Tsukino Usagi was fourteen years old. She was also a little clumsy and a bit of a crybaby (though she was working on that), but that was about it for the eighth-grader. She was out of bed at seven every school day (though she liked to stay in bed all day when she could get away with it), and she averaged a seventy percent mark on her tests.
Still, like any girl, she had her bad days. The last time she'd had a bad day, Haruna-sensei had sprung a surprise test on the whole class, and Usagi could admit to herself that she didn't think she'd done very well on it. Now, as she walked to school, Usagi had the nasty feeling that she was going to have another bad day.
"Bark, kitty! Bark!"
Usagi's head snapped around at the sound of some brats making a fuss, and the cry of a tormented cat.
"Oi!" she yelled at them. "Leave it alone!" she ordered, charging up and effectively chasing them off. "You should be ashamed of yourselves!" she called after them angrily, then sighed as she looked down at the cat. "Guess I'm not the only one having a bad day," she commented, and gently lifted the cat. "It looks like they didn't do much to you," she noted. "Just stuck a bandage over your head. Here, I'll get it off. Then I've got to go. I don't like school, but I have to get through it anyway," she explained absently as she pulled off the bandage. "Huh, a crescent-shaped bald spot," she noticed with surprise.
The cat lunged out of her light hold, jumped off her head, and landed on the roof of a car. From that vantage point, the cat proceeded to stare at her. Eye contact and everything.
"That's a little creepy, actually," Usagi said. "Well, goodbye cat," she bid, and turned to hurry on her way.
A cat with a perfectly crescent-shaped bald-spot that was staring at her. Creepily. She knew, the instant she'd rolled over in bed this morning, that it was going to be a bad day. It seemed that it had begun with a creepy cat.
Usagi stared in despair at her returned test paper. The one that Haruna-sensei had sprung on the class the last time Usagi had been having a bad day. The glaring red pen proclaiming fifty-two percent was a way down from her average score, but at least it was still a passing grade. It was still discouraging though.
"Usagi-chan! How did you do on your test?" Umino asked as he walked up to where Usagi had been having lunch with her best friend in the courtyard.
"Umino..." Usagi greeted reluctantly.
"Can't you tell by how depressed she is?" Naru demanded. "Of course it was bad!"
"Not helping, Naru-chan," Usagi grumbled.
"Gomen!" Naru apologised quickly.
"You don't have to be so upset!" Umino insisted happily. "I didn't get a perfect this time because I didn't really try," he continued, and flourished his test paper – a bright red ninety-five written on it.
Usagi glared at him, but his thick glasses clearly didn't help him see when someone wanted him to be incinerated on the spot.
"A test is like a game," he explained. "I could tutor you if you like?" he offered.
He offered after every test they had. He was the nerd in the class. He wasn't gifted with a very high IQ, but he read his text books where other people read novels or manga. He also had a crush on Usagi. A crush that was extremely obvious and equally unwanted.
"No thank you, Umino," Usagi answered flatly.
"I know what will cheer you up," Naru said with confidence. "My mother's jewellery store is having a sale at the moment. We'll go after school."
Usagi smiled a little weakly. Jewellery was nice, and she was as partial to shiny stones decorating her person as any other girl her age. She knew that if she didn't take this test straight home the results wouldn't be pretty, but all the more reason to do something nice for herself. Besides which, she'd used up all of her allowance fort he month already.
Still, she could enjoy looking for a while.
"Oh, and did you hear about Sailor V?" Naru asked as the bell sounded and they headed back to class.
"Sailor V?" Usagi repeated.
"A girl in a school uniform who stopped some jewel thieves," Naru clarified. "It was all over the news last night."
Usagi shrugged. "Shingo was watching some documentary last night for a school project," she said, an explanation as to why she hadn't heard of 'Sailor V' before.
"Five-hundred-thousand yen to thirty-thousand," Usagi sighed once she and Naru had escaped the crush of people. "That would be nice."
"You could always ask your dad," Naru pointed out.
"Not with the grade I'm taking home," Usagi countered with a shake of her head. "He'd ask what happened to the rest of my allowance too, since it's all gone." Another thing to add to her bad day: something wonderful being waved in her face that she couldn't have.
Naru winced. "Sorry Usagi," she commiserated. "Be strong."
Usagi nodded sadly. "I'd better get home," she said. "I'll see you later."
Naru nodded in agreement, and waved as her friend left the shop.
Usagi pulled out her test again as the automatic doors closed behind her, and stared at the paper unhappily. "Oh, die!" she ordered it, and scrunched it up into a vindictive ball, which she proceeded to throw over her shoulder.
"Oi! Watch where you're throwing your... test papers?" a male voice behind her snapped, though the tone turned to surprise at the end. "Fifty-two percent? You should have studied harder, Odango Atama."
