The Fragility of Time Book Three: "Stardust Memories"
Chapter 10 - Movement
Disclaimer: A reminder I own none of the characters of this story, all rights are owned by others. However, the unique circumstances of the story are mine. If you distribute the story, do only so freely and inform me of where you post it.
Continuing the quest that she had begun some days earlier, Fighter walked the streets of Tokyo searching for the child warrior of the Moon, the warrior who her sisters wanted her to somehow befriend and to train. With a little bit of luck, she would be able to make the young child into a halfway decent soldier before Galaxia's minions descended on the planet. However, before she could train the girl, she had to find her and that was proving to be a far from easy task. Unlike the planets of the Star Alliance, the Star Children here on this planet hid themselves amongst the general population. Thankfully her sister had been able to provide her with a vague description of the disguise that the Moon child was using; Fighter just hoped that the child did not rotate her glamour before she was able to find her.
In thinking about the Senshi of this system there were quite a few things that continued to confuse Fighter, and prominent amongst that list was why the Senshi were hiding their identities as well as why they had only apparently become active in the past year. As far as Fighter could remember from her lessons, a Senshi was active from the moment of their birth, which meant that there had to have been a consorted effort to locate the Senshi when they were born and to hide them away from the general population. She guessed that might explain why the Senshi of this system seemed to be so weak, if their true natures were hidden from even them. But why their princess would want to do that to them, Fighter had no idea.
The strangeness of the situation did, though, give Fighter a possible route for locating Sailor Moon, and that was to assume that she was still pretending to be a regular human child. Based on that line of thought, Fighter was checking out the various elementary schools that were reasonably close to the area in which the demon attacks had occurred. Of course, there wasn't any real reason to assume that she did in fact attend a school near to the hot area as opposed to one farther away, but Fighter figured she would start with those schools and then move outward.
As Fighter pushed aside her confusing, she turned onto the road on which lay her forth school for the day. Once she got near the school, Fighter slipped into an ally where she let her glamour drop before hopping up onto the roofs to complete the final few dozen meters of her journey. Stopping on the roof of a store that was diagonally across from the school, Fighter crouched down and began to plan out her attack. Like most of the schools that she had visited, this one was located in the middle of a relatively open space that was bordered by high walls. This design made it quite difficult for her to check out the school without being seen, and thereby limiting her to only being able to search for Sailor Moon while the students were arriving, eating lunch, or leaving and even then she was sure that she was missing a sizeable number of them. Unfortunately, she had yet to come up with a better idea and she so just had to hope that she would luck out one of these times.
Twenty minutes later when she heard the final bell of the day ring, Fighter moved to a spot that would give the best vantage point of the students as they passed through the main gate and into the street. This was at least one area where the high walls came in handy as the students all funneled out through a single choke point. Carefully examining the children as they began to leave, Fighter's eyes caught sight of a distinctive head of hair. Even without Maker's description of what the Moon warrior's civilian disguise looked like, Fighter could see the similarities of the very pink strawberry blond hair in both color and hair style to that of Sailor Moon.
Dropping down to the ground, Fighter re-applied her own civilian disguise before discreetly making her way into the crowd of students and weaving her way over to her target. Once she was close enough to make out some of the facial features of the girl, Fighter had to admit that the child was quite good with her glamour magic. However, armed as she was with a description of the Moon warrior's civilian disguise, Fighter knew that this girl was indeed her target and as she approached she was able to make out further similarities to that of Sailor Moon as dissimilarities that were there a moment ago disappeared, the effect of having broken the glamour magic.
Now just a few paces behind the young warrior, Fighter saw an older redheaded girl meet up with her target and strike up a conversation as the two of girls resumed walking. Slowing her pace for a moment, Fighter considered whether she should fall back and wait for another opportunity to approach Sailor Moon. No we do not have time to waste; there is no telling how long we have till Galaxia finds this planet. We cannot afford to waste even a single day. Fighter thought to herself as she decided to go ahead with initiating contact. Though, in deference to the Sailor Senshi of this system's desire to hide themselves, she would be discreet in her choice of words.
"Excuse me," Fighter said as she reached ChibiUsa.
Looking up from her conversation with Naru, ChibiUsa found an unfamiliar woman beside her. "Hai?"
"You met one of my sisters a week ago and she was impressed by your skills."
"Huh?" ChibiUsa replied, not understanding what the woman was referring to.
Naru, for her part, felt somewhat uneasy about the way this conversation was going. While the streets of Tokyo were for the most part quite safe for children to be out and about by themselves, one still had to be careful and this stranger's words were setting off alarm bells in her mind. Worried that she might be trying to entice ChibiUsa, Naru stepped in front of her "little sister" and firmly said, "I am not sure what you are getting at, but I ask you to leave my friend alone."
Turning her attention to the redhead, Fighter's jaw momentarily dropped as she got a good look at the girl. "Osaka Naru."
Her brows furrowing at this development, Naru replied, "Hai, that is my name." How does this woman know my name? I am sure that I haven't seen her before, but she recognizes me.
Just my luck, the young Moon warrior just happens to be in the company of the bait that we have been using. Fighter thought to herself as she realized that the situation had just become complicated. "I apologize for the actions of my sisters and myself towards you in the past Osaka Naru-san. I assure you that I do not mean any ill will to you or your bodyguard. I merely wish to talk with your bodyguard about providing her with additional training. The two of you may even choose the location for our discussions."
"Wha...?" Naru said as she tried to process what this woman was saying. My bodyguard? But there is only ChibiUsa here, 'my little sister.' Does she mean one of the Senshi? I don't think that any of them has been tailing me… Naru thought to herself as she began to look up at the skyline, trying to discern the presence of one of others.
"You need not worry; it is only myself who is here. My sisters are working their day jobs," Fighter explained, mistaking Naru's search for the other Senshi of the system as searching for Fighter's sisters.
'Her sisters? But that is not what I am looking for.'
"Now Moon-san, if you would please."
"Me?" ChibiUsa asked.
"Hai, now is there a place that you would like to hold our discussions at? I even have some money, if you would like to get an after school treat."
"Hai!" ChibiUsa replied at the mention of free food.
"Lead the way then." Fighter replied and in response, ChibiUsa began walking towards the Crown Fruit Parlor while pulling a bewildered Naru behind her. For her part, Naru was only now just realizing that the bodyguard that this woman was referring to was ChibiUsa, which was something that she had a hard time wrapping her mind around. She, after all, saw herself as the one looking out for the eight year old, not the other way around.
Entering the Crown Fruit Parlor, Naru along with ChibiChibi, who had somehow met them at the entrance to the arcade, ChibiUsa, and Fighter made their way to one of the booths towards the back of the restaurant. As she walked past the other tables, Naru absently noted that there were not many other patrons here this afternoon. Normally the restaurant would be packed right now with various middle and high school kids hanging out before heading home or off to cram school. However, over the past few weeks she had noticed that the Crown and many other places were not having the draws that they once did – a consequence of the demon attacks. While normally seeing the low attendance here and the arcade sadden her given her friendship with Motoki and his sister, today Naru was slightly glad that there weren't many people present as that meant that there were fewer bystanders if this turned out to be a trap.
Arriving at the booth, Naru gestured to ChibiUsa and ChibiChibi to take a seat on one side of the table before joining Fighter on the other side of the table. Sitting down, Naru tried her best to keep her fear under control; however, it was difficult as she kept remembering the times that Fighter and the other two had taken her hostage and threatened to kill her. But as much as Naru wanted to be someplace else, she not going to leave her "little sister" along with this woman and neither was she going to let ChibiUsa sit next to her either.
"Okay, we are here, now what did you want," Naru asked a little harshly once their drink orders were taken.
"I know that you have no reason to trust me, Moon-san," Fighter began, addressing ChibiUsa as opposed to Naru. "Our methods made not have been the most pleasant, but there is a great evil approaching your planet and as you are now, you will not pose any kind of resistance to that evil."
"Galaxia," ChibiUsa whispered in understanding.
"You know of her?" Fighter asked in surprise. "Though, I guess that outsider who has been training you has told you about her?"
"Hai, Sailor Erion warned us about Galaxia," Naru said trying to pull the focus of the conversation away from ChibiUsa.
Looking at Naru in an almost amused way, Fighter wondered what type of connection this redhead had to the Senshi of this system. Maybe she had been assigned as the nanny to the child Senshi and did not realize that her charge had now surpassed her? She herself had to struggle with the same change in status with her beloved princess in which she had to change from being the one to raise her princess to following the orders of her princess. "I understand what you are feeling Osaka-san," Fighter said deciding to help the girl adjust to the changes that had come to her charge. "I am sure that you have done a good job in raising Moon-san, and her strength on the battlefield is a testament to how you have raised her. However, she is no longer a child, but an adult."
"An adult," Naru loudly whispered, barely remembering to keep her voice down. On the other side of the table, ChibiUsa was equally surprised.
"Yes that is correct, now that she is fighting as a full fledge Sailor Senshi she would be considered an adult within the nations of the Star Alliance that is if Galaxia hadn't destroyed it."
Hearing those words gave ChibiUsa a bittersweet feeling. For the longest time her greatest desire had been to be seen as a full fledge lady, like her mother, and now here she was being told that she was an adult, even if she did not have her adult height. But as happy as reaching her dream made her feel, she felt even more sad for the terrible mistakes that she had made in the past, mistakes that had allowed the Dark Moon Family to breach the defenses of the palace and to wound her mother, mistakes that had transformed her into an evil parody of herself, and even more it brought up fresh longing for her mother, the Usagi of this time, so as to be able to share with her the good news.
"I know that this is not what you were looking for me to talk to me about," ChibiUsa said as she pushed her feelings aside and did her best to make use of lessons on being a princess.
"You are right Moon-san."
"Call me ChibiUsa-chan please," ChibiUsa said knowing that it would not be long before one of the regular waitress staff began to wonder why she was being called Moon."
"ChibiUsa," Naru said.
"It is okay, she knows anyways," the pink haired girl replied, pushing aside Naru's concern.
"In that case, you should call me Seiya; it is a name that I have been using to earn some money." Fighter said, realizing that the Moon warrior wanted to maintain her cover and mentally kicking herself for not suggesting the move to aliases earlier, after all she had figured that this was the case.
"Now as for why I asked to speak with you, my sisters and I were impressed with your skills and unlike the others we believe that you have the potential to be a strong Senshi. The others, except for the one in blue, are too soft and should be far beyond where they currently are."
"If they are so far behind, why don't you train them as well? Why have you been attacking them?" Naru asked
"Those attacks are training. We don't have the time to train them to defend against Galaxia's hoards. All we can hope is that if we push them enough that the memories of their Stars will awaken momentary and give them a skill that would otherwise have taken them decades of regular training to obtain."
"But that is…" Naru began.
"Cruel. I know, but it is the only hope for your planet. Your extra-solar friend may have told you about the evil that is sweeping across the Galaxia, but being told is different from experiencing it. I should know, I thought I was prepared for it, but then being sent to search a fallen world for survivors showed me how naïve I was. Galaxia would think nothing of using her power to steal and control souls forcing families to watch helplessly as one of their own butchers the others. She is an evil incarnate of the type that the galaxy has never seen before."
"I understand," ChibiUsa, with her crescent moon faintly glowing said, "and I forgive you for what you have done and will do."
"Demo, your mother wouldn't…" Naru began, not believing that ChibiUsa was going to give this person a pass for what she had done.
"Mother, chibi," ChibiChibi said adding some seemingly meaningless gibber as she moved from just holding ChibiUsa's hand to clambering up onto the older girl's lap. Making herself comfortable in ChibiUsa's lap, she quickly fell asleep as now the full and still unnoticed sigil on ChibiUsa's forehead began to glow more brightly.
"ChibiChibi is right. Okaa-san would not agree, but she would understand as that is how she became…" ChibiUsa replied again with a maturity that was not quite right for her effective age, before trailing off as the pain of her loss became too much for her.
"You mother, she was the Senshi who sacrificed herself?" Fighter said, beginning to see some more of the pattern, but yet at the same time even more confused. She had never heard of a mother and daughter being Sailor Senshi before. Maybe, somehow, this girl's mother had found a way to pass her powers on to her daughter. Fighter had no idea how that could be the case and once more wished that her princess was here to make things clearer, a desire that was for some reason strengthened by being in the presence of this child warrior.
"Hai, she was," ChibiUsa chocked out.
"Then let me train you so that you can make her proud and allow you to full fill the legacy that she left for you."
"I accept, but you will train Mercury as well."
"I already said that it would be a waste of time to train the others."
