"Mamo-chaaaaan!" Usagi began, in a pleading, plaintive tone.
Mamoru twitched in apprehension. "What is it, Usako?"
"I'm so bored of studying all the time. I need a break. I wanna do something different for a change!" Usagi's lower lip trembled as she hugged Mamoru's left arm.
"Well, what did you have in mind?"
Usagi stopped to think for a second, but then her eyes grew sad and distant. "I miss Chibiusa. I wish we could do things as a family again, just the three of us."
Mamoru nodded. "We'll be able to do that again someday." He smiled encouragingly. "We'll just have to be patient."
Usagi sighed. "What I'd like to do is to go to a lovely park and have lots of delicious food. But…I want it to feel like a family gathering."
"That sounds good. Shall we go tomorrow? Did you want to invite your friends?" Mamoru picked up his telephone off of his side table and handed it to her.
Usagi nodded and grinned, and began to dial numbers.
"Sorry, Usagi, but I have to sell charms tomorrow. I said I'd do it if Grandpa would stop hitting on people for a month."
"I wish I could, Usagi-chan, but I'm planning to be at cram school all day tomorrow. Besides, don't you think you're being a little irresponsible?"
"Oh, no, Usagi-chan! I just couldn't! I have a full day planned tomorrow that is very important!" "She means she's going to be posing in the mirror all day." "ARTEMIS!"
"I would love to come, Usagi-chan. But I have a major test for home economics that I have to prepare for. They're testing us on soufflé! Before you ask, yes, I promise to save some for you to have later."
Usagi sighed as she hung up the phone. "Well, they're all busy. I'm trying to think of other people I could call. Naru-chan, Umino and I have kind of drifted apart, so I'd feel awkward inviting them. And if this were a month ago, I could invite Haruka-san and Michiru-san, but now…"
Mamoru looked thoughtful as he stared ahead at his living room wall. As he glimpsed his giant Milky Way galaxy poster, he had an idea.
His eyes still focused on the poster, he said, "Aren't you forgetting someone?"
Usagi looked at the poster, and her jaw dropped. "Setsuna-san! Of course! But do you think she would want to come? She's so…sophisticated."
Mamoru smiled. "Why wouldn't she?"
Usagi cuddled against Mamoru's arm. "I don't know. I guess I feel…immature, compared to her."
"Don't feel that way. She deeply respects you. Go on, give her a call." He kissed her forehead reassuringly.
Setsuna was alone in Michiru's apartment when the phone began to ring. She sighed deeply, as she was used to the calls always being for her roommates and never for her. She wandered over to the closest telephone, which was a gold-plated antique ostentatiously displayed in the centre of the living room.
"Hello?" Setsuna began.
"Setsuna-san!" Usagi squeaked with excitement. "I was hoping to talk to you! Do you have plans tomorrow?"
Startled, Setsuna blinked in surprise. "Tomorrow's Sunday, right? No, I don't have plans." She was expecting to spend another day studying, which was getting monotonous.
"Great! Listen, can you meet us outside my house at 11 am tomorrow?"
"Us? And what were you planning to do tomorrow?"
"Me and Mamo-chan. We're going to have a family picnic!"
"F-family? Are you sure you want me along? Wouldn't you rather—"
"You're family," Usagi interrupted. "You're practically Chibiusa's auntie, after all! Besides, I see all of my precious friends as family."
Setsuna was so touched that she was stunned into silence.
"So will you come?" Usagi asked with excitement.
"Yes, I'll come. What kind of food would you like me to bring along?"
"Oh, don't worry about that, I'll handle it. I'll bring lots of delicious food!"
Setsuna chuckled. "Until tomorrow, then."
Mamoru interjected briefly. "See you tomorrow, Setsuna-san!"
Usagi miraculously woke up early the next morning to prepare for the picnic, and even more miraculously, successfully prepared an enormous amount of food. She would not admit to anyone that Ikuko Tsukino also "coincidentally" woke up early.
Usagi dragged her enormous picnic basket out her front door and over to Mamoru's car.
