"I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it."

-Voltaire


"Twenty thousand, two hundred-yen for a helmet!" Luna snapped.

There was a bike shop we'd passed on the way down. Some place called 'Red Baron'. It was on our way back, so that was perfect. I'd hate to have had to hunt through the entire city for a good Harley Davidson shop. I have no doubts those are everywhere... Just like Mc-... Never mind.

For the most part, the selection on helmets was terrible. The place specialized more in bike repairs and bike sales than on accessories like helmets. But they had a few selections available, and I was in a hurry, so I made due with what was available. I narrowed it down pretty quick. Whatever I picked, had to have a face shield. That pretty much killed every helmet on selection, save for about four or five fancier ones. The one I picked in the end more or less left Luna wondering where my brain had gone.

"Of all those helmets," she continued. "Why did you go and pick the most expensive one? They had a few for only seven thousand yen!"

"Because it covers my face," I replied.

"But some of the others covered your face too," she argued. "There was a twelve thousand-yen one that worked too. You ignored them after looking at this one just ONCE. "

"This one," I held the helmet in question up. "I can pull the whole facemask up with."

"Is that your whole reason?" she asked. "Because it does that? I don't get it. That much money for one stupid feature...

"It means I can pull the facemask up to talk to people without having to take the entire helmet off," I countered. "You ever try to move a helmet around constantly? It's a pain."

Luna frowned and crossed her arms as I examined the helmet one more time. Believe it or not, it wasn't even a motorcycle helmet. It was a snowmobile helmet. Probably a seasonal item meant for whomever was about to go on vacation in the mountains. The thing I like about it was of course; it had a face shield, complete with chin guard. And the whole chin guard could be flipped up at a moment's notice.

That meant, as I had told the feline, I could flip it up and down to talk as I saw fit without having to try and wiggle the thing off my head.

The helmet was also black. Most of the plain helmets were white, and the fancier ones were several different bright colors. A few of them sporting things like 'hot rod' flames and such.

I had yet to explain it to Luna, but the last thing I wanted was for my head to be a bright red bullzeye asking for a high velocity projectile to skewer it. Helmet or no, anything small and fast like a rifle round would end me, full stop. It would be better if my head didn't stand out as a target.

Of course, one of the alternatives was also black, but I thought it looked absurd. When all things were weighed in at the end of my decision process, my pick pretty much won on simple grounds:

It was a cool helmet.

I don't normally pick things for myself simply based on coolness most of the time, but with all my practical criteria fulfilled, it was down to trivial things. I could have bought the absurd helmet, the one for twelve thousand yen. And it would have worked as Luna said. But it looked silly, and didn't have the flip up chin section. So for an extra eight thousand yen, I opted for the more expensive helmet.

I admit, that when it came down to it, I had a pretty flimsy excuse. Little more than personal preference... But then again, I worked hard for that money, we have plenty more gold, and the way my life has been in the last week, if I want a helmet with a bunch of fancy extra toys, I'm going to HAVE a helmet with a bunch of fancy extra toys. Toys like a retractable sunshade visor inside the facemask.

I'm a very stingy shopper, but I get some of the strangest shopping impulses at times.

Besides, Luna got a Hello Kitty shirt. Massive price difference, yes. But she got something she wanted. I think I can have something I want, right? I mean, when you boil it down, I think that I've earned it, having kept it together as long as I have.

No doubt she's been thinking I'm a hypocrite ever since we left the shop. She was quiet about it until we got on the bus, but after a while, she just couldn't keep to herself.

As for the bus, that was Luna's idea. I'd wasted more time than I wanted to in our little shopping spree, and I was afraid we were going to get back, only to walk into a shouting match between Rei and Old Man Hino because she might have thought he'd driven me off.

Luna reminded me the city bus had a stop right at the temple steps. And on a half day like today, right about now, the bus schedule would line up near perfectly to allow students a few extra options for getting around town after class.

It wasn't a straight shot of course. We had to connect twice. But it was still faster than walking. Luckily, with Usagi having used the area busses so much, Luna had all the right connections memorized.

The fare had been two hundred yen per person, per bus, which ended up costing something like twelve hundred yen by the time we got the last connection, but even after my expensive purchase, we still had about ten thousand yen leftover. About a hundred bucks in my simple math...

"I just don't understand you sometimes," Luna shook her head. "I mean, I thought I more or less had you figured out, but then..."

"Look," I continued. "This is the helmet I wanted, end of story. Is it that hard?"

Luna sighed.

"And you wonder why I compare you to Lazybones..."

"Hey!"

'Bong...'

"Next stop: Hikawa Temple."

"This is where we get off," Luna interrupted before I could really snipe back.

After disembarking the vehicle, I realized one other thing the bus saved us from.

Our arms...

It would have sucked to walk as far as we did with the bags we had at this point. Especially me... I had all the extra stuff. Luna just had a shirt and some pants. I can't believe how much I can't wait to get back into that little suit Washu made. Pocket Universe storage was just too great a feature.

"Well, that saved us the hassle," I replied with a heavy sigh, moving to allow another person room to get off the bus. And then had to step out of the way again as she almost ran me over. Too engrossed in some novel like any number of people back home, glued to their cell phones, texting incessantly... "Oi! Get your head OUT of that book and pay attention to where you're going before you get hit by a TRUCK."

Or a bus... Which would be rather ironic considering she just stepped off one.

"That was mean!" Luna gaped; rounding on me as the girl snapped her book shut and blushed. "Why would you say something like that to a total stranger?"

"You've never seen texting," I replied. "Either I let her know how incredibly stupid walking down the street with your head stuck in a book is, or she finds out the hard way when some idiot comes along and decides that speed limits and stop signs are just suggestions."

Luna shook her head in exasperation.

"You could be nicer about it," she sighed. "It's not that hard."

"Sorry," I shrugged as the bus pulled away. "Nobody ever listens to me otherwise... "

"Well I do for what its worth," she began, stepping to look past me. "I'm sorry. He's not trying to be me- AMI!"

I almost jumped at Luna's squeal.

Wait... Ami?

"AMI?" I began. "Wha-"

I turned and looked at the girl who had stopped and was looking at us curiously, then looked back Luna.

"You sure?" I asked. I mean, so far things have been consistent, so Ami's hair should have stood out like a Neon sign. But this...

"Of course I'm sure," Luna looked at me as if I'd insulted her intelligence. "I'd know Ami anywhere, it's only been a week after all."

I looked back at the girl with the book as Luna continued.

"I didn't see you on the bus or I would have talked to you sooner," she stated. "There's so many things we need to go ov-"

"She looks nothing like her," I interrupted.

"What?" Luna looked at me as if I'd gone crazy again. "What are you going on about? Is your blood sugar low again already?"

Uh...

"Oh!" Luna perked up. "You're used to the show! Of course! I should have warned you that Ami blends in with everyone a lot better in real life. The blue in her hair is nowhere near as bright, and it's not nearly as curled. That's just an exaggeration."

And what about everyone else I've met? Ayeka's hair was near identical to her animated color. Why not Ami's?

"That doesn't make any sense," I voiced back at the catgirl. "Your hair is every bit as bright as it should be. And so is everyone else's I've met. Why would that suddenly change now?"

"I don't know," Luna countered. "Maybe you're expecting things to be too much like what you've seen."

Maybe...

"Excuse me," Ami finally found the courage to butt in. "But... Uh... Do I know you?"

There was a rather obvious awkward pause. Of course she doesn't know me.

"It's me," Luna turned to Ami.

"Who?" She blinked. "You sound familiar but..."

"Oi," I rolled my eyes. "She doesn't know..."

"Know what?" Luna asked. "Of course she knows me."