"She is the one in blue," ChibiUsa added in explanation
"In that case she may be worth training," Fighter conceded.
Smiling at being able to train with Ami, ChibiUsa dove heartily into her quite large Sunday that had just arrived. Ami had been the one to save her life during the attack in the park, a feat that she had done without her Senshi powers and that made the genius quite special in her book. Also out of all of the Senshi, Ami was the first one to fight beside her mother and now having the chance to be in the same position as her mother had been made ChibiUsa quite happy.
"One question, though," Naru said, speaking up, and then upon getting a nod from Fighter, she asked, "How did you know where to find ChibiUsa-chan."
"I didn't. All I had from my sister was her description. I have been staking out the various schools in the area all week looking for her."
"You are quite lucky then," Naru said in reply.
"What do you mean?"
"Today was the last day of class before summer vacation; school won't be back in session till the end of the month."
Hearing that, Fighter said a quick prayer of thanks to the soul of the Cosmos. If she had chosen a different school this afternoon she could have lost a month or more of training time. Even luckier, not that she realized it, was that originally ChibiUsa was supposed to be staying afterschool today for cleaning duty, which was where Diana currently was. The only reason why she hadn't was because one of her classmates who had cleaning duty the day before had something come up at the last minute and ChibiUsa had offered to swap with her classmate.
"Summer vacation, does that mean that you won't have other demands on your time?" Fighter asked. While vacation was not something that Sailor Senshi got to experience either in training or in the line of duty, it was a concept she was vaguely familiar with from listening to the happenings at the palace.
"That is mostly correct. Outside of training with the rest of the Senshi and her lessons with Haruna-sensei, she doesn't have anything fixed on her schedule."
"What kind of lessons?" Fighter asked, not seeing the training with the other Senshi as being worthwhile given their current pathetic state of readiness.
"Diplomacy and world affairs," Naru replied, deciding to keep quiet on the fact that ChibiUsa was the Moon Princess. While it was very likely that this other Senshi already knew all of that there was no reason to let her know just how important ChibiUsa was to them all if that was not the case.
Hmmm… I did not expect that, but still that means that I will be able to train her for most of the day and given her age she will likely need some time to rest anyways. I wonder why, though, they are training one of their soldiers in diplomacy at such a young age. Fighter thought to herself, not having been trained in much outside of fighting till see was in her mid-twenties. Though with the fractured nation-states that this world has, maybe the holder of the covenant crystal felt she needed her warriors to also act as ambassadors. Fighter thought a moment later. Putting aside the strangeness of the Moon Warrior's other set of training, Fighter turned her attention back to the situation at hand. All in all things were working out quite nicely for her. She had expected that she would need to convince this child to devote the large amounts of time that the training was going to be required. Pretending to be a civilian and attending school was just not really an option. However, with the fortuitous timing of the break that conversation could be put off for a few days and with any luck the young warrior might even come to the realization on her own. Now turning her attention to the other warrior that she was going to be training, Fighter asked, "And, how about the blue one?"
Seeing ChibiUsa's nod out of the corner of her eye, Naru replied, "Ami-chan no longer attends school like the rest of us. She works during the day and I believe that she is being trained by the military personnel where she works."
Nodding her understanding, Fighter thought for a few moments. The blue warrior obviously was taking her duty seriously and while she was not sure how much benefit the local military would be, she was less than impressed with their current state of weapon development, especially the lack of anything deployable in space, she figured that it was still for the best to maintain coordination with the planet's military. "In that case we will work her in around her schedule, but you will be training from sunrise to sunset."
Hearing those words, ChibiUsa gulped as suddenly the whole idea of getting special training with Ami-chan didn't seem like such a hot idea. Even though she wasn't able to spend her summer with Hotaru-chan liked she really wanted to more than all but one thing (getting her mother back), she was still hoping to be able to have fun. She wanted to be able to go visit the beaches, to break watermelons open with bats, and to stay up late collecting fireflies.
Well if this is going to be summer… ChibiUsa thought to herself as she looked across the table at Naru, and then coming to a decision she suddenly reached out and snagged Naru's half eaten ice-cream treat. If she was about to face grueling training, then she was going to make the most of her last meal.
"Hey!" Naru exclaimed in response to ChibiUsa's theft of her Sunday.
"Chibi!" ChibiChibi said, giving her approval to ChibiUsa's actions and alerting everyone to the fact that she was once again awake.
"How can she eat all of that?" Fighter asked in awe as she watched ChibiUsa begin to rapidly make a dent in her second desert and having just been amazed by ChibiUsa's ability to finish her own original Sunday.
"She is a Usagi," Naru replied as if that explained everything.
However, as Fighter translated Usagi into rabbit that did not clear anything up and just left her even more confused.
Seeing the confusion on Fighter's face, Naru explained further. "ChibiUsa is just her nickname. Her actual name is Usagi, which is the same name as her mother, and her mother could easily polish off a Sunday twice the size as the one that ChibiUsa had in half the time and then thirty minutes later being complaining about being hungry."
Rabbit that is a strange name to give one's child, but maybe it is a common name here. I know some of the names on our own planet, such as Shooting Star and Rings of Hope, probably would seem a bit strange to outsiders. Putting aside the weird names, Fighter gave thought to the fact that the Moon Star and her mother both apparently had large appetites, something that Senshi were not known for. However, as she thought about that oddity some more she remembered something from her lessons – in that one way to identify a mage was by their very large appetites, as their bodies expanded vast amounts of internal energy in controlling and shaping the magical energies that they wielded. Could it be that the Moon warrior and her mother were also mages? Might that be how the power of a Senshi had been passed from mother to daughter, breaking all the rules for how Star Children worked? Those were thoughts that she would have to bring up with her sisters, but for now she would just concentrate and enjoying her chocolate brownie Sunday, quite happy with the choice that ChibiUsa had made for her and equally glad that the Moon warrior had not raided her own desert.
"I am so glad that it is finally vacation," Minako said that evening as she plopped herself down on the floor in the Tsukino living room, causing Ami to momentarily grimace and Rei to elbow the blond in the ribs. "What was that for?" Minako asked Rei in response.
Rei simply nodded her head over to the young genius who had been essentially kicked out of school.
"Oh, sorry Ami-chan. I didn't mean to…"
"It's okay, Minako-chan. I know you are happy about being on break and I am happy for you. Anyways I am finding what I am doing to be much more enjoyable than going to school."
Understanding the unsaid qualifier in Ami's response, Rei, who was sitting between Ami and Minako, reached out and grabbed a hold of her friend's hand. Ami might enjoy the intellectual challenge of what she was doing now and she was sure that her friend was happy to be improving her Senshi abilities; however, Rei also knew that Ami was missing being with her friends. Many days now it was only herself and Urawa-kun who saw Ami and now they were all were about to go and have fun, all of them that is expect for Ami. Making a decision then, Rei promised herself that she would make sure that Ami got to join in with them on at least some of their summer adventures.
"Since things have been quite since the demon attack two days ago, why don't we begin discussing our summer plans?" Minako suggested.
"Ano, there is something Senshi related that I need to tell you all about first," ChibiUsa tentatively said.
Given that ChibiUsa rarely spoke in any manner but quite forcibly except to her mother and now Naru in private when she had done something wrong, her tentative words quickly grabbed the attention of all of the girls, one young man, and two cats.
"What is it ChibiUsa-chan?" Erion asked.
"Well you see…" ChibiUsa began before trailing off.
Knowing what her little sister needed, Naru quickly scooted over to the pink- haired girl and pulled her into her lap and gave her a little squeeze. Now reassured, ChibiUsa continued, "I met with Sailor Fighter this afternoon after school."
"Nani!" the others all exclaimed.
"Did she hurt you? If she laid one finger I will…" Haruka said vocalizing feelings that were being felt by everyone else.
"Iie!" ChibiUsa forcibly shouted. "She just wanted to talk."
"How did she find you?" Ami asked with an unsettled feeling in her stomach.
"She knew what I look like when I am not Sailor Moon."
"This is not good," Michiru said.
"We are going to need to watch out over ChibiUsa-chan in case they try something." Minako said more to herself than the others as she began to consider what this breach of security meant, quite worried that those three could now target both ChibiUsa and Naru.
Hearing Minako's words, Naru internally smirked over how Fighter apparently considered ChibiUsa to be far better than any of the others except for Ami and Erion. "I don't think we need to worry about that." Naru said, deciding to help ChibiUsa out. She might not like the idea of trusting those three warriors train ChibiUsa, but ChibiUsa was right, Usagi would agree and Naru trusted her best friend. If Usagi told her to jump off a bridge she would, she trusted Usagi with her life.
"What do you mean?" Erion asked. She had for a while been quite puzzled by the actions of the three other outsiders. They were not acting at all the way that Star Children were supposed to act. That meant that either they were not real Star Children or that something was causing them to act in manner that was contrary to their very nature. She was sure that the three were Star Children, which then meant that there had to be a reason for the way that those three were acting and that furthermore it was very likely that at least some of their actions were just a façade.
"Sailor Fighter, she apologized for what she has put me through, it was supposed to be training for the rest of you."
"Training, she's crazy. You don't just take someone hostage and threaten to kill them and call that training." Makoto angrily replied.
"Hai, I agree. But she seemed desperate."
"Desperate, why?" Erion asked, realizing that the missing piece of the puzzle might finally be revealed.
"Galaxia," was Naru's reply.
Saying that word brought an instant silence to the room that lasted two whole minutes. "But we already know about her," Rei said breaking the silence.
"Yeah that is the reason why we are training as much as we are," Minako added.
Realizing something, Ami "Erion-san, when Galaxia attacks there are no true battle lines are there?" confusing the others with her line of questioning.
"That is correct," Erion replied having an idea of where Ami might be going with her questions, for she had already reached that destination herself.
"In that case it is not possible for the Sailor Senshi of allied worlds to support each other for if they were to do so they would leave their own world vulnerable."
"That is correct."
"And there are never any survivors from a world that Galaxia attacks are there?"
"There have been some. But never a Star Child, at least not ones that have not been reanimated by Galaxia as her slaves."
"So if those three are here then their own home planet is currently defenseless?" Minako asked, finally making the connection.
"That is correct. For one reason or another they must believe that there is a way to stop Galaxia on this world. But in doing so they are sacrificing their own home planet." Erion replied.
Deciding that now might be a good time to explain what Sailor Fighter had wanted with ChibiUsa, Naru said, "The reason why Sailor Fighter sought ChibiUsa-chan out after school today was to offer to train her. She wants to take on the full responsibility of training ChibiUsa-chan."
"That is out of the question!" Haruka forcibly stated.
"How do we know that this is not just an attempt to get ChibiUsa alone?" Rei suggested as the meeting degenerated into complaints over how this was a horrible idea and how they could not trust Fighter, Maker, or Healer.
"Minna-san…" ChibiUsa said a few moments later in an attempt to end the yelling; however, no one paid her any attention.
Getting no response from her attempt to bring the meeting back on track and with everyone saying how bad they thought the idea that she had agreed to was, ChibiUsa began to feel her confidence in her decision to let Sailor Fighter train her evaporate. Coming into meeting she had been nervous and had not really wanted to tell the others about her meeting with Sailor Fighter. However, she knew her onee-chan was right in saying that she had to tell the others. But now with her fears confirmed she wanted to be anywhere but here, she needed to get away from what was obviously a horrible mistake she had made.
Feeling ChibiUsa's body begin to shake, Naru realized that the young girl was close to tears. Turning ChibiUsa around in her lap, she leaned her head down so that her forehead was resting on ChibiUsa's. "Shh… It's okay. You did not do anything wrong. They are not upset at you." Naru softly said, trying to stave off ChibiUsa's tears.
Hearing Naru's words, ChibiUsa looked up at Naru, her eyes plainly conveying the need for reassurance. Unfortunately, the proclamation from one of the girls that ChibiUsa didn't know what she was doing, as she was just a kid after all, proved to be too much, and with a lurch she threw herself against Naru's chest, now freely crying.
Generally Naru stayed silent during the various meetings, not feeling it to be her place to say anything as she after all was not one of the fighters. The only reason why she attended them in the first place was because ChibiUsa did and her young charge often wanted to discuss the happenings afterwards with her and Diana, in some ways making her an informal advisor to the young princess. This time, however, Naru could not keep her silence.
"SILENCE!" Naru yelled, instantly getting everyone's attention and even drawing Ikuko who had been working in the kitchen into the room. "I can't believe you!" Naru continued yelling as she looked around the keeping catching everyone's eyes and sharply looking at them. The only ones who did not get that silent rebuke from Naru were Artemis, Diana, Erion, Ikuko, and to a lesser extent Ami.
