The Coming of Triton
by Naia Zifu

"Poor Nami-chan," Usagi said, patting my head in sympathy. "You
really have to wear those awful things all the time?"
"They're not awful!" I retorted. "Papa helped pick these
glasses out, and I think they're pretty."
"Nami-chan likes them now because Yuka-san does, eh, Nami-chan?"
Hotaru teased, causing me to flush and hide my face from embarrassment.
"Yuka-san?" Usagi repeated, blinking stupidly. "Who's
Yuka-san?"
"Nami-chan no hatsukoi," my sister said with an evil grin.
"Yuka-san is a pretty girl in Nami-chan's class she has a crush on."
"I haven't got a crush on her!" I shouted. "I'm not gay!
We're just friends who play together at recess, that's all."
"They play as _Uranus and Neptune_ at recess," she clarified,
"and they play at each other's houses after school a lot, too.
Sometimes they stay in Nami-chan's room with the door closed all
afternoon."
"Ohh," Usagi said with a knowing wink, "so they have _that_ kind
of relationship? And at such a young age, too. . . I guess having
Haruka-san and Michiru-san as parents has rubbed off more than I
thought. So when can I meet this new girlfriend of yours, Nami-chan?"
"I'm not gay!" I repeated. "I told you, we're just friends.
She's coming to my birthday party, but don't you dare call her my girl-
friend in front of her or you'll scare her away!"
"Ah, so ka, it's a secret, then?" Usagi said with a wink and a
nudge. "Don't worry, I won't tell anybody about your girlfriend if you
don't want me to."
"I'm not gay!" I repeated a third time. "And if you don't
stop saying that I won't let you stay for my party at all."
Usagi apologised profusely and promised not to do it again, but
immediately ran off to tell the others about my "girlfriend." She can
be such a gossip sometimes, which is fine as long as it's about other
people. But it's just wrong to gossip about Yuka and me, especially
when she might arrive for my party at any minute!
The doorbell rang, and I rushed to answer it. Normally I
wasn't allowed to answer the door because I was too small to see out
the peephole, but in my excitement I forgot. I flung open the door
without even asking who was there, and tried not to look disappointed
to see my grandparents standing there instead of Yuka.
Ojii-san knelt down to kiss my cheek rather than picking me up
as usual so he wouldn't ruin my nice dress-up clothes.
"You're very dressed-up for such an informal party," he said.
"You think the tie is too much?" I asked.
"Maybe a bit," he replied. "You look good, though. I'm sure
Yuka-san will be very impressed."
I squealed and hid my reddening face. Nobody was supposed to
know my secret dress-up motives!
"Maybe this will help," Obaa-san said. She gave me a small,
well-wrapped box I assumed would contain jewellery. "Go ahead and
open it."
I was curious what it could be that would outdo their welcoming
present, as she'd promised. I knew it was wrong to open presents
before the party, but since I had permission just this once, I eagerly
tore off the shiny paper. Nestled inside the hinged box was a tennis
bracelet of alternating diamonds and sapphires. Obaa-san fastened it
around my wrist for me, where it glittered with every movement of my
hand. She'd promised to outdo my welcoming present, and she had. That
bracelet was the sparkliest thing I'd ever seen!
"Suteki!" I cried. "Arigato, Ojii-san, Obaa-san, this is the
best birthday present ever!" I hugged them both, then ran off shouting,
"I want to show this off to everybody!"
Usagi-tachi, who had been talking and giggling so happily,
stopped the moment I came over. That was a sure sign they'd been
talking about me, probably about Yuka and me.
"I'm not gay," I reminded them. "Yuka-san and I are just good
friends."
"Of course you're not gay, Nami-chan. Nobody said you were,"
Makoto said soothingly. "But even straight girls can get crushes on
other girls sometimes. It's perfectly normal, especially with girls
who look a lot like boys, like Haruka-san."
"Yuka-san doesn't look like a boy!" I shouted. "She's got
long, curly red hair and big blue eyes, and she wears dresses all the
time, even when she doesn't have to, just like Mama."
"Nami-chan and Yuka-san play as Uranus and Neptune at recess,"
Usagi said, causing a round of "ohh"s from the other girls.
"It's not like that!" I insisted, and pinched Usagi's arm.
"Oh yeah? Then how come you got all dressed up just to see
her?"
I screamed. Did _everyone_ know my secret dress-up motives?
Ami complimented, "You look very pretty today, Nami-chan. I
really like you in your new glasses."
"Arigato, Ami-san," I said. "I like yours, too. You wore them
for me?"
"Well, yes," she admitted. "I heard you had trouble adjusting,
so I thought I should wear mine to support you."
"I'm fine now. I didn't want glasses at first, but Papa made
me pick some. Now I'm glad she did, 'cause now I can see the
blackboard in school. And thanks to the books you gave me, I can
answer all the questions right and make my family proud!"
"I'm glad you're making such good use of the books I gave you,
Nami-chan. I'll bring more next time I come, if you want."
"Arigato, Ami-san," I said again, and hugged her in gratitude.
"I'll study hard and make all good grades so I can grow up to be a
genius girl just like you!"
"I'm flattered you think of me as a role model, Nami-chan. But
remember there's more to life than just studying. Enjoy your childhood
while it lasts; you'll only be young once, and if you miss it you'll
regret it for the rest of your life."
Rei asked, "You speak from experience, Ami-chan?"
"No, of course not," Ami said quickly. "I was just repeating
what my parents told me when I was that age. I used to be scolded for
studying too much, if you can imagine that."
"Uh, yeah, I believe we can," the other girls said in unison.
"There's nothing wrong with being studious," a feminine voice
said. After looking around for the source I realised it was actually
Luna, the cat, talking. "It wouldn't have killed any of you to study
more in school, especially you, Usagi."
"Luna, you can talk?" I asked, surprised. "I didn't know cats
could do that."
"Most can't, but Artemis and I are special," she explained.
"But you mustn't tell anyone we can talk. It's a secret, just like
the Senshi identities."
"Then it was you I heard talking the night I came," I deduced,
pointing to Artemis.
The white cat nodded. "I knew I shouldn't have said anything in
front of you, but whenever she ruins perfectly good quotes like that I
can't help it."
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone," I promised. "Not even
Yuka-san, even though she likes cats so much. Is it all right if she
pets you if I don't tell her you can talk?"
"Of course," Luna said.
Artemis added, "I could never turn down a good stroking."
"Arigato," I replied, and petted them both in gratitude.
The doorbell rang again, and again I rushed to answer it without
looking first. This time Yuka stood there, wearing a lovely navy-blue
floral dress, and her hair was tied back into a little bun.
"Yuka-san, you look beautiful," I said.
"Arigato," Yuka said, blushing. "So do you."
"You really think so?" I asked.
"Absolutely!" she replied. "You look great in a tie. But isn't
that a lot for just a birthday party?"
"I guess so," I said, "but I wore it to look nice for you. See?
I'm even wearing the special bracelet my grandparents gave me, just
'cause Obaa-san said you would like it."
"It is pretty," Yuka agreed, "but that's not why I think you look
beautiful. Nami-san, you're beautiful everyday, to me, just because
you're you."
I felt my face flush and mumbled a shy, "Arigato."
Then I took Yuka aside and said, "My friend Makoto-san says
it's normal for girls to get crushes on other girls sometimes. It
doesn't mean they're gay or anything."
"Honto?" she asked, sounding like a mixture of excitement and
doubt.
"Yeah, especially if one of them kind of looks like a boy. . .
like me."
"Nami-san, you don't look like a boy to me," Yuka said
sweetly, "but I. . .kind of do have a little crush on you."
"You do? Then why didn't you tell me?"