"Uh..." Ami took a step back, looking a little timid. I just shook my head.

"Rei didn't tell anyone," I mumbled to myself in English. Or didn't give full details.

"Wait," Ami continued, stepping forward again. "Are you that guy that disappeared with Luna last week?"

"He better hope he isn't," an additional voice added to the mix. "I might just have to teach him a lesson otherwise."

The three of us turned and I came face to face with yet another girl. Survey says that if that was Ami, then if the brown hair was any clue, this was probably Makoto.

Somehow I expected her to be taller... But the young girl currently threatening me with physical harm was looking me dead level in the eyes. The perspective of seeing them in the anime I guess killed any kind of sense of scale. Just like everyone else I've met. A lack of a functional reference really didn't bring out how they compared to me until I met them face to face.

"Howdy," I stated, again tossing in some random English. "Kino Makoto I presume?"

"You presume correct," the brunet stated in a warning tone. "How do you know my name, and what have you done with Luna?"

"I'm right here!" the Felis Sapien snapped in irritation. The two Senshi looked at her in surprise.

"Really, do you not recognize my voice at all?"

The two girls cast a long gaze at Luna, eyeing the catgirl as she gave them both an indignant stare.

"Luna?" Ami was the first to speak, turning her head to the side. "What..."

"What the heck happened to you?" Makoto cut in, brushing me off like old garbage. "Is that really you?"

"Sometimes I'm not sure myself," the catgirl nodded. "But yes, this is me."

"You're HUMAN," Ami commented.

"Not exactly," I added. "Close, but not quite."

"What do you mean?" Kino returned her warning look to me. "What's going on? Who are you?"

I sighed. Makoto asked the obvious question. The one with the long, LONG explanation that I could probably fill a book with at this point.

"Did Rei not tell you what happened?" Luna asked. "I thought you two would have known by now."

"We heard about the attack," Ami commented informatively. "Usagi said some guy Rei likes helped out and defeated Zoicite. Rei wouldn't tell us much about it. She just said it was rather scary."

"Usagi also said something about having her own show, and the guy liking to watch us or something," Makoto added. "But she wasn't making much sense at that point."

She then turned that warning gaze on me again.

"I'm not sure I like the idea of being watched though," she continued dangerously.

I caught that unspoken threat in her tone. Lovely... Makoto was going to be the overprotective one. I hope she doesn't turn into another Naru. That whole fiasco was a total pain in the ass on several levels.

"So who are you?" she asked again, aiming the question at me. "Some foreign stalker?"

I scoffed. I mean, her tone was deadly serious, but the implication at this point was just funny. I mean, it wasn't funny, but it was.

"He's not a stalker," Luna admonished the taller Senshi.

"Then what is he?" Kino asked. "And how did he beat that creep Zoicite?"

I'm not in the mood for this. Not now...

"Would it be okay to wait on the explanations until everyone's here?" I asked. "For the time being, I'd just like to say that we're on the same side."

"Are you really?" she asked. It was a borderline rhetorical question.

"Makoto, go easy on him," Luna stepped in between the two of us. Which was kind of funny when you stopped to think about how we both could look right over the top of her head at each other. "He's had it very rough the last week or so."

"Are you sure we can trust him?" Makoto looked down at the catgirl. I simply rolled my eyes, which got me a frown in return when her gaze snapped up.

"I'd trust him with my life," Luna returned firmly. "Right now, he's probably our greatest asset."

Makoto blinked and looked at me with a mixed look of surprise and amazement. One mirrored equally by Ami.

"He's Tuxedo Kamen?" she asked.

If I were capable of that facevault stunt, now would have been the moment I did so.

"I- It-" I began, then dropped my bags and helmet on the ground and pulled Luna out of the way by her shoulder before fixing Makoto with a screwed up gaze. "NO! How did you even COME UP with that conclusion?"

"Hey!" Kino responded by poking me in the chest. "The only other guy we know of who should be on our side is Tuxedo Kamen."

"He's NOT Tuxedo Kamen," Luna pushed her way between us again. "But he is our ally. That's what's important here."

"So he knows then," Ami interrupted.

"He knows more than any of us," Luna stated pointedly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Mako asked.

"Exactly what I said," Luna reasserted herself. "He literally knows more than anyone else here about this situation."

"I really don't think this is the best place to discuss this then," Ami advised, motioning at the fact that we were still standing right in front of a bus stop. The other two ladies glanced around, realizing how public this conversation might be. As they did so, I noticed a dark haired girl in a brown uniform walking at a brisk pace up the sidewalk. I couldn't make her out at this distance, but I'm sure that was Rei.

"You're probably right," Luna nodded to Ami. "We should head up and talk there."

"Good idea," Kino nodded, turning to poke me in the chest again. "I can't wait to hear this, seems like it's going to be good."

Young lady, your mind will be blown. And, well, that IS Rei.

"Hey guys!" The afore-mentioned fire senshi exclaimed as she jogged up. She'd broken into a run around the time Makoto had poked had poked me in the chest a second time. "Makoto, you can calm down, he doesn't bite."

"Eh..." Kino responded with a shrug. "Just being careful. He comes off as a little creepy if you ask me."

"Yeah," Rei agreed. "I thought so too, but he's not so bad."

Then she noticed Luna.

"Who's this girl?" she asked.

"It's me," Luna snapped, getting a little indignation in her tone. Rei just gave her a blank stare.

"Oh for the love of..." Luna began, glancing around. "I'm not going to repeat this fifty times so..."

"POP!"

All four girls jumped a full step back as Luna returned to feline form, her bag dropping to the ground next to her.

"It's ME," she continued in irritation. "You only talked to me this morning. Is it really that hard to recognize my voice?"

"Sorry!" Rei raised her hands quickly. "How was I supposed to know?"

Then she put her hands down and leaned forward.

"That's a neat trick though, where'd you learn to do that?"

Luna sat down and looked up at the three Senshi with what I suspect was a bit of a smug face.

"Our ALLY here knew someone who was able to fix something about my body I had forgotten about," Luna stated. "Technically I was always able to do this, it was just broken."

"You know," Makoto commented, laughing slightly to herself. "When Usagi sees that, she's going to freak."

"Will she now?" Luna grinned a Cheshire Cat smile... And so begins the puns once more. Great...

"You're not planning what I think you're planning?" I asked into the four girls. That earned me a glance from them all as Luna spoke up.

"Probably," she smirked.

"So what are you doing out here anyway?" Rei continued, changing the topic while rolling her eyes. "I told you stay in the temple."

"Shopping," I shrugged.

"You went shopping without me?" Rei asked with a look that was a combination of indignation and a pout.

"I've been living on handouts and the clothes on my back for a week," I shook my head. "Besides, you'd probably have just turned me into a human shopping cart and buried me with boxes like you did to Mamoru."

"I don't bury people with boxes when I sho-" Rei began, then froze. "Wait, how'd you know that?"

"You think our last conversation was a joke?" I asked. "I could write a book on you from memory."

Man, she's acting like Ayeka did. Didn't quite understand how deep the knowledge went.

"That's freaky," Makoto cut in.

"I can go further," I sighed. "Like the reason Makoto is deathly afraid of aircraft."

The taller Senshi froze in place. Perhaps that wasn't the best of things to say because she went deathly white in the process.

"How did you-" she began, reaching out and grabbing me by my jacket and yanked me right up to her face.

"Calm down," I instructed. "I'm going to explain everything soon enough."

Revised note, secrets are for shock value, not general conversation. Keep this in mind in the future if you don't want someone to beat the living shit out of you.

"Makoto," Luna looked up at Kino. "There's a very good reason why he knows about that."

"Yeah," Rei cut in, gently grabbing her by the wrist. "Let him go. He did the same thing to me."

