The Four Clever Sisters: Or A Crystal Millennium Fairy Tale
"…and the Prince could not bear to part from his little love again, so he carried Cinderella back to the palace in his grand coach, and they were married that very day. So the poor little cinder maid married the Prince, and they lived happily ever after."
Neo Queen Serenity, cradled in the arms of her husband, sighed happily as Princess Small Lady proudly finished reading the fairy tale to her aunties and uncles and her many young senshi 'cousins' gathered in the great hall of the Crystal Palace. The children were sprawled on huge cushions while the adults sat round, keeping an eye on their rather rambunctious offspring.
"I just love that story," the Neo-Queen murmured, dabbing at her eyes with a linen handkerchief. "It's so romantic…"
"Hah!" Rei sniffed in disgust, tossing her raven hair. "The Prince saw her exactly once time. How could he know he loved her after seeing her only once? He knew nothing about Cinderella except that she was beautiful and she had tiny, albeit fast, feet. Sexist tripe."
Neo-Queen Serenity scowled, coming as near to sticking out her tongue at Rei as she had in centuries. "It was love at first sight. Like when I first met Endymion."
Violet eyes rolled heavenward. "Oh that's bilge and you know it. Please…you HATED each other at first sight. I remember the incessant bickering. Motoki once nearly banned you both from the Crown because you were scaring off other customers with your squabbling."
King Endymion laughed softly, tweaking his wife's silvery pigtail affectionately. "She has a point, Usako. We did rather despise each other at first, at least the second time around. I remember someone who kept yelling at me even when she was the one who hit me with shoes and test papers and Terra knows what all."
The Neo-Queen was not mollified. "Rei, you have no romance in your soul," she complained, staring balefully at the priestess. "What matters is that Cinderella found her Prince. That's what's important."
"Don't mind her, my queen," Jadeite interjected, leaning forward and rubbing Rei's back for her and drawing a relieved sigh from the uncomfortable fire senshi. "Rei's just crabby because she's so far along and her back is hurting her these days."
Rei shot her spouse a narrow-eyed look, but decided not to comment on his explanation, simply rubbing her gravid belly. She could feel the twins kicking vigorously beneath her palm. "I stand by my words," she insisted. "I hate these fairy tales. Why is it always the prince who does the adventuring and rescuing while the princess hangs around in towers or under spells or whatnot?"
"It's traditional," murmured one of the other ladies, giving her husband's hand a squeeze and smiling as she felt his arm snake around her waist, drawing her and their youngest infant daughter, Rose, whom she held, in closer. She curled eagerly into his warm embrace. "And I think they are rather romantic. Who wouldn't love a handsome prince riding to the rescue on a fierce steed?"
Rei tossed a glance across the room at the auburn haired woman who'd spoken. "Honestly, Mako-chan. Answer me this. If some witch or troll came along and tried to enchant you and steal your baby, what would you do? Cower and wait for Nephrite to come along and save you both?"
"Well," coughed the other woman, her cheeks going pink. "If I was sure he would be coming…"
"I would, of course, love." laughed the man in question, squeezing his spouse. "But she DID demand honesty from you Mako-chan."
"Oh, okay," blurted out Makoto, hanging her head so that her rich fall of curls hid her rapidly reddening face. "I'd smack the cra…" she trailed off, remembering how many young eyes and ears were witnessing the scene, fascinated. "Er…that is, I'd fight with everything in me and nobody, but nobody, would take my child." Her head came up and her eyes were gleaming fiercely. Family was everything to Makoto since Nephrite had come back to her after the Shitennou's resurrection. "I'd die first."
"Of course you would," smirked Rei, tapping her finger on the arm of her chair, as if punctuating the sentence. "You'd turn Rumpelstiltskin into Rumpel-no-skin. We all would. Those stupid fairy tale writers knew nothing about princesses. They wrote about wretched little simps who just let things happen to them and get put upon. And then they get a consolation prize of some random prince who picks them up simply because they're pretty and compliant and don't make waves."
Again, Jadeite chuckled, lovingly nuzzling his wife's neck. "Well, nobody'd ever confuse you for that kind of princess, Firebrand. Gaia knows, you speak your mind."
"Dang straight," she agreed proudly, her amethyst eyes glittering. "And don't get me started on the stories where the princess exists solely to be cursed to fall asleep and can only be woken by love's kiss. Yeesh! Talk about pathetic. Then the princesses aren't even people…they're plot devices."