"Not that it's any of your business, but it was a surprise test on a bad day," Usagi countered, and reclaimed the damning paper. "I normally get around seventy percent on tests. And my name is Tsukino Usagi, not Odango Atama."
With the paper no longer a barrier between them, Usagi could see that the person had a handsome jawline, black hair, and was wearing a pair of large, mirror-black sunglasses.
The guy chuckled slightly. "Chiba Mamoru," he returned with a slight smirk. "Only seventy percent?" he asked. "You still need to study harder then," he quipped.
Usagi sighed. "Yes, thank you for your insight, Chiba-san. The thought had occurred to me, but study isn't any good if you don't understand what the textbook says, and the only offer of help is coming from a nerd with a crush on me. I do not want to encourage him," she explained. Then blinked. "Why am I even telling you this?" she asked.
Chiba shrugged, and chuckled again. "Don't know," he answered. "But how about I buy you a milkshake or something, Tsukino-chan, and I'll help you figure out where you screwed up in this test?" he offered.
Usagi blinked, and mentally went over what little yen she had left in her purse. "Alright," she allowed with a smile, "but only if I buy you a coffee or something. I can just afford something to drink, and I owe you for dumping my test on your head."
Chiba smiled. "You've got a deal," he agreed, and with a last quick survey of the jewellery shop, he turned and held out a hand indicating for Usagi to lead the way.
"The Crown?" Chiba asked, surprised, when Usagi stopped in front of an arcade.
Usagi nodded. "I'm friends with one of the guys who works here," she answered. "He lets me have a small tab, so that if I go a bit over, I can pay it off when I get the next month's allowance. He doesn't let me spend big once I'm out of money, but a few yen here and there is okay," she explained as the doors slid open, admitting the pair.
"Konnichiwa, Usagi-chan!" called a voice from the milk bar.
"Konnichiwa, Motoki-onii-chan!" Usagi answered happily.
"Your usual?" Motoki asked. "Oh, Mamoru, Konnichiwa. What brings you out here?"
"Eh?" Usagi asked softly. "You know each other?" she asked, looking between the two men.
Chiba nodded. "We take some of the same classes as college," he explained. "Also, Motoki is probably my only friend in the world," he added with a slightly wry smile.
Motoki laughed. "I'm flattered Mamoru. You don't admit to being friends with just anybody, and certainly not to just anybody. How did my best friend meet my sweet little almost-sister?" he asked.
Usagi blushed. "I threw my test paper, and it hit Chiba-san's head," she admitted sheepishly. "I'm buying him a drink in apology."
"Just a straight black coffee for me, please Motoki," Chiba said as he eased himself onto a stool by the counter. "What does Tsukino-chan here usually order?"
"Strawberry milkshake," Motoki answered. "Usagi-chan? Can you afford both today? I know it's getting to the end of the month. Your allowance is probably drying up."
Usagi nodded as she also sat down at the bar. "I can just afford to buy Chiba-san a coffee," she answered with a slightly bashful smile.
"I'm buying her milkshake," Chiba said with a chuckle. "To help her concentrate while I tutor her over the test she threw at my head."
Motoki chuckled, amused, and went to fetch their drinks.
Usagi smiled to herself. Maybe her bad day wouldn't be too bad after all?
"Tadaima!" Usagi called as she opened the front door.
"And where have you been young lady?" demanded Ikuko, Usagi's mother, appearing in the entryway as Usagi toed off her shoes. "I expected you to be back hours ago! I've been wanting to see your test results since that boy Umino called and let me know you got test papers back today."
Usagi sighed, and pulled the red-marked page from her bag. "Before you get any more upset with me," she said, holding the paper back rather than immediately handing it over, "I'm late because I found someone who's willing to tutor me, so that I totally understand everything. We spent the afternoon going over this test until I knew what all of the right answers were and why. We did all of my homework too."
"A tutor?" Ikuko asked, surprised. "Usagi, you've never taken that kind of initiative before."
"I never had someone offer who wasn't Umino before," Usagi countered grouchily.
"Eh? I thought Motoki-san..." Ikuko started.
Usagi shook her head. "Motoki-onii-san will show me how to win at games in the arcade, but he does that for everybody. He doesn't really have the time to sit down and help me with study," she answered. "My new tutor is a friend of his though," Usagi added, and finally handed over the test paper.
"Fifty-two percent?" Ikuko read off, deeply unimpressed.
"It was a surprise test on a bad day," Usagi defended. "And I'm not happy with the mark either, but thanks to Chiba-san I understand it now Mama. I won't get a mark like that on my English test again."
Ikuko sighed. "Alright," she allowed, and let her daughter into the house properly. "At least it isn't a failing grade, and this tutor really helped you?" she asked.
Usagi nodded happily.