"What?" Makoto asked. "Spout off secrets barely anyone knows?"

Rei let go and crossed her arms.

"He identified me by name while transformed," the Senshi of fire stated in a cross tone. "Not only that but he knew what happened in that first fight I had with Jeidite, and mentioned things only my friends know about."

She paused while Kino continued to frown.

"And then he killed Zoicite," she added for effect. "And helped me save Grampa."

Makoto's face blanked, and she let go of my jacket.

"KILLED him?" she asked. "Not just defeated..."

"Yes," I recalled that rather unpleasant moment. "A shotgun blast to the face will do that. And it was actually thanks to you I knew it would work. You got that sucker punch in on him the first time you met without using a transformed boost. That told me enough about them that I could fight them with regular weapons."

Makoto stared mutely, her mouth hanging open slightly.

"H-" she began at last. "How... there was nobody there at all."

"That's what we're going to discuss," Luna nodded from her spot at our feet. "I promise, it'll all make sense."

Ami, who'd been silent for most of the conversation, nodded emphatically, looking curious.

Makoto looked back me again, then took a deep breath and did her best to mask her discomfort of the situation with a smile.

"Anyone who could take out that creep Zoicite's okay in my book," she placed her hand on my shoulder. "Sorry for coming across a bit harsh."

"Eh..." I shrugged. "No problem."

"So what did you buy?" Rei interrupted, looking at my helmet lying on the ground. Reminded of my purchases, I quickly crouched down and recovered them. Makoto also tried to make up for her distrust by collecting the bag with my new razor and clipboard.

"Just a few essentials," I replied. "Nothing fancy."

"A helmet?" she asked, picking the item in question up.

"Beats a tiara," I shrugged, taking it from her as I did so. "There are monsters on the prowl, and I don't want my head smashed in like a watermelon."

Rei, for her part, pursed her lips in thought before shrugging.

With the shopping bags recovered, we made our way up the stairs. Admittedly, the congregation we had going looked rather odd to a tourist as we walked by. One foreign guy, three teenage girls, all carrying a bag of some sort, and a cat.

At least it didn't look as crazy as Luna and I had looked earlier.

"HEY!"

Speaking of crazy- GAH!

I grunted and managed not to fall flat on my ass initially when a small blond express train struck me. But I still stumbled over when Usagi tackled me almost out of nowhere.

"What in the-" I heard one of the other Senshi begin.

I did my best to grimace away the feeling of a skinned palm from where my right hand had caught the stone flagging in my attempt to recover. Nice... Let's add more pain to an already painful existence. As if I didn't have enough of that kind of thing in the last week and a half...

"Did you bring me anything?" The little princess chirped. "What's in the bags?"

"Usagi, get off him!" Rei snapped in outrage. "He's a guest!"

"Jealous?" Usagi smiled in a blatant attempt to get under the younger Hino's skin.

"As if!" Rei snapped indignantly. I could already tell where this was going. Usagi was still latched on to teasing from last time. And if I let the two go at it for more than a few seconds, it'll take forever to stop them. God, I don't really need another headache. I just got rid of the last one.

"Nothing for you in the bags Usagi," I interrupted the two in a voice slightly louder than I would normally use. It was enough to keep their usual bickering from erupting like it had as Usagi turned back to me with a disappointed pout.

"Now could you get off me?" I asked. "That hurt."

"Oh!" Usagi quickly sprang free. In the process, the girl quickly snapped an apology before offering her hand in assistance. I accepted that help, though after a second I had to do it myself anyway when I proved to be a bit too heavy for her. Of course, it was because she dropped me outright. But what do you expect from a teenage girl almost half my size?

"Well," Rei continued after a moment of shaking her head in exasperation. "At least she's here early for once."

"That she is," Luna smiled, looking slightly impressed, or at least, as impressed as she could in her cat form. Usagi just laughed as if the statement were somehow funny.

"Well," she began. "Rei told me you were back this morning on my communicator, and that we'd need to meet. So I as soon as I got out of class I came straight here."

"Which is probably a sign of the apocalypse," I quipped in English. I didn't want the girls to really catch that one. Ami however, let a smirk slip past her features while the others were too busy wondering what I had just said.

"I was worried about Luna too," Usagi's smile faded a little. "Rei said you both just vanished."

"Loud pop?" I asked the Senshi of fire.

"Uh," Rei began. "Yeah, how'd you know?"

"Recurring theme for me," I shook my head. "It's just air occupying the space I just left."

"Oh," Rei nodded.

"And as you can see," Luna continued. "We're just fine."

"Mostly," I added, sucking on my hand where it had been scraped. Probably not the wisest thing to do, but whatever.

"How did you get here so fast anyway?" Ami asked.

"Yeah," Makoto nodded. "We left before you, AND we took the bus."

Usagi suddenly started laughing uncomfortably while the three other girls fixed a look on her. No doubt, knowing Usagi, she didn't get here so fast on excitement alone. She's no sports star, and she can't simply outrun a bus.

"You transformed and went roof hopping," I began. "Didn't you?"

Usagi made a choking sound as she froze in place. I could only respond to that with a knowing smile.

"Oh..." Luna sighed. "That's just disgraceful. Your powers were not meant to be used for that kind of thing."

Makoto and Rei just nodded. Usagi glanced between them, looking lost. Now, I'd hate to be the one to rock the boat but...

"I don't know," I began. "Were it me with that ability, I'd be abusing the hell out of it."

All the girls looked at me as if I'd grown a third head.

"Now hold on a second!" Luna turned to me with a look of shock. "We're trying to get her to be more responsible with her powers. Not to use them like a toy!"

"Yeah!" Rei snapped. "Don't encourage dumpling head like that!"

I hear what they're saying but...

"What's the point in superpowers if you're not allowed to use them?" I asked.

"USE them," Luna admonished. "Not treat them like a toy."

"I never said I'd treat them like toys," I shook my head. "I said I'd abuse the hell out of them."

"Isn't that the same thing?" Luna snapped. "Treating such abilities so trivially is no better than playing with them. They're supposed to be used responsibly!"

I've been around Luna alone so long, I forget that serious cat is serious.

"I think anything goes so long as it's fair to others," I returned, crossing my arms. "So long as she's not using her powers in something like a long jump, or some other kind of competitive sport. Why stop her? Who's she going to hurt?"

"That's not the point!" Luna snapped, her volume climbing rapidly. "She needs top be RESPONSIBLE!"

I looked around for a second, noting Phobos and Deimos watching us from the branches, and another pair of tourist off by the rope in the middle of the shrine, talking to Grampa Hino. The pair had looked up to see who had yelled. Luna did her best cat-blush and hung her head.

"Look," I continued after a moment quietly. "Personally, if I were stuck with a job I didn't ask for, I'd be asking what's in it for ME. If I get sucked in to the job of risking my life on a weekly basis against my own will, nobody had better be telling me what I can and can't do with any extra powers. If you give me magic powers, I'm going to use them. If that includes using them for personal gain, then I'm using them for personal gain. After all, if I'm risking my life to save the world, I think I should be allowed compensation for the risks."

"That's a slippery slope," Ami interrupted. "That kind of argument leads people to thoughts of entitlement. Historically, thoughts of entitlement have been responsible for actions resulting in horrendous atrocities."

Luna perked up and beamed at the backing Ami provided.

"But I understand where you're coming from," the bookworm continued. "There is no reason why we can't use our abilities the way Usagi has."

Luna's ears fell. Usagi's face brightened.

"But if we just go about doing as we please-" Rei jumped in.

"That's an issue with morality," Ami cut Rei off. "Not responsibility. He makes a very good point. Using our powers like this doesn't mean we've done anything wrong. But Luna makes a good point that we should at least treat our abilities with respect."

