AN: Hi everybody! I hope you all had a lovely holidays. I know this is a few days late, but here's the thing. I got sick a couple of days ago and am now just getting over it. I am back in the swing of things. And Chapter 11 is well on its way to being done.
Another thing with school starting back up and me no longer having a buffer I am moving the story to a once a week update. This is just as much for my beta as for me. I have a poll up on my profile asking what day I should update. You have until the 14th to answer. And depending on the most popular choice you an expect Chapter 12 sometime between the 21st-27th. From that point on all chapters will be uploaded on that day each week unless I state otherwise. Or feel like uploading early.
Oh and starting soon I will have a daily 100 drabble fic centered around Zoicite, Kunzite, and of course ZoicitexKunzite. Mostly AU stuff. Nothing fancy or long. Most of them won't be betaed on first upload so expect some errors until I get the revised version back from juliemarie12.
Thank you time! A thank you to AzarathMetrionZ, PuffGirl1952, ae, ladygoddes8 (yes I realize I still need to send those picture, expect them later today), LoveInTheBattleField, Lucyole, and Light-Sakura for the reviews. To inufan155687, DeadlyThunder195, cook53, IcegoddessLexra, and problemed child for the favs. And to MakiFox and PuffGirl1952 for the follows. And of course a thank you to all of my unknown readers for sitting down and reading this story.
As always I don't own Sailor Moon, these characters belong to the lovely Naoko Takeuchi and I am simply burrowing them for my story purpose.
Enjoy Chapter 10 and I will see you next week!
For the Camera!
So this new general is a bit odd. He seems to have an obsession with women – and I do mean an obsession. I mean, Jadeite showed some signs of being obsessive but he usually went after groups. This guy, well, he targeted the photographer...
"Did you hear that the home ec teacher got engaged?" Naru asked one morning before class started.
"No. Good for her, she always was pretty nice. Wish I could find a boyfriend… Not that anyone would give me a second glance," Usagi said, glancing down at her legs again. She tugged the hem of her skirt down some in her never-ending, futile war to keep her legs covered during school hours.
"I'm sure you'll find someone eventually," Naru said, giving her an encouraging smile.
"Yeah, I hope you're right," Usagi admitted, turning from her longtime friend to see a guy standing on the edge of the sidewalk. He seemed to be stopping random students and handing over some sort of flyer. He would talk for a bit, making a few motions, then the girls would nod before walking away, chatting animatedly.
"Wonder what that's all about," Usagi said as he caught sight of them.
He ran up to them with the same enthusiasm he had toward the others and handed them a copy of the flyers before beginning to speak, "I'm participating in a photography contest where we are supposed to be photographing people in everyday life, so I'm looking for possible participants. There is a payment for those who participate if I win."
The two girls exchanged glances. It couldn't hurt, could it? Usagi answered, "I'll have to check about a couple of things, but I will think about it."
"Same," Naru said, giving him a bright smile.
"Thank you," he said with a slight bow before running off to find more clients.
"Wasn't that Kijin Shinokawa? I thought he normally does nature photography," Usagi asked, sounding a bit confused at the apparent change in medium as she watched him approach yet another girl.
"Yeah, but maybe he felt the need to expand his horizons? Either way it wouldn't hurt to at least check it out," Naru said, putting her flyer in her shoulder bag.
"I guess…" Usagi said, putting her own flyer away.
"I think Luna may be rubbing off on you. Not every opportunity is going to be a youma attempting to steal someone's energy. If you are worried, then enter the contest. It certainly can't hurt to check it out, can it?" Naru said, giving a bit of an eye roll.
"That's true, I guess. I'll just ask Mom about it and maybe sign up online tonight," Usagi said after a second of thought. Naru had a point, and perhaps it wouldn't hurt to live a little – as long as she did not have to show off her legs too much.
While Luna had not been the most enthusiastic about the entrance to the contest Usagi had eventually gotten her consent. The following weekend, Usagi and Naru met up outside the contest hall. Haruka and Michiru were already inside exploring the contest hall to make sure nothing was suspicious. If asked about their location, they were planning to say they had gotten lost and were there to support some friends. It was technically true; they just had additional plans on top of that – not that anyone else needed to know.
