think of you as a friend, too, Ami-san."

Which got a slight blush from her, that she tried to get me to ignore by asking about English grammar. "I've noticed that sometimes you call Mako-chan your dearest. Does that mean that there are other people who are dear and dearer to you?"

Amazingly enough, I had an answer for her that had nothing to do with grammar. "You're almost as important to me as Makoto is, so you would be my dearer friend. And Bunny-chan - Usagi-san - finishes the set by being a dear friend to me, but not so dear that I love her or you the way I love Makoto."

"Thank you, Rob-san," she whispered.

Whoops. She's acting the same way that Makoto did before we finally realized that we loved each other. I don't want a harem. "Oh, that question about dearer and dearest people reminds me that Urawa-san should be showing up again some time soon."

That got a smile out of her. "I'll be happy to see him again." And that wasn't a whisper.

The weekend came. No, not The Weeknd; he was only two years old. But the girls managed to get some entertainment that weekend anyway.

It started with everybody but Usagi getting together at the Hikawa shrine. "Where's Bunny-chan?" asked Minako-san.

Luna sniffed in disdain. "She is taking the weekend off, and has gone to the mountains with her family to ... how did you say it, Artemis-san?"

"She's gone to take the waters."

"Oh, an onsen? We should have gone, too," commented Hino-san.

"We should go. All of us." Everybody turned to look at Ami. "We've all been under a lot of stress lately. Relaxing would be good for us."

"That's all well and good," Makoto said, "but which onsen is she visiting? It's not as if we can track each other."

Ami-san smiled as she opened the Mercury Computer. "We can now, to within... how close was it, Rob-san?"

"You've implemented it already? You work fast. To within fifty meters."

"To within fifty meters of her communicator," Ami-san finished while looking up Usagi-san's location. "And there it is. We're all going, right?"

Luna shook her head. "Usagi told me to mind the house, and she is my princess."

The others all thought it was a good idea.

"You're coming too, right, Rob-san?"

How should I answer that? Truthfully, of course. "So, Ami-chan, you want a teenage boy who you know can turn invisible to join you in a trip to an onsen?"

Before anybody else could react, Hino-san said "Bad idea" flatly.

"Yeah. No looking at other girls naked, darling!"

Even Minako-san was surprised. "What were you thinking, Ami-san? And you're staying home too, Artemis!"

Ami-san didn't say anything, but she did blush. I hoped that that was from embarrassment.

"While you have fun and Luna minds the house, Artie and I will find something to do here."

"I'll bring you back a souvenir," Makoto promised.

I found out later that their trip went almost exactly according to canon, except that it was only Endymion who was there to awaken the lake monster. Kunzite... well, Artie and I knew exactly what Kunzite was up to at the same time. The bastard.

I answered for Ami-san in class Saturday morning, letting the teacher know that she was unavoidably away that day. It being a half-day, we didn't get together for lunch, but Naru-san and Ichigo-san did meet me at the school gate, where Artemis was waiting for me. "Want to go get something to eat?" Ichigo-san asked.

"It would have to be somewhere pet-friendly; I'm taking care of Minako-san's pet cat today while she's out of town," I replied while scooping Artemis up.


Ichigo-san looked at Artemis. "Did you just say the word 'nyan' instead of purring?"

"Don't be silly..." Naru-san said, just before Kunzite teleported directly in front of us. "Eek!"

He looked around. "So this is Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou, the school that sent at least four students to the Princess Seminar immediately before Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars, and Oni shut down that operation. And look who's here. Hello again, Oni." He said the last while looking straight at me.

"Who are you?" Ichigo-san asked. "And why are you calling him 'Oni'?"

"Don't play dumb! He is a six-foot tall brown-haired white man in Japan. Did you seriously think he had a secret identity?"

What a time for the stupid genre conventions to fail.

"And the two of you... No, you're Nephrite's pet human, not a Senshi at all," he sneered at Naru-san, much to her dismay. "And you... don't look like any of the Sailor Senshi. Where are they, Oni? I want to kill you all at the same time."

That last statement got Ichigo-san to run, quickly followed by Naru-san as soon as Artemis jumped from my arm to hers.

"What makes you think I'll tell you, Kunzite?"

He laughed. "No, of course you won't tell me. You're too fond of them to see them hurt, aren't you? I'll just have to look for them myself. And to make sure you don't run away..." He pulled that thrice-damned black crystal from who-knows-where, and pointed it behind me. "... Have a sparring partner to keep you busy!" He shot past me, then teleported off somewhere.

I turned quickly, to see that a crowd of students had gathered behind me... and the he'd hit a classmate of mine.

Sato-san didn't look much different as a youma, except for being twice as tall, three times as muscular, and five times as annoyed. Specifically, annoyed with me. "Die, Donaldson-san!"

He finally said my name right. Hell of a price to pay for that ability, though.

He slammed his hands together, forcing the air to rush toward me. I barely got a forcefield up in time, and as it was I was pushed back a meter.

Most of my schoolmates decided that this was a good time to run. As I feinted to the left then broke to the right, I shouted at the others, "This isn't a play! Get out of here! Now!"

Then I heard screams from inside the school grounds.

But I'd let myself be distracted, and youma-Sato-san was taking a swing at me. The only reason my head stayed attached to my body was that I'd raised a forcefield from learned reflex. As it was, I was shoved a couple of meters to the side, only stopping when I hit a tree.

"I don't have time for you, Sato-san!" I used a forcefield battering ram on him...

...only to see him shrug it off. "Die!"

It was then that I realized I had no choice. In desperation, I wrapped youma-Sato-san ... Sato-san ... in three forcefields at once. Three body-conforming forcefields. That didn't let air through.

He struggled, but instead of holding the forcefields firm, I let them move with his body while staying just out of his reach.

I'll give him this much; he actually managed to break one of the forcefields before he fell over from asphyxiation.

Then I made a decision that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I couldn't let him regain consciousness and attack somebody else.

I left the forcefields in place.

Damn me.

And damn the stupid genre conventions.

I headed toward the source of the screams.

The first body I found was Ichigo-san's. Checking quickly, I discovered she was merely unconscious.

I quickly found other schoolmates - people I didn't know - in the same condition.

Then I found Naru-san, barely awake. "He... drained my... energy," she told me before finally succumbing.

And then I saw Kunzite. There was no way that I was about to fight fair, not after what he'd done to Sato-san. I hit him from behind with everything I had other than one forcefield that I had to keep up around Sato-san.

My cowardly sneak attack actually slammed him into a wall.

Instead of turning to face me, he teleported away. The coward.

I looked through the school grounds at high speed until I found Artemis. "Artie! Can you turn a youma back into a human?"

He shook his head. "Only Sailor Moon can do that."

Then I felt the forcefield I had around Sato-san go slack. I grabbed Artemis and headed back to the school gate... to find Sato-san's body had returned to normal. The school nurse had arrived and was trying desperately to bring him back, performing CPR.

All I said was, "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me."

Seventeen students were taken to the hospital.

One was taken to the morgue.

Class 5 was given Monday afternoon off to attend Sato Kichirou's funeral.

Nobody blamed me. Nobody other than Artemis even knew that I was the one who'd killed him.

But I knew.

And, as soon as she read my mind after returning from their weekend away, Makoto knew, too. And I knew she knew. She didn't visit me that evening.

Instead, Minako-san paid me a visit on Monday evening. "I'm guessing you aren't in the mood for these," she said in English while putting a box of onsen manju on my kitchen counter.

"You guess right. Thanks anyway."

She sat down beside me. "Artemis told me what happened."

"I killed my classmate."

"No, Kunzite killed him. You put him out of his misery."

"I could have saved him! I could have hit Kunzite as soon as I saw him."

Minako shook her head. "No, you couldn't. Mako-chan's already told me that he can counter any of your attacks. That's why I had to rescue all of you, remember?"

"I've been getting stronger, though."

"And if you did attack Kunzite right away, what would have happened to Artemis? Or Naru? Or Ichigo?"

"Who knows? I didn't attack him right away."

"And they got clear of the fight because you didn't make them targets. And even if you did attack Kunzite as soon as he showed up, which would have blown your cover at school, would that have stopped him from turning somebody else into a youma?"

I sighed deeply. "No. No, it wouldn't."

"As soon as Kunzite showed up while Sailor Moon wasn't available, somebody was going to die. You couldn't change that no matter how hard you tried."

"I guess. But ..." I realized what I was about to say, and couldn't continue.


I had to say something. "I knew Sato-san. Have you ever had to kill somebody you knew, Minako?"

It was her turn to sigh deeply. "Let me tell you about the Dark Agency's leader, Danburite, better known to the world as Ace Saijyo... or the love interest of Sailor V."

She had it worse than I did. I barely knew Sato-san as an acquaintance and classmate. She'd had to kill the person she thought she was in love with.

Genre conventions that force people to kill other people are the stupidest genre conventions of all.

A few minutes after Minako left, there was a knock at my door.

"It's unlocked, Makoto," I said in Japanese.

She came in, locked the door behind her, and without saying anything held me the way a mother would hold her frightened child.

I finally fell asleep in her arms, and didn't dream.

The discussion topic at the Conversational English club that week was grief. And Sakurada-sensei sat in, which wasn't a surprise; she and I had actually been present when Kunzite attacked the school, and neither of us were handling the matter well.

I almost threw caution to the winds. Then I realized that telling everyone that things were about to get worse wouldn't help anyone. Besides, it wouldn't be true. There was still one good thing left to happen in canon, and it was something that I was going to do my best to make sure wouldn't be changed.

Which of course meant that it was changed almost immediately. Urawa Ryou-san was waiting for us outside the school gates. "Mizuno-san, it's good to see you again," he said with the faintest outline of a smile. Then he turned to me and lost even that much expression. "Donarudoson-san, we need to talk."

"Let's go to my place," I suggested. "The others can join us there once they've changed out of their uniforms."

"But... Alright," Ami-san said quietly.

Minako-san looked at Ami-san, then at Urawa-san. "I'll have to bow out. I'm expecting friends from England to visit tomorrow, and I need to get ready for them." Then she winked at me, and I knew she knew I knew why she was really bowing out. Senshi of Love, indeed.

The ladies went their ways and Urawa-san accompanied me. "You already know why I'm back." It wasn't a question.

I forced a smile; I wasn't in the mood so soon after Sato-san's death, but it was appropriate. "To see your girlfriend, and also something about the most powerful youma of all."

"She isn't my girlfriend."

"So, you just want to take random girls on dates to amusement parks?"

Urawa-san shook his head. "I meant that she isn't my girlfriend until she says she is. If she ever says she is."

I raised an eyebrow. "You're the precog; don't you know?"

"No. I see possible futures, not a definite future. And right now I'm seeing three futures. The first is that somebody called Endymion turns me and the other Rainbow Crystal hosts into a powerful youma, and the Dark Kingdom takes over the world. The second is that Mizuno-san stops this Endymion person, she and her friends fight the Dark Kingdom and lose, and the Dark Kingdom takes over the world."

After a moment, I asked, "And the third?"

"Mizuno-san stops Endymion, she and her friends fight the Dark Kingdom and die, and something happens to time itself."

"Because Sailor Moon resets reality."

Urawa-san actually looked relieved at my statement. "Ah. That's what I couldn't foresee. I was worried that they might have destroyed the entire planet during the fight."

"The downside to what you've told me is that Ami-san and the others have to die in order for the Dark Kingdom to be defeated."

He looked at his feet. "I'm sorry."

"Am I one of the others that you just mentioned? And are you?"

"I've never been able to see your future clearly, Donarudoson-san. And what's the difference between me foreseeing my own death and me foreseeing time being reset? Either way, there's nothing to see beyond the event." We stopped walking, and he commented, "Nice place you've got here."

"Thanks, My apartment's on the second floor, unit 201." I wondered whether Makoto was home, and opened my mind to try to detect hers.

« Yes, darling, I've been waiting for you to get home so we could do our homework together. Who's your friend? »

« Don't you recognize Urawa Ryou-san, my dearest? You helped Bunny-chan and Ami-san turn him back into a human. »

« Oh! That's Ryou the Psychic Boy? I guess homework can wait. »

« I have got to stop thinking that nickname for him. » At this point, we were nearly at my door. « Want to come over and meet him? And is it okay if he knows who you are? »

« Yes and yes. » Her front door opened. "Hi, Robu!" she said with a smile as I got my keys out of my pocket.

"Hi, Makoto! Come on in. You've already met Urawa-san."

"She has?" he asked.

"Don't tell me you only used your precognitive powers to learn the identity of only one Sailor Senshi."

At this point, he smiled. "Ah. We aren't keeping secrets from Kino-san, then. It's good to meet you under more pleasant circumstances, Sailor Jupiter."

Once we were all in my apartment, I put up an opaque forcefield to give myself some privacy while I changed from school uniform to casual clothes. "Urawa-san and I were just talking about the near future, Makoto."

"I don't suppose you figured out an easy way for me to survive the upcoming fight?"

I sighed deeply, and her smile disappeared.

Urawa-san commented, "We really aren't keeping secrets from Kino-san, are we?"

"Ami-san knows, too," Makoto explained. "Robu refuses to keep any secrets from either of us. The other Sailor Senshi ... well, if they know or suspect, it isn't because I told them."

"Nor have I," I added as I let my privacy screen drop and finished buttoning my shirt.

"As far as I can foresee, any path forward that doesn't result in you and Mizuno-san dying lets the Dark Kingdom win."

Before Makoto could reply, I said, "Let's save this discussion for after Ami-san gets here."

So we did. Urawa-san told us about his home in Niigata, a couple of hours from Tokyo by shinkansen. He seemed a bit wistful when he described the view from the Rainbow Tower in the middle of the city; I understood his wistfulness when I recalled that the tower was going to be torn down in 2018.

By the time Ami-san arrived - with sandwiches for four - I had made a decision based on Urawa-san mentioning when we first met that he already knew who and what I was. "Urawa-san, I'm about to let you in on my biggest secret. I'm from a different reality altogether, and I know how things would have gone if I wasn't here."

Makoto sighed. "We're going to watch another episode of that anime, aren't we? I'm beginning to hate that show."

"Oh, you'll like this one," I replied as I got the laptop out and queued up episode 41.

A half-hour later, Ryou looked calmer than he had before we met at school. "That's a rather elegant solution to the problem," he commented.

"But... I couldn't possibly talk that way to Tuxedo Kamen," Ami complained.

Makoto and I both rolled our eyes. "Ami-chan," Makoto said, "have you never listened to yourself when you're Sailor Mercury?"

"You're far more assertive when you're in uniform than when you aren't," I added.

Urawa-kun added, "And I think I like you better that way, Mizuno-san."

"You do?" She blushed, deeply.

« She's adorable when she's like that, isn't she? »

« You aren't falling for our best friend, are you, my dearest? Because I think Ryou-san might get upset if you did. »

« I'm pretty sure that I'm straight, darling. This is kawaiisa. »

Neither of them had noticed that we hadn't said anything for a moment... because they only had eyes for each other. "Do you want us to go next door to Makoto's apartment so the two of you can talk alone?"

"What? But... why would we have to be alone to talk about anything?"

"Oh, for... Ami-san, do you want Urawa-san and me to step outside for a moment so you can transform to Sailor Mercury and have enough self-confidence to say what you're really thinking? We just watched the anime; it's pretty obvious what the two of you think of each other."

"But... No." A bit of Mercury's spine of steel made itself heard in that "no" of Ami's. "You don't have to leave, Mako-chan, Robu-san." And she turned to Urawa-san. "May I call you Ryou?"

He smiled. "Yes, Mizuno-san."

"Ryou-san... I think I love you."

"And I love you too, Ami-san," he said as they hugged each other.


"Way to spoil the mood, Makoto," I grumbled... but the two of them paid the two of us no attention.

After all of that, do I really need to describe how we foiled Endymion's plot?

I suppose I do, at least in broad strokes. He tried to grab Urawa-san... no, Ryou-san; we were all on a given-name basis after they showed how close we were by using my apartment to confess their love to each other... we slowed him down enough for Ryou-san and Ami-san to escape to Dreamland, Sailor Moon showed up and pointed out their show of love and affection combined with Makoto and me showing just as much love for each other and saying that she and Endymion used to be that close as well, he almost broke free of his brainwashing, and Kunzite attacked Endymion from behind and took him back to the Dark Kingdom.

I never should have attacked Kunzite from behind, because that told him that we weren't being chivalrous in combat any more. But it was that or risk seeing more of my schoolmates die. This was a war, not a sports meet.

What's done cannot be undone. I was beginning to realize that.

After the fight, I took Ryou to a menswear store and paid for something casual that wasn't his school uniform, along with an overnight bag for his clothes. The poor guy had run to Tokyo without packing as soon as he realized he was in danger. Which showed either a blank spot in his precognition that led him to race straight into danger, or a trust in Ami-san's abilities to protect him that showed just how much he loved her. I sincerely hoped that the second alternative was the right one.

Then we went back to my place, and he insisted that the two of us were going to do something he'd never done before.

No, not "this and that", or anything like that. He's just as straight as I am.

What we did was make a brainprint. And as soon as we were finished, he wrote out a half-page of notes and put them in his pocket.

The day after the battle, Ryou-san and Ami-san finally got to go on a date to Dreamland. Makoto showed up at Ami-san's place early and dragged our best friend's fashion sense kicking and screaming into the 1990s, so she wore something other than that canon outfit that looked like it came straight out of 1950s-era America. And Makoto, Hino-san, Luna and I all made sure that their date wasn't interrupted. And at the end of their date, when we saw him off at the train station, I saw him hand her that half-page of notes that I'd watched him write the evening before.

Minako-san and Artie? They had company from England. Usagi-san was on standby to become an actual sailor if necessary, and to continue pretending that she and the rest of us were on the outs. And it was necessary, which meant that the rest of us didn't get to help Minako-san and her friend Katrina-san mend their relationship.

Events were continuing the way they did in canon, but not at the same pace. And I hated that, even... no, especially with Ryou-san's statements that the only way to win against the Dark Kingdom was to have the Senshi die. I refused to believe that there wasn't some way to both win and survive.

But for the life of me I couldn't come up with one. Damn it.

Sato-san was already dead because of the Dark Kingdom. Were my girlfriend and our best friend truly fated to be next despite my best efforts?

And then it was Monday, and lunchtime. Other than Ichigo-san, we knew going in that it wasn't going to be a pleasant lunch.

Before Ami-san and I joined the others for lunch, I opened my mind to listen to Makoto and thought « Is anything unusual going on out there? »

« Besides paparazzi watching the school? » The picture in her mind was of a camerawoman wearing clothes straight out of the 1970s. « I guess we can't avoid them, given the tragedy earlier. »

« That particular paparazza is a youma. » I switched from thinking to Makoto in Japanese to whispering to Ami in English, counting on my girlfriend to give Bunny-chan and Naru-san a cue somehow. "We're being watched. I hope you know your lines." She nodded in reply.

The Revealing Of The Lunches went well enough. Ami, of course, had sandwiches, and so did Minako-san, although Minako-san's still had the crusts on, were thicker, and had lettuce as well as meat in them. Makoto and I shared a double-size box of assorted onigiri. Ichigo-san brought squid marinaded in miso with a side of potato-stuffed vareniki, saying that she had this sort of meal back in Wakkanai all the time (to which Usagi said she didn't understand, making the Wakkanai/wakannai pun by accident). Naru-san bought some stuffed buns from the school cafeteria. Usagi-san had the most traditional bento that day: sausages, rice, and pickles.

And none of us got to eat very much of any of it. At least, not together.

"How was everybody's weekend?" Ichigo asked, giving us the perfect cue.

Ami quietly said "I went on a date," but was drowned out by Usagi.

"Terrible! My boyfriend got hurt! Mamo-chan was hit from behind and now I don't know when I'll see him again!"

"Did you have to remind me that I don't have a boyfriend any more?" Minako grabbed her bento, stood up, and walked off.

I sighed. "Didn't she just reconcile with her friend from England, who her boyfriend liked better than her? That wasn't the best timing, Bunny-chan."

"But..." Usagi looked sad, then continued, "Yeah, I guess that wasn't the best thing for me to say. But you understand, don't you, Robu-san, Mako-chan? How would each of you feel if something happened to the other one, the way that Mamo-chan was hurt?"

Ami-san decided that this had gone on for long enough. "That's all you've been talking about all weekend! Mamo-chan this, Mamo-chan that, Mamo-chan Mamo-chan Mamo-chan! You didn't even hear what I just said! You aren't the only one whose boyfriend isn't here any more, Usagi!" And then she stormed off. Makoto and I quickly stood up and chased after her, with concerned looks on our faces and her and our bento in our hands.

We left Naru-san and Ichigo-san behind with Usagi, who shouted at our retreating backs, "Fine, be like that!"

Once we were inside the school building, Ami-san collapsed against Makoto. As far as anybody watching from the courtyard could tell, Ami-san was crying and Makoto was comforting her. Instead, Ami-san whispered, "I hated having to say that. It had to have hurt Usagi-san."

Other than whispering, "I'm sorry," all I could do was look like a friend caught in the middle of an awkward situation, and make sure they had some privacy.

Before the lunch break ended, Naru-san visited Ami-san and me in our classroom. "You couldn't have seen Usagi's point of view? Ami-san, your boyfriend's just gone back home. Her boyfriend's hurt!"

That started some murmurs in the classroom. "Mizuno-san has a boyfriend?" "Since when?" "Who's the lucky guy?" "Not Donarudoson-san, Kino-san would kill them both." I nodded in agreement to that last comment.

"I know that, and I helped cheer her up after it happened. But she hasn't said a thing about Ryou-san leaving."

"Who's Ryou-san?" "Nobody in our class is named Ryou." "Maybe somebody she met at juku?"

I stood up and stretched. "Everybody, if Mizuno-san wants to share the details of her personal life with us, she will. In her own time. Understand?"

And suddenly I changed from "big friendly Donarudoson-san" back to "the big bad oni" in my classmates' eyes. All that work at getting them to see me as a person, tossed out the window. For Ami-san's sake, so I considered it a fair trade.

Even Naru-san reacted to that. She turned on her heel to look at me, leaned onto my desk with both hands, and said, "Kindly keep out of this, Robu-san. You and Kino-san still have each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. Everybody else in our lunch club except Aoyama-san has lost their boyfriends one way or another."

When she straightened up, she left three stones on my desk. Small, shiny, clear stones. I wondered what they were, but Naru-san had turned back to Ami-san. "We'll talk more about this after school, Ami-san."

"I have juku after school."

"Then we'll talk about this tomorrow." And she headed back to her own classroom... after quietly dropping three more of the stones on Ami-san's desk.

She passed the teacher coming into the room, which meant classes were starting, which meant we didn't get any curious looks from our classmates for the rest of the day.

On a hunch, I detoured to OSA-P on the way home, where I found Naru-san working behind one of the counters. "I do believe you wanted to speak with me, Osaka-san," I said while dropping the stones onto the counter.

"Yes, and it's about those. That's what's left of half of a new box of sketching sticks. Ami-san has the other half."

"What do these have to do with sketching sticks?"

"Charcoal sketching sticks," she explained.

"Char..." Then the penny dropped. "Carbon. Are these diamonds?"

"Half-carat, uncut and unpolished. Mama says she can cut them into 35-point or 40-point gemstones, and asked where I got them from."

"What did you tell her?"

"I showed her."

"Would you show me, please?" I opened my school bag, pulled my own set of charcoal sticks from it, and arranged all six of them into a neat pile on the counter.

She put her hands over them and started humming a tune that I didn't recognize. Her hands started glowing for a moment, then she stopped the sound and light show. There was a single slightly-dirty stone on the counter where the sketching sticks used to be.

Then her mother came out of the room behind the shop. "Naru, are you... Oh, hello, sir."

"Hello, miss," I bowed. "You must be Osaka-san's older sister; I can see the resemblance. I'm a schoolmate of hers, Rob Donaldson."

"Naru didn't tell me that you're a flatterer, Donaldson-san. I'm her mother, Mayumi. She has told me that you're the person filling in for Tuxedo Kamen while he's away."

I just stared at Naru-san.

"I'm not about to lie to my own mother, Robu-san."

"Nor should you," I admitted somewhat sheepishly. I turned to her mother. "I don't suppose that metahuman powers run in your family, do they?"

"No, they do not," she replied. "Naru's the first to show any ability like this one. We assume it's because she's been targeted by youma so many times that something rubbed off on her." After a moment, she asked, "You aren't going to force my little girl to fight, are you?"

I shook my head. "I won't force her to do anything." Turning to address Naru-san directly, I continued, "Although I will ask that you continue to develop your ability, maybe see whether you can create other gems with it."

"You want me to play with my new power?"

"Sure, why not? Maybe you can make something with it that you can be proud of saying that came from you." Then I had a thought. "Oh, what's this worth?" I gestured to the diamond that Naru had made from my charcoal.

"Nothing," Mayumi replied. "Every jeweler that sells diamonds has a contract with de Beers. You can't sell it to anybody but them, and they won't buy only one stone."

"I see," I sighed.

"But we can cut and mount it for you, if you want. It would probably be around two and a half carats after cutting and polishing."

I thought about it. "Maybe later." I picked up the stone and put it in my pocket. "Thank you for your time, ladies."

I bought a replacement pack of sketching sticks on the way home.

Ami-san dropped by after dinner.

"Rob-san, we need to talk. You, me, and Mako-chan."

"Come on in. Makoto's already here; we were doing homework together."

"Hi, Ami-chan! What's up?"

As Ami-san sat down at my table, she replied, "It's about that note that Ryou-san gave me at the end of our date. He said it might be possible to reverse the brainprinting process."

"How?" From the game rules that I created the character in, the ability was a one-way deal. Then again, the ability also didn't need to take ten minutes under those rules.

"I worked it out over the last two evenings. If you update your brainprint of me, you should get the process."

Makoto grinned. "I won't get jealous of Ami-san."

"Okay," I nodded. "Let's find out how long it takes for me to do an update."

It only took three minutes, and most of that was my power going through Ami-san's brainprint and deciding it already had those parts of her mind.

"I'm going to have to think about this for a moment or two," I said once the process was completed.

While I reviewed Ami-san's thoughts, she helped Makoto with her homework.

I finally decided that I understood Ami-san's process based on Ryou-san's notes. "I think I'm ready."

Makoto was in front of me within two seconds. "Let's give it a try."

The first thing I did was update my brainprint of Makoto. Then I gave the reverse process a try.

After a moment, she squeezed my hand. I stopped as soon as it was safe to do so. "What's wrong?"

"I'm not getting your thoughts. I'm getting my own thoughts back." She sighed.

Ami-san and I sighed as well. "So much for you getting a brainprint of me," I said.

"This could still be useful, though," Ami-san commented. "Especially if one of us gets brainwashed the way Tuxedo Kamen did."

"There is that," Makoto admitted.

Before I could say anything, Makoto's and Ami-san's communicators beeped. "Somebody's robbing OSA-P!"

Makoto had her communicator out first. "Mercury, Oni, and I are on our way!"

We got to the jewelry store just after Sailor Moon. I whispered, "What are you waiting for? Go rescue your friend and we'll complain about you wanting all the glory."

"Oh, right!"

And she headed in just as Venus arrived. "Why aren't we helping?"

"Help that prima donna?" Jupiter asked loudly. "She waited for us to show up and then rushed in just as we got here, as if she was making a point that she didn't need us!"

"What, is she grabbing the spotlight again?" That came from Mars, who was just arriving.

"I'm afraid so," Mercury sighed.

"I'll just have to give her a piece of my mind!" And Mars marched into the store.

"Better be careful, Mars!" Sailor Moon countered. "You don't have that many pieces to give away!"

While the girls fought, I grabbed the would-be thief in a forcefield... making sure she could see and hear everything that was going on, which meant I missed seeing Mars give Moon a kick in the butt.

"That's where you keep your brains!"

While the girls bickered - yes, even Mercury - I asked Mayumi-san, "Ma'am, would you be willing to call the police? I suspect these five aren't going to remember their civic duty for a while."

And suddenly the thief/ninja/youma wasn't in my forcefield any more... or anywhere to be seen in the store. We did hear the front door slam shut, though.

"Never mind, ma'am." And I started a slow clap as I turned to the Senshi. "What a display of teamwork, ladies!"

"She started it!" Mars and Moon shouted in unison while pointing at each other.

"And I'm ending it. Stop acting like kindergarten students. Especially in front of the people we're here to help."

"Excuse me..." Oh, look; it's the papparaza with the '70s wardrobe. Funny how you never see her and that particular thief together. "I'm Asahina Nana. Could I ask you a few questions about what happened here?" And she held her camera as if to take a photo.

I quickly obscured her lens with a forcefield. "No photos. Asahina-san... You wouldn't by any chance have a relative named Mikuru, would you?"

She looked puzzled as she tried and failed to clean her camera lens. "Not as far as I know. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, no reason."

She finally gave up on the camera. "Can I get your thoughts about the Sailor Senshi's behaviour this evening?"

May as well give her something to take back to Kunzite. "I think they should get back to working together, instead of squabbling all the time. They're giving me a headache. And, yes, you may quote me on that."

As she tried to get statements from Moon and Mars, the rest of us slipped away... but not before I saw Naru-san sigh at the two Senshi.

Just before lunch the next day, Naru-san mentioned to Minako-san, Ami-san and me that Asahina-san ambushed her and Usagi-san on their way to school. "We didn't tell her anything, of course."

"Good. Stick to the plan."

Then, as if it had been choreographed and I'll never confirm or deny whether it had been, Usagi-san approached from one side of the courtyard while Makoto and Ichigo-san approached from the other. Bunny-chan and Makoto saw each other, stopped, turned on their heels, and walked away from each other and us.

"That's our cue," I whispered as we all stood up. Ami-san, Minako-san and I went to join Makoto, and Naru-san went to join Usagi-san. Ichigo-san, may the gods bless her, refused to take sides and ate alone.

The Revealing Of The Lunches was a somewhat somber event that day, without Usagi-san present to make it fun. I had hot soup in a thermal bottle.

"That's all you brought?"

"Back home in Canada, we say that chicken noodle soup is good for you when you're ill. Here, it's rice porridge. I split the difference and brought chicken rice soup."

Makoto looked worried. "What's making you ill?"

"This whole mess with Bunny-chan is leaving me sick to my stomach."

Sailor Moon's reputation being smeared by the tabloids. Letter from Sailor Moon to Kunzite, delivered by Usagi-san to Asahina-san. Arrangement of a meeting between Moon and Kunzite. All of which I had nothing to do with. And all according to canon.

I was starting to think that I'd used up all of my ability to change canon on getting a girlfriend.

Stupid genre conventions.

And then came the night of the meeting between Moon and Kunzite.

Unlike in canon, he did not spot the Sailor Senshi watching them... because I was using my powers in a new way. I think I mentioned when I related the first time going invisible that I did that by wrapping a forcefield around myself and using it to manipulate light. This time, I'd wrapped that forcefield around all five of us. It was a tight squeeze. As in, Jupiter and I were physically closer than we'd ever been even when we hugged, Venus was literally draped over my back, and Mercury and Mars were on either side of me and close enough to whisper in my ears. "Now you all know why I don't want a harem," I joked when I made the group of us fade into invisibility an hour before the scheduled meeting time.

Which meant that we saw Asahina-san scouting the area three-quarters of an hour before the meeting. Good thing we were ready before then.

Enough about us. Kunzite wanted the Ginzuishou. Moon wanted to see Tuxedo Kamen first. Again, according to canon.

"What makes you think we'd take you and your followers anywhere near Endymion, Sailor Moon?"

"My followers? What followers? Have you forgotten how they treated me at the Princess Seminar, or in the mountains, or at that skating event with Janelyn and Misha, or on the ski slopes, or at the jewelry store earlier this week?"

He thought for a moment. "The only one of those that I witnessed was the event at the skating rink. But my youma have provided reports about most of the other events you mentioned. Alright, I'll take you to Endymion once you give me the Ginzuishou."

"You get the Ginzuishou after I see Tuxedo Kamen."

Kunzite snapped his fingers. "Oniwabandana." Right, that was youma-Asahina's name. "Take the Ginzuishou from Sailor Moon."

"Yes, sir, banban." And she advanced on Moon.

"Sailor Kick!" Moon knocked Oniwabandana to the ground. "After I see Tuxedo Kamen." Then she was pulled off her feet by the youma.

Moon managed to twist so she landed on top of Oniwabandana, knocking the breath from both of them.

I suddenly had a nasty thought. "Is there any chance they'll get the Ginzuishou from her?" I whispered.

"No," Mars whispered back. "She trusted it to me." And Mars showed me the Moon Stick with the Ginzuishou mounted on it.