"What?" giggled Minako behind her hand. "You mean to say you wouldn't like it if Jadeite woke you up with a kiss."
A rather inelegant snort was the reply. Jadeite chortled. "She's having so much trouble sleeping these days because of being in her third trimester that NOBODY in his right mind would wake Rei up if she's managed to get to sleep. She'd bite the fool's head clean off."
"Rei-chan actually does have a point," commented Ami, taking the fairy tale book from Small Lady and placing it carefully back in its assigned spot on the bookshelf. "They are not exactly sterling examples for young women, but really we should take into account the time and sociological setting in which the stories were created. It was a very patriarchal era then and…"
Minako cut in, eager to head the most intellectual of the senshi off before she could go off on an academic tangent that only Zoisite or Setsuna might understand. "Well, if you don't like the traditional fairy tales, Rei-chan, why don't you tell everyone a fairy tale you'd like? An empowering one where the girls are the adventuresome ones."
The blonde woman grinned impishly. "We've probably got time and I'm sure the kids would love another story before bedtime, even if they have to stay up a little late to hear one. After all, late to bed and early to rise makes kids healthy, wealthy and wild…"
There was general laughter among the royals, the Inner Senshi and the Shitennou. Sometimes one couldn't tell if Minako was really misquoting things or if she was making a point. Still, the children cheered at the prospect of staying up later and turned eagerly in Rei's direction.
"Yeah," piped up Small Lady, twining the end of one of her rose tinted pigtails around her finger. "Tell us a story, Auntie Rei-chan."
Rei faintly flushed, but then squared her shoulders gamely. "Okay then. I will."
She thought for a moment, then grinned broadly at the bright eyed children. Her grin grew still wider as she noted how Neo-Queen Serenity was leaning in as eagerly as the kids. "Alright, everyone. This is the tale of The Four Clever Sisters."
"Once upon a time there was a poor but kindly woman named Selenity…"
The Neo-Queen brightened at this, but Rei ignored her, focusing on her storytelling.
"Selenity was a young woman, although her hair was white as snow, and she lived alone in her house in a great woods. She was a widow who was sad because she had never had any children in her marriage. So lonely was she that one day she journeyed far to the temples of all of the gods and goddesses and prayed sincerely to all to grant her a child that she might be able to give it love and receive love in return."
"The gods and goddesses looked down on the woman and saw into her pure heart and discussed the matter at length. They knew she was devout and kind and finally they decided to grant her wish, although not exactly as it she had expected. On the next day when Selenity awoke she was surprised but delighted to find a large basket on her doorstep. In the basket lay not one, but four tiny baby girls wrapped in swaddling clothes."
Rei smiled smugly as she glanced up to see how her plot hook was working. The children were rapt and an expectant hush had settled over the hall.
"The first baby girl she uncovered had a cap of shiny blue locks that were as dark as her eyes, which rivaled the color of the deepest seas. The second baby girl had hair as black as onyx and eyes as rich and velvety as sweet violets. The third baby girl had hair the color of golden sunshine and sparkling blue eyes, bright as the sky. And the fourth and final baby girl had curls of gleaming copper and bronze mixed together and eyes that glittered like the finest of emeralds."
Each of the Inner Senshi grinned broadly at one another, nudging their husbands with their elbows, though Neo-Queen Serenity had started to pout, slumping back against Endymion. Again, Rei ignored her liege, intent on her younger audience.
"Now each of the baby girls wore about her neck a golden necklace of mysterious origin, each emblazoned with a different special sign. While lesser, meaner folk would have sold the objects for money, Selenity did not, saying, "These are surely a sign of their birthrights. They will go far." So she carefully set the necklaces away until the girls were grown."
"Selenity raised the girls and loved them as her own. They grew up strong and happy and uniquely lovely and she taught them well. In fact, after five years the gods and goddesses, whose own daughters the girls were, were so pleased that they decided to bestow unto Selenity with one final gift, a daughter in her own image. And so the widow Selenity bore a child of silver hair and sparkling eyes and named her Serenity. And the gods were pleased."
Endymion smiled, stroking his wife's hair. The Neo-Queen made a soft noise of pleasure at finally being included in the story.
