Twenty-Four
A Sailormoon One-shot
For the SMRFF's "Usa Day"
By Azurite [sailor_andromida@yahoo.com]
http://www.geocities.com/sailor_andromida
==========================================
Waaah! Bad Azurite! Bad! /.\ I know, I know...
I have so many fics to update, a site to renovate...
a real life... O.o;;

Well, I wanted to get *something* out for Usa Day, and
this is it. Between hitting my computer out of frustration
for deleting all my old files (HTML, DOC, TXT, MP3, MPEG,
AVI) and trying to make buttons, awards, and banners...
well, I've been fritzed. ^^ But no longer! For my muse,
the darling Calliope, has returned! But I think my head is
just a layover on her way to Tahiti... ^^;;

Anyways, Sailormoon doesn't belong to me; Sailormoon X is
a farce, and I owe a debt of gratitude to Marianya-onee-chan
for helping figure out what was wrong with my webpage. ^^

Oh, and as a side note, I'm using the SMRPG date for Usa's
birthday-- since she was 14 in 1992, when SM first came out,
1992-14 = 1978 (when Usa was "born"). Therefore, she's 24 now.
I'm ignoring the manga storyline. ^^; This is anime. ^^

==============================================
Conceived 6/15/02
Written 6/15/02 (many hours later...)
==============================================

The differences between friends cannot but
reinforce their friendship.
-Mao Tse-tung

It was a sweltering summer day in the Minato-ku ward
of Tokyo, Japan. It wasn't all that unusual, considering
it was the end of June, and people simply went about
their normal business.

The city was flooded with tourists and children alike,
people who had nothing else to do with their summer
time. And so among the Tokyo natives they wandered,
taking in the sites and whispering amongst themselves
in giggles.

To be in Tokyo at this time of the year was comparable
to being in a zoo; there were a good many creatures of
color to look at, many of them more apt to preen and
show off in front of curious eyes than others. Others
simply went about their business, looking just as out
of place as a dinosaur in a zoo, but paying no more attention
to the scenery than any of the people who wore tailored
suits and ties.

Three such people were currently walking -in a manner that
could be described as nothing less than "purposeful." They
did not see each other, for they were all walking from different
parts of the vast city of Tokyo-- but all converging on a single
place.

That location looked no more out of place than any other structure
in the city- it was a tall gray apartment building of at least
twelve stories; small white balconies adorned the Easterly side
of the building, some decorated with hanging plants or patio chairs.

But there was a single balcony which had no such ornamentation on it;
rather than sitting under the cool of a beach umbrella or on a plastic
patio chair, a single girl sat on the edge of the balcony, her legs
danging between the worn white bars. She was lazily swinging her bare
feet back in forth, cooling her small space of air around her, silently
licking at a raspberry popsicle, unaware that her inattentiveness
caused small magenta spots to drip onto her white cut-off shorts.

Still she swung her legs, her long blonde hair barely being tossed
by the breeze. The balcony door was ajar, as was the apartment's door,
visible from her spot on the warm asphalt. It was hot inside, and
though two standing fans whirred at their highest power, the humidity
clung to the air as lint does to wool.

Outside, the three young women walking towards this apartment-- towards
this girl with magenta spots on her shorts-- looked out of place.
Unlike the tourists, they wore clothes that covered their skin well.
None wore shorts or T-shirts, yet they showed no outer signs of being
disturbed by the heat. They were natives to the area, to be sure,
knowing exactly where they were, where they were going, and how the
weather was going to be a week and a half from now.

One of the women walking was a priestess of the Shinto sect, with long
ebony-colored hair and striking violet eyes, wearing the traditional
garb of a lady that held such a position. Even though she wore a deep
red 'hakama' skirt that covered her legs entirely, she seemed no less
uncomfortable in the heat than the children around her, playing in the
spray of a hose in their bathing suits. She was the perfect image of a
traditional Japanese woman, even wearing the uncomfortable wooden
'geta' sandals as she walked.