"Please," I began, placing my thumb on the bridge of my nose. "Let's not with the morality discussion, my brain still hurts from a temporal morality argument I had two days ago."

"Temporal Morality?" Ami asked.

I waved it away.

"Don't ask."

"Let's just keep it simple then," Makoto spoke up. "If what we want to do would hurt someone, don't do it. Easy enough, right?"

Ami and Rei nodded while Usagi looked back in forth in surprise.

"So," she began. "You guys aren't mad?"

Luna just sighed noisily, but otherwise said nothing.

"Hey," Makoto continued. "Honestly, I wish I'd thought of it first. You not only got here before us, you saved two hundred yen in bus fare."

Usagi blinked and started to smile.

"I did! Didn't I!" she exclaimed. "Cool! I should do that more often!"

"Just be CAREFUL," Luna cut in. "If people see you, someone might start following you."

"Don't worry Luna," Usagi began, waving it through a bright smile. "I can handle that much."

"Ugh..." the cat shook her head.

"Well," I began. "At least she's motivated."

"I just wish she'd be motivated to do her job better," Luna all but whined.

You can't have it all at once Luna. The way I see it, Usagi reminds me of myself when I was in school. Unmotivated, uninterested... You can't make her take anything seriously if she doesn't want to take it seriously no matter how many lectures you try. This girl doesn't need lectures; she needs motivation. And before Usagi can be motivated, she needs to be interested. Now that I think about it, perhaps all those comments of 'exploit everything' I read from Spacebattles can be applied more widely than I thought. Perhaps if I gave Usagi a little taste of what it was like to use her head...

Because I think she's smarter than even SHE realizes.

Glancing back at the blond girl as she grinned. I couldn't help it. My worn out brain was piecing together possibilities. Luna had already shown the potential to be an amazing fighting catgirl. Rei, with only a few seconds of improvised instruction, proved to be extremely powerful.

If any of them had even the slightest inkling of what they could do with just a few creative tweaks; Rei could probably melt steal and create massive explosive overpressure waves. Or psychic firestorms... That would be nasty. Makoto could generate an arc flash, mess with magnetic fields, and perhaps even fire an electromagnetic pulse. Ami could shatter tank armor and create superconductors and blinding fogs. Hell, if Ami put her mind to it, if she flash cooled an area of large enough volume, she could produce a downburst phenomenon. Put them together and you could probably get pretty crazy with physics. A functional railgun for example...

And they manage to save the world while barely able to lob cheap imitations of their true power?

More ideas began to sink in. If these girls were at their full potential, Metallia would shit itself. At full power, Sailor Senshi are supposed to be guardians of worlds. You don't get that kind of lofty title unless you've got the power to back it. And if the title of guardian includes the need to fight off a military force that has interplanetary capability. That MUST at least be on par or superior to handling something like the fully mobilized US Army/Navy/Airforce combined. So then at full power, these girls should EACH be a living nuclear war.

Given the situation, it would be nice for these girls to be at full power. Then I wouldn't have to worry so much. Kunzite would be little more than a cheap magic act next to them. But unless they spontaneously gain a few thousand years of experience in handling their abilities, Kunzite will still own them outright in a straight fight.

And if Kunzite can own them, Metallia would bend them over backwards like they just dropped the soap at Leavenworth.

And if I don't get that crystal back in a timely manner: 'That's it man, game over man, game over.'

Unless I have a fallback option...

And personally, I don't like the ultimate fallback option.

So here's something to ponder. I've already jacked up the timeline completely by accident. Most likely irrecoverably at this point considering how Kunzite will change his entire method of operation. If I make tweaks again, will it get worse in the long term? Or will it get better?

Washu's advice was not to worry about the timeline, just work with the now. If I value the expert advice of a being who's mind is several orders of magnitude more perceptive than my own, then I should plan as if it were my fight and ignore the timeline completely.

And if I'm the one planning the fight, then my plan calls for getting the Senshi to their fullest potential.

However, their potential and their current states are about as different as comparing me to Ayeka.

Right now, I'm technically more effective than the Senshi. I have an actual kill on an enemy officer. That makes them currently less powerful than a soldier with a gun. Which is all fine and dandy when practically nobody in Japan has a firearm and the most dangerous criminal is a street thug with a dull razor.

But the situation is only going to get worse before it gets better. So the Senshi will probably need to get BETTER than a guy with a gun, and in a hurry.

Given what Luna's been trying to do to Usagi in that department for the better part of five to six months now, that's easier said than done.

Still, you have to start somewhere.

And if I'm going to start teaching these girls how to scare the pants off the enemy, I need to start RIGHT NOW.

I know Rei will listen. I had her attention the other day easily the way that fight went. But the others?

Well, before Usagi can be taught, she must be interested. And I have her interest...

Time to exploit that.

"Are you listening?" Luna asked into my train of thought. Apparently she'd gone on to vent or something while I was pondering, because the other girls had looks on their faces like I'd just missed the rant of the century.

"No I was thinking," I replied honestly. "Wha'd I miss?"

Luna just sighed.

"It's nothing," she stated at last. "I'm just venting a little pent up frustration, that's all."

"Feel better?" I asked.

"A little," the kitty nodded. "Maybe I should take a nap. I'm exhausted."

"Good idea," I commented, reaching down to pick the feline up. "Get some sleep for both of us if you can." Luna made to protest my action for a second before she sighed again.

"Wake me in fifteen minutes," she advised.

"No problem," I nodded. The three remaining girls looked at me in confusion as Luna squirmed into a more comfortable position in my arms and promptly passed out.

"She's been going non-stop all morning," I shrugged back at them, absentmindedly finding that little spot behind the ear to scratch. Luna's ear twitched and she immediately started to purr. "Now, about that meeting..."

Luna stayed zonked out cold in my arms for the entire fifteen minutes as we recovered all my shopping and filed into Rei's room. I admit, it was tiny. It was a wonder how we managed to fit three people in there without feeling cramped the first time. Add two more and several bags and it was essentially a 'you stay where you start' kind of affair. Being larger than them, I decided to just take over Rei's bed, using the corner of the room to recline.

In this time, Rei gave the remaining two girls a bit of a brief run down of what exactly was going on. The response was mixed. Makoto was outright disbelieving of the situation, while Ami seemed somewhat more sedate, if not analytical with the critical glances she kept giving me.

When Rei replayed the story of what happened at the temple from her point of view, the looks of shock only increased as she tried her best to describe the fight with Zoicite in detail.

I helped fill in details she might not have noticed while she was occupied. Mostly stuff I had thought about. Even going so far as to point out again, the reason I decided I could attack Zoicite in the first place. Makoto seemed to take a little pride in knowing she had inadvertently helped take Zoicite out.

The thing I really emphasized while I was explaining myself, was how Zoicite practically fell apart under pressure. Rei confirmed what I had noticed here. The fight had started with Zoicite's typical boasting, and ended with him in a near frantic panic, just because I got back up after taking one hit.

We were giving a recap of how we managed to restore Grampa without Sailor Moon's help around the time Luna finally woke up. The feline seemed rather refreshed for such a short amount of time. I was almost envious. I wish I could feel that refreshed with only twenty minutes of sleep. (Yes, I let her have 'five more minutes').

"Did I miss anything important?" she asked as she hopped out of my arms and gave a quick yawn and a stretch.

"Just getting up to speed," I replied. "Not quite to the important part yet."

"Ah," Luna continued. "Good."

"What important part?" Rei asked.

"The entire reason Zoicite came after your Grampa in the first place," I continued. "Remember the crystal?"