"If Sailor Fighter was truly interested in harming ChibiUsa, she had the perfect opportunity while we were alone with her earlier today," Naru continued.
"She…" Haruka began in an attempt to say that ChibiUsa should never have gone off with Fighter in the first place.
"We did not have an option. Sailor Fighter found her as she was leaving school and when have they been concerned about other bystanders in making their move. The simple fact that she asked ChibiUsa to talk with her as opposed to fighting and did not out ChibiUsa in the request either should speak to their intentions.
"Now you have all agreed with ChibiUsa's desire for me to be her big sister and that therefore in the absence of Usagi, I am the one with the authority to raise her. Therefore listen closely; my imouto will be getting training from Sailor Fighter starting tomorrow morning. Now I am going to take ChibiUsa up to her room to calm her down, and when I return we are going to calmly talk about her training as well as Sailor Fighter's offer to train Ami as well," Naru said before abruptly standing and briskly leaving the room, very clearly agitated.
Hearing Naru's words, Mamoru felt like a heel for not having been the one to come to the defense of his daughter. He might not have the time to be there for her like he wanted to be with his studies and as a result he may have effectively delegated all of his responsibilities for his daughter to Naru, but even still he should have at least stood up for her instead of joining in with the others in condemning her decision. At minimum he should have given her a chance to explain her reasons.
Wanting to make up for what his mistake, Mamoru began to move to get up so as to follow Naru on upstairs. However, a glare from Ikuko before the older woman went up the stairs herself killed that idea. Sitting back down, Mamoru knew that he was in for a dressing down this evening, and as much as he wanted to complain that he had every right as ChibiUsa's father to go up stairs and to see her, he knew that Ikuko was right in keeping him down here. His words had to have hurt ChibiUsa, and seeing him now would only hurt her more. He would need to wait for Naru to reassure his daughter before he could apologize. Though in the meantime there was a way that he could begin to make up for his foolishness."
"Minna-san, I think that we need to honestly consider this Sailor Fighter's offer to train ChibiUsa," Mamoru said moving the debate onto a more productive tract and earning himself a little bit of approval from Erion and Artemis.
Even though this summer was turning out to be far better than any of his previous ones, Harry was still very happy to be leaving his relatives and to be heading off to the Weasleys for the rest of the summer. He just hoped that Hotaru would be able to find her way. She claimed that she had been following his energy presence all of the way across Europe and Asia and that therefore finding him at the Weasleys would be no effort for her. Harry, however, was not fully convinced that he was really the one that she had been searching for. Part of him felt that he just conveniently met enough criteria for her to claim that her journey was at an end; she, after all, had admitted that she did not know what she was searching for. Also this time she would not be searching with her feline companion, a girl who appeared to look and have the maturity of someone in their early twenties, and while Harry did understand that she was a warrior, he had the bruises to attest to that, she was not even a first year and Harry still felt a bit protective of the girl, a new feeling to him.
His thoughts were so focused on what might happen to Hotaru that he had barely paid attention to the errand that Professor Dumbledore had to run before taking him to the Weasleys. If asked to describe the potbellied professor emeritus that they had visited, Harry would have look at the questioner with a confused expression, not even recalling that he had not gone directly from the Dursleys to the Weasleys.
Luna, on the other hand, had paid close attention, set on alert by this unexpected detour. Given the grave danger that Harry was supposedly in, it did not make sense to her for the headmaster to make a stop along the way. Sitting on Harry's lap as the headmaster and the professor emeritus spoke, Luna very quickly recognized why Harry had been brought along, and it did not make her happy. From her time in Serenity's court she had very quickly learned to recognize the various ways that people collected and wielded influence and this person that they were visiting was obviously a master of this art.
To Luna's relief Harry was too lost in his thoughts over the recent changes to his life to be ensnared during the visit, giving only perfunctory answers when asked questions. However, that only helped him this time and if Luna's suspicions were correct, Harry was going to be seeing a lot of this person when he returned to school. 'Well I guess I will be continuing my lessons on politics.' Luna thought to herself once they finally left, realizing that just as Usagi needed to learn the ins and outs of being a princess, Harry was going to learn similar skills if he was to survive in a world that saw him as a celebrity. Thinking about what Harry was likely to face, especially if he fulfilled this prophecy, Luna decided that she would begin Harry's training in the morning, this conveniently being something that they could work on while they awaited the arrival of Hotaru. However, there was one complication that Luna failed to take into account as she began to make her plans, a complication that would delay her lessons for a while, and that was the fact that she barely spoke English and that Harry did not speak any Japanese.
Ginny Weasley was enjoying a wonderful slumber when an unknown sensation began to pull her back awake. Trying to ignore the sensation, she snuggled deeper into her blankets and attempted to return to sleep but sleep did not come. Instead, she found herself becoming even more awake. For a moment she wondered if the twins had anything to do with her sleeplessness, but when she didn't feel anything else happen she dismissed them as being the cause. This was too simple for their pranks. Now sitting up in her bed she looked down at her forearm at the brand of her bonding with her guardian and wondered if it had anything to do with why she couldn't sleep.
"You are sensing your mate's presence," her guardian snake said as it lifted itself up from where it had been sleeping beside her pillow.
"Yes the Son of the Lion, the one that you have claimed as your own."
Now realizing who and what her guardian was insinuating, Ginny began to blush and said, "We aren't mates yet. Yes I want Harry and I will find a way through his thick skull, but that is the future."
"His blood has already mingled with yours and you have claimed him as your own, therefore he is your mate and your powers let you protect your mate. Later once your blood has mingled with his and he has claimed you, then you will be his mate."
"Huh?" a confused Ginny replied sure that being mates was a two way street type deal, you couldn't really be married to someone but they not be married to you.
However, it appeared that her guardian had finished with all of the guidance that he was going to dispense for now for he failed to acknowledge Ginny's question and simply slithered over to where the redhead's arm was resting on the bed and slipped up her arm and under her sleeve.
'Wait if I am sensing Harry, then that must mean he is close!' Ginny realized as her inability to sleep vanished from her mind and she found energy bubbling through her. Now getting fully out of bed, she walked over to her chair and picked up the robe that she had been wearing earlier in the day and slipped it on. Then picking up her wand from her desk, she absently twirled up her hair and inserted her wand, using it to hold her hair up in place, unconsciously doing something that was more adapt for her friend Luna to do. Her hair was a bit of a mess from having just woken up and if she was going to wear it as was normal she would need to give it a good brushing first, but she did not want to wait a moment before seeing Harry either to brush it or to hunt for any of her hair items and so she had simply improvised.
Leaving her room, Ginny headed down the stairs, arriving at their base just in time to watch her mother open the door so as to let in Harry and Professor Dumbledore. Breaking out into a smile when she caught Harry's tired eyes, she said, "Harry."
However before Harry could respond, Molly Weasley turned on her youngest daughter, and said, "Young lady what are you doing out of bed?"
"Harry is here," was Ginny's simple reply. Then turning to the after mentioned house guest, Ginny closed the gap between the two of them and taking Harry's hand said, "Now come along Harry," as she pulled him to the stairs.
Professor Dumbledore, as was his habit, watched this little bit of drama play out with twinkles of merriment in his eyes. If it were not for Molly standing there with him he would have even chuckled at how the young Ms. Weasley had just taken control of the situation. This year was looking to be an interesting one, one that he had been hoping for since the middle of Harry's forth year. Love was what Harry was going to need to defeat Voldemort and only a companion with fire like that which ran in Weasley blood would have what it took to get through to Harry and from the looks of it, it looked like Ms. Weasley had finally decided that she had had enough waiting.
"I must apologize for that scene. I will talk to Ginny in the morning about her behavior," Molly said.
"It is quite alright Molly. Young love is quite a wonderful thing, and with the dark times ahead it is something that we should encourage wherever possible."
Molly nodded her understanding to what Dumbledore was saying, but she was not sure if was she was seeing was really love. Her daughter was not quite the same daughter as from before that snake had arrived. "There is something else..." Molly finally began as she decided that Dumbledore needed to be aware of the changes to her daughter and especially her daughter now claiming to be the heir of Slytherin.
While Dumbledore and Mrs. Weasley talked, Ginny led Harry on up the stairs. Arriving at the landing for her room, she was momentarily tempted to take him into her room. He was after all her mate, something that she had realized to be undeniably true the moment that she had grabbed a hold of his arm. However, she was not yet ready to confront her mother on Harry quite yet, even if all she wanted to do was snuggle into Harry's arms as she slept. Plus she did not want to break him and he did look a bit confused by her leading him up the stairs and even more by why they were paused in front of her room. Anyways, she still had a month of summer vacation left to reach that point, and so with happy smile she continued their accent up the stairs to Ron's landing.
Stopping in front of the door, Ginny said, "It is good to see you again Harry. I hope that those muggles haven't been too bad to you and in the morning you will need to introduce me to your new friend," Ginny said with the last bit referring to Luna who was contently riding on Harry's shoulder. Then deciding for a little impish fun, Ginny closed the gap between herself and Harry and then lifting herself onto her toes she placed a quick, but strong kiss on Harry's lips before turning and confidently walking away. 'While I don't want to break him, breaking him in is another matter entirely.' Ginny thought to herself as she returned to her room and quickly fell asleep with a smile on her face.
For his part, Harry stood rooted there for a good five minutes before the tightening of Luna's claws on his shoulder broke him out of his stupor. Then blushing heavily, Harry headed on into his best mate's room and to the camp bed that he used when he visited. Leaping off of Harry and to a dresser, Luna watched Harry go about getting himself ready for sleep in a fairly ineffective manner. Seeing the boy's love caused bumbling Luna could only smile as she thought about how it looked like Harry had finally had found someone who would give him the unconditional love that he deserved. However, as happy as she was for Harry, that girl Ginny concerned her. For some reason she had been able to understand every word that the girl had said, and as sure was sure that the girl was not speaking Japanese that should not have been possible, and that worried her.
Sitting in the shade of a tree, Naru worked on her summer homework. While in years past she tended to put off the assignments to the last few days of break, this year she had decided to get an early start on it. For a moment she wondered what Usagi would have said, but then with a shake of her head and a smile, Naru realized that more than likely Usagi would have been beside her working on her homework. Or actually, she would more likely be down there in the valley with Ami, ChibiUsa, and Fighter training after having worked on her homework late at night by flashlight. Neither of them were quite the same girls that they were a year ago when they still had the innocence of childhood, now there was another who depended on them, which meant that they needed to get their responsibilities taken care of in a timely fashion so that they would not impinge on ChibiUsa.
Naru realized that very likely it really did not make a difference that she was working on her homework now as opposed to the end of summer vacation as more than likely Fighter would continue training ChibiUsa hard right through the end of the summer. However, in the off chance that ChibiUsa did get some free time, Naru wanted to make sure that she had the free time to spend with her little sister. It would be horribly unfair to ChibiUsa if she could not take the young girl out because she had not done her summer assignments.
Hearing a loud cracking sound, Naru looked up from the math problem that she was working on and had to wince as she saw Ami and Fighter lifting some large branches off of ChibiUsa. Whatever Fighter had done to ChibiUsa had to have hurt and Naru once again wondered at the wisdom of letting her new sister train with this off-worlder. But, as much as she wanted to save her best friend's daughter from all of this pain and to her safe, Naru knew that she had to let ChibiUsa undergo this training. An enemy was coming that would be specifically targeting ChibiUsa along with the other Senshi and the only way that ChibiUsa stood any kind of a chance was if she underwent this training, and so with an effort Naru turned back to working on her math problem.
However, five minutes later the math problem continued to elude her and so Naru decided it was time for a break. Putting aside her books, Naru stood and stretched her muscles. Looking down into the valley where the others were currently training, Naru saw that Fighter was currently having Ami and ChibiUsa spar with each other. As much as it pained her last night here in the mountains and the previous nights back in Tokyo to see the discomfort that ChibiUsa was in from all of the bruises that she picked up over the course of the day, Naru knew that all things considered ChibiUsa was enjoying her training – the girl always had a large smile on her face. Though, hopefully tonight all that ChibiUsa would have would be her smile as opposed to last night when she had returned to camp utterly covered in mud.