"Good." I turned my attention back to the fight.

"And stay down!" I heard Moon announce.

Kunzite came to a decision. "Oh, very well. Oniwabandana! Enough!" The youma nodded and stood up beside her general. "You can keep your precious bauble until you've seen him. Let's go."

"Now?" Moon asked in surprise.

"Yes, now. Unless you don't want to go."

"No, I thought maybe you needed to make some arrangements first. We can go now. Where are we going?"

"To our dimensional teleport nexus." And the three of them were gone.

"Mercury!" I said while dropping our invisibility.

"Already on it!" She was examining the Mercury Computer. "Her communicator just appeared at D-Point."

Of course it did.

"Let's go!" Mars ordered, and three of the Senshi immediately started roof-hopping. Jupiter joined them as soon as she grabbed me in a bridal carry. We caught up to the others quickly.

Halfway there, the Moon Stick suddenly disappeared from Mars' hand. She and I reached the same conclusion at the same time. "Sailor Moon's in trouble!" Mars announced.

"Be ready to fight as soon as we arrive!" I added. "Oniwabandana can do the ninja replication trick!"

True to my instructions, Jupiter dropped me just before we touched down at D-Point and landed on her feet, prepared to launch a Supreme Thunder. I landed on a nice, soft forcefield and quickly got to my feet.

We headed into the ... teleport tunnel, for want of a better name. It looked like it was carved out of living rock, with enough room for us to walk five-abreast and enough headroom even for me to feel comfortable. Obviously it was designed to allow troops of youma to invade whichever city it was pointed at, although it had a few twists and turns which made it impossible to simply launch an attack straight through the tunnel.

We followed the pyrotechnics, only to be blocked by a row of four identical ninja blocking our path.

"Shabon Spray!" The fog cloud engulfed the ninja crowd, making it obvious which three were projections and which one was the real Oniwabandana.

I hit the real one with a forcefield ram, pushing her into the battle between Moon and Kunzite just as Moon was shouting "Moon Healing Escalation!"

Moon's attack hit both Oniwabandana and Kunzite. She shouted "Refresh!" and reverted to being just Asahina Nana.

Kunzite announced "On my honour, I will not say 'Refresh'!"

Time to ignore the use–mention distinction. "Dude, you just said it!"

"What? No, you fool! Not like that!" He was only distracted for a second, but that was enough for Moon's attack to push him to the far wall. I grabbed Asahina-san in a forcefield and got her out of there.

By the time I'd dropped her off at the D-Point end of the teleport tunnel and returned to the battle, Kunzite was alone. "I just banished them, Oni. You're next."

"Oh, they'll be back as soon as they've had a history lesson." And there was a glow behind me.

I got out of the way. Quickly. Moon... no, Serenity's attack still brushed against my sleeve on its way to hitting Kunzite.

I didn't have a sleeve any more. Kunzite... didn't have a body.

And the teleport tunnel started to collapse.

Kunzite was a load-bearing boss? I didn't remember that from the anime, but it made sense from a security standpoint. Stupid genre conventions.

Mercury thought faster than anyone else. She got out her communicator and threw it as far down the tunnel as she could.

Which wasn't quite far enough to clear the tunnel, so I bounced it off a forcefield and made sure it landed in the snow at the Dark Kingdom's end of the tunnel.

Then I grabbed Moon with one arm and Mercury with the other, and we all hightailed it out the Tokyo end of the tunnel just before it collapsed altogether.

We took a few minutes at the Hikawa shrine to catch our breath, eat something, and strategize. Quickly. And with Luna and Artemis in attendance.

"Where are they?" I asked.

"Practically at the North Pole, according to the Navstar satellite array," replied Ami-san.

"Although that could be as much as fifty meters off," I reminded everyone.

Hino-san glared at me for that comment. "We know."

"How do we get there?" asked Artemis.

"We can't all go," Minako-san answered. "Sailor Teleport can only take the five of us. No passengers, not even a cat."

"Let alone two, or an oni. Sorry, Robu-san." Usagi-san did truly look sorry when she said that.

I turned to Luna and Artemis. "There's no way we can go with them?"

The Mau said nothing; they only shook their heads.

Hino-san looked straight at me. "What happened in canon?"

I wasn't about to lie, but I wasn't going to tell them anything that would demoralize them, either. "You waited a week, and they were ready for you."

"Then we don't wait. We leave in fifteen minutes," Usagi-san announced. "If you need to do anything that can't wait, do it now."

It was all too soon. And events had continued just like in canon, except for the death of one person who was never shown in canon, and some minor differences elsewhere, and happening faster. Damn it.

Most of the girls and both of the Mau headed into the Hino residence to take care of whatever they needed to take care of. Makoto didn't go anywhere. Neither, to my surprise, did Ami-san. "Rob-san... could you update your copy of my mind, please?"

"Of course, Ami-san." And I did.

Then I turned to Makoto, who was standing and waiting for me.

We hugged tightly, and kissed passionately - the most passionate kiss I'd ever taken part in. We were reading each other's minds, but neither of us thought anything that could be put into words. It was the most intense moment of my life, and, as I learned later, of her life as well.

Then, and only then, did I update my brainprint of Makoto.

And then I had to let her go. I stopped reading her mind. "Please come back to me, my dearest."

She smiled sadly. We both knew why. All she said was, "Jupiter Power, Make-Up!"

Then she walked over to the other Senshi, already waiting for her in uniform. She held hands with Mercury and Moon, who were already holding hands with Mars and Venus. Moon said it for everyone: "Sailor Teleport!"

And then they were gone.

And then we were gone. Artemis, Luna and I headed for the Crown to use the instruments Artie had there to track our friends the best we could. There would be time tomorrow to repair the flagstones broken by the Sailor Teleport, assuming the Sailor Senshi defeated Beryl and Metaria.

And if they didn't, it wouldn't matter whether anybody repaired the walkway.

By the time we'd started up the systems in the Crown and connected to the Mercury Computer, the Sailor Senshi were already fighting the DD Girls.

"That can't be Oni! We left him behind!"

"Then they grabbed him after we left! I have to save him!"

"Jupiter, no! Look at him!"

"I am looking at him, Mercury! They've been torturing him!"

"When did they have the time? That's not him!"

"I can't take that chance!"

I sat down. Hard. "I could have warned her. I should have warned her. Damn it, Makoto, that's a trap!"

"Can we warn her now?"

I shook my head in reply to Luna. "We're too far apart. And even if we weren't, she has to read my mind; I can't send thoughts to her. Artie?"

"There's no microphone or proper keyboard on this console," Artemis answered. "Our communications are strictly one-way."

"Jupiter!" That was Usagi's voice.

Oh, no.


Makoto, no!



Artemis muted the console game that he was using as a monitor, and turned to face the two of us. "According to the Mercury Computer, Jupiter just went into cardiac arrest."

I stood up, walked over to the nearest wall...

"Rob-san, ..." Artemis started.

... and put my fist through it in one punch.

"... that's drywall, not paper. Too late now."

Luna headed to the front desk. "I'll get the first aid kit."

I suspect I subconsciously had a forcefield up, because I didn't break any bones. The wall wasn't so lucky.

Just as I finished tending to the worst of the damage I'd done to my hand, Artemis' console sounded another alarm. "Not again."

He turned the volume up.

"Look at who they're showing us. It's my turn now."

No, Ami-san. Don't do this.

"And I'd only slow you down anyway."

Gods, no. You're so much more that just a smart girl, Mercury.

"All right, Ami."

No, Usagi-san! Don't let her!

"There must be something wrong with the telemetry," Artemis said. "Mercury couldn't have walked away from the others."

"Oh-yes-she-could-that-genius-idiot!" I wasn't in any mood to be charitable, even to my second-closest... my closest friend.

"I'm so sorry, Ryou-san, Rob-san, Luna-san, ... mother."

"Ami, please, no!" Luna was as anxious as I was.

Then we heard a cracking sound from Artemis's console, followed by static.

Artemis adjusted the controls - which I knew was useless - then announced, "The Mercury Computer has gone offline."

"Damn it damn it DAMN IT! And I tried to make that NOT happen!"


"She's dead, Artie. Ami is dead! And Minako's bloody well next! Then Hino-sa... Rei." I started to calm down, at least enough to not yell at the only people left in this world who knew what I was. "Then Mamoru. And then, finally, Beryl... but, if everything goes according to canon, she'll merge with Metaria just before she dies. But the Sailor Team's souls will support Usagi for long enough to kill Metaria, but Usagi won't survive the fight either."

"That's a lot of 'but's. Things could change."

I shook my head in sorrow and anger. "No, Artemis, they won't. I've been trying to change things ever since I got here, and Makoto ... Makoto and Ami still died. I couldn't do enough."

"So all of this was for nothing?"

"No, Luna, this was not all for nothing. Usagi makes a dying wish, and she..." The last occupant of Pandora's Box finally made herself known. "Artie, shut everything down! We're leaving now!"

He leapt onto the front desk and hit a big red button. "Where are we going?"

"We're going to my apartment. And thanks for trusting me, Artemis." I grabbed both of the cats in a forcefield and headed for the door.

"What's Usagi's dying wish?" Luna asked as she mentally lowered the arcade's shutter behind us.

"To reset the world, but without the Dark Kingdom in it, so everybody can live a normal life."

Then I was moving at top speed with a forcefield around us to protect against wind friction, so it didn't take long for me to get home. Nobody said anything during the trip.

"That doesn't sound so bad," she finally replied as I unlocked my door.

"In order to have a normal life, they're going to forget everything that happened since the day you met Usagi-san, Luna. Only you and Artemis will remember that they were ever friends."

"That's bad," Artemis commented as I dropped both of the Mau onto my desk.

"Yeah. Be ready for a long night." I got out the futon.

"You can't possibly be able to sleep now, Robu-san."

"No, but I might not have time to get it ready later. The three of us, along with my laptop, are going to be on that futon, surrounded by as many forcefields as I can raise, as soon as we start seeing aurorae in the sky."


I turned to Luna. "Because I am not giving up my memories of Makoto without a fight." Then I saw the doll that Luna was sitting beside. The Sailor Jupiter doll.

And my tears finally started flowing.

I couldn't sacrifice my Sailor Jupiter doll. Or the others, but especially not Makoto. Makoto's doll.

So when the aurorae started, they were right on top of the laptop. Which was right on top of me, with a cat to each side.

And we were sitting on top of no less than five forcefields.

Then it suddenly became bright outside. "It's time!" I raised the edges of all of the forcefields to surround us in nested bubbles.

The shockwave of Usagi's wish went through the wall without damaging it. As it passed over my desk, my homework disappeared, although the printer didn't.

I doubled and redoubled the strength of my forcefields just before the shockwave hit.

The light show near the end of 2001 had nothing on the coruscation set off between Usagi's dying wish running on autopilot and my living willpower boosted (I later learned) by Artemis and Luna. I was recreating forcefields almost as fast as the Ginzuishou was knocking them down.

When the wavefront passed, I was down to one forcefield. But I still had my Makoto doll. And, less importantly, my laptop and the other Sailor Senshi dolls.

And I felt like I'd had my brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.

But I still had my memories, and all three brainprints.

I very carefully moved my laptop off my chest, and onto the floor. "Are you two okay?"

"I'm fine and have all my memories of you, Robu-san," replied Luna.

"And I still remember you, too," Artemis added as he pushed my laptop away from my futon.

"Good, good. But now it's just the three of us who remember the Silver Millennium and the Dark Kingdom," I muttered before falling asleep from exhaustion. Silly me.

Next chapter: Remembering, Romance, and Rough Times for Everybody.

Original text and original characters are copyright © 2022 by Rob Kelk. "Rob Donaldson", "Ichigo Aoyama", "Kichirou Sato", and any representations thereof are copyright by and trademarks of Rob Kelk. Please contact Rob Kelk if you want to use Ichigo Aoyama or Kichirou Sato in your own stories.

Sailor Moon and the characters thereof are copyright © 1991-1997 by Naoko Takeuchi, TOEI Animation, Kodansha, TV Asahi, and their licencees, and are used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

"Atelier Lucent" is an original element based on Sailor Moon. It should not be confused with the real-world "Lucent Atelier" in the USA or "Atelier Lucente" in Italy. The author makes Atelier Lucent available to anyone who might need a name for Sailor Pluto's clothing studio.

Lyrics from "The Other Side of the Wall", by Void_Chords feat. MARU, written by Konnie Aoki, copyright © 2017 Princess Principal Project, are adapted and used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quote from Slayers Next, copyright © 1996 by Hajime Kanzaka and his licencees, is used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, copyright © 1975 by Python (Monty) Pictures, is used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quotes from The Princess Bride, copyright © 1987 by Act III Communications, Buttercup Films Ltd., and The Princess Bride Ltd., are adapted and used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quote from Harry Potter, copyright © 1997-2000, 2003, 2005, 2007 by J. K. Rowling and her licensees, is used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Lyrics from "Bohemian Rhapsody", by Queen, written by Freddie Mercury, copyright © 1975 by EMI Records and Elektra Records, are used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, copyright © 1978-1980 by Douglas Adams and BBC, is used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quotes from Hamlet and Macbeth, both by William Shakespeare, are in the Public Domain.

My thanks to my prereaders, Brent Laabs and Robert M. Schroeck.
I definitely enjoyed it.
*nods* I liked it too.

Of course, judging by the size of the chapter, it'll be a while before we see more, unfortunately.

I am curious if chibi-usa has an 'Uncle Oni'
Thank you.

I suppose I can give you a bit of a spoiler...

Quote:I bowed deeply, both out of respect and so I wasn't looking at her spiral parasol. "I am honoured to make your acquaintance, Usagi Small Lady Serenity-sama."

Chibiusa abandoned her attempt to hypnotize me. "How do you know my name?"

"The same way you knew who Usagi-san is, except that I'm only from three decades in the future."
Since I've been asked by email... Marimo balls. Somebody in-universe might ask Aoyama-san about them, but somebody in-universe would be disappointed; she's more interested in marine zoology than in botany.
I think I'm making sufficient progress in the next chapter to provide a teaser...

Usagi-san took Ichigo-san's hands in her own. "Being the only person in our group who doesn't have any metahuman powers at all makes you very special, Ichigo-san. You remind us every day as to why we fight, simply by being you."

"That's... that's really cheezy."
Oh, yes... This story now has an All The Tropes page. (Not entry-pimped at all, because I'm not that big a shameless self-promoter. But I did let a couple of spoilers for the next chapter slip into the page.)
The first draft of the next chapter is pouring out of my mind and onto the page... and making a mess with half-considered ideas and spelling errors. Ah, well. As for where in the story I've reached... approximately 2900 lines and over 191kb of text, and Usagi is just about to be hit on the head with a pink-haired girl. I do believe that, even after editing, R will take up more than one chapter.

Have a teaser, subject to change:

"If you're from the future, what stocks should I buy?"

I grinned. "You know, nobody else has asked me that yet."

"I'm planning ahead. University is expensive!"
The first half of the second chapter has gone to the prereaders.

I have just finished the first draft of the second half of the second chapter.

The second chapter is currently 237kb in total. And I'm already 11kb into the third chapter.

So... not for Valentine's Day, maybe or maybe not before the end of the month, but almost definitely before White Day, you'll have something new to read here.

And an evil little teaser...

Anybody who's familiar with the official history, or if you're like me and came from another universe after watching the anime, will know what I'm going to say next.

Besides "Stupid genre conventions", that is.
Chapter 2 of Isekai by Moonlight has gone to the prereaders.
Chapter 3 of Isekai by Moonlight is now at 20Kb.
Why bother going on in this primitive world without my dearest? Sailor Moon won, so she'd have been brought back... somewhere. Nobody was in the apartment next door, at least that I could hear.

I knew that Sailor Moon won because Metaria wasn't taking over the world. Besides, the calendar had been reset; whether she did it intentionally or by accident, Usagi had rewound the clock by exactly one year to the minute. It had been less than a week and there was already talk about "Missing Time" in astronomy circles... and in the tabloids, where I noticed it first.

Sailor Moon was triumphant. And I was alone.

I couldn't even talk with Luna and Artemis on a regular basis; the resurrected Usagi-san and Minako-san thought of the Mau as their pets, and they didn't remember me other than as "that really tall schoolmate in Class 5".

This was getting me nowhere. I couldn't pine for my lost love any more. I had to face reality. And reality told me that I needed to go buy some food. So I headed out...

... only to almost bump into my new neighbour, who had just come up the stairs. She was five months less two days younger than me. She was tall for a Japanese girl; 174 cm. She looked surprised when she realized she had to look up to me; I had 9 cm on her. And she had lovely green eyes, and she wore her auburn hair in a ponytail, and she had rose piercings in her earlobes. She was gorgeous, despite not smiling as soon as she saw me.

And I had to pretend that I didn't know who she was. Stupid, stupid, stupid genre conventions!

She spoke first. "Oh! Excuse me, I didn't see your door opening."

"That's quite all right, miss."

"Kino Makoto. Happy to meet you."

Somehow I kept it together. "Rob Donaldson. Pleased to meet you."

"Were you on your way out?" She held up one of the bags that she was carrying. "I was about to pay visits to my new neighbours."

"I wasn't going anywhere special, just making a grocery run. That can wait."

She smiled – not the happy smile that I'd become accustomed to, but a friendly smile. "I'll be right back." And she headed to her own apartment.

I meditated to get my emotions under control for four minutes and twenty-seven seconds – not that I was counting, and if I told myself that often enough I might even believe it. Then there was a knock at my door. I opened it to see Makoto... no, I had to think of her as Kino-san... standing there with a small parcel in her hands. She bowed politely. "Hello, I'm Kino Makoto, and I just moved in next door. Please be kind to me. This isn't much, but I hope you'll accept it." She held the parcel out to me.

"I'll do my best, Kino-san." It was about the same size and shape as her usual bento box, which reminded me of the day that she met Usagi-san, I looked into her brainprint at her memory of that meeting as I accepted the box from her.

And, because I wasn't paying attention to what we were doing now instead of then, our hands touched. "Oh, I'm sorry!" She didn't respond immediately. "Did I offend you, Kino-san? I didn't mean to."

"Who ... who was that? And why do I think I know her?"

"You saw someone?" For the first time since Usagi-san hit the reset button, I began to hope.

"I... remembered something. I think. A blonde girl, my age, saying that my bento looked really good."

I nodded in understanding. "Ah. That's a memory from the Missing Time."

She looked skeptical. "The year that some scientists and those two cosmonauts claim we've lost? I don't believe it."

I had completely forgotten that there were people off-Earth (on Mir, in Principal Expedition 12, I looked up later). I wondered whether Usagi-san knew about the miners and neutrino astronomers deep under the surface, too.

I don't know why I went all-in – it was probably desperation on the part of my subconscious – but it seemed like the right thing to do. "I have memories of it, from the first day to the last. Please believe me, M- Kino-san." Technically that was true; I had Makoto's, Ami-san's, and Urawa-san's memories of the entire year.

She looked at me critically for a long moment. She'd obviously noticed that I almost called her by her given name... but did that help or hurt whether she trusted me?

"Alright. You can tell me more about the Missing Time. After I pay my respects to our other neighbours."

I smiled slightly. "I'll be here. And I'll do something about the mess."

Isekai by Moonlight
Chapter R

Makoto looked around in amazement. "This is a mess?"

"Compared to its usual state, yes." Mainly because she hadn't cleaned my apartment over the last half-week; Makoto had a profound dislike of uncleanliness, which I was willing to indulge her in. But it wasn't too bad compared to the usual single-male apartment. The dishes from lunch had gone unwashed for a few hours, and, I realized just after she spotted them, I hadn't put away my collection of Sailor Senshi crane-game dolls. But how could I store away my feelings for Makoto?

"Those are cute," she said, walking over to take a closer look at them. She picked up the one in the place of honour, in the center of the group. "I like this one the best. Who are they?"

"They're called Sailor Senshi. That one is Sailor Jupiter." You, I carefully didn't say. "The dolls are physical artifacts of the Missing Time."

She put the doll down immediately. But gently.

"Every bit of common sense tells me that I shouldn't trust you about the Missing Time. If it even exists."

Well, so much for hope.

"But I want to trust you."

Then again, hope springs eternal.

"Please, tell me about the Missing Time."

"I can do better than that if you'll let me. But you have to trust me."

Her eyes narrowed. "Trust you how?"

"You need to sit down in front of me, and let me touch my forehead to yours for a few minutes."

She looked like she thought that my request was... not insane, but odd. "Maybe I should check your temperature, and find out if you're feeling okay."

"A few minutes, not a few seconds." I sat down, leaving her the cushion closer to the door.

After a long moment, she sat down in front of me. "Will it hurt?"

"It never has before." And I touched my forehead to hers.

She gasped as the memory flow began. Then she sighed, and giggled, and gasped again, and finally started crying as the last memory flowed into her mind.

She didn't say anything for a moment. "You're... no, that can't be right. We fought beside each other?" She stretched out her right arm, palm up... and after a few seconds was holding her transformation pen and communicator.

"I need to think about what you've shown me, Robu-san."

And she stood up and left my apartment.

My heart, which I was expecting to be soaring in the heavens in happiness, suddenly crashed and burned at the end of the runway.

But then I realized she'd called me "Robu-san", not "Donarudoson-san",

Hope walked away from the wreckage at the end of the runway and headed for another aircraft.

And, yes, I know that that's a terrible analogy for anything to do with Makoto.

I didn't see Makoto... Kino-san again for three days.

Which was understandable – I had just dumped a year's worth of memories into her head, the newest of which told her that not only was she my girlfriend, but that we had kissed. She had to go through them all, and then figure out whether they actually apply to her.

Yes, she did need to do that. The alternative was that I was mind-controlling her by giving her back her memories. And I didn't want that at all.

It was obvious to me what she was going through. Despite having the transformation pen, she was still Kino Makoto, not Sailor Jupiter... except in those memories. And despite living next door to me, she wasn't my girlfriend, either... again, except in those memories. Who was she: the person who she remembered being, or the person in the memories that I had returned to her? Or both?

And she had nobody to talk with about it. As far as I knew at the time, she and I, and Luna and Artemis, were the only people on Earth who had any memories from the Missing Time. She couldn't monopolize Luna or Artemis without Usagi or Minako getting suspicious of this girl who they'd never met paying attention to their pets. And she certainly wasn't going to ask me whether I was really her boyfriend.

But after supper at the end of those three days, I heard a scratching on my door, as if a pet wanted in. Then I heard, in English, "Let me in already, Rob."

I moved to the door quickly and let him in. "Sorry about that, Artemis," I replied in English. It felt good to speak my native language again without keeping secrets from the people I was speaking with.

"No worries. You're not a 'cat' person."

I nodded. "Yeah. And I don't have anything to offer you, either. Sorry."

"Just be sure to have some fish for the next time I'm over. I'm already getting tired of the dry cat food that Minako picked out."

I grimaced at the news of his monotonous diet. "I'll keep that in mind. What brings you to this part of town?"

"Mako-chan came by to talk while Minako was in class."

Looks like Makoto figured out a way to talk with Artemis after all.

He looked me straight in the eye. Note to self: Never get into a staring contest with a cat. Or a Mau.

I finally broke, not that I left him hanging for very long. "Yeah, I gave her back her memories. I'll point out that she had to cooperate for the process to work."

"Do you know how weird it is to get the 'talking cat! talking cat!' reaction from somebody who asked to talk with you?"

"Can't say that I do."

"Well, it's very weird. And then I had to be the one to confirm that she and you actually were an item during the Missing Time."

"Sorry about that, Artie. And thank you. How well did she take it?" Before he could reply, there was a knock at my door. I switched to Japanese out of courtesy. "Coming!"

I opened the door to see Makoto. Blushing. "May I come in?"

"Certainly!" I stepped aside to let her in, and turned to my other guest. "Don't answer that question, Artemis-san."

"Oh! Hello, Artemis-san."

"Hello and good-bye, Mako-chan. I was just leaving."

I smiled at his thoughtfulness. "I'd ask you to say hi to Minako-san, but... well..."

"I'm sure that she'd think the thought is enough. I'll see you tomorrow."

I held the door open for him. "And I'll have some sashimi waiting. See you then."

I barely had time to close the door before Mako-chan glomped me.

I'd never been glomped before. It's quite pleasant – when done by somebody who you love and who loves you.

Turning the glomp into a full-fledged hug, I smiled and said, "I see that the talk Artie said you had with him went well."

"Is that why you're going to have sashimi with him tomorrow?"

"No. Aino-san's feeding him dry cat food."

She grimaced. "Oh, yuck! I'll help pay for the sashimi."

"Thanks. Let's have dinner together, all three of us, and we can figure out how we're going to make friends with the others again."

"Robu-chan... Robu... darling, would you mind if I kept you all to myself for a while?"

I chuckled. "I don't mind at all. I don't want a harem, remember? I only want you, my dearest."

For that comment, I got a kiss from my girlfriend. Not as passionate as our kiss at the end of the Missing Time, but not as urgent, either.

No, we didn't go any farther than that. I believe I've mentioned before how her body is still developing that way, and how thin the walls of our apartment building are.

The next day, the three of us figured out how Mako-chan and I were going to meet at school, and over the next month become a couple, without anybody thinking that our relationship was at all unusual. Well, other than the "Japanese girl dating a non-Japanese guy" level of unusual.

Artemis is more devious than I am. It was mostly his ideas that we ended up using. Most of my ideas were too Rube-Goldberg-ish in application, and Makoto was willing to simply pick up where we left off and not pay any attention to what anyone else thought.

Our height actually worked to our advantage here. Teal Deer, Mako-chan and I were going to commiserate with each other about being tall, then realize we could help each other with our homework, and one thing would lead to another.

After we figured that out, Makoto asked the big question. "Should we give the others their memories back?"

Artemis shook his head. "Luna and I think you deserve to live normal lives, without having to put yourselves in harm's way. I haven't told her that you have your memories back, Mako-chan. And it's bad enough that the two of you do remember."

"But that was the only way to get our love back. I'm happy with the trade." She turned to me and raised an eyebrow – an expression that she'd picked up from me.

"That trade is the second-best thing that's happened in my life so far, right behind meeting you to begin with. As for the others' memories, I can't give them back, except for Ami-san and her boyfriend Urawa Ryou-san. And I don't know how to begin to look for Ryou-san. Sure, I can pull his address in Niigata out of his brainprint, but then what do I do? He has no reason to trust me until after I give back his memories, and he has to trust me before I can do that."

"You're still Ami-chan's classmate, and see her every day, though. You know her better than I do right now."

"I suppose I do. She's almost as quiet as she was when we met her, despite still being in the Conversational English club with Minako-san and me."

Makoto frowned at that news. "I was hoping to have her as a friend again, but ..."

"But?" Artemis asked.

"But I'm still a little jealous of anybody who Robu might be interested in." She turned to me and added, "I'll leave the choice up to you."

I didn't need to have a copy of her mind in my head to know how she was thinking. "Let's not restore Ami-san's memories just yet." Then it was my turn to ask a big question. "Makoto, my dearest... can you still read my mind?"

She looked surprised at the question. Then she thought, and concentrated, and finally frowned. "No, I can't. I tried turning that on, but instead of your mind, I read the memories you gave back to me. Can you still read mine?"

I shook my head. "No. And I don't know why. I was able to give you back your memories, so why doesn't this work?"

Artemis suggested, "Maybe it's because you gave her back her memories."

"The power did what it needed to do, and then burned out?"

"That makes sense," Makoto said.

"It does at that. Stupid genre conventions."

"Hey, that genre convention brought us back together. Don't call it stupid." After a moment, Makoto asked, "So, what happened after that fantastic kiss? Which, by the way, was my first kiss ever."

"Thank you for sharing your first kiss with me, my dearest." As I thought about how to answer her question, I sighed deeply. "Right after we made that copy of your memories, you headed off to the Dark Kingdom. And..."

"And...?" Then the penny dropped. "You didn't change the anime. I died, didn't I?"

When I didn't answer, Artemis said, "He put his fist through the wall when it happened."

"That is so sweet of you, darling."

I had forgotten how physically-oriented Makoto was. "Losing you hit me hard, even though I was pretty sure Bunny-chan would bring you back. I don't want to lose you again, my dearest."

She smiled. "And I don't want to risk losing you, darling. We don't need to read each other's minds. We'll just have to have a normal relationship, like everybody else."

If Artemis hadn't been in the room, I'd have kissed her again.

Friday came, as it usually does near the end of the week. Maybe if it was more motivated, it would show up earlier.

I could understand not being motivated, though, so I didn't complain about it arriving in its own time.

But Friday meant I had to pretend again. The membership of the Conversational English club hadn't changed, but only one-third of us remembered the Missing Time. Of course we spoke English during club meetings; that was the whole point to the club.

"Donaldson-san, what do you think of the rumours about the Missing Time?"

I missed being on a given-name basis with Ami-san. "Which rumours have you heard, Mizuno-san?"

"The most recent is that the cosmonauts on Mir aren't the people who the Soviet space program thought were on the station."

Her mention of the Soviets puzzled me, until I remembered that they wouldn't formally dissolve the USSR until Christmas Day, nearly two months after our conversation.

"That does lend some credence to the idea that there is a Missing Time," Minako-san offered.

"And we'll probably never know what the cosmonauts know," I added. "If they know anything about what happened during the Missing Time, the Soviets will treat it as a state secret."

"How do you figure that, Donaldson-san?"

"When have they not classified anything, Aino-san? Besides, there might be something in that knowledge that would give them an edge. But to answer Mizuno-san's question, I think they know more about the Missing Time than anybody else in what's left of the Soviet Union does. I suspect they'll be left in orbit where they can't talk with anybody until Gorbachev decides what to do with them."

"I can't argue with that," Minako-san said. "So, since we'll never know, let's talk about something else instead. I hear we're getting a new transfer student in on Monday."

Thank you for giving me an opening, Minako-san; now I can start Artie's plan and it'll seem like it was your comment that started it off. "You mean Kino-san?"

"How do you know her name, Donaldson-san?"

I smiled. "Believe it or not, she's my new next-door neighbour."

"What's she like?"

"Self-assured, very pretty, and once she's enrolled here she'll be the second-tallest student in the school."

"Behind you," Minako-san grinned.

"Where have I heard the name 'Kino' before?" Ami-san asked.

I sighed. Leave it to the resident super-genius to ask the difficult question. And I still wasn't about to lie to her. "Her given name is Makoto."

"Kino Makoto-san, as in ... six and a half years ago?" Ami-san asked.

"She hasn't said anything about that to me since she moved in." Since she moved in the second time, I didn't say. "But I do know that she doesn't like the sound of aircraft."

"What are you two talking about?"

"The worst single-airliner crash in history," I replied to Minako-san. "You'll learn about it in second year."

Monday, and Makoto officially joined the student body at Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou. Or, rather, re-joined, not that anybody other than the two of us remembered that.

She told me after school that her desk was right beside Aoyama-san's, so during the first break between classes Makoto sighed loudly and mentioned that she already missed her last school... which got Aoyama-san to sympathize with her instead of being afraid of her. The two of them had lunch together that day.

"So you're already making friends in your new school," I said with a smile after she told me that.

"Re-making friends," she agreed. "How long until I get to coincidentally bump into you at school?"

"I've already told Ami-san and Minako-san... sorry, Mizuno-san and Aino-san that we're next-door neighbours, so whenever you're ready to complain about how you're being treated because you're tall."

"Tomorrow, then. And you're re-making friends, too."

"We're in the Conversational English club together. We talked about you last Friday."

"Nothing scandalous, I hope," she grinned.

"Not from me. But Mizuno-san figured out that you're the famous Kino Makoto."

Her grin disappeared. "You didn't tell her that I wasn't?"

"My dearest, I promised myself that I would never lie to you, or her, or Usagi-san. Just because the two of them don't remember being our friends and comrades-in-arms doesn't make that promise invalid."

"You'll never lie to me?" She actually looked surprised.

"Never. I might refuse to say anything or say something misleading, though."

Her smile came back. "I can see that." Then she thought for a moment. "Yeah, I guess you're right about telling Ami-san. And I wouldn't love you if you were the type of person who'd break a promise." After another beat, she continued, "But that doesn't mean I'm happy about my history preceding me."

"I doubt anybody else has figured it out, or if they have, they haven't said anything."

"I hope it'll stay that way. So, what are we going to do tonight?"

"The same thing we do every night. Homework."

Artie's plan went perfectly. Makoto and I started spending time together, towering over every other student and many of the teachers in the school. She started walking with me to the Conversational English club on Friday afternoons, which meant that she got to officially meet Aino-san and Mizuno-san for at least a moment each week and – more importantly – Aino-san didn't decide that I was available. And, after the Labor Thanksgiving Day holiday, we were holding hands while walking to the club on Fridays, and having lunch together every school day.