Quite a contrast to this first woman was a tall, lean woman with auburn
hair tied up in a high ponytail. Rather than anything of a traditional
Japanese nature, she wore a simple, trendy blouse in a bright emerald
hue, a pair of simple white trousers, and a chef's coat over it,
adorned with pink, rose-shaped buttons. The slight breeze blew open the
coat, revealing a small 4-shaped pendant around her neck, hanging from
a thin chain of gold.

She too, walked towards the apartment. Like the priestess, she carried
nothing in her hands, and walked with such purposefulness in her stride
that none could be mistaken of her destination.

Several blocks down, coming from a larger building of solemn gray was a
shorter girl, looking a good deal younger than the others. In fact, she
was four months older than the brunette, and only six months younger
than the priestess; yet she seemed all the more innocent, with a sort
of light in her bright blue eyes. Her dark hair was cropped closely
to her chin, curling under with a slight flip that was the popular
trend those days. She wore an outfit similar to the chef -a simple
blouse and trouser combination- though hers was a sharply-tailored,
crisp blue color, and she wore a bright white doctor's coat over it.

All three women were heading towards the apartment where the girl sat
on the balcony, her legs dangling over city streets while a popsicle
dripped juice onto her thighs. All three arrived at a different
time, though only within minutes of each other; the priestess glancing
only momentarily to the elevators before choosing the stairs; the chef
heading immediately to the stairwell, while the young doctor waited
patiently for the elevator to arrive from the twelfth floor.

Surprisingly enough, all three women arrived at a single apartment
door, only slightly ajar, at the same time. They exchanged no words,
only knowing smiles, as they filed into the apartment, quite
immediately spying their friend, sucking the juice out of a nearly-
melted raspberry popsicle.

From a room to the right of the balcony, a girl stumbled out, looking
rather worn out. Her blonde hair was thick and matted to her brow,
but the rest of her locks fell to her knees in a tumble. She yawned
briefly, stretching, before nodding to her friends and wandering
into the kitchen to mix some iced tea.

The priestess went right to the girl on the balcony, only pausing at
the door to remove her sandals. She mimicked her friend by dangling
her long legs through the balcony bars, the action pushing up the
scarlet fabric of her hakama to her mid-calves.

Her friend said nothing, only cast a glance that couldn't quite
be interpreted out of the corner of her eye. She continued to
suck the juice out of the popsicle, leaving little white patches
where the juice once was. In response, the popsicle only dripped
more.

The breeze picked up slightly, tossing the blonde's single ponytail
into her friend's range. The pale priestess batted the mass of hair
away, laughing.

"You're spotting your shorts, I hope you know."
"...yeah..." The blonde drawled out before grinning. She seemed
awfully transfixed by something in the Tokyo skyline, though it
was nothing she hadn't seen in the twenty-some-odd years she'd
lived here.

Sure, she'd moved her fair share of times, taken field trips
and gotten lost on the bus... but everything looked so ordinary.
It was rather amusing, considering.

The brunette got up from the living room couch, where she'd been
flipping through the latest tv guide, and leaned in the doorway
of the balcony. She gratefully accepted a cool iced tea from
her blonde friend, who had since gotten dressed in a simple
tank-top and cut-off shorts.

The five of them -including the shorter blue-eyed girl- clumped
around the blonde sitting on the balcony. All was silent for
a while -no more than five minutes, really- when the second
blonde broke the ice.

"You think those uniforms still fit us?"

The girls broke up into peals of laughter, the ponytailed blonde
included, as she finished off the last of her popsicle. She drew
her legs into her chest, hugging them with sticky arms as she smiled
out at the city.

"They'd have to. This place..."

"You think we're ready for Tokyo this time around?" The brunette
asked, swirling her straw in the last of her ice cubes. The blue-eyed
girl nodded slowly, a thoughtful expresion overcoming her face.

"Perhaps the question should be, 'Is Tokyo ready for *us*?'" The girls
shared a solemn nod at that, finally drawing back into the apartment.