"After many poor but happy years together, Selenity gathered the older girls to her saying, "'Dearest children, it is time for you to make your way in the world. Alas, I have but little to give you; you must go out into the wide world and try your luck. You must begin by learning some craft or another, and see how you can get on. But take these necklaces which are yours from the gods and do not ever part with them."
"So the four sisters put on their necklaces, placed their small bundles of clothes on their shoulders, and bid their mother and youngest sister goodbye, going out into the wide world together. After they had walked on for some distance they came to a crossways, each of the four paths leading to a different country. Then the first daughter, the wisest of the four, said, 'Here we should part, but on this day four years hence we will return to this spot. In the meantime each of us must try to discover what we can do for ourselves."
"The other sisters agreed and each went her own way. Yet, as the first daughter was walking along, a man met her and asked where she was going and what she wanted. The man was odd, wearing a helmet and a pair of strange winged sandals, and seemed mischievous, but the first daughter felt a bond with him and answered. "I am going off to try my luck in the world, and wish to begin by learning some art or trade,"
"Then," said the man, eying the girl's necklace, "come with me, daughter of Mercury. I will teach you to become the most cunning thief that ever was." The first daughter was shocked, saying, "No! It would dishonor my family to do so, and where could such a dishonest trade lead but to the gallows?"
The man smiled at the first daughter, saying, "Wisely spoken, young one. But you need not fear the gallows, for I will only teach you to steal what is be fair game and to know the difference between what is and is not so: You and I will meddle with nothing but what no one else can get, nor cares anything about, and where no one can find you out. I can see you are exceptionally bright and will do well."
"So the young woman agreed to follow the stranger's trade, and soon showed herself to be so clever that nothing could escape her once she set her mind upon it.
As if living out her story, Ami slid her arm up and quietly but nimbly plucked loose the ribbon that bound back Zoisite's queue of hair, sending the dishwater blond mop cascading untidily around his shoulders. He growled softly at her, but she merely smiled and shrugged, twining the ribbon between her fingers. 'Couldn't help it,' she mouthed silently, her eyes dancing.
He leaned in and whispered something in her ear which turned Ami's face a curdled shade of red, especially when he nipped her ear and said audibly, "Tonight."
"The second daughter also met a man all garbed in red and black, who, when he found out what she endeavor was setting out upon, asked what craft she meant to follow. "I do not know yet," said the second daughter honestly. "Then come with me, daughter of Mars, and be a seer, said the stranger. "It is a noble art, for nothing can be hidden from you, once you understand the sight." This idea pleased the second daughter very much, and she soon became such a skilful seer, that, when she had served out her apprenticeship time and wanted to leave her master, he gave her a glass in which burned a magicked eternal fire, and said, "With this, daughter, you can see all that passes in the sky and on earth, and nothing will be hidden from your keen eyes."
The third daughter met a truly unique person. At first she took the stranger for a huntsman, but she would soon discover that the person was actually a beautiful and mysterious woman huntress, who took the third daughter with her. The third daughter learned so well all that related to hunting and became so very clever in the craft of the wood that when she left, her mistress she gave her a golden bow and said, "Whatsoever you shoot at with this bow, daughter of Venus, you will be sure to hit."
The fourth daughter likewise met a man, who was strong and fierce looking behind an enormous brown beard. His eyebrows slashed boldly across his face like lightning bolts and his voice rumbled like a storm. He would have frightened many people, both men and women, but the fourth daughter was strong of heart and was not afraid. When the man asked her what she wished to do, however, she had no answer.
"Would not you like," suggested the man, "to be a seamstress or tailor?"
"Oh, no!" cried the fourth daughter, "For though I love home life and domesticity, sitting cross-legged from morning to night, and working with a needle and thimble will not suit me. I am strong and sturdy and wish to use my strength to make a life for my mother and baby sister.
"Oh," laughed the large man in a voice like thunder. "That is well of you. However, my sort of tailoring may suit you better than you know. Come with me, and you will learn quite a rare kind of craft indeed. And I shall teach you to cook and grow green things in the bargain." Not knowing what better to do, and very much enjoying the cooking and floral arts, she agreed to the plan, and learned tailoring from the beginning. When finally she left her master, he gave her a needle, saying, "You, daughter of Jupiter, "can sew anything with this, and the join will be so fine that no seam will be seen, be it as soft as an egg or as hard as steel; Yet your strength will serve you well for the latter. Go into the world and find your sisters."