And, away from school, I re-established an acquaintance with Naru-san when I made a very special request at OSA-P.

We alternated which classroom we had lunch in – mine or hers – because we could still tell from the amount of room everybody was giving us that we still intimidated most of our classmates. But "most" wasn't "all"; Aoyama-san was willing to at least say hello when I visited Makoto's classroom, and of course my clubmate Mizuno-san returned the favour when Makoto dropped by our classroom.

Before the end of the month, even before everybody knew that Makoto and I were a couple, Aoyama-san started joining us for lunch when we ate in Makoto's classroom. We even re-started the traditional Revealing Of The Lunches after Makoto expressed an interest in Hokkaido-style cooking. It was fun.

Then came the day that the three of us had lunch together in my classroom. It was November 22, which I remember because we had the next day off for Labor Thanksgiving Day, so some of what I just mentioned happened after this. Aoyama-san noticed the single lily on a desk. "Is that...?"

I nodded. "Yeah, that's Sato-san's desk."

"It's been a while since that car hit him," she commented, which finally told me how he'd died after Usagi-san reset the timeline and Kunzite wasn't around to turn him into a youma. "Who's still bringing in the flowers?"

I didn't say anything. But Mizuno-san did. "Donaldson-san does, every day."

Makoto raised an eyebrow, copying my habit in situations like this one. Ichigo-san... Aoyama-san raised both of her eyebrows. "I didn't know you were that close to him."

"I wasn't," I admitted. "But it's the right thing to do." I turned to Ami-san. "Mizuno-san, I didn't realize you'd noticed."

"Want to join us for lunch?" Makoto asked.

"I don't want to intrude..."

"It's no intrusion, Mizuno-san," Aoyama-san insisted as she moved her chair over to make room. "The more, the merrier!"

"I'm not in a merry mood right after talking about Sato-san," I mentioned. "But I join with the ladies in inviting you to join us."

"If you insist," she said with the ghost of a smile on her face. And then she moved her desk over beside mine.

Despite Ami-san... Mizuno-san barely joining in, that lunch was more fun than any other lunch I'd had all month.

And Mizuno-san apparently agreed with me there, since she mentioned it – in English, of course – during Conversational English club that afternoon. "I don't know why, but if felt right to have lunch with you and Kino-san and her friend today. But I couldn't help but feel like something or somebody was missing."

"It's not like you hadn't met Donaldson-san or Kino-san before, Mizuno-san. Maybe you knew Aoyama-san during the Missing Time!"

Ami-san actually looked annoyed at Minako-san's suggestion. "I don't want to hear any of those ridiculous conspiracy theories about the Missing Time, Aino-san. Rumours that we can pull information from are one thing, but conspiracy theories don't advance knowledge."

Minako-san actually pouted. "I know that something important happened during the Missing Time. But I don't know what!"

"Why don't you ask your pet cat? Maybe he knows what happened," I said with a smile.

Ami-san rolled her eyes. Minako-san asked, "Even if he did know, how could he tell me?" Then, after a beat, she asked, "And how did you know I have a pet cat? I'm pretty sure that I never mentioned Artemis to you."

Oops. And I'd gone nearly a month without slipping up, too. Then I spotted an out. "I'm pretty sure that that completely white hair on your shoulder isn't yours. And you look like a 'cat' person to me. So his name is Artemus?"

"Artemis," she corrected my pronunciation as she picked his hair off of her school uniform. "And, yes, I know it's a girl's name. But I didn't name him."

Before we could continue, there was a knock at the door, then one of the girls' volleyball team members poked her head in. "I'm sorry to interrupt," she said in Japanese, "but we need Aino-san for a quick meeting before this weekend's match with Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin."

"Gotta go! Don't wait for me; these quick meetings usually last at least a half-hour. Sorry!" And she was gone.

Once she was gone, Ami turned to me. "I wonder who did name her pet cat."

"Did you want to wind up the meeting now, Mizuno-san?"

"Not yet, if you don't mind." After a quick pause, she continued, "When I heard Aino-san say the name 'Artemis', I had the same feeling that I had at lunch time when I was talking with Aoyama-san, Kino-san, and you. I'm starting to wonder whether we actually did know each other during the Missing Time."

I wasn't going to lie to her. But that didn't mean that I had to volunteer information.

"Artemis... Artemis and... somebody. Oh, why do I think that that's important?" she asked with some frustration. "I don't like not knowing something!"

I nodded in sympathy. "That can be annoying, I know. There's something that you think you should know, but when you reach for it, it dissolves into mist."

"Or fog. And that seems important, too."

More important that you know right now, my dearer friend. And I don't dare call you that. "Maybe you should sleep on it, and see whether your dreams tell you anything."

"Maybe I should. Thank you for listening to me, Donaldson-san."

"You're welcome, Mizuno-san," I replied as she stood up and grabbed her bag. I stood up as well and said, "I'll clean up today. See you Monday."

I did so, then headed home, changed into more comfortable clothes, and went grocery shopping for the weekend. Once I was home again and food was put away, I knocked on Makoto's door. "Anybody home?"

"Come on in!" I did, to see her in jeans and a t-shirt; she'd been cleaning her apartment again, although she wasn't so impolite as to continue cleaning while she had a guest. Considering how messy an aircraft crash usually is, I could understand why she was a neat freak.

"If you maintain this habit of keeping your home spotless, you're going to make some lucky guy very happy, you know that, Makoto."

"And just who do you think the lucky guy is going to be, Robu?" she asked with a grin.

I grinned in return. "I thought we settled that during the Missing Time. Me, of course." Then I gave her a hug.

"And don't you forget it!" Then she lost her grin and sighed.

"What's wrong, my dearest?"

Slipping out of our hug, she said, "I think we messed up."

"I know I messed up today; I mentioned Artemis to Minako-san before she told me about him. I managed to come up with a convincing reason why, though. I think."

"That isn't what I meant. After having lunch with Ami-san and Ichigo-san today, I realized how much I miss my friends. Our friends."

I sighed. "I can't bring them back. Except for Ami-san, and she has to allow it and cooperate, just like you did."

"I know. It would be nice, though." Then she forced a smile. "So, what's for dinner?"

I smiled in return. "Well, I have all the ingredients for chicken curry."

"Your curry's too spicy! Honestly, who puts nanami togarashi in curry?"

Anthy, I thought but didn't say. "I do. But since you don't like it, we'll just have to go out. I know a nice little beef-bowl place, perfect for discussing things like Martial Arts Figure Skating."

"I'll get my skates."

I mentioned the conversation we'd had during the Conversational English club meeting to Artemis when he came over to use my laptop. He was following up on an idea that I'd had during the Missing Time; he was using the software I had installed and the Dark Kingdom's biometric data that I had taken from Janelyn and Misha to improve the graphics of the Sailor V game. Not to near-photorealistic levels, because the state of the art wouldn't support that in a console game, but still better than simple sprites. He was doing this in order to make it a better training simulator, of course; the additional income that would result from being the first to have that level of realism in a game had nothing to do with things. And if we repeated that often enough, we might even believe it.

While he was doing that, Makoto and I were going on dates.

That weekend, Makoto and I decided to throw caution to the winds and go watch the volleyball game. Luckily for us, Hino-san wasn't there to cheer for her school's team and possibly notice us and start wondering about the Missing Time. And, thanks to a last-minute rolling save by Aino-san, our team won! Yay us!

Mizuno-san joined us for lunch every day the next week. And, of course, the Revealing Of The Lunches revealed her sandwiches every day.

And I noticed that she was becoming more comfortable around us every day. Which made the rest of us happy, too.

Finally, Friday deigned to arrive. Minako-san brought some photos of Artemis to the Conversational English club, so of course we talked about the cats with crescent moon marks that we knew about. Which took all of half a minute, because I didn't mention Luna.

"It almost looks like he's posing in this shot," Ami-san remarked while holding a photo of Artie, who to my eye was obviously posing. The scamp.

"He does, doesn't he?" Minako-san agreed... just before there was a knock at the door. Sure enough, the volleyball team wanted her to attend another meeting.

"Should we reschedule this club to a different day of the week?" I asked.

Minako-san shook her head. "We're just in the middle of a three-week run of games. This shouldn't happen again after next week. Sorry!" she added as she headed out.

"Well, that was a short club meeting," I commented.

"Donaldson-san... I've been thinking about the Missing Time."

Oh, boy. "Have you reached any conclusions?"

"Not really. But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Aino-san had lunch with you and me and Aoyama-san and Kino-san and... somebody else. Either a blonde or a brunette."

"I see."

"Or maybe two people." Then came the question I was half-expecting and half-dreading. "Do you have any memories like that, that could come from the Missing Time?"

I sighed deeply. She'd asked directly, and I wasn't going to lie to her, no matter how crazy it made me sound. But speaking of crazy... "Mizuno-san, do you think that I'm sane? Because sometimes I wonder."

"You're one of the sanest people I know."

"Aw, you had to phrase it that way. Yes, I have memories of having lunch with you and Makoto and Aino-san and Aoyama-san and... I may as well tell you... Osaka-san and Tsukino-san."

"From class 1?" I nodded. "Yes, the blonde girl did have long twintails; it could be Tsukino-san. Do you have any other memories from the Missing Time? Assuming these are memories from the Missing Time. Because sometimes I see you and wonder whether your computer is running properly, and you've never mentioned owning a computer."

I owned two computers at that point, one from here and now and the laptop from my home reality, but that wasn't important just then. "Before I answer that, I'm going to have to ask you to lock the door, so that nobody walks in on us, overhears this conversation, and thinks we've both gone mad."

"Oh! They would, wouldn't they?" And my beautiful friend showed how much she trusted me, maybe only on a subconscious level, by locking herself in with me. Although she was careful to sit closer to the door than I did.

"Thank you, Mizuno-san. I know you're going to have trouble believing this. I know more about the Missing Time than anyone else on or off Earth."

She was taken aback by that statement, but rallied quickly. "How? And how can you be so sure?"

"Answering the first question first, I lived through the experience, and, alongside some other very special people with metahuman abilities, fought off an attempt to take over the world."

"That's an extraordinary claim, Donaldson-san. It needs extraordinary evidence."

I used a forcefield to draw the room's drapes closed. "Is that sufficient, Mizuno-san?"

She shook her head. "As evidence of metahuman abilities, no. You could have rigged some servos to do that."

"But I couldn't use servos to do this." And I used a forcefield to lift myself off the floor.

Her eyes went wide, but she said, "That could be wires."

So I used a forcefield to lift her off the floor.

"Eek! All right, I'm convinced!"

I set her down gently, then joined her on the ground just before there was a knock at the door. "Are you okay in there?"

I quickly-as-in-flash-move walked over to the door, unlocked it, and opened it to see Sakurada-sensei. "We're fine, Ms. Sakurada," I answered while stepping out of the way to let her see Ami-san and the classroom.

"I was just surprised by something that Donaldson-san told me," Ami-san added.

"You should be calling him 'Mr. Donaldson' when you're speaking English, Ms. Mizuno," the teacher scolded her.

"I'll keep that in mind, Sakurada-sensei... Sorry, Ms. Sakurada."

She smiled as Ami-san corrected herself. "I was just stopping by to let you know I have to leave the school now. Can you clean up after you're finished, please?"

Ami nodded. "It's my turn to do that."

"Lovely. I'll leave it to you, then. And I'll see you tomorrow."

"Have a good evening, Ms. Sakurada," I said as she left. Then I locked the door again and walked back to Ami-san.

Before I could say anything, she asked, "Did you just teleport?"

"No. That was extremely rapid movement, but I did pass through the points between where I started and where I finished. Answering your second question, I'm sure that I know more about the Missing Time than anyone else because two of the people who I fought alongside and the boyfriend of one of those two people each gave me permission to make copies of their minds close to the end of the Missing Time, so I have multiple sets of memories of that time instead of just one."

"That's incredible."

"I wouldn't find it credible either if I hadn't lived through it."

"Is there any mechanism to give those memories to somebody else?"

I saw the hopeful look on her face. "I'm going to be very careful about how I answer that. We did some experiments and determined that I can only give the memories back to the people who gave them to me in the first place, and I keep a copy anyway."

"Oh. I don't suppose any of those three people are people I know?"

"You might want to sit down before I answer that, Ami-san."

She's a smart girl. "I think you did just answer that. You're hinting that the 'we' you mentioned carrying out experiments includes me, and that you knew me well enough to be on a given-name basis with me, Donaldson-san."

"We were closer than that." As kindly as I could, I asked, "Do you want your memories back?"

She didn't answer for a long moment. Finally, she said, "I don't know whether I should."

"I didn't ask whether you should. Of the four people on Earth who I know remember the Missing Time, two think that you shouldn't, and one wants it to happen but isn't sure whether it should happen. But I'm the person who has the final say, and I think that your memories belong with you. If you want them."

"Who are the other three who have memories of the Missing Time? And whose memories do you have?"

I smiled. "Two of the people aren't human. Remember last week when I suggested Aino-san ask her cat about the Missing Time? If she does, Artemis is quite capable of answering her in Japanese. And so is Luna, Tsukino-san's pet. The person who's in both circles on the Venn diagram is my girlfriend, Makoto. And given that much and what I've already said, you should be able to figure out your relationship with the person who gave me the other set of memories in my head."

She thought for a moment. "I had a boyfriend during the Missing Time?"

"I don't know whether the rest of the world would have said that, but your memories in my head say that you thought so. And his memories in my head say that the feeling was mutual."

"I had a boyfriend during the Missing Time... Please don't think poorly of me for making a selfish request, but I want to know who he was."

I smiled. "Please don't think poorly of me for making a selfish offer, but I want my friend back. And I know Makoto wants you back, too."

"What do we have to do? How long will it take? And what preparations do we need to make?"

I turned the chair beside her to face her and sat down. "The preparations are now complete. We touch foreheads together for approximately ten minutes, while I do all the hard work."

She took a deep breath, turned her chair to face me, and leaned forward.

Ten minutes later, Ami-san smiled. "I'm home, Rob-san."

"Welcome back, my dearer friend," I smiled in return.

Then there were the thuds of three things hitting the desk she was sitting at. Without looking, she picked up her transformation pen and communicator and put them in her pocket. Then she looked at the Mercury Computer. "I wonder how this was dented," she said. I knew that it was probably from her using it to break that youma's illusion gem, but that happened after the last time that I updated her brainprint. Putting her palmtop in her pocket alongside her other Senshi gear, she asked, "So now I can tell Mako-chan that I remember her, too... No, wait." Her smile started to change to a grin. "I'll tell her on Thursday!"

I knew exactly what she was thinking. "If you're going to wait until then, I'll have to change our reservations."

Jumping straight to Thursday...

After the Revealing Of The Lunches, which did not include sandwiches because Ami-san was busy with something else that lunch break, I reminded Makoto that we had plans for after school. "And please wear your best dress."

"Is today special?" Aoyama-san asked.

I smiled as I handed a box – one that I'd picked up at OSA-P the day before – to Makoto. "Happy Birthday, my dearest."

"Oh, you shouldn't have!" She opened the box, moved the cotton that was protecting her gift out of the way, then said, "Oh, darling, you really shouldn't have. Can you afford this?"

"I promised you a present, no matter what. So I've been saving up especially for today," I replied as she took the pendant out of the box and put it on.

"It's beautiful..." Aoyama-san turned to me. "What is it made of? I don't recognize the stone."

"That's a pink tourmaline. It took a month for Osaka-san at OSA-P to carve the rose into it." Before Makoto could say anything, I added, "And it's already bought and paid for."

"Oh, I wish Mizuno-san was here to see it. I'll just have to show it to her tomorrow."

Lunch ensued, as did afternoon classes. Then we went home and got changed.

I was in my best suit – all right, my only suit – with a white shirt and black tie. Makoto was in a green long-sleeved dress that came down to just above her knees, with a matching hair ribbon, wrap, and flat shoes, and of course her rose earrings and the pendant I'd given her earlier in the day. I offered her my arm and escorted her to the waiting taxi.

Yes, I know how expensive taxis are in Tokyo. And so did she. "All this, just for me?"

"All this, just for you." I told the driver, "The National Art Center in Roppongi, please."

Makoto's eyes went wide. "The... darling, can you afford dinner there after buying me this pendant?"

"Nothing but the best for my dearest on your birthday."

We made small talk during the trip, mostly about how much we loved each other, so it wasn't really "small". Finally we arrived, and I paid the driver. It was a good thing that I pulled out of the bank more than I planned to spend, because I needed it.

And, as she'd already figured out, we made our way to Brasserie Paul Bocuse Musée, which in the early 1990s was still one of the best French restaurants in Tokyo. The maitre d' showed us to the only table that had a dozen pink roses in a vase as its centrepiece.

"Oh, they're lovely!" Then she noticed how many chairs were around the table. "But there must be some mistake. The table's set for three."

"There's no mistake," I replied as the maitre d' left me to seat Makoto. "Our companion should be along any minute now." And, sure enough, the maitre d' returned with the third member of our party just as I was seating myself, so I had to stand as she arrived.

"Happy Birthday, Mako-chan," Ami-san said.

"Mizuno-san?" Then Makoto realized what she'd called her. "Ami-chan...?"

"For love and justice, I couldn't miss your big day," she replied.

Makoto's smile lit up the room.

Oh, yes; Ami-san was wearing a sky-blue dress and matching pumps, with (as we discovered when it came time to leave) a pale-blue wrap.

And, yes, we did draw quite a few looks. Most of the men seemed to be envious of me, for obvious reasons.

Friday followed Thursday, and the Conversational English club followed classes.

And Minako-san was called out of the club for the third time in a row. She promised that it would be the last time.

Once the door was closed behind Minako-san, Ami-san sighed deeply, "I'm worn out from having to pretend I don't know Mina-san well enough to call her by her given name. And you've been doing this for a month?"

"You're a more honest person that Makoto and I are; we have an advantage over you there when it comes to keeping secrets. But I know you can keep the secret. After all, nobody figured out that you're Sailor Mercury the last time around."

"How do you do it?"

"I don't lie to anybody, but I don't volunteer the truth, either. And I'm getting good at truthful but misleading statements, and at changing the subject. Maybe it would be best to say that I treat it like a game: Can I keep up the façade without actually telling anybody a lie until there's no need for a façade any more?"

"I just realized that you and Mako-chan were playing that game for an entire month. And you won; I never imagined that you were already in love while you looked like you were falling in love."

"Thank you," I smiled.

"And speaking of love..."

When she didn't continue that sentence, I replied anyway. "Yes, I could pull Urawa-san's address out of his brainprint. But I'm not going to while we're studying for end-of-term exams. That gives you almost a month to figure out whether you want to get in touch with him again."

"What happened in the anime?"

"We never saw him again in the anime. But you already know what I think when it comes to changing canon."

"Thank you, Rob-san. And I'll have to think about how I want to contact him."

"Message received and understood, Ami-san. Now, why don't we review our English classes and study for the English exams? While speaking in English, of course." I got out my textbook just before Sakurada-sensei showed up to mention club activities were being put on hold until after the winter holidays. When she saw that we were studying, she let us stay for the rest of the afternoon... and even gave us some semi-private tutoring.

Mid-December wasn't all a slog of studying and exams, of course. Makoto and I spent two delightful weekends seeing some of Tokyo's sights, including taking a tour of the Imperial palace grounds the Sunday morning after her birthday.

Well, the weekends were mostly delightful. There was that one incident.

We spent the Sunday afternoon after her birthday walking through Hamarikyu Gardens. "Remember when Kunzite got the drop on you here?" she asked as we walked past the 300-year-old pine.

"That hasn't happened yet," I replied with a smile. "And with the Dark Kingdom no longer existing, it won't happen at all."

"But we both still remember it happening," she pointed out as she leaned against me. "Oh, this feels so good. I never got to just rest against my sempai back at my old school."

"What, never?"

"Well, he turned me down, so we were never close enough to do this."

"His loss is our gain," I replied with a smile while putting my arm around her waist and drawing her closer... which caught the attention of a man with a professional camera and his family, one of whom we both recognized from the Missing Time but couldn't acknowledge.

"Excuse me, but may I take some photos of the two of you?" he asked. "I'm Tsukino Kenji, and I'm working on a human-interest piece for my magazine."

"Daaaaad, we're supposed to be relaxing!" This came from the older of the two children – a blue-eyed blonde with long twintails. Yes, the girl who we had to pretend we didn't know was Usagi-san... and I didn't dare call her Bunny-chan.

Before I could reply to either of them, Makoto said, "I'm sorry, but I really don't want my photo in the media."

"That's a shame," said Kenji's wife who I had to pretend I didn't know was named Ikuko. "You're a pretty girl, miss..."

"Mama, papa, stop bothering her." That was Usagi. "If Kino-san doesn't want her photo taken, I'm sure she has a good reason."

And that gave me an opportunity to acknowledge knowing her, at least from a distance. "Ah! You're our schoolmate, aren't you, Tsukino-san?"

She smiled and nodded. "Tsukino Usagi, from Class 1. I'm surprised you recognized me."

"Why shouldn't we recognize you? We aren't celebrities who are isolated from everyone else, Tsukino-san. We're just noticeable because we're so tall." I turned to her father and bowed. "From Class 5 in your daughter's school, I'm Rob Donaldson. I'm happy to meet you all."

"And from Class 6, I'm Kino Makoto." She also bowed.

Kenji-san recognized her name. "Oh! Yes, of course I understand why you wouldn't want attention called to you, Kino-san. I apologize for intruding on your afternoon."

"No apologies are necessary, Tsukino-san," she replied graciously... but I knew my girlfriend well enough to see subtle signs of stress when she said that.

"Let's go, dad..." Apparently, Usagi-san noticed the signs, too. "You were going to show us the statue of Umashimadenomikoto, remember?"

"Was I?" Then he noticed the look his wife was giving him. "Ah, that's right! Let's not waste any time." And the entire family headed off to the southwest, leaving the two of us as alone as we could be in a public park on a weekend.

"So, who is Umashimade-no-mikoto?" I asked, just before noticing the name in Ami-san's brainprint.

"A great-grandson of Amaterasu-sama," Makoto replied distractedly as she watched the Tsukino family walk away. Then she sighed deeply. "Why do people have to know my name?"

"It isn't your fault," I replied. "And it isn't everybody. C'mon, let's go get some tea and relax."

Silly me. How was I supposed to know that the tea house in Hamarikyu Gardens was the formal sort, rather than a place to relax? Okay, I know ritual is supposed to be relaxing, but I just can't relax when I'm sitting in seiza. Good thing that we were still dressed for a tour of the Imperial Palace grounds, and thus didn't stand out during the tea ceremony.

But there's something to be said for going through a formal ceremony, even one that until I started it I didn't know that I knew. Stupid genre conventions.

And Makoto liked it, which was the important thing.

Instead of getting together for the Conversational English club the next Friday, we had a study session at Ami-san's apartment. By "we", I mean the lunch group, not just Aino-san and I, so Aoyama-san finally got to meet Aino-san this time around. Ami-san had the advantage of remembering having taken the courses before, so she could concentrate on helping the rest of us study.

And I got to meet her mother again, for the very first time. But this time we actually had some time to talk while the girls were making supper. Or, rather, we had time for her to interrogate me... quite politely, of course, and to ensure that it was safe for Ami-san to continue associating with me.

"What are your career plans, Donarudoson-san?"

This was something I'd been considering for a while; I had a new start on life and wanted to try something different. "I'm planning to become a professional photographer, Mizuno-sensei, possibly working with some of the major newspapers if they'll have me."

"That doesn't pay very well, does it?"

I understood why she was concerned about money, what with the economic bubble having burst recently. "It pays well enough to stay alive and continue in the profession, even if I don't become wildly successful. And the lack of stress compared to many other jobs helps; not everything that's worthwhile can be valued in yen."

"That's a remarkably mature outlook. How long have you known Ami?"

"Since we met at school. I'm lucky enough to have the desk next to hers."

"Is she doing well in school?"

I smiled. "Academically, she consistently ranks at the top of our grade, not just the top of our class. Socially, she's become less introverted ever since she joined the Conversational English club. I think you can thank Aino-san for that; she's a very outgoing girl who draws others into her conversations."

"That's good to hear, and I'll be sure to thank Aino-san when I get a chance to talk with her." After a moment, she asked the big question. "What do you think of my daughter?"

"Ah, that's the important thing, isn't it?" I smiled to show that I wasn't offended by the question. "Your daughter has been kind to me ever since I started school in Japan. She's a lovely young lady and a good friend."

"Just a good friend?" she asked with some disappointment in her voice.

I was slightly surprised that Mizuno-sensei appeared to be wondering whether she could play matchmaker between a doctor-to-be and a photographer-to-be. Her daughter wasn't so old that she was at any risk of becoming "Christmas cake", after all. "Just a good friend. She deserves the attention of somebody who isn't already in love with one of her other friends."

While she wasn't completely happy with that answer, she did nod in agreement. "You have your principles aligned correctly, Donarudoson-san. Do you mind me asking you about her friends at school?"

"Not at all. Aino-san, who I've already mentioned, has been a good influence on Ami-san and a big help in getting your daughter to open up to the rest of us. Aoyama-san might not think before speaking as often as she should, but she's an honest and hardworking girl who has a different outlook on life than the rest of us because she grew up in Hokkaido. And Makoto... well, I'm biased here because I literally cannot imagine life without Makoto and me by each other's sides any more, but I do believe that she's one of Ami-san's closest friends. I know that they're learning a lot from each other; Ami-san is helping Makoto become more book-smart and Makoto is helping Ami-san learn the life skills that aren't taught in school."

"Your 'Makoto' is the Kino-san that I met earlier today?"

"She is as much mine as I am hers," I smiled. "But, yes, her full name is Kino Makoto."

She looked thoughtful. "I know that name from somewhere..."

I didn't let her continue. "From August of 1985. And she does not appreciate being reminded of that time."

"Thank you, Donarudoson-san. I will refrain from mentioning it."

Just then, Aoyama-san knocked on the door frame. "Dinner's ready!"

We quite enjoyed the ishikari nabe that Ichigo-san had taught the others to make.

Exams ensued, and were followed by the public posting of the aggregate marks.

Makoto and I just barely placed in the top quarter of the school, with total scores in the high-600s... on purpose, so that we didn't suddenly look like students at Ami-san's level. And I made sure to thank Sakurada-sensei for telling me some of the differences between conversational English and Japanese-test English, which let me get a perfect score in her class.

I didn't need to see Ami-san's report card. Her marks were obvious – straight 100s with the exception of P.E. and Home Ec., and Makoto was helping Ami-san with Home Ec, so Ami-san's aggregate mark was 864 instead of last term's 851. That was enough to put her at the top of the entire school.

Makoto showed me her report card, and pointed out the numbers that she was happiest with: 87-59-87. I swear she enjoys drawing my attention to her body. Mind you, her body is worth drawing attention to, and I'd say that even if she wasn't my girlfriend.

And we noticed that Usagi-san scored 459. Yes, it's a pass, but only just barely, and she had to have flunked some of her courses unless she got 51 in every single course. Ouch. We really needed to give her back her memories of the Missing Time, so that Ami-san could tutor her again... but only Luna could do that without a brainprint, and she refused to take away Usagi-san's normal life.

On our way home from school, we stopped at the 7-12 and made a copy of Makoto's report card. Her guardians had a right to see it, after all.

Then we got home... to discover her front door was slightly ajar. "I locked that this morning."

"You lead, I'll back you up," I whispered as I went invisible.

We quietly walked over to her door... and she pushed it open. "Who's here?"

"It's about time you got home, child."

While Makoto relaxed physically, I could see that she wasn't happy. "Hello, grandfather. Here is my report card." And she pulled the report – the original, not the copy – from her school bag and handed it to him, the way somebody would hand a meishi to a new business associate.

Even I could tell that they were not a happy family.

"Wait there quietly while I read it." He took his time. "Hmm. You've finally taken my advice and started studying, I see."

"Yes, sir."

"You may continue to live on your own in Tokyo."

"Thank you, sir."

"And you may consider this meeting to serve as your New Year's greetings."

"Grandmother still does not want to see me, then?"

"She does not. I will ensure that your bank account is replenished sufficiently for the next three months. Until the end of your next term, Makoto." And he walked out of her apartment so quickly that I had to dodge to get out of his way.

She locked the door behind him, then sighed deeply. "Every time," she muttered. "I wish I was already 20."

"Why?" I asked quietly.

"Oh! Sorry, Robu, I thought you were still outside. Japanese companies, including JAL, aren't legally allowed to settle claims with minors."

And that explained why Makoto was short on cash so often; it was her relatives who were supporting her, not her parents' life insurance payments and the airline's settlement payment. I dropped my invisibility as I said, "You know that you can count on me for help, at least with food. If you don't mind me asking, what was that mention of your grandmother about?"

She leaned against my chest. "She... has never forgiven me for surviving when her daughter didn't."

"Her... your mother. That's... oh, Makoto... I'm so sorry for you," I said as I hugged her tenderly. Makoto's grandmother obviously needed professional assistance to work through her grief... but she'd probably never get it, because the availability of community psychiatric care in Japan was haphazard at best. The Seven-year Strategy of Normalisation for the Disabled wouldn't even be written until 1995. And I wondered how I knew that, but my girlfriend is more important than stupid genre conventions.

"I don't feel like making anything for dinner tonight, Robu."

Which meant she didn't want company just then. "Do you think you'll be okay on your own?" She nodded, so I said, "Then I'll see you tomorrow." And I let myself out.

Tomorrow, in this case, was Christmas Day.

Back in Canada, Christmas is a day for family and New Year's Eve is a day to party with friends. But in Japan, it's the other way around. And I'll stop there before I end up expositing again, or quoting a certain pink-haired gondolier.

We got together at Ami-san's place and did all the fun stuff: had a gift exchange (in which I got a teacup from Arashiyama, and it was obvious who brought that), ate tasty food including chicken from the Colonel, played a few board games, and did some party tricks. And talked. Boy, did we talk; we were all on a given-name basis (again, but this time without Usagi-san's help) by the end of the day.

Ichigo-san learned just how lucky she was to have two parents who cared about her, even if one was away because of work for a few months at a time. From the stories Minako-san told us, her mother was a harridan and her father let her mother get away with it. Ami-san mentioned that she hadn't seen her father in years. And of course Makoto and I... well, the less said there, the better.

And it turned out that Mizuno-sensei heard what the two of us didn't say. I think that's something that they teach you how to do at medical school. Once everyone else had left and Makoto and I were saying our farewells, she invited us over for New Year's Eve. I let Makoto accept on behalf of both of us.

Makoto and I did a lot of tourist things over the first week of our vacation, after we spent Boxing Day... sorry, they just call it the day after Christmas here in Japan... doing the homework that we were assigned for the break and writing our New Year's cards.

"Tourist things" included visiting the Tokyo Tower. "This is a nice little tower," I commented.


"I've visited the CN Tower."

"Oh, we'll take the title of the world's tallest tower back from your home country, Robu," Makoto replied with a grin.

"Not until 2012, you won't," I countered with a grin of my own. Then I stopped grinning. "Although this reminds me: If Usagi-san ever shows off glass slippers that she gets for her birthday, be ready for a major battle. I don't think this tower will be destroyed during that fight, but the anime showed it taking some structural damage."

"We'd never wreck a national landmark!"

"You and I wouldn't, but it takes two sides to have a fight."

"Oh. Maybe we should take some photos while we're here."

"No, it's probably okay. Although if we come back in 1993 and see three girls transported to another world, maybe it would have been better to wreck the tower after all."

"Is that another anime reference?"

"Change the date to 1995 and it would be. It's a manga reference." I thought for a moment. "Although, if I have the anime here, Hino-san might be interested in watching it."

"The way I was interested in that anime set in Academy City?"

"Exactly. If she ever gets her memories back, remind me to check my computer, please."

Our conversations about other landmarks went along the same lines: Appreciate the place for what it is, mention how it ties in with canon if it does at all, and make some comments about some other story where the landmark was featured. Makoto took it as a challenge to find a famous landmark that I couldn't do that with. After asking about the Hachikō Memorial Statue, the Tokyo Big Sight, the still-under-construction Rainbow Bridge, the Diet building, and Tokyo Station, she finally stumped me with a place in Roppongi that we'd already visited: the National Art Center. Of course, we got a lot of strange looks while we talked about stories that hadn't been written yet. But we got looks simply for being so tall, so we didn't really care any more.

Then came New Year's Eve itself, and we were faced with a conundrum. What if anything do you bring as a gift to somebody who's treating you like family? We finally decided on handwritten letters – using brush pens, of course – of appreciation and thanks.