"Eight years sure went by fast, ne, minna?" The blonde murmured. She
was fumbling with a bright red bow in the back of her head, tying up
a short ponytail to draw away her bangs from her face.

"Yeah..." Was the collective response, sounding much like a sigh.

"Eight years of peace, freedom..." The priestess mumbled, throwing
herself back into the plush couch. She leaned back and stared at the
chalf-white ceiling, the sunspots dotting her vision like purple
and yellow polka-dots.

"...high school exams, resume writing, and college..." The bow-tied
blonde laughed. There was a groan and a short laugh, and they fell
silent once more.

"I feel old." The ponytailed blonde finally said.
"You *are* old, Usagi." The brunette pointed out directly. The other girls chuckled while Usagi scowled playfully.
"And *you're* the baby of the group, Makoto!" She retorted, crossing
her arms over her chest. A moment passed as the girls blinked in
surprise at their friend's odd, serious expression, but as Usagi
stared at Makoto from the corner of her eye, a sly smile on her face,
the peals of laughter returned.

It was true. Usagi, the glue that held their odd group together,
turned twenty-four on this day in June. The 30th, to be precise. It was
2002, and the girls had since graduated from college. Well, Ami was
still working at Tokyo General, getting her M.D. in pediatrics, while
the other girls had graduated.

Rei, the priestess, had not attended college, since her grandfather
had passed away and she'd been left in charge of the Hikawa Jinja
four years ago. Minako, the other blonde, had gone to college with
Usagi, while Makoto attended a private culinary academy before
opening up her own bistro, with the help of a generous grant from
a former teacher of hers.

They'd been part of the 'real world' for some time now, and this
day was signifying the point when their time spent away from it--
lost in childhood innocence, yet forced, all too early to face
the harsh realities of the world-- would end. Their fighting and
growing up had paid off-- though one would have expected more a reward
for saving the planet than a mere eight years of peace. But it was
enough for them.

These girls had been friends since they were young-- since before
they could remember, almost. They'd grown up into young women,
and were part of the world now... not just fixtures to it, as all
youth seemed to be.

There was no gaudy celebration, no cheesy song... the day was silent,
for the most part, and as the girls went noticed and unnoticed
by everyone around them, they shared their own special bond with
their friend on her special day.

Usagi Tsukino, age 24. Her "resume," like her friends, was simple
and short.

Attended Juuban High School for three years. Graduated in Class of
1995, and went on to go to Tokyo University for three years, majoring
in journalism, with a minor in creative writing.

Held four part-time jobs in this course of time, one at the Crown
Video Arcade and Parlor as a waitress and vendor; one at a small
clothing boutique as a cashier; another at the Minato-ku Shinbun
Agency, where she worked under her father, a leading photographer, as a
gopher; one in the same Agency as an assistant journalist. She soon
rose through the ranks in the agency, known more for her kind and
spirited personality than for her relation to a leading photographer.

Even when Kenji Tsukino retired, Usagi kept working at the Minato-ku
Sinbun Agency, soon becoming popular enough to gain her own column.
People came to her so frequently for advice, delighting in her
kind, yet knowledgable personality, and loving how she was ready
and willing to help anyone, regardless of their history or current
situation. Unlike past advice columnists, Usagi chose not to use
a penname or alias, and those outside of work that knew her took
pride in the fact that their friend helped people around Tokyo
with personal problems.

Of course, she was no celebrity; the paper was only a local paper
for the ward of Minato-ku, and unlike her more youthful days,
was not easily marked by a pair of twin pigtails with buns topping
them. She'd done away with the style upon entering college, instead
trimming her hair to her waist. It had since grown back several
inches, quite near what it had been in high school. Her friends
often joked that she should wear her hair in the infamous 'odangos'
again, but she'd only smiled lightly and shook her head.

She was still engaged to Chiba Mamoru, who was currently finishing
his medical degree at the United States' Harvard University. The
following spring, they would be married.