"So after four long but enjoyable years, at the agreed upon time, the four sisters met at the cross-roads and had a wonderful reunion, each telling of what she had learned. Then they set off towards their mother's cottage, where they told her all that had happened to them, and how each had learned her craft. And the mother and five sisters were happy to be reunited once again."
"One day, not long after, as the daughters and their mother were sitting before the house under a high tree, the mother, Selenity, said, "I should like to see what each of you can do in your way." So she looked up and said to the second daughter, "At the top of this tall tree there is a raven's nest; tell me how many eggs there are in it." The seer daughter took her glass fire, then looked up and said, "Five." "Now," said Selenity to the first daughter, "take away the raven's eggs without letting the bird that is sitting upon them and hatching them know what you are doing." So the cunning and wise thief climbed up the tree, and carefully brought to her mother the five eggs from under the raven, yet it never saw or felt what she was doing, but kept sitting at ease. Then the mother took the eggs, and placed one on each corner of the table, and the fifth egg in the middle, saying to her huntress daughter, "Take up your bow and cut all the eggs in two pieces with one shot." The huntress did so, and with one shot struck all the five eggs as her mother had asked.
"Now comes your turn," Selenity said to the young seamstress; "Sew these eggs and the young birds in them together again, so neatly that your sister's shot shall have done them no harm." And the dutiful daughter took up her needle, and sewed the eggs as she was told; and when she was done, the thief was again sent to return them to the nest under the bird without its knowing. Then the raven went on sitting, and hatched its children and in a few days they crawled out. Yet each tiny raven had only a faint red streak across their necks, where the seamstress daughter had stitched them together.
"Well done, my daughters!" cried Selenity, as young Serenity laughed with delight at her sisters' talents. "You have all made good use of your time, and learnt something worth knowing. However I am sure that I do not know which of your skills is best. Perhaps the time may soon come for you to each turn your skills to some account! Go forth and make your way in the world and know that I am proud of you all."
Rei paused here to take a deep breath, bearing on her face the satisfied look of a born storyteller. Even the grown Senshi and Shitennou had been drawn into the yarn she was spinning. "It's getting rather late," Rei commented, looking deceptively innocent. "I suppose all you kids are getting so tired you couldn't stay up to hear the rest…"
The children protested mightily at this and, after some cajoling, Rei consented to continue the story, winking at Jadeite, who was grinning, proud of his wife.
"The four sisters chose, this time, to go together, for they had sorely missed one another during their four years absence. Together they journeyed to the capital city of the country, where the great palace of King Artemis and Queen Luna was to be found. And each soon found a job there, the first as a teacher of children, for she was, of course, wise and learned. The second found a position as a far seeing priestess and the third as an assistant to the King's hunters. The fourth was hired as a palace cook, for, as you recall, she had learned that skill as well from her mysterious teacher. But with her needle she sewed the finest dresses for herself and her sisters."
"Now in this country the King and Queen had five fine sons, each seemingly more handsome than the last, but not a single daughter. The eldest son was obsidian dark of hair and midnight blue of eye. The second was as silver. The third had both hair and eyes the color of darkest chocolate. And the fourth and fifth were twins, both blond, one with eyes of green and the other of bright turquoise blue. All of them were brave and daring and bold and the last one was full of mischief."
Rei let out a startled squeak as Jadeite pinched her lightly, making the adults in the room laugh uproariously and the children squirm and giggle on their cushions. Small Lady practically rolled on the crystalline floor, she was so amused.
"As I was saying," the fire priestess muttered tensely, "the last was just FULL of mischief."
"Now the eldest son of the King and Queen was forever busy with his lessons, for as the heir he had to learn best how to rule the kingdom. But the other four of these princes soon chanced to see Selenity's daughters. Intrigued by their beauty and spirit, they contrived to get to know them better. And the more they knew them, the more they liked them and in time, grew to love them. And their love was returned…mostly."
At that, Rei turned and scrunched up her nose at Jadeite, who let out a bark of laughter, reaching around her to contentedly stroke her rounded stomach.