Even though it was obvious that our calligraphy needed work. It's the thought that matters, right?

At least Mizuno-sensei appreciated the thought.

And Ami-san appreciated it when I gave her a slip of paper with an address in Niigata.

We did all of the usual New Year's Eve things – talked, watched television, listened to the temple bell being rung 108 times, ate a mikan each, and simply found comfort in each other's presence.

The only awkward moment came when we had to figure out what to call Ami's mother. "Mizuno-sensei" was too formal for family, which Makoto and I were for at least one night. Only Ami-san could call her "mother" without showing disrespect to somebody else. And "Saeko-neesan" was just silly. She finally agreed to let Makoto and me call her "Saeko-basan"... just before being called away to the hospital.

Luckily, she was back by dawn, so we were able to make our first shrine visit of the year together. And of course we visited the largest shrine nearby, the Hikawa shrine. The miko who was responsible for handing out the omikuji must have liked us, since all of the ladies received good fortunes; maybe she was subconsciously remembering the bonds between the Sailor Senshi, or maybe it was just luck, or maybe the resident kami guided our hands. Saeko-basan got daikichi, and she bought an okimono to display it with. (Makoto told me later that she thought the figurine looked a lot like Hino-san would look with a bob-cut hairdo.) Ami-san and Makoto got kichi. Everybody was amazed that I received a kikkyou imada wakarazu fortune; they'd never seen an "undetermined" fortune before, which especially puzzled Hino-san who had written most of the shrine's fortunes over the year. I remembered what Urawa-san told me and smiled, and told the ladies, "I have it on good authority that my future has always been difficult to foresee."

And then Ami-san decided that she, Makoto, and I were going to visit Niigata during the second half of our New Year's break.

So we went to Niigata the next morning, paid for out of Ami-san's New Year's money. I brought a camera and a notebook.

Standing in the JR station lobby, Makoto asked, "Well, we're here. Now what?"

"Isn't that obvious? We let Ryou-san find us."

"So why did I give you his home address, then?"

"We couldn't possibly just show up unannounced," Ami-san replied to me with the beginning of a blush.

I sighed. "So your plan is that we wait for him to come to us. Assuming he still has his precognitive powers, which he might not because he was never host to one of the Seven Great Youma this time around. And also assuming he remembers us."

Ami looked aghast. "Don't say that, Rob-san. He has to remember me."

"You vaguely remembered Usagi-san before you got all of your memories back, so it's possible. I'm just saying that it won't be easy." Then I had a thought. "But it might be easier for us to find each other if we go some place he likes."

So we went to the Rainbow Tower. I played middle-school tourist, taking photos and making notes. Yes, I promised to share them with Makoto and Ami-san. Yes, I took photos of each and both of my companions with the view of Niigata in the background, and Ami-san took photos of just me, then of Makoto and me. After an hour or so of that, I said, "Well, that's our 'what we did on our vacation' essay covered, if we're asked to write one. Shall we get some lunch?"

"We may as well," Ami-san sighed.

Then Makoto grabbed our arms. "Not yet. Look at the group who just got out of the elevator."

"I can't see them through the crowd," Ami-san complained.

But I could see them. Including Ryou-san. "You've got good eyes, my darling. Do we go meet him, or do we let him come to us?" And that question put a hopeful smile on Ami-san's face.

"Let him come to us," Makoto said. "We're obvious, and if he does remember us, he'll investigate." Then she let go of us. "But if he doesn't... Be strong, Ami-chan."

She nodded nervously as her smile disappeared.

It took him nearly five minutes to approach us. "Excuse me, but do I know you from ... some...where?" His voice trailed off when he finally saw Ami-san.

"Yes, I believe we've met," Makoto replied. "You are Urawa Ryou-san, are you not?"

"I am..." Then he pretty much ignored Makoto and me. "Your name... Are you named... Mizuno?"

It wasn't until Ami-san finally exhaled that I realized she had been holding her breath. "I am. Do you remember me?"

"I think so... We met in Tokyo, didn't we?"

Her smile was wider than I'd seen it since Usagi-san hit the reset button. "Yes, we did. Twice."

His smile didn't match hers, but that was only because he was nervous around us. "I wish I could remember you clearly, Mizuno-san. And I'm glad I followed my hunch and came here today."

I smiled and cleared my throat. "Did you know that the rare hornless white oni can grant a person's wish? But only once, ever."

He looked at me, and blinked. Twice. "That's the most ridiculous thing that I've ever wanted to believe."

"We were about to go for lunch. Perhaps you could recommend some place where the four of us could have some privacy, and I could grant that wish of yours."

So we went to an out-of-the-way restaurant and got some shoyu katsudon, the house specialty. And Ryou-san got his memories back. I've already described the process of convincing the other person to take their memories back twice; repeating myself again would just be boring. Besides, he didn't need much in the way of convincing.

Once we finished lunch, Ryou-san turned to Ami-san. "I'm sorry that I have to say this..."

"Do you have another girlfriend?" Ami-san asked anxiously.

"What? No! I'm sorry that I have to say that I can't go to Tokyo with you today. I have a hunch that I need to re-learn how to actually see the future before it's safe for me to join you. But I think that will only take the rest of the school year."

"So you'll transfer to Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou for second year?" Ami-san asked hopefully. Makoto and I smiled at her display of emotion.

"If I can convince my parents, yes."

After we left the restaurant, I took a couple of photos of Ryou-san and Ami-san together.

Then we saw the sights downtown. After a few hours of sightseeing that Ryou-san and Ami-san enjoyed far more than Makoto and I did, he excused himself to head home for dinner. We had some time before our train was scheduled to leave.

So we went shopping. Niigata prefecture grows some of the best rice in Japan, and it's also the only place where Kanzuri paste is made, so Makoto and I went grocery shopping. And Ami-san picked up souvenirs for her mother, Minako-san, and Ichigo-san.

By the time we were back home, we were exhausted. But Ami-san was walking on cloud nine anyway.

I spent half of the rest of break in front of my computer screens. Yes, "screens"; I believe I mentioned already that I'd picked up a 1990s-vintage computer complete with the brand-new CD-ROM drive technology during the week when I wasn't dating Makoto.

Which meant that I could transfer data from that computer to my laptop by burning it to disc, a half-gig at a time. Alas, I'd have to wait until 1993 for CAT4 to arrive and I could get a cable that I could plug in to the laptop's CAT6 connector. And hope that the laptop supported 10Base-T. If I had to wait for 100Base-T, then I had to wait for CAT5, which wouldn't show up until 1995.

I think I already mentioned how primitive this world is.


What I was doing in front of those screens was building dossiers on our upcoming enemies. From scratch. WikiMoon and the Sailor Moon Wikia didn't exist in 1991, and even if they did, I seriously doubted that they'd exist in-universe, which is where I was now.

So the cardians, droids, daimons, and lemures got short shrift. And without any episodes of Stars, I would have to go by memory for the phages. But they could wait. It's the people in charge of the monsters that needed the detailed dossiers.

I started with Ail and An, because I expected that they would be first up. But, by the end of vacation, I realized that we had to save those two, not defeat them. And there was also that bit about Usagi-san and Mamoru-san's relationship. It was bad enough that my meddling caused Naru-san and Umino-san to break up – and, yes, they still weren't a couple after the reset – I really didn't want to put the core relationship of the entire story at risk.

So I decided to refrain from interfering at all. Until I realized that my very presence counted as interference; Makoto didn't unlock her Supreme Thunder Dragon attack in canon until she tried to go on a date with Ail, and it was obvious that the only person she was planning on dating this time around was me. We'd have to cross... or burn... that bridge when we reached it.

Speaking of dates, I decided at that point that a date was exactly what I needed and put the dossier project on hold. And Makoto was in the mood for some pairs skating, too. So we got out our matching outfits and headed to the skating rink.

Skating with my girlfriend is a much more enjoyable way to spend an afternoon than writing a dossier is.

The dossiers went on the back burner once school started again. I didn't have time to work on them, do homework, and date Makoto.

Hey, I have my priorities.

I didn't even mind... much... when she took me shopping in Shibuya. She wanted something warmer to wear in the same style as her figure-skating outfit, so we visited Atelier Lucent again to see whether they had anything suitable.

The good news was that they did. The bad news was that the proprietor was at the shop that day... which I only discovered was bad news after Makoto was trying on an outfit in a fitting booth.

"Do you have any idea how much work you're making for me, Oni?" she whispered.

I blinked in puzzlement. "Have we met?"

"Not yet."

There was only one person in this reality who could say that both truthfully and meaningfully, which I realized when I noticed the green tint to her black hair. "Ah. It's an honour to finally meet you, Meioh-san. Aren't you supposed to be guarding the Door of Space-Time?"

"Think about the possibilities inherent in time-travel. I am, and I'm here, and I'm also in med school."

"Hang on; isn't time travel in this world set up so that duration in timeframes is synchronized?"

She groaned. "You know more than I thought you did. The me from now is in med school. I'm from two centuries uptime. The current Guardian of the Door of Space-Time is from the Silver Millennium. And we're all being given orders from the me from the early Crystal Millennium." After a beat, she continued, "And it's that knowledge of yours that's making it necessary for four of me to be here now. You're fracturing the timestream just by being here. Not that uptime-me cares."

"Meioh-san," – I couldn't call her Sailor Pluto where Makoto might hear me – "I have no choice whether I'm here. And maybe uptime-you knows something that you don't."

She snorted. "Well, obviously she does. She knows everything I know, and then some." Then Setsuna-san smiled. "But, to tell you the truth, I haven't had this much fun since I was in med school." Which surprised me, because I never thought of her as somebody who had fun.

We heard the fitting-stall curtain slide back. I turned to see Makoto in a delightfully lovely emerald-green outfit based around the "proper tights with a skirt" look that Studio CLAMP loves so much, with a winter jacket added. "How do I look?" she asked.

"I wish I had a camera with me. You look mahvelous!"

She smiled. "Oh, you and your pop-culture quotes."

"I'm only saying it because it's true. That fits you like it was made for you."

Meioh-san quietly kicked me in the shin. Yeah, I deserved that one for dropping a hint to Makoto right after Setsuna-san had complained to me. But the smile on Makoto's face was worth it.

Makoto didn't notice Meioh-san's reaction. "Maybe I should wear this home."

"If you do, I'll pay for the outfit."

"Ooh! You're too good to me, you know that."

"It isn't as if I do this every day, my dearest." I turned to Meioh-san. "How much do I owe you?"

While Makoto put the clothes that she had been wearing into a bag, Meioh-san spoke with me quietly. "Don't bother. If you pay me, I'll just put the money back into your account and you'll withdraw it again. Why waste both our time?"

And that was one mystery cleared up. "Ah. Thank you for taking care of me while I've been in this reality, Meioh-san. Or should I call you Setsuna-neechan?" I finished with a smile.

"Don't you dare!"

"You take all the fun out of being stranded in another reality, you know that."

She glanced at Makoto, who had almost finished packing her old outfit. "I think you might be mistaken there."

"You have a point. Speaking of Makoto, since you're willing to make clothes for us, why haven't you made a Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou uniform for her?"

"Unfortunately, Atelier Lucent isn't on the school's approved list of uniform suppliers."

"And even Senshi powers can't defeat bureaucracy," I finished. Seeing that Makoto was finished with her clothes, I added in a more normal tone, "It's been a pleasure doing business with you."

And Makoto and I left the shop before she could look at the price tags on the other outfits.

It wasn't until we were passing the Hachiko Memorial Statue on our way back into the subway station that I realized how apropos the name "Atelier Lucent" was, with the double meaning of the word lucent. Yes, anything that a Senshi was responsible for would be as clear as a crystal and glowing like the moon, wouldn't it?

We went skating the next afternoon after school, and she wore her new outfit. That drew a few eyes... and our performance on the ice kept the eyes on her, so much so that the manager offered to play over the loudspeakers whatever we wanted to skate to, whenever we were in.

Makoto politely declined, saying that she didn't want that much attention being drawn to us, before I could suggest working out a pairs routine based on Evgenia Medvedeva's routine from 2017.

That was probably for the best. While I had no doubt that Makoto would make an excellent Sailor Moon (and for obvious reasons an even better Sailor Jupiter), I had my doubts about how good a Tuxedo Kamen I could be.

But it gave me an idea.

We were already planning to have dinner with Artemis and Ami-san that day, so I didn't need to wait very long to ask him about it. "Say, Artie, you know those toku shows that the theme parks put on for kids?"

"I've never actually seen one, but I know the formula."

"Do you think they'd be willing to do a show based on Sailor Moon?"

That question got spit-takes from Ami-san, Artemis, and Makoto.

"Aren't we supposed to be keeping the existence of the Senshi secret, darling?"

"Hey, it's as secret as it's ever going to get, with half of the team not even remembering that they are Senshi." That comment got me frowns from Artemis and Ami-san. "But if there's a Sailor Moon toku show, then anybody who sees any of the three of us in action will think it's just another toku performance."

"Until somebody gets caught in the crossfire," Artemis pointed out.

"Then we take steps to make sure nobody gets caught in the crossfire," I countered. "It's usually worked before."

"Usually isn't always," Ami-san riposted. "Sato Kichirou-san learned that the hard way."

I glared at her. "Miss, you fight dirty."

"No, I'm pointing out the consequences if you're wrong."

Yeah, human lives were pretty high stakes in the game that I was proposing that we play with our powered identities.

I took a sip of tea to give myself a moment to think. But before I could come up with a response, Makoto said, "I think it's a good idea, now that Robu has explained it. If we can't stay hidden, we can at least practice misdirection."

"And, while Mercury might be able to keep her identity secret," I nodded toward Ami-san as I said that, "there's no way that the two tallest students at Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou can stay hidden," I added. "Also, it would be a revenue stream for us if we set up the shows and provided the plots."

Artemis thought for a moment, then nodded. "Who gets the money?"

"Pour it into the Crown Arcade," I suggested. "At least until the girls need cash," I added, remembering where Makoto was getting her cash from.

"You're assuming that the others are going to remember being Senshi," Artemis said flatly.

I sighed. "I hate to tell you this, buddy, but... we're only 46 episodes into a 200-episode series, plus specials. Enjoy this break while you can."

Another Friday, another meeting of the Conversational English club.

"Hi, Rob-san! Hi, Ami-san! Presents for you!" Minako-san handed each of us a shiisaa key chain.

"It's pretty obvious where you went over the break," I grinned while looking at Okinawa's leonine guardian beast.

"Didn't you go anywhere?" she asked.

"We visited Niigata," Ami-san replied as she gave Minako-san a Na-chan key ring. "Here's the fireworks fairy from Nagaoka, for you."

"You went to Niigata? The port city?"

"That's right," I said.

"You went to Niigata together?"

"It was the best vacation I've ever had in my life," Ami-san answered, with a smile on her face.

"Excuse me a moment," Minako-san said while heading for the classroom door, an odd look on her face.

It wasn't until she closed the door behind her that we realized what we'd said and how we'd said it. "Oh, dear," Ami-san commented.

"Yeah," I agreed. "If she took what we said the wrong way, and I think she did ..."

"... then she just left to go find Mako-chan ..."

"... to tell her that I'm cheating on her with you."

"But why would she care?" Ami-san asked.

"She's the Senshi of the Planet of Love, even if she doesn't remember it. Of course she'd care."

We just sat there in silence until the classroom door opened again. "Why didn't you tell me you went with Mako-chan?"

"You didn't give us time to," I replied.

"Oh, right." After a moment, Minako-san asked, "So, why'd you go to Niigata, of all places?"

"We went to share some old memories with a friend we made last year," Ami said with a straight face. Never mind that I was the one who did the memory-sharing.

Minako-san grinned. "Last year? During the Missing Time?"

I realized that I had the perfect answer to her interest in conspiracy theories about last year. "Yes, Minako-san," I replied before Ami-san could, "during the Missing Time. You see, Ami-san, Makoto and I are part of a secret team that defended the entire Earth from being conquered during the Missing Time, and the existence of the Missing Time is a side-effect of our success."

She looked at me flatly. "Pull the other one, it has bells on."

I raised both hands in an "I surrender" gesture. "Hey, if you don't want to believe me, that's your prerogative."

"The part about a secret team defending Earth was good; I've heard a few theories that said exactly that. But putting yourself on that team is just silly. We're middle-school students, not soldiers, Rob-san."

"I can't argue with you there. We are junior-high-school students, and I've never been a soldier."

Just then, there was a knock at the door, and Minako-san's teammate poked her head in. "I'm sorry to interrupt..." she started, in Japanese.

"I thought this wasn't going to happen again," I said to Minako-san.

"I'm sorry! I forgot to tell you!" And she headed off to another volleyball team meeting.

After the door closed behind Minako-san, Ami-san looked at me in wonder. "You told her the exact truth and she didn't believe it!"

"It's all in how and when you say it, Ami-san," I replied with a smile.

Makoto and I went shopping after school. Nothing special, just groceries, although she didn't pick up any tea.

"I thought you were running low on tea, my dearest."

"I was, darling, but there's a new shop that just opened up in the shopping arcade. I got some wonderful chamomile tea there while you were spending the afternoon with my best friend."

We both laughed over Minako's misunderstanding of the situation. "Speaking of Ami-san, she said she could come over after dinner." She was back to helping both of us with our studies. "Do you mind being host this time? I have books all over my desk right now."

"You need to keep your home clean, Robu; you never know when somebody might visit. I suppose I have no choice but to chaperone the two of you." She grinned when she said that.

"You're sure she isn't chaperoning us?" I asked with a smile.

Since Makoto was hosting, I made dinner. No, not curry; salmon in panko with a side of grilled onigiri with miso (which I made enough of for lunch the next day as well). We ate together, and were just finishing washing the dishes when Ami-san arrived. Makoto made a pot of her new chamomile tea for us to enjoy while we studied.

But we couldn't keep our minds on studying. Sorry, that isn't quite right; Ami-san kept her mind on studying, going through the entirety of what was left in her textbooks before the study session was over. Makoto, on the other hand, left her books on the table and went back to cleaning and then polishing the dishes, insisting that she couldn't tolerate hard-water spots on the ceramics. And I found myself making notes about what I remembered about the Ayakashi Sisters and Rubeus instead of what I was learning about the Meiji Restoration.

We finally fell asleep in a heap, completely out of energy.

Which should have been a warning sign, but none of us were in the right frame of mind to notice. Besides, the Dark Kingdom was gone and the Doom Tree hadn't arrived yet; who would be stealing our energy? And chamomile tea was known for putting people to sleep, too.

The pattern repeated the next day. We came home from school after the half-day, Ami-san joined us, we had lunch that included a pot of chamomile tea, and we focused on our current obsessions: Ami-san making it three chapters into each of the second-year textbooks, Makoto cleaning her cookware so thoroughly that even the cast iron threatened to gleam, and me making notes from what I remembered of our upcoming enemies, completing the notes on the Black Moon Clan and starting on the Death Busters. And then all of us collapsing from exhaustion.

And it happened again on Sunday morning, starting with breakfast with chamomile tea. "Doesn't that tire you out?" I asked.

"It's all I have right now, sorry."

So I went without. Ami-san – who hadn't gone home Saturday night – and Makoto had some, though. And I saw them start their manic activity. This was definitely wrong.

I spent a few minutes just thinking, and came to the conclusion that the chamomile tea had something to do with the strange behaviour. "Makoto, my dearest, where did you get the tea from?"

"A new store." She didn't look up from scrubbing the tiles in the kitchen area. I knew she liked things clean, but, considering she had company, this had passed Flanderized Felix Unger levels of cleanliness.

"Does this store have a name?"

"Don't remember."

"Where's the receipt?"

"In the paper trash."

Luckily for me, it was at the top of the paper trash; none of us had read a newspaper since Friday. So I didn't make a mess in Makoto's apartment. She probably would have killed me if I had – and not figuratively. The store's name was "Pri-Pri", which rang a bell for some reason.

And I was just suspicious enough of what was going on to equate "rang a bell" with "enemy alarm".

I walked over to the table in the middle of the room, and asked, "Ami-san, could you scan the teapot for magic, please?"

Without looking up from her textbooks, she handed the Mercury Computer to me. "Busy. Do it yourself."

I'd never heard Ami-san speak that tersely, either before or after the reset.

Accepting the Mercury Computer from her, I flipped it open, squinted at the screen, and hunted for the scan function. Luckily, she had set the interface to Japanese rather than whatever language they spoke in the Silver Millennium, so I didn't need to hunt for very long.

Sure enough, there was "dark energy" infused throughout the tea. But not a match for the Dark Kingdom, which relieved me; it would have been heartbreaking to think Usagi-san and the others had gone through what they did only to miss somebody somewhere. Instead, it was listed as being "corrupted Xianren Cave energy", which threw me for a loop; I had no idea what Xianren Cave referred to. (I'd learn later, but not until... oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to the Pri-Pri tea.)

I picked up the teapot and carried it to the sink. That got both ladies' attention.

"No! We need that tea!" Makoto insisted.

"No, you don't," I said. "It's been infused with dark energy."

"It can't have been! I would have noticed!" Ami-san claimed.

"None of us noticed until today!" And I tried to pour the tea down the drain.

The liquid refused to pour more than a half-foot down, forming a bubble of liquid hovering above the sink.

I put the teapot down and stepped away from the sink, raising a forcefield between it and me.

And that finally convinced Makoto and Ami-san that something was wrong. They stood up and stood at either side of me. "Show yourself!" Makoto cried.

Sure enough, a spirit arose from the tea. "Ho-ho! I am Touhi-chan! After ten thousand years of being suppressed by the guardians of the Silver Millennium, I have finally gathered enough energy to re-form myself! And now I will drain your energy and use it to establish a toehold in this barbarian land! Today, this lodging; tomorrow, the settlement!"

I blinked in surprise. I remembered that name. I didn't expect an analogue of a manga side-story villain to be behind this. "Wait, you said that you were suppressed by the guardians of the Silver Millennium? Well, back home in Canada, we have a saying: Sucks to be you."

"Jupiter Power, Make-Up!"

"Mercury Power, Make-Up!"

"Noooo! Not again! Chamomile Petal Swarm!"

The three of us had a mass of flower petals dumped directly on our heads, causing Mercury and me to lose concentration and me to drop my forecefield. I suspect that the attack would have hurt if Touhi-chan was at full strength... but Makoto wasn't going to give her the chance to get any stronger.

"Jupiter... Coconut... Cyclone!" And my dearest spun in place as if she was skating, winds laced with ball lightning the size of coconuts surrounding her and Touhi-chan's flower petals flying everywhere. When she stopped, she shot the lightning straight at Touhi-chan.

"Aargh!" And Touhi-chan collapsed, shrinking down to a small pottery figure that I immediately wrapped in a forcefield. What do you know; a manga villain gets defeated by a manga attack. And that made me wonder how many other attacks the Senshi were capable of using.

Mercury took her computer back from me and scanned the figure, while Jupiter picked flower petals out of Mercury's hair and I combed petals out of my own hair. She finally announced, "She's quiesced."

Jupiter looked puzzled, so I assume she didn't know the word, either.

"She's in hibernation, or a coma," Ami-san explained as she transformed back to her normal form.

And that embarrassed me. "I'm sorry!" I hadn't done anything, but I could have at least closed my eyes. And seeing a very pretty girl other than Makoto change clothes was definitely something I needed to apologize for, to both girls.

Makoto transformed back to usual, making sure I could see her, then said, "Not your fault, darling." I wondered whether Makoto was jealous of Ami-san, or was she maybe staking her claim to me?

Then I noticed that I was more awake than I had been since Friday evening. "I think I just got back all the energy that Touhi-chan drained from me."

"Me, too," Makoto said with a nod.

"And I, as well," added Ami-san.

I thought for a quick moment. "There's no way that I can just sit still and study today. Anybody want to go skating?"

"I have to clean up first..." Makoto started, before she realized just how much cleaning she'd been doing over the weekend. "No, that can wait."

An hour later, we were on the ice. I had a beautiful girl on each arm, and every eye in the arena was on the three of us. And, no, Ami-san didn't have a book with her.

It wasn't until I was getting ready for the next day's classes that I remembered Ami-san was the one who'd suggested I join the Senshi on their trip to the onsen during the Missing Time. And now she'd shown me one of her transformations. Did she not care whether I saw her naked?

At the time, I expected that I'd probably never know. I wasn't about to ask her.

She has a boyfriend, after all; Ryou-san might care. And I have a girlfriend; Makoto certainly looked to me like she cared.

Even if Ami-san wasn't interested in dating me – which I hoped was the case – and was just a naturist or just naive, I really didn't want Makoto to become jealous of Ami-san.

And I hoped I was completely misreading the situation.

Nevertheless, I spent less time alone and more time with just Makoto, so that she would know that she was the girl that I wanted to spend time with. Which meant that the enemy dossiers went even farther onto the back burner than they had been.

Weekdays and Saturday mornings were for school, homework, and housework, and Friday afternoons were for the Conversational English club. She and I finished off our Saturday homework as quickly as we could so that we could go on dates. Every Saturday afternoon and every Sunday.

Why had we not been going on dates every Saturday afternoon since we got back together? It wasn't as if we had enemies to fight, Touhi-chan notwithstanding.

Two weeks later, we realized why; some of my housework was piling up, and Makoto was losing sleep keeping on top of her housework. While the idea of wearing an outfit once and throwing it away had a certain appeal, I doubted that Atelier Lucent would make that many clothes for us, so we had to actually do our laundry on occasion. So we cut back on the dating; Saturdays went back to being chore days, while, to misquote the Bangles, Sundays were our fun days.

And on the third Sunday in January, I finally convinced Makoto that it was okay to get a little bit messy while eating, when we discovered the Tony Roma's in Roppongi. I hadn't had Tony Roma's baby back ribs since the last time I visited Miami, back home, so I insisted. It took the intervention of our waitress to assure her that, yes, she was supposed to make a mess, and, yes, they had enough napkins for her to clean up after eating.

I haven't been able to convince her to go back since then, though.

I don't usually mention what we did weekdays, but Wednesday that week – January 22 – was special. It was Ichigo-san's birthday, and she invited us to her place for dinner after classes.

Her mother was a delightful woman, happy to make sure that we were all comfortable in her home. We didn't get to meet her father or either of her brothers, since they were on a months-long fishing trip. And that made me wonder why the Aoyama family was living in Tokyo instead of Wakkanai, until Ichigo-san explained that they were in the capital for her education.

Knowing that Urawa-san intended to use the same reason to transfer to Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou, I understood completely.

We gave the birthday girl gifts, including a scarf from Atelier Lucent from me, and her mother fed us to the brim with Jingisukan. I hadn't had lamb since I arrived in this reality, and Minako-san hadn't had lamb since returning from the UK. We both quite enjoyed the Hokkaido take on how to serve it. Makoto thought that it was greasy, although that didn't stop her from matching the rest of us slice for slice.

A good time was had by all, and we promised to do it again the next year.

And then January made way for February, and the fun times in the early part of the month – including Makoto and me both wearing masks and having soybeans thrown at us by our classmates on Setsubun, since it was a Monday – made way for studying for final exams after National Foundation Day on the 11th. We all got together for study sessions, which we alternated between everybody's homes. Except for Minako-san's house, after the Wednesday that we tried to study there. Her mother got upset that she'd brought a boy home to what she expected would be a girls-only session, then she got upset about how tall Makoto was and how she was probably a sukeban what with wearing a skirt that long, then she got upset and raised her voice about Ichigo-san being from Hokkaido. Then we apologized that our presence was disrupting the harmony of the house, left, and re-met at Makoto's apartment.

"When you said your mother was a harridan, I thought you were exaggerating," Ichigo-san commented as we settled in around Makoto's table and opened our textbooks.

"I'm so sorry about what she said about all of you," Minako-san replied while bowing. "If I had remembered her prejudices, I would have never have suggested getting together there."

"Raise your head, Mina-chan, you're not at fault here," Makoto replied. "Although I don't understand what she has against people from Hokkaido."

I raised an eyebrow. "You hadn't noticed?"

"Noticed what?"

Ichigo-san answered before I could. "I don't know how Robu-san noticed."

"What I noticed the day I met you was your depressed nose root and projecting cheekbones. But it didn't and still doesn't matter to me."

She smiled at my answer. "Thank you, Robu-san. And you're right. I'm not just from Hokkaido, I have Ainu ancestry." She looked around. "If that makes a difference to anybody here, I can leave."

Makoto put her hand on Ichigo-san's shoulder before she could stand up. "I'm dating a foreigner. Why would I care who your great-grandparents were? You'll always be welcome in my home, Ichigo-san."

"I'm surprised that you actually know your ancestry," Ami-san said. "If you know anything about Ainu history, I'd like to learn it from you instead of from a book." And by this time we all knew how fond Ami-san was of books.

Minako-san smiled. "I spent years in London with kids my age with lots of different skin colours. Like I'd notice or care who has what blood in them. Especially if it pisses off my mother."

Not the greatest reason to be accepting of other people, Minako-san, but I've heard worse. "And I already said that it doesn't matter to me. Looks like you can't get rid of us, Ichigo-san," I said with a smile.

And we all started studying, putting our racial differences behind us.

I hoped that Ryou-san, Usagi-san, Naru-san, and Hino-san would be as accepting of Ichigo-san's ancestry as my friends here were. Assuming it was even a concern, and not something that only Ichigo-san was worried about.

After a few hours, Makoto looked up. "I wasn't expecting to be hosting today, so I don't have enough food for everybody. I'm sorry."

That wasn't like Makoto. Then I remembered that this particular Wednesday was February 12. "Oh, I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble, my dearest. I'll see you all tomorrow."

She smiled at me; I could tell that she knew why I was leaving early. "Thanks, darling. See you tomorrow."

I collected my books and headed off, stopping at my own place just long enough to drop off my schoolwork. Then I headed out for dinner... well, a coffee, a single-serve basket of cheese-flavoured chicken bites, and a box of Senior Mints (and somebody was writing around trademarks again)... at the Lawson at Azabu-Juban station. I resolved to eat better the next day.

When I got back home, I could hear the girls talking and laughing in Makoto's apartment, but they were in her kitchen, not her front room. I pretended that I didn't know what they were doing and settled in to watch my favourite Studio Ghibli movie on my laptop... and made plans to see it in the theatre when it debuted on July 18. Without Makoto, because I wouldn't torture her by forcing her to watch something she hated.

Nothing important happened on Thursday the 13th. At least, not to me or anybody I knew.

And then it was Friday. February 14. And lunch went about the way I expected, except that Minako-san joined us. The Revealing Of The Lunches revealed a lot of chocolate for some strange reason.

"It's obligation chocolate; you can have it if you want," Minako-san said as she passed what looked like a chocolate bar over to me.

"This is also obligation chocolate," Ami-san said as she handed me a chocolate cupcake.

"Giri-choco here, too," said Ichigo-san as she handed me a small bag of chocolate drops.

I looked at Makoto and raised one eyebrow.

"Nope. Mine's 100 per cent honmei-choco!" She smiled as she offered me a chocolate heart the size of a bento box, with two smaller hearts beside it. "Will you accept it?"

"Of course I accept your feelings, Makoto," I said with a smile as I took the box from her and immediately ate one of the smaller chocolates, before eating any of the lunch I had brought. Then I turned to the others. "And I happily accept your obligatory gifts, ladies." These I didn't unwrap during lunch time.

And then we studied every weeknight... which paid off during final exams during the first half of March.

Our last exam was on March 14, so it was with a sense of relief that we got together for lunch that day. That's also when I gave the ladies their White Day presents: Queen's Greatest Hits II for Minako-san, Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad for Ami-san (in English since we were both in the Conversational English club, and I insisted to her that the best fiction had things to teach people), a set of blank notebooks to start off the next school year for Ichigo-san, and... well, silver counts as white, right? Makoto certainly didn't object to the bracelet.

And we all went for a relaxing group skate that afternoon. Ichigo-san was able to keep up with Ami-san, Minako-san was able to keep her balance, and as usual everybody watched the "Emerald Pair" having fun. I'd given up on us getting a different name.

And then the grades were posted.

Makoto and I showed some improvement again, placing in the low-700s... again on purpose. Improvement was good, but sudden improvement to Ami-san's level was impossible to explain, or maintain once we passed the point where we were repeating what we'd learned during the Missing Time. Ami-san improved again, too, as hard as that might be to believe; with Makoto's help and tutoring in both Home Ec. and P.E, she got 95 in Home Ec. and her aggregate grade was 870. Once again, she placed at the top of the entire school... and we helped her start to come to terms with the fact that she was always going to stand out that way.

Ichigo-san and Minako-san placed in the mid-600s. So did Naru-san, we noticed.

Usagi-san... well, she was improving, with a total of 531. She was so happy that she wasn't being held back a year.