" 'Cause I don't want people to think I'm gay, of course!"
"Don't worry, you're not. There's nothing wrong with having a
crush on me," I reassured her. "I've always kind of had one on you,
too, Yuka-san."
"Is that why you kissed me that day on the playground?" she asked.
"I don't know. Maybe, kind of. But we were playing as Uranus
and Neptune, and they're in love, so. . ."
Yuka bit her lip and shifted uncomfortably.
"You don't still want to kiss me, then. . .do you?"
I hesitated a moment, unsure of what she wanted or expected me
to say.
"Um, well, Mama says I'm too young for kissing at all," I said.
"For now I'm only allowed to kiss friends and family members on the
cheek."
"Well. . .I'd like to think I'm your friend," Yuka said.
"The best!"
"Then, it _is_ all right to kiss me, isn't it?" she asked.
"Just on the cheek?"
"Uh. . .of course," I replied, and shyly did so.
A round of giggles ensued from behind, at which Yuka and I both
flushed completely red.
"What's that all about?" I asked crossly. "It was just on the
cheek! Geez, you guys are all _so_ immature!"
"Nami-san, are these people friends of yours?" Yuka asked.
"Yeah, although right now they're kind of not acting like
it," I said. But I introduced them to Yuka anyway, being careful not
to say a word about their being Senshi.
"You were right, Nami-chan, she is a very pretty girl," Usagi
said, and the others agreed in unison. "Nami-chan is lucky to have a
pretty girl like you, Yuka-san."
Yuka's eyes went round in surprise and she stuttered for a
response.
"Baka," Rei hissed, with a scary look on her face, and stepped
on Usagi's toes to make her behave.
I had to change the subject, and quickly.
"Oh, Yuka-san! Look, kitty cats!" I announced. "The black
one's name is Luna. She belongs to Usagi-san. And this white one is
Minako-san's. His name is Artemis. You can pet them if you like."
"Ooh, kawaii!" Yuka cried, and rushed over to pet them. "But
are these little kitties okay? They have these weird little bald
places on their foreheads."
"Neko pattern baldness," Minako joked, then replied more
seriously, "They're fine, Yuka-san. This is just the way they were
born. They're special."
"That's good. I was afraid they might be sick or something.
Then they'd have to go to the vets and get shots!"
Both cats cowered at the very mention of vets and needles.
"I know how you feel, little kitties," Yuka said. "I feel the
same way about human doctors."
"We'd better wash the kitty germs off our hands so we can go
eat cake and party food," I said. "I bet Mama and Papa have every-
thing set up in the backyard already."
My party was set up on rented picnic tables covered in blue
tablecloths and set with matching disposable paper dishes. A
colourful donkey-shaped piñata hung from a low branch of a nearby tree.
There were burgers and hot dogs on the grill, and no less than five
different kinds of pop.
Classmates began to arrive already, with poorly-wrapped presents
in hand. Mostly they were the kids Yuka and I played Sailor Moon with
at recess. I didn't expect many others to come unless their parents
made them; I wasn't a popular enough girl for every kid in my class to
want to come to my party. But I didn't care if none of them showed up,
as long as Yuka had. Many place settings that went unused by class-
mates were taken by my Senshi friends and family, who otherwise
might've gone hungry all party.
If my playmates had known whom they were really eating with. . .
but no, I still couldn't tell anyone, not even the friends who played
them at recess. Sometimes knowing real Senshi felt more like slow tor-
ture than a privilege.
My birthday cake was store-bought, a big, yellow sheet cake
with white frosting, and Sailor Moon and Luna printed on top. Eight
polka-dotted candles were added for me to make my special birthday wish
upon. I knew just what to ask for.
I closed my eyes and wished, "I wish I were Sailor Triton, the
Senshi from Mama's mirror, for real, and as soon as possible. Not that
I like wars or anything, because I don't, but ever since I saw her I've
been so impatient! So please grant my wish just this once, birthday
faerie. If you do I swear I'll never ask you for anything else ever
again!"
"Blow out the candles already! We're not getting any younger!"
a little boy's voice called from the other end of the table.
I hoped Mama and Papa saw who said that, so they could make sure
to give him smaller cake just for being so rude.
Finally I took a deep breath and blew. I blew until I felt
light-headed, and even after, until every candle had gone out. I
squealed with elation! Now my birthday wish would come true for sure!
After that I was looking for henshin wands and monsters every-
where. I was actually disappointed when the piñata didn't come to life
and hit back when I broke it open with a stick. None of its contents
even resembled a henshin wand or any other real Sailor Senshi article.
None of my presents did, either. Most of them were very normal
things like colouring books, jigsaw puzzles, and action figures. I was
very pleased, however, when Yuka's present was a "best friends"
necklace. Even though it was pink and had Hello Kitty on it, it was
the message that counted, that she thought of me as a best friend. She
put on one half of the necklace and I put on the other. I promised
never to take it off, even if it was pink.
At first I thought nothing was special about the present Mama and
Papa gave me. I was visibly disappointed to open the large box and see
a doll inside, until I had a closer look at her. The doll wore a blue
long-sleeved shirt, denim overalls, and sneakers. She had large emerald-
green eyes that could open and close, and her pale-blonde hair was cropped
short in an approximation of my own style.
"It's me!" I cried, and hugged the doll. "But Nami-pi's eyes see
too near sight. She can't see the board in school without her glasses."
"When we ordered her we didn't know you needed any," Mama said.
"But we bought her spare outfits that seemed your style. That should
make up for it a little."
"We can buy her glasses later, Nami-chan," Papa said. "What's
important is that she's accurate in every other way. She's even got
the same little mole in the small of her back that you do."
"She does?" I asked, and immediately took down her overalls to
look for it.
I found the little painted-on mole, and noticed some of my more
prominent scars were also reproduced on the doll's body. But surely
I had too many scars all over from my father's drunken rages to paint
them all on. Since I'd always thought of my scars as just something I
deserved, I accepted them easily on myself. Seeing them reproduced on
an innocent doll was somehow harder to take.
I closed her overalls and gave her a sympathetic hug.
"It's okay, Nami-pi, I'll take care of you," I promised. "I
won't let anybody hurt you ever again."
My party ended with no sign of monsters or henshin wands any-
where, and the guests began leaving as peacefully and uneventfully as
they'd arrived.
I sat alone, depressed, half-heartedly assembling a "Pocket
Monsters" puzzle I'd received as a gift.
Mama sat beside me and said, "You're barely eight years old,
Nami-chan, much too young to get depressed over birthdays."
"That's not it."
"Are you unhappy with your presents?" she asked.
"Of course not," I replied. "They're great presents; I love
them!" I hugged Nami-pi tightly to prove it. "But how come you and
Papa gave me a dolly of myself?"
"I thought all children liked toys that resembled them."
"Oh, I do! I never had a toy that looks like me before. It's
neat! Demo. . ." I pointed out a few of Nami-pi's more visible scars.
"Why'd you put these scars all over her like that?"
"Because she's a Nami doll," Mama answered. "Nami-pi looks as
much like you as paint and vinyl can get. There isn't a mark on her
body that you haven't got yourself."
"But Nami-pi's just an innocent dolly. What did she do to
deserve all that?"
"What did you do to deserve all of yours?"
" 'Cause I was bad," I replied. "I shouldn't have let my old
mama die. That was why my old papa turned mean and hurt me. If I'd
been a good girl, none of that bad stuff would've ever happened."
"Your mother was sick, Nami-chan. The doctors found out too
late to treat her. She would've died just as quickly whether you'd
been there or not," Mama said. "But a bad girl wouldn't have cared
that her mother was dying, and certainly wouldn't have stayed with her
to the end like you did. You were your mother's greatest comfort in
her last days, Nami-chan. You'll never know how much it meant to her,
the way you sat with her every day. I think that makes you a very
good girl indeed."