"In any case," she continued, "they were happy. Indeed, the princes wished to marry the daughters of Selenity, despite their being commoners and it being forbidden. However, their happiness was not to last. For not long after that time, and before the King and Queen could be told of the princes' loves, there was a great outcry in the country, for the king's heir, the eldest prince, had been stolen, carried off by a mighty and evil dragon named Beryl. The King and Queen mourned over their loss all day and night. Finally they made it known that to whoever brought their son back to them, that person should inherit a quarter of the kingdom.
"The four sisters looked at one another and said, "Here is a chance for us. Let us try what we can!" So they agreed to see whether or not they could free the eldest prince. "I will find out where he is immediately," pronounced the seer, as she looked through her fire glass. Soon she cried out, "I can see him! He is far off, sitting upon a rock in the cold sea, and I spy the ugly dragon nearby, guarding him."
"Then four sisters went to the King and Queen in secret, and asked for a ship for themselves. They had to go in secret, for the four princes would have feared too much for their safety to have let them go otherwise, and the wise young women knew this and contrived to go anyway. Their request was granted and the King added that, if they could by some means, return his heir, one of the sisters would also be wed to the prince. So they sailed together over the sea till they came near to the rocky island. The sisters moved from the ship into a small boat and from there they went on. And upon the island they found the prince sitting, as the seer had said, on the rock. The fierce dragon Beryl lay asleep, wrapped around him tightly."
"I dare not shoot," said the huntress, "for I might kill the prince in the process."
"Then," announced the wise thief, "I will try using my skill." So she thought for a moment, then went and stole the prince away from the dragon so quietly and gently that the fell beast did not know it, but went on snoring loudly.
"Then four sisters hastened away in their boat, full of joy at the thought of returning to their loves. The dragon, however, came awake and missed the stolen prince. With a mighty roar it flew after them, breathing fire terribly. But just when it got over the boat, and wanted to pounce upon them and carry off the prince again, and all seemed most lost, the huntress took up her golden bow and shot the evil dragon straight through the heart so that it fell down dead."
"Yay!" cheered Minako leaping to her feet, her motion dumping a disgruntled Artemis to the floor. "Now that's girl power! I love this story!"
The grouchy white cat hissed, clawing at Minako's legs, pausing mid-swipe when Kunzite pinned the animal with a lethal glance and shook his head. As if he had meant it all the time, Artemis' upraised paw was suddenly merely raised the better for grooming himself. Kunzite sat back in his chair with a satisfied nod.
"When do I get to do something," Makoto moaned, jiggling a slightly fussy Rose. "Please tell me I get to do more than just sit in the boat."
"Do you two mind, Minako-chan? Mako-chan?" A soft snicker came from Rei before she resumed her tale.
"The sisters and prince were still not safe, for the dragon was such a great hideous beast that when it fell, it caused mighty waves which swamped the boat and destroyed it. They had to swim in the open salty sea and would surely have drowned, but a few planks still floated. So the seamstress sister grabbed hold of her needle, and with a few mighty stitches put some of the oaken planks together. These she sat upon, sailing about and gathering up the remaining pieces of the boat. She then tacked them all together so quickly that the boat was soon repaired, and then she used her mighty strength to haul her sisters and the prince aboard. The small boat soon reached the large ship and they sailed toward the kingdom, safe."
"When the four sisters brought home the eldest prince to his parents and brothers, there was great rejoicing and the four sisters were lauded as heroines throughout the land. Selenity and Serenity, now a grown young woman, heard of the sisters' achievement and immediately set forth from their home to seek out the girls."
"The King rose from his throne and spoke to the four sisters, saying, "You each shall inherit one fourth of my kingdom. Only tell us how you rescued him from the mighty dragon."
"The sisters, one at a time, told what they had done, for each was proud of her contribution but also knew that it would not have been possible without the aid of her sisters. The King was impressed, and bid the girls rise from where they knelt. "Amazing," he said. "You are all amazing. Now as I spoke, I shall do. In addition to the fourth each of my kingdom, so too shall one of you brave and lovely sisters marry the eldest prince, but you must settle amongst yourselves which of you it shall be. "
"Now, you may imagine that the heir's younger brothers were mightily displeased with this turn of events, for they adored their brave, beautiful maidens and did not wish to lose them, not even to their beloved eldest brother. They began to quarrel bitterly with the King, who, though kind, was sometimes a bit of a stuffed shirt and would not consent that any but one of his sons marry a commoner."