"Usako, you're bringing an awful lot of food for three people," Mamoru told her with apprehension.
"But I got up early just to prepare all this, Mamo-chan!" Usagi replied with a slight whine.
"Well, I appreciate it. But…I hope it's going to fit in the trunk."
Setsuna was highly reluctant to attend such a special occasion in her usual mauve suit. She paced back and forth in her bedroom, trying to come up with a solution.
Michiru tapped on Setsuna's bedroom door. "You do know I have an entire room of this penthouse just for my clothing, right?"
"Oh, Michiru, I couldn't. Your clothes must be worth a fortune."
Michiru waved her hand dismissively. "They're just clothes. Come on, let's see what I can find for you."
Although Setsuna was taller and curvier than Michiru, Michiru successfully found some spare clothing to lend Setsuna for the day. Michiru had found a mulberry coloured blouse that brought out the colour in Setsuna's eyes, as well as a knee-length black skirt that had swirling silver lines embroidered at the hem. The embroidery on the skirt shimmered in the light. Michiru also lent her some makeup, and applied it carefully, bringing out Setsuna's best facial features without being too obvious.
Setsuna looked elegant, and, to her surprise, she finally saw that she was beautiful.
"Now for the acid test," Michiru said with a wink.
Haruka was absent-mindedly eating a late breakfast when Setsuna came up to her.
"H-how do I look?" she said shyly.
Haruka's mouth dropped open, and the metal spoon slipped out of her hand and clattered on the kitchen table.
Michiru tittered. "Looks like you passed the test. No more need to fret. Off you go, now. You look stunning." Michiru smiled at Setsuna, who blushed.
"Enjoy the picnic," Haruka said with a mouth full of cereal.
Setsuna briefly clasped the hands of her partners, and with a smile, turned and walked out the door.
Usagi and Mamoru heaved the picnic basket into the trunk, then started pushing in tandem on the trunk door in hopes of shoving the basket inside just by sheer force of will. The latch finally closed just as Setsuna was about to turn the corner onto the street where Usagi lived.
She paused, swallowed deeply, and continued walking.
Usagi was panting from effort when she spotted Setsuna. "Setsuna-san! You came!"
Setsuna laughed brightly. "I said I would."
"You look…really nice today," Mamoru said with a smile. "We're going to be going to a botanical garden tended by a former schoolmate of mine. He's a specialist on roses, which is why we became friends. Is that all right with you?" Mamoru asked.
Setsuna flushed, and couldn't meet Mamoru's eyes. "Thank you. And that sounds lovely."
Usagi was oblivious to Setsuna's emotional reaction, but Mamoru raised an eyebrow.
Usagi then jumped into Mamoru's car. "Let's go, let's go! I want to be a family!"
"We are," Mamoru assured her, and smiled at her warmly.
The botanical garden was quite possibly the most beautiful place Setsuna had ever been, as its beauty was rivalled only by the Moon Kingdom's lush flower gardens. There were at least a dozen greenhouses, all containing thousands of plants Setsuna had never seen before. Her eyes shone with excitement as she absorbed as much knowledge as possible.
"This place is amazing, Mamo-chan!" Usagi said with a childish squeal.
"Wait till you see the rose greenhouse!" Mamoru said. "My Sempai is likely to be working there."
Mamoru's Sempai, Yoshiki Kurebayashi, was a man in his late 20s, with deeply tanned skin, perpetual five o'clock shadow, a beat-up straw hat, and thick square glasses. But what was most notable about this man was not his looks, but his family. Yoshiki was surrounded by 6 tiny children, all of whom were hanging off of his limbs and excitedly pressing their mother's prepared lunch into his hands. "Ooh, did she make croquettes for lunch?" he said with anticipation. "Yes, yes!" his many children said in reply.
"Sempai!" Mamoru called to him.
"Ah, Mamoru-kun! It's been a while! As you can see I've…" He gestured to both his children and the greenhouse. "…been keeping busy."