Usagi had tried to grab some of her cuter clothes from her closet: stuff that she felt comfortable in but would not show off most of her issues. She knew most of the first day of the contest was getting info about the contest; the modeling part would not really kick off until tomorrow.
That didn't necessarily mean she wouldn't get eliminated in the first day of rounds. While it was less common than on day two, or later, of competition, it did happen if you didn't meet the sponsoring company's image of what they wanted or had a similar issue. They were asked to wear clothes that let the judges see most of the contestants' bodies, which was why Usagi had packed a pair of shorts in her bag. While she had not felt comfortable wearing them all the way here, she needed them for the first round. She planned on changing in the dressing rooms designated for the contestants not long before she was supposed to be called for her competition and hoping that Haruka and Michiru wouldn't see her.
However, because of her waiting around to change, she found herself and Naru having one of their usual disagreements in the changing room. Naru insisted that she needed to inform the other girls sooner rather than later. Usagi, on the other hand, was reluctant to tell them anything yet, wanting to trust them more before dropping such a bombshell. Naru grew more exasperated with the entire thing until she finally left Usagi alone as her number was called.
That left Usagi to keep herself company and observe the other contestants. Most of them appeared to be around her age, as far as she could tell. There were a few that looked slightly younger or older, but for the most part the contestants appeared to be in middle or high school. She earned a couple of stares but most people seemed too nervous about their own chances to pay her much attention.
She was drawn out of her thoughts as the door for one of the judge's room opened. A man came out and called, "Tsukino Usagi, number 368."
Usagi took a deep breath, trying to calm her growing nerves, before approaching the man. She gave him a nervous smile as he led her into a room. She recognized Kijin Shinokawa from the day before but not the rest of the room's occupants, minus one. She had seen the dark brown haired guy, a millionaire named Masato Sanjouin who had become popular recently. Though, she only recognized him because Naru had been badly crushing on the guy. She figured he must be the sponsor of the contest.
Of course, her entrance earned some raised eyebrows. It was nothing new for her, nor was the following conversation between the judges while she was pretty much ignored. A red-haired guy who she didn't recognize was the first to speak to her, "Well, you are unusual. May I ask how you came to lose your legs?"
"I used to live about an hour and a half north of here. The town was pretty much completely destroyed in the earthquake and tsunami two years ago. I barely survived the quake. I was stuck under some rubble when the rescuers found me; in order to free me, they had to amputate my legs," Usagi explained, resisting the urge to pull at her shorts in the same manner she usually did her sailor senshi skirt.
"And you picked her out, Shinokawa-san? Did you know this?" he inquired, turning back to the photographer.
"Yes and no, but this might work to our advantage. I don't know of any survivors participating in the contest. It could be a nice way to show the world how we are recovering, if she makes her way through the next rounds. She has a good figure," he said, studying her.
Usagi blushed slightly, not used to receiving compliments with her legs on display. The other guy seemed to be thinking it over before asking, "So, you are saying pass?"
"Yes, very much yes," Shinokawa-san said, leaning back in his chair.
"What about you, Sanjouin-san?" the other guy asked the millionaire.
"I am with Shinokawa. She has a good figure and would be a bit of an unusual, but good, choice for the photos if she makes it all the way through. I pass her," he said.
A quick shot down the line seemed to have the others in agreement, so he turned back to her and smiled, "Well, it appears you have passed on to Round Two. Please exit out the door to the left. We still have a few more contestants to go through. Once we are done, you will be given instructions on what is going to happen and what you will need for tomorrow."
Usagi gave them a bright smile before saying, "Thank you for the chance."
She focused on getting out of the room before nearly collapsing into the nearest seat in relief. She had actually passed the first round! She was giddy with both shock and happiness. Someone didn't mind her legs and she may actually get a chance to show off. It seemed like a dream but, as she spotted Naru, she realized it was actually happening.
"Congratulations! If you are in this room, then you have successfully made it to Day Two of the competition. You are all done for today, but we expect you here bright and early tomorrow with your swimsuits for the first stage of the Day Two Rounds," the man addressed them with a smile. Usagi's stomach sank like a stone, though, at the words.