"Tutor?" Kenji – Usagi's father – asked from the table. "Usagi?"
"Hai, Papa," she answered, and stepped up to give him a kiss on the cheek. "I found a tutor to help me pick my grade up."
"Tutors cost money, if I remember rightly Usagi," Kenji noted cautiously.
Usagi giggled. "It cost me a cup of coffee and letting Chiba-san tease me about my 'odangoes'," she answered, with a gesture to the two buns of hair on top of her head.
He'd called her Odango every time she messed up, and had gently tugged on her hair a couple of times when her attention had started to stray.
"That doesn't seem like a sort of arrangement that can last," Kenji said. "Is this Chiba-san really helping you?"
Usagi nodded. "Hai, Papa," she answered sincerely.
"Hm. Well, a genuinely helpful tutor is cheaper and more effective than cram school I suppose," he decided. "I'll cover the costs of these tutoring sessions when you and this Chiba-san agree on a more regular fee."
"Ah! Arigato Papa!" Usagi declared happily, and hugged him tightly.
Kenji chuckled. "You're welcome," he answered. "Now, come and sit down for dinner," he instructed, noticing that his wife was bringing out the plates of food.
Usagi was relaxing on her bed after dinner, silently debating to herself on the matter of getting changed – clothes or pyjamas? – when her window opened and the cat from that morning crept in.
"Eh?" she muttered, sitting up on her bed. "You haven't been following me today just because I peeled that bandage off, have you cat?" Usagi asked.
"Well, I have, but not for that reason," the cat answered. "And my name is Luna."
Usagi fell off her bed in shock. "The cat talked. A talking cat. In my room," she muttered, eyes wide.
"I need to thank you Usagi-chan," the can – Luna said. "Thank you very much for taking that bandage off. That little prank by those boys meant that I couldn't access my powers or talk. But once you took it off, I knew that you were the person I've been looking for. So thanks to you, I found you!" she explained, and giggled a little as she walked across Usagi's bedspread to the girl.
"Goodnight!" Usagi said firmly, and buried her head in her arms.
"Usagi-chan, this is not a dream!" Luna said firmly. "C'mon Usagi-chan!" she growled, front paws on top of Usagi's head between her buns, pushing firmly. "Fine then, I'll wake you up!" she decided, then jumped and performed a backwards somersault in the air.
A broach landed on the quilt shortly after Luna had.
Usagi peeked, to see what it was.
"Usagi-chan, this is a present for you," Luna said sweetly.
"It's very pretty," Usagi said, and reached out a hesitant hand towards the broach. She flinched away from touching it at the last moment. "But I'm blonde, not dumb. A talking cat and jewellery that wasn't there a moment ago? It's like something that happens in one of my comics. What's the catch?"
"There are strange things happening in Tokyo right now. An enemy the police can't fight. Usagi-chan, you are going to fight those enemies," Luna insisted. "You are a chosen warrior. A Senshi. Your other mission is to find our princess with the others."
Usagi breathed deeply, and held up three fingers. "What others?" she asked, and dropped a finger. "What princess?" she pressed, dropping a second finger. "And me, a warrior?" she finished incredulously, swinging the last raised finger to point at herself, rather than dropping it.
"Yes, you," Luna emphasised. "The others are the other guardians of the planets... I haven't found them yet. And the Princess of the Moon, who really must be found. I, uh, there's some amnesia from when I served her majesty, and besides they were all reincarnated in order to save them..."
Usagi sighed. "Alright," she allowed. "This is all sounding completely ridiculous, but it's coming from a talking cat, so alright. How does it work?"
"Put on the broach, and then say 'moon prism power make up' to activate the transformation," Luna answered happily.
"Magical girl manga," Usagi said softly with a wince. "But, no time like the present to get the hang of it."
"Okay, so I can apparently get distress calls on my hair now," Usagi said as she ran towards the jewellery shop Naru's mother owned. "What else?" she demanded of Luna – the cat was riding on her shoulder. "There had better be other powers, and something more substantial than a skimpy outfit that doesn't even hide my identity in any way, because I have never in my life been a fighter."
"Well, you're already running faster than a normal human could," Luna pointed out.
"Tch," Usagi grumbled. "This is how fast I run normally. I've always been fast. It means I often don't see things before I run into them, but I've always been fast."
"Oh," Luna said softly, stunned. "Uh, there's your tiara," she offered. "You say 'moon tiara action', and throw it. That will vaporise monsters."
"Good to know," Usagi said firmly. "I want more details once we've save Naru-chan," she added.
When they reached the shop, Usagi had to do a lot more running around to avoid attacks on her person by the people who had been customers earlier in the day, and, as frequently happened when she was running around a lot, Usagi tripped over something she hadn't seen in an effort to avoid something she had.