"Yeah," Usagi jumped in. "Wasn't Zoicite after those Rainbow Crystals?"

"I recovered it if you recall," I continued.

"Good," Makoto nodded. "So you're going to give it back right?"

I gave the taller senshi a look that pretty much answered her question.

"You don't have it," Ami inferred.

"Nope," I shook my head.

"YOU LOST IT?" Rei all but bellowed. "How could you lose something that important!"

"He didn't LOSE it," Luna interrupted, jumping on the small table in the middle of the room. "It was taken by a mad scientist."

Rei turned to her with a look of mute shock.

"Mad-" Makoto began.

"SCIENTIST?" Ami finished in equal shock.

This was going to take forever, and time was not our friend today. I'd already taken twenty minutes longer than I wanted to in letting Luna nap. But if Kunzite was out there planning, then every second wasted was a second he'd add to his preparations.

"How about the short version?" I interrupted. "The basic premise is this. I'm a slider; I come from another universe. In my universe, you guys are a manga and anime series called Sailor Moon. There are also number of other universes that are also anime or manga series in my world. A little over a week ago, I suddenly started waking up in these next to some of my favorite female characters. I don't know why, and I don't know how. All I know is the pattern. And thanks to this weird pattern, the crystal is currently in the possession of a fruitcake mad scientist backed by a number of superhuman magical combat cyborgs."

There was total silence for several seconds. The girls, save Usagi and Luna were all looking at me with varying levels of shock. Rei had turned a slight shade of red. Apparently she caught the undertone just like every other female thus far in the explanation. She already knew part of the explanation, but I hadn't fully made the connection the first time.

"And when I find out who did this to me," I continued in an elevated tone. "I'm going to kick its ass even if I have to figure out a way to develop godlike powers in the process!"

Rei continued to turn a darker shade of red.

"Seriously?" Makoto finally spoke up. "You expect us to believe that?"

"Seriously.' Luna glared at the lightning Senshi. "I've been there, I've seen his room. I was with him the entire time."

"You want proof?" I asked.

Kino nodded.

"I'll go get my proof then," I pushed my way out of the corner of Rei's bed and thumped solidly onto the floor.

"Uh..." Usagi began. "Guys... Luna... I think you broke Ami."

I glanced at the genius girl. Ami was staring off into space, her face changing rapidly through several expressions, as she no doubt tried to make sense of the explanation.

"Yoohoo," Usagi waved her hand in front of the girl's face. "Ami-chan!"

"She'll get over it," I shrugged, reaching over and grabbing the shopping bag with my new razor in it.

"Where are you going?" Luna asked.

"To change into my proof," I responded as I hefted my bag and walked out of the room.

I'll let them get a few minutes to themselves to discuss things with Luna. They'll probably take her word over mine, and I need to Let Rei defuse anyway.

Honestly, it felt comforting to put my hazard suit back on. After three days of optional enhanced strength, durability, and the added comfort it provided, not having it on left me feeling vulnerable. And I didn't want to admit it, but that one moment when Luna had picked me up in the 'WcDonalds' (Don't think about it...) had scared the shit out of me. Actually feeling her feline strength in action and realizing in that moment that she hadn't fully grasped the extent of that strength yet had left me feeling naked without my own strength enhancement. So getting the suit back on really helped me to relax.

Once I grit my teeth and took the rather unpleasant zap from the nerve connection calibration, I went about doing one of the other things I'd been meaning to do for three days.

Shaving...

Or at least, doing so once I managed to get the new razor out of the indestructible plastic it was encased in. I swear... You could build an impenetrable shield out of this stuff.

Luckily, my leatherman's knife came in handy there.

Once I got it free, shaving was a simple, if slightly tedious process in front of the mirror. My face was something like five or six days overgrown, so I did look a touch like some kind of bum. Ah hell, I looked like a hobo off the street. I was tempted for a second to leave part of it just to have an in-joke for myself. But I decided it was better to look as best as I could.

Once that was done, I gave a tired smile to the face in the mirror. I hadn't noticed before with the mess I'd been, but I had seriously lost a lot of weight around my face. The amount of forced healing I'd done, combined with my less than healthy diet of 'not enough' had taken its toll. I might have looked better, but the speed at which the unnatural weight loss had occurred had yet to give my skin the time it needed to adapt, so I looked slightly sunken and haggard in the mirror.

Turning away from the mirror with a sigh, I gave myself enough room to open my pocket, smiling once at the near inaudible 'fwip' it made as air pressures equalized. One fishing grab later, I closed it and tucked a box under my arm.

I passed Grampa Hino in the hall on the way back. When we made eye contact, he seemed to assess me for a second. Probably noting how cleaned up I had looked at this point. Nothing was said, but he nodded in seeming approval before continuing on towards the fire room. Or whatever that room was called. Inner temple? Who knows...

As I approached the room, I could hear what sounded like Ami's voice babbling at seemingly high speed for her. I caught a tidbit reached for the door about how there was no way a universe could accurately be a work of fiction in another because the odds were so improbable as to be impossible.

That was more or less my cue.

"Read more Douglas Adams," I commented as I slid the door open. Then with barely a thought I shifted the box in my arms.

"Usagi," I held it up. "Think fast."

The blond princess jerked back a bit as I tossed the small blue box right at her face. But her hands managed to snap up in time and snatch it out of the air.

"What is-?" She began, turning it over in her hands as she glanced down.

"My proof," I commented. "Just to convince anyone who still wasn't quite sure."

I watched Usagi's eyes widen as she managed to turn the box one way, then she fumbled it quickly another direction, then yet another as she begin to grin from ear to ear.

"It's," she laughed. "It's ME!"

"What?" Makoto practically jumped over the table, followed by Ami.

"It's ME!" Usagi repeated. Then she flipped it around again, sliding the two DVD cases out of the box. "See? I TOLD you we were a TV show!"

"Hey whoa!" Makoto commented as she took the now empty box from Usagi. "It's even got a drawing of the moon wand on it!"

I laughed a little to myself as the three practically gushed over it. I mean, it was just the box, but they were all over it like ants at a picnic. I'd love to see the looks on their faces if they could actually watch the episodes. But unfortunately, DVD players were lacking at this time.

"These are disturbingly accurate caricatures," Ami commented, looking at the back of the second season-half box. "I mean, it's typical anime coloring, but there's no mistaking Usagi on the front."

"No mistake nothing," Makoto commented. "This is amazing!"

I noticed around that moment, that there was at least one person who wasn't getting in to the little toss around exchange between the other three Senshi. Rei, who hadn't moved from her spot, was just sitting there, looking... Not shocked. That wasn't the right way to describe the glazed look in her eyes. Like she was looking through the wall...

"Hey," I tapped her on the shoulder. "You okay?"

"Eh?" the younger Hino glanced at me for a second. Then her cheeks turned red a moment later as she flushed.

"Er... uh, yeah," she continued, her tone completely falsetto. "I mean, I knew I was fiction to other people because of what you said last time. But, to really see it with my own eyes, is just..."

She still can't lie to save her life.

"You're my favorite character here and you don't really know what to think" I commented quietly. That did it. Her face went so red I had to wonder if all the blood in her body had rushed to the top of her skull.

Rei fidgeted in place and quickly tried to find a direction to look that would hide her face before the others had a chance to notice. At a loss as to that, her hands came up shaking before she finally just threw them on her face to try and hide behind them. Even then, her fingers wouldn't stop moving as she drummed them on her forehead.

Well, that explains her reaction to the Favorites Game.

Best guess, is that none of the girls I've met are used to the concept of actually being someone's favorite. Not like this. Ayeka almost shut down with the realization of how in depth I knew her. Motoko had gone completely shy and demure at the mere implication that someone genuinely liked her. I think Ritsuko missed that part of the explanation, if I had even mentioned it at all.

