Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon nor Dresden Files. If I did, Moon would not be so useless, and fans would burn me at the stake for destroying Harry's awesomeness

The Senshi Files: Silver Warden
File 01: Lightning Strikes
By Irritus185/Raithe

I've always dreaded venturing into the Nevernever. It didn't matter how prepared I was, how necessary it was, or how much time it saved; the idea of stepping into the equivalent of Wonderland on steroids always triggered the deep, primitive, reptilian section of my hindbrain. Whenever I opened a tear into that pseudo-dimension, I instinctively envied those preternatural creatures that literally had eyes in the back of their head. At least then I would have a better chance of seeing the slobbering beasts that enjoyed sneaking up on travelers.

Perhaps it was the creatures inhabiting the Nevernever, which made my side of reality's big-and-uglies look like neutered bunnies in comparison. Perhaps it was because of the various sections of the Nevernever that reflected some of the darker aspects of human nature, like the demesnes created by ghosts. Perhaps it was the power structures full of beings that seemed so similar to us humans, and yet were so alien that trying to comprehend them would twist your brain into Gordian knots.

Personally, I think it was because the Nevernever treated the natural laws of our universe not so much as iron-clad rules that should always be followed, but rather as guidelines from a concerned friend. Such examples included sudden shifts between vastly-different ecosystems, gravity keeping a lax eye of matter, and creatures that upset the food chain in extremely disturbing ways.

And then there was the fact that even though it was in late March, and therefore in the firm hands of Spring and all things green, I was trekking my way through a blizzard-torn landscape that would make any decent Chicagoite weave such a blanket of obscenities that it would blot out the sun over much of downtown. It didn't help that I was within Winter Court territory - whose leader Mab could freeze helium with barely a thought - and thus the area took extra delight in chilling anything or anyone foolish enough to trespass.

With icicles growing from my nose, I wished for nothing more than to be back at my basement dwelling, curled up in front of a roaring fire with my burgeoning mammodog Mouse acting as a big, furry blanket. However, I had a mission to complete, and come hell or high water, I would get it done.

Even if my precious package did not exactly share my sentiments.

"Papa, are we there yet?" asked a female voice that had that perfect mixture of annoyance and exasperation that only a young woman just inside her volatile teenage years could manifest.

I looked over my shoulder and grinned behind my crudely-stitched scarf. "What's wrong, kiddo? The morning air too brisk for you?"

Puffs of air erupted from her mouth as she sulked, and she crossed her arms. "I'd stick my tongue out at you, but I'm afraid it'd fall off."

I shrugged. "My victory then."

Her lips quirked up the smallest bit. "Meanie." She tucked a stray strand of brown hair back into her wool cap and brushed past me. "Just for that, no side dish for you when I make dinner." I chuckled at her act of rebellion and watched her forge ahead of me.

Makoto Kino, now Makoto Kino Dresden, had been my legally adopted daughter going on five years now. Ever since I'd 'saved' her from a bunch of marauding supernatural creatures, she'd been my pride and joy through the somewhat tumultuous days of my life. Though considering she'd been the one to fry the goblins attacking her like an overgrown bug-zapper, perhaps it would be better to say that she had been a major cause of some of my chaotic adventures.

Both raising a kid (and a young, foreign girl at that) and training a newbie magic user had put quite the strain on my lifestyle, if you could even call it that. There were many times that I had thrown my hands up at the trouble a burgeoning mini-me had brought, and many times that I'd sunk into despair and terror at the thought and occasional reality that someone could harm me through her. But through it all, I had kept her safe, she had grown on me, and I considered her my own, even if we weren't related by blood.

The trouble of adopting her was something else all together, and it was a victory that I consider more difficult and pyrrhic than I've had with any other villain I've faced. To owe a favor to that man, even if I knew he would never overtly shove it in my face, was a blow to my pride I could never forgive. Still, I had to be grateful that it allowed me to watch over Makoto, no matter how much it tasted like ash in my mouth.

Disregarding that, I came to discover the same joy and anxiety that all fathers watching their daughters go through puberty felt.

With brown hair pulled into a stylish ponytail, green eyes, and a build similar to my own, Makoto could easily pass as my biological daughter, and growing up had only strengthened those similarities. Puberty had been very kind to Makoto; even though she was mostly Japanese, her bit of Caucasian heritage granted her a height and build that surpassed even some of her all-American classmates. This made it doubly funny when she grew tall enough to tower over my friend Murphy even though she was barely through middle school. I still wouldn't let the petite cop live it down, and the dislocated shoulder I received when I'd pushed her too hard once was a rather memorable reminder.

Still completely worth it.

Now, perhaps I should reiterate this: Puberty had been very kind to my daughter. I don't know if it had been the all-American diet of meat and more meat I'd raised her on or her mixed blood or what, but Makoto had gained a curvy quality that made me eye all similarly-aged males like they were hungry wolves and she was a lamb dinner. The number of boys I had to beat off her with my staff was far too large for my liking. I guess I should be grateful that Makoto was such an adorable little daddy's girl that she never even noticed.

Raising a kid with hero worship was a lot more difficult than advertised, mind you. You'd think that someone who'd hang onto your every word (and limbs at times) would follow your orders, and for the most part, Makoto did...as long as I was actually watching her. Around me, she was the picture-perfect daughter - sweet, demure, reeking of faux-femininity. However, the second she out of my line of sight and earshot she'd transform into a little hellion, causing all sorts of trouble in the name of 'justice'.

She became widely known as bane to all bullies, and I became widely known to the school's administration.

Who would've guessed that witnessing me throw myself into harm's way on a constant basis for the sake of others while never giving a moment's thought to my own safety would influence her in such a way?

My thoughts were interrupted by Makoto's voice cutting through the low wail of the snow. "Don't tell me you're having trouble walking, papa. You're not old enough yet for your body to break down." There was a short pause, and then she continued on, a teasing quality to her words. "Though you are in your early thirties, and that is pretty ancient."

Did I also mention that hanging around me for so long turned her into a bit of a smartass?

I gave a deep sigh and trundled up next to her, looping an arm around her shoulder and pulling her face into my chest. "If anything's making me age rapidly, it's having to clean up after your little evil-hunting adventures. If I start going gray early, I'm holding you accountable."

I could feel her muffled giggles. "Whatever do you mean? I'm just your sweet, little baby girl. I wouldn't do anything that would trouble my papa." Noticeably, she kept her eyes firmly away from my own and focused straight on my chest. There was no need to worry about a soulgaze - the wizardly phenomenon of viewing a person's deepest, most intimate being - as we had already shared one the first time we met, but she was still my daughter, and we both knew that she couldn't hide anything from me, no matter how hard she tried.

If this was what my friend Michael Carpenter had to go through with his late-teen Molly, then I had a whole new level of respect for the man, even more so than I already did. And he had another girl ready to enter the breach. Thank heaven for that man's saintly patience; I doubted I could survive another.