Yet in the midst of the chaos, a heavenly light filled the palace, finally settling on each of the girls by turns. The first daughter began to glow cool blue and the sigil of Mercury, which matched that of her necklace, burst forth on her forehead, proclaiming her the daughter of that god."
"The second daughter was enveloped in warm crimson light and soon the fiery symbol of Mars flared brightly on her forehead, for she was the daughter of that god."
"The third daughter shone gold until she seemed all so, and the radiant sigil of Venus glittered on her forehead, claiming her as the daughter of the goddess."
"And finally the fourth daughter was wreathed in verdant light and the symbol of Jupiter bloomed fresh and green on her forehead, for she was born his daughter."
Seeing the sisters claimed by their deities, the King could no longer deny that each was more than worthy, both by breeding and boldness, to wed one of his sons. But none of the princes would consent to give up his beloved maiden, nor would the maidens give up their chosen loves in favor of the eldest prince.
When all was near to falling again into chaos and despair, the door to the Great Hall opened and two figures garbed in white entered. The wise thief recognized them straight away and immediately divined the solution to the knotty problem.
"My King," she said smoothly. "You said that one of us sisters shall marry your eldest son, and so one of us sisters shall. Allow me to present our youngest sister, who is the kindest of us all, generous and loving. With your permission, oh King, Serenity can wed your eldest son."
Young Serenity blushed very greatly, but was brought before the King and Queen and the eldest prince. Both royal parents were immediately taken by the shy young maiden and found she was, as her elder sister had spoken, most kind, generous and loving, and would make an excellent queen for the land some day. And for his part, the prince was delighted with his pretty bride.
So the King and Queen decreed that Serenity and the eldest prince would be wed, fulfilling the King's vow, and her sisters would wed the younger brothers, each ruling a quarter of the kingdom as promised. So it came to pass that Serenity wed the heir and brought her god-favored mother, Selenity, to live in the comfort of the palace for the rest of her life. The daughter of Mercury, the wise thief, was wed to the most learned of the king's sons, the green-eyed prince. The golden daughter of Venus, the bold huntress, was wed to the bravest of the king's sons, he of the silver hair. The talented and brave daughter of Jupiter was wed to the strongest of the king's sons, whose eyes and hair favored sweet chocolate. And the fiery seer, daughter of Mars, was, after many initial mishaps, ultimately wed to the turquoise eyed twin, the last and most brash of the king's sons."
"And they all lived happily, if not quietly, ever after…and the last son was still full of mischief."
Awkwardly, hampered by her pregnant belly, Rei boosted herself out of her seat and managed a clumsy curtsy, being met with cheers from the children and applause from the senshi and their respective spouses. "Thank you," she replied happily, pleased that her tale had been so well received. "Thank you."
Ami, in particular was enthusiastic. "Rei-chan, I hope you don't mind, but I recorded your tale on my mini-computer and I would like to set it to print so that it's not lost to the ages. I mean, Setsuna could probably retrieve it, but better to preserve it in the first place." She beamed at her old friend. "It's a perfect fairy story for a new age."
There was much nodding and agreement from the senshi, and Rei eventually agreed that Ami was welcome to do so.
However, there was one party in the room who was less than thrilled, a frown marring her pretty features and puckering lines into her forehead.
"That's it?!" demanded Neo-Queen Serenity finally in aggrieved tones. "That's all I get? To be born, grow and be pawned off to the heir so that everyone else lives happily ever after with the prince they chose? Where's MY part of the adventure?" She sniffed so indignantly that King Endymion laughed out loud and mopped at watering eyes with his lilac sleeve.
"Well, darling Usako," he murmured, deliberately using his old pet name for her, "you did say that all that mattered was that the girl got her prince in the end." Endymion's eyes twinkled merrily as he paused for a moment, then added, "And he sounds like a most charming fellow and a fine catch if I do say so myself."
The Neo-Queen shot her spouse an evil-eyed glance and flounced across the room, pigtails flapping, to unceremoniously scoop up Luna, who howled at the rough handling and wriggled free, leaving Serenity standing alone.
"I demand a re-write!"
Note: All standard disclaimers apply. Many thanks to Naoko Takeuchi for the Sailor Moon characters and the Brothers Grimm for their original tale, The Four Clever Brothers. After all, if you're going to steal…er…borrow shamelessly, might as well choose the best from the start, no?