We had to figure out some way to get Usagi-san into our homework circle again. And Minako-san, too, for that matter.

Needless to say, Makoto's grandfather was waiting for her at her apartment. He was as terse and grumpy as the last time he stopped by. After he gave Makoto permission to continue attending classes at Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou and told her not to bother visiting over the school break, he asked who I was; Makoto introduced me as a schoolmate. Seeing me unlock the door to my own apartment appeared to satisfy his curiosity as to how she knew me. He told her that he'd see her in August, then left with barely an acknowledgement of my existence.

I didn't ask about August. She was in a bad enough mood as it was.

There was a message waiting on my phone: Ami-san said that her mother wanted to see me. I wondered why. The message continued with Ami-san saying to bring my report card, and I stopped wondering. After I got changed into comfortable clothes, I opened my door to see Makoto about to knock. "Did Ami-san call you, too?"

"She did," I nodded. "And she told me to bring my report card."

"I guess we'd better not keep her mother waiting, then." Makoto had reached the same conclusion that I had.

Sure enough, Ami-san's mother expected us to present our report cards to her as if she was our mother. Her decision at New Year's wasn't just to accept us into her home; it was to accept us into her family.

So we had no choice as to what to call her from now on.

Saeko-basan was much kinder than Makoto's grandfather was, actually giving us both compliments where we were doing well and constructive criticism where we could do better, suggesting some additional books to help Makoto with math and both of us with Japanese history and Japanese literature. Then she asked us to stay for dinner... just before being called to the hospital. She apologized to all three of us as she left, and we made plans to have dinner together the next evening.

Then the three of us went out for dinner – at the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi, because Makoto refused to eat at Tony Roma's again. Neither of my friends had been to a Hard Rock Cafe before and I'd never been to a Japanese HRC, and we hadn't made reservations... but there was a table waiting for us anyway.

And Urawa Ryou-san was sitting at it.

Needless to say, Ami-san was ecstatic.

It wasn't until two days later that we could get together at Makoto's apartment. Ami-san didn't want to introduce Ryou-san to her mother just yet, for obvious reasons.

By "we", I mean Makoto, Ami-san, and Artemis... who immediately went quiet when Ryou-san showed up.

"Hello, everyone, Thank you for accepting me into your group here in Tokyo. Please take care of me," he said as he offered us small parcels. "These are mere tokens of my appreciation of your welcome." He handed a package to each of us, and then offered one to Artemis. "And that includes you, Mau-san," he finished.

Artie looked straight at me. "Who told him?"

"I did," replied Ami-san, with all of Sailor Mercury's self-confidence in her voice.

"And I gave him back his memories," I added as Artemis was turning to glare at Ami-san.

Artie facepalmed... er, facepawed. "How many more sets of memories do you have in your head?"

"Nobody else, honest! All three of the brainprints I took during the Missing Time are now in their rightful owners' heads."

After that bit of awkwardness with Artie's reaction to the situation, we ended up enjoying ourselves while telling stories about what we'd been doing since New Year's. It didn't take much convincing on Ryou's part to be allowed to live in Tokyo, not after he pointed out to his parents that he'd get a better education in the capital than he would in a port city. And we all had a good laugh about Ami-san, Makoto, and me getting flowers in our hair when Touhi-chan attacked.

Ryou-san wasn't in Tokyo for good, though; he still had to settle his affairs in Niigata. He promised to return on the 26th, and asked Ami-san to help him with the paperwork to move in to an apartment in a particular building close to where she lived. He also asked me to help him with the enrolment paperwork for Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou, which I happily agreed to.

Spring vacation continued, including a completely delightful day that Makoto and I spent at Jindai Botanical Garden in Choufu. She spent most of the day admiring the roses, while I spent a large part of the day admiring her admiring the roses (and, when nobody could see, using my smartphone to take photos of her admiring the roses – I needed a proper image of my dearest for my laptop's screen). Even though we got our travel time down to an hour each way because we caught the express to Choufu at Shinjuku, this was our "special day away" for our end-of-school-year vacation. And the people at the gift shop were kind enough to deliver Makoto's purchases so that we didn't need to carry a couple of potted plants back to Minato, which let us pay our respects at the Jindaiji Temple, just south of the botanical gardens. And, since Ichigo-san had called us a couple of oni during the Missing Time, of course we needed to stop at Kitaro Chaya while we were in the neighbourhood.

Finally the day that we'd been waiting for arrived: March 26. It turned out that we'd been waiting for that day in more ways than one.

Makoto, Ami-san, and I all helped Ryou-san unpack and settle in to his new apartment, the girls taking notes on what he didn't have but really needed to get, and me helping him move a few pieces of furniture to where he preferred them to be. Then we took him on a quick tour of all the places he needed to know where to find: the closest convenience store, the closest supermarket, and the closest laundromat.

Then we went out for dinner at the beef-bowl place where he and I had first met. It was Ami-san's first visit to that particular restaurant. She said that she wasn't a big fan, since she couldn't eat and read at the same time, but she looked like she enjoyed the food. Or maybe she enjoyed the company.

Ryou-san asked whether we could walk back to his place. Nobody objected.

"It's a pleasant night," I said. "It's warming up, there aren't too many clouds in the sky, and ..." I slipped my arm around Makoto's waist. "... we have excellent company."

"The best company of all," Ami-san agreed while taking Ryou-san's hand in her own.

"Ami-san, would you be kind enough to show me the Mercury Computer?"

I thought that was an odd request for Ryou-san to make just then, momentarily forgetting that he's a precog, but she just smiled. "Of course! Here it is," she said as she let go of his hand and flipped the computer open.

Then the sky lit up. We all looked up to see a meteor. A big one, that wasn't breaking apart as it fell.

"Ami! Track it!"

"I already am!" she answered Ryou-san.

Makoto looked puzzled. "What's going on?"

All I said was, "Plot."

"Aw... And I was enjoying getting to spend time with you without worrying about being called to fight a monster."

"I have the meteorite impact site projected," Ami-san announced.

Ryou-san and I immediately turned our backs on our girlfriends.

"Mercury Power, Make-Up!"

"Jupiter Power, Make-Up!"

Then we were both lifted into bridal carries and the Senshi started roof-hopping.

But we were too late. By the time we reached the impact crater – which was only a couple-dozen meters across, far too small for the meteor we saw to have left behind – the impactor had already left. Mercury took some scans of the crater, then we left when we heard sirens.

It was too late in the evening to contact Artemis or Luna; Minako-san and Usagi-san were no doubt monopolizing their attention. We'd have to fill them in later.

"Later" turned out to be the next evening. Ami-san and Ryou-san were on a date, and Makoto was busy with spring cleaning, so it was up to me to touch base with the Mau.

I really didn't want to visit the Aino residence again.

So I headed over to the Tsukino residence... only to notice Sailor Moon standing on the rooftop.

I was too late. Ail and An had already played their first cardian, Luna had given Usagi-san her memories back in order to save Naru-san and her mother, and we were almost at the end of the first episode of Sailor Moon R. But that meant it was time to let Luna know that I'd derailed canon months ago, assuming Artemis hadn't already told her... and to let Bunny-chan know that she wasn't alone in her fight.

I went invisible so as to not draw the attention of anybody who might be passing by, and used the forcefield-pillar trick that I'd used at the Star Light Tower to make my way to the Tsukino family's rooftop.

Usagi-san had a determined look on her face. "I can't ask the others to fight again. I will protect everyone on my own."

No, Princess. You couldn't and you didn't in canon, and I won't let you try this time around. You need allies. And, frankly, so do Ami-san, Makoto and I. "I can't let you do that, Bunny-chan. It's too big a job for one person."

She turned in surprise. "Who's there?"

I let my invisibility drop. "Have you forgotten your favourite Oni already?"

Sailor Moon's face showed a mix of surprise and relief. "Robu-san!" Then she held my hands in hers. Just for a quick moment that was only skinship (if skinship can be called "only"); we both knew that her heart still belonged to Mamoru. I like getting a hug from Makoto better.

It was a shame to have to make Usagi-san sad again. "I'm sorry, but you need to know. Makoto and Ami-san remember, too. And so does Urawa Ryou-san."

Usagi didn't say anything for a moment, but her expression changed like flowing water, never the same for three seconds in a row. The poor girl was really conflicted about my news.

Finally, Luna asked me, "How long have they known?"

"I gave Makoto her memories back less than a week after Usagi-san hit the reset button. Ami-san got her memories back about a month later, and Ryou-san got his back over the New Year's break."

Usagi looked at me with a mix of dread and hope. "And Rei and Minako? And Naru? And Artemis? And... Mamo-chan?"

"Artie-san never lost his memories. The others don't remember, as far as I know, and I can't give them back their memories," I finished while shaking my head slowly.

Luna added, "But I can give Rei, Minako, and Naru-san their memories back if you really want me to."

"I'd appreciate that, thanks," I replied before Usagi-san could... but she nodded in agreement.

Then she asked the important question again. "And Mamoru?"

Before Luna could reply, I said, "If you want him to remember your love, you need to bring him back." Which wasn't a lie; it was her actions that finally got Mamoru to remember.

"But... I don't know how."

I smiled. "You'll figure it out."

She pouted and complained, "Now I remember why we call you Oni."

After a moment with nobody saying anything, I quietly asked, "Are you okay with being Sailor Moon again. Usagi-san?"

She took a moment to think. "If I'm not Sailor Moon, who is? I know now that Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Mercury and you can be heroes so I don't have to... Mako-chan and Ami-chan can still become Jupiter and Mercury, right?" I nodded in confirmation. "But... nobody else can be Sailor Moon."

She had such a wistful look on her face when she said that. The poor girl.

"Bai-bai, ordinary Usagi," she almost-whispered in sadness.

"Hello, Princess Serenity," I replied.

It didn't cheer her up.

Makoto, Ami-san, Ryou-san, Usagi-san, Luna, Artemis, and I met at my apartment a few days later.

Then we immediately headed to Makoto's apartment next door, which was larger than mine.

"So, darling, what do you know about what's going on?"

"I know enough to not answer that, my dearest."

Ami-san asked, "Why?"

"Because it's necessary," Ryou-san replied. "If Chiba-san and Tsukino-san are going to get back together, neither Robu-san nor I can interfere."

"Yeah," I agreed. "I've already broken up one couple by meddling. I don't dare ruin your relationship, Bunny-chan."

"I don't want to lose Mamo-chan!!!"

"Which means everything you two know is off-limits," Luna complained.

"It can't be helped," Artemis replied.

"You can't tell us anything?" Ami-san asked. "Not even about the youma they're using?"

Revealing a name shouldn't hurt. "They aren't youma. They're cardians."

"Like on Star Trek?" Ryou-san asked.

"What?" Then I realized what he was thinking, and remembered that that particular race had appeared on NextGen a year ago. "Cardians, not Cardassians. Don't expect them to –"

"TMI, Robu-san," Ryou-san warned before I could finish my sentence.

"Sorry, I'll stop now."

"Good!" Usagi-san said. "Don't change what you know, especially if that would drive Mamo-chan and me apart!"

I bowed deeply. "I humbly apologize for my lapse, Your Highness." That got a giggle out of her.

Makoto sighed. "And here I was hoping to use some asymmetric plot escalation and finish things off quickly, so Robu and I could get back to dating."

"Not every problem can be solved by force, Mako-chan."

"That only shows you aren't using enough force, Ami-san."

"Force and diplomacy both have their place," Luna insisted.

"And so does love," Usagi-san added.

I simply nodded in agreement with everyone.

Another week, and then it was time to start school again.

Usagi-san and Naru-san were in Class 1, along with Umino-san and that new student Ginga Natsumi-san. Ryou-san was in Class 3 with Minako-san. Another new student, Ginga Seijuurou, was in Class 4, and yes, he was Natsumi-san's brother. Ami-san and I were in Class 5 again, and Makoto and Ichigo-san were still in Class 6.

And I had to pretend I didn't know who the Ginga siblings were. But then, so did Ryou-san.

He and I had trouble dodging the crowd of girls gathered around Seijuurou-san at lunch time. "Maybe I should have learned to play the flute," Ryou-san muttered.

"Don't draw attention to the flute," I warned quietly. While I was surprised that nobody in canon had ever connected the flute with the activation of the cardians, especially considering Ail... sorry, Seijuurou-san... only knew one tune, I was pretty sure that any of the Senshi who overheard either of us mention the flute would think it was a clue. Which, you know, it totally would be if we mentioned it.

"Ah, right. Sorry, Robu-san."

We finally got past the crowd and into the school's courtyard, where everybody else was already waiting for us to take part in the first Revealing Of The Lunches of the new school year. Usagi-san, who was there at my invitation, had dragged Naru-san along, so we were finally back to our pre-reboot group plus Ryou-san.

Minako-san showed us a flyer, which we passed around while we ate. "I think I'm going to give this a try! It isn't every day that somebody our age gets a chance to try out for a TV show! Especially not with somebody as famous as Shiratori Mikan-san in the cast!"

She seemed to be excited for some reason.

"I wouldn't mind trying out for a role, too," Naru-san commented.

"I wish I could, but they're only looking for girls," Ryou-san sighed.

"I have class duty today," Ami-san said.

"What, and miss your chance to be on a TV show?" I asked. "I'll trade with you. Go have fun with the others."

So we did. And she did. And Luna went along for the fun... and to restore the memories of Minako-san, Hino-san, and Naru-san.

I, on the other hand, completed the class log and ensured the classroom was tidy. Then I had a nice, long chat with Ryou-san about how things had already diverged from canon. Ail and An weren't mid-term transfer students, for one thing, and Ryou-san was here, too. He assured me that the changes weren't enough to drive a wedge into Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen's relationship, but we still needed to be careful not to change very much else and drive that wedge ourselves.

Friday finally arrived, too soon for my comfort. What left me uncomfortable was the new school year's first session of the Conversational English club.

Because it started with Minako-san glaring at me for a half-minute before saying anything.

"I cannot believe you!" she finally whispered angrily.

"What? Did I lie to you?"

She was about to answer immediately, but caught herself and thought for a moment. "No, you didn't. I think. But, really, 'ask your pet cat?'"

"And have you asked your pet cat?"

"Yes..." she admitted grudgingly.

"And did he answer?"

"After I told him that Luna zapped me."

"Then what's the problem?"

"I can't believe I thought you were joking! And you three really were part of a secret team that defended the entire Earth from being conquered during the Missing Time, too."

"You were part of the same team," Ami-san replied.

"And that's what makes it all the more frustrating. You never once lied to me about the Missing Time, did you?"

"Never," we replied in unison.

"Does anybody else know? I'm still going through my memories."

"Ichigo-san doesn't know," Ami-san answered. "The rest of the lunch club is in on it. And so is Rei-san."

"Of course Rei-san knows; she was there with Naru-san and me when Luna zapped us. So why doesn't Ichigo-san know?"

Neither of us had an answer for that.

Tuesday arrived in its due course. Yes, Tuesday, and I know I haven't been mentioning mid-week activities very often. But this particular Tuesday was special.

Ami-san called me after school. "Rob-san, there's been an accident."

My blood ran cold. "What happened?"

"Usagi-san and Mako-chan met me after juku, and a cardian showed up."

Just from that much, I had a pretty good idea of what had happened, but I had to ask. "Who's hurt?"

"A friend of Mako-chan. She called him Shinozaki-san."

Yeah. The start of episode 49 happened. Now to ask something I didn't know the answer to. "Where did they take him?"

"We're at Juban Daini General Hospital."

"I'm on my way."

"Thank you, Rob-san." And she hung up... presumably to call the others.

It didn't take me long to get there, even though I wasn't moving at my top speed. Yes, I was invisible for most of the trip (there was no point to blowing my cover over something that I couldn't change), so I had to be very careful that I didn't hit anybody and no drivers hit me.

I went visible in a quiet alleyway near the hospital, and finished the trip at human-normal speed. Ami-san met me in the lobby and helped me cut through the paperwork to get in to see Shinozaki-san. Makoto was in the bed next to his, with a tube in her arm. "Hi, Robu," she said quietly.

"Hi, Makoto," I said back. "Ami-san said that Shinozaki-san was hurt. What are you doing in a hospital bed?"

"Helping keep him alive," she answered while looking at the needle in her arm and the IV tube attached to it. "How do you know Shinozaki-san?"

I took a quick look around the room to make sure we were alone. "Only from your memories. He's a lucky guy to have you as a friend."

"He's just a friend," she said quickly.

"I know."

She smiled at my reply, then frowned. "Why didn't you warn me that this was going to happen?"

"I'm so sorry, my dearest. For Bunny-chan and Chiba-san's sake, Ryou-san and I can't risk changing things right now. If we meddle, we might destroy the happy ending, so we can't change sadness to happiness along the way."

"You're an oni, you know that."

She wasn't joking. I sighed deeply and replied, "So I've been told, many times. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Only if you have blood type O."

"As a matter of fact, I do." O positive, but Rh negative was so rare in Japan as to be nonexistent. "I'll tell the nurses."

"Thank you, darling."

I stepped out of the room and made my way to the nurses' station, where I discovered Ami-san was saying hello to the doctor on duty. So I joined them. "Good afternoon, Mizuno-sensei."

"Donarudoson-san? What are you doing here?"

"I've just come from Shinozaki-san's room. I understand you're short on type O blood, which is my blood type."

She looked relieved as she started the checklist. "How long have you been in Japan?"

I knew the drill from donating blood in Canada before I was rejuvenated to my current age. I also knew she needed me to answer truthfully. "More than four months."

"Any new tattoos or body piercings?"


"Any new sexual partners?"

In this body? "Saeko-basan, I'm still a virgin." That answer surprised her for some reason.

"Any drug use?"

"Only caffeine, in tea, coffee, and cola."

"Have you ever visited Saudi Arabia, Latin America, or Europe including the UK?"


"When was your last vaccination?"

"Over a year ago."

"This process counts as receiving a blood transfusion. Doing this means you'll never be allowed to donate blood again."

That came as a surprise; that particular rule was different here. "Thank you for that information, Mizuno-sensei. I'm still willing to do this."

She immediately turned to the nurses. "Confirm Donarudoson-san's blood type. Once you've done that, prep him for transfusion donation, to start when it's no longer safe for Kino-san to donate."

And thus it was that, 90 minutes later, I was flat on my back and the woman who was essentially my foster mother here in Japan was standing by my side. "Thank you," she said as she stuck the needle in my arm.

Well, that was one way of getting out of school. We weren't donating blood after our one donation each on Tuesday – the Japanese Red Cross had made a supply available overnight – but our doctor was keeping us for a day for "observation", which we both quickly figured out meant forced bed-rest.

Getting out of school didn't mean getting out of schoolwork, though; Ami-san and Ichigo-san brought the handouts from our classes on Wednesday. And when we weren't doing our homework, Makoto and I chatted quietly with Shinozaki-san. He was a nice enough guy; I could see why my dearest liked him.

Saeko-basan let us go home Thursday morning, after giving each of us notes for our teachers that explained our absence for the entire day Wednesday and Thursday and asked us to be excused from P.E. for a week. "It's a small token of our appreciation for helping save a life," she explained. "We aren't allowed to pay for blood donations, but I can do this."

"Thank you, sensei," we said in unison.

Not that it was a free afternoon to do whatever we wanted; neither of us were up for anything very strenuous.

Which is why Ami-san and Ichigo-san visited us at home with the second day's set of handouts from class. "Have you finished yesterday's homework?" Ami-san asked while Ichigo-san was visiting Makoto.

"I have, but I'd like to review it before I hand it in tomorrow morning," I replied.

She smiled at that answer. "It's good to hear that you'll be back to normal tomorrow."

"I don't know about 'normal', but I want to see everybody. I just spent a day and a half talking with only Shinozaki-san and Makoto, and while they're great company, so are you, Bunny-chan, Naru-san and Minako-san."

She nodded in understanding. Then she frowned. "That cardian is still out there, stealing energy from people. And Ryou won't tell me how to stop it."

"Then I mustn't tell you either. I'm sorry."

The Revealing Of The Lunches on Friday showed that both Makoto and I had high-iron meals to help replace what we'd donated to Shinozaki-san earlier in the week. Canada has a reputation of skipping fusion cooking and going straight to creole, so I had a decent idea of what would taste good when put together: I had spinach, marinated mussels, broccoli, and chickpea salad, with sides of inarizushi (which was both a treat for me and a source of iron) and edamame, with dark chocolate to finish off the meal. Makoto played it safe with agedashi dōfu, edamame, and rice. I took pity on her and shared my chocolate.

And then, after classes, it was time for the weekly Conversational English club... except that Usagi-san called on us because of a cardian attack. At least we didn't have any new first-year-student club members to make our excuses to. All three of us headed out just before Minako-san's volleyball teammate could interrupt our meeting.

"Sorry, I have to go!"

"Thanks for putting Senshi business ahead of sports, Minako-san," Ami-san said as we passed through the school gates.

"I still feel bad for letting them down," she replied.

I sighed. "I think you're going to have to choose which one you want more."

"If there's a monster, the entire Conversational English club responds," Ami-san pointed out.

"I know, but I'm good at both volleyball and fighting. Venus Power..."

I quickly turned my back to the girls.


"Mercury Power, Make-Up!"

We picked up the pace, Mercury watching to make sure I didn't fall over from overexertion. We and Jupiter arrived just in time to see a leonine cardian shred Mars' ofuda before the paper talisman could make contact with its head.

"That isn't good," Mercury pointed out the obvious.

"Is that...?" I asked.

Makoto nodded grimly. "Yes, it's the monster that hurt Shinozaki-san. And the blood that now flows through both our veins is calling out for vengeance." Then she turned to face it. "You! Supreme... Thunder... Dragon!"

Note to self: Never make Makoto angry at me. That's the second time that my girlfriend's used an attack before canon said she was supposed to, not that that really matters. What does matter is that it worked; the cardian dissolved into smoke, leaving behind only a blank card.

And Jupiter collapsed into my arms. Luckily, Mercury caught me before I fell over, too.

She and I got the comfortable chairs during the after-action debriefing, this time at Ami-san's apartment.

Ryou-san (who showed up just after everyone else) and I kept our mouths shut, at least while we were talking about the fight against the cardian. Instead, we heard about a "Moonlight Knight" person who had shown up for the fight.

But once that discussion was finished, he asked a question. "I keep seeing the same name when I look into the future. Does anybody know just who Aoyama Ichigo-san is, beyond being a girl that we have lunch with?"

"That girl our age, a bit taller than Ami-san, with Ainu features and shoulder-length black hair? Never heard of her," I grinned.

Now I know why they're called throw pillows; Makoto threw one at me. It bounced off my chest and landed in my lap. "She's a classmate of mine," Makoto replied. "Although Robu took supplementary classes with her before Usagi-chan reset the timeline."

"She wants to be a marine zoologist when she graduates," I added.

"Why do you ask?" asked Hino-san.

"I keep seeing that she's going to be important somehow, but I can't tell how. She isn't a warrior or a victim."

Minako-san mused, "I did ask a week ago why she wasn't in on our secret."

Ami-san turned to Ryou-san. "Would telling her who we are change anything for the worse?"

He thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Not as far as I can see."

"Well, then," Usagi-san decided, "you have a job to do, Luna."

The weekend passed uneventfully. No date for Makoto and me; we took it easy at her place, with Ami-san and Ryou-san chaperoning us and the two of us chaperoning them. We finished our homework and had a sukiyaki party, in that order.

Artemis-san was at my place, using my laptop again. Apparently there was a new virtual reality theatre in town that offered a shooting game that the Crown didn't, and he wanted to use the Dark Kingdom's youma biometric data to help him catch up quickly. As long as it helped the Crown arcade, I didn't mind.

And then Monday made its presence known with a bright, shiny sunrise. Which we tolerated. Giving in to the inevitable, we went to school.

Lunchtime rolled around, and we discovered that Luna had been even more efficient than usual. Ichigo-san was telling Makoto, Usagi-san, and Naru-san about her weekend when Ami-san and I joined them.

"There I was, minding my own business, when a talking cat walked up to me and gave me back my memories of the Missing Time. Can you believe it? A talking cat! Can somebody please explain why it's so important that I remember I used to have lunch with all of you that a talking cat had to make sure I knew? And who are you, anyway, that a talking cat knows who you are?"

Makoto smiled. "I think the talking cat left an impression on you, Ichigo-san."

"Ichigo-san, do you also remember not being allowed to go on a skiing trip?" I asked.

"Yes! And I didn't tell you about that yet, so you just confirmed that these are real memories. Unless..."


"Unless the talking cat brainwashed both of us."

Ami-san shook her head. "The fact that you can wonder whether you've been brainwashed shows that you probably haven't been brainwashed."

I wasn't going to undermine her position by pointing out the MKUltra experiments. "You also asked who we are."

"There's this one memory that really stands out, from the day that Sato-san died. Somebody appeared in front of the school and said that I didn't look like any of the... Sailor Senshi? And he called you 'Oni'. Are you some kind of yokai, Robu-san?"

"No, I'm completely human," I answered.

Ichigo-san turned to Naru-san, "And he called you Nephrite's human... or..."

Naru-san interrupted Ichigo-san's chain of thought before she could repeat Kunzite's insult. "I thought Nephrite was human, too. I fell in love with him before I knew he was an enemy."

Bunny-chan could see the pain on Naru-san's face as she said that. "We shouldn't be talking about this here; other people could overhear. Oh, hi, Ryou-san! Ichigo-san, are you busy after school?"

"Just with homework."

"That's perfect! Come join our study session at the Hikawa shrine."

"I didn't know that the Hikawa shrine offered help with homework."

Minako-san smiled. "They don't. But those of us who study there can answer your question."

And so it was that Ichigo-san joined us at a study session for the first time. It was certainly educational.

"I think I've figured it out," she said after being introduced to Hino-san. "You're the Sailor Senshi that I remember hearing about during the Missing Time."

"That's right," Minako-san answered.

"Can I tell you who I think you are, and let you tell me how many I got right?"

Ryou-san smiled. "This should be interesting." When a precog says something like that, it's best to play along.

"I'll start with the easy guess. Only one Senshi had short hair, Sailor Mercury," she said to Ami-san. "And Sailor Jupiter towered over the other Senshi, classmate," she said to Makoto. "If I'm not mistaken, your long black hair marks you as Sailor Mars, Hino-san. As for you two... Sailor Moon's the one in charge and Sailor V's the one who inspires everybody else. So you're Sailor V," she said to Usagi-san, before turning to Minako-san and adding, "And you're Sailor Moon." Then she turned to me. "And you're the group's token male, Tuxedo Kamen."

At that point, Hino-san started laughing. "Him? Tuxedo Kamen-san? Not a chance!"

"You already know that my nom de guerre is 'Oni', Ichigo-san," I told her while Makoto and Ami-san did their best to get Hino-san to stop laughing. "I did my best to stay out of the spotlight, which is why you might not have heard of me other than that one time at the school gate."

Ryou-san nodded. "He did a good job of that, too. Aoyama-san, your score is three out of six."

She sighed. "Well, I was working with half-remembered data. Who other than Oni did I get wrong?"

"Nobody talks about the rabbit in the V," Minako-san replied. "I'm Sailor Venus."

"So you're Sailor Moon?" Ichigo-san asked Usagi-san, who nodded in reply since she was eating a manju at the time. "Wow. You really don't match the image I thought I had of her." Ichigo-san turned to Naru-san and Ryou-san. "How do the two of you fit in?"

"We're just two people who were turned into youma, turned back into humans by Sailor Moon, and kept at least some of our powers," Ryou-san answered.

"'Just', he says," I muttered.

"What about me? How was I special?"

Usagi-san took Ichigo-san's hands in her own. "Being the only person in our group who doesn't have any metahuman powers at all makes you very special, Ichigo-san. You remind us every day as to why we fight, simply by being you."

"That's... that's really cheesy." After a beat, Ichigo-san added, "But it helps a bit. Thank you." Then she turned to me. "Since I'm the only person here who doesn't have powers, that means you do. And you told me at lunchtime that you're completely human. What's your story?"

"It would take hours to tell my story," I replied. "The short form is that I'm from the future."

"If you're from the future, what stocks should I buy?"

I grinned. "You know, nobody else has asked me that yet."

"I'm planning ahead. University is expensive!"

My grin turned into a smile as I glanced at Ryou-san, who nodded. "Ah. Drop your money into the IPOs of Starbucks and Bed Bath & Beyond, and you won't regret it for the next three decades."

Everybody took note of that statement.

And then everybody did their homework. Most of us had memories of taking the courses; Minako-san, Makoto, and I were the only ones who had transferred to Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou during the Missing Time, and I had Ami-san's memories of the courses that she had taken, so we treated our homework as a memory game. Ami-san helped Minako-san, Makoto, and those of us who needed the help (naming no lagomorph-style names) while she did her own homework flawlessly.

Needless to say, everybody noticed that I was still calling Sailor Mars "Hino-san". She finally sighed, drawing everybody's attention to herself.

"I've got a question for you, Donarudoson-san. Why are we the only two people here who are still calling each other by our family names?"

The only thing I was surprised by was the timing of the question. "You haven't given me permission to be any closer. In fact, I remember you saying during the Missing Time that you weren't ready to be on a given-name basis with me."

"I did say that, didn't I? But that was before we... stormed the Dark Kingdom." It was pretty clear to the Senshi and me that she was about to say "before we died", but Naru-san and Ichigo-san didn't need to know that.

"And I remember comparing you to the red oni in 'Naita Aka Oni'," Ichigo-san added. "You still want to be everybody's friend, don't you, Robu-san?" I nodded in reply.

"So it's because of what I said," Hino-san commented. "Life's too short to keep my friends at arm's length. Call me Rei, Robu-san."

I smiled as I replied, "Thank you, Rei-san."

Artemis asked me to accompany him while he checked out the new VR arcade in town – the one that we were trying to catch up to at the Crown. After checking with Ryou-san that we wouldn't be putting Usagi-san and Mamoru-san's relationship at risk, I agreed, and we made plans to check it out the same day that Luna and the Senshi were checking it out as a training tool. Which I would have expected to annoy Artemis, since he was now at risk of losing the real reason he'd coded the Sailor V game and set up the Crown arcade in the first place, but he didn't seem to mind.

Makoto invited me along with the other girls, but I declined, honestly saying that Artie and I had plans. He came to my place a quarter-hour after Makoto left.

"They probably aren't going to let a cat into a VR arcade, Artie. Not even a talking cat."

"Have you forgotten that I'm a Mau, Rob?" he asked just before transforming into human form.

I blinked. "I didn't know you could do that yet."

"Rob," he said with a smile suited to the cat that ate the canary, "nobody in this time signs contracts with talking cats. I have to become human every so often just to keep the Crown running. And I remember that you told me that Luna's forgotten that she can do this, too. I won't tell her."

"Thanks, Artie. Better safe than sorry, and all that. So, why aren't you worried that Luna wants to take the training business away from the Crown and give it to this new place?" I asked as we headed over to the shopping district.

"Oh, I bought a minority interest in the competition."

My eyes narrowed. "Using what? If you're dipping into the girls' income from the Sailor Moon toku shows..."

"No, of course I'm not. I'm officially a character designer. That biometric data you grabbed from the Dark Kingdom and the new arcade's VR systems has combined to create some extremely detailed opponents for the players to go up against."

I was momentarily annoyed that he'd done that, then realized that I shouldn't be. "Well, we stole that data from them, so I can't complain that you're using it without asking first. As long as you didn't give them the girls' data."

"I'm not that stupid."

"Sorry, Artie."

So it was that, a half-hour later, we were watching the VR technology from the comfort of the owners' booth. We were the only two there.


"Yes, Rob?"

"Why is that winged person wearing boxing gloves?"

"I have no idea. It was in the data that we took from the Dark Kingdom."

"Ah. Is that monster over there wearing a cocktail dress?"

"That's another one from that data."

"What about that giant ant?"

Artie blinked. "That's not one of ours, Rob..."

And thus it was that we saw the entire kerfuffle caused by the cardian Hell Ant, Moon's utter failure to defeat the monster, and Chiba-san and the Moonlight Knight standing side-by-side. At least Venus and Jupiter were able to destroy the cardian just like they did in canon. And Usagi's little brother had something to do during this adventure, too.

But I couldn't help but sympathize with Usagi-san. Poor kid, drawn back into the life of a hero but unable to actually be heroic.

We didn't give Usagi-san time to become melancholy. The cherry blossoms were finally blooming – I blame the reset for messing up the seasons, although it wasn't completely unheard of for the sakura to blossom as late as mid-April, so we went out to have a hanami picnic. I arranged for a good spot by the simple virtue of camping out at one overnight... the way that Umino did in canon, and it was sort-of my fault that he wasn't dating Naru-san any more so that was my job now.