Makoto wiggled around and snuggled underneath my arm, pulling me closer. She rubbed her hands together and on her face, trying to regain some warmth. The cheer from our bantering subsided a bit, allowing her ire at the cold to settle back in again. "Why couldn't I be a pyromancer or something? Be a lot more useful than being a glorified sparkplug."

"Yeah," I agreed. "Then you'd be like your old man, setting evil villains ablaze."

"And the surrounding buildings?" she added slyly.

"And the surrounding buildings," I sagely said. "But it wouldn't be our fault."

"You mean like with Daniel's birthday cake?"

Images of exploded cream and sugar flowed through my head, and then an advancing and very enraged Charity followed soon afterward. I held back a manly wince at the memory of her tongue lashing, which was shortly followed by the even more manly pastime of passing the buck "I still blame you and Mouse for that debacle.".

A small smile flitted back on Makoto's face at that, reinforcing the notion that I would forever lose any battle of wits with the fairer sex. Curse me and my chivalric tendencies.

Aside from that, trying to teach Makoto how to use her lightning magic had been slow-going. My forte was in the branches of fire, force, and wind magic. Although lightning could be construed as a subsidiary of air, it was still too vague for me to be a solid fountain of wisdom. As far as I could gather, Makoto's powers were based around the collection and redirection of pre-existing electricity; normally, she could attract and divert outside electrical sources, but if it was truly necessary she could amplify her natural bio-electricity and point it somewhere.

The time she used my beloved Blue Beetle as a power source nearly tipped the poor thing over the edge. I think that was the first time I'd ever really regretted trying to teach her how to use her magic.

Don't look at me like that! I love that Bug!

It was a bit strange being both a father and instructor when I couldn't really consider myself an expert in either field, but acting as both had actually managed to polish myself as well. Although Makoto worked in a branch different from my own, the same old tricks that had been drilled into me as a teen learning to use my powers worked just as well, and teaching them to her had made me push myself ahead in my own work and skills. Learning to spot holes or flaws in Makoto's spellslinging made it easier to notice my own, and though I hadn't improved the power of my spells because of the training, it had certainly improved my control and finesse over my more subtle thaumaturgic spells. Sometimes I wondered if-

I cut myself short at the thought. No, there was no need to dwell on such memories, as enlightening and painful as they were. I needed to forge ahead and create a new path, even if it meant cutting some of the ties I used to hold so dear. I had to, if I wanted to create a safe haven for my daughter.

I glanced at Makoto as her nose crinkled up in that way it did when she was annoyed but didn't feel like vocalizing it. She always was a bit sensitive and careful like that, but I don't think I've ever heard of a kid that didn't eventually let loose their heart's misgivings if they felt they were being pushed hard enough. And I did not want a kid who bottled things up inside: I've seen far too often the results of someone who never revealed their desires and hidden emotions until they either blew up or went nuts. So, it looked like I was going to have to do some pushing, Harry-style.

I ruffled her hair a bit rougher than normal, pushing her cap up and allowing the snow and sleet to pound on her already-tender ears. Makoto scowled as she pulled the hat back down, giving me a fierce glare that she had cultivated over many years. I smirked in that all-too-frustrating way back at her. "What's got your panties in a twist, kiddo? You not enjoying the trip?"

Hey, just because I'd been raising a girl didn't mean I had miraculously started being a lot more tactful. Makoto was much too much of a tomboy for her own good, after all.

Makoto cut her eyes away from me immediately and pulled my arm back over her shoulders, hiding a portion of her face from sight. "S'nothing."

"Really...?" I crooned. She glanced back at me and shrugged before hiding her face again. I sighed. "Makoto..."

"'S'not fair," she mumbled. Looking back up at me, she took my small nod as permission and began to unload. "It's not fair! Why do I have to stay in Japan? Why can't I stay in Chicago with you and big sis and the Carpenters and everyone else I know? I haven't lived in Japan for almost five years! I don't know anyone there! I don't...I don't want to leave!"

She shuddered for a moment, and I took the opportunity to pull her closer to me. She looked down, avoiding my gaze, and shook some more. Silly girl...

Sending Makoto to Japan had become something of a last resort to me. Things were heating up in Chicago, and I did not want my daughter anywhere near the powder keg it was turning into. Especially considering what had occurred just last October.

An old archenemy of mine - Hell's bell, did I really just say that? - a Black Court vampire by the name of Mavra, had procured my assistance in finding a text that played a large part in the ritualistic transformation of a person into a death god. Needless to say, in normal circumstances I would have told her to go cram my staff up her withered butt - and in fact I had - but she had press-ganged me into service by threatening one of my closest friends' career.

Murphy still didn't know she had almost lost her job, and magic willing, she never would.

Regardless, it became clear to me that even though I was pretty safe from most forms of blackmail or threats, my associates weren't. My enemies had hurt my loved ones to hurt me before, and they would do so again, so I had only one choice left to me besides glassing whatever hole those scum crawled up from - I had to remove my loved ones from the equation.

Nowhere was this more apparent than with Makoto. The little superhero in her would not hesitate one second before jumping into the fray if she thought it was for the greater good or would help me, but I simply couldn't allow her to risk herself - for me or anyone. Perhaps it was selfish, but simply imagining her in the grasp of some of the trash I had fought made me willing to sacrifice anyone else as long as she was safe.

So, she had to go - away from me and away from danger. The problem was deciding just where to send her.

Murphy was right out - She fell headfirst into danger just as much as I did, so she wouldn't be very good company in that respect. Plus, she had been targeted once already, so that was doubly dangerous.

I couldn't burden Michael. His family had already suffered once because of me, and I doubted I would survive the event if something happened to him or his own. Charity would make sure of that.

My third choice was actually another reason to ship Makoto off: I had recently come in to the knowledge that I had a half-brother on my mother's side, Thomas Raith. That was awkward enough as it was, but it also turned out that he was a White Court vampire. The White Court sustained their life force by feeding off particular emotions of their victims, and the Raith family centered around lust. This basically translated to him being an incubus. So leaving a teenage daughter rife with hormones around him was begging for a disaster to happen.

Not that I didn't trust Thomas - the man was technically Makoto's uncle, which is something I wish had remained a secret. Unfortunately, I've discovered that trying to keep a secret from an inquisitive child is like trying to stop infrastructure from bursting into flames around me when I'm worked up. Still, there's no way he would have tried anything on her. The same could not be said for Makoto - daddy's girl or not, Thomas's charm could melt any woman's unmentionables. Considering that he'd recently lost his true love, been exiled from the Raith family, and unceremoniously dumped into my apartment, the man did not need to be bothered any further.

My last choice was my last for a reason. Ebenezar McCoy had been my savior when I was younger. After I had killed Justine DuMorne, my accursed adoptive father and first master in magic, I had been on trial for the crime of killing a human with magic. The seven laws of magic were very strict - you break one for any reason, and off goes your head. Even though I had killed the man in self-defense, I had still killed him. I had wanted to kill him.