It was a bit saddening that he was not with Usagi now on her birthday,
but he'd sent a lovely necklace for her birthday, a simple, yet
exquisite silver pendant with a crescent moon and pearl stud. There
was a hidden significance behind it that few recognized, and those
that did wisely sealed their lips and simply smiled in silence.

But Usagi was happy on her own. The day she'd been waiting for
anxiously for the past eight years had arrived-- she was maturing
into Neo-Queen Serenity. It was a name that meant nothing in the
here and now, but in a matter of months, it would have all the
meaning in the world. When Mamoru returned, and they married...

The thought almost scared her: they would conceive a child. It
was odd to know that for a fact-- especially since Usagi had
been one to so rigorously go against whatever plans Destiny
had laid out for her.

"Your own heart charts your destiny," She'd always told people.
That small phrase had enough faith behind it to inspire
people of all levels of hopelessness, in any situation of need.
No one asked what Usagi had been through that had changed her
so-- those that had known her long enough either knew themselves
or simply accepted change as a part of life. It was the way things
went.

But this was a destiny laid out for Usagi that she'd long since
accepted. If she hadn't, long ago, then she wouldn't be
the person she was. It was doubtful she'd even still be alive...
without that sparkle of hope. It had faded somewhat, as Time would
have it... but she knew all the same...

She was twenty-four. Long past the time when innocence blinded you;
friendship sheilded you; and your heart told you that you could do
no wrong. It was long past the time when the adult world was a
complete mystery to be unraveled-- Usagi had seen her share of
'real life miseries,' even before she'd turned twenty. She'd been
drunk. She'd been violently ill. She'd been lost, and alone.

But it had never lasted. Such things were a part of growing up,
a process which took time immeasurable. Each person was different;
their experiences shaped their very being.

For no one was this more true than our blonde, popsicle licking
friend, aged twenty-four on this day. Usagi Tsukino - born 6/30/1978.
Blood Type: O. Favorite Food: Vanilla Ice Cream. Occupation:
Minato-ku Shinbun Agency Advice Columnist... former savior of the world
in a mini-skirt... and future queen of Crystal Tokyo.

Just a short, simple resume. Eight years since peace began, and now,
Chaos, embedded deeply in the hearts of everyone here on Earth, would
reign once more. The planet would slip into a state of dormancy, with
only the hearts of the Senshi to guide them.

This day marked one of great anxiety -worry that something could go
wrong- and great joy, for they had made it this far, and they could
keep going strong. They were the Sailor Senshi, after all. Bound
together by something far greater than Destiny or Fate. They had Love--
stemming from a deep friendship-- for each other. They had Usagi-- the
very epitomy of the ties that bound them.

And despite all their differences-- the mix of historical backgrounds,
genes, personalities, and hobbies-- they were the truest of friends
that could ever be found. Nothing could break this bond, not even the
Time that had forged it.

The girls all sat inside the apartment, strangely silent in face of
their friend's birthday. They were all clustered around the girl, who
was playing with her hair --tying it up in twin pigtails, topped by
buns, to be exact. There was no cake, no balloons, no presents.

It was the thought that counted, truly, on this day, when their
friend's birthday has so much more significance than an anniversary.
There was so much more to be looking forward to from this point on--
it was the point when all their looking back would come to an end.
The life they had once lived had paid off, and now they had to return
to it. In the end, it would be for the better. The world, at last,
would be at peace.

"Ne, Usagi?" Rei spoke up, her eyes just as transfixed as the others on
the hazy, summer Tokyo skyline.
"Hmm?" Usagi mumbled, her head only tilting upwards slightly. Her eyes
were constantly searching the skyline- running over the Tokyo Tower,
the radio stations, the Ginza... It was almost as if she were
trying to memorize what it looked like *now* -- to take a picture
with her mind, imprint it there forever, so she could always
remember...

"Happy Birthday."
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ah... yeah. well, it's a one-shot, what do you expect? ^^;;
happy usa-day minna!
~azurite, andromida [andi], meriellen5
http://www.geocities.com/sailor_andromida
finished: 06192002