My eyes filled with tears, blurring so I could no longer see to
do my puzzle.
"I never told you any of that," I said quietly.
"You didn't have to. I've seen you in dreams and shadows since
you were born, and actively watched you the past couple of years in my
mirror," she confessed. "I know everything."
"You knew how bad he was treating me and you never even tried
to stop him?"
"Nami-chan, I did try. I phoned the police every time I saw
him abusing you, but since I'd never seen it happen in person, they did
nothing about it," Mama said. "If I could've legally gone in and taken
you out by force, I swear I would have."
"I wish you could've, or at least that I could've been Triton
already so I could defend myself."
Mama smiled her gentle, half-sad smile and stroked back my hair.
"Being Triton really is important to you right now, isn't it?"
"More than anything!" I replied. "I even made it my birthday
wish to make sure it'll come true. Little girls' birthday wishes
always come true, right, Mama? Only, mine hasn't. . .not yet, anyway."
"I wish you would slow down and enjoy your childhood for a while
before getting involved in all this Senshi business," Mama said with a
sigh. "You know once you do, you can never go back to a normal life."
I shrugged. "Not like my life's been normal so far, anyway. And
with my new Senshi family I doubt it ever will be."
"Does having a Senshi family make you feel inferior? Is that why
you're so anxious to become Triton?"
"I've been weak and defenceless my whole life," I complained,
"and my old papa, who was supposed to protect me, always used to hurt me
instead. If I were Triton I could defend myself so nobody would ever
hurt me like that again."
Mama nodded. "As much as you've been through, that's an
understandable position. But you know you don't have to worry about
that anymore. You're perfectly safe here with us."
"I was safe with my old mama, too, until she died. I was safe
with my old papa, except on nights he'd get drunk. Everyone I've ever
depended on to take care of me, couldn't. I want to be able to take
care of myself for once. That's why I have to become Sailor Triton."
"You will, Nami-chan," Mama assured me. It was the first time
any of my family had admitted for sure that would happen. "I would
rather it waited until you were older, but I can see now that just
isn't going to happen. Just promise me you'll be careful when it does,
all right?"
"I will, Mama," I said, and hugged her tightly, "I promise."
My family treated me differently in the days following my party.
They suddenly became very overprotective, so they had to know where I
was and what I was doing at every moment. I often spotted one or
another of them following me when they thought I wasn't paying
attention. Normally such smothering behaviour would've made me cranky,
but that once I found it a good sign instead. It meant my birthday
wish might finally come true.
I bounced out of bed early Friday morning feeling unusually
cheerful even for me. It wasn't just the weekend making me feel that
way. There was something in the air, like the tingly feeling I always
got before a big storm. I knew it was to be no ordinary Friday.
I dressed for school in bright, energetic orange; a colour I
still liked although I hadn't been compared to Venus since I was five.
It was a colour I wore only during my happiest moods.
Then, after dressing myself, I changed Nami-pi as well, as had
become my routine.
My doll was luckier than me in one respect; she owned no dresses,
so she got to wear her little jeans and overalls every day.
Unfortunately, she still didn't have her glasses yet. It was hard
finding a good match for mine in her size. If we didn't find some soon,
Papa had promised to make them herself out of wire and scraps of plastic.
"Okay, all dressed now, and don't you look pretty!" I told my
doll. Then I hugged Nami-pi and kissed her cheek. "Now let's go see
what Mama and Papa are making for breakfast!"
I skipped downstairs, cradling Nami-pi under one arm, and
followed the smell of cooking into the kitchen.
"Ohayo!" I cried as I burst into the room. "I can't believe
I'm not the only one awake so early!"
I stopped and adopted a blank, puzzled stare when the room's
other occupant popped up, with juice in hand, from inside the
refrigerator.
"Ohayo, Nami-chan," Setsuna said cheerfully. "You're just in time
for breakfast. I've made scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, potato rounds,
and cheese toast. Would you like juice or milk with that?"
Setsuna usually wasn't even awake so early, and yet there she
was, fully dressed and having cooked a big breakfast already. There
was something vaguely unnatural about the whole situation. Maybe my
real auntie was gone and that happy, energetic early riser was really
some kind of pod person?
"Uh. . .juice, please," I replied. "But I don't want any eggs.
I'm not fond of eggs."
"You're not? Hmm, I could've sworn you liked those. I thought
your complaint was always seafood," she said.
"Actually, it's both," I said, making a face.
"Oh well, you can at least eat the rest," Setsuna said.
She set a very full plate in front of me and poured a large
glass of orange juice.
"Are you trying to make me fat?" I asked.
"Of course not," she replied. "I thought you might need the
energy today, though by the looks of it you've got plenty to spare
already."
"You, too, Setsuna-auntie!" I retorted. "This isn't even like
you. How come you're up and dressed and feeling genki already, but Mama
and Papa and Hotaru-chan are still asleep?"
Setsuna consulted her watch.
"I guess it is about time they got up, isn't it? Wouldn't do
for you to be late to school on a day like today."
Setsuna went to wake the others, leaving me alone to wonder
what could be so important about getting me to school on time, that it
would have her up, dressed, and cooking before I even got up.
I set Nami-pi in her dolly booster seat and ate as much of my big
breakfast as I could, while pretending to feed some bites to my doll.
I was just finishing my own breakfast when Papa came down for her own.
She wore jeans and a shapeless sweater the colour of oatmeal, and her
hair hardly even looked combed, but she was technically awake and
dressed. Hotaru would arrive soon enough, as she usually didn't take
long to dress. But Mama wouldn't be down for a while even if she chose
to forgo her usual make-up and hairstyling ritual. Just choosing an
outfit often took Mama longer than we took to get totally ready.
"Ohayo, Nami-chan," Papa said through a yawn, "Nami-pi."
Nami-pi and I both greeted her cheerfully and with hugs.
"Setsuna-auntie's acting weird, Papa," I reported. "She was up
and dressed before me, and she made a big breakfast and everything! Is
she feeling okay?"
"She seems okay to me. Maybe a bit too cheerful for this time of
morning, but nothing more odd than that," Papa replied. "You seem
pretty happy this morning yourself. Any particular reason?"
"I dunno. For some reason I feel kind of tingly today. I think
it's going to be a good day for me."
"Glad to hear it. I know you've been a little down these past
few days. Even playing at Yuka-san's hasn't kept you as cheery as
usual," she noticed. "We were starting to worry."
I folded my arms and looked at her suspiciously.
"And how do you know whether I'm happy or not playing at
Yuka-san's?"
Papa smiled goofily and sweatdropped. Fortunately, she was saved
from having to answer when Hotaru bounced into the room.
"Ohayo!" Hotaru said cheerfully. "Ooh, Nami-chan, you look
kawaii in orange, like a little Minako-san!"
"She's been acting like her this morning, too," Setsuna said.
"So have you, Setsuna-auntie!" I retorted. "But I don't really
look like Minako-san; it's just the orange that makes you say that.
Nobody else's said I look like Sailor Venus since I was little."
"It's not just the orange," Papa said, "but also the platinum
hair, big, bright eyes, and perpetually big, happy smile. Face it,
kiddo, you and Minako-chan have a lot in common."
"Oh. Hmm," I said.
Papa laughed and said, "I didn't mean that as an insult,
Nami-chan. But you're both so kawaii and full of energy, some
comparison is inevitable."
"Yeah, I guess so," I said with a shrug.
Minako is fun and pretty and all, but sometimes she acts very
"blonde" and kind of scary. By now I'd rather people just stick to the
Uranus comparisons instead.