The White Council rarely ventured into semantics with rule-breaking; the result was what mattered, not the intent. Had it not been for Ebenezar, I would have just been another bloodstain on a Warden's sword. For that, I could never repay that man. He saved me, took me into his home, raised me, and taught me what it was to really use magic, to truly appreciate what it meant to have this wonderful gift.

And it was a gift. Magic was the energy of life, the very bonds that kept the universe together. You could do anything with magic, anything at all, but at the same time you had to respect it, to use it for the right reasons. To use it for wrong or selfish ones would taint you, leading you into a downward spiral of depravity with only one end - the sharp, clean end of a blade.

So to find out that my savior, my teacher, my friend was the Blackstaff, the wet-works man for the White Council, the only person with the privilege to defy the laws of magic with no consequences? It was the greatest betrayal I had ever felt. He had taught me that magic was pure, was clear as the mountain spring, was life itself, and it had all been a lie. He had killed, maimed, twisted, altered, plucked - all for the greater good.

He had always been the monster he'd warned me about.

When I first found out, I had shunned him, ignored him, denied him. It was all I could do, all I could handle without letting myself fall apart. As time passed, I came to understand who he was. He might not be the white knight I'd idolized him as, but he was still a hero. He did what no other person could do, what no one else wanted to admit was the right thing, even if it wasn't the right way.

Even so, I couldn't forgive him, not yet. It was petty, I know, refusing the man who had saved my life, molded me into who I was today - but the wounds still ran deep, and not enough time had passed. Perhaps they would heal, and perhaps they would not, but until then...until then...

I would simply have to wait.

So, in essence, I was left with my other last choice - shipping Makoto back to her homeland of Japan. It was actually a much easier endeavor than I had initially thought. Since my induction into the Wardens, I had become recognized as something other than the ticking time-bomb some of the older and more inflexible members of the White Council thought me as. Instead, I was seen as a bit of celebrity by the fresh-faced newbies being hastily shoved into the ranks thanks to the ongoing war between the Council and the Red Court vampires.

Riding a zombie t-rex to save a bunch of trick-or-treaters from a veritable zombie apocalypse on Halloween can really give you some serious street cred.

Thanks to the recently instated South-East Asia Regional Commander - a young, up-and-coming Japanese native - Makoto would have a safe place to hide and attempt to live a normal life (or as normal as a budding magical girl could be, at least) while things cooled down back in Chicago. It especially helped that Japan was firmly in the territory of the secretive Jade Court; even after hundreds of years, there was almost no information about that last Court, except for two things - they liked to stay out of the limelight, and they were extremely territorial. There was no documented case of the Red, White, or Black courts managing to expand into the area, and the few known cases of some actually trying usually ended with them disappearing under mysterious circumstances.

So, considering that I had managed to piss off, one way or another, every other vampire court in existence, I found it doubly reassuring to place Makoto in the one place they would never be stupid enough to try and invade for such a petty reason.

Shaking off foreboding thoughts, I tightened my grip around my daughter. "It's only for a little while. Just until things settle down back home." She grunted sullenly. I sighed internally; I never was good at comforting, and even with a daughter on my hands, I still never got into the whole gooey, emotional fretting and commiserating thing.

So I did what I do best: I poked fun at the situation until she either responded or shocked me into submission.

"I don't know why you're so disappointed. You'll be back in Japan, home of all that asinine entertainment you love! Think about it - no more having to scrounge around in bootleg stores for those weird backwards comics of yours, no more having to order things through Michael and Charity instead of doing it yourself because you blew out the local library's computer monitor, and you can finally find people who speak that crazy moon-language of yours!"

Makoto was still and silent, but only for a moment; then she snorted and my arm around her momentarily went numb as she pumped a little static-electricity into it. "You're a real jerk sometimes, you know that, papa?"

"Would a jerk be lugging around this armoire you call luggage through frozen tundra when a perfectly healthy young woman could do it herself?" I mocked, slightly lifting the large travel-bag my daughter had packed for her extended stay. I wasn't joking, either - the Ways didn't exactly have car-friendly roads, so any carrying had to be done by hand. Dragging along a basic suitcase with the bare essentials was a tedious experience I hoped to never have to go through again. Already my arm felt like it was going to fall off.

Why didn't I send it via airmail? Considering both my and Makoto's experiences with flight, I wouldn't be surprised if her luggage simply vanished into thin air in that metal atrocity called a plane.

Pins and needles raced through my arm as she pinched me. "A chivalric jerk, yes." Though she was still sniffling, I could definitely see the corners of her lips perking up.

"Alas, I supposed my niceties towards women defeat me at every turn."

This time, she laughed. "You're such a goofball." Her giggling tapering off, and she grasped my hand with hers. "You promise to at least visit me every so often? You know, when you're not too busy saving the world?"

I smiled and leaned over. "Wild Outsiders couldn't keep me away, Sparky," I murmured with a peck to her forehead. She murmured something nonsensical in response, and then the two of us fell into relative silence as we continued onward. The uneasiness was still there, but at least it had been diminished for the time being.

After a short while, the rocky landscape transformed into something more exotic. Looking around, I noticed that we seemed to have walked into a forest of some type, though it was one of the oddest I'd ever come across, even in the Nevernever.

There were trees, ferns, shrubs, even flowers, so that wasn't odd. No, what was odd was the fact that they were made completely out of ice. Like glorious ice sculptures crafted by the most obsessive artist in the world, every single work was meticulously cut to represent some form of plant life. Light refracted through their almost alien geometries, casting an ethereal illumination throughout the clearing we were in.

Something alighted onto my shoulder, a crisp chill touching my flesh even through the layers of clothing. Picking it up carefully, I was shocked to see it was an icy leaf. There was no organic material within its crystallized form, but its anatomy was almost identical to that of a cherry blossom petal. Slowly, due to the warmth of my body, it melted back into pure water and disappeared.

See, this is what freaked me out about the Nevernever. As beautiful as this scene was, it violated pretty much all laws of biology and physics, turning a winter wonderland into something out of a sugar-laden Lovecraft novel.

Pulling an awed Makoto along with me, I made my way to where the ice blossoms were coming from - a large, crystaline cherry blossom tree. The branches were making a tinkling sound as the wind blew through them, adding to the eldritch feeling of the place.

Well, at least now I knew that the Japanese warden had been completely serious and it wasn't a translation error on my part when he said to find where the 'ice sakura' was. Still, this was just odd.

In any case, I drew Makoto's attention back to me, startling her out of whatever amazing fantasy she was concocting in her head. She looked dazed for a moment before refocusing, and nodded. I nodded back before placing a hand on the tree's frozen trunk.


With that single pseudo-Latin word, I ripped an opening between the Nevernever and the real world. Almost like improperly cut fabric, a gap opened where the tree trunk originally was, and I could see through it onto the scene of an idyllic-looking park. Making sure the coast was clear, I stepped through the gap, Makoto following closely behind.