"Hey," I tapped her on the shoulder again. "Word of advice... Don't try to over think it. I've already gotten this reaction out of several other people. To be honest, everyone's over blowing the whole 'favorite character' bit if you ask me."

"R-really?" the younger Hino let out a shuddering breath.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't like you," I shrugged. "But I wasn't exactly planning on my favorite pick of characters to turn out to be real either."

Rei dropped her hands and took a deep breath before continuing.

"So," she continued at length. "It's not like THAT..."

I let a single laugh out.

"I don't think I would have lived this long if it were," I smirked.

"So what DO you like about me?" She asked, turning a more serious look on me.

"Eh..." I shrugged. "Dunno... I've always liked the feisty, hot-tempered characters. More entertaining."

"That's all?" Rei asked. She seemed to either ignore, or not notice when I called her 'hot tempered'.

"Well," I shrugged again. "Bonus points for being cute not withstanding. I guess it's partly because I'm naturally good at getting along with the real thing. A few friends of mine back home are bipolar. And out of all the people I know, they get along with me the best, and I get along with them the best. Maybe it's because I don't really let it bother me. It takes a lot to piss me off really. So maybe it just fits me. I don't know."

Rei digested that tidbit of information while her color slowly returned to normal. In retrospect, that felt a bit sappy to me. But then again, at this point, do I really care? So much to do, so many problems, so much stress. I'm not entirely sure how far I've pushed myself in the last week. But I'm pretty certain that at some point in all of this, some part of my mind was going to snap. And when it did, it wouldn't be pretty.

The only thing delaying it has probably been the silly things. Like Luna's humanoid form. So is sappy

"Hey," Usagi's comment at me brought our attention back to the rest of the group. "How do we watch these anyway? These are CDs..."

"You don't," Luna shook her head. "Those aren't CDs, those are..."

Luna turned to me.

"What did you call them?"

"D.V.D.s," I replied. "Digital Video Disks. Players for them won't exist until like, ninety-five or some time around there."

"Ninety five?" Ami asked, then picked the outer box up from where it had been sitting and looked at it more closely.

"Let's see," she commented idly.

"It's all in English," Usagi pouted. "I can't read it."

And I can't read any Japanese because Washu's language program seems to have quit on me. Maybe we should get together and compare notes. You can teach me to read Japanese, and I can teach you English. Everybody wins!

"Found it!" Ami announced. "And... Whoa. Sailor Moon Copyright two-thousand three Naoko Takeuchi, TOEI animation."

"Two thousand... and three?" Makoto blinked. "That's like, ten years in the future."

"You're from the future too?" Ami looked up at me. I shrugged.

"I guess, technically," I replied. "Though, it's twenty-ten, not O-three. I've had that box set for years."

Then I furrowed my brow.

"Copyrights are funny though. The show was made in like, ninety-two, or ninety-three."

Ami laughed once then set the box down.

"So," I began after a moment, glancing at the ladies present. "Does this explanation satisfy you?"

There was no response for a few seconds before Makoto leaned forward and place the DVD case section she was holding back in the box.

"Well I'm convinced," she nodded. "Though honestly, at this point it's not TOO strange..."

Ami nodded in agreement.

"Yes," she stated. "After all, when you describe us seriously, it sounds no less strange. Magical girls reincarnated from a long lost kingdom that spanned the entire solar system, awoken to protect the world from monsters that would conquer it."

Usagi continued to examine the disks she'd pulled from the DVD case she had.

"Its even got Tuxedo Kamen drawn on one of the disks!"

I knew she'd get a kick out of this. But now it was time to move on.

"You done yet?" I asked. "We got other things to discuss."

The blond looked at me with just a bit of a pout, seeming a bit upset having to part with what was essentially her fame and fortune. But she gave up the case with little fuss. I collected it and the box when Rei looked at me confused.

"Hey," she began. "Where were you keeping that anyway? You didn't have much of anything this-"

'Fwip'

I made sure I was clear when I opened the portal. The appearance of it in the air over my arm pretty much stunned Rei into total silence.

"Oh this just gets better and better," Makoto blinked as I stuck the box back into the black hole hovering in mid air.

"Incredible!" Ami jumped in. "Am I mistaken, or is that some kind of spatial pocket?"

"It's a..." I paused, trying to remember what Washu had told me. "-An access that connects to a private pocket-universe. Which is a self-contained independent thermodynamic entity approximately one and a half meters across."

Or something like that.

"Could you keep it open for a minute?" the blue-haired girl asked as she started fishing into a bag that she'd brought with her. "I want to scan it."

"Knock yourself out," I shrugged. "But be quick, my arm's getting tired already and I don't want to drop the portal into Rei's bed."

"What's wrong with that?" the latter mentioned asked.

"It'll cut it in half," I stated bluntly.

"Okay no problem," Ami commented while Rei blanched. The little genius pulled what appeared to be an older palm pilot out of her bag and flipped it open. It wasn't hard to identify the so dubbed 'Mercury Computer'. But unlike a lot of things I'd seen, nothing about it seemed to stick out to me. Probably because of the prevalence of modern mobile technology... I guess you could say the most interesting thing about it was that it was completely uninteresting.

"That's odd," Ami continued after a moment.

"What is?" I asked.

Ami looked up from her computer and furrowed her brow.

"It's got to be interference from the portal," she continued idly. "Close it please."

Done...

Ami frowned deeper as she glanced at her screen again. Then typed a few things.

"No," she shook her head at last. "This can't be right. This doesn't make SENSE."

Welcome to my worldview...

"What's the matter?" Rei asked. Ami looked up at me, seemingly concerned.

"How are you alive?" she asked.

"Pardon?"

"My scans," Ami motioned with her computer. "According to this, I'm detecting that suit you've got on under your clothes. But when I scan your body, it barely detects anything at all. It's like the suit's just standing there by itself. According to my readings, more than seventy percent of your body mass is missing, and you have no life force readings. You should be dead. In fact, you shouldn't even EXIST."

"Are you sure it's not broken?" Usagi attempted to provide helpfully.

"I don't think so," Ami shook her head. "I get scans of everyone else correctly and strong life force readings. But there's no mistaking it. He doesn't show up on scans."

"How's that thing work?" I asked. I think I already knew what her mistake was.

"I'm not sure," Ami looked down at the computer. "It's magic after all, so I've never had to mess with it."

Thought so...

"It's probably Medium Transfer Principle at work again," I shrugged.

"What's that?" Came pretty much the collective question.

"Something Washu explained to me," I sighed and sat down on the bed again. "In simple terms when matter from one universe travels to another, it retains the properties of the original universe."

"That's how we saved your Grampa," I turned to Rei. "I had a Tanto that belonged to an exorcist from one of my earlier hops. So it worked as an amplifier for your psychic powers when you charged it up."

Rei nodded at my explanation.

"But why can't I detect you?" Ami asked.

"Because there is no magic like we have here in his home universe," Luna concluded informatively. "Which means that it just passes right through him."

"And that makes him invisible to it then, right?" Usagi added.

I nodded to Usagi, who smiled. Not bad princess; Not bad...

"Which is why Zoicite's attack didn't hurt you," Rei realized. "And why he freaked out when you got up! He couldn't feel your life force because you don't have any!"

I nodded to the fire Senshi.

"Zoicite went head to head with what as far as he knew, was a walking undead murderous corpse," I chuckled before taking a deep breath.

Then I laughed.

"And then I told him I was DEATH!"

We all laughed at that one before I stopped and took another deep breath.

"And then I killed him."

Nobody really caught the seriousness in my tone before Makoto continued.