He raised his volume slightly so he could be heard over the excited chatter of the other contestants as he continued, "If you would, please, proceed in an orderly fashion to the tables to collect the information required for tomorrow's rounds. The coordinators will make sure you are all set, on our end, for the competition. If for whatever reason you want to withdraw, this will be your best chance to do so."
Judging by the amount of chatter, almost everyone in the room planned to proceed to the next round of competition. However, at the word swimsuit, Usagi had made up her mind: there was no way she was going to wear a swimsuit in such a public round.
"I am sorry but I would like to withdraw my application into the contest," Usagi said when she made it to the front of the line as one of the coordinators attempted to hand her the information needed for the next day.
"Usagi?" Naru asked, just in front of her friend with a surprised look on her face at the comment.
"I don't feel comfortable taking part in the next part of the competition," Usagi explained.
Naru's frown deepened. She turned to the contest coordinator and said, "Excuse us for one second."
She grabbed a hold of Usagi's hand and dragged her off to a quieter corner of the room before asking, "Why?"
"Because I don't think anyone will take me seriously in a swimsuit," Usagi began, holding her hand up when it looked like Naru was going to interrupt, "And I'm not quite ready to tell Haruka and Michiru about everything yet."
"Usagi, you need to tell them at some point. Same thing with Luna," Naru said, a tad bit exasperated.
"I know, it's just-" Usagi broke off for a second before continuing, "It's just that every time I think about it, all I can see is Takeshi and the other's taunts."
Naru let out a sigh of frustration before replying, "You really shouldn't let those idiots' taunts get to you. Look at your two new friends; they don't seem to care much at all about impressions."
"I guess that is true," Usagi conceded reluctantly.
"And what are you going to tell them when they found out you dropped out? They aren't the type to let something drop with just a 'because I didn't want to' type of excuse," Naru pointed out.
"That is true," Usagi said after some thought.
"So give it a shot. Put some faith in the others and let them see the real you," Naru said, crossing her arms.
Usagi thought it over for a second before reluctantly nodding her head and agreeing, "All right."
"That's the spirit!" Naru said, enthusiastically punching the air. She grabbed ahold of Usagi's hand and gently dragged the girl back in the direction of the coordinator.
Usagi gave the man a sheepish smile before saying, "I changed my mind; I do want to continue the contest. What was my number again?"
"You are number 368. Please be here by ten tomorrow, you two, and bring the items requested on the sheet with you," he said, giving the girls an encouraging smile while handing over a couple of sheets of paper over.
"Thank you," Naru said, giving the man a smile before dragging Usagi off to the meeting place. It didn't take long for them to get there and, as the girls waited, Usagi scanned over the list.
"Naru, where am I supposed to get some of this stuff? Sestuna hasn't gotten me to the point where I need a swimsuit yet," Usagi said, stuffing the paper into her bag.
"We're about the same size. I'll lend you one of mine and anything else on the list that you don't have. It's fine," Naru said, waving off the worry.
"Thanks, Naru," Usagi said, trying to give her a bright smile in spite of her worries for the next day's portion of the contest. As she saw the others finally coming to join them, she quickly pushed the worries out of her mind. She would have to face her fears and concerns tomorrow.
As promised, Naru showed up the next day at the contest hall with the missing things Usagi needed to compete in the contest. Usagi stared at the swimsuit with a sense of trepidation. This was something she was not looking forward to at all.
Naru gave her a supportive slap on the back after she finished changing and said, "Come on, Usagi! Stop being so nervous. It will all be fine. Haruka and Michiru aren't going to care about your legs!"
"You don't know that," Usagi muttered under her breath but finally moved to put on the swimsuit. Haruka and Michiru, who had been unable to find anything the day before, were back today to actually support the younger girls. They were still keeping an eye out for any unusual activity, but so far nothing had popped up. It looked like, for once, this was a normal contest.
She was drawn out of her thoughts when she heard a voice call out, "All right, girls, it is time to start off Round Two of the contest. You will be called up in groups of six to be photographed by Kijin Shinokawa. You will go through several sets of photographs using the items we requested you to bring. Once done, you are dismissed. Winners will be picked on who is most photogenic, how the audience reacts to them, and how well they interact with the camera. You will be photographed one last time in a private room before being dismissed to make sure we have the correct numbers. Prizes will be sent out in about two weeks. Will numbers 494, 48, 51, 272, 414, and 63 please come up? You are the first group."