We couldn't talk Senshi business during the party; Sakurada-sensei joined us for the viewing. And there were crowds all around us, too.

Usagi-san brought a very spicy bento that Rei-san complained about (and I ended up eating), Ichigo-san got Usagi-san to laugh at one of her jokes, and Sakurada-sensei had her energy drained by a cardian when she wandered off on her own.

Naru-san and I went to look for Sakurada-sensei, and found her passed out near a tree stump. "Sensei! Are you okay?" Naru-san hurried over and checked Sakurada-sensei, then noticed somebody walking toward her from the direction of that tree stump. "We need some help... no! You're a cardian!"

I wondered how she knew.

When the cardian tried to drain Naru-san, our group's designated victim showed that she was quite finished with that role, thank you very much. Every loose sakura petal within two meters suddenly flew to her hand and crystallized together, forming a pink ko-wakizashi that Naru-san immediately swung at the cardian.

The cardian wasn't expecting to encounter armed resistance, and immediately fled.

I was tempted to run, too. How the hells did Naru-san do that?

As she turned to me, I saw the same kumadori makeup pattern that she had worn when she was a youma fading from her face... but this time, it was hero red instead of villain blue. And her sword didn't dissolve, either.

"We need to get help for Sakurada-sensei," was all she said.

I replied, "We need to hide your sword, first." She looked at it in wonder, then quietly handed it to me. I wrapped it in a forcefield, put it through a belt loop, and made it invisible. "I'll get it back to you later," I promised as the others ran to us. "When we try to figure out exactly what you just did."

Naru-san, Ryou-san, and I didn't go anywhere near the park for the next few days, which meant we missed seeing Sailor Moon's first use of Moon Princess Halation.

What we were doing in the meantime, besides attending school, was trying to figure out exactly what Naru-san's powers were.

"Don't you already know?" she asked us both as I returned her sword to her at her apartment.

I shook my head. "You didn't display any powers at all in the documents that I have access to," I replied.

"And I can only see possible futures, not the past," Ryou-san added. "So I can't tell who you used to be, or are now."

"I see," she replied. "Well, let's start by looking at what we can see." She rubbed the sword against a piece of unglazed porcelain without any visible effect.

"That didn't help," Ryou-san commented.

"Actually, it did," Naru-san corrected him. "I was trying to get a streak of the material that the sword is made of, but nothing rubbed off."

Some trivia from my high-school geology classes from my home reality came back to me. "So the blade has a hardness of at least 7," I commented. "You've got some pretty tough flower petals there."

"How many substances are that hard?" Ryou-san asked.

"Dozens," replied Naru-san. "But I think this might be diamond."

"Because we know that your powers work on carbon," I said while nodding in agreement. "Have you tried using your ability on aluminium yet?"

"I haven't been able to find any," she replied.

I raised one eyebrow. "Not even in the supermarket?"

She blushed. "Ah. I was looking in the jewelry store, not the apartment. I didn't even think of using aluminium foil."

"That can wait," Ryou-san said. "Right now, we have something else to figure out." And he lunged at Naru-san, arms outstretched, for all appearances about to strangle her.

"What the hells?" I exclaimed... just as the kumadori makeup appeared on Naru-san's face again.

Ryou-san immediately backed away from Naru-san. The pattern faded from her face.

"Never do that again!" we both yelled at him.

"My apologies, but it was necessary," he said. "Now we know the pattern of Osaka-san's kumadori."

"Does it make a difference?" I asked.

"Yes, Robu-san. That pattern is in the mukimi kuma style, showing that she's young, handsome and virtuous."

Naru-san looked slightly annoyed. "I like 'young' and 'virtuous,' but 'handsome'? You have noticed that I'm a girl, haven't you?"

Ryou-san smiled as he replied, "I suspect Ami would prefer that I not answer that question."

I shook my head. "Ami-san has a kind soul; I doubt she'd get upset. Makoto might get upset if I noticed, though."

"You may be right." Ryou-san turned back to Naru-san, who was smiling at us. No, not with us, at us. "Now, can you invoke that state without being in danger?"

She thought for a moment. "I don't know."

"That's something you're going to need to figure out on your own," I said. "Unless you like having your life put at risk." Seeing her shake her head in rejection of that idea, I continued, "Could you try using the sword as a weapon, please?"

She smiled as she picked it up... then swung it at Ryou-san, who ducked. "Turnabout is fair play, ne?"

"Thank you, Naru-san," I said. "You didn't display any of the skill you showed me the two times that you had the mukimi kuma markings on your face."

"So the markings are more than just makeup, then," she mused. "Am I really transforming?"

Just then, Mayumi-san burst into the room. "What's going on up here? I heard Naru shout!"

"Sorry, mama," she replied. "We were trying to make that change happen again, but it didn't work."

"I think you'd better stop trying things that make me worry about your safety, Naru." And she glared at Ryou-san and me.

I nodded. "I quite agree, Osaka-san. And perhaps Ryou-san and I have overstayed our welcome today."

Mayumi-san calmed down a bit at that. "I'll see you to the door, then."

As we left, I heard Naru-san ask, "Mama, do we have any aluminium foil in the kitchen?"

Naru-san showed off her newest creation the next day at lunch, producing a nearly-transparent stone for us to marvel at.

"What is this?" Ichigo-san asked. "A glass marble?"

"No," Naru-san sighed. "I was trying to make corundum, but I had some trouble pulling just oxygen out of the air. This is aluminium oxynitride."

"Wow..." I whispered. I could see that Ami-san was just as impressed as I was.

"If it's aluminium, why isn't it shiny?" Usagi-chan asked.

"Aluminium oxynitride, Usagi-san," Ami-san repeated.

"Or 'transparent aluminium' if you'd prefer," I added.

Ryou-san looked impressed by that. "You mean like in that Star Trek movie?"

"The one with the whales?" Usagi-san asked. "I loved that one!"

The trivia that Usagi-san remembers never fails to surprise me. If only she'd pay that much attention to her lessons – Alex Trebek might forgive her for concentrating on trivia, but her teachers would not. "Yes, Bunny-chan, the one with the whales. More realistically, windows made of aluminium oxynitride could stop a bullet."

And that impressed Naru-san. "I think maybe I should get some more aluminium foil at the store today. Mama noticed that one of the store windows had a crack in it."

"Good thinking, Naru-san," Ryou-san said. "Just remember to anchor the new window securely."

"I still want to make some corundum, though. Where can I get a tank of just oxygen?"

"I don't know, but any welder would be able to answer that question," I replied.

"Or any hospital," Ami-san added.

Life was relatively peaceful for the next few days, once Ichigo-san figured out that asking Naru-san about her early experiments with making crystals wasn't a good idea. No, Naru-san wasn't doing as well as she had hoped. At least she was able to sell the diamonds that she could make through OSA-P, so she wasn't driving her family into bankruptcy with the cost of her raw materials.

And Naru-san being in the spotlight in our lunch group reminded me that somebody needed to find some costumes for a play in a month or so. In canon, that somebody was Umino-san, but thanks to my meddling he wasn't dating Naru-san any more. Which left the task up to me.

I can't sew worth a darn. But I knew somebody who could... so I paid Atelier Lucent a visit, hoping to meet with the proprietor.

Oh, look – she was in the shop and there were no other customers present. And she looked like she was waiting for me. Stupid genre conventions.

"Good afternoon, Meioh-san," I said in English, just in case there was anybody listening nearby.

"Good afternoon, Donaldson-san," she replied in the same language. "What brings you to Shibuya?"

"Why, the Oedo Line with a transfer at Aoyama-Itchome to the Hanzomon Line, of course. I'm too young to drive."

She smiled. "Ah, but if you were old enough to drive, you'd be too old to date Kino-san."

"And we can't have that," I agreed. "But seriously, I'm here to see whether the two of us can repair a crack that I made to the timeline."

"Thank you for being willing to take responsibility for your actions. Which crack in particular are you thinking of?"

I smiled at the compliment. "The one where somebody who isn't part of the group any more would have obtained costumes for Snow White."

She pulled a sketchbook out from under the counter. "And you aren't going to be happy with animal costumes for the dwarfs and a hag costume for the witch just because they're cheap. Honestly, neither would I. What do you think of this for the witch?"

I looked at the sketch she had made of Bunny-chan wearing a white short-sleeved blouse, a long blue skirt, white opera gloves and pointed hat, and accessories straight from her Sailor Moon uniform. "I think she'll like it, and it would be a definite change from the stereotypical hag outfit. The crescent moon attached to the tip of the hat and the colour scheme are something of a giveaway, though, aren't they?"

"Allow a centuries-old woman a bit of whimsy, Donaldson-san. The actual costume won't have the moon or that colour scheme. Here's what I was thinking of giving you," she said as she flipped the page to show a sketch of me in an oni's loincloth.

"Oh, har har. Snow White is a German story, not a Japanese one. It's bad enough that I'll probably be taking Umino-san's place as a dwarf despite the fact that I'm six feet tall."

"Don't worry about that. If Lina can mistake Philionel for a dwarf despite his height, you have nothing to worry about."

"When you start mentioning Slayers characters to make your point, I have to wonder whether you know we aren't living in an anime."

Sailor Pluto just stared at me, one eyebrow raised.

"Okay, fine, we are living in an anime. But it's not a fantasy anime. Getting back to the costume, unless you're going to put the girls in oni outfits as well, the children in the audience are going to be confused. And if you do put the girls in oni outfits, Takahashi-sensei is going to want royalties."

"Perhaps something like this, then," she suggested as she flipped to the next page of the sketchbook, to reveal a girl wearing a sleeveless top, a long half-skirt over trousers, heavy boots, and a sturdy belt, and holding a double-headed axe with a blade as big as her torso.

I whistled in appreciation. "Oh, that's very nice. And the children's fathers will appreciate the outfits as much as I do just seeing the sketch."

"You don't mind your girlfriend dressing like this?"

"Why not? That bust line doesn't actually show anything off; it just hints. Although I think I'd want something a bit higher cut on my outfit," I added with a smile.

That actually got a grin out of Setsuna. "Of course."

"Oh, and we shouldn't go with battleaxes, just in case somebody thinks the blades are real. Hammers would probably be okay."

Setsuna was a picture of innocence. "'Think the blades are real'? Donaldson-san, I was planning on making real weapons."

I almost started a recitation of Japanese weapons laws, but then I saw the smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "You almost had me there, Meioh-san," I replied with a chuckle. "I keep forgetting that you aren't this decade's very serious medical student Meioh Setsuna-san. We'll need something for Snow White and the prince, too. Something nice for Snow White but not so nice that she upstages Bunny-chan, and we both know what Chiba-san looks like as a prince. Can you have these ready before the play?"

"If you can get me Ginga-san's measurements, yes."

I thought for a moment. "That probably won't be possible. We both know why."

She nodded. "Then I'll do my best. Mind you, an ill-fitting outfit will make her look worse than Serenity-san no matter how good my design is," she added with a hint of an evil smile on her face.

"Thank you, Meioh-san. And I like the way you think. Will you want the outfits back after the play?"

"No, the performers can keep them. I can't re-use the fabric, so there's no point to getting the clothing back."

"That's quite kind of you. How would you like me to pay for this work?"

"I'll take the money out of your bank account just before the next time that I replenish it. Have you forgotten that I'm paying for all of your purchases anyway?"

"I did forget, yes. And I'll have to do something about that; it isn't fair to you."

She smiled. "You will, but not right away. And that reminds me: Keep your cellphone and its charger with you between the time that you and Kino-san pack to visit Narahara and when you actually set forth on your journey."

"Isn't it a little early for you to be telling me that? And how did what I said remind you to mention that, anyway?"

"This is the last time I'll be able to speak with you alone before August 12, and that's a secret, respectively."

"Okay, fine. When it comes to knowing the future, the shoe's on the other foot for once."

She nodded. "And that's all the time I can spare for you right now, Donaldson-san. I'll have the costumes ready for you to pick up on May 16."

Time proceeded, as it does when Sailor Pluto isn't using her forbidden power, into the final week of April, when another cardian made its appearance.

The only thing that kept me from going ballistic when I heard who it had targeted was the knowledge that the next cardian would be even worse.

And I had to let it progress the way it did in canon, or Minako-san wouldn't unlock her Crescent Beam Shower attack. Which she did.

The first topic of discussion at that Friday's Conversational English club meeting was speculation on what kind of monsters could target kindergarten children.

"And why didn't you warn us, Rob-san?"

I sighed deeply. "We all agreed that Ryou-san and I mustn't warn you, Minako-san, any more than we could warn Makoto about Shinozaki-san being injured. No matter how much it hurts us to keep quiet."

"You can't give us any warning at all what's going to happen?" Ami-san asked.

I thought of what was going to happen next week, hardened my heart, and said, "I mustn't. Changing the subject... Crescent Beam Shower, eh?"

"Why not?" Minako-san asked. "It fits my theme."

"Your theme?"

"From while I was Sailor V. Crescent Boomerang, Crescent Beam, Crescent Super Beam, Crescent Slender Beam..."

"I think I see the theme there, yes. What about when you had to fight close-in?"

"Those were usually just punches and kicks, although I did use an uchigatana once."

"So maybe you could use a Crescent attack as if it was a bladed weapon."

She grinned. "Of course! Something like a Crescent Beam Saber!"

Ami-san tilted her head in puzzlement. "'Crescent Beam Saber'?"

Minako-san turned to Ami-san. "I'm riffing off of something from Gundam. Don't you think it'll work?"

"I'm sure that you can make it work. It's just that I can't picture a transforming heroine based on Gundam imagery."

I thought of a certain White Devil – not the one from Gundam, the other one – and because of my sudden emotional shift, I couldn't stop giggling.

After a moment, Minako-san said, "Rob's gone bye-bye. Ami, what've you got left?"

And that sent both girls into giggling fits that matched mine.

The next week started with May 3, so the school gave us May 4 off for Constitution Memorial Day instead. And May 5 was Children’s Day, so we had an extra-long Golden Week weekend.

Ail and An noticed that as well, and launched their most reprehensible attack ever. It was bad enough when they were draining energy from kindergarten children, but draining energy from toddlers crossed the line.

Ryou-san and I had a very, very long discussion about whether it was safe for me to actually intervene, just this once.

He won.

Interfering this time in particular, when Usagi-san and Chiba-san actually worked together to care for the one toddler who had been protected by his mother, could have disastrous effects to their relationship later on. Which meant that I had to watch from the sidelines while toddlers were drained of their energy.

It's been a while since I've said this, but it's damned appropriate. Stupid genre conventions.

And the cardian got away, which meant it would be back.

I made sure to get to school early on Wednesday so that I could leave a note on Ami-san's desk. A handwritten note, using a brush pen. But she was there before I was, so I bowed and handed her the note personally.

She almost didn't take it from me. And I wouldn't have blamed her if she hadn't. But she did.

And she read my simple, one sentence note: "I am very sorry."

She finally looked at me. "I accept your apology, Rob-san. But I don't appreciate that you needed to apologize to me."

"And I don't like that I had to apologize. All I can say is that my inaction was necessary."

"You promised during the Missing Time that you would never lie to me. Please answer this question. Why?"

Misinterpreting her question and explaining why I would never lie to her would just make her angry with me again, as would refusing to answer. I sighed deeply. "There are multiple reasons, and I'm not going to tell you everything. What I will tell you is that you need to be angry with this cardian even if that means you're angry with Ryou-san and me as well, and Usagi-san and Chiba-san need to take care of Manami-kun."

She thought for a moment. "You didn't call Usagi-chan 'Bunny-chan'. I know you well enough to know that that means you're completely serious. This is about their relationship, isn't it?"

"It is, yes."

"Thank you. And my anger... no, I won't ask whether that will unlock anything."

"Thank you, Ami-san," I whispered as the classroom door opened and a couple of our classmates came in.

Even though we'd come to an understanding, it was still a chilly morning. But relations thawed at lunchtime, when Bunny-chan told us about her adventures in babysitting, including the most basic of mistakes that Ginga Natsumi-san had made while trying to take over Bunny-chan's changing Manami-kun's diaper.

"Wait, wait. Manami's a boy?"

I raised one eyebrow at Minako-san's question. "And Makoto's a girl," I replied while taking my girlfriend's hand in my own. "What's your point?"

Minako-san realized that she shouldn't have been surprised at discovering another person with a gender-bending name. "I guess I don't have a point," she replied.

Ryou-san raised his hand. "If I may..." We all turned to him. "Robu-san, can you pay a visit to Nakayoshi Koyoshi Nursery School after school tomorrow?"

I raised both eyebrows. "I thought we weren't interfering."

"The danger point for future events has passed safely, at least as far as this particular cardian is concerned. And I know that sitting back and doing nothing isn't helping your emotional stability any."

"In that case, then yes, I can bloody well be at Nakayoshi Koyoshi Nursery School tomorrow," I said with conviction.

"We can all be there," Usagi-san announced with steel in her voice.

"You have a baby to tend to," Ryou-san pointed out. "We'll make sure you're there for the climax, though."

We did, and she was, and Mercury unlocked her Shabon Spray Freezing attack before Moon went all Moon Princess Halation on the cardian.

And it felt good to be doing something after so long, even if it was only catching the toddlers as the cardian dropped them as a distraction, and cutting into the forcefields she had wrapped them in so that they wouldn't suffocate.

Of course, that put me on the aliens' radar as a new threat to them, assuming they were watching. But I wasn't so naive as to trust in stupid genre conventions this time around; I had used some tinted forecefields to make it look like I had the black hair and scarlet skin of the red oni from 'Naita Aka Oni'. I couldn't do anything about my height, but neither could Jupiter and nobody had connected the dots in her case... so far.

I had to figure out some way to disguise myself more thoroughly. But that was a project for another day.

"Another day," in this case, did not come the next week.

What did come that week was an out-of-season culture festival at Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin. Ah, those Canadian-founded private schools, marching to their own beat instead of waiting for November. But if I recalled correctly, they had a culture festival out-of-season in canon, too.

Luckily for me, Rei-san's concert was on Sunday, the day after I was expected at Atelier Lucent. I recruited Makoto, Ami-san, and Ryou-san to help me carry all ten costumes... which I realized after the fact was why Meioh-san wasn't in the shop when we arrived. If Ryou-san met Meioh-san before we met Tomoe Hotaru-san, the timeline might have been fractured beyond repair. Or Ryou-san's power might have burned out from simply meeting Sailor Pluto. Or maybe she just wanted a day off. Whatever. She had left us ten costumes, and one of them was for Ichigo-san.

Anyway, we didn't miss Rei-san's concert. Or the cardian that attacked it. Ryou-san didn't let me take part in the fight, not that I needed to; it isn't just pride that keeps Sailor Mars from needing to accept help from a man. Besides, she had to fight that fight single-handedly in order to unlock her Fire Soul Bird attack.

We also didn't miss seeing Ail and An in a couple of truly ridiculous "alien" outfits. At least none of us laughed at the outfits in their presence, although I did need to literally step on Minako-san's toes to make that not happen.

What was more important, as far as I was concerned, was the conversation that Ryou-san, Ami-san, Makoto and I had at the beef bowl restaurant after the concert.

"So, what's coming next?"

Makoto looked at me. "Don't you already know?"

"I know what would have happened if I wasn't here. But I've completely derailed the setup for the next encounter."

"How can you be so sure?" Ami-san asked.

I grinned. "Because my girlfriend has a boyfriend now." I turned to Makoto and continued, "If you didn't, you would have thought that somebody might be the Moonlight Knight, and that he reminded you of your sempai, and you would have tried to get closer to him, and it wouldn't have been until you did that that you unlocked Supreme Thunder Dragon when you protected him from a cardian."

"But I unlocked that attack when I destroyed the cardian that hurt Shinozaki-san. Why didn't I unlock that attack then in the anime?"

"Because you were too weak from donating blood. Nobody else with type O blood was available in the anime, so it all had to come from you."

"You did that for me, as well as for Shinozaki-san? Remind me to kiss you when we're home."

I smiled. "Don't worry, I will." I turned to Ryou-san, who was blushing almost as deeply as Ami-san was. Then I turned back to Makoto. "Our talk about kissing seems to have scandalized our innocent friends."

"Don't worry, Ami-chan," Makoto commented. "We don't go any farther than that."

"Good..." she whispered.

Nobody said anything for a few minutes.

Once Ryou-san and Ami-san's skin colour was back to normal, I asked, "So, Ryou-san, what's coming next?"

"Since I'm not going to fall for somebody who isn't Robu, it won't be what happened in the anime that he just described," added my dearest.

Ryou-san nodded. "Are you sure you want to know? Seventeen times out of twenty, you take it poorly."

I took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "Go ahead and tell me."

"Naru-san falls for him."

In anger, I accidentally snapped my chopsticks in two.

"Oh, good," Ryou-san said with relief. "This is one of the other three times."

"Hasn't she been through enough heartbreak?" I asked nobody in particular. Then I looked Ryou-san straight in the eyes. "Please tell me that we can intervene this time."

"I'm sorry, Robu-san. We can't. There's a one in five chance that this will get her and Umino-san back together, but that drops to zero if you take a role."


I turned to Makoto. "Yes, my dearest?"

"Is this the kind of conversation that you and Ryou-san have before every new cardian shows up?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Remind me to never ask you what you decided in the other meetings."

"And thank you both for protecting us from these decisions," Ami-san said.

I couldn't help but think that Ami-san needed to learn how to make decisions that affected other people, if she ever wanted to become a doctor.

Monday's Revealing Of The Lunches went well enough, for a day that I expected that I'd need to smile and nod when Naru-san asked about Ginga Seijuurou-san.

Which she did, and Ryou-san, Ami-san, Makoto and I kept our mouths shut. But Usagi-san also asked whether any of us wanted to be in a play that was due to be staged at the end of the month. Chiba-san was looking for pinch-hitter actors after the rest of the troupe trooped out of the theatre.

"We could ask Seijuurou-san to perform the music. Have you heard him play the flute?"

Yes, Naru-san, we have, repeatedly, I didn't say.

"Hey," Minako-san commented, "we hear flute music just before the Moonlight Knight shows up at a battle."

Aw, Mina-chan... I know it's canon, but that's the wrong conclusion. The Senshi hear flute music just before the cardian shows up. And Ryou-san and I didn't dare point that out.

"You think Seijuurou-san is the Moonlight Knight?"

No, I didn't smile and nod. But I did smile at Naru-san's next question.

"Mako-chan, could you help me make a lunch for Seijuurou-san?"

Makoto glanced at me; I shrugged my shoulders; and she turned to Naru-san. "I suppose I could do that. But I want to take part in the play, too."

"Let's all take part in the play," I suggested.

Ichigo-san grinned. "I'd like to give it a try. I didn't get to try out for that show with Shiratori Mikan-san, the way you did. How's she doing, by the way?"

"You didn't hear this from me," Minako-san replied quietly, "but she's still in the hospital after having almost all of her energy drained, and she'll probably be there for a few more months. Even if she recovers completely, her career is dead because of her being out of the spotlight after that attack."

"Robu-san, Ryou-san, is Shiratori-san really not going to be an idol any more?" Usagi-san asked in concern.

I looked at Ryou-san, who thought for a moment. "Maybe. Unless... maybe... she works with somebody whose star is on the rise. I'm seeing a violinist... Kaiou-san...?"

I deliberately started choking on a bite of my lunch, drawing everybody's attention away from Ryou-san. Once my breathing was back under control, I said, "That can wait until Shiratori-san is out of the hospital. Right now, Naru-san is looking for advice about her love life and Chiba-san needs help with that play, and I can only help with one of those things."

And who happened to be passing by at just the right time to overhear me but Ginga Natsumi-san. "Mamoru-san needs help?"

Stupid genre conventions.

As An... Natsumi-san... and Usagi-san talked about the play, I leaned over to Naru-san. "I think we're concentrating on the other matter today, sorry."

She gave me a feeble smile. "At least you didn't forget about me completely."

We all visited the theatre after school. Yes, even Ail and An – sorry, Seijuurou-san and Natsumi-san. We even convinced Rei-san to take part.

Umino-san was there, too. Naru-san... at least acknowledged his presence, which was more than I expected would happen.

We all agreed to take part in the performance of Snow White, on the understanding that the show was probably not going to be very polished. We only had two weeks to rehearse, after all.

Then we decided on our roles. Chiba-san was playing the Prince, of course, and that led to every girl in the room wanting to play Snow White. They all had their reasons to play the titular role: Ami-san wouldn't have as many lines to memorize so she could study more, Ichigo-san wanted to show everyone that even somebody from Hokkaido could be a star, Minako-san pointed out her time in England gave her a European view on the role, and Makoto – just like in canon – reminded everybody that she had the biggest breasts. I immediately thought of the "talent" meme that was spawned by the North American dub of that line back in my home reality.

"Why are you laughing?" Naru-san asked.

The truth would blow my cover, so it was time for some misdirection. "Why don't I play Snow White?"

"Why don't we draw lots?" Natsumi-san suggested with a scowl on her face.

Canon re-asserted itself, and Natsumi-san cheated just enough to make herself Snow White and make Usagi-san the witch. "And you," Natsumi-san pointed at me, "get to be the biggest dwarf I've ever heard of."

"That's fine with me," I replied. "I can help out with costuming, too."

"You don't need to do that," Umino-san said. "I have a friend who can rent us some costumes at a bargain price."

I knew which costumes he'd find, and I wanted no part in them. Pun intended. "I know somebody who owns a shop on Center Gai."

"The shop where Mako-chan got her skating outfit?" Rei-san asked. After I nodded in reply, she continued, "Donarudoson-san is getting the costumes."

"And Naru knows a lot about music," Bunny-chan said. "You should work with Seijuurou-san about the score."

That got a smile from Naru-san... and a scowl from Umino-san.

Classes, rehearsals, and a complete lack of cardians took their toll over the next week and a half.

Yes, a lack of cardians had the girls worried. And I was worried that they were turning into child soldiers, with that outlook. I resolved to take Makoto on a date, and suggested Ryou-san take Ami-san on a date, just as soon as the play was performed; we needed the change of pace. He suggested the day after the performance.

What took its toll on me was how happy Naru-san looked when she talked about suggesting slow jazz pieces for Seijuurou-san to play during the performance. It was Nephrite all over again, and I couldn't warn her.

Then, the day before dress rehearsal, Umino-san decided that Seijuurou-san was spending altogether too much time with Naru-san, and went to confront him.

I turned invisible and followed, just in case the worst happened.

Sure enough, the worst happened. Stupid genre conventions. Umino-san barged in on Seijuurou-san and Natsumi-san when they were in their real forms of Ail and An, wondering where to find some energy to last the week.

I'll give Umino-san this much credit: he didn't try to run. But he only got in one punch before An drained him of energy until he collapsed... and kept on draining him.

I was not about to let what happened to Sato-san happen to Umino-san. I took two steps back and said, "Umino-san, are you in there?" as I went visible.

"Oh, it's terrible!" Natsumi-san said. It seemed that the Ginga siblings can shift forms faster than I can go visible or invisible. "We just found him here, unconscious!"

"I'll call an ambulance!" There was no way that I was going to become the next course on their meal, and there was a telephone on the wall right there.

A quarter-hour later, Umino-san was on his way to the hospital. "Now what?" I asked.

"The show must go on," Chiba-san replied.

"It's what he would have wanted," Usagi-san added.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ryou-san sigh deeply. I gathered that this wasn't how the one-in-five chance of Naru-san and Umino-san getting back together was supposed to play out.

I also saw Seijuurou-san rubbing his cheek. "Are you okay?"

"I think I broke a tooth in all the excitement."

Naru-san looked alarmed. "Can you still play the flute?"

"Not right now, I can't."

I sighed deeply. "And after all the work you put into this, too. They would have loved your playing."

"There's no help for it," Chiba-san announced. "We'll just have to use prerecorded music."

And then it was time for the dress rehearsal. I imposed on Chiba-san to pick me up after school and drive to my place, where we put the costumes into his car and drove to the theatre.

Everyone else was waiting for us.

"How's Umino-san doing?" Rei-san asked.

"It's still too early to tell," Ami-san replied.

"We can talk later," Chiba-san insisted. "It's time to get into our costumes now."

I appreciated his diversion from a matter that I really didn't want to discuss just then. "I had to guess at some of the sizes," I added as we handed out the garment bags. "If I made a mistake, I apologize in advance."

Then we went to the dressing rooms, and presently stepped onto the stage in costume for the very first time.

Ryou-san remembered to bring a camera and a handful of rolls of film.

Natsumi-san's costume was a bit tight around the waist and a bit loose around the bust and hips.

Everyone else's costumes fit perfectly.

Ah, Setsuna-san, your revenge on somebody who tried to upstage your princess is both subtle and sweet.

And, no, Usagi-san's costume didn't have a crescent moon on the hat... nor was it in the same colours as her Sailor Senshi uniform. Blood red makes for a good colour for a Wicked Witch outfit.

We rehearsed the entire play, then performed it for real in front of an audience of one: Ryou-san. The director was happy with our performance and told us to be back early enough to get into costume before the performance the next day.

"What do we do with the costumes? Take them home?" Natsumi-san looked hopeful.

"Leave them here," Chiba-san insisted. "They're so well-made that I don't want to risk any damage to them on the bus. And we can lock the dressing rooms."

I smiled and nodded in agreement. The smile was because, if her costume was locked away, Natsumi-san couldn't make any alterations to it. She was going to look almost as good as everybody else.

And then came the performance, which was a bit more sombre than in canon because we still didn't know whether Umino-san was going to regain consciousness any time soon.

The children in the audience liked the colourful costumes of both Snow White and the Witch. The older males liked all of the ladies, which just went to show that a young woman doesn't need to show a lot of skin to be attractive. The older females liked the nobility and the handsomeness of Prince Mamoru. And maybe a few of them liked my looks, too; I was wearing the same sort of costume as the ladies, but without the overskirt.

And Ail didn't play the flute... until Natsumi-san was about to receive a stage kiss from Chiba-san, at which point he became jealous enough to summon a cardian right in the building. Just as in canon.

We scattered. I got Naru-san and Ichigo-san to safety, Chiba-san got Natsumi-san to safety, and the girls... did what they did in canon, including introducing themselves to the audience while in Senshi uniform just like the actors do in the toku shows. If we can't stay hidden, we can at least practice misdirection.

It was only after Mercury announced herself as the smart member of the team that I noticed Saeko-basan was in the audience. And then I realized why Ryou-san said we should double-date our girlfriends the day after the performance; tonight, to misquote everybody but Ricky Ricardo, we had some 'splaining to do.

No, he never actually said that on I Love Lucy.

Once the play was over, in more ways than one, I told the girls and Chiba-san that they could keep the costumes. Even Natsumi-san took me up on the offer.

Ryou-san declined to accompany us to Ami-san's apartment, saying that it would look bad if we tried deflecting Saeko-basan's attention away from one secret by revealing another secret. So it was just the three of us to face the music.

"Robu-san, Makoto-san, you don't need to be here," Saeko-basan told us when we stood beside Ami-san. Which wasn't the greatest visual, I'll admit, since us towering over her looked like we were keeping her from running away.

"If this is about what happened in the theatre today, then we should be here," Makoto insisted. I nodded in agreement.

"Do what you want, then." She tilted her head down to look straight at her daughter. "I'd like an explanation as to why you claimed to be a transforming heroine."

Ami-san sighed deeply. "Because I am a transforming heroine, mother. May I ask how you figured it out?"

"You did announce that Sailor Mercury consistently gets the top marks in national practice exams, Ami-san," I commented.

"But you can use any name when you take the mock exams!"

"Ami-chan," Makoto replied, "you're the smartest person I know, but that was a really stupid reply. It doesn't matter what name you use if you claim that it's you."

Before we could continue, Saeko-basan said, "I would prefer to have this conversation directly with my daughter."

"Yes, ma'am," I replied, with Makoto echoing me quickly.

"As you wish," Ami-san said. "I am the transforming heroine called Sailor Mercury, I have been a transforming heroine since partway through what the astronomers are calling the Missing Time, and I am personally responsible for saving dozens of lives. Including the lives of some preschool children earlier this month."

Saeko-basan looked like she was about to reply, but she paused. "I remember hearing about attacks on children, and that various different heroines prevented some followup attacks. Was that you?"

"Only one of those incidents was prevented by me. I have allies."

"Including a friendly red oni, from the reports that I heard from the ambulance teams." She looked in my direction.

Instead of replying, I used the same forcefield trick that I had used during that incident to change my hair and skin colour, then let the forcefield drop after two seconds.

"I see now why you thought that you should be present," she commented in wonder. "Ami, is your transformation similar to Robu-san's?"