Naru still was not quite sure how ChibiUsa had gotten covered in mud other than that it involved the young girl dodging too much and a river. Whatever the cause had been, it had taken Naru a good hour to get the girl sufficiently clean that she was willing to allow ChibiUsa into her tent and into her arms. Though, even with using up a good amount of the shampoo that she had thankfully thought to bring, ChibiUsa was still going to need a good thorough cleaning when they got back to civilization. Of course knowing my luck they will find a way to make her even dirtier tonight. Maybe they will manage to get her coated with pine sap. Naru thought to herself as she made a mental note to next week bring some throwaway sleeping clothes for herself and ChibiUsa. While ChibiUsa spent most of the night on her own bed roll in the tent that she shared with Naru and the two slept in different houses back in Tokyo, Naru had let the young girl fall asleep each night this week in her arms, as the soreness from the training did not seem to bother ChibiUsa as much when she was held. Thankfully, so far, by morning ChibiUsa's soreness was gone and Naru didn't really mind having to mother ChibiUsa a little bit more, as she liked to be able to think that she was at least contributing something to the young girl's training.
Turning her attention away from the likely cleaning nightmare that she was going to face that evening, Naru packed her various study materials away in the daypack that Mamoru-san had bought for her for this trip and as a way of saying thank you for taking care of ChibiUsa. Once the bag was zipped up, she stood back up and swung it onto her shoulders before taking out a map and compass. Examining the map for a few moments and then using the compass to make sure that she was correctly relating the various landmarks to the map, Naru headed off for a little walk, selecting one of the trails that she and Ami had discussed as possible hiking options that morning during breakfast in case she got bored.
For the redhead this was the first time she had been out camping and also the first time that she had really done much of any hiking. Before mall trolling and beaches always tended to be the focus of her free time during her breaks, and if it wasn't for the responsibility she had undertaken with looking out for ChibiUsa she probably would not have come on this little trip. That, however, would have been a big loss, Naru now realized. Being out here in the mountain air was quite refreshing, and Naru was quite enjoying herself. The only thing missing was being able to spend it with one of her friends. In particular Usagi, but Umino would also have been a welcome addition. Unfortunately, the gossip king of the school was away these next two weeks with his folks, but maybe he would be up for one of these trips later in the summer.
The kiss that Ginny gave Harry that first night he was at the Burrow started a routine in which each night before going to sleep, she would give him a firm kiss on his lips. That first week, the kisses appeared to catch him by surprise, but by the second week he was returning the kiss and had a smile on his face when she approached. Though, the kisses still left him grinning like a fool afterwards, but Ginny did not mind, after all she had looked like a fool during the summer before her first year with her crush. Her actions garnered a fair bit of reaction from three of her brothers with Ron seemingly to be almost as confused as Harry, so confused that he had yet to once try to be his normal protective brother-self with her relations, while the twins seemed to find the whole situation hilarious.
This evening was no different from the previous ones, with her being able to add another wonderful kiss to her memory, and if she was not mistaken Harry looked like he wanted to pull her into a hug and maybe steal a second kiss. Maybe tomorrow night that twitching arm would envelope her and in so doing confirm for her that he felt the same way that she did. And, so it was to dreams of finally truly and fully having Harry as her own that Ginny fell asleep to.
Unfortunately, as much as she would have liked to have been able to enjoy her dreams of being wrapped up in Harry's arms till the morning sun was high the sky, she was awoken before the dawn sun had crested the horizon by someone calling her name. Creaking her eye lids open, Ginny with a sigh noted that it was still dark out and reflexively placing the blame on two of her older brothers, she thought, This had better not be one of the twins' pranks. as she unhappily sat up in her bed. Looking around the room, she tried to find whatever the twins had enchanted to wake her up so that she could hex it to bits.
Seeming to sense that it would be best to let Ginny get a sense of herself before drawing attention to itself, the voice remained quiet for a few moments while Ginny's instinctive desire to blast first passed before finally repeating "Mistress."
Hearing the voice, Ginny turned to look in the direction that the voice had come from. Creasing her brows she was unable to see anything in the moonlight, but then a moment later her eyes picked up movement. Now turning her whole focus to the barely visible shape, Ginny wandlessly cast an illumination spell to form a reddish globe of light that she lofted into the space between herself and what she now saw to be a gardener snake. How Ginny knew it was a garner snake, she did not know. She figured that like her wandless magic it was a result of her being the heir of Slytherin, and she guessed that in some ways it made perfect sense for the Slytherin Heir to be able to identify the species of any snake on sight.
Now realizing that it was a snake that had awoken her, Ginny sighed and with a slight bit of irritation that she was unable to suppress, she asked "What is it?" As much as gaining a nice boost in her magic prowess and being told that Harry was her mate were nice benefits of being the Heir of Slytherin, there was a downside and that was the fact that snakes would now frequently seek her out to pay their respects or to provide her with information on what they considered to be her domain, the Burrow. Now this would not be too much a problem if the snakes had confined their visits to the daylight hours, but more often than not their visits were in the middle of the night. At least, she mused to herself, she was slowly weaning them of the need to constantly pay their respects to her and even more slowly they were learning that they did not need to keep her informed as to the local field mice population and other such trivial matters.
"A powerful human approaches your land," the snake replied.
"How many?" Ginny asked as she instantly became alert and now quite glad that the snakes patrolled her home.
"Just one. She walks along the stone path."
"Thank you," Ginny replied, as she swung her legs out of the bed and moved to pull on some clothes. She would have expected the Death Eaters to show up with more than person, they did not like taking risks and Voldemort would want to have witnesses for his "glorious" actions. While that would seem to imply that the visitor was as friend, Ginny knew that that was even more unlikely, as all of their friends would have come to the Burrow straight and not needed to walk along the muggle road.
Now dressed, Ginny reached down with her arm to the snake and said, "Please show me the way."
Sailor Saturn slowed to a stop as she came upon a bend in the road. There was no doubting it, after ten days of travel she had finally caught up with Harry again. Looking across the street at the location where she could feel his presence, she saw a lot that was overgrown with wild grass, giving the impression that only an open meadow lay between the road and the distant woods. If it had not been for the connection she currently had with this boy a few years older than herself, Hotaru would not have believed that anyone lived there. Or maybe nobody did live there and Harry was just out camping with his friend's family. As long as he did not teleport away, or at least a long way away in the morning Hotaru was fine. Teleportation, I wonder if the library at Harry's school has any instruction books on it? Or is that something that they learn once they leave school? Hotaru thought to herself as she imagined how much fun teleporting around would be. She could go home and see her sister/best friend again; heck she could even prank that pink haired girl. While Hotaru might not be a very mischievous person, it is near impossible to be a good friend of ChibiUsa and not to pick up some of the young girl's fun loving ways and plus Hotaru's thoughts were more on ways that she could get the little munchkin back for the times that ChibiUsa has pranked her.
The sound of an approaching truck broke Hotaru out of her introspection and the Soldier of Silence leapt a half dozen meters into the brush, leaving no indication along the road of her former presence, before starting up a slow walking pace once the truck had passed. After walking for a few more minutes and crossing the street, Hotaru noticed that the darkness of night was hiding a structure. At first glance, the structure looked like it was a broken down farm house. If ChibiUsa had been the one leading the way, Hotaru would have guessed that her friend was looking to visit a haunted house. However, ChibiUsa was not here and so Hotaru wondered what Harry would be doing here. Shrugging her shoulders, Hotaru continued to walk forward, expecting that the dilapidated farm house's presence was just a coincidence.
Turning her attention away from the farm house, Hotaru looked around the rest of the field, feeling quite at peace being here. The grasses were softly swaying in the night's breeze and there was an overall sense of calmness that just wasn't present during the day, a calmness that called to her. The comfort of the night was something that she had noticed as she had trailed after Harry and Luna these past few days, having done most of her traveling at night where she could hide in the shadows as she ran at high speed towards her destination.
"Halt!" a female voice cut into the night, instantly drawing Hotaru's attention and causing Hotaru to reflexively slip into a combat stance.
Turning to face the new arrival, Hotaru was surprised by how close this stranger had gotten to her. She knew that if Luna had been hear that she would have been getting a lecture later about letting her guard down, not that Hotaru felt that she had done anything wrong. Watching as the new arrival close to about two meters distance, Hotaru noticed that she looked to be about the age of her mother or maybe a few years older.
"Who are you and what purpose do you have with my Harry?" the stranger asked.
Sensing the strong undercurrent of protectiveness in the stranger's voice, a protectiveness that reminded her of much of the way that she herself felt about ChibiUsa, Hotaru instantly relaxed, realizing that the stranger was an ally.
Flipping on the flashlight that she carried, but rarely used, Hotaru slowly rotated her hand so that the flashlight illuminated her face before replying. "I am known as Sailor Saturn and I mean no harm to you or Harry." Then having said that, Hotaru reached forward with her right arm, palm down before summoning the Silence Glaive into her hand. Looking up into the stranger's eyes, she continued, "You may keep my Glaive," before bending down and placing the fearsome weapon down on the ground. Standing back up, she asked, "Might I ask your name?"
"Ginny Weasley," the stranger replied before muttering a few words and causing a sphere of blue flame to form in the palm of her left hand. Lifting the flame up, she illuminated her face before kneeling down and picking up the Glaive that had unbeknownst to Hotaru been moved to the feet of the redhead.
"Harry's friend?" Hotaru asked in almost a giggle with a little extra emphasis on the second word, totally at odds her somber tone of a moment ago.
"Ah, yes…," Ginny replied confused by the tone of the question as she began to wonder how old this Sailor Saturn was. The low light of night made it very hard to judge size and age and all Ginny had been able to gather from when the other girl had illuminated her face was that she was younger than a sixth year; though her words were in contrast to how young she appeared to be. In any case, Ginny was sure that the girl was at least a fourth year to be out her alone at this time of night.
"So are the two of you camping out in the fields here?" Hotaru asked thinking of how fun it would be to do that with ChibiUsa and her momma.
Hearing those words confused Ginny for a moment before she realized that the girl in front of her was being fooled by the Burrow's warding, which meant that she was a muggle. But Ginny was sure that the only non-magical folk that Harry knew lived in Surrey, so what was this Sailor Saturn doing here and what kind of name was Sailor Saturn in the first place? Now fully back on her guard Ginny fed more magic in the light ball causing it float up into the sky and flare out, fully illuminating this Sailor Saturn.
"You are just a kid," Ginny accused Saturn as she finally got a good look at Saturn.
Hotaru smiled ruefully at that comment, how much she longed to be just a nine year old child. If she had been a normal kid then she would never have been shunned by her peers or berated by her father's assistants. But at the same time if she had been normal then she would never have met ChibiUsa and gotten her new mother. No as much as she did not like the pain, Hotaru would do anything to have ChibiUsa as her sister and Usagi as her momma. Forcing those emotions away, Hotaru spoke, "And so are you and Harry, as well as my sister and my mother. But just as it is Harry's destiny to fight so it is mine as well and for as long as fate allows it I will be his guardian and teacher."
Ginny could sense the truthfulness in the young girl's words. She was not sure how she knew it, but for some weeks now she had been able to tell when people were being truthful, lying, or evasive, at least when she was in the same room with them, and that sense she had developed was telling her that this girl was someone who she could trust.
"I am also known as Hotaru Tomoe," Saturn added a few moments later as she let her civilian guise form.
Now that's a useful trick. Ginny thought to herself as she saw this Saturn silently apply a complex set of disguise magic. If she hadn't seen it with her own two eyes, she would never have believed that the girl in front of her was the same person as that supposed child warrior that had been standing in the same place a moment earlier. The twins would give their souls to learn how to do something like that, as it would allow them to pull of pranks with no one being the wiser. But even more than the visual change, the presence that Ginny felt from the girl was completely different, for the girl in front of her no longer radiated power.
Deciding that she was going to trust this girl, Ginny held out her hand and said, "Well then Hotaru it is a pleasure to meet you."
"Hai, arigatou gozaimasu," Hotaru replied in Japanese with a large smile on her face as she took the other girl's hand.
"Well then let's return to the house. Not sure how we will explain your presence to my family, but we can think of something in the morning," Ginny said as she turned back to the house.
Coming up beside the older girl, Hotaru slipped her right hand into Ginny's free left hand and began to walk to the house. "You don't need to tell your family about me."
"But where are you going to sleep?"
"The woods. I've been sleeping there since spring," Hotaru replied, leaving out the fact that she had spent some of July sleeping in Harry's bed.
"Yes I am. I can be a better guard to Harry if no one knows about me."
"But I thought you said you were also his teacher?" Ginny asked
"I am and you will just have to get him alone for some boyfriend-girlfriend time and then I can teach him and you too." Hotaru replied, causing Ginny to blush quite vividly, not that anyone could tell in the darkness of the night.
"He… He said that he wanted to be my boyfriend?" Ginny asked surprised, as after all each time she had made a play on developing their relationship these past couple of weeks she had essentially broken Harry.
"Not exactly, but he likes you."
"How do you know?"