Once both of us were out, I spoke again and close the gap behind us. Almost immediately, I began to sweat, the sheer difference in temperature between Tokyo and the Nevernever making itself apparent. I quickly stripped off my winter coat, catching Makoto doing the same out of the corner of my eye. What we were wearing underneath was still a bit too warm for springtime, but it was much more bearable than before.

Taking a look around, I took note of where we had emerged. We seemed to be in a section of the nature park the warden had directed us to come out of, right next to a large cherry blossom that overlooked a hill. Luckily, there weren't any trails around us, so we wouldn't have to worry about people becoming alarmed at witnessing us appearing from nowhere.

Gathering up my coat and Makoto's luggage, I motioned for her to follow and made my way to the trail so that we could leave the park and get to the apartment complex the warden had set up for us. She quickly caught up, grabbing my arm again and smiling way too adorably to be completely innocent.

I rolled my eyes, tilted my head, and dragged her along. It wasn't a perfect beginning to a great idea, but then again, neither were the two of us. Still, it was a beautiful day, my daughter would be safe, and there was only so much trouble she could get into while staying here.

All in all, I think everything was looking up.

My papa is twenty-percent cooler than everyone else. He's tall, kinda handsome in a rakish way, smooth with the ladies (even if half of them either want to kill him or draw him to the dark side,) and a great papa. Sure, he can't cook to save his life, flammable objects tend to spontaneously combust in his wake, and he won't wear that awesome hat I got him for his birthday, but he still has one thing going for him that no one else I know has.

He's a superhero.

No, really, I'm totally serious about this. He's got everything - the powers, the secret base, being part of a large group meant to stop bad guys from taking over the world. Ok, so maybe his costume could use a little work, and he's pretty much beaten the tar out of his secret identity (what with him advertising himself in the phone book and all), but still: He's a superhero and he saves people.

I should know - he saved me from a bunch of really creepy monsters that were trying to eat me because I actually managed to survive them crashing a plane. He says that I did most of the work, what with me frying them like I was flinging tasers all over the place, but the fact that he raced halfway across the city to save me just because he wanted to is proof enough of his heroics. And because of that, I really want to follow in his footsteps and learn how to save people using my own special powers.

How do you do? I'm Makoto Kino Dresden, hero-in-training - no missing pet too hard to find, no bully too tough to beat, no electronic device I can't charge (though I might fry it before it reaches full capacity).

Finding out you're a veritable magic girl is really cool, and having a bona-fide wizard as your dad and mentor makes it even more awesome! He might always be going on about being careful with my powers and to only use them when I absolutely have to, but I've seen papa whip out his wand and blast a baddie without even thinking about it, and if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Of course, I'm not so dumb as to outright disobey him and his rules. I've seen what happens when you just jump into problems without having either the preparation or the intelligence to fight your way out. I see it every time papa takes off his glove to do his daily exercises with the smoked remains of what used to be his hand. You might have magic to back you up, but it's nothing more than a skill-set; there's no one thing that can fix every problem you come across.

Sometimes that nail you see might just rebound into your face if you hit it with your hammer.

In any case, my papa was still the best. He could use magic, he'd saved oodles of people, the city of Chicago, and probably the world on several occasions, and he still managed to set aside enough time and energy to raise an orphan like me. I know he sacrificed a lot so that he could legally adopt me, especially now that I'm older and I've seen the type of people he's dealt with, so there's no way I can't listen to what he says when I know he's just trying to do what's best for me.

Still, that doesn't mean I can turn a blind eye to injustice around me. If I see wrongs happening right in front of me, I have to do something about it! Just like the heroes in the comics and cartoons papa's always teasing me about.

I don't care what he says - defeat can totally lead to friendship if you just try hard enough! ...It just hasn't happened to me yet. You'd think people would be impressed by your ability to dropkick a jerk off the monkey bars when he's shaking kids down for their lunch money, but nooo, you get sent to the principal's office about how that's 'dangerous' and 'not appropriate for a young lady your age' and 'bones aren't meant to bend that way.'

Even with all the trouble I might have caused (and I still say it was in the name of justice!), I was still reluctant to move back to Japan. I knew of the danger papa was afraid of - hell's bells, I'd seen some of the horrors he fought and had been on the receiving end of one or two or three of them - but it was still my home, even if I'd only spent a third of my life there. I'd made friends, had a new family, found new people to learn from and live with and love. Even if it was only temporary, I didn't want to leave them all behind.

Plus, my Japanese was pretty rusty from not being around the language 24/7, and I was not looking forward to trying to decipher all the new kanji I'd invariably come across; I'd barely started learning them when I left Japan!

Still, I was in Japan now, and I had to make the most of it. And at least papa would stay with me long enough to get me settled in and make sure I was 100% safe, the paranoid dope.

My first morning back in Tokyo started like any other. I hit the switch to my wind-up alarm clock just as it started ringing, rose groggily out of the futon, and gave a muffled yawn. It would take a little longer to get my internal clock used to the new time zone, but I was always good at getting up. Changing sleep schedules before we left helped, as well.

Making sure not to wake papa up, I padded across the small family-unit apartment, curling my toes appreciatively at the feeling of tatami mats under my soles. I'd always enjoyed the tightly-woven texture, and having the chance to do so again after so long made me sink into sweet nostalgia.

The apartment the warden had set up for us was a one-room mansion located in a small apartment complex in the Azabu-Juuban neighborhood of Tokyo. It was small and cozy and, I was happy to note, very low tech. As was much of the rest of the neighborhood, funnily enough. I loved how people back in Chicago thought that Japan was some huge tech giant, with high-tech gadgets in every house and everything being automated. That couldn't be further from the truth; although Japan was a huge exporter of electronic goods, it actually wasn't all that big on technology in the common household. Leave that to electric meccas like Shinjuku and Akihabara.

Even when I was young and still living with my biological parents, the fanciest piece of machinery we had was our AC unit. So it was pretty easy to transition to an actual icebox and wood-burning stove, even if that brought a whole different mess of problems and it made it hard to get papa to start eating home-cooked meals instead of dining out at old man Mac's all the time (even if he did make a really good steak.)

Still, I learned, and today would be no different. I even woke up extra-early so that I could make both breakfast and a bento for each of us. I had a gas burner, a rice cooker, all the cooking utensils I wanted, and a full icebox, all courtesy of that nice regional warden.

Setting the rice to cook, I got started on the rest of the meal. The classic breakfast was eggs over easy with soy sauce, rice, miso soup, and a small salad. All tasty and neat and healthy. Papa really was over-reliant on cheap fast-food, and while it was okay to eat, it wasn't healthy at all. Even though papa had started running (usually as the result of a horrific abomination trying to eat him), that still wasn't enough to offset his daily calorie intake thanks to those fried meals of lard. If there was one thing I didn't want, it was a tubby papa.