Mamoru, Usagi and Setsuna were all blushing as they beheld Yoshiki's children. "So many children!" Usagi whispered.
Yoshiki overheard. "Yup, and there's a 7th on the way!" He laughed loudly. "I suppose I should stop having kids, but…"
"But what?" Usagi prompted.
"Well, it's like my job as a botanist. I enjoy the, uh, fertilization process too much!" Yoshiki laughed loudly again.
Setsuna had to quickly shield her face in her hands due to a combination of deep blushing and wanting to laugh.
Mamoru laughed awkwardly, while Usagi's face was full of incomprehension. Mamoru decided it was better not to try to explain the pun.
Yoshiki then hugged all 6 children at once. "Now, go take care of your mother!" The children all ran out of the greenhouse, just barely missing an orange-haired woman in a khaki trench coat who was lurking outside.
The quartet wandered around the many greenhouses for at least an hour, with none of them wanting to break away from the flowers even to eat lunch. When they finally set up the picnic blanket and the plates, Setsuna, Mamoru and Yoshiki were trading science questions with each other at a rapid-fire pace. Usagi felt somewhat left out, but she was so happy to see Setsuna enjoying herself, she didn't mind too much.
Setsuna, however, still felt very awkward. She couldn't bear it whenever Mamoru's eyes met hers, and she kept instinctively turning pink and looking away. She did this so often that Mamoru decided that although he loved having intellectual conversations with Setsuna, it was time to change the subject.
"I'm pretty hungry, Usako. What did you pack for us?"
Usagi, finally given an opportunity to talk about something that she was an expert on, excitedly pulled out many boxes of food. She pressed an enormous serving of everything into Mamoru and Setsuna's hands as Yoshiki took out his wife's bento lunch.
"How have your studies been going, Usagi-san?" Setsuna asked her, between bites.
Usagi made an uncomfortable face. "Well…about as well as could be expected. On the bright side, though, Ami-chan thinks I'm ALMOST ready to start passing exams!" Usagi then grinned triumphantly.
Setsuna laughed awkwardly, desperately hoping that this was the appropriate reaction. Fortunately, Usagi's attention was momentarily distracted.
"Mamo-chan! You're not eating your green peppers!"
Mamoru looked at the peppers like a little boy forced to eat brussels sprouts. "Oh…do I have to?"
"Don't you looove—" Usagi began, before Mamoru held up a hand to stop her and began choking down the green peppers. She then turned to Setusna. "You too, Setsuna! They're good for you! They match your hair!"
Setsuna vastly preferred other kinds of vegetables, but made herself eat the green peppers as well in order to make Usagi happy.
Hidden in a floor of the greenhouse above them, Mimete dubiously examined her intended target, Yoshiki. She didn't find him remotely attractive, and firmly believed that attractive men were far more likely to have the best quality Pure Hearts. Her gaze then drifted to a laughing Mamoru. "That guy is MUCH better!" she thought with an evil grin.
After lunch, the quartet went inside the greenhouses devoted to Yoshiki's enormous collection of roses. Quickly, however, they were accosted by Mimete. She held up a pot containing a random plant to Mamoru's face. "Excuse me, can you tell me what kind of flower this is?"
"Oh, sorry. You should ask the botanist, I'm just a visitor."
"Oh, me tooooo!" Mimete simpered, as she winked flirtatiously at him. "Would you like to go off alone together and learn about the plants?"
Usagi was thoroughly irked, and possessively stood between Mimete and Mamoru, and stared daggers at Mimete. Setsuna was mortified that Mimete was being so ridiculously forward with Mamoru.
"Sorry, I'm here to spend time with my family," Mamoru replied as politely as he could.
Mimete stared at Usagi and Setsuna. "Are they your sisters?" she asked with confusion.
"No, they're my future wife and sister-in-law," Mamoru said with irritation. He then put his arms around Usagi and Setsuna's shoulders and led them away.
Usagi was drooling with lovesickness. "Wi-wi-wi-wife? He said future wife!" she said with passion.