Some excited chatter followed the end of the announcement. Naru made her way over to her friend, giving her an encouraging smile and saying, "See, it won't be too bad."
"Don't say that yet. We haven't seen what the audience is going to be like," Usagi replied.
"Try to be positive for once," Naru smiled, then changed topics to try to calm Usagi down. They talked a bit about what they could do. Usagi was hoping they would be in the same group so they could do some things together, even if she knew the odds were against them.
However, just as she suspected, that was not going to happen as the next group was called, "341, 367, 301, 462, 309, and 396, please report."
"That's me!" Naru said enthusiastically, standing up. She turned to face Usagi one last time, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze before saying, "Keep calm, okay? You'll do great. The crowd will love you."
"I hope so. And I hope everything goes well for you," Usagi said, giving her a smile before Naru went to go into the next room.
She pulled her phone out to try and entertain herself until her group was called but found it hard to concentrate and ended up putting it back in her bag. However, she was pulled out of her thoughts when she heard a familiar hiss of, "Usagi"
Looking down, she wasn't too surprised to see Luna staring up at her. Getting down so she could hear the cat better, she said, "Hey, what's up?"
"First off, where's Naru?" Luna asked.
"Huh? Oh, her number just got called to perform. Why?" Usagi asked, tilting her head.
"We have a problem; the enemy is at work here. They are using cameras to capture people and send them to a pocket dimension to drain their energy," Luna explained.
"But how? This round is on a public stage, unless they are using the other stage…OH!" Usagi said, catching on.
"Precisely," Luna sighed.
"All right, I'll hang back after my group gets called into the private shots and try to draw the youma out. Can you see if you can find Haruka and Michiru?" Usagi asked, thinking over a plan of action.
"All right, I will see you after the round. Try not to get to caught up in this," Luna instructed before disappearing off into the crowd to find the others.
As it turns out, Usagi did not have much longer to wait as the man came out again with her number this time, "368, 287, 247, 233, 432, and 32, please report."
Usagi took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves again, and stood. Most of the other girls were already at the door waiting to be let through. Once they were all there, he led them into another room before speaking in a calm tone, "Congratulations for making it so far. The next round will tell whether or not you will actually get photos taken by Shinokawa-san published. Remember, you want to stand out as much as possible. The more unique and beautiful the photos are, the more likely you are to be picked. How the audience and Shinokawa-san react to you are the two factors in whether or not you are likely to be selected. So, do your best to appeal to both of them while you are out there, not just one. Leave your bags here for now. When Shinokawa-san wants you to change outfits, he will instruct you to return here. You will change outfits and then go back out for the next set of photos. Best of luck."
He waited for them to stash their belongings. Once they were ready, he opened the door and led them into a stadium style room. She could see several bleachers filled with people. She tried to keep her gaze down and not look for Haruka and Michiru, knowing she was probably confusing the older girls. Thankfully, she was provided a good distraction when Shinokawa returned from a separate room with his camera.
She briefly wondered if the people stealing part of the camera had an on/off switch. However, her thought were halted when an announcer voice began calling out their numbers in numerical order. The other girls took a step forward, did a slight bow, and waved at the crowd before stepping back into line. When her number came up, Usagi took a step forward, giving the crowd a nervous smile and a wave before falling back into line.
After the girl next to her went, the announcer came over and said, "The first theme is fun at the beach. Please head over to the pool area for this."
Usagi nearly froze at that but managed to get her feet moving toward the pool area reluctantly. She hadn't been to the beach since the quake; heck, she very rarely went in the water unless it was to get clean. Sestuna had recently started working on getting her over her fear, but she still had a long way to go.
She wondered briefly if she could get away with getting some neat photos without going actually in the water. No matter how odd she would probably look, it was better than having a panic attack mid-contest, she figured as they reached the designated area. The other girls headed straight to the pool while Usagi toyed with the water with her foot, not actually getting in. She looked up in surprise when she heard a snap of a camera lens, realizing that Shinokawa had decided to photograph her messing with the water.