"I saw it in his mind when I was helping to block his mind from that Dark Lord that is after him. You are the most important thing there."
Blushing once again as she realized that Harry did fancy her, Ginny missed Hotaru's mention of helping someone else to block Harry's mind. I guess it is not so surprising that even though he fancied me that he is still flustered by my advances. It is not like I had been around him much before this past year and I know from what I have gotten him to admit that his home life has not been good and I am sure that he is trying to make it sound less worse than it really is.
"Nani!" Hotaru exclaimed as the two of them stepped through the last of the wards and the Borrow was revealed in its true form to her. "But, that was not here a moment ago," Hotaru said with big eyes.
Smiling, Ginny looked down at her companion, "There are wards around our property to keep muggles from seeing it. It wouldn't be any good if a muggle walked up to our house and saw all of our magic." Ginny explain.
Nodding her understanding, Ginny simply replied, "Sugoi."
"Though, I am curious as to why you couldn't see it. Maybe it has to do with the new wards that Bill and Dumbledore put around it in preparation for Harry's arrival." Ginny mused to herself, finally settling on the explanation that the muggle aversion wards must have been expanded to include anyone who did not already know of the Borrow location. The snake part of her smiled at the ingenuity of the solution, the best fought battle was the one that was not fought and if Death Eaters saw nothing but rundown muggle property then they would just keep on moving.
"Ginny-san, in the morning can you and Harry come out and find a secluded location. I will you see you then." Hotaru said between yawns. Even though she had been mostly traveling at night to avoid being seen and sleeping during the day, she was still unable to stay up the entire night and her body was once again beginning to fall asleep.
"You sure that you want to sleep out here?"
"Yep," Hotaru said with a nod even though she would really like to sleep on a bed again. However, that was not an option if she wanted to stay hidden.
Giving the younger girl a hug first, Ginny said "Sleep well then Hotaru," before watching Hotaru disappear towards the woods that lined the property by the pond.
Once Hotaru had vanished from sight, Ginny turned her attention back to the house. She too was ready to go to sleep and unlike Hotaru she was not used to being up at this time of night and now with the adrenaline of the warning that her snakes had provided her having warn off she felt slumber calling her again. Walking up to the door, Ginny paused as she moved to open it when she realized that she was still holding Hotaru's glaive.
Forgot that I was still holding her weapon. Ginny thought to herself as she began to look over the Glaive. While part of her still doubted Hotaru's story about being a soldier, seeing this weapon somehow made it clear to her that Hotaru was telling the truth. There was a power in it and Ginny was glad that she was not on the wrong side of the weapon's wielder. Now where to store this until I can give it back to her. Ginny thought to herself. If she left it outside, Hotaru could pick it up the following evening. But there was too much chance that someone else might find it if she did that. No the only option was to take it up to her room. None of her brother's ever entered there, having learned many years ago that disrespecting their sister's privacy was a good way to get hexed. The only ones she had to worry about were her parents and as long as she kept it out of sight she would be good there as well.
Heading up to her room, Ginny removed some items from under her bed before slipping the Glaive under the bed and returning the items. Plopping herself down on the bed, she kicked off her trainers and wiggled her way out of her robe. Then after kicking the robe to the floor, she pulled up the covers and made herself comfortable. Falling asleep, one of Hotaru's comments came to mind about having to just have some boyfriend-girlfriend time with Harry for Hotaru to do her training. Smiling at that thought Ginny happy looked forward to the rest of the summer and as she drifted off to sleep she knew that Harry would claim her as his own by the end of the summer.
"You look a little worn out," Samantha Carter said in greeting to Ami as the blue haired girl entered into Carter's office for her evening tutoring.
"Hai, I am. I had thought that the accelerated training that Mao and Erion had put together was rough. However, it is nothing like what those three extra-solar Senshi are putting the princess and me through now."
"Take my existing training but add in the desperation of knowing that you may only have months before the world is destroyed and you get their training methods."
"Ouch," Carter replied imagining what the younger girl must be being put through. She had a very good academy friend, Cameron Mitchell, who had gone into Special Forces training and his stories of his own training gave her a very good idea of what her friend was going through now. "I hope that they are at least taking it a little easier on your princess, she is what only seven?"
"Eight, but no she is getting the same treatment and I can't imagine how she is making it through all of this. I wish that I had more time to spend with her and the others, but I am needed here. I am just glad that it is summer break now as I don't know how she would stay awake in school otherwise. Though, I guess she could be said to just be following her mother's example."
"You mean they are using live rounds on a child!" Carter strongly asked having seen the charring on Ami's uniform when she had arrived.
Having been slightly caught up in reminiscing over Usagi from her previous response, Ami was caught slightly unaware by Carter's angry response and jumped. "Wha…" she mumbled as her brain replayed the last question, before more eloquently replying, "Hai, we do spar using our powers and during the endurance training Fighter does try to tag us with her attacks. However, only a few of us have one hit-kill attacks and part of the training is to be able to shake off being hit and to return to the battle faster.
"Some of you have more powerful attacks?" Carter asked a bit surprised at this bit of news. Till now Carter had assumed that the Sailor Senshi were equivalent with no significant specialization other than perhaps Ami's computer. The reason for that assumption was her belief that the Sailor Senshi were likely originally supposed to work individually as the leaders of separate platoons of regular soldiers, as opposed to as a team of only Sailor Soldiers where specialization would then be beneficial.
"Hai, Uranus and Neptune can seriously injure if not outright kill a demon with a single attack and Pluto was in that league as well."
"Why don't the rest of you have that level of power?"
Pausing for a moment, Ami thought about that question, it had been something that she had been thinking about for the past few days after having noticing that Fighter, Maker, and Healer's powers were more on the level of hers, Jupiter, Venus, and Mar's as opposed to Uranus and Neptune. "I think it has to do with our roles. The four of us who represent the innermost planets of the group in the past would have acted as royal guards for the Queen while Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto strictly dealt with threats."
"Which mean that the four of you needed less lethal as well as more focused attacks," Carter replied seeing the logic behind the situation. The outer three were the artillery of the group as in their battles they did not have to generally worry about bystanders or needing to take the enemy alive. But for the royal guards you would want the attacks that came right at hand to be highly controlled. Though, that said you wouldn't want to handicap the guards from being able to fight all out either. "Ami-chan, are you sure that you don't have anything as power as Uranus and Neptune?"
Not expecting that question it took Ami a few moments to reply, "I don't know. I didn't know about my Shine Aqua Illusion until after… Sailor Moon's mother had unlocked our powers. Maybe now that I seem to have unlocked another level of my power there is a new attack. But why do you think that it would be something like Uranus and Neptune's?"
"For your role as a guard, your current attacks make a lot of sense. However, they put you at a disadvantage when you have to face a full-fledged threat as opposed to just a assassination attempt and 4 guards for the queen and 3 guardians against outside threats doesn't seem to be a reasonable ratio," Carter said, lumping Saturn in with Uranus and Neptune and understanding that Pluto was a special case. "But if the four of you could also fight with Neptune and Uranus things would make more sense.
"But if that is the case, shouldn't we have remembered those stronger attacks first?" Ami asked a bit harshly, thinking about how much easier that would have made fighting Beryl, especially when it was just her and Usagi. If it hadn't been for Mamoru there was no way the two of them would have survived those first few battles before Rei joined them. Usagi had her tiara, but no skill to speak of and as for herself all she could do was create cover and try to use her computer to find a weak spot for Usagi to attack. Not that finding those weak spots did much, as in most cases Usagi's tiara could have cut through any location on the Youma. But if she could have had real attacks then she could have been a real guardian for the one who meant more to her than anything and not have had to gone to sleep at times wondering if Usagi was going to dismiss her for being deadweight.
Hearing the harsh tone in Ami's voice, Carter was not offended, recognizing that she had probably hit on a sore subject for the otherwise normally gently mannered girl. Furthermore, she had a good idea of why it was a sore subject for Ami as well. Reaching out with her hand and placing it on Ami's shoulder, Carter smiled as the younger girl looked up in her eyes. "I am not trying to blame you or anything Ami-chan. I am just trying to help you be all that you can be."
"Gomen nasai," Ami replied, as she looked down with a red face over her little outburst.
Stepping forward and pulling the young girl into her arms, Carter gave the young warrior a hug before leading her over to one of the lab tables, something that she should probably have done at the start of the conversation. "Don't be. I would be touchy too if someone was implying that in giving my all to protect this world that I wasn't really giving my all."
"That's not it, I was just frustrated with myself over not trying to explore my powers to see if I could come up with something more than my fog, for you see when I first became Sailor Mercury it was just myself and Sailor Moon and she was almost killed many times because I couldn't contribute offensively to the battle. Just having my rifle back then would have made a big difference."
Sailor Moon? But I thought that she was just awakened, but then there were the briefing materials that talked about her being there from the beginning. I am going to need to ask Ami about that, but not now, Carter thought to herself while making a mental note to learn more about this Sailor Moon. "I think that it is only natural that you learned your less lethal attacks first. You mentioned that your primary duties were to be a royal guard, which means that those less lethal powers would need to be the ones that came most naturally to you. You wouldn't want to accidently destroy the throne room in taking down an assassin, now would you?"
In spite of herself, Ami smiled slightly at Carter's light attempt at humor there at the end and in thinking over Carter's words she had to agree with the Air Force Captain. "Hai, you are right Carter-sensei and now that you mention it, I have felt during the training something yearning to be unleashed and maybe it is something on the order of what Uranus and Neptune can do. Tomorrow when I am rested, I will try to see if I can remember how to use that attack.
"Good. Now how about we go grab some blue Jell-O before turning to reviewing your physics test from yesterday?"
That evening while Ami was talking with Carter, Naru was bringing ChibiUsa on home to the Tsukino household after having briefly stopped for a dinner of skewered chicken. She hoped that Ikuko wouldn't be too upset about not getting ChibiUsa home in time for dinner. If ChibiUsa had not looked so dead on her feet at the end of the day's training, Naru would have brought her straight home. However, the training was finally starting to catch up with her young charge, and Naru had felt it prudent to get the girl something to eat while she was still awake, a decision that had turned out to be quite prudent as she was now carrying a snoring ChibiUsa.
Pausing for a moment, to heft ChibiUsa as she readjusted her hold on the young child, Naru wished she knew how Usagi made it look so easy to carrying the young girl. I guess it must be due to her being Sailor Moon, as my arms are killing me, Naru thought to herself as she remembered that Usagi had even once carried both Hotaru and ChibiUsa at the same time. However, as much as her arms were killing her, she refused to wake the young girl and force her to walk, even if it meant that she had to stop every few minutes to gently put ChibiUsa on down so as to rest her arms.
Fifteen minutes later, Naru finally reached the Tsukino household, and carefully juggling ChibiUsa, she opened the gate and walked up the drive to the house proper. Upon reaching the house, she again carefully reached out a hand to open the door. With how frequently she now came over in looking after ChibiUsa, the Tsukino family had told her to just come on in when she arrived and had even given her a key.
Hearing the door open, Kenji put down the paper that he was reading and headed over to the door. Given that there had been no knock that more than likely that meant that it was Naru and he wanted to make sure that she took a moment to rest before heading on home. Given the late hour, she and ChibiUsa had obviously been busy, and as such she should at least join them for a cup of tea before going on her way.
Reaching the front parlor just as Naru finished setting down the sleeping ChibiUsa, Kenji said, "Looks like it was a busy workout for her today. How far did you carry her home?"
"Yes it was, but I did not have to carry her far," Naru replied.
Kenji, however, did believe that modest reply, there was an obvious sway to Naru as she slipped her shoes off and put on the slippers. One of the things that he had come to learn in the past few months was that his daughter's friends were always extremely modest in referring to what they went through as the Sailor Senshi. Part of that he understood to be them just trying to make things comparable as they could take a lot more, but even still he noticed that they would downplay how badly hurt they were. He had thought that given that Naru wasn't one of them that she would give him a more honest answer, but apparently that wasn't the case.
"Here let me take her the rest of the way up to her room while you go and sit down at the table, I will ask Ikuko to get you some tea. Have you eaten?"
"Hai, we did stop for chicken on the way back," Naru replied in an apologetic tone.
"Don't worry. I am sure that you made sure that ChibiUsa ate reasonably healthy and you did the right thing. It was better to get something into her. Now you go on and sit down."
Nodding her understanding, Naru finished putting on her slippers and followed Kenji on into the house proper. Kneeling down at the table, she was only vaguely aware of Ikuko coming in the room and speaking with Kenji before the older woman left to begin heating up some hot water for tea.