Ami-san smiled slightly as she replied. "No, mother. Robu-san is a special case. The rest of us have transformations that look like this. Mercury Power, Make-Up!"

As she was transforming, I turned my head and complained, "I really wish you'd give me warning before you get changed!"

"Why?" Saeko-basan asked. "It's only a moment of nakedness. I assure you, any doctor or medical student has seen much more than that amount of skin."

"Ah. So..." I turned back to Ami-san. "You don't care whether I see you naked because you think it doesn't matter?"

"That's right," Mercury replied in a matter-of-fact tone. "Oh! Did you think I was trying to lure you away from Mako-chan?"

"Honestly, I wasn't sure," I admitted.

"Honestly, I was sure, but I was wrong," Makoto added. "I'm sorry for thinking that you wanted to take my boyfriend away from me, Ami-chan."

"Now that that's cleared up," Saeko-basan said, "how long have you known that Ami is... Sailor Mercury, you said?"

We all nodded. "Since a week after I met her," Makoto answered.

"In my case, the answer is more complicated," I said. "And it involves time travel."

Saeko-basan raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure that you should be telling me that?"

"Why not?" I replied. "In part because of my presence and actions here, this is not the past that I know from history classes. I have little to no knowledge of the personal futures of anyone in this room; all I know now is a general flow of time."

"A general flow of time... Oh, do you mean an overall pattern of future events?"


Saeko-basan turned to Makoto. "How much of this is news to you, Makoto-san?"

She smiled. "None of it. Oh, and, Jupiter Power, Make-Up!"

"Now, my girlfriend wanting me to see her naked, I can understand," I said to Saeko-basan in a stage whisper that I fully intended my dearest to hear.

"As can I," she replied with a smile. "Although with someone like Makoto-san in your life who obviously likes you that way, how are you still a virgin?"

"We're still in junior high school, and Makoto's a transforming heroine in the middle of a conflict with forces who are willing to hurt innocent people. That's two reasons why I shouldn't get her pregnant right now."

"I admire your self-restraint," Saeko-basan commented.

"I'm beginning to dislike it," Makoto said, "but I understand why it has to be."

I bowed to my girlfriend. "I'm sorry that I'm keeping you waiting. Maybe when we're both sixteen and we're sure that we're the only ones for each other, we can enjoy each other's company that way. To quote a song that won't be written until 2019, 'we can have just one night, or we can have one whole life if we play it cool'."

Saeko-basan actually laughed at our exchange. "Are you sure that you want to wait? No, you've already told me enough that I know that both of you don't want to wait. But you made a compelling case for waiting." I'm sure that I blushed. She continued, addressing the Senshi in the room. "Now, if the two of you would change out of your uniforms, perhaps you could tell me what it's like to be a transforming heroine while we have dinner together."

The only things we didn't tell Saeko-basan over the next three hours were my origin in another universe, the identities of the other Senshi and our friends who were in on the secret, and what happened during the Missing Time. She took things remarkably well.

Sunday turned into Monday, May turned into June, and a pleasant morning turned into an "all hands on deck" call-out when a cardian attacked before breakfast.

There's supposed to be a routine to that sort of thing: Wake up, go to school, save the world – in that order.

Jupiter zapped it with a Supreme Thunder Dragon, Mars roasted it with a Fire Soul Bird, Mercury put out the fire and immobilized it with a Shabon Spray Freezing, Venus cut it down to size with a Crescent Beam Saber (smart girl, figuring out how to do that attack so quickly), and Moon used a Moon Princess Halation on it to finish it off. Me? I worked crowd control.

And then it was time to go to school. We made mad dashes back to our homes to get our homework, and the girls stayed in their Senshi forms just to be fast enough to make it to school on time.

We met up a dozen blocks from school, with no time to spare. "We have to change soon! Go on ahead, Oni!" Moon said.

"Not without at least one of you!" I lifted Jupiter into a bridal carry and turned up the speed, muttering, "Eat my dust, Usain Bolt."


"An Olympic sprinter. He'll set two records in 2008."

"I think that's the first time you've ever given me a straight answer to that question."

I got her to an alley a half-block from the front gate of Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou before the bell rang. Since I knew from canon that she would arrive on time anyway, this didn't change anything that hadn't already been changed. "Should I go back for the others?" I asked as she changed.

"I see Ami-chan just coming around the corner," replied Makoto.

"Just Ami-san? Then there's no time; we have to get to class. Sorry, Bunny-chan."

Bunny-chan was late, as in canon, but it wasn't until she was caught eating lunch early that Sakurada-sensei gave her detention, again as in canon.

It was amazing how Ryou-san had made extra food for lunch.

"How's Umino-san doing?" Bunny-chan asked as she mooched from both of us and from Makoto as well.

Ami-san sighed deeply, then replied, "He's in the same condition as Shiratori Mikan-san."

"Oh, no." That was from Naru-san. "I heard Seijuurou-san play the flute just before that monster appeared at the play. Don't tell me it was somebody else; I listened to his playing style for a week. Is he our enemy?"

Ryou-san and I reached the same conclusion at the same time: there was no point in keeping it secret from them any more. We both nodded slightly as I put up an invisible forcefield around us to keep prying ears out.

"I'm afraid so," Ryou-san replied.

"And I'm sorry that we couldn't tell you," I added.

"Why do I always pick bad boyfriends?" Naru-san asked nobody in particular. None of us had an answer. "Except Umino-san," she realized. "Did Seijuurou-san send Umino-san to the hospital?"

"No, that was Natsumi-san's doing."

"Oh, no," Usagi-san whispered. "I have detention with her today."

"Better be on your guard, then, Bunny-chan," Ichigo-san said. Then she turned to me. "So, oh visitor from the future, how close to history did we come?"

"In figuring out who the big bads are this time around?" She nodded. "According to my records, you're one week early." And I spent the rest of the lunch break telling them who Ail and An really were, and why they were on Earth.

At the end of my explanation, Usagi-san said, "I can't possibly punish them in the name of the Moon for that. They're just trying to survive."

"Ladies and gentleman, love and justice in action," I said to the others. "If you can keep that outlook, Bunny-chan, you'll make a fine queen someday."

We pretty much curb-stomped the cardian that Ail chose while An was stuck in detention with Bunny-chan. Knowing its contrary nature ahead of time, it was simple to get it into a trap: I shouted "Don't attack me!", it attacked me, and Jupiter hit it with a Coconut Cyclone from the side. Venus shouted "Defend yourself! Crescent Beam Shower!", which against a target that refused to defend itself was enough to finish it off.

In the meantime, Usagi-san did something very noble and very foolish: she volunteered to go home with An. Yes, it was only one week early, but still, she headed off without any backup.

But canon shows again and again how Bunny points out the folly of man. It worked flawlessly: Ail and An discovered what love really meant, Sailor Moon healed the "Doom Tree", Mamoru and the Moonlight Knight merged... and I missed it all, hearing about it only after the fact.

So we went to see a Sailor Moon toku show at Dreamland to relax on one of the rare almost-sunny days in June. We figured that, as long as we were writing the scripts, we might as well see the end results.

Hoo-boy, did they do a number on us. Episode number 9, to be exact. But, boy, was it funny. At least Minako-san, Makoto and I thought it was funny, especially Moon being in a hurry to go nowhere in particular, Mercury announcing the obvious, the time-controlling youma in a cocktail dress (straight out of the data from Janelyn and Misha's computer, but it still looked silly), "Moon-obaa-san" shaking her Moon Tiara at the youma and telling it "In the name of the Moon, get off my lawn!", and Tuxedo Kamen throwing roses at the grandfather's clock until he finally hit it. At least the fog machine did a decent job of simulating Mercury's Shabon Spray.

"They got our personalities wrong," Chiba-san complained after the show.

"They had to get your personalities wrong so that people who know you don't think that you're... well, you," I pointed out. "Wait until you see Oni in one of these. They give him horns, a loincloth, a club, the works."

"I am going to murder Artemis-san the next time I see him," Bunny-chan muttered, not completely joking. "No, I'm going to neuter him."

"No, you're not," Minako-san insisted, unknowingly protecting the future existence of Diana. "And I should ask him whether he needs help writing some more scripts."

"If he does, please fix my character's personality. I am not that pedantic," Ami-san complained.

"Hey, given the constraints of the medium, I thought those Ember Island Players did a pretty good job of playing their roles," I commented.

Makoto wasn't the only one who looked puzzled, but she was the one to ask, "What's an ember island player?"

We spent most of the rest of June relaxing, when we weren't studying for our end-of-term exams that were coming in July.

There was one weekend that Makoto and I did something that neither of us had done before. No, not that. We visited Mount Fuji. We had permission from our homeroom teachers to skip Saturday morning classes that day, which we needed since the trip takes three hours each way.

Specifically, we attended the Fujikawaguchiko Herb Festival. Seeing Makoto wandering through the lavender beds, picking herbs with a smile on her face, made the weekend worthwhile. The blueberry ice cream was a minor bonus. The festival being in the middle of June, of course it rained for half of the time that we were there. We had fun, even if we had to share an umbrella. No, especially since we shared an umbrella.

On the trip back home Sunday evening, Makoto leaned over to me and asked, "Which episode are we at now, darling?"

"Oh, this wasn't in the anime at all," I replied. "This is something that's all our own that nobody else gets to share." That put a smile on her face. And that's also why I'm not going into detail as to what we did over the weekend. "As for the overall story, we're between episodes 59 and 60."

"How will we know when the next story starts? It can't be something as obvious as a plot hook falling out of the sky onto somebody's head, right?"

"Funny you should say that," I said with a smile of my own. "But she's more a MacGuffin than a plot hook, at least to begin with."

"I was kidding, darling."

"I wasn't, my dearest. I promised that I'll never lie to you, remember?"

Once we were back and had turned in our "what we did while away" essays, school continued in the lazy-but-hectic way that it does when we're getting ready for exams. Ami-san had no worries about the term finals in July, of course, but the rest of us did, even though most of us had memories of taking the exams during the Missing Time.

Well, my memories of the exams were borrowed from Ami-san. Minako-san and Makoto had to study the hard way, and my dearest had to pass everything so that she wouldn't have to take supplementary classes in August. Minako-san didn't want supplementary classes, either, but there wasn't anywhere that she needed to be on August 12. And we made sure that Bunny-chan studied, too.

Although we didn't study on her birthday. Instead, we turned the Revealing Of The Lunches into a Revealing Of The Presents, turning lunchtime into a birthday celebration. Makoto and I gave Bunny-chan a set of homemade lavender sachets for her bedroom; three guesses where the lavender herbs came from. Ami-san and Ryou-san gave Bunny-chan a textbook; I didn't bother finding out which subject. Ichigo-san gave her a box of five of one of Sapporo's specialty treats, tsukisamu anpan, which got smiles for both the pun and the sweets. (I noticed the JAL logo on the box – I guessed that this particular batch of sweets may have come from a first-class passenger – and distracted Makoto for long enough for Usagi-san to put the box in her lunch bag.) Naru-san showed off her latest experiment in using her power to make gems by giving Bunny-chan a sodium potassium aluminium silicate crystal – for the rest of us, that's a moonstone – and that got smiles from everybody for a completely different reason. And Minako-san gave Bunny-chan a gift card from her favourite cake shop.

As to why we didn't study together that day, Chiba-san gave Bunny-chan what she wanted the most: he took her out on a date.

Anybody who's familiar with the official history, or if you're like me and came from another universe after watching the anime, will know what I'm going to say next.

Besides "Stupid genre conventions", that is.

Yes, what they thought was going to be their first kiss ended up being interrupted by a little girl with pink hair and red eyes falling out of the sky onto Usagi-san's head. At least, that's what Bunny-chan told me the day after her birthday; if Chibiusa had actually landed on Bunny-chan's head, she would have ended up with a snapped neck. The younger Usagi probably landed on the elder Usagi's shoulders. I hope.

Bunny-chan also mentioned that Chibiusa had moved in with the Tsukino family, had ransacked her bedroom, and was hunting for the Ginzuishou. We immediately agreed to have a meeting at the Hikawa shrine after school.

On our way from Azabu-Juban to Roppongi, Ryou-san and I had a quiet discussion on the train.

"Chibiusa's here now, which means she's been born in the future, which means Bunny-chan and Chiba-san's relationship is secure," I said. "Can we start interfering with the Dark Moon's plans right away?"

Ryou-san thought for a moment. "I can't see any reason why we shouldn't, in 99 out of 100 probable timelines," he replied.

"And the other one?"

He frowned. "I can't foresee past August 11 in that timeline."

And that made me worry, because I remembered what Meioh-san said about keeping my smartphone with me between packing for our trip on August 12 and setting off on the journey... or on a journey. Granted, 99 times out of 100 there probably wasn't anything to worry about... but the timing matched up too well for me to completely dismiss that one in a hundred chance. "You're sure that it's August 11 that you can't see past?"


Time to ignore a stupid genre convention. "I think we should take the chance."

"I agree. You don't like sitting around and watching."

"Hey, not changing things during the Missing Time would have cost us both our girlfriends now."

And we arrived at the transit stop where we had to change for the bus, and dropped the conversation.

A half-hour later, the Senshi, Naru-san, Ryou-san and I were all in Rei-san's bedroom, discussing why a little girl even knew of the existence of the Ginzuishou, let alone why she wanted it.

"If you two know anything about why she wants it, I want you to keep your mouths shut," Bunny-chan insisted while looking straight at Ryou-san and me.

"Telling you won't put anybody's relationship at risk," I said.

"It isn't that," she replied. "I want her to tell me."

"I understand," Ryou-san said with a smile.

"Well, I don't," Minako-san complained. "If we have a source of reliable information, we should use it."

"Usagi-san trusts Chibiusa to do the right thing," Ami-san answered. "And she's the only one of us who's actually met the girl."

"Hang on," Rei-san interrupted. "Somebody's coming."

"Change of subject, then," Makoto announced. "Darling, I know a lot about you, but I still don't know when your birthday is."

"Really? I've never mentioned it?" I smiled. "I was born on Tanabata."

"That's less than a week away!" Bunny-san complained. "We'll never get a proper party together in time!"

"I don't need a party," I said just before there was a knock at the door.

It appeared that Rei-san's grandfather had brought us tea to drink while we studied. "Something to put you in the right frame of mind."

"Thank you, jii-san," Rei-san said while taking the tray.

She passed the cups around and we sipped at the tea... except that I had put forcefields over the mouths of my, Makoto's, and Bunny-chan's teacups. They looked at me while I made a show of pretending to fall asleep, just like everyone else had actually fallen unconscious from the drugged tea. Both ladies figured it out and followed the rest of us to the floor.

It didn't take long for "jii-san" to come back in and drop her disguise, turning back into Chibiusa and her ball Luna-P. Chibiusa quietly proceeded to start looking through everybody's bags for the Ginzuishou, beginning with opening Makoto's bag... which was as far as she got before Makoto grabbed her.

"Good girls don't look through other girls' bags without permission!"

"Why aren't you asleep? I drugged all of the tea!"

"And good boys and girls don't drug other people!" Bunny-chan sat down and turned Chibiusa onto her lap, and raised her hand to spank the youngster.

"Usagi! No!" I shouted. But it was too late. She got a single spanking in before I could stop her.

As Chibiusa cried in pain and surprise, the crescent moon mark on her forehead lit up and a beam of energy shot into the air.

"And now we have to worry about somebody from the Dark Moon showing up, because they were looking for that light show," I said in resignation. "And everybody else is out cold."

"Hide me, please!"

"Of course," I said. "Usagi-san, Makoto and I are heading into the woods with... I assume you're Chibiusa?"


I turned back to Bunny-chan. "I hope you can distract whoever's about to show up – Kooan, if I'm not mistaken – until Sailor Moon can face her." And the three of us headed into the trees.

After a few minutes of walking through the forest and repeatedly almost tripping over tree roots, Chibiusa asked, "Can we stop now?"

Makoto nodded. "You're getting tired, aren't you? You've had a busy day." Then she turned to me. "What's a Black Moon?"

I thought for a quick moment, then realized how to explain without telling Chibiusa anything she didn't already know. "Some number of centuries from now, after Neo-Queen Serenity assumes her throne, there will be some sort of insurrection. The rebels will lose and be banished to a planet or planetoid, I don't know which, called Nemesis, and will develop a society called the Black Moon. And they'll come back here after Chibiusa."

"You should have told Usagi-san that even though she told you not to."

"We didn't have time," I said before Chibiusa started bouncing Luna-P as if it was a basketball.

"You know too much. Luna-P Henge!" And she was suddenly holding a parasol.

While I had to question her priorities, I knew that somebody as young as she was wouldn't be taking the long view. But I had no desire to be hypnotized into forgetting anything, especially after fighting so hard to keep my memories at the very end of the Missing Time. I bowed deeply, both out of respect and so I wasn't looking at her spiral parasol. "I humbly request that you consider what's happening just outside of these woods, Usagi Small Lady Serenity-sama."

Chibiusa abandoned her attempt to hypnotize me. "How do you know my name?"

"The same way you knew who Usagi-san is, except that I'm only from three decades in the future."

Makoto raised one eyebrow. "Should you have told her that?"

Without hesitation, I replied, "Yes. I trust her."

"You ... trust me?" She dropped the parasol, and it turned back into Luna-P before hitting the ground. "Only Puu has ever trusted me."

I smiled as I sat down so that we could look at each other on a more equal basis. "Sailor Pluto is pretty good about knowing who to trust, isn't she?"

"Uh-huh!" she nodded.

"Oh, but I'm being rude. I'm Rob Donaldson, and my friend is Kino Makoto."

"Hello, Danaru... Dona... Robu-san. Hello, Kino-san."

"Call me Mako-chan," she said as she sat down beside us. "Everybody else does, except for Robu."

"Why not?"

"Because we're boyfriend and girlfriend," she replied, just before we felt a wave of heat coming from the shrine complex.

"Stay close to me, Chibiusa," I said. "I'm pretty sure that that was Dark Fire, which means Kooan is fighting both Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen right now. They'll keep the girls and Ryou-san safe."

She immediately sat on my lap, and I quietly raised an invisible forcefield around the three of us.

"What do we do now?" Chibiusa asked.

I couldn't resist. I whispered, "Be vewwy, vewwy quiet! Kooan's hunting wabbits!"

She just rolled her eyes... but she didn't seem to be as afraid as she was when we found our place to hide, and she didn't say anything for the next ten minutes, when we heard Bunny-chan and Chiba-san calling out our names. I dropped my forcefield and helped Chibiusa to her feet, standing up myself immediately afterwards.

"Makoto? Everything that I said about the Black Moon and about Sailor Pluto..."

"... stays between the three of us," she finished. "Usagi-chan doesn't want to know about it from you or me."

"I can't tell her?" Chibiusa asked, a look of worry on her face.

Smiling, Makoto replied, "She wants you to tell her. She doesn't want to learn why you're here from anybody else. But only tell her when you're ready, okay?"

Her worry disappeared. "Okay!"

Fifteen minutes later, we were back in Rei-san's bedroom and the others were just waking up.

"I'm sorry," Chibiusa said while bowing to everyone else. "I shouldn't have done that."

"Done what?" Minako-san asked.

Before Chibiusa could reply, Bunny-chan said, "We'll tell you later. Right now, it's time to introduce ourselves to the little brat..." I gave Bunny-chan a disappointed look. "... er, the little girl who's staying at my place for a while."

We introduced ourselves to Chibiusa in turn, and she finished by introducing herself. "I'm Tsukino Usagi. Mamo-chan calls me Chibiusa. I'm happy to meet you."

"Mamo-chan is my boyfriend, you brat! You don't get to call him that!"

"He's my boyfriend! Just like Robu-san is Mako-chan's boyfriend! You can have Urawa-san for your boyfriend!"

Ami-san quickly said, "I have a problem with that idea."

Before anybody else could say anything, Minako-san leaned down to look at Chibiusa eye-to-eye. "Mamoru-san isn't a prize to be won, Chibiusa. He's a person. And it's possible to love more than one person, in different ways."

"Oh." Chibiusa thought for a moment. "Does that mean you're one of Robu-san's or Urawa-san's girlfriends, too?"

Seeing no other way out of that particular line of inquiry, I quickly reached for the drugged tea that I hadn't drank earlier. Makoto wouldn't let me drink it, though.

I sighed deeply while we were on the train back to Azabu-Juban. "Why does she think I'm trying to collect a harem?"

Makoto sighed in return. "Let's list everybody you spend time with, darling. There's me, Ami-san, Saeko-basan, Usagi-chan, Rei-san, Mina-chan, Naru-san, Ichigo-san... and Ryou-san. And now Mamoru-san. Whether we like it or not, people think you and Ryou-san are collecting girlfriends."

"I dare you to call Saeko-basan or Rei-san anybody's girlfriend where they can hear you. And Bunny-chan made it quite clear that she's Chiba-san's girlfriend."

"How many people outside of our group know any of that?"

Friday made its way to our corner of the world, and brought a meeting of the Conversational English club along with it. I decided to let the ladies do most of the talking; Ami-san needed the practice.

"So, has Naru-san figured out how to make conundrum yet?"

"That's a puzzle," Ami-san replied.

"So she hasn't, even though she can make a moonstone?" Minako-san asked.

"No, I meant 'conundrum' means puzzle. It's corundum that she hadn't figured out how to make, the last time that I asked her about it."

"So she has made a conundrum!"

"Minako-san," I asked, "are you doing that on purpose?"

"Doing what?" she asked in reply, her face the picture of innocence.

"Never mind."

"Okay. So, maybe Naru-san's hung up on making only gemstones? There's a lot of different kinds of corundum besides the gem varieties."

Ami-san shook her head. "If that was the case, she wouldn't have been able to make transparent aluminium."

"Oh. Right." After a moment, Minako-san asked, "When did you ask her last?"

"Three weeks ago, if I remember correctly."

"Then maybe she's just figured out how to make gems and hasn't told anyone."

"So we should ask her," I suggested.

"Ami-san, can you do that?"

"I can talk with Naru-san, yes."

"Then it's settled." Minako looked happy, then realized that she'd shut down the conversation. "So... Rob-san, I think you said something about liking anime. Does that include movies?"

"It depends on the movie," I replied.

"The one that's opening on the 18th."

Ah. That movie. "I want to go see that one, but Makoto would hate it."

"Why?" Ami-san asked.

"The protagonist is an aircraft pilot."

"You're right, she'd hate it," Ami-san nodded in agreement. "You and Ryou-san should go."

It wasn't until after my birthday that I realized her other reason for making that particular suggestion.

Monday arrived, and Bunny-chan was in tears.

We skipped the Revealing Of The Lunches; we had something more important to do. "What's wrong?" Ami-san asked Bunny-chan.

"Mamo-chan dumped me!!!"

While the girls immediately tried their best to console the inconsolable, I caught Ryou-san's attention. He simply nodded. We then turned our attention to the girls.

"There's no logical reason for Mamoru-san to do that," Ami-san said in an attempt to understand.

"Logic has nothing to do with it," Minako-san replied. "Love is an emotion, maybe the strongest emotion that there is. He must be feeling something for somebody in order to do this."

"Maybe he's just looking for somebody different," Ichigo-san suggested.

"You're not helping," Naru-san said flatly.

"Should I change the way I look for him?"

"No," I said sternly. "Usagi-san –" The looks on everybody's faces showed that they noticed I didn't call her Bunny-chan. "– if you want to change yourself because you think you can be a better person somehow, that's one thing. But changing yourself for somebody else's sake only leads to heartbreak. Change your makeup because you want to, not because you think he wants you to."

"But I don't wear makeup," she said.

"Tsukino Usagi-san doesn't wear makeup," I admitted. "But somebody else does, and right now it's the Crystal Power kind."

"Oh, right."

"So," Makoto asked, "was the mention of makeup supposed to be a hint?"

"We don't need to just hint any more," Ryou-san answered. "Eleven times out of twelve, the next place we'll find somebody from the Dark Moon is the cosmetics store Otafukuya."

"When?" Minako-san asked.

"Tomorrow at the earliest."

"Can I watch?" Ichigo-san asked.

Makoto and I shook our heads in unison. "Right now," my dearest said, "Usagi-san needs to beat up a ... youma?"

"A droid," I corrected her.

"Thanks, darling. Ichigo-san, right now, Usagi-san needs to beat up a droid, and I don't want to risk your life by letting you get in her way."

But Ichigo-san went anyway. And her telling me afterward what happened is the only reason why I knew Bunny-chan used the line that I had accidentally given her: "The only makeup I need is Moon Crystal Power Make-Up!" And then she did some nasty things to the droid's face before hitting it with a Moon Princess Halation, just like in canon.

Ichigo-san also gave me a description of the Ayakashi Sister who was in charge, confirming my assumption that it was Berthier.

I wasn't allowed to go. Nobody wanted me to be hurt on Tanabata; that would have spoiled the birthday party they were planning.

Not that it was a particularly happy birthday celebration. since Bunny-chan was still hurting from Chiba-san dumping her. And I told the others ahead of time that they didn't need to give me any presents, so of course they went in on one expensive gift for me that Makoto picked out – a pair of cufflinks with a ruby set into each one.

"Now I'm going to have to get dressed up more often. Thank you, everybody. I hope these came from OSA-P."

Naru-san smiled. "They did. And I made them. Not the gold, but the gems."

"Congratulations! I'll treasure them always."

Friday arrived, and brought the Conversational English club meeting with it... which we changed to a study session because exams were coming up. But one of us showed up late.

For once, it wasn't Minako-san who ducked out; she had resigned from the volleyball team before Ail and An left. "Where's Ami-chan?" Minako-san asked.

"The teachers wanted to speak with her," I said with a certain suspicion growing within me.

"Is this what the club was like when I went to play volleyball instead?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Don't take this the wrong way, Rob-san, but it's boring just sitting and talking with only you."

"Makoto doesn't mind being alone with me," I said with a bit of a smile.

"Mako-chan's your girlfriend, and that's one of the few things that I envy her."

Oh. "Minako-san, I'm not interested in you that way. You're my friend, but you're just my friend. Just like Bunny-chan, or Ami-san, or Naru-san, Ichigo-san, and Rei-san. Makoto is my dearest, and I think that will always be the case."

"I figured that out during the Missing Time," she replied quietly. "And I was on the rebound from losing Alan when I met you, so I didn't know whether what I felt for you then was friendship or love. But I know now that it's friendship." After a brief moment, she added, "It's the whole 'having a boyfriend' thing that I envy about Makoto-san, not that it's you who she has as a boyfriend. You can be the big brother that I never had."

"How can I be your big brother? We're the same age."

"Are we?" she asked. "The rest of us lost a year's growth when Usagi-san reset the world. Artemis told me that you two and Luna didn't get reset. Are you sure you aren't a year older than the rest of us?"

"Now that's an interesting question," Ami-san said from the doorway. "And I'm sorry that I'm late."

"Come on in," Minako-san said. "What did the teachers want to talk with you about?"

Ami-san suddenly looked at the floor.

"Don't tell me you're in trouble?"

"No, it isn't that," she replied. "It's about a scholarship that I was offered at a medical school."

"That's great!" Minako-san said with a smile.

"In Germany."

Minako-san's smile disappeared. "When would you be leaving?"


"During exams?" Minako-san asked.

"That's why I needed to speak with the teachers."

"Oh." I said. "And that explains why you wanted Ryou-san and me to go see a movie together on the 18th."

She nodded. "If I go, please stay friends with my boyfriend."

I noticed that she said "if", not "when".

"I don't know about 'friends', Ami-chan," Minako-san replied. "I might take him away from you while you're gone."


We got together for lunch on Monday, the first day of exams. But Minako-san was distracted.

"What's wrong?" Bunny-chan asked after the Revealing Of The Lunches.

"Artemis didn't come home last night."

"He is a cat," Ichigo-san mentioned. "Maybe he's out tomcatting somewhere."

I shook my head and answered before Minako-san could. "It's more likely that he's been caught by enemy action. Ryou-san?"

"I can't sense him in any future that I can see. But I'm only looking at the immediate future."

"Immediate as in the end of the school day?" Minako-san asked. Ryou-san nodded in reply. "So, where is he?"

"Going by the records I have, he's in a deep-freeze along with the actual staff of that new ice cream stand, Bob-Floy." After a beat, I added, "And Ami-san needs to go rescue him."

"I do?" she said in surprise as she looked up from her textbook.

"You're the only one who can save the prisoners, including Artemis."

"I suppose I need to go, then," Ami-san said. "At least this means you won't be having a going-away party for me."

"But we need a party to take our minds off exams!"

Ami-san sighed. "That's exactly why we don't need a party, Usagi-san."

"Is that the only reason?" Ryou-san asked.

She looked straight at him as she closed her book. "You already know, don't you?" He nodded. "I don't want to say good-bye to all of you, and Rei-san."

"You don't want to, or...?" I asked.

She sighed deeply instead of answering.

"You'd have to learn German to study in Germany," Naru-san pointed out. "You could do that here. Heidelberg and Freiburg will still be there later."

"It's better to learn German in Germany, though," Ami-san replied without very much conviction.

Makoto handed her bento to me and took Ami-san's hands in her own. "Ami. Your mother says that we're sisters in all but blood. Listen to your sister. It's obvious that you don't want to leave us."

Thank you, Makoto. I could never have said that to her, as much as somebody needed to, because I couldn't possibly make Ami-san cry.

"I know," she said through her tears. "Don't let me go..."

We all skipped the rest of lunch in order to comfort Ami-san... and convince her to stay.

After our exams that afternoon, we all went to get ice cream, and Ami-san got a new attack at the same time. Nothing fights ice with ice quite like "Shiny Aqua Illusion" does. Since we all went for ice cream, Ryou-san got to see Ami-san's new "Mercury Star Power, Make-Up" transformation at the same time as the rest of us. The poor boy went through three handkerchiefs before he could stanch his nosebleed, and I had to sit out the fight in order to make sure he didn't faint from blood loss ... or embarrassment on Ami-san's behalf. I explained to him that he was just going to have to learn to live with having a beautiful girlfriend who didn't mind him seeing her naked... which set off another nosebleed.

Ami-san spent most of the evening convincing Saeko-basan to let her stay in Japan, with Makoto and me by her side. And by the end of the evening, the three of us had stopped using honorifics to refer to each other.

Exams continued through to July 17. We were given the Saturday off so that the teachers could start marking our tests... which meant that I was first in line at the theatre. I brought a bag. Hey, Luna gave the girls new communicators and transformation wands earlier in the week; I wanted some goodies, too, even if I had to pay for them out of my own pocket.

Which, I'll admit, was actually Sailor Pluto's pocket. But the principle still held.

After I told Makoto that the movie had aircraft in it, she decided to spend the day with Bunny-chan and Rei-san at the Hikawa shrine. Ami, Ryou-san, and Minako-san kept me company instead. Which meant that we completely missed Rei-san's grandfather's "Protect Esthe" project and Sailor Mars unlocking her Burning Mandala attack. That was probably for the best. I doubt Ryou-san or I could have survived seeing the "Mars Star Power, Make-Up" transformation; we probably would have been roasted for peeping.

Instead, we saw a very good movie.

Everybody else bought tickets. I got the souvenir ticket, the guidebook, the opening-day poster, the coffee mug, and the soundtrack CD. Oh, and a large popcorn.

We settled in to the best seats in the house, eventually the lights went down, we applauded when the Studio Ghibli vanity plate appeared on the screen, the credits played... and then the violins of the first instrumental track began and we saw a pig fly.

The only thing that kept the experience from being perfect was that I couldn't share it with Makoto.

We had the entire next week off, too. There were a lot of exams to be marked.

Ryou-san insisted that we leave Thursday afternoon open. Apparently, seven times out of nine, the weather forecast was going to be wrong.

"Maybe we should lend a communicator to Chibiusa," I suggested.

Ryou-san shook his head. "If we do that, she'll figure out who the Sailor Senshi are too early."

"More importantly, the wristband wouldn't fit her," Ami pointed out, knowing from experience how little I cared whether an event was too early. "She'd probably end up losing it."

"It isn't as if we won't know where she is," Makoto pointed out.

"This is true," I admitted. "So, what do you want to do between now and then?"

Ami wanted to visit the library. Makoto wanted to go figure skating. Ryou-san wanted to go sightseeing. I had the deciding vote.

So we went skating on Monday, sightseeing on Tuesday, and reading on Wednesday. Never let it be said that, when a decision needed to be made, I wasn't willing to come down firmly on the fence.

And then it was Thursday. A fine day, without a cloud in the sky... until suddenly it wasn't.

Makoto and I grabbed umbrellas and headed for Chibiusa's school. Halfway there, a bolt of lightning nearly hit us while we were walking past a three-storey building.

My dearest shouted over the storm. "That's not possible! Somebody's shooting at us! Jupiter Star Power, Make-Up!"