"Fitting," she shook her head. "Good riddance."

"Now I am become death," Ami suddenly piped in. "The Destroyer of Worlds."

The room fell silent and cast a look at her.

"It's a quote from the Bhagavad Gita," she continued into the silence. "I thought it seemed fitting."

"Which is funny," I shook my head. "In an ironic way. Because if I don't find a way to get your crystal back, I really AM become the destroyer of worlds here. Namely, yours."

That sobered the humorous mood up right quick.

"Let me just be serious for a moment here," I continued. "The entire situation is screwed up. That rainbow crystal is a piece of the Silver Crystal. The Silver Crystal is pretty much everyone's goal. Whoever has it, wins instantly."

I waited a moment before I continued.

"Since that piece is off in another universe, nobody gets the crystal. With no Silver Crystal, victory goes to the strongest side. And right now, the Dark Kingdom has an unknown number of monsters, an angry general, a bitch sorceress, and an eldrich horror that can lay waste to entire cities if it ever manages to wake up. Your side has... You. And I'm going to be brutally honest so don't take this as an insult... Five teenage girls who don't know the first thing about combat, and don't even fully understand your own magical powers... Who do you think is going to win this?"

The four Senshi currently assembled around me looked between each other uneasily before Usagi's features hardened.

"We've been beating them steadily for a while now," she continued. "We can win!"

The other three nodded.

"If the your enemy keeps sending monsters at you one at a time like they've been doing to this point," I continued. "Yeah, you could win easily. Your enemy hasn't really taken you seriously to this point."

Then I crossed my arms and stood up, making use of my meager height advantage over the girls currently sitting to inflect my next point.

"So what happens when they decide you're no longer 'annoying pests' and actually put everything in to trying to kill you?"

I felt like I was giving a briefing all of a sudden.

"Which brings up the current problem," I continued. "I met Zoicite's butt-buddy Kunzite this morning."

"He was here again?" Rei jumped up. "Is gramp-"

I cut her off with a hand in front of her face.

"I ran the guy off. But I think I made a really big mistake when I did so..."

"What happened?" Ami was giving me a very stern, measuring look. She was ready to evaluate the situation just as soon as possible.

"I scared the crap out of him," I told the girl. "I scared him with a bullshit story about Zoicite getting killed by a Jedi Knight."

"A Jedi?" Makoto cut in. "As in... Star Wars, Jedi?"

I nodded.

"You scared off someone as powerful as him with a story about a guy with a laser sword?"

Makoto started to laugh, which quickly infected Usagi, then finally Rei. Yeah, from their point of view, and mine, that did sound pretty funny. But Ami made clear eye contact with me and I noted that we weren't laughing at all.

"IT'S NOT FUNNY!" she exploded suddenly. The three looked at her with some measure of shock as she glared between them. Ami rarely ever yelled at anyone.

"This is a very big problem," she continued.

"Why is scaring him such a big deal?" Usagi asked, looking confused. "Don't we want him scared of us?"

"We want him scared of YOU," I nodded. "But I hyped him up against an insanely powerful, non-existent threat."

"So, what's that going to do?" Makoto asked. "I'm all for it if the Dark Kingdom decides they want to hide and never show their face ever again."

I glanced at Makoto and nodded, then looked at Ami.

"He's not going to," she nodded in understanding. All the girls gave the team strategist their attention.

"You think he's going to escalate," she continued. "That if he's scared, he's going to bring overwhelming force to fight."

I nodded. Ami nodded again.

"Guys," she began. "We have to step it up. The enemy is likely to act like a caged animal."

"So what's the plan?" Rei asked.

"I say we hit them first," Makoto smacked her fist into her palm. "Give them a reason to be afraid.

"They always have some kind of plan going before we even know it though," Usagi whined. "How do we hit them first if we can't even FIND them?"

"We already know what the next move is," Luna piped in. "There is still one Rainbow Crystal left to gather, and one last monster."

"But the crystals are useless if they can't get the last one," Usagi frowned.

"We know that," I nodded to her. "He doesn't. He'll go after that crystal. We get there first, and we hit him before he knows what's going on. He's probably prepared to deal with your usual antics, not to get blind-sided with half a dozen magic attacks Tuxedo Kamen style..."

If it was the only thing Mamoru was really good at in that getup, it was that armor-piercing, sniper rifle-accurate roses. Why he never went for a headshot instead of just tagging hands is beyond me.

"A predictable enemy is one that is easier to fight," Ami nodded. "But he's still powerful, so we should be careful."

"I should have lopped his head off when I had the chance," I sighed, then sat back down on the bed. "I had the biggest free shot in the world."

"Just how close were you anyway?" Luna asked.

I stood up from where I was sitting and crouched down next to Luna, then slowly leaned forward until my face was just inches away from hers. We just sat there for a minute until it finally clicked in her head what I was doing.

"Oh my..." she blinked.

"Yeah," I nodded sarcastically. "Pretty damn close. Just one 'shlip!' from my portal, and we'd have one less problem for the time being."

I leaned back until I flopped back to take the stress off my knees.

"Only reason I didn't was because it was too public."

"It's a good thing you have no powers he can feel," Luna sighed. "That close and even a blind idiot monster would be able to feel the Senshi's powers."

"All the easier to sneak up on him later," I shrugged. "Like I did Zoicite..."

Then I stopped.

"Why didn't he notice me though?" I pondered aloud. "You figure that close and he'd have noticed something."

"There's nothing to notice with you," Ami provided.

"Yeah," I nodded. "Exactly. Nothing to detect. So when I'm Mister Dark and Spooky and I walk up to an average human, I'd expect to feel the life force of an average human."

Usagi jumped in.

"He should feel something, right?" she asked.

Ten points for Usagi.

"Luna," I turned. "Can you sense me, or rather, tell me apart from anyone else in here? We've got to know right now before we plan anything. I could have bluffed into a counter-bluff."

"I honestly couldn't tell you," she shook her head. "All I've been able to sense today is Senbei's energies. I could feel him before we even got off the bus earlier."

I let out a breath I'd been holding. Okay, so Senbei probably made everything so foggy to their senses that Kunzite didn't notice I lacked life force. The little Demon God was just- Wait a second!

SENBEI!

I shot to my feet, scaring all the girls.

Where did Rei put him?

I spun around trying to remember this morning. Rei had grabbed him and tossed him somewhere before throwing me under the covers... What was it?

Drawer!

"I can't believe I forgot," I snapped as I turned and yanked out the top dresser drawer next to me.

"HEY!" Rei suddenly snapped. "What are you-"

"FINALLY!" Senbei snapped as he popped up. All the girls simultaneously jumped back.

"I thought I'd never get out of there," he shrugged. "Though I was starting to get comfortable."

"So I noticed," I replied, taking two fingers and pulling a bra off his head. Then I dropped it back into the drawer.

"Bah," Senbei shrugged and teleported from the drawer to my shoulder with a tiny pop. "Five hours in the dark and you learn to make the best of it."

Then he turned to the girls. Save fir Rei and Luna, the others were gawking.

"Ladies..." he floated up and took a sweeping bow. As he did so Rei shifted back on one foot and did her best to quickly shut the drawer with a thud.

"What IS that thing?" Makoto's eyes were practically the size of saucers. "It's like some kind of doll with horrible dress sense."

Senbei ignored the less than flattering comment she made as he straightened up and took on his most dignified air. Which honestly, was still his most absurd.

"Allow me to introduce myself," he continued.

Oh boy, here it comes.

"I am Senbei," he began flamboyantly. "Top ELITE god of poverty, and misfortune. Assigned by the Daimakaicho herself to assist-"

My hand shot out and plucked the little Demon God out of the air.