Mama came down ten minutes before we had to leave for school.
You'd expect with that much time to dress she'd look perfect, but she
arrived in a simple dress, wearing no make-up, and with her hair
ponytailed in a scrunchie.
"Gomen, I didn't mean to take so long, but I couldn't do a thing
with my hair," she explained. "Finally I gave up and just had to use a
scrunchie. I couldn't let a bad hair day prevent me seeing my little
girls off to school."
All that time wasted and still all she could do was a scrunchie
ponytail? If I ever needed reminding why I preferred mine so short, I
need look no further than one of Mama's bad hair day ordeals. Maybe
she really _did_ need me to give her beauty lectures!
I don't know what the big hurry was to get me to school on time,
anyway. The whole day passed excruciatingly slowly and uneventfully.
The tense, tingly feeling remained, however, which made me even more
restless. I wondered if my family felt the same kind of energy, and if
so, whether they were watching me at school to make sure nothing bad
happened. If they were, I guessed, they probably would've gotten bored
and left before lunchtime.
By recess most of my happy energy had gone away. I wandered
aimlessly about the playground until I came upon my usual group of play-
mates sitting together on the monkey bars, giggling.
"Konnichi-wa, minna," I called, "what're you doing?"
"Girl stuff," Maria replied. She was the girl who always played
Venus despite her chubby shape and Shirley Temple curls. "You wouldn't
understand."
"I'm a girl!"
"We're playing beauty shop," Shiko explained. She was the nice
girl who liked to play Pluto, and actually did have green hair, but in
a much lighter shade and usually worn in pigtails. "You know, putting
on make-up and doing each other's hair. We didn't ask you to join
'cause we thought you wouldn't like that kind of thing. Do you?"
"Um. . .well. . .no," I admitted.
"Of course not," Maria said brusquely. "Nami-san plays Sailor
Uranus, remember? She doesn't like girl stuff, and only wears dresses
to school 'cause she has to. The rest of the time she may as well be a
boy; that's what she dresses and acts like anyway."
I frowned. Sailor Venus that girl was not! Even in her lowest
moods, Minako never treated me as badly as that. Maria was nice to the
other girls in the group, but never missed a chance to torment me.
"Maria-san, don't be so nasty!" Yuka piped up in my defence.
"Nami-san is as much a girl as any of us. Just 'cause she doesn't like
dresses and playing beauty shop doesn't make her a boy. She likes
magical girl shows and sparkly things, for example. Here, Nami-san, I
think I have something from our beauty shop you'll like."
Yuka pulled a small tube of some sparkly, sky-blue substance from
her pink vinyl purse and waved me over.
"You're not going to paint that all over my face, are you?" I
asked.
"No, of course not!" she replied as if it had been some ridiculous
question.
Trusting Yuka's word, I climbed up and sat beside her on the
monkey bars. She unscrewed the cap and drew a small, round, brush-
tipped wand out of the container. Then Yuka asked me to be still while
she painted several sparkly blue streaks onto the front of my hair.
"This stuff is going to wash out, isn't it?" I asked just to make
sure.
"On the first try," she assured me. "Uh. . .unless your light
hair soaks up some of the colour, then it might take a little longer."
That scared me, because my haircolour is extremely light, and I
just knew I'd get in trouble if it didn't all wash out!
"There, all finished!" Yuka said. She handed me a small mirror
to examine the results. "Isn't it pretty?"
"Yeah, it is pretty," I said. "I like all the sparklies. But
what do I do if it doesn't wash out? I don't wanna get in trouble!"
Yuka shifted uncomfortably for a bit while trying to think of a
solution. Finally she decided to change the subject. She punched my
arm lightly, leapt off the monkey bars, and ran off into the woods,
shouting, "Tag! You're it!"
The other girls burst into giggles and scrambled off as well,
determined not to become "it" themselves.
"Hey! That's no answer!" I cried, but hurried to join the game
anyway.
I heard lots of screaming as I ran into the woods, but thought
nothing of it. Running around screaming was just how the game of tag
was played. But soon I noticed those weren't the ordinary screams of
little girls at play; they sounded more like the cries of little girls
running for their lives. Was there a monster? If so, what could I, a
little girl of barely eight, expect to do about it? I was helpless
without my Senshi powers! Would this be the day they would emerge at
last? How would I know what to do even if they did?
I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of the beast; a huge,
smelly, grotesque creature that looked like a decaying crow. What had
I gotten myself into? I was about to turn and run like the coward I
was, when I heard someone call my name.
"Yuka-san, are you okay?" I asked.
She was trying to crawl away on an obviously hurt leg, and not
getting very far.
"I-I think I've twisted my ankle," she replied between sobs. "I
can't walk on it."
"Hold on, Yuka-san, I'll help you!"
Even though I wasn't very strong, I helped Yuka up and supported
her on my own small shoulders. I didn't think such a delicate girl as
Yuka would be so heavy! At that rate, I'd never get her away from the
monster in time, but I had to try.
Suddenly we were sprawled on the ground with our faces in the
dirt and our nice school dresses shredded at the back. I couldn't even
remember being attacked. I raised my scraped-up, dirty face from the
ground to look at the creature. My glasses were knocked off in the
attack, but I didn't need them to see the huge, black form looming over
me. I held Yuka close to comfort and shield her, squinched my eyes
tight, and waited for the monster to finish me off.
Even through my tightly closed eyelids I saw a glow appear in
front of me. Was it the fabled white light you're supposed to see upon
dying? I slowly opened my eyes, but rather than dead relatives, I saw
a strange little wand in sea-green and sky-blue, with a twisted shell
design at the top. A tiny voice in the back of my mind urged me to
take it, so, in a daze, I reached for it. The wand floated into my
hand and reshaped itself perfectly to my grip. My mind flooded with
sounds, images, voices, emotions, enough to fill a thousand lifetimes,
and suddenly I remembered everything.
Unabara Nami was only the latest name I was born under. I lived
hundreds of lives before this, under many different names, with many
different families and life histories. Yet some facts remained
consistent; no matter the appearance of my family I was always the same
petite blonde with big green eyes, who always arrived at the same
boyish appearance. I always formed some close relationship with the
Outer Senshi. And whenever a new threat arose that was too much for
the other Senshi to handle alone, the same pink shell-topped wand would
appear and cause me to remember my ancient duty.
I raised my henshin wand and called out the words I'd practised
for weeks but only dreamt I'd ever be using for real:
"Triton satellite power, make-up!"
My shredded school dress dissolved, but I didn't feel self-
conscious about my nakedness. My body glowed and felt like I was made
of pure energy. A magical, sky-coloured energy stream with the cold,
damp, tingly feeling of a stormy day funnelled around my body to form my
fuku, short white gloves, and blue sneaker booties. Delicate pink shell
charms dangled from my ears and choker, and rather than the chunky gold
tiaras the other Senshi had, I wore a thin, shell-adorned circlet. The
twisted shell icon appeared to complete the transformation, and Sailor
Triton made her long-awaited debut.
"To face a new undead threat, the daughter of the sea and sky has
been awakened. Senshi of the storms, Sailor Triton!"
The monster seemed unimpressed by my new trick and attacked by
throwing some of its giant black feathers. I dodged the first two
volleys easily, moving with reflexes I never knew I had, but on the
third a few feathers grazed my side. The razor-sharp feathers tore my
new fuku and sliced into my skin so blood oozed from the wounds. I was
more surprised than injured--I'd certainly been hurt worse before, just
never by a bunch of giant feathers.
Nami had never been physically strong, but hopefully Triton would
prove as powerful as she was agile. I moved in too close for the beast
to throw any more feathers, and punched it with all my might right in
the chest. The crow monster grinned evilly as my hand punched right
through its decaying chest and gooshed into the rotten organs inside.