Returning with the hot water, Ikuko smiled at the sight of her daughter's best friend doing her best to avoid following ChibiUsa into slumber. The girl was a god send in helping to watch over the active child that was ChibiUsa, and even more importantly she had been the one to help ChibiUsa get over the loss of her mother. Naru was so involved in looking after ChibiUsa that in many ways it felt like she had gained another daughter between the amount of time Naru had spent over the years here with Usagi and now with her constantly watching over ChibiUsa and she knew that Abe had come to see ChibiUsa in much the same way – at least after the rough start with the park incident.
That still left her with having to watch out for the three year old ChibiChibi who with her apparent ability to wonder off through solid walls was enough to drive Ikuko to distraction. Ikuko had lost track of the number of times that she had turned her attention away from the redheaded girl for just a moment while standing in the only door to a room to only discover that the girl had vanished. Though, with ChibiUsa now often taking ChibiChibi out with her, as the girl was in effect her new henshin "wand," Ikuko didn't have to worry about ChibiChibi quite so much. That said, Ikuko was still curious how ChibiChibi had managed to show up in the kitchen two hours ago carrying a confused feline Diana, especially since Naru and ChibiUsa only now arrived home.
At least Ami-chan was equally as confused by ChibiChibi as she was, so Ikuko didn't feel too bad. Finishing up the tea, she brought the pot along with three cups into the dining room. Then after setting the tray down on the table, she poured the tea just in time for her husband's return from putting their granddaughter to bed.
"So where did ChibiUsa fall asleep on you?" Kenji asked when he returned
"She fell asleep while we were waiting for the bus after getting dinner."
"You carried her all of the way back here by yourself?" Ikuko asked, impressed.
"Yes," Naru replied.
"No wonder you look so tired. In that case, I think that it would be best if you spent the night here." Ikuko replied. "When you are finished with your tea why don't you head upstairs and take a bath. While you are doing that I will put out a pair of Usagi's pajamas for you to wear."
"Arigatou," Naru replied, not needing to be told that she would be sleeping in ChibiUsa's attic room, having spent roughly a night a week here since ChibiUsa had decided that Naru was to be her big sister.
Sitting on a tree branch, Hotaru waited for Ginny and Harry to arrive. Unlike at Harry's where she had been able to sleep in the same room and actually in the same bed as Harry, she had to spend the previous night outside and from what Ginny had said this morning when she had briefly come by to check on her Hotaru wondered if that was going to be the case for the rest of the summer holidays. Here Harry shared a room with one of Ginny's brothers and Ginny was expecting another one of Harry's friends to arrive in a week's time who would be sharing her room. Though that still left a week of time in which Ginny was sleeping alone, but after hearing that Ginny's brothers were not very good with privacy, Hotaru knew that sleeping in Ginny's room was not an option. Even though she had said as much to Ginny the night before, she had really been hoping that sleeping outside was going to be more of a one night thing, with them working out today whose bed she would be sharing.
With as much trouble as she and Luna had gone through to get here without Harry's headmaster knowing, Hotaru could only assume that Luna would not approve of anyone else in the family knowing about her presence. Actually, Hotaru had a strong feeling that she was going to be in trouble as it was with letting Ginny know. Hotaru just hoped that Luna would understand that it wasn't her fault and that she had been very careful to avoid being detected. She still was not sure how Ginny had even known to come out and look for her, especially since none of the adults had been awoken.
"Hotaru you can come down now," Ginny called out as she entered into the woods by the pond with a confused Harry following behind her.
Hearing those words, Hotaru dropped to the ground. "Good morning Ginny-san, Harry-san," she said. Then catching the eyes of Luna, she let her smile fade to be replaced by a contrite look.
"It is okay Hotaru-chan. There is something different about Ginny-san and I think that she might also have a role to play with why you were drawn to Harry," Luna said trying to reassure her charge.
"You mean it?" Hotaru tentatively asked.
Ginny's eyes had gone wide as she heard Luna speak and as soon as Luna and Hotaru finished greeting each other, she said, "You can talk. You are not an animagus are you?"
"Yes, I nihongo speak. Animagus I not be," Luna replied in very broken English.
"Nihongo?" asked Ginny, unfamiliar with the word.
"Japanese," Hotaru replied.
"So Harry's new cat speaks Japanese and can understand English. I am guessing that since you already know Harry that Luna must be associated with you Hotaru?"
"Yes she is. She is actually my mother's guardian, but she is currently looking out for me." Then turning to Luna, she asked, "You can understand English now?"
"Iie, no better than last time. But what Ginny speaks is not English as I can understand her perfectly. I don't know why, as everyone else is also able to understand her and the only other language I know is that which was spoken on the Moon and I know that I am the only here who knows that language."
Turning back to Ginny, Hotaru said, "Luna says that she can understand everything that you say, but doesn't know how that can be as she is horrible with English."
This time it was Ginny's turn for her features to drop as she realized that she could no longer hide from her friends what had happened to her voice. "That is because I can no longer speak English or any other normal language."
"But you are speaking right now." Hotaru interrupted.
"But it is not English it is parseltongue," Ginny continued. Hearing the sharp intake of breath from Harry her features dropped slightly before she further explained, "the language of snakes. I can now only speak snake and it is only because of magic that you can understand what I say."
Having said her piece, Ginny prepared to go hide herself away in her room, knowing that Harry would never want her now. She might have convinced herself not long ago to fight and make Harry hers, but she now realized that she was just deluding herself. He would never want the damage goods that were her. However, before she could turn more than a quarter turn an arm grabbed a hold of her and pulled her into a firm chest. Looking up with questioning eyes, she saw an understanding pair of green eyes looking back down at her.
"Ginny it is okay." Harry said and then seeing the painful need for reassurance that her eyes were communicating, Harry finished wrapping the younger girl up in a hug as he pulled the side of her face flush against his chest. "Just because you now speak parseltongue you are not evil. If Hotaru and Luna trust you, then I trust you. I too have been marked as some of Voldemort's power was left in me from when he tried to kill me."
"Even if I am the true Heir of Slytherin?" Ginny asked.
"Yes." Harry replied without missing a beat.
Pulling back and looking up at Harry, Ginny asked, "You mean it?"
"That I do Gin. I don't care if you are the Heir of Slytherin," and with that Harry kissed Ginny in much the same way that she had first kissed him not long ago, completing the circle and calming her fears in ways that no other method could.
Hearing that acceptance and experiencing her first Harry initiated kiss, the dam of emotions that Ginny had hidden away since Luna Lovegod's present had revealed unwanted knowledge broke and Ginny began to cry into Harry's chest. Unsure of what to do at first, Harry simply stood there for a moment before a firm pull on his shoulder guided him along with Ginny down to the ground. Then taking a seat leaning against one of the tree trunks, Harry pulled Ginny towards himself and once she had taken his hint and crawled into his lap, he wrapped his arms around her.
The two of them sat like that with Hotaru and a human Luna watching over them for quite a while. As Harry held the sobbing Ginny, he slowly began to realize that he quite enjoyed the feeling of having Ginny in his arms, even more so than he liked her good night kisses. For some reason having her in his arms just made him feel complete and content. Then following upon that realization was a second one in which he realized that her being sad made him sad and that he never wanted a frown to hide her bright smile again. He was not all sure what this meant in terms of his relationship with his best mate's sister, but that was for another time to figure out – Ginny needed him now and he would be there for her.
"Mr. President, do you have any idea of what you are doing?" an irate congressman from California challenged President Ryan.
"Congressman Tate I understand your concern. However, the Joint Forces radio is no longer a viable program. It is far exceeded in every manner by the new radios that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will be manufacturing by the end of the year."
"I can't believe that you are compromising our national security just so that you can get your radios a little cheaper. The JF radios are the culmination of years of research and they far exceed everything else on the market."
"Congressman Tate you know as well as I do that that is no longer the case. You are a ranking member of the armed forces appropriation committee and have seen the specs of the new radios that I have instructed our forces to buy. Those radios are reversed engineered from technology that is centuries in advance of what we currently have and have made the current JF radios utterly obsolete." Ryan replied in a calm tone, before moving on with, "Now I have to wonder about your sudden concern for our military forces. You have voted against nearly every military appropriation bill and I believe you ran on a platform of disbanding our military. I would think that you would be happy to find that we have found a lower cost solution for the inter-service radios that our forces need. The only reason why I can think that you would be opposed to them is that a major employer in your district just happens to be the prime contractor for the JF radios."
"How dare you!" the flustered Congressman replied as Ryan hit too close for comfort. "Just remember who controls the purse strings."
"And, I would have your remember Congressman who is the Commander in Chief. I don't care if you line item the purchase of those radios. I will issue an Executive Order barring the military from actually making any of those purchases. Whether you want to admit it or not, we are faced with a war and I will do everything in my power to make sure that we are ready to face that threat." Ryan replied harshly. "Now if you don't have anything else, I have other matters to attend to." Ryan added a moment later, curtly dismissing the Congressman.
"Well that is one way to take Congressman Tate down a notch, but I am afraid that you have probably just created yourself a new problem," Ryan's chief of staff said as he entered the Oval Office following the departure of one quite displeased Congressman.
Slumping his head down on his desk, Ryan replied, "I know," while wishing that he still smoked, he could really use one right now to help him escape from his frustrations. "I just wish that they could see the threat that is out there. We have briefed a good portion of the House and Senate on the threat that Galaxia poses, but they still fight tooth and nail anything that might prepare us for inevitable invasion. I am actually surprised that I haven't had any of them complain about us participating in the research effort.
"They don't want to fight a war."
"And do they think I do?" Ryan replied.
"You know that they don't."
"Sometimes I wonder. You do remember the articles that came out after my undercover work with the CIA was leaked."
"And it is that same experience that makes you the best suited to be President right now. As a spook you spent all of your days dealing with potential threats that if we waited till we had concrete evidence for it would be too late. However, for most people possible threats can be safely ignored and with this Galaxia they don't see anything that makes this real."
"So they are going to want to wait until we have some demented super villain running around stealing peoples souls?"
"To a degree that is probably going to be the case and we are just going to have to fight tooth and nail to get what we little we can. Though, on the plus side no one raised a ruckus over the State Department giving the green light and the winning of the contract by some of our munitions companies for the production of those technomagic bullet rounds for Japan."
"You are right. Well I think after that last appointment, I am done for the day. I need to spend some time with the kids."
"I suspected as much, which is why I scheduled you a two hour break following Tate. Now go on and see your kids, they are waiting for you." Kenny replied with a comforting smile. Though, as he said so a thought caught in his mind. Following Ryan on out of the Oval Office, Kenny headed to his own office intent on making a couple of calls. If I remember correctly, the princess that leads these Sailor Senshi is just a child not even in high school and I think that I also remember it being said that she does or once did fight alongside of them. Now we can't show them the horror of the fate that awaits Earth, but maybe seeing those who have the primary responsibility of protecting us will spark something. It is one thing to play politics with other politicians, but I doubt that the even the coldest political operative would be able to do the same with a child.
Walking up to one of Tokyo's concert halls / theaters, Ami was still thinking about the call she had taken just before she left work to come over. The request had taken its time going through the various channels in the Japanese government before being forwarded to her, but apparently the Americans were interested in having a state level meeting with the Moon Princess. Her first reaction was that ChibiUsa was too young to be involved in such a thing and as much as they were developing formal relations with the various governments in conjunction with the research facility and JSDF coordination, there was still the desire to stay away from politics. They after all were just junior high school girls and the only reason why they were fighting was because they were the only ones with the power to stop the enemy.
However, Ami also intellectually realized that things had changed from when they were fighting Beryl and then Rubeus. The threat that was Galaxia was on a whole new level, something that had been made very clear during her training with Fighter, Healer, and Maker. That meant that they had to coordinate not just at the local level with the military but at the state level and full national military cooperation implied complete diplomatic relations. In actuality it was a bit amazing that the various nations had allowed things to develop as long as they had without requesting at least ambassador level interactions with the fledgling Moon Kingdom.
Consequently, Ami had sent a message back through the Japanese government to the American State department indicating that the Moon Princess would be willing to visit the White House. Now she just had to inform ChibiUsa of her travel plans and work with Diana and Haruna-sensei getting ChibiUsa prepared for the trip. With its large GDP and industrial base, the US would be an important ally in the fight against Galaxia, even more so because they had all agreed that neither Russia nor China currently met their criteria for participating in the research effort. Maybe later they would relax their standards, but for now they had the time to insist on basic human rights and freedoms.