"'Sister-in-law'?" Setsuna asked with confusion.
Mamoru winked at her. "Close enough, isn't it?" He now expected her to blush again, and smiled ruefully when she did.
Behind them, Mimete was boiling in rage. "How DARE he ignore me! I suppose that tall dark-haired woman is his fiancee. That other one must be the sister-in-law, she's far too young for him. But never mind all that, I'm far more beautiful than she is! He belongs to ME!" Suddenly, she heard the Professor's voice in her head. Yoshiki was the target he had chosen, and he was counting on Mimete to bring a Heart Crystal back to the Death Busters at last. For a few seconds, she grappled with her desire to choose Mamoru as a target with her duty to go with the intended target.
Lurking in her attache case was a yellow rose-themed Daimon called Ubara. Like the others, its function was to suck the victim's Heart Crystal right out of its mouth, then return to Death Busters HQ. So far, Mimete had failed half a dozen times. She continued to stare at Mamoru and Setsuna in a jealous rage. She then saw a red rose fall out of Mamoru's pocket. That clinched her decision for her.
Suddenly, however, a hailstorm began rattling on the roof of the greenhouse, making an enormous racket. The hailstones were so large and numerous, they began shattering the roof of the greenhouse.
"Oh no!" Yoshiki cried. "I have to protect these saplings, I've spent a year developing them to be resistant to disease!" He pulled out a pair of ladders stored below the shelves containing the many rose breeds, along with some wooden boards. "Mamoru-kun, can you hammer a board into that broken window panel? I'll take care of this one."
As Mamoru set up the ladder, Usagi was kneeling on the floor, cowering with fear at the sound of the thunderclaps. Yoshiki was struggling to hold the board still while hammering it, but Mamoru was having a far more difficult time, since he had had no experience with these kinds of repairs at all. Setsuna silently climbed up the ladder and held the wooden board still while Mamoru hammered a nail into it. She resolutely stared ahead at the board, refusing to be distracted from holding the board steady.
Mimete whipped her magic staff at the ladder, which caused it to fall down. Mamoru and Setsuna came crashing to the floor, with Setsuna landing on top of Mamoru's body. He groaned, and Setsuna gasped in horror when she saw that his right cheek had been bruised badly. "Mamoru-san! Are you alright? MAMORU-SAN!" she called to him.
He opened his eyes and smiled weakly at her. "I'll be okay…where's Usako?"
"I don't know, let me go look for her—"
"Stay where you are," Mimete said coldly.
Mamoru and Setsuna looked up in confusion.
"Even now, you would brag about your relationship in front of me? This man's heart is MINE!" Mimete shrieked.
"What on earth are you talking about?" Setsuna replied.
"I'm talking about THIS! Come out, DAIMON!" She opened up the attache case, and clouds of smoke poured out. A Daimon resembling a giant Yellow Rose then stood up and announced itself.
Setsuna then understood. "Mamoru-san, get up and get out of here. NOW!"
Mamoru struggled to his feet. "I don't run away from battles, you know that."
"But—" Setsuna began.
"Find Usako, okay? I'll be fine."
Setsuna sat up and frantically looked around for Usagi. Behind her, she heard the sounds of the Yellow Rose Daimon pursuing Mamoru. He was fast at dodging the Daimon's attacks, but not fast enough. Ubara grabbed Mamoru by the collar. "I'm going to steal this handsome man's heart!" she cackled triumphantly. She began to suck out Mamoru's Heart Crystal.
Setsuna was revolted and horrified when she saw Mamoru collapse, but finally spotted Usagi hiding in a corner, still shaking with fear. "Usagi-san!" She hugged her future Queen tightly. "Listen, you need to be brave. Mamoru-san has been hurt and you're the only one who can heal him." Usagi whimpered slightly, but looked Setsuna in the eyes and nodded.
"MOON COSMIC POWER, MAKE UP!"
"PLUTO PLANET POWER, MAKE UP!"
The smoke and lights cleared, and Sailors Moon and Pluto stood side by side, directly challenging Mimete and Ubara.