It didn't seem to feel the punch a bit. Even worse, my hand became
stuck in its squishy interior. Even as Triton, the situation was
enough to cause feelings of helplessness.
I shrieked in agony as the monster drew one of its sharp wings
slowly across my body. Now _that_ was a pain unlike any I'd felt
before! My fuku was soaked with blood and hung in tatters. My right
arm was cut to the bone, and had the pain not given me increased
incentive to force it out of the creature's chest, it might've been
severed outright. Between the pain and blood loss I knew I was going
to pass out any moment. But I couldn't. Not yet, anyway.
I had to protect Yuka.
Too weak to stand any further than on one knee, and with my
breath coming in shallow gasps, I gathered all my remaining strength to
whisper those two all-important words:
"Hurricane Smite."
The violent wind and driving rain that were meant to be my ally
pounded at my battered body as the storm formed around me and travelled
along my extended arms towards its target. The creature folded its
wings across itself, but despite that plating of razor-sharp feathers it
was torn apart by the tempest. Once the storm had successfully
dismembered its opponent, it collapsed on itself and disappeared with
the bloody pieces in a flash of light.
I collapsed, myself, onto the ground immediately after.
Suddenly I found myself standing on an empty beach. The sun was
low in the sky, the waves lapped at my bare feet, and a gentle ocean
breeze caressed my cheek. I raised a pink shell to my ear and closed my
eyes, happily listening to the ocean sounds within. But soon I was
disturbed by a voice calling my name, and I turned to see who else could
be there.
She was a young, petite, beautiful brunette with penetrating
violet eyes, who wore a lavender dress and birthstone amethyst earrings.
It was the very same outfit she'd been buried in.
"Okaa-san?" I asked with disbelief.
"Nami-chan? It is you!" my mother said. "I almost didn't
recognise you. I thought you were a boy."
I shrugged. "I get that a lot."
I was used to being mistaken for a boy, but coming from my own
mother, it really hurt.
"You've grown so much since last I saw you," she said. "Come
over here and let me have a look at you."
I waited nervously while she examined me from head to toe. I
just knew I wasn't going to meet with her approval.
"You look just like your father did at that age," she said.
I wasn't sure if she meant that as a compliment or insult. Just
to make sure, I asked, "Was Otoo-san good-looking at my age?"
"He was adorable," she replied with a smile, "and so are you."
"You're not disappointed that I look like a boy?"
"Your father never did know anything about raising a little girl,"
my mother said. "I thought he might change you the moment I was gone,
so this doesn't surprise me. As long as you're happy and healthy,
that's all that matters."
"Oh, I am! I am!" I cried. "I'm glad you're not disappointed,
Okaa-san. I was afraid you wouldn't like me anymore since I'm so
different. I'm really not the same girl you used to know at all."
"I can tell. You seem so much stronger and less reserved than I
remember," she said. "But then, you've been through a lot for someone
so young, haven't you? So many scars. . ."
Many of them did show with the t-shirt and shorts I wore on
that beach. Fortunately, the worst of them wouldn't show in anything
bigger than a bikini. She didn't need to see how much I'd really been
hurt. Knowing that would only make her feel somehow responsible,
though of course there was nothing she could've done to prevent them.
"I'm afraid it's all my fault, Hama," a voice said from nearby.
"I was a bad father."
Fortunately, despite his violent death, my father appeared
exactly as he had in life. He was of only average height and build,
with pale skin, very short pale-blond hair, and large, slightly oblique
green eyes. It was from him I'd always been told I got my looks, and
we did look remarkably alike, especially with our nearly identical
haircuts. He looked so sweet and harmless, it was hard to believe this
was the same man who used to beat and rape me. I remembered him
looking so much bigger and more intimidating then.
"Gomen ne, Nami-chan," he apologised. "You didn't deserve to be
hurt that way."
"Kishio, you did this to her?" my mother cried. She pulled me
close in a protective hug. "I trusted you to care for our daughter
once I was gone, and that's how you treated her?"
"I was distraught. I drank too much. Things happened," he
explained. "I'd just lost the only woman I ever loved. I'm sure any
man could make that mistake in those circumstances."
"That's no excuse!" she shouted. "Damn it, Kishio, if I'd known
that was how you'd treat her I'd have put her into foster care or
something. Anything is better than living with the father who abused
her."
My whole body trembled, and tears welled up in my eyes. I never
saw my parents argue in life. But now, in death, when they were
supposed to be at peace, all they could do was argue about me! I
couldn't take it anymore.
"Yamete!" I cried. "I can't stand to see you argue about me!
Yes, I got hurt, but I'm fine now. My past doesn't bother me anymore,
and I could care less about the scars. I have a new life and a new
family I love very much. They love and take care of me, treat me well,
and they always think I'm perfect just like I am. For the first time
in ages, I'm really happy, and I think if I can get past all the bad
stuff, get on with life, and be happy again, so should you."
Both parents stared at me with wide eyes. The Nami they knew
would never have made an outburst like that! Even the new, stronger
Nami couldn't get through it without a little waterworks.
"I love my life now," I sobbed, "or at least I did. If I'm here
with you now, I guess I must be dead, right?"
"You'd better not be," my father ordered. "You've got too much
to live for; too many important things left to do. A smart, promising
little girl like you can't die yet; it would be too much of a waste."
"But the monster cut me up and I was bleeding so much, then I
collapsed on the ground and next thing I knew, I was here," I babbled.
"That must mean--"
My mother put a finger to my lips to silence me.
"I know it hurts, honey," she said gently. "Nobody likes to get
hurt, and sometimes the pain makes us want to give up, but you can't.
You've got a bright future to live for, and a family out there that
loves you."
"Two loving families," I interrupted. "You loved me, too."
"We always will, but you belong with them now," my mother said.
"You love your life. So please, go back out there and live it."
I nodded understanding, and became the filling in a sandwich hug
between both parents. Tears were streaming down my face at the thought
of losing them both again.
"Will I ever see you again?" I asked.
My mother answered, "Of course, dear. You can see us any time
you like. Just look in here," she indicated my head, "and here," she
pointed to my heart. "That's where we'll always be with you."
"Mother talk," my father scoffed. "The truth is, you'll probably
never see us like this again until you really are dead. . .which had
better not be soon, if you know what's good for you! But as long as
you remember us, we'll always be a part of you, and you might see us if
they let us do the ghost thing once in a while. It won't be all bad."
I smiled. My father had always tried to be honest with me like
that. It was the thing I'd always liked best about him.
"Take care, dear," my mother said.
She retrieved my pink shell from where it had fallen on the sand,
and I closed my eyes and placed the shell to my ear. The sound of
ocean waves grew distant in one ear, while in the other the sound of my
new parents' voices grew louder.
"We should've acted sooner, Haruka," Mama said. "We could've
prevented all this."
"We acted as soon as we could," Papa replied. "We had to wait
until we found out what her powers can do."
Mama protested, "But in doing so we almost lost her. I've risked
lives before in the name of Senshi duty, but I will not risk our own
daughter just to find out what the new Senshi can do."
"You didn't protest at the time," Papa said. "When you were
Neptune and she was Triton you had no problem watching the fight from a
distance. It's only when worried mother Michiru sees her wounded
daughter in the hospital that you suddenly feel we should've intervened
sooner."
Great, now my new parents were arguing about me as well! It was
like everywhere I went, arguments were sure to follow, that day.
"No more arguments, please," I muttered weakly.
My new parents abruptly stopped arguing and rushed to my bedside.
"So you've finally decided to wake up now, eh?" Papa said,
smiling. "You were out for quite a while there. We were worried about
you."
"I'm okay," I said, and tried to sit up to prove it. Bad idea.