"Skip it," I stated curtly.

"Yessir," he grunted.

Ami had her computer out again and was typing away furiously as I let the demon god go. Senbei did his best to straighten his rather gaudy jacket when she spoke up.

"Amazing!" she began. "Even though he's tiny, his abilities are off the charts. He has massive amounts of energy in reserve, and an unusual array of macro-scale quantum manipulation abilities."

"I'm sorry," Rei shook her head. "WHAT?"

"He's a luck demon," Ami clarified to her friend. "Or at least, that's the best way I could describe it. He's also stronger than all the youma we've faced up to this point COMBINED."

Senbei beamed with pride at the blue haired senshi's description of him. And even flexed his arms and did that absurd looking 'buff up' inflation. And to think, he's a joke compared to Marller or Urd, who are in turn, jokes compared to Hild.

"Heh,' I tapped Luna with my foot. "They have no clue do they?"

Luna snorted a laugh and shook her head.

"No they don't," she shrugged. Then she looked at Senbei, then at me again, this time more seriously.

"But I think this solves one problem," she continued. "I think we have our cannon. "

"We do," I glanced at Senbei again. "Don't we?"

Luna nodded and hopped up on the bed next to me.

"Now we just have to solve the next problem," she continued. "We have to find Rhett Butler."

The other girls looked at us as she said that.

"Who's Rhett Butler?" Rei asked.

"Sounds like a gone with the wind reference," Ami frowned.

"The last crystal carrier," Luna advised. "He's a large overweight cat belonging to some little girl whose family spends a lot of time away. I know what he looks like, but I don't know where we'd find him. If we can get to him first, we can get the jump on Kunzite."

Luna paused and looked up at me. Technically no matter how soon we acted, we'd get there right in time to get caught in the middle of it. But the sooner we acted, the less prepared Kunzite should be to handle the situation. Which greatly increases our chances of winning, perhaps even taking Kunzite out.

"It could take days or even weeks to find him though," Ami shook her head. "The Moon Wand only reacts to them at close range. And I haven't been able to produce a sensor that tracks over a larger distance."

"I've got a plan," Luna announced. That even made me do a double take.

"Plan?" I asked. "When did you come up with a plan?"

"On the bus," Luna gave me a slightly insulted look that said 'I'm not an idiot.'

"What kind of plan is it?" Rei asked.

"Simple," Luna commented. "We can't go to Rhett, so we make Rhett come to us."

"OHHHHH!" Senbei suddenly raised his voice and floated over next to Luna. "You are thinking that perhaps you could bait him like in that episode. Are you not?"

Luna nodded.

"In that case," Senbei nodded. "I suspect that the probability of being fortunate increases dramatically. We should have results by this evening if my thoughts are correct."

"This evening," I nodded. Good. We can get this done by the end of the day. I'm going to be dead tired though. I'm already exhausted from the interruptions I've been getting to my sleep. It's more than I got last week, but I'd rather be at one hundred percent when it comes to dealing with an alert Kunzite.

I should have taken his head off when I had the chance...

Now I've got no choice but to get these girls into a fight with him over my stupid mistakes. Goddamn I need to stop second-guessing myself. I've thought my way into more problems than I know what to do with.

I sighed quietly.

I'm just going to need to suck it up and down a metric fuck-ton of caffeine or something.

Or do I?

Wait!

I made sure my arm was clear as I turned and opened my portal. After a few seconds (and more curious stares) I found my backpack and pulled it out. Shutting the portal, I rummaged through my bag until I found the small sack I'd gotten nearly a week ago from Cologne.

I worked my ass off for these things, and this is EXACTLY what they were for.

"What are you doing?" Luna asked.

"I need to be running on all cylinders for this," I unfolded one of the wrapped up pieces of chocolate laced with the Joketsuzoku's personal blend of stimulants 'that weren't speed'.

If I remember, the dose in these was weaker, and should last me only six hours or so. That should be enough to do the job. And if not, I can take another one.

I took a bite out of it and ate it slowly, remembering how the old crone had informed me after the fact that it was not meant to be popped like a pill.

"You okay eating that?" Luna asked, her voice switching to that of concern. "You didn't keep any breakfast down, and you barely managed what little lunch you ate. Who knows how well your stomach can handle that concoction."

"I have no choice," I shrugged as I worked to finish the thing off. "Either it stays down, or it doesn't and –"

My eyes jumped up to Usagi and my adrenaline spiked.

"OOOOH-NONONONONO!" I snapped as she made to stick a piece of the tainted chocolate in her mouth.

Luna was even faster, air expanding away from her with a loud crack as she tackled the young blond girl at record speed. Speaking of speed records. I never even saw Usagi fish the piece out of my bag. When it came to food, that girl was freakin' fast.

"That's NOT candy," Luna snapped in a serious tone.

Usagi blinked back in shock at the young lady now firmly pinning her down.

"L-Luna?" she began.

"Drop it," the Felis Sapien snapped.

Usagi's hand opened and the little piece of sleep remedy dropped to the floor. Ami swiftly collected it.

"That was made for me," I continued at the shocked princess. "It'll probably give you a heart-attack."

"Don't touch anything," Luna continued for me. "Don't touch his weapons, don't touch his equipment, and don't try to EAT anything he has. There's no telling what might happen to you. Understand?"

Usagi just nodded mutely at the catgirl. Once she was Satisfied that what she said had gotten through, Luna slowly backed off.

"When did you-" Usagi began. "You can do that?"

"I can now," Luna smirked. "You're certainly not going to ignore me any more, are you?"

Usagi let out an uneasy laugh and blushed as the other girls giggled at the spectacle. As a minor though, I dug into one of my shopping bags and pulled out one of the Hershey bars Luna had tossed in.

"Here," I tossed and landed it in Usagi's lap. "That's for being a champ."

Usagi's eyes practically sparkled when she saw it. And in seconds, the Senshi tore into it like a hungry shark.

Kids and candy...

"Hey," Rei tapped me on the shoulder. "Any for the rest of us?"

As if reacting on her words, the other three girls looked at me expectantly.

"Sorry," I shrugged. "The other one's for an emergency in case my blood sugar borks. If want more chocolate, you have to fight that thing for it."

I indicated Usagi, who was already half way through her chocolate bar.

"Punk," Rei smirked in a faux insulted tone, and punched me lightly in the shoulder.

I fell over clutching my arm like I'd been clubbed with a two by four.

"GOD DAMMIT!" I grit my teeth. Rei jumped back in surprise looking shocked.

"What happened?" she snapped in shock.

I quickly sat up again because the floor was ice cold.

"Are you okay?" Luna asked, quickly moving to check on me. "What happened?"

"Not so loud," I snapped back. Then I remembered that the old crone had sunk a shot of scotch into me before she'd given me the first dose. Hypersensitivity, that was the side effect.

"God DAMN," I snarled in English. "I hope this doesn't happen every time I do this."

Ami looked at her computer and then back up at me, then shook her head.

"Everyone keep quiet and give him some space," she commented softly. Though honestly, it felt like she was speaking at a borderline shout.

"Why?" Rei tuned it down to a whisper. "What happened?"

"He just ingested a borderline overdose of methylphenidate." The blue-haired senshi replied. "He's suffering from agitation symptoms. Give him a minute or two to relax."

I leaned back against the bed, the throbbing in my head subsiding a little.

"So the crone mixed methylphenidate into it?" I asked. "Sounds familiar... What is it?"

"Oh," Ami chirped a little too loud. "Sorry. You might know it by its more common pharmaceutical name."

"And that is?" I asked in irritation.

Ami almost laughed but managed to keep it in.

"Ritalin." She stated.

...

You're shitting me.

You're FUCKING shitting me...