As I went into auto-pilot, cooking and mixing and adding and tasting, my mind went back to when papa first adopted me. I was scared and lonely and had no one to turn to. My parents were my only relatives, being only children themselves and their own parents long since gone, and I was left in a foreign land with the sudden knowledge that I could shoot lightning bolts from my hands. I was terrified, to say the least.

And then papa came dashing in like a super sentai and fixed all my problems. Well, he tried to anyway; he wasn't exactly the smoothest operator when it came to child-rearing, but he did his best and I have close-to-zero complaints.

I still think he should make me his sidekick in crime-fighting, though.

Also, there were so many things I still didn't know about papa! Kinda weird, since I saw directly into his very soul when we first met - that whole magical soulgaze thingy and all - and whenever I wanted to learn what he was doing I could always ask Bobbu, but…

Some things would always be hidden, and there were certainly some new things since he adopted me that I still didn't quite get.

Placing breakfast onto the low table, I silently walked back over to where papa was still asleep. He always had bad sleeping posture, and this morning was no exception - his arms were flung about, his legs tangled in his sheets, his mouth wide open yet not snoring.

Not very dignified, papa.

How could a man that was so open when he was asleep be able to keep so many secrets? Like, when did he learn to speak Japanese so well? Just last month, he could only hold a basic conversation using polite language, and his accent was atrocious. Even after making it his own personal crusade to learn Japanese well enough so that I could keep a part of my heritage with me, he sounded like, well, like how a Japanese person trying to sound like an American trying to speak Japanese sounds - really silly.

So I was expecting to be all kinds of embarrassed when we made contact with the apartment manager as he stumbled over the words, but he took me completely by surprise by not only speaking the language perfectly, but almost erasing his American accent as well! What, was there some kind of translation magic I wasn't aware of? And if there was, why hadn't he ever told me? Was he just waiting to see my slack-jawed expression?

Oh wait, this was papa, of course he was.

Pursing my lips, I looked down at the sleeping man. Men who made their daughters look like idiots needed to be punished. Deciding on that course of action, I pinched his nose. It took a couple seconds, but then he started to sputter in his sleep, jolted once, and then opened his eyes. By the time he was awake, however, I had already removed my hand and was sitting at attention, seiza style, a good foot from him.

I beamed, closing my eyes, and hoping that the smile I wore didn't betray the actual source of my mirth. "Morning, papa!"

He let out a short, punctuated snort. "Morning, kiddo." Sitting up carefully and crossing his legs, he shot a hand out and ruffled my hair a bit more forcefully than normal. "How'd you sleep?"

"Fine. You?"

"Fine. Right up until I stopped being able to breathe."

Keep eye contact. Don't look away. That's how you lose. "Really?" I kept my tone as neutral and innocent as possible. "Maybe it was ghosts?" What? Ghosts were real.

"Right...ghosts..." He kept his eyes leveled on me for another impossibly long second before snorting again and removing his hand. "So, what's for breakfast?"

I smiled brightly and led him over to the low table before setting out the meal in front of us. With a short rendition of "Let's eat," which I know papa totally slaughtered on purpose considering it's been a ritual since he took me in, we dug into the meal I prepared. I was pleased to note that the quality of the meal was a bit higher than usual. Guess food prepared from the same place the ingredients came from tastes better. Or maybe that was just whimsical thinking.

Papa was no help in that regard; he simply ate his food like a man, complimenting me on my improving skills like he always did. I couldn't help but feel myself blush at his brusque but affectionate comments. I knew I was pretty much a hopeless tomboy, but I did want to be my papa's little princess even if he knew my true self. Cooking was a fun and feminine hobby, and it made me proud to note that I was pretty much the only real feminine influence in papa's life - no offense to big sis or auntie Charity.

I giggled at the few bits of rice clinging to his scruffy chin, and he looked at me with a bewildered expression before I plucked them off. Papa rolled his eyes and rubbed his cheek with his sleeve before returning to his meal. We sat and ate in comfortable silence before papa broke it.

"So, you ready to transfer into your new school?"

"I guess." I shrugged. "It's definitely going to be awkward."

"Not as much as you think, probably. You're not transferring in the middle of the year, after all." He smirked, giving that roguish smile that I knew made female friends and foes alike want to simultaneously swoon and punch him in the face. "You can thank this country's messed up school year for that." He chuckled roughly. "What kinda education system makes the students come to a new school right before summer break? It's like they're asking the kids to play hooky."

I quirked an eyebrow. "We aren't all juvenile delinquents like you were at my age, papa."

"I wasn't a juvenile delinquent! I simply... had a legacy of misspent youth." He grumbled at my short burst of giggling, his face contorted in the most adorable way. Papa would never admit to it, but he was so cute when he was embarrassed. Like a puppy who had just taken its chew toy taken from it. He cleared his throat in an attempt to side-track the conversation. "What about your uniform? You gonna be ok wearing your old track suit?"

It was my turn to frown cutely and grumble. I don't know what the problem was with Japan, but why was everyone so short? Sure, the average height of the Japanese population had increased over the last century, but I still felt like I was a hulking brute compared to other girls my age. I was never really that troubled by it back in Chicago - while still one of the tallest girls in my class, I wasn't the tallest and I didn't exactly tower over most of the rest - but I suddenly felt super awkward when I was walking with papa on the way to the apartment and all these little 'kawaii' girlies passed by me, so petite and slender that I knew they would trip any guy's 'protect' instincts in an instant.

Not that I was rushing to find a guy to protect me; I could take care of myself, thank you very much, and I had papa. No guy anywhere near my age could even hold a candle to him. Kinda hard to find an interesting boy when they all paled in comparison to the super-awesomeness that was my papa.

Still, it irked me that, because of my larger-than-average stature, there weren't any school uniforms that fit me. The standard ones were several sizes too small for me, so we couldn't just grab one off the rack at a store - if I wanted one, we'd have to get one custom-ordered. I... wasn't really looking forward to that. Luckily, with the help of the regional warden, I had gotten permission to simply wear a track suit while at school. Even better, I could quickly order some of the male-sized uniforms and wear those once I got more settled in.

Of course, that would just make me stick like an even sorer thumb, and I did not relish that thought. As long gone as I'd been from Japan, I still remembered the old motto of, "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down." I knew I was gonna catch enough flak just because of my personality; probably wouldn't help to stand out visually, as well.

Papa must have noticed my discomfort, because he followed up his question with his usual method of diffusing tension - acting like a goober. I yelped when something splatted on my face. Finally focusing back on the present, I saw that he had flicked some grains of rice at me, a shit-eating grin plastered across his face.

"You with me again, Sparky?"

I pulled off the grains and ate them, sticking out my tongue when I was finished. "You should know better than to waste food." I said with a mock-sternness. "There are starving children in China."

His grin grew. "That's something only adults are allowed to say."

"Not if the adult is the one being fed by the child."

"Touché." There was a brief pause... and then he flicked a few more grains at me.