The full pain of the monster slowly slicing open my body returned, and
I nearly blacked out again just from that. I let my battered body fall
back against the bed. "Itai!"
"Easy now. Don't move around so much; you could tear out your
stitches," Papa advised. "Do you know where you are?"
"Hospital?" I guessed. "A big monster came and it was gonna hurt
Yuka-san, so I had to save her. Yuka-san. . .she's all right, isn't
she?"
"She's fine, Nami-chan. Just a little scraped-up, and I think she
might've sprained an ankle, but nothing serious."
I sighed with relief. "That's good. As long as she's okay,
that's all that matters."
Mama asked, "Nami-chan, do you know how many stitches you've got?"
I thought about it a minute before guessing, "A hundred?"
"Maybe," Mama agreed, "on the most serious wounds. All together,
I'll bet even the doctors lost count. You bled so much you needed a
transfusion, and you almost died twice on the operating table. You're
just lucky we got you here so fast, or you'd be lying there dead right
now!"
"Wow," I said in awe, "I've never been hurt like that before. I
can't wait to show the kids at school! They'll be so grossed-out!"
Mama broke down crying again, so Papa held Mama close and let her
cry on her shoulder.
"This isn't a game, Nami-chan," Papa scolded. "These creatures
are real. The danger is real. If you get killed out there, that's it,
no more Nami-chan. Is that what you want?"
"No, ma'am," I answered quietly.
"Then you remember this pain," she ordered. "Remember how much
you upset your family, and how close you came to dying, because I never
want to see you in another situation like this again, do you understand?
This is exactly why little girls shouldn't be Senshi! If we didn't need
that power of yours so much, I'd--"
There was a knock at the door, and Yuka limped in on crutches.
Her mother followed to carry the get-well presents and bouquet.
"Konnichi-wa, Nami-san!" Yuka said cheerfully. "How are you
feeling?"
"It hurts a lot," I replied, "but I guess I'll survive. All that
really matters is that you're okay, anyway."
"That's so sweet," Yuka said.
She tried to hug me, but with all the bandages, bedrails, IV
tubes, and her crutches in the way, it was awkward.
"I got so many stitches the doctors lost count!" I bragged.
"Wanna see?"
"Um, no, that's okay," she said quickly.
Stupid me to think a sweet girl like her would even want to.
"Hey, Nami-san, you dropped something in the woods when that
monster attacked us," Yuka said. She took my glasses from her jumper
pocket and handed them over. "I picked them up and saved them for you.
I hope they're not broken."
With my one good hand I shined the lenses as best I could and
held them up to the light. They didn't seem too scratched-up, so I
just thanked her and put them on.
"I brought presents for you, too, see? I got you some flowers,"
she said, handing over a bouquet of colourful wildflowers, "a get-well
balloon that floats," she tied a shiny, red mylar balloon to the
bedrail, "and a special get-well plushie I picked out for you all by
myself!"
" 'Dane!" I cried as she gave me a Fushigidane plushie with a big
Band-Aid on his head. I one-arm hugged the poor, injured plushie.
"How did you know he's my favourite?"
" 'Cause that's who you always play as when we play 'Pokemon,' of
course!"
I was flattered she cared enough to notice.
"Arigato, Yuka-san," I said. "I love all my presents!"
"It was the least I could do after all you did to help me."
Yuka's mother said in a confused tone, "I thought you said a
Sailor Senshi rescued you."
"Well, um, she did, but before she arrived Nami-san was trying to
help me herself," Yuka explained. "She was so brave! She tried to
help me up and out of danger, but the monster got us anyway. That's
how my dress got all torn up, Mama."
"I know. You're not in trouble, Yuka-chan," her mother said.
"I'll even get you a pretty new dress to replace the one that got torn
up, if you like."
"It's okay, Mama. I've got lots of other dresses," Yuka said.
"And Nami-san, if there's anything you need, don't hesitate to
ask," Yuka's mother offered. "You helped save my little girl's life;
there are no adequate words to express my gratitude."
"Nami-san is my hero," Yuka announced. "Well, her and Sailor
Triton, that is."
"Sailor Triton?" Mama repeated, playing stupid.
"Nami-san," Yuka asked in a near-whisper, "your parents don't
know?"
"Know what?" Mama asked innocently.
"Never mind," Yuka said with a secretive smile. "It's kind of a
secret between Nami-san and me." Yuka cleared her throat, struck the
most heroic pose possible on crutches, and imitated, "Fighting a new
undead threat, the daughter of sea and sky is awake now. Senshi of the
storms, Sailor Triton!" She giggled. "I don't do it as well as the
real Sailor Triton, do I?"
Actually, besides not getting the words quite right, it was a
pretty good impression of me. I just hoped I didn't sound so
pretentious when I did my real speech.
"Sailor Triton is my new favourite Senshi," Yuka continued.
"She's the one who beat up the monster and rescued me. You all
should've seen her--she was wonderful! Pretty, too. She's a little
girl Senshi, about my age, with really short hair, and her fuku is
light-blue and -green with little pink seashells. It looks different
than the others' 'cause it's got double bows and two skirt tiers with
pink edging. I don't know where she came from. I didn't even know
there was a Sailor Triton until now, but I'm glad she came anyway. I
hope I see her again someday. I never got to thank her, or tell her
how great she is and how much I like her."
"I'm sure she knows already, Yuka-san," Mama said. "Helping
people is just part of a Senshi's job."
Yuka looked suddenly disappointed at that.
"Yeah, I guess so. I know it's silly, but I kind of hoped Sailor
Triton helped me. . .'cause she liked me," she said shyly. "I guess
that's just selfish of me."
But it wasn't selfish. I really _had_ wanted to help her because
I liked her. I mean, sure I would've helped anybody--that's what a
Senshi does--but I would always want to make special consideration for
Yuka.
"Yuka-san, _I_ helped you 'cause I like you," I said, "and I bet
if Sailor Triton were here she'd say the same thing."
"Honto?" Yuka asked excitedly, eyes sparkling. "Oh, I hope so!"
"You're such a sweet, pretty girl, Triton would have to be crazy
not to like you. I'm sure she'll be glad to rescue you any time, just
like Superman and Lois-san!" I said, but at a disapproving look from
Papa I backpedalled, "Well, maybe not _just_ like Superman and
Lois-san. . ."
"It's okay, I understand," Yuka said. "I can't expect her to be
my own personal Senshi; she's got other people to save. What she did
for me today was enough. Sailor Triton is still my new favourite
Senshi, Nami-san, just like you're my new favourite hero."
"Arigato, Yuka-san," I said, smiling. "But you know, you can
call me 'Nami-chan' if you want to."
Yuka practically jumped with joy.
"I can?" she asked excitedly. "I'm so glad! You can call me
'Yuka-chan,' too, if you like."
"Oh, I will!" I said.
After that playground thing, I thought she'd never offer!
"Yuka-chan, I think we should be going now," her mother said.
"Your friend needs rest if she's going to get better. Besides, the
doctor said to keep that foot elevated. Walking around on it's only
going to make it worse."
"Okay, Mama," she reluctantly agreed. "I have to go now,
Nami-chan, but I'll visit again tomorrow if I can. Hope you feel
better soon. Ja mata ne!"
"Ja ne, Yuka-chan! See you soon!" I called after her as she left.
Papa waited until they were gone to ask angrily, "You let
Yuka-san see you transform?"
"Well, yeah, but I didn't have a choice," I whined. "If I didn't
transform when I did, that monster would've gotten us both!"
"Are you sure she can be trusted with an important secret like
this?"
"I'm sure she can, Papa. Yuka-chan is my best friend in the whole
world! I trust her with my life!"