She looked up when one of the other girls called out to her, "Hey, would you mind throwing one of the balls to us?"
Usagi looked behind her to see one of the brightly colored beach balls. She grabbed one and threw it over in their direction, losing her balance as the ball left her hands and falling in the water. Usagi grabbed ahold of the pool ledge and quickly pulled herself out before she could feel the impending panic take over. Once out of the pool she took several deep breaths, reminding herself that she was out of the water. She was nowhere near ready to go in the water like the others, but she hoped Shinokawa had gotten some photos of that because she doubted she would willingly repeat that in the deep end.
Though maybe…she looked around and, sure enough, there appeared to be a shallow end. It was still deeper than she wanted to go in, but the first step looked like it was shallow enough that her fear wouldn't kick in by just standing there. She went and stood on the first step, somehow getting dragged into a game of catch with the other girls. Finally, after several minutes, Shinokawa made a signal and they were told to change into the dresses they had packed.
Usagi took a deep breath of relief as they returned to the other room. She hadn't even paid attention to the crowd during that little section because she had been so nervous. But, judging by the other girls' comments, she was the only one. She would try and act crowd-pleasing during the next section, she promised herself as they stepped back out to the roar of the crowd. At least it appeared that she was done with water.
Usagi gave a sigh of relief as they finally exited the arena, the last of the girls to come through. The contest was finally over and she just hoped she hadn't made a complete mockery of herself during it. Well, and that Haruka and Michiru didn't think any less of her after seeing her condition. They were being called in one by one for the last photo.
Digging through her bag for her transformation locket, she found it just as the last girl went forward. She took a deep breath after checking to make sure she was completely on her own, hoped the others weren't too far off, and said, "Moon Prism Power, Make Up!"
She prepared her tiara and waited for the door to open. Hoping that Luna was not lying, she tossed the tiara as soon as the door opened. She heard it make a clunk with some object then ran into the next room where she found Shinokawa on the floor, the camera emitting some sort of smoke that was beginning to take a shape as Haruka and Michiru busted through the adjoining door. Too nervous to make eye contact with the other girls, she watched the youma finally solidify.
Michiru, who had apparently been using the time to power up, made the first move, knocking over the youma with her attack, followed shortly by Haruka's. However, the attacks didn't do any damage; Usagi watched them get absorbed by what appeared to be camera flashes. All three girls ducked in unison as several beams shot out of the youma's arm.
Usagi gulped when she saw objects the beams hit disappear in flashes of light. That was not good. How the heck were they going to have enough time to power up an attack while dodging beams of light from the youma? This would be a good time to see either Tuxedo Kamen or Sailor Pluto, but she wasn't seeing any sign of either. Go figure, one of the times they needed the other members of the group most, they were nowhere to be found.
She watched her problems double when the youma used a mirror to capture the others. Great, just great, she thought. Now she was down two people with no way to easily distract the youma. On top of that, she wasn't sure if she could hold out dodging attacks until further help arrived. As she dodged another reflected beam, a thought occurred to her: could she use the mirrors to catch the youma with its own trick? It would be extremely risky, but she was running low on options. She continued to dodge the beams, looking for a possible opening. Finally seeing the corner, perhaps her best option, she made her way over. She would have to time this just right, otherwise she was screwed.
She took a deep breath as the youma aimed again and shot the beams. Usagi waited to jump until she was certain she couldn't wait ,any longer. The beam barely missed her but it did its job as it hit the mirror and reflected back. Unfortunately, it did not do what Usagi was hoping it would, but it did damage the youma's photo arm enough to keep it from being useful down the road. Praying that her tiara would do the trick, she removed it, aimed it, and tossed it in the direction of the youma, "Moon Tiara Magic!"
She let out a sigh of relief as the youma turned to moon dust and the photographs slowly began turning back into normal people. Most looked a bit startled from the strange experience, but for the most part okay. Naru spotted her, giving her a quick motion to indicate that she would find them later, then Usagi grabbed the older girls and dragged them outside to find a more private spot to return to their normal forms.