I sputtered at his bluntness before making a counter-attack. Soon, pieces of food were flying back and forth across the table as we used our chopsticks to launch whatever scraps and crumbs were left over from the main meal. It was going to be a nightmare to clean up, especially if the food got ground into the tatami mats, but I doubted present us were giving that any consideration, given the all-out food fight we had devolved into.

Soon, the exchange of scraps slowed, the two of us panting softly - not from exhaustion, but simply from laughing too hard at the sheer lunacy and silliness we had fallen into. Both of us were splotched with random bits of food and it was going to take some extra hard scrubbing to get the egg yolk out of papa's shirt, but the atmosphere had regained its levity - even if the cause had been so very, very stupid.

"Feeling better?" Papa asked. I nodded, and his grin tilted into something softer. "Good." He reached across the table and removed a piece of bread that had lodged itself in my bangs. "I know it's hard, kiddo, but I also know you're gonna be just fine here. No kid of Harry Dresden's is going to let something as stupid as a dress code get her down."

I sighed in hopeless exasperation. Trust papa to cheer me up with a spontaneous breakfast battle.

Papa continued to pick pieces of food off of me as he talked. "It'll only be for so long, and this is as safe a place for you I can find. Besides, it'll be healthy for you to get some reunion time with your home culture." He tweaked my nose, and I sniffed back a snort. "Just don't go crazy on me; don't want to come back and find out my daughter has become a gang leader while I was gone."

I did snort at that. "I think you've been reading some of my manga behind my back." He gave me a subdued smirk as he finished cleaning the debris from our culinary battle off of me. I rolled my shoulders and began to return the favor, sweeping my hands across his shoulder and chest to get rid of food. "Besides, I doubt I'd be a good one. Too much kanji involved."

"You're certainly better than me on that subject. All three of your written languages look like a kid got into an inkpot and scribbled out random symbols."

Oh no, he wasn't gonna get away with that kind of thing so easily. No way was I gonna let him brush off his sudden mastery of the language in less time than it took a native-speaker to relearn basic grammar.

"You're just too lazy to try and remember anything beyond your silly American language."

"Hey, I live in America, so that's all I need to know."

"You do realize that American is a dialect of English, right?"

"Don't point out my mistakes in basic language skills with your silly logic!" He trailed off when he noticed the smug look on my face. "What? You look like you just pulled one off on your old man." He glanced at himself briefly. "Did you do something to me when I wasn't looking?"

Well, nothing physical at least. I had, however, managed to trick him into revealing something. During our silly conversation, I'd slipped into using Japanese in the middle of a sentence. Without missing a beat, papa had continued to talk - in Japanese himself. I now knew that there was some magical tomfoolery afoot. There was no way papa was smart enough to just shift into a different language without even noticing what he'd done, especially through mundane means.

Papa frowned. "Seriously, Makoto, that grin of yours is starting to..." He stopped for a moment, his eyes rolling to the top left. He said nothing for a few moments and then heaved a great, annoyed sigh. "I'm not talking American, am I?"

If it was possible for my shit-eating grin to get bigger, it would've consumed my face just from that realization alone.

He grumbled and brushed off his shoulder. "You're starting to get too clever for your own good. Pretty soon I'm going to have to chain you to your bed so you don't start sneaking out at night for vigilante activities."

I wasn't that stupid. Papa was way too light a sleeper for me to even try to sneak out of that old, noisy apartment. Besides...Mouse would just pick me up and drag me back to bed before pinning me to the mattress with his shaggy mass. He was getting big.

"So...?" I leaned forward, switching back to English. "Will you tell me how you jumped from being largely incompetent in Japanese to a sudden grandmaster?" If it had something to do with Bobbu, I was so gonna bribe that horny skull with all the 18+ doujinshi I could get my hands on until he spilled all the awesome secrets in his vast library of knowledge.

Papa picked up his cup of green tea, something I'd been hammering into his palate, and took a long pull. He closed his eyes and hummed thoughtfully. "Ancient wizarding secret."

My grin drooped into an annoyed frown. "I'm fourteen. Everything is an ancient wizarding secret to me."

Papa opened one eye very briefly and stared at me. The corner of his lip quirked up. "So it is."

I pouted, not being able to help myself. "I'm not gonna get anything more out of you, am I?"

"You are wise beyond your years, grasshopper." He took another long, drawn-out, and rather noisy sip. "Not too wise, though."

I folded my arms and looked away, my pout growing. Ok, so that road of attack had failed, but at least I'd gotten some information out of it. As soon I got home, I was gonna grab Bobbu and hold him hostage until I plucked every last bit of info from him.

Wow, I sounded like a really cliché afterschool villain there. This was bothering me a lot more than I'd thought.

My thoughts were broken by another long slurp from papa drinking his tea. Facing him again, I saw that my shit-eating grin had transferred onto him. I just grumbled in the face of my surrender and went back to finishing off breakfast. Papa returned to his as well.

The two of us finished breakfast, chatting about random things as were wont to do, particularly about what we had planned for the day. While I went to my first day at a new school, papa would go to visit the warden and examine the safehouse I was going to live in during my stay in Japan. Knowing him, he would examine every nook and cranny and probably set up a dozen more wards on top of what was already there just to make sure nothing could get at me. I really loved my papa, but he could be a bit twitchy at times.

With the both of us dressed, me in my track suit and papa in his customary duster and carrying his whacking-stick, we made our way out of the apartment and into the fresh spring air of the surrounding neighborhood. The apartment was located in a lesser-traveled area of the Juuban district, so there wasn't much traffic aside from the two of us. It was nice and peaceful, and spoke of good fortune for the rest of the day. Rarely did papa and I get to just walk around without the constant worry that we were about to be assaulted by some random Nevernever creature or the like.

Ok, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but once you get ambushed by one animal of mystical background you tend to be wary of the next. We still get jumpy whenever parent-teacher night comes around.

We continued on in pointless conversation, him teasing me about all of Japan's strange idiosyncrasies that I knew he only learned just for that purpose, and me taking it all in stride like a good daughter would, nodding or making small noises of assent as his expressions grew more comical.

I got my revenge, though. When the two of were about to part ways, I swung my arms around papa's neck and, before he could even react, planted the biggest, sloppiest kiss I could on his cheek. An older Japanese woman caught the scene and made a few choice disparaging remarks, stomping off in a huff. The blush and pinched look on papa's face was completely worth all the teasing he'd dished out, and I just laughed before waving and running off.

He should be relieved that's all I did as payback - It was only a couple of years ago that I had stopped announcing to everyone with complete sincerity that I was going to be papa's bride. Saving a girl and then raising her as your own tends to have a large impact, especially when the girl was in the throes of 'white knight syndrome.' Kissing papa in public was a good several steps down from the total Electra complex I was rocking back then.

Fun side fact: that was also around the time "The Tale of Genji" was banned from our house and Bobbu was locked inside a stainless steel box for about a week. Let's just say that the two were related and leave it at that.