"Good, because that's exactly what you're doing," Papa said. "If
word ever got out you're a Senshi, your life could be in danger. Make
sure she tells no-one."
"I will," I promised.
Although she'd been careful not to say it on her visit, I knew by
experience that such secrets grew harder to keep over time. It would
take frequent reminders to keep down her natural urge to brag.
"So, Nami-chan, is being a Senshi everything you expected?" Mama
asked.
"You should know, Mama," I said. "You're a Senshi, too."
"Yes, but I had none of your anxiety and anticipation over it,"
she said. "You've been wanting this all summer, so I wonder if the
reality is all you expected?"
Looking at my stitched-up and bandaged body, I admitted, "I
didn't expect it to be so painful. I thought Senshi never really got
hurt. But even if I got hurt this time, I'm still glad I finally got
to be a Senshi. I hope I get better soon so I'll be able to fight
again."
"Next time use your powers sooner," Papa suggested. "It saves on
hospital bills."
"Unfortunately, pain is always a part of the job, but with
time and experience things will get easier," Mama assured me. "But
right now you're in no shape to fight anyone. Nami-chan, you almost
died today. You need time to rest and heal before--"
"There might not be much time for that," Papa interrupted. "If
the new Senshi has awakened already, that means a new danger has
arrived. It seems we're about to go to war again."
My parents checked me out the next evening against medical
advice and took me directly to the Hikawa Jinja for an emergency Senshi
meeting. Apparently that was where all official Senshi meetings were
held, but this was the first one I'd ever been invited to. The
atmosphere was very different from our past get-togethers. Everyone
was so quiet and serious. There was none of the usual gossip and
laughter, but there was plenty of concern for me.
"Nami-chan, I'd heard you were in the hospital. Should you be up
and about so soon?" Ami asked.
"No," I admitted, "but Papa said I have to anyway 'cause there's
a war. I don't know how much help I can be while I'm hurt, though. I
got so many stitches even the doctors lost count! Wanna see?"
"I do!" Usagi cried.
I lifted the blue shirt Mama had struggled me into since my
school dress had been ruined, and started to peel back the bandages
covering my wounds, but Mama stopped me.
"If you take those off every time someone asks to see you'll get
an infection," she said, so I didn't.
I tried to make up for that by bragging, "My arm got cut so bad
the bone was showing! It really hurt, and blood was just pouring out!
It was really gross!"
Rather than impressed, the others only seemed distraught by that.
"Cut to the bone?" Makoto cried in alarm. "Is it going to be all
right? Can you still move it?"
"A little," I replied, and wiggled my hand in demonstration.
"But don't worry, it'll get better soon. . .won't it, Papa?"
"It should. The doctors said there's a slight chance of some loss
of feeling or decreased range of motion, but I doubt that'll happen,"
Papa said. "They're doctors--it's their job to scare people by telling
them the remotest possible bad outcomes."
"They warn you of all possibilities just in case," Ami corrected.
"They probably said it so we'd reconsider the early discharge,"
Papa said. "But it's really nothing to worry about. You're
ambidextrous, aren't you, Nami-chan?"
"Uh, yeah, kind of," I replied.
The truth was, only barely. If Miss Sugahara found my usual
writing messy, with my other hand she'd declare it nearly illegible!
"I hear the youma you fought looked like a decaying crow," Rei
said. "I've had dreams lately of the restless dead returning, but I
thought they were caused by Minako-chan's recent zombie movie kick."
Minako suggested, "Maybe my zombie movie kick is a sign, too,
like my own special kind of precognition. The paranormal world works
in mysterious ways."
"I thought your zombie movie kick was 'cause you heard _Night of
a Thousand Zombies_ was looking for extras, and you wanted to try out,"
Artemis said, to Minako's horror.
"_Night of a Thousand Zombies?_" Usagi cried. "That new Saito
Ryu movie filming in that creepy old cemetery uptown? Kowai! I
wouldn't audition for that no matter how good its star looks!"
"Although. . .being shot in a cemetery would make it a likely
target for undead youma," Papa said.
"I hope not," Mama said. "I'd rather they stick with dead
animals. I don't like the idea of hunting down undead human foes."
"Neither do I," Makoto said. "Those people were all someone's
family, once."
Makoto lost her family young, too, so she probably had the same
scary thoughts of fighting parents' rotting, reanimated corpses that I
did.
"Zombies are made from dead people who haven't been buried yet,
aren't they?" I asked just to make sure.
"In all the movies, yes," Minako replied, "but as for real life,
I really don't know."
Mama scolded, "She's just a child, Minako-chan. You shouldn't
frighten her needlessly with such statements."
"Don't baby her, Michiru. She's a Senshi now," Papa said. "We
can't rule out anything until we learn more about this enemy. If they
found out Triton's real identity, I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to
find and use Nami-chan's dead parents against her if they could."
And this was the same Papa who worried the ghost owl story would
put ideas into my head?
"If Sailor Triton's come already, this threat could be our most
dangerous ever," Luna said in a serious tone. "We may be unable to
defeat them without her. Ami-chan, how long until she'll be healed
enough to fight?"
"I'd rather she'd stayed in the hospital a while longer, but
since she's out now. . ." Ami said with a sigh. "Well, our henshin do
accelerate healing. If you see to it she rests, don't let her move
about unnecessarily, and let her transform for an hour or two twice a
day, she might be ready for action within a week."
Mama seemed less than enthused at that idea, but agreed anyway
because it was so important to the mission.
"You just go home and rest now, Nami-chan," Usagi said, patting
my head. "We'll take care of the zombies until you're well enough to
help, won't we, guys?"
The other Inners nodded and made sounds of agreement. Almost too
eager in agreement, I thought, but that was probably just for my
benefit.
"All right, Nami-chan, we've done all we came to do here. We
should get you home and into bed now so you can rest," Papa said.
"Okay, Papa," I agreed without argument. I was still drowsy from
all the hospital painkillers. "If you guys need help fighting zombies,
just give me a call."
The Inners just laughed without agreeing.
I hugged the get-well Fushigidane close to my injured body and
rested my head on Papa's shoulder as she carried me down the many stairs
from the Hikawa Jinja to her car.
At home Mama carefully undressed and unbandaged me. I felt like
I was going to throw up looking at my own battle wounds. I saw them
before, when the nurses changed the dressings, so I knew they were
gross. But the damage seemed worse amongst familiar surroundings than
it had in the cold sterility of the hospital. I looked and felt just
like Frankenstein's monster. Mama didn't speak, but wore a sad look
as she carefully washed me up at the sink so as not to get my stitches
wet. She also tried to wash Yuka's sparkly blue streaks out of my
hair, but although the glitter came out on the first try, a blue tint
remained even after the third washing. Finally she gave up and
resigned to let it wear out. Then she applied new bandages and dressed
me for bed in my blue footie pajamas.
It was early evening, but I felt more like sleeping than eating
dinner. So I added Yuka's get-well plushie to the toys I always sleep
with and padded downstairs to ask Papa to tuck me in.
Hotaru sat at the table stringing glass beads onto fine black
cord, but she dropped that and pounced on me the moment I entered the
room.
"Nami-chan, you're here!" my sister cried, hugging me tightly.
"I tried to visit you at the hospital, but you'd been checked out
already. How are you feeling?"
"Better when you're not squeezing so hard," I replied, wincing in
pain.
"Gomen, I guess I got excited and forgot. But I made a get-well
present for you!" she announced.
From the tangle of cords and beads on the table she extracted a
long strand of beads, and held them up for me to examine. The cord was
strung with small green glass beads of varying shapes and types. Many
of them were translucent and shone like jewels, while others were
striped, mottled, variegated, or painted with an iridescent glaze.