Now, however, was not the time to worry about diplomacy, the next couple of hours belonged to Michiru, her partner, and the orchestra. Taking out her ticket, Ami handed it over to the scanner who scanned her ticket before returning it back to her and directing her up the stairs. Walking up the stairs, Ami took her time so as to admire the décor of this particular theater. Unlike many of her friends for whom this was probably their first time in a theater that was not a movie theater, Ami had been to various other theaters a fair number of times with her mother over the years; though, this was the first time she had been to this one. Each time she had always been impressed with the level of detail that went into the artwork that made up the décor and when she had been younger she had often been quite fascinated by the chandeliers in the auditoriums. There had even been a couple of times when she had been quite little when she had pouted upon those chandeliers being extinguished so that the show could begin.
Not long after Ami had entered the auditorium, Sailor Iron Mouse, who had appropriated her ticket from an unfortunate concert patron, entered the auditorium as well and was directed to a seat in the loge section, not far from where the Sailor Senshi were sitting. Relaxing in her seat, she watched as the orchestra sans the two featured performers performed an overture or something (she was not very interested in the names that the humans on this planet assigned to their music; though, she did enjoy the music), as she thought about how fortuitous she had been. Just the other day she had come across a review of Kaiou-san's performance from some months back and had instantly decided that such a performer had to have a true star seed, and then this morning she had just randomly been walking by this very theater when she saw the posters for tonight's performance.
When the orchestra finished its piece, Iron Mouse joined in with the others in providing some polite applause before smiling as her target came out onto the stage, and so with eager anticipation she listened as the orchestra began playing again. Listening to the music it quickly became clear to her that her initial assessment was correct and that further more that the male partner to Kaiou-san was just as likely to be the holder of a true Star Seed, as there was no way that either of their performance could be so pure otherwise. The melody that they played pulled on her heart in ways that had been dead to her since her resurrection as a servant of Galaxia, and she would not have been surprised one bit if the music they played would have been able to bring a tear Galaxia herself if she had heard it.
Glancing around the theater, the Animate noticed that the music was similarly moving the other audience members and especially a group of girls who were sitting not far from her. Returning her gaze to the stage, she saw that even the orchestra had now fallen silent and Iron Mouse could see that the musicians were equally as caught up in the music as the audience. Though, to be far to the musicians their falling silent was not so much a reflection of their inability to perform through the emotions that the violin duet evoked, but because the two violinists were no longer playing the piece that they had started.
For fifteen minutes the only sounds heard in the auditorium were those of the two violins playing a song that only their souls knew, and when they finally finished it was to the stunned silence of the audience. For nearly a minute no one moved nor made any sound before finally one of the audience members managed to recover from the piece and began to clap. Her clapping broke the others out of the stupor and she was quickly joined by everyone else as Michiru and Ranma were given a thundering standing ovation.
Fervently applauding it took Iron Mouse until the second time that the two performers returned to the stage to bow to remember her purpose in coming to the theater. Being careful to not draw attention to herself, the disguised Animate quietly slipped out of the auditorium. Then once outside, she began to make her way backstage, taking advantage of the little reconnaissance that she had done during intermission.
"Excuse me miss, but this is a restricted area," a security guard said, as Iron Mouse reached the corridor that led to the changing rooms.
"I am with Galaxia TV; I am here to do an interview with Saotome-san and Kaiou-san." Iron Mouse replied to the guard who had moved to block her path as she held out her fake credentials.
"Um... if you would hold on a minute," the security guard replied, having not been informed about any media interviews. Turning his attention away from the animate, the guard pulled out his radio to contact his supervisor. However, he never got a chance to make the call for a quick hit against the back of his neck knocked him out.
Great now I have to find a place to dispose of this body, Iron Mouse despairingly thought to herself as she took in the sight of the crumbled body of the guard. However, before she could do anything about the guard, she heard the voices of others approaching her position. Turning to face back the way she had come, Iron Mouse smiled as she spied that the new arrivals that included her targets. Guess I won't need to do anything about the guard after all, she thought to herself as she shed her glamour.
Feeling an unexplained shiver, Michiru along with Haruka, who was accompany her just as Ranma's fiancé Akane Tendo was accompanying him, looked up and caught sight of the strangely dressed woman that was Iron Mouse. Reacting on instinct, the two of them slipped into ready stances, as the stranger smiled in a very non-friendly manner.
Iron Mouse still could not believe her luck in stumbling across two individuals who obviously had true Star Seeds, and as such she broadly grinned before stating, "You will give me your Star Seeds." Then having said that she leveled her arms out the group and fired off a pair of golden spheres.
Reacting instantly to the attack, Akane and Haruka roughly grabbed a hold of their loved ones and threw them to the ground, covering them with their bodies. Then the moment that the deadly spheres had passed above, the two warriors were back to their feet and facing their enemy. Michiru lagged behind Akane and Haruka by just a few moments in returning to her feet, having needed a moment to get her bearings after having been roughly tossed to the ground – that was something that she was going to "discuss" with her love that evening once they got home.
Unable to henshin due to the presence of Michiru's partner and fiancé, Haruka slowly moved her right hand over to her left wrist where her communicator, disguised as a bracelet, lay. She had just about reached the communicator and its panic button when a new voice caused her to pause her actions.
"That boy's dream belongs to me," the unexpected soft sounding voice of Fish-Eye said drawing everyone's attention. Not knowing what he had just interrupted and not caring, the servant of Nehellenia snapped his fingers causing a board to appear behind Ranma and began counting to three.
Not willing to give up one of her prizes, Iron Mouse yelled, "No his Star Seed belongs to me!" before firing off an attack that Fish-Eye barely dodged, but which blew out the portion of the corridor wall outside of the Green Room.
Recovering from the attack, Fish-Eye narrowed his eyes and said, "We'll see about that, Lemure get them," as he summoned not one but two Lemures.
Satisfied that the Lemures would keep the interloper occupied, an interloper that had to be less of a threat than one of the Sailor Senshi, Fish-Eye turned his attention to his victim. Seeing that the other three that had been with the boy where trying to free him, Fish-Eye simply smirked, they would be even less of a threat than that other annoyance. Striding over to the three teenagers, he simply knocked each of them out of the way, one after the other. Not even the enhanced strengths that the Uranus and Neptune retained in their civilian forms nor Akane's status as a master of her martial arts school allowed them stand for more than a mere moment against the demon master.
Hitting the brick wall of the corridor hard, Haruka and Michiru shared a knowing look with each other before picking themselves up. Keeping their identities a secret was no longer an option, only as Uranus and Neptune could they hope to stand against Fish-Eye much less the other attacker. If they had not been with their princess since soon after their awakening they might have developed into soldiers willing to sacrifice Ranma for the greater good of retaining their secret, but they were not that type of soldier and so upon returning to their feet they called out their transformation phrases and opened themselves to their birthrights.
The brief pulse of power that accompanied the awakening of their Star Seeds drew the attention of Akane, Iron-Mouse, and the two Lemures that Iron Mouse was fighting against. Fish-Eye, however, ignored the pulse of power and, instead, jammed his head into Ranma's dream mirror that he extracted during the time it took Haruka and Michiru to return to their feet.
"Yahhhhhhhhh…" Ranma screamed in utter pain as Fish-Eye forcibly entered his dreams.
Hearing the scream of one of her targets, Iron Mouse took advantage of the fact that the two Lemures had been momentarily distracted by the appearance of two Sailor Senshi to unleash her own attack at Ranma. Unlike the first time no one was in position to knock Ranma out of the way and as such the golden soul stealing easily sliced into Ranma's body causing his screams of pain to reach an even higher level.
Unable to do anything to save Ranma, Uranus, Neptune, and Akane could only watch on in horror as what looked to be a golden flower form and unfolded above Ranma and then from that flow a shining crystal rose. The floating crystal shone brightly for a moment before its absence from Ranma caused it to turn dark. However, unlike as was the case for every other non-Senshi, no dark energy began to wrap around Ranma's soulless body, energy that should have turned him into a demon. Instead, Ranma's body surprisingly began to become translucent and dissolve into motes of light.
Yanking his head out of Ranma's dream mirror, Fish-Eye rounded on Iron Mouse, who was looking a bit down over having been wrong about Ranma have a true Star Seed, and yelled "What did you do?"
Ignoring Fish-Eye's question, Iron Mouse mused to herself, "Not a true Star Seed and I was so sure," before turning her attention to the other performer. So she is a warrior as well as a performer maybe that was what this one was missing.
However, before she could attempt to steal Neptune's Star Seed, a roar grabbed everyone's attention, a roar that came from Ranma. With Ranma's mirror having gone blank the moment that Iron Mouse had forced Ranma's soul from his body, Fish-Eye had let it fall back down as he had turned his attention to the interloper who had prevented him from fully searching the boy's pure dreams. Now normally the dream mirror would have simply reintegrated with Ranma upon falling back onto his chest; however, with his body fading into motes of light that integration was not successful. Instead of disappearing into Ranma's body, the mirror fell through to lie on the table that Ranma was strapped to. The mirror lay there by itself for a moment as Ranma's body continued to dissolve, but then for a reason that only Sailor Pluto would have known Ranma's Star Seed began to drift downward and towards the mirror. Reaching the surface of the mirror, the black Star Seed slipped into the mirror and as it did so its glow returned. Then once the now brightly glowing Star Seed was fully inside of the mirror, the motes of light from Ranma's dissolving body began to reverse their course and to reform back into a body, a body, however, that was not Ranma's original body. Instead of a lanky black haired teenage boy, the motes of light formed into a redheaded female that was quite a few centimeters shorter and who was wearing a red trimmed leotard with a yellow bow and red boots.
"Um, what just happened?" Uranus asked Neptune.
"I am not quite sure," Neptune replied as she warily watched the now redheaded girl meow and begin stretching her muscles. While Sailor Erion had explained to them the transformation that non-Senshi went through when their souls were removed, something told Uranus and Neptune that whatever had happened to this girl she had not been transformed into a demon.
'Galaxia said that a real Star Seed will continue to glow when removed from its host and this one stopped glowing, but then it began glowing again. I wonder what that means? Maybe I should bring it to Galaxia?' Iron Mouse thought before firing off another round of soul steeling spheres at the girl that she and Fish-Eye had created.
The redhead, however, without seeming to pay attention to the actions of Iron Mouse easily leapt out of the way of the attack. Now turning her attention to the various individuals in the room, she began examining them as her feline mind performed a threat assessment. Even though her memory was quite fuzzy, the girl was easily able to recognize her mate. As for the other four she did not recognize them, but two of them, the one that smelled of fish and the one that smelled of mouse, raised her hackles and she made sure to stay aware of them as she made her way towards her mate. Reaching her mate, she was distressed to see that the girl was partially unconscious. Hoping to bring her mate back to alertness, Ranma began butting her head into her side.
Feeling something push into her side, Akane groggily said, "Wha…" as she looked over to her side. Finding a red headed girl sitting on all fours at her side, Akane's brows crinkled in confusion.
"Meow?" Ranma tentatively asked.
"Don't worry, I'm okay. It will take more than being thrown into the wall to take Tendo Akane down," Akane said as she reached out and scratched the head of the girl beside her. Even though she had no idea of who this girl was or why the girl seemed to be acting as if she was a cat, Akane still tried her best to reassure the girl.
"Meow," Ranma contently replied as she laid her head down in her mate's lap and began to purr from the attention.
Okay now this is getting very strange' Akane thought to herself as the unknown girl began to purr. Though as strange as it was for this girl to be acting as a cat, Akane did not give the strangeness anymore thought. Instead, she began trying to pull her faculties back together as she absently petted the girl's head. A few moments later the single word Ranma echoed through her head and the memories of what had happened crashed back down to her.
That thought caused Akane to instantly sit upright as she began to apprehensively scan the hallway for her fiancé, an action that elicited a questioning meow from the redhead. To her distress all that she could see were two of the Sailor Senshi, someone who looked like a Sailor Senshi, some other person, and a pair of demons all of whom appeared to be engaged in a battle royal. Ranma where is he? Maybe he was able to escape? Akane thought to herself. While not being able to locate Ranma worried her, she was at least partially reassured by the fact that the two who had attacked Ranma were still here and were apparently being tied up the Sailor Senshi. With any luck that meant that Sailor Senshi's presence had allowed Ranma and his partner to escape. Wait, Kaiou-san didn't she… She's one of the Sailor Senshi. Wonder if I this means that I will be able to get the autograph of one of the Sailor Senshi
While Akane was thinking these thoughts, she was lax in keeping fully aware of her surroundings, a lapse that she would chastise herself for later. She might not know where the cat-girl came from, but as a martial artist it was obviously her duty to keep the other girl from harm. Unfortunately, her failure to watch the battle meant that eventually one of the many dodged attacks came their way and by the time that Akane saw the Deep Submerge it was too late to move.