Now that putting papa in his place was in order, it was time to make a good first impression at my new school. I still was of the belief that staying in Japan was stupid, but papa only wanted what was best for me, so I couldn't argue too much. I just had to prove capable of taking care of myself, and maybe papa would put me on probation and take me home early!

I pumped my fists in front of me and nodded. Yeah! That would absolutely work! Now, all I had to do was find a way to prove myself and I would be on the fast track back home where all the real fun was.

It was at that point that Lady Luck threw me a fat ball down the middle. As I turned a corner, I came across a scene that nearly made me rub my eyes to make sure I wasn't just seeing things. Blinking, I realized that, yes, this was actually happening.

A young Japanese girl in a sailor fuku, probably around the same age as me, had dashed around a corner and smacked right into a trio of men who I could only describe as 'delinquency personified.' Bright, flashy clothing? Check. Hairdos that were dumb back in the 80s? Check. Language skills that made papa - well, past papa - sound like a professor? Check.

The girl had ran full-tilt into the smallest one and immediately bounced backwards, falling on her butt in the girliest manner possible. The delinquent she'd run into took one step back, then crashed to the ground like a wrecking ball had hit him instead of a girl that was probably only ninety pounds soaking wet. He immediately started screaming as though all his bones had snapped at once while his shifty friends began to accost the poor teen.

I knew a shakedown when I saw one. It happened often enough in Chicago, though not as blatant and not nearly as amateurish. And the bullies there certainly didn't pick on kids who were barely half their size and looked as defenseless as a bunny – there were too many people who would be perfectly willing to kick their asses if they tried it. Like me!

Well, good fortune was staring me right in the face, and there was no way I was going to let it get away from me - for both my sake and the girl's. Justice Mode Unlocked!

Heaving myself onto the ledge next to me, I got a much better view of the situation. Also, it made what I was about to do a whole lot easier and cooler. With a quick burst of speed, I rushed along the ledge before launching myself off it, foot extended forward and my classic battlecry bursting from my lips.

"Dynamic Entry!"

There was a squawk of surprise and pain when my foot made contact with the rear of the delinquent looming over the girl. He went flying forward, smacking the ground and sliding a good couple feet. There was a pregnant pause before the other two guys whirled on me with flabbergasted looks of anger and shock.

"The hell waz dat?!"

The shock may have also been because I had to scramble back to my feet after falling onto my butt from the drop kick. The movies made it seem way easier.

I smirked and rubbed a thumb under my nose. Ok, so papa said it was always best to try and scare away possible danger before actually engaging it in a fight, but these were normal, vanilla humans, and I'm pretty damn sure I could easily take them in a fight without having to worry about them being Grimm fairytale creatures in disguise. Besides, it felt really satisfying to give that one jerk a boot in the butt.

As much as papa would grumble if he saw it, I knew he'd agree with me even if he'd never say it out loud.

Of course, what I did next would most likely result in both a grounding and dope-slap to the back of the head if he ever found out.

"What kinda men are you, picking on a little girl like that? All she did was bump into you and you gang up on her like that?" I formed my hand into a thumbs-down and stuck out my tongue. "As long as justice lives, I'll never let jerks like you get away with crimes like that."

"And who da the hell are ya to tell us what ta do?"

I grinned. "Just a justice-loving gal with superheroing as a hobby."

Oh stars and stones - monologuing. If there was one thing papa hated more than a needless fight, it was monologuing. Papa said it was the sort of thing that only belonged in comic books, and that people who did it were much too full of themselves. But it was just so fun! Oh well, what papa didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

My awesome speech must've riled up the remaining two delinquents even more than my surprise flying kick, because the largest of them - a specimen that was the living embodiment of steroids - took the opportunity to advance on me.

Roid Rage sneered nastily. "You should leave the heroics ta big guys, little girly. Ya might get hurt otherwise." He punctuated his threat by cracking his knuckles all at once.

My smile grew larger, the excitement from the situation almost heady. "Spoken like a true small-fry."

The dark amusement from Roid's eyes dropped instantly, replaced by something simpler - base anger. "Why you...!" He raised a fist and threw a haymaker.

Too easy. Roid obviously had no training because he overextended himself, throwing his shoulder too far in with his wild swing. It was child's play to kick his forward leg out from underneath him and add a smack to the back of his head for good measure. The sudden spin in his balance caused him to crash face-first into the cement. I planted my foot on the center of his back and pushed down, easily keeping him pinned despite him probably having a hundred or so pounds on me.

Did I mention I have superhuman strength and endurance? No? Because I do, and it's awesome as hell. Papa said it might have something to do with my electromancy powers and that I might be 'super-charging' my muscles so that they had more tensile strength, or whatever it was that made me able to crack a cinder-block in half at age ten. He wasn't quite certain, though, and made it a point not to try and test the limits of my improved abilities.

I certainly had, though. Papa never quite forgave me for the time I jumped off the Carpenter's garage trying to prove I could fly, even though I ended up only breaking their fancy bird bath instead of my bones.

Once that ability had been discovered, though, papa made sure I could protect myself via more mundane means. At first I wanted to learn karate so I could be a martial-arts master that could blast lightning, but he had this mental image of me punching a plug out of an unsuspecting mugger and turned me over to big sis instead.

She insisted that I learn a softer form of fighting instead of impact arts. At first I was hesitant to learn aikido, 'cause it looked like a wimpy alternative to the karate kid's crane kick. But when I became a witness to her flipping a dude twice her size and three times her weight with the grace of a dancer and the effort of lifting chopsticks, I became instantly enamored.

But back to the present; with two of the three stooges out of commission, the last one - Mr. Whiney - took one look at me before dashing off like a whipped dog. Huh, guess he hadn't hurt his leg all that badly after all.

I took the chance to look over the girl I'd just saved and had to bite my tongue to stop myself from laughing. Oh stars and stones, that hair! Her blonde strands were split into two waist-length tails, with two clumps near her scalp. Who told her that was a good fashion choice? It didn't look good, it just made me hungry for the Carpenter's Italian night. I bit the inside of my cheek, hoping that the mirth deep inside wouldn't escape, and opened my mouth. "You ok? They didn't rough you up too bad, did they?"

The girl gulped and shook her head side-to-side frantically. "No!" she squeaked, her high-pitched voice almost grating on the ears. "You saved me. Thanks so much!"

My smile melted into something softer. "That's good." I turned around and waved a hand over my shoulder. "Try not to get into any more trouble, k?"

A small cry of, "Al-alright!" came from behind me, and I had to prevent myself from squealing in delight. Had to keep my cool look, right? Jogging back to where I'd left my bag, I grabbed it and made my way back to the route that would bring me to Juuban High.

Today had started out great. I had a good breakfast with papa, got the last word in on him, and saved an innocent citizen while looking badass in the process. The sky was clear, I had a fresh start, and things were moving a fine direction.

Things were really looking up today.

Things were not looking up today.

I sighed as I dug into my lunch. Sitting underneath a tree in the school's courtyard. Alone.