"It's wonderful," I said in awe. "You made this all by yourself?"
Hotaru smiled and nodded. "I made just for you, Nami-chan. Here,
let me put it on you."
She slipped the beads over my head, where they hung down to the
middle of my chest.
"Does it make me pretty?"
Hotaru clapped her hands and nodded enthusiastically. "Yes,
very!"
Papa turned the heat from under the meal she'd been cooking on
the stove.
"Feeling up to dinner, Nami-chan?" she asked. "I've made us a
nice veggie stir-fry."
"Can you save me some for tomorrow? Right now I just feel like
sleeping. I came to ask you to help tuck me in."
"Of course," she replied. "You guys can start without me.
Michiru and I will be down in a bit."
Papa carried me up to my room, where Mama was examining my book-
shelf, for some reason. When Papa and I came in, she quickly replaced
the snowglobe I used as a bookend and tried to pretend she'd never
touched a thing.
"Find anything interesting?" I asked with a giggle.
Mama blushed and admitted, "Well, yes, actually. You've got the
textbooks Ami-chan gave you, and all the children's books we've bought,
but the ones you brought yourself seem odd. Shakespeare? Poe? Conan
Doyle? Serious reading for such a little girl."
"My old papa read me those for bedtime stories," I answered.
"After my old mama died he couldn't take prince charmings and happily
ever afters anymore, so he read me serious things instead. But no-one's
read me any since he died, and I miss them. Can you and Papa read me
some? Pleeeaaase? Do part of _King Lear!_ That one's my favourite."
"I guess that explains how she got so smart, eh?" Papa said,
beaming. "I wish we could do some tonight, but you need your rest and
we need our dinner. We'll read you some tomorrow, Nami-chan, I
promise."
Mama looked at my collection uncertainly, but agreed anyway. I
guess she was the type to read only faerie tales as a little girl. I
used to be that kind, myself, for a while, so I could easily imagine
her at my age. She probably dressed up, like I had, in princess
costumes and high, pointy hats, and waited for her prince to come on a
white horse and carry her away to a kingdom in the clouds. Could she
have imagined at the time that her "prince charming" would be a pretty
girl instead, who'd whisk her off in a fast car to a big house in the
country?
"All right now, into bed with you," Papa said, and set me on the
bed so I wouldn't hurt myself climbing up. "Just because you're not
eating doesn't mean we have to stay and miss dinner, too."
I worried Hotaru's necklace might break in my sleep, so I wiggled
it over my head with my good hand, mussing my hair terribly in the
process. I set the beads on my bedstand next to the framed photo of my
old parents on the beach that--
"Uso!" I said, much more loudly than I intended.
"What's wrong?" Mama asked, looking over my shoulder. "Ara!"
Then Papa had to have a look as well, which in this circumstance
kind of embarrassed me.
"By your surprise, I guess you haven't exchanged it?" Papa asked.
"I didn't even think there _was_ another picture like this," I
answered.
And yet, there it was, right in front of me.
That photo was made half a lifetime ago, when I was just four
years old. As busy as my father was with work, vacations were rare,
but we had a great trip to the beach that summer. It would be the last
family vacation we ever had. The photo showed my mother in a blue
bikini with my father in green trunks, looking like the perfect, happy
couple they used to be. But now rather than a gaping cut-out hole
between them, a little blonde girl in a hot-pink Barbie swimsuit
frolicked along the water's edge. But I cut myself out of that picture
long ago, on the day my mother's ideal daughter gave way to my father's
little tomboy. It was my way of dealing with the notion that her Nami
was gone forever. So how did she get back into the photo after so long,
with no trace of ever having left?
"I talked to my parents," I said, and clarified, "my old parents,
after I passed out fighting that crow. We were on the same beach this
picture was made at. I guess it must've been them who fixed it."
I expected disbelief, or at least a lot of questions, but got
neither.
"Maybe it's a sign," Mama said, "of how they'll always love you,
and you'll always be a family no matter what."
"Maybe," I agreed. "Does that make you jealous?"
"Of course not," Mama said.
Papa admitted, "It does a little, but I guess I can learn to
share you."
"We can all go to the beach as a family and take pictures," I
said, "and I'll put one right beside this old one so you won't get
jealous, okay?"
"Deal," Papa said. "But summer's a long way away. Right now you
should rest and concentrate on getting better. We'll have lots of
zombies to fight to earn time off for vacation."
I gingerly placed the photo back onto the bedstand. "I think
I'll leave the picture whole this time."
"I think that's the best choice," Mama said. "It looks much
nicer like this; a happy couple enjoying the beach with their kawaii
little daughter. This is how you should remember them, not just in the
hard times."
"I had a pink Barbie swimsuit, too, at that age," Papa confessed.
"But if you ever repeat that I'll deny it with every fibre of my being."
I didn't know if she was telling the truth or not, but the thought
of Papa ever owning such a garment sent me into instant giggles.
"She treats her whole childhood like potential blackmail
material," Mama said with a sigh.
I nodded understandingly, knowing I'd probably grow up the same
way. One magical family beach picture couldn't change that. I patted
Papa's arm in quiet sympathy.
Finally one of my infamous circus lion yawns sneaked out, so I
made one final check that all required comfort toys were present before
lying down myself. Mama tucked in each toy individually as always, but
when she tucked me in, she did so much more loosely than usual. Better
to let a draft creep in than risk further injury from too-tight bed-
sheets.
Mama kissed my scraped-up cheek and said, "Good night, my brave
little Senshi. Get some rest tonight and in the morning we'll see if
transforming helps you heal any, like Ami-chan said. But in the
meantime, don't move about too much, and if you need anything in the
night just call us and we'll get it for you."
"Okay," I said, although the last part sounded suspiciously like
more concerned mother talk to me.
"Rest up and feel better soon, little Nami-chan," Papa said with
a gentle hug. "We'll need your help if we want to get rid of all those
zombies before summer."
"Okay, Papa," I agreed cheerfully.
The sunset spread orange light and long shadows about my room
once the lights were put out. I turned my face away from the bright
window and found myself staring at the repaired family beach picture,
itself glowing a brilliant orange.
Parents who loved me would never come back to get me as zombies,
would they? I could never continue as Triton if I thought my parents
could be resurrected and used against me at any time! Despite what
Papa said at the temple, I had to keep believing the happy couple in
that photo would never attack their kawaii little daughter. But zombie
corpses aren't the same as a living, loving young couple, are they?
And the kawaii little girl from that photo hasn't been seen around for
a very long time.



©2000 Naia Zifu, all rights reserved.
Unabara Nami, Moroboshi Yuka, Ten'ou Kazashi and Masato, Unabara Kishio
and Hama, and whoever else I may have forgotten to mention are my own
original characters, but all Inner and Outer Senshi are SM characters
that I don't own rights to, but as always, I'm not trying to make money
off anyone else's ideas.
Sorry for the delays, but this story got lost when my computer hard
disk failed and I had to retype the whole bloody thing :-P . Which
reminds me, if anyone sent me anything of any importance, it probably
was lost in the disk crash, so you may want to send it again. Sorry if
that's any inconvenience.
This was the last and possibly best bit of the little story mini-series,
which still has no banner title. (But I reserve to right to reissue if
one comes up!) Hopefully common sense will show how they fit together.
But because this is the end of the series, doesn't mean the end of Nami
and Triton. The point of the series was just to get her there.
There's still plenty to do with her now that she's here, and I love Nami
way too much to abandon her now :-) .
And if you've been dying to see what little Nami looks like, the pics
I've got of her so far currently reside on my fanfics page at
http://www.fortunecity.com/tattooine/falcon/90 . The one of her with a
plushie Fushigidane is my favourite :-) !