"Like the beautiful trillium, if a man like that is plucked away, you won't find another one like him for a generation! How dare you refuse to take care of our planet! I'm the Agent of Love and Justice, the Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon! In the name of the Moon, I'll punish you!"
"A true lover of flowers could never try to destroy a source of their beauty. You should know better than that! I am the Soldier of Revolution, Sailor Pluto! In the name of Pluto, your time is up!"
Mimete growled in frustration. "Kill them, Ubara!" Ubara lifted up her arms and fired four steel-tipped yellow roses at Moon and Pluto. Pluto whipped the roses away with her Garnet Rod. "Tsk," she said. "If Tuxedo Mask were here he'd be very bothered by your copycat tactics."
Ubara became enraged, and began hurling one plant-based attack at the Senshi after another. Pluto was much better at dodging attacks than Sailor Moon was. Unbeknownst to the others, Uranus and Neptune were lurking nearby, concealed by the thunderstorm-created darkness.
"Should we intervene?" Neptune asked.
"It seems that Setsuna and Odango are handling things just fine to me," Uranus answered.
"Let's continue to watch over them then," Neptune said.
Ubara finally caught Sailor Moon with an attack, and began crushing her with thorny vines. Sailor Moon cried in pain, as the semi-conscious Mamoru tried desperately to move to save her.
"Dead Scream!" Pluto cried, aiming her attack directly at Ubara's arms. The thorny vines ripped apart, leaving Ubala without any arms at all. Suddenly, thick tendrils of roots spurted out from the holes where the thorny vines were, and, smiling deviously, Ubara thrust the vines below her.
"What is she doing?" Sailor Moon asked.
Pluto, however, knew that the roots would be coming from underground, and looked for a place to escape to higher ground. Nearby was a shelf intended for plant saplings. She pointed to it. "Jump onto that top shelf, Sailor Moon!" She instructed. Moon was confused, but she followed the instructions as the pair jumped away from the floor.
Ubara's roots burst out of the ground, but she noticed with horror that not only had Sailor Pluto anticipated her attack, she was now literally rooted to the floor. Mimete shrieked indignantly. "How could you let yourself be tricked like that?!"
Pluto smirked at Ubara and Mimete as they raged. "See what a little appreciation of science gets you?" She turned to Sailor Moon with a smile. "I think they deserve a little extra punishment for attacking Mamoru-san, don't you?"
"I agree! CRISIS, MAKE UP!" Sailor Moon was filled with the energy from the Holy Grail as the rainbow butterflies transformed her uniform once more.
The Spiral Heart Moon Rod then appeared in Sailor Moon's hand as the Garnet Orb began to glow.
Together, Sailor Moon and Pluto charged up their attacks. In unison, they cried, "RAINBOW MOON DEAD SCREAM!" Their attacks fused, with the rainbow ribbon of light containing many tiny magenta planets whirling through it. Ubara, still rooted to the ground, was obliterated, leaving a potted yellow rose, Mamoru's Heart Crystal and a broken egg in its wake.
Mamoru weakly smiled and whispered, "I never doubted them for a minute."
Mimete growled in frustration. "You Sailor Senshi ruin everything!" She then ran off before Moon and Pluto could react.
"Usagi-san," Pluto said calmly. "Mamoru's heart is yours. You should be the one to return it."
Sailor Moon nodded as she frantically carried Mamoru's Heart Crystal to him. They held hands as the Heart Crystal faded back inside Mamoru's chest. He pulled her to him and kissed her deeply, proud of her and happy to be alive.
Pluto jumped down from the shelf as her transformation faded. She smiled at Sailor Moon and Mamoru, and was happy for them. Tears crystallized in her eyes.
Mamoru's gaze turned to Setsuna as he continued to hold Usagi.
In some other lifetime, I could have loved you, he thought as he looked at her. I hope that someday you find someone who will see what I see.
Setsuna knew, however, that there would only ever be one man in her heart, and she was fine with loving him from afar.