I don't think I made all that good of an impression on the rest of the students and faculty - hence my isolation during lunchtime. I thought my self-introduction to my homeroom was pretty well-done, though maybe I shouldn't have announced my availability to fix any violations of justice. Or maybe it was when I told my classmates that papa's job was 'wizard-for-hire' that I put everyone off.

Or maybe it was when I was approached by that overly-friendly and touchy-feely member of the soccer club and ended up tossing him ten feet down the hall when his hands got a little too ambitious.

Whatever it was, I now had rumors about me flying all over the school, and students who had once been crowding around me to learn more were now avoiding me like I had some contagious disease. There were rumors that I was a gang leader, that I had been expelled from my old school for fighting, that I had some sort of sickness caught in the eighth-grade. There were even rumors that papa had ties to the mafia and I was sent here to avoid some violent turf war happening back in trigger-happy America.

How dare they say that papa had ties to... how dare they say papa was friendly with the mob? He was cordial at best, and more prone to socking a Gentleman in the gut than shaking his hand! And it's not like they had any proof, anyway!

Another sigh escaped from my lips. I really did want to have a somewhat normal life here, but it looked like my personality had gotten the best of me and messed that up something fierce. I wasn't really forward to a full year of being avoided or, at best, politely ignored. But it wasn't like I was going to live in this place forever, so I just had to take it on the chin and push forward. At least the courtyard was a nice place to eat, so that wasn't so bad.

A small spark tickled the back of my brain. I rolled my eyes and raised my voice. "If you're trying to peep, you're not doing a very good job at it." There was a small squeak of surprise in the bush behind me.

Probably as another side-effect of my powers, I could vaguely detect other people around me. I think it had something to do with my body resonating with the innate bio-electricity of other living beings, but whatever it was, I had the equivalent of a natural radar system in my head. It wasn't that powerful - I couldn't differentiate between electrical sources, and it was only really useful when there were only few people around or it would all sorta blend together and lose its effectiveness - but it gave me a killer advantage when people tried to sneak up on me, and I never lost when I was 'it' at hide-and-seek. …Which is probably why they stopped letting me be 'it' years ago.

"You can come out, you know. I don't bite."

There was awkward laughter, and then out popped the same girl I'd rescued this morning. My eyes widened in surprise. "Oh, it's you. I didn't know you went to this school." I hadn't really paid any attention to the uniform she was wearing, but it was clear now that she had the same white, blue, and red fuku that the other female students had on. "Did you get to school without any more trouble?"

She put a hand behind her head and giggled cutely. "Yes! Thank you again! Ah, I'm Usagi Tsukino!"

"Makoto Dresden."

"I know! I heard all about you in school! Ah! I mean..." She swallowed at my raised eyebrow. Yeah, I knew what she meant. Still, I felt a bit disappointed that the rumors were so prevalent. My dark thoughts were banished when she waved her hands frantically in front of her. "It's not like I believe any of them! I really do think you're a hero! You saved me, after all!"

At that, a bit of flush rose in my cheeks. Oh gods, I wanted to squeeze her so bad when she said that. I don't know what it is about Japanese school girl uniforms, but everything about them made female students into little cuddle-magnets.

"Oh, um, thank you." I blinked and schooched over to the side. "Do you want to join me?"

Her face blossomed into a sunny smile. "Sure!" She quickly filled in the spot I had opened and plopped her lunch bag in her lap.

I turned back to my food, but it wasn't long before I noticed her staring intently at my lunch, a bit of drool leaking from the corner of her mouth. I smiled weakly and offered her the box. "Would you like a bite?"

She jumped slightly and giggled nervously. "Ah, I really don't eat that much but if you insist..." With speed almost too quick for me to see, Usagi grabbed a rice ball and shoved nearly the whole thing into her mouth, muttering a muffled "Thanks for the food!"

I blinked again. A sly grin worked its way to my face. With the way she was chowing down on that rice ball, I very much doubted she was the kind of girl that watched what she ate. She must've had one heck of a metabolism to keep her petite figure despite her voracious eating. Although I did notice a bit of a chub around her waist, and her face was rounded than I'd first thought... I was almost jealous of her small stature. I looked down at myself, and then at her again. My smirk became more pronounced.

Almost jealous.

"I'm glad you like it. I'm pretty proud of my cooking."

"Mako, ah, I'm sorry, I can call you Mako, right?" I smiled at the cute nickname, pausing only for a moment when I saw that she had speared one of my side-dishes with her fork without me noticing. When had she...? I sighed internally. 'Didn't eat that much' my butt. "You cooked all of this on your own?"

I nodded and popped a small rolled egg omelet into my mouth. "My papa's not very good at cooking, so if I hadn't learned we would have eaten nothing but take-out most of the time."

Usagi bounced up-and-down. "Well, you're really good at it! Maybe you can teach me? Or! Or! Maybe you could just make me a bento instead...?" She leaned over and rubbed her head into my shoulder like a cat would, that same empty, happy smile plastered all over her face.

I couldn't help but laugh. Ok, so maybe she was a bit ditzy, kinda flaky, and had the eating habits of Mouse, but she was also good-natured, friendly, and as cute as her namesake. It couldn't hurt to get closer to her, especially as she was the only one thus far to not avoid my gaze whenever I entered a room. Though from what I'd seen, I had a feeling that Usagi wouldn't mind talking to a slobbering troll as long as it fed her.

As we moved on to aimless chattering, I thought that maybe this whole Japan thing wasn't such a bad idea after all. I had a new home, a new school, and, most importantly, a new friend.

Yup, I think my time in Tokyo was going to be a fun time after all.

A/N (Irritus): Second chapter (first chapter chronologically) get! Wow, I'm not dead, after all... bit surprising, that. Thank our Norse god imitators. Because of them, we have ANOTHER. Anyway, you can tell where this chapter begins in both the Dresden and Sailor Moon timeline. If not, read/watch the source material again! For those reading, do note that the entirety of this series was based off of a 'for want of a nail' premise. Only one little thing was changed, and it's up to you to see what it was. Don't expect to see any major deviations from the source material unless it's a result of Harry/neoMakoto's influence.

On a separate note, maybe this'll mean that Raithe will leave me alone now that I got a new chapter o-

Raithe: Haahahahaha NO.

Irritus: ...well, poo on that then. See you next time! Expect more collateral damage goodness in the next episode of Senshi Files!

A/N (Raithe): The floggings continued until production improved. Now to start working on that morale problem…

In all seriousness, though, Real Life has been trying to murder Irritus, so don't be too hard on him for taking so long; some sarcasm and a few ounces of passive-aggressive scorn will suffice.

I don't have much else to add except to warn that, in case it wasn't obvious by now, this fic is going to be spoiler-tastic, especially for Dresden Files, so I really recommend you read at least through Dead Beat (book 7) if you haven't already. In fact, I recommend you read through the entire series anyway, even if you already have.