The girls waited for Naru to rejoin them from the chaos of the contest hall. Luna was somewhere in the mess, but Usagi trusted her to find her way back to Naru's house without problem; she was more concerned about her childhood friend. They had mostly been silent since the battle but it had to be broken eventually. After a while longer, Haruka brought up the dreaded topic, "Koneko, your legs. You never mentioned them before. Why?"
"I'm sorry, I know I should have told you sooner. It's just-" Usagi began before breaking off. She saw the girls exchange a glance before she continued, "The last time I was open about my issues, it ended less than pleasantly for me. Luna and Naru have been trying to convince me for a while to tell you guys, but I kept finding myself terrified at the thought."
"Koneko, what happened?" Haruka asked.
"It's a long story; one I would prefer to save for tomorrow. I still feel nervous about this whole affair, but it's time you guys knew everything. Tomorrow afternoon, after classes let out, I'll explain everything, all right?" Usagi promised, giving them a nervous smile.
The older girls exchanged a glance before Michiru requested, "All right, tomorrow afternoon, then. But don't hide things from us anymore, please?"
"Of course," Usagi said, giving them a bright smile. Though saying it did not necessarily mean it was actually going to happen, she could at least try. She was brought out of her thoughts as she noticed Naru and Luna finally emerging from the crowded contest hall.
So thus ends that wacky contest. I'm curious to see whether or not this was only a fake contest like the Cinderella Caravan or if they were being serious. It would be nice to actually have a chance to win something without the enemy involved, but I doubt that is going to happen anytime soon.
Tomorrow, I face my biggest worry since becoming a senshi. Will the others accept me now that they know about my issues? Truth be told, they only know the tip of the iceberg, and tomorrow they will find out about most of them. I just hope that they still like and respect me after tomorrow's meeting concludes.
I guess it is up to the fates now.
Your big sister,
AN: Hope you enjoyed Chapter 10. Here's the preview for Chapter 11:
"Does someone have a crush?" Naru teased lightly as they began to move into another section of the mall.
"What? No! I just mean that the fact he is fighting the enemy without any prompting left an impression that's all," Usagi said putting her hands up in defense.
"I see your point. Do you have any idea why he joined the fight?" Naru said bobbing her head in agreement.
"No, he is more mysterious than the other mystery member of our group is in some ways. Though at least with her we know she's one of us. Luna doesn't have a clue who this guy is. And I think that really unnerves her to a degree," Usagi said as they settled down on a nearby bench to observe people again.
"Because she knows she is supposed to exist but she doesn't feel like he is supposed to right?" Naru asked.
"Pretty much. From what little I have been able to pry out of Luna back in the old days there was only the warriors, none of which were male," Usagi said glancing around some.
"Anyway I am wondering when he will show up if at all," Usagi said after a minute or so of silence. She unfolded her own copy of the letter she had received. Double checking her suspicions. No time was mentioned specifically just the mall and that he wanted to meet her in the late afternoon.
"Well if it is the enemy it would make more sense for him to show up if this was a trap. If it is not well I think he will show up. Though his method of trying to find the senshi is a bit odd to say the least," Naru said looking around for a second.
"I agree but you would think he would have been smart enough to specify a specific location," Usagi said glancing around at the crowd. Still no person in particular who looked like he maybe Tuxedo Kamen. Though she did notice the millionaire that Naru had been crushing on was window shopping. That seemed a bit odd.
She gave Naru a bit of a nudge before pointing at him saying, "Speaking of crushes, look who is here."
Naru caught sight of who she was pointing at before flushing her own bright red. Usagi giggled slightly at her friends reaction before saying, "What? Surprised to see him?"
"Yeah. Well he was apparently a bit of a recluse until recently. So for him to be spotted at a shopping mall seems a bit odd," Naru admitted glancing away.
"Been doing your researh?" Usagi said raising an eyebrow.
"I have a copy of his book," Naru muttered to herself but Usagi heard her loud and clear none the less. Usagi finally realized what the book she had seen her friend buried in lately was about. Naru had been very careful about hiding it from her, stuffing it in her bag as soon as she knew Usagi was around.
"And he actually says that in an autobiography?" Usagi asked in surprise.
"Not exactly," Naru admitted.
"So you did some research!" Usagi exclaimed making sure to keep her voice on the low side not to attract too much attention.
See you next week!