I put up a five-layered forcefield set while she was transforming, which was good because whoever was attacking shot another lightning bolt at us. The shot got through three layers at once... which meant the tip of the pinpoint attack was stronger than the leading edge of Bunny-chan's wide-area wish at the end of the Missing Time. Of course, Bunny-chan's wish was a lot bigger than a single pinpoint.

Jupiter slapped my cheek. "No going into shock, Oni! Run!"

I grabbed her in a bridal carry and went to flash-move, heading in an irregular zig-zag to the second-closest cover. "Thanks, Jupiter," I said as we took cover just before a third bolt hit where we had just been standing.

Then we saw a moonbeam from Chibiusa's school.

"Oh, no. She's panicking."

"And now the Dark Moon knows where to find her," I added as I raised another forcefield set – just before another lightning bolt hit it. "I can't keep this up forever," I added.

"Can you manage one more?"

"Two more, if you need them. Maybe three."

Yet another lightning bolt hit my forcefield... and Jupiter spun and pointed with one hand into the air. "Sparkling... Wide... Pressure!" She made a throwing motion with her other hand and a ball of lightning flew in the direction she had pointed.

Nothing happened for a moment... then a large drum fell to the ground, followed by the droid that had been pounding on it to create the thunder and lightning.

Then we heard a slow clapping from behind and above us. "Very impressive, Jupiter." We both spun to see a green-haired woman sneering at us and levitating just far enough away that we couldn't grab her in hand-to-hand combat. As she continued her slow clap, she asked, "This is a thing here and now, right?"

"Here, but not now," I replied. "You're two decades early, unless you're copying me. Petz, I assume."

She stopped the slow clap. "And you would be Oni. Rubeus wants you both dead, the sooner the better."

"Rubeus?" Jupiter turned to me. "Is he that Rubeus Hagrid person you mentioned during the Missing Time?"

"What? Ack! No! And why are you asking about that now?"

"Enough!" Petz shouted. "Time for you to die!"

"Not today!" came a shout from down the street. "Shiny Aqua Illusion!"

The rain that was still falling slowed Mercury's attack to the point that Petz was able to dodge it. "I'm not ready to face you all yet. But rest assured that the three of you and your precog friend will die soon!" And Petz teleported away.

"Where's Chibiusa?" I asked Mercury as she walked up to us.

"Still at school, and Ryou's with her."

"Good," I said, before sighing deeply.

"What's wrong?" Jupiter asked.

"This didn't go at all like the canon fight," I replied. "Originally, Petz and... whatever the droid's name was... were looking to frighten and capture Chibiusa, not kill us."

"That's a good thing," Jupiter replied. "That means we're a thorn in Rubeus' side."

"Rubeus?" Mercury asked.

"No, not Rubeus Hagrid."

"Ladies. Focus. Please. All three of us and Ryou-san are targets."

"If we're the enemy's primary targets, then Moon, Mars, and Venus aren't," Mercury pointed out. "They can protect Chibiusa with a freer hand."

"There is that," I admitted. "Although that state of affairs lasts only as long as we're still alive."

"Then we don't die," Jupiter replied as she transformed back to Makoto.

"That's easy to say," Mercury said while transforming back to Ami, "but not so easy to do."

"And Ryou-san will have a harder time of it than the rest of us," I added while seeing Bunny-chan and Chiba-san walking toward Chibiusa's school. "Somebody stays with him as often as possible."

"That's my job," Ami insisted.

Makoto, Ami, Ryou-san, and I got together the next afternoon, in place of a Conversational English club meeting.

"A few weeks back, I asked about our future," I said to Ryou-san. "And you mentioned we were good to interfere 99 times out of a hundred. Is that still the case?"

Ryou-san shook his head. "The future that I can't see past August 11 has gone from one chance in a hundred to one chance in twelve."

"I was afraid of that, after hearing what Petz said yesterday," Makoto said. "Can we hide from the Dark Moon?"

"I'm not hiding from anybody, my dearest."

"If it's a choice between hide and die, I'd rather hide, darling. I don't want to lose you."

"And I don't want to lose you, Ryou," Ami added. "Can we take the battle to the enemy?"

I shook my head. "Not without a spacecraft. Their base is in low Earth orbit."

"So why can't we see it?" Ami asked.

"I'm not the only one who can go invisible," I replied.

"Could we get there with a Sailor Teleport?"

"That would put the others at risk, Ami," Makoto said. "I still think hiding is the best option."

"And not get our report cards next week?" Ami asked.

"Oh." Makoto sighed. "I guess we can't hide."

"There's only one viable option," our precog announced. "Act like we don't care."

"And how many futures will that keep us safe in?" I asked.

"Eleven out of twelve."

"Then that's what we do," Ami decided for the group, Makoto nodding in agreement.

I didn't ask, but I was pretty sure that the twelfth possible future was the one that Ryou-san couldn't foresee past August 11.

Minako-san decided that she wanted some good luck in order to pass the exams despite the fact that she'd already written them, so she dragged Makoto off to the Lucky Charms House, a store that sold nothing but good-luck-charm costume jewelry. Even without Ryou-san telling her that it was the most likely place for the Dark Moon to try to take over. But he told the rest of us, so Ami and I followed them.

Makoto and Minako-san met Bunny-chan and Chibiusa near the store, quite by accident. This was lining up to be just like in canon. Just after they left Chibiusa outside and went into the store, I pulled Ami into an alleyway.

"Rob! What are you doing?"

"Hiding us," I replied as I put forcefields around both of us and went invisible. It was the first time I'd tried making two people invisible at the same time... but it worked. "Move slowly, please," I said, "I have to concentrate on keeping the effect going."

Once she walked out of the alleyway, she understood why I turned us both invisible. Chiba-san was talking with Chibiusa. They went inside the store before we got close enough to listen to their conversation, so I dropped the invisibility cloaks.

Then we heard two people inside the store shout "You!", the front window shattered because somebody threw a water jug through it, and Makoto jumped through the hole. "Petz is in there!"

We didn't need to be told twice. We ran. She chased us.

"Looks like acting like we don't care isn't going to work," I pointed out as I grabbed both Ami and Makoto, then turned up the speed. "I just hope Minako-san and Bunny-chan can keep Chibiusa safe. And they've obviously figured out your secret, my dearest. By the way, there was a door."

"With a droid blocking it, darling."

"Ah. I think we've outrun Petz."

"She'll be here in a minute or two," Ami said. "Mercury Star Power, Make-Up!"

"Jupiter Star Power, Make-Up!"

If we weren't running for our lives, I would have enjoyed the view. But we had to stop running; Petz caught up to us while they were transforming. "I knew you were the girl I saw transform into Sailor Jupiter last week! It's too bad I didn't see who you are, though," she pointed at Mercury.

"You'll have to learn to live with disappointment," I said before Mercury could say anything that might give her away. It was bad enough that she'd spilled the beans to her mother.

"And you don't even bother transforming. Thank you for making my job easier. Nipasu!"

As the droid appeared, Mercury said, "Didn't I defeat that enemy already?"

"Silly girl," Petz answered. "They're droids. We can rebuild them."

I put up a forcefield before neo-Nipasu could freeze us, which quickly meant that I had a frozen forcefield... that I couldn't drop.

"Scatter!" cried Mercury. We split up, but I passed a few coins to Jupiter first.

I did my best to get the droid's attention. "Hey, Nipasu! Your ice cream tastes terrible!"

She ignored me.

"Shiny Aqua..."

Nipasu shot at Mercury instead, freezing her in mid-attack.

Petz took the opportunity to gloat. "When we rebuild them, we rebuild them better than they were before!"

At least they were distracted. "Jupiter... Supreme..."

"Go ahead! Waste your time! We're ready for your Supreme Thunder attack!" Petz boasted.

Jupiter tossed my change into the air. "...Railgun!"

And Nipasu fell apart from being shredded by coin shrapnel, freeing both Mercury and my forcefield.

"...Illusion!" Mercury's attack would have hit Petz if she hadn't teleported away.

By the time the ladies had transformed back and we made it back to the Lucky Charms House, Moon and Venus had disposed of the threat there... and I was too late to corner Tuxedo Kamen and ask him what he was thinking, the way he was treating Bunny-chan.

Knowing that the people who wanted us dead had literal eyes in the sky, I applied invisibility cloaks to both Makoto and myself a half-kilometer before we got home.

And then came the posting of our aggregate exam scores.

Ami improved again, thanks to Makoto's tutoring in Home Economics. Her score was 876 – not just the best in the entire school, but the best that anybody attending Kuritsu Juban Chuugakkou had ever scored.

Makoto, Ryou-san, and I placed in the low-700s again. We were getting good at appearing to be good but not stellar students.

Ichigo-san, Naru-san, and Minako-san placed in the mid-600s again. And Bunny-chan scored 601 – a personal best.

Makoto's grandfather wasn't waiting for her at her apartment. But I realized that they'd be seeing each other on August 12, so there was no need for him to make the trip.

Saeko-basan read through our report cards, congratulating Ami on her grades and encouraging Makoto and me to keep improving. Then Naru-san and Bunny-chan dropped by with ice cream from Bob-Floy, and it turned into an "everybody passed every course" party.

"I understand that Ami has been helping you with your homework," Saeko-basan said around bites of ice cream.

"She has!" Bunny-chan nodded her head. "And Mako-chan's been helping both of us with Home Ec!"

"Do you get together every afternoon that Ami doesn't have juku?"

"Almost every afternoon," Naru-san replied.

"Yeah, sometimes we have to go fight cardians or droids, so we can't study," Makoto added.

"Er... Mako-chan..."

Makoto looked at Bunny-chan, then at Ami. "Didn't you tell them that your mother knows?"

Ami blushed. "I... forgot."

"Mizuno-sensei, how much do you know?" Naru-san asked.

"I know about Sailor Mercury, Sailor Jupiter, and Oni," she replied.

"So less than you do," Makoto added.

I facepalmed. "My dearest, have you forgotten how to keep secrets?"

"Oops. Sorry."

Saeko-basan laughed. "Would you be happier if I forgot what's been said here today?"

Naru-san and Bunny-chan exchanged a meaningful glance, the sort that only long-time friends know the meaning of. Then Bunny-chan... Usagi-san said, "No, it's all right, Mizuno-sensei. Naru-chan isn't a Sailor Senshi."

"But I know that I hang out with them," Naru-san added.

"I'm Sailor Moon."

"Ah. Do Ikuko-san and Kenji-san know?"

Usagi-san shook her head. "I don't think mama or papa know. And I'm pretty sure that Shingo doesn't know, either."

Right. That's her little brother's name. I keep forgetting.

"Then I shan't tell them," Saeko-basan said.

"I'm also pretty sure that Chibiusa doesn't know, either," I added.

"I'll keep that in mind," Saeko-basan replied. "Right now, the ice cream is melting."

"Eek!" Bunny-chan turned her full attention to devouring her snack.

Before we could finish off the ice cream, the intercom buzzed. "Were you expecting somebody, Ami?" Saeko-basan asked.


Makoto and I exchanged a meaningful glance of our own as Saeko-basan answered the buzz. "Mizuno residence."

"Is Tsukino Usagi there?"

Ami, Makoto, and I exhaled. "Chibiusa?" Ami asked.

"Hi, Ami-neesan." She didn't sound happy.

"Your cousin is here. Come on up." And with those words from Ami, Saeko-basan buzzed Chibiusa in.

By the time she arrived, we had a bowl of ice cream ready for her. And by the time we had all finished off our snack, Chibiusa was ready to talk.

"Ikuko-mama and Kenji-papa are busy tomorrow," she said quietly. "I'm going to be the only person in class who doesn't have her parents with her."

"Why are your classmates' parents joining you in class tomorrow?" Naru-san asked.

"It's the last day of the term, and we're having a curry party."

Ah. Plot. I'd almost forgotten this episode, as well.

"Does it have to be your parents who share your curry, Chibiusa?" Saeko-basan asked.

"You have a seminar tomorrow, mother," Ami reminded her.

"Oh. Yes, that's right."

"Well," I said, "I don't have plans for tomorrow, and I know how to make curry..."

"No!!!" everybody but Chibiusa and Saeko-basan shouted.

"Why not?" Chibiusa asked.

"Yeah, why not? My curry's pretty good."

"If you like having your tongue burned off," Makoto replied. Then she turned to Chibiusa. "He puts nanami togarashi in his curry."

Chibiusa actually shuddered on hearing that.

Well, fine. Be that way. Then I remembered who Small Lady's parents actually were. "Bunny-chan, why don't you and Chiba-san stand in for Chibiusa's parents?"

"Yeah! Let's ask Mamo-chan!"

"You don't get to call him that, you brat!"

Saeko-basan cheared her throat meaningfully. Both Usagi-sans quieted down.

"I'll call Mamoru-san," Ami volunteered. "Chibiusa, you need to learn how to make curry. From Mako-chan, not from Rob-san."

"That's fine," Saeko-basan said, "but you'll need to buy groceries first."

So, while Makoto gave Chibiusa a lesson in knife safety, Bunny-chan, Naru-san, and I headed off to the nearest supermarket. Which was apparently having a sale on a new food – something called "Dark Fruit".

I told both of my shopping companions to avoid that display and not so much as touch the free samples. Naru-san told me she'd already figured that out; Dark anything was almost certainly connected to the Dark Moon. Then I found a quiet corner and went invisible. And, sure enough, when I took a look at the free sample display, Petz was standing behind it along with two other women. I assumed that they were her sister Calaveras and their current droid Avokadora.

Good thing I was sufficiently paranoid to go invisible; the body count from collateral damage in the supermarket could have been horrific if Petz was to try killing me.

Not that it didn't end up appearing to be horrific anyway; a few minutes after we arrived, all of the other customers collapsed, and the store's meat and produce collapsed into rotten piles.

Bunny-chan quickly made use of the same quiet corner that I had used to go invisible. "Moon Crystal Power, Make-Up!"

No, I didn't watch. She never gave me permission, express or implied, to watch.

Then she boldly went one aisle over and turned to face the Dark Fruit display. "How dare you invade this place where people buy what they need to make the meals that they offer to their families, and turn those ingredients to dust! Shizuo Tsuji may forgive you, but I will not! In the name of the Moon, I'll punish you!"

Petz and Calaveras took the opportunity to cut and run. I wouldn't have been surprised if each had intended to get away on her own, leaving the other to face the music without her.

The droid Avokadora was much braver; the banana that she was holding suddenly had a blade sticking out of it. "Banaknife!"

"Be careful! She's got a knife!" Moon yelled a completely superfluous warning.

Naru-san just smiled as she held her hand in front of her as if she was holding a hilt. "That's not a knife." The carbon from the supermarket's destroyed produce flew to her hand, forming a diamond wakizashi in three seconds flat. "That's a knife."

She'd obviously been practicing. Both the technique and the intimidation.

Unfortunately, Avokadora wasn't intimidated, and it was also obvious that Naru-san hadn't been practicing how to actually use her sword. But the droid wasn't particularly good with her blade, either; it seemed that she was expecting people to run just at the sight of a weapon. It looked to me like the two of them were Flynning... and diamond-sword versus banana-sword Flynning should not have gone on for that long. At one point, I even had to use a forcefield to make sure Naru-san wasn't impaled by a banana.

But the fight went on long enough for Sailor Moon to get in position and say three words: "Moon Princess Halation!"

As the droid turned to dust, I resolved to ask Minako-san or Chiba-san to give Naru-san some kenjutsu lessons or the equivalent. She obviously needed them. I couldn't train her, not then. I rarely concentrated enough to give my forcefields sharp edges, so I was more of a stick fighter than a sword fighter when I fought close-in at all.

Come to think of it, I needed some lessons, too. But not until Makoto and I got back from our trip.

From all reports after the fact, the curry party on July 31 went well.

I still think Japanese curry is too mild, though.

Makoto and I had less than two weeks to decide whether it was a good idea for me to join her on August 12. We had discussed it more than once, but for the longest time she refused to commit to an answer, yes or no.

But Meioh-san had told me that I was going on a trip, so I prepared to pack anyway. I also did as much research as I could ahead of time as to how I should behave... which, according to Rei-san, boiled down to "stay silent and be respectful".

Which I could do. Even Makoto admitted as much, so she finally told me that I could go to the memorial service.

So I paid a visit to Center Gai, to discover that there was a garment bag with my name on it at Atelier Lucent. Pre-paid, just slip into the suit to check the size, which was of course perfect. And the jacket had a pocket large enough to hold my smartphone. Meioh-san knew what she was doing, even though she wasn't around to serve me directly. Which was probably another hint that she knew what she was doing. What I appreciated the most were the shoes that came with the suit – sturdy shoes that would support my feet during the climb from the parking lot to the memorial site, and still looked good with the suit.

I hung the garment bag in my closet as soon as I got home. Then I visited Ryou-san.

"Come in, Robu-san," he said just before I could knock on his door.

I did, then I said, "You already know why I'm here."

He nodded. "The possible timeline that I can't foresee past next Tuesday now has a probability of one in three."

"Here's something that you might not know. Sailor Pluto has told me to keep my 2022 cellphone with me next Tuesday."

He sighed. "I didn't know that you had already made contact with her. The possible timeline that I can't foresee past next Tuesday now has a probability of one in two."

"Sorry. Should we stop pretending that it isn't going to happen?"

"The probability is only one in two. As long as it isn't at least five in six, I'm not going to admit that it's going to happen."

"I can understand that. Take your comfort where you can, buddy. And we don't tell the girls yet."

"I'll agree with you on your last sentence."

That Thursday, I paid another visit to the Hikawa shrine, in order to pay my respects to the resident kami. I carried out all of the rituals, made a donation of ten thousand yen (which in 1992 would buy a lot more than two bags of groceries), and spoke my wish. "Please, help Makoto and Ami and Ryou-san survive whatever's going to happen on Tuesday."

"And what's going to happen on Tuesday, Donarudoson-san?" I heard a gruff voice that I didn't recognize ask from behind me.

"I don't know," I admitted while continuing to face the offering box; for some reason, it felt rude to look anywhere else. "But I doubt it will be anything pleasant."

"You have concerns for your own life, but your wish was for others."

"I don't want any of them to die. The kami can do what they want with me, as long as Makoto and the others get to keep fighting the good fight here."

"Because you ask for others, not for yourself, and you are willing to sacrifice yourself for your companions, I will help when the time is right." Then I felt a touch that burned like fire on the back of my neck, and suddenly I had something resembling another brainprint in the back of my mind.

I quickly turned to see who I was talking with.

There was nobody there.

On Friday morning, I wore my new shoes in order to break them in, and visited a camping supply store... where I bought a pocket first-aid kit, a water bottle, and four vacuum-packed meals.

Something in the back of my mind told me that it would be prudent to have those.

Friday afternoon, I asked Makoto what she wanted to do for the rest of the day. So we went skating.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, we prepared for the trip on Tuesday... both physically and mentally. Makoto stopped what she was doing and cried on my chest more than once.

Then it was Tuesday morning. August 11. We both finished packing. My suitcase wasn't large enough to hold everything – on a hunch, I had packed my new water bottle, the vacuum-packed meals, and the first-aid kit – so I wore my new suit, and I put my phone and its charger in my pocket. Then, Makoto and I stepped out of our apartments to head for the train station...

... only to find a small group waiting for us. Bunny-chan, Minako-san, Chibiusa, Ami, Ryou-san... even Rei-san was there. "Naru-san and Ichigo-san send their best wishes," Rei-san said.

"And we all hope that your Obon journey will be safe," Minako-san added.

"I thought they were going to a memorial service," Chibiusa said.

Makoto passed her bag to me and squatted down. "We are. It's a memorial for hundreds of people, including my parents."

"Oh. You're going to honour your ancestors."

"That's right."

Then Ryou-san leaned over to Bunny-chan and whispered, "Get her out of here. Now."

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"That probability just hit five in six."

"Oh,..." I bit back the curse I was about to say. Stupid genre conventions.

Usagi-san, Minako-san, and Rei-san got Chibiusa to the other side of the street just as I realized that the people who Rubeus really wanted dead were now in a small group together... and Petz teleported in. "There's the precog that we've been looking for!"

And she pointed the thrice-damned Black Moon Stick, which I only knew from the anime, at Ryou-san.

We couldn't transform or show off our powers, not with Chibiusa watching. Ami, Makoto, and I all decided to be heroes at the same time, and covered Ryou-san with our bodies before a beam from that stick hit him... and us.

The last thing we heard from what we considered was the real world was Petz shouting, "Be sent to another dimension!"

There was only one way out of the trap that she had just sprung on us: Sailor Teleport. Unfortunately for us, that needed three more Sailor Senshi than we had here, and the Senshi that were here were in their untransformed states.

As Makoto hugged me and Ami held on to Ryou-san for dear life, I thought that, since we couldn't get away from this, I really hoped that being sent to another dimension wasn't a euphemism.

Next chapter: Recursion, Romance, and Rough Times for Everybody.

Original text and original characters are copyright © 2022-2023 by Rob Kelk. "Rob Donaldson", "Ichigo Aoyama", "Kichirou Sato", and any representations thereof are copyright by and trademarks of Rob Kelk. Please contact Rob Kelk if you want to use Ichigo Aoyama or Kichirou Sato in your own stories.

Sailor Moon and the characters thereof are copyright © 1991-1997 by Naoko Takeuchi, TOEI Animation, Kodansha, TV Asahi, and their licencees, and are used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

"Atelier Lucent" is an original element based on Sailor Moon. It should not be confused with the real-world "Lucent Atelier" in the USA or "Atelier Lucente" in Italy. The author makes Atelier Lucent available to anyone who might need a name for Sailor Pluto's clothing studio.

Quote from the "Fernando's Hideaway" segments of Saturday Night Live, copyright © 1984-1985 by Billy Crystal, Broadway Video, and Universal Television, is used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Lyrics from "Manic Monday", written by Prince, performed by the Bangles, copyright © 1986 by Prince, Discos CBS, and Columbia Records, are adapted and used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quote from Ghostbusters, copyright © 1984 by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Columbia Pictures, is adapted and used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Lyrics from "Slow Down", written by Bibi Bourelly, H.E.R., Nasri, Rykeyz, and Skip Marley, performed by Skip Marley and H.E.R., copyright © 2019 by Universal Music Group & Island Records, are used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Lyrics from "Godzilla", written by Buck Dharma, performed by Blue Öyster Cult, copyright © 1977 by Columbia Records, are adapted and used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quote from Avatar: The Last Airbender, copyright © 2005-2008 by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Nickelodeon Animation Studio, is used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quote from "A Wild Hare", copyright © 1940 by Leon Schlesinger Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures, and The Vitaphone Corporation, is misquoted and used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

Quote from Crocodile Dundee, copyright © 1986 by Paul Hogan, Ken Shadie, John Cornell, and Rimfire Films, is used as allowed under section 29.21 (1) of the Copyright Act of Canada, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42.

My thanks to my prereaders, Brent Laabs and Robert M. Schroeck.


"Why aren't you asleep? I drugged all of the tea!"

"And good boys and girls don't drug other people! Or use drugs themselves! So don't do that! Sailor Says!"
Bonus content! Have a relationship chart. Spoilers for chapters 3, 4, and 5 have been blocked out... although I expect that people who are familiar with the source story can fill in at least one of the blocks.

Oh, and I ran out of space on the diagram to draw a "friends" connections between Chibiusa and Robu-san, and another one between Minako and Makoto. (I need a 3-D display.)

Likewise, there's no real room to have 'friend' lines between Usagi and Makoto/Minako without making things confusing.

(03-25-2023, 04:20 PM)Norgarth Wrote: [ -> ]Likewise, there's no real room to have 'friend' lines between Usagi and Makoto/Minako without making things confusing.

Yes, those lines should be present as well, but there's no way to add them in clearly.
I've come up with a little retcon, and April 1 is the appropriate day to post it. Return with us to the thrilling day that Robu-san met Usagi for the first time...

(12-25-2022, 10:36 AM)robkelk Wrote: [ -> ]We chatted about the school and our experiences during our first day and a half. When I mentioned having the desk next to Mizuno-san's, Usagi smiled. "Oh, good! Ami-chan needs more friends."

Time to look puzzled for a brief moment. "'Ami-chan'? Oh, yes - one of our classmates mentioned that you knew Mizuno-san. I take it that you'd prefer I get to know her better."

Usagi nodded. "Yeah. She needs somebody to talk with who isn't me, or Rei."


Usagi nodded again. "A friend of ours. She goes to a different school."

I noticed the time, and stood up. "Speaking of school, afternoon classes are going to start soon. It would look bad if Mako-chan and I were late for them on our second day."

The girls also stood up, and we all headed for the door back into the school. "And we mustn't make a bad impression during the first week," Makoto grumbled.

"I know. But if I'm going to be Mizuno-san's friend as well as yours, then I have to be a good boy, don't I? She has a reputation of being one of the best students in the school."

Makoto grinned. "Are you gathering a harem, Robu-san?"

"Are you volunteering, Mako-chan?" I countered with a grin of my own.

"Yeah, I'm volunteering."

I blinked in surprise. "Are you serious?"

"Very serious," Mako-chan replied. "And Usagi-san's my witness. You're a mysterious transfer student, so it's just proper that the girls you like fall for you."

"You're just as mysterious a transfer student as I am, Mako-chan."

"No, I'm Japanese and you're a foreigner. That makes you more mysterious than me."

Usagi-san grinned. "Oh, I get it! And that explains why I want to go home with Robu-san, too!"

"That's great! The two of us are the start of your harem, Robu-san!" Mako-chan announced.

Stupid genre conventions... but I had no choice. It wasn't as if I could ask Usagi-san about Tuxedo Kamen-san, after all; I wasn't supposed to know yet that he even existed. Besides, we had to get back to our classrooms.

Mizuno-san and I were on class duty after school that day. We got to talking as we took care of all the little jobs that needed to be done.

"... and then she announced that they were both part of my harem. I don't know very much about Japan, so I have to ask: Is that normal?"

My classmate shook her head. "No, Donaldson-san, it isn't." Then, after a moment, she added, "But if you don't mind, would you be willing to accept me as the third member of your harem?"

To quote Sam Beckett, oh boy. Doesn't she have a... no, she hasn't met Urawa-san yet.

And it was beginning to look like my metahuman power was to get beautiful girls to not only fall in love with me instantly but also to not be jealous of each other.

Speaking of beautiful girls, Mako-chan and Usagi-san were waiting for me at the school's front gate when Mizuno-san and I finished with the class duties.. "Hello, Robu-sama! Oh, hi, Ami-chan. Did Robu-sama tell you that we're his harem?"

Wait a minute. Did Usagi-san say "sama"? And why wasn't anybody else reacting to that announcement? Did I have a second metahuman power to make everybody else not care about the results of my first metahuman power? Stupid genre conventions.

Mizuno-san answered Usagi-san. "He did. And I asked for his permission to join you."

Usagi-san took Mizuno-san's hands in her own. "That's great! We can all keep Robu-sama happy!"

"Since there's four of us now, we're going to need to stop for groceries on the way home," Mako-chan announced. Then she added with a smile, "Unless Robu-sama would rather enjoy something other than food...?"

"Oooooh, that sounds gooood..." The most frightening thing about that statement was that it came from Usagi-san and Mizuno-san in unison.

It seemed that nobody cared that I hadn't agreed to any of this; it was a done deal. And how in the world was I supposed to handle three girlfriends on a full-time basis? No, not full-time; two of them have something to do that wasn't "cater to my desires". Hurry up and discover that you're Sailor Jupiter, Mako-chan, so you can join them.

Yes, of course Naru, Ichigo, Minako, and Rei join the harem later, in that order. And I did mention that this is an April 1 update, right? Smile

Be happy that this didn't happen in the actual story, because this sort of Marty Stu genre convention is in my opinion one of the stupidest of all.

Oh, yes... a status update for the real story. Chapter 3, without the above change, is currently at 89 kB.
On the off-chance that somebody is reading this (the utter lack of response to the April First post makes me wonder)...

Chapter three is approximately halfway through its allocated byte count, but only a quarter of the way through its planned time to be covered. And that's with using montages to cover the boring bits so far. I might end up changing a few things in it. Or I might split the chapter. Or maybe I'll just let it run longer than usual.

One thing that isn't likely to change is the very beginning of the chapter, so here's a teaser.

Quote:Oh, good. It wasn't a euphemism; we really were sent to another dimension.

Wait – "we" or just "Makoto and I"? Looking around quickly, I saw Ryou-san and Ami getting up off the ground... and Ryou-san favouring his left ankle. I quietly thanked whoever was responsible for a small miracle; we were still together. And it looked like I was the last to recover from our trip. Well, somebody had to be last.
I'm still reading. Good snippet, and looking forward to the next chapter.
I am reading. I just usually do not comment.
With the third chapter currently at 136 kb, I thought I'd present a few rejected ideas for the other dimension that Ami, Makoto, Ryou, and Robu have been sent to. If you were hoping to see any of these... sorry.

What's the most likely destination? Oh, right:

Quote:We were dumped out of the dimensional vortex into deep space. As I hugged my dearest, my final thought was of how much I wished we could survive in a vacuum...

While that might be the most statistically likely scenario, there's nowhere to go with that setup. Rejected.

So, let's forget statistics and go with what lets me tell a story.

Quote:It had been over two decades since we'd been dumped onto this world. We had learned which plants are edible, which animals to stay away from, and how severe the winters could get.

Now, we had a small farm. Makoto and I had two daughters, while Ryou and Ami had two sons... and the children were at the age where they were wondering about the biological differences between them.

But then, one evening, there were lights in the sky and a crashed shuttle from a spaceship - the Star Leaf.

It looks like the Adam and Eve scenario we had going was suddenly bigger than we thought.

Possible, although it would be a serious change in tone, but it's been ages since I last watched Gall Force. And if I'm not going to go with the original, I'm certainly not going to go with a knockoff of the idea, like new-BSG. Rejected.

Quote:We were dumped out of the dimensional vortex in front of our school. But it wasn't our school despite looking exactly like it; the sign out front read Crossroads Junior High School.

Ah, no.


We've been dropped into dubbed Sailor Moon, haven't we?

Confirmation of that came quickly, when a particular twin-tailed blonde ran over to see what all the fuss was all about. "Amy? Lita? How'd you get here so fast? What are you doing back here, Greg? And who's this other guy you're with?"

Shoot me now. At least Usagi has redeeming qualities - Serena's a total airhead.

By necessity, that would involve too much Complaining About Dubs I Don't Like. Rejected.

Quote:We were dumped out of the dimensional vortex into a desert. Not a completely abandoned desert, though. We were dropped into the lap - literally, in Makoto's case - of a blond man wearing grey biker's leathers who was cooking an iguana over a campfire. He looked at her in surprise and asked, "Makoto? How did you get here?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but I have no idea who you are. Or where here is," she added as I helped her up.

"Right. Ed and Minerva warned me that this could happen. Hello, my name's Doug Sangnoir."

Somewhat tempting, but then I'd have to ask Bob to co-write the chapter (even if he doesn't mind fanfic of his character, it's still polite to ask)... and he's busy. Rejected.
(05-13-2023, 02:43 PM)robkelk Wrote: [ -> ]Somewhat tempting, but then I'd have to ask Bob to co-write the chapter (even if he doesn't mind fanfic of his character, it's still polite to ask)... and he's busy. Rejected.

My answer to this sentiment has always been 'sure, but do you do the same for every setting and character you are borrowing?'
(05-13-2023, 06:50 PM)hazard Wrote: [ -> ]
(05-13-2023, 02:43 PM)robkelk Wrote: [ -> ]Somewhat tempting, but then I'd have to ask Bob to co-write the chapter (even if he doesn't mind fanfic of his character, it's still polite to ask)... and he's busy. Rejected.

My answer to this sentiment has always been 'sure, but do you do the same for every setting and character you are borrowing?'

I do for the writers I can contact. This is one reason why we have to retcon so much of My Apartment Manager is not an Isekai Character - one past writer has said that we can't use some ideas, so to be polite we aren't using as many of that writer's ideas as possible.
So basically, for the writers you can contact you use their characters and ideas with their permission, or you do not use their characters and ideas at all.

But for the writers you cannot contact you will use their characters and ideas without their permission.
Yeah, pretty much. I know it's a double standard. It is the standard used throughout the entertainment industry, though.
Loving this, Rob. Got me some old-school vibes Big Grin
Aargh. The third chapter is about to hit 150kb out of a planned 200kb. However, I'm only halfway through the narrative, not three-quarters of the way through. And that's with liberal uses of montages.

Does anybody mind an extra-long chapter, or am I going to have to either split or mercilessly edit this one? You've got at least a month to reply...
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