"Ranma I love you," Akane whispered out as she attempted to roll her body on top of the redhead, in an attempt to at least protect the shorter girl.
The redhead, however, had kept herself fully aware of what was happening, and as Akane moved to selflessly cover her, she slipped out of the larger girl's grasp. Bounding from her position beside Akane, the girl who was once Ranma paused in crouch for a moment in front of her mate before leaping into the air and using her right hand sliced the spell into two halves, halves that crashed to either side of Akane.
Just as Akane would be chastising herself for not paying attention to the raging battle, Michiru would also be chastising herself later for not keeping track of the non-combatants. Firing off her attack at the animate she had been elated at thinking she had finally caught Galaxia lackey off guard, but as her opponent moved out of the way that elation turned to horror as she saw what now lay in the path of her attack. She could only watch on in dread as her attack barreled in on the fiancé of her partner for the evening and what had apparently become of her partner. But then to her relief the attack was miraculously split in two. Seeing the redhead that had once been Saotome-san sitting there in front of where the attack had once been she could only conclude that he/she had somehow stopped it, how she had no idea, and then when the girl gave a very loud and annoyed growl she had to wonder did she just make herself a new enemy?
That growl grabbed not only Neptune's attention, but the attention of the other combatants as well. Stopping their actions, they each watched as the redheaded girl walked towards them on all fours. Puzzled by the peculiar sight, no one made any move to do anything as Ranma got in close, and then in a blink of an eye Ranma suddenly darted at Sailor Iron Mouse. Moving faster than anyone expected the teenager to be able to move, she was on top of the animate before the warrior had time to do anything more than fall back into a defensive stand. What little Iron Mouse was able to do to try to block the unexpected attack was utterly insufficient and in the next moment the animate was falling to the ground with her throat ripped open and her lifeless eyes wide in shock.
From Iron Mouse, the redhead ran towards Fish Eye and as she passed by the two demons, balls of flaming plasma streaked out of her hands, consuming the already heavily weakened demons. Reaching Fish Eye, she easily leapt to the side to dodge the Amazon's counter attack. Landing from the dodge, Ranma immediately reversed her course back to her target, this time getting close enough to sink her teeth hard into his right arm.
Taking advantage of the opportunity that the girl gave him, Fish Eye rammed his fist into the stomach of the momentarily helpless girl forcing her to release her hold on his arm. "You will pay for that!" Fish Eye yelled at the girl once he prepared to attack the girl again more enraged by the fact the bite mark was likely to leave a scar than the fact that he had been attacked.
Fish Eye, however, did not get a chance to continue his counter attack as Ranma had not been stunned at all by the punch and this time as she leapt at the demon master, she swiped her left hand at his stomach. While the hand passed a few centimeters from the stomach, the claws of chi that extended from the fingers easily sliced through Fish Eye's stomach, partially spilling his intestines.
Screaming in pain from the attack, Fish Eye fell to the ground and for the first time the seriousness of the situation registered on his mind. However, it was too late and before Fish Eye could even think of summoning some more demons or retreating, Ranma was by his head, and then Fish Eye knew no more as Ranma ripped into Fish Eye's neck with her mouth and snapped it.
Once the body fell still a few moments later, Ranma unclenched her jaws and pulled her bloody face away from the body of the former demon master. Then after taking a moment to wipe her face off on her right arm, Ranma slowly walked towards Uranus and Neptune who were frozen solid from what they had just witnessed. Seeing the redhead come her way, the two Senshi could only wonder if they were going to be joining Queen Serenity shortly.
Stopping in front of the two, Ranma settled down on her haunches and looked up at them. Then once she had their attention, she let out a loud meow that was easily understood to be a scolding meow. Then having "said" her piece, she returned to her four feet and walked up between the two Senshi and with a quick swipe of her right hand she left a long scratch on their legs that while being quite painful only drew a slight amount of blood.
"I think we have just been chastised," a slightly astonished Neptune guessed as Ranma walked back towards the two dead enemies.
"What do you mean?" Uranus asked.
"She obviously did not like that we almost hurt Tendo-san there with our battle and I am guessing what she just did was end our playtime by quickly killing our prey when she realized that we weren't being careful."
"Our playtime?" Uranus incredulously asked.
"Hai, for whatever reason Saotome-san currently appears to have the mind of a cat and you know how cats sometimes like to play with their prey. She must have thought we were doing the same, but felt we were being too reckless," Neptune said explaining how she thought about how Ranma's actions could be explained. "And, you see she is now presenting us with our prey… to I guess eat." Neptune added with a slight grimace, as Ranma proceeded to deposit first Iron Mouse and then Fish Eye at the feet of the two Senshi before returning to Akane.
Just as Ranma was returning to her mate, the rest of the Sailor Senshi who had both been alerted and delayed by the panic that had befallen the patrons when they had began to hear and feel the battle being waged. Knowing that they were not going to be able to make their way back stage until the majority of the patrons left the building and also recognizing the threat of people being trampled in an uncontrolled stampede they had instead focused their efforts on first safely guiding everyone outside while praying that Uranus and Neptune would be able to hold out.
"Is everything all right?" Venus asked when she realized that the battle appeared to be over.
"For the most part; though, there is an after effect that we are going to need Mercury to look at," Neptune replied garnering Mercury's attention.
"What is…" ChibiUsa began to say as she tried to get a good look at what lay at the Uranus and Neptune's feet. However, immediately upon getting her better look she suddenly found herself emptying her stomach.
"Sailor Moon are you okay?" Jupiter asked when she saw the pink haired warrior fall to her knees.
"Oh, I think I am going to be sick," Mars said as she also caught site of the two dead enemies.
"What are you… oh." Jupiter asked and then answered for herself as she too felt her stomach become a little queasy after seeing what was left of Fish Eye and Sailor Iron Mouse.
Likewise Venus also did not feel that great as she saw what had been done to the two dead enemies. However, her time as Sailor V had hardened her sufficiently that she was able to avoid losing her dinner, though just barely. "I know that they are our enemies, but isn't that just a little bit harsh?" Venus asked.
"Hai, and I am glad that the princess was not here to see it. Though, I wish that her daughter could have been spared." Neptune said as she and Uranus walked over to where ChibiUsa was now dry heaving.
"However, it was not us who did that to them," Uranus said as she and her partner gathered up ChibiUsa and began doing their best to comfort the young girl.
"If not you then who?" Ami asked as she approached the two bodies with her computer out, preparing to scan them.
"Saotome-san," was Neptune's reply as she nodded her head towards the redhead that was sitting in front of Akane.
"You mean her, she is Ranma?" the quavering voice of Akane asked.
"Hai, I am afraid so. Hopefully Mercury will be able to figure out how to help him," Neptune replied before turning back to Ami. "I believe that the new enemy there on the ground is one of Galaxia's animates and she was trying to steal Saotome-san's Star Seed. However, Fish Eye was trying to do the same with his dream mirror. Somehow the two simultaneous thefts resulted in turning him female, dressing her in an outfit like ours, and gave her the mind of a feline."
Her statement was naturally met with a large number of raised eyebrows, but the assembled Sailor Senshi could not refute the facts that were before them.
"Okay then, Neptune, Uranus I want you two to use my computer to record everything that you remember from the battle and anything that you felt as well. Include everything even if it doesn't make sense. While you are doing that I will contact the military for transporting the bodies to the research facility."
"Why do you want to do that?" Mars asked. "I should be able to incinerate them."
"I am sure that they will want to perform autopsies on them," Mercury replied.
The military, however, was destined to only get one of the bodies, for as Mercury gave her explanation Sailor Iron Mouse's body broke apart into quickly fading motes of light leaving behind a pair of golden bracers as the only indication that the animate had ever been there.
"It is conclusive then, Galaxia's forces have reached Earth," Sailor Erion stated once the body of Iron Mouse had vanished.
With that statement a grim cloud fell upon the Senshi. Walking over to where Iron Mouse had lain just moments ago, Venus knelt down and picked up the two bracers. Walking back to Mercury, she gave the blue haired Senshi one of them. "Mercury figure out everything you can about how these work. Find a way to block those soul stealing spheres that Erion has told us about or find a way to destroy these while the Animates still wear them. This is now your highest priority, even more important than the princess."
"Hai!" Mercury replied with a formal bow, knowing that war was now upon them.
"Minna-san I am going to go inform the Defense Minister of this development. Sailor Erion-san you are with me," Venus stated as she turned and walked out, taking the other bracer with her.
That night Naru slept over at the Tsukino household in the same bed as ChibiUsa with her arms wrapped around the young girl whose sleep slipped from one nightmare to another. Those nightmares, spawned from what ChibiUsa had seen of the gruesome remains of Sailor Iron Mouse and Fish Eye, kept Naru from sleeping for more than a few minutes at a time with her night instead spent waking ChibiUsa up from nightmares, calming her back down, and then helping her fall back asleep. Not even the unknown help that Helios attempted to provide as he hid in ChibiUsa's subconscious were able to mitigate those nightmares.
Unfortunately, the gruesome details of what had happened to Fish Eye and Iron Mouse did not generate the worst nightmares that evening. No, that honor fell to the confirmation that Galaxia's forces had arrived on Earth and it was the national leaders and the other Sailor Senshi who had fitful sleeps that night – that was if they even had the opportunity to sleep that night. Quite a many of those leaders obviously did not get any sleep for by the time the sun rose the following morning in Tokyo, the nations of the Earth would all be on a war footing. While the governments would in the days to come try to paint a reasonably rosy picture for their populace, the military leaders all would know that they were about to fight a war in which they were going to be heavily outclassed. Many would wonder if they would be sending their men to be slaughtered, but at the same time knowing that there was no other option. If they were to be wiped out by this Galaxia, they were going to make her pay dearly for it.
About the only thing going for the other counties was that the Senshi incidents all seemed to, aside from the one in the arctic, take place in Tokyo. Therefore, they would have some further warning, a warning that gave them hope for a last ditch plan. That last ditch plan being the utter nuclear annihilation of Tokyo, and as such all of the nuclear powers, both those that were working with the Sailor Senshi and the others, began issuing orders to retarget all of their nuclear assets and to refurbish all assets that had been mothballed. Within a week's time ballistic missile subs would begin to resume their cold war duties of lying in the ocean depths and waiting for the order that would cause them to surface and launch their deadly payload. Similarly fully loaded transcontinental bombers would shortly begin their routine holding flights where they would await the order to break and penetrate.
Incinerating Tokyo with every atomic, thermonuclear, and neutron warhead available to the nations of the Earth was quickly realized to be the only military option left should the Sailor Senshi fail to defeat Galaxia themselves. That realization did not comfort many as they had trouble conceiving how their highly trained militaries could be so far below a group of junior high school girls, but they had eventually accepted the truth and in doing so put into place a course of action that would likely between the resulting nuclear winter, global fallout, and the potential for cracking the very crust of the planet, result in the extermination of all life on Earth. As much as they loathed such a solution, they all knew that should the Sailor Senshi fail that the human race was doomed. At least this way they would be able to take the enemy with them, sacrificing themselves for the few planets that Galaxia had not yet ravaged.
One item that the various presidents, prime ministers, and chairmen all found ironic as they gave the orders to put their countries on nuclear war footing was that they would have been far more comfortable with their dead man's plan if their current stockpiles of nuclear assets were not substantially reduced from what they were at the height of the Cold War.
In case you are getting confused, the terms Sailor Moon and Moon Princess can be used to refer to either Usagi or ChibiUsa, and as you can imagine this can cause some confusion when the listener is thinking about the wrong Usaig. The reason why the Senshi are now calling ChibiUsa Sailor Moon is because her fuku is an exact replica of Usagi's original Sailor Moon one (same colors and all).
You might find the decision to plan for a nuclear strike against Tokyo to be overboard, but after listening to Erion describe how her own planet with its far, far advanced weaponry was wiped out, they realized that the only option that they had available was self-sacrifice.
The bit with Ranma being transformed into a Sailor Senshi (one with the mind of a cat) is again another nod to the Sailor Ranko series. And for anyone who might be concerned about this becoming a Sailor Ranko crossover, not to worry. Sailor Sun will not be joining the team.
Now as for other stories to keep you occupied while I write the next chapter, I would suggest checking out "The Red Witch and the Hellsing Vampire" by Noongunfight, "Phantoms and Slayers" by Winterd, "Godless Provence" Lisette, and "Going Home Through a Starry Mirror" by theICEBear.
I made a slight edit to the wording of Ginny's thoughts on breaking Harry when he arrives at the Burrow that is the result of a change that Comet Moon suggested.