The monster launched an attack as Usagi – crybaby that she was – fought back her tears in an effort to still come to Naru's rescue. She was fourteen years old though, and was far from used to this sort of thing. Upon spotting the clawed hand rushing at her, Usagi froze where she sat.
A flash of red, and a brilliant rose appeared, struck into the floor between herself and the monster – distraction enough to halt the monster's attack.
"Who's there?" the monster demanded.
"I am Tuxedo Kamen," the man standing in a high open window answered. "Crying isn't going to solve anything, Sailor Moon," he added firmly.
"I know," Usagi answered, and sniffed as she pulled herself to her feet. "But I'm new to this, okay?" she demanded as she wiped furiously at her tears. Usagi took the tiara from her forehead, felt it change in her hand and she circled it around. "Moon tiara action!" she yelled, and threw it at the monster.
Thankfully, the thing was too dumb to dodge, and was turned to dust.
"No way," Usagi breathed, shocked.
"Good job, Sailor Moon," Tuxedo Kamen complimented from his high window, one hand holding out his opera cape dramatically. "I will remember this night," he promised. Then he swept his cape around and jumped out of the window.
"You did well, Sailor Moon," Luna agreed.
"For a fourteen-year-old girl who's never done anything like this before, I think I did better than just 'well'," Usagi countered happily, and bent to pick up the rose that Tuxedo Kamen had thrown – and pretty much saved her life with. "I'm going to hang this rose to dry so that I can keep it forever, and then I'm going to go to sleep," she said firmly.
The next morning, Usagi was still tired when she settled at her desk in class, and decided to take a nap while she waited for the teacher. She had fought a monster the previous night. That was tiring stuff! She deserved a little extra kip.
Around her, Naru and a couple of her other classmates, Yumiko and Kuri, who had been at the jewellery store were talking about having a 'dream' where they'd been saved by Sailor Moon – warrior for justice and love.
Honestly, Usagi had no idea what had possessed her to say that. She was fairly sure it was some sort of possession as well. Nothing else could explain it, not even the too-many-magical-girl-comics argument. It was the same as when she hadn't had control over her body during that transformation bit after calling 'moon prism power make up', or from the moment she'd reached up for her tiara – the motions she'd gone through there had just happened as well, once she'd had it in her head that she was going to do it, and had the time and space to execute the move.
"Isn't that strange Usagi? Hey Usagi!" Naru called, wanting her friend's opinion on how she and two other girls in their class had all had the same 'dream'.
"I'm tired," Usagi answered. "Wake me up when Haruna-sensei gets in please."
"Usagi!" Naru objected.
Usagi sighed and straightened in her chair. "The chances of three people having the exact same dream are slim to none," Usagi pointed out. "The chances of three people having the exact same dream on the same night are even less than that. Maybe it was real, rather than a dream?" she suggested sleepily, and yawned again.
"Everybody please take your seats," Haruna-sensei instructed as she entered the room then, thereby preventing Naru or either of the other girls from making any kind of comment on what Usagi had said.
For once, she was actually glad that class was starting. Even if she wasn't getting a nap in.
"Ah, Chiba-san," Usagi greeted, surprise in her tone, as she rounded the corner and very nearly bumped into him. "Gomen."
Chiba chuckled. "No harm done," he deferred.
"I'm glad I almost ran into you though," Usagi said. "There's something I need to talk to you about."
"Homework?" Chiba suggested.
Usagi giggled. "Not today," she answered happily. "I mean, yes, I have some homework, but I got on top of it during self-study period today, so it's mostly done already!" she said proudly. "I'm even fairly sure I got everything right too!"
Chiba smiled then, and it seemed to echo back her pride.
"Though, I would really appreciate you checking it, just to make sure," she added bashfully. "Um, that's not what I needed to talk to you about though. What I need to talk to you about is tutoring fees," Usagi stated softly, calming down. "Papa said he'd be willing to pay, if we can agree on a regular fee. He said he didn't think that me just paying for your coffee and letting you tease me about my hair would be an arrangement that could last."
Chiba nodded. "That makes sense," he agreed. "Well, how about right now I walk you home. I'll check the homework you've done when we get there, help you with what you haven't done, and when your dad gets home, he and I can talk about it."
Usagi smiled. "That sounds good," she agreed with a smile. "But I warn you, Papa is very protective of his 'little princess', you may never have a job interview as terrifying. You'll need to get Mama on your side first."
Chiba laughed. "It's a good thing I'm charming then," he suggested.
Usagi laughed as well, and with a smile led him back to her house. "Well, Motoki-onii-san survived meeting Papa, so I'm sure you will as well," she agreed. "You aren't even bringing me home in tears like Motoki-onii-san did."
Chiba frowned. "What happened?" he asked.
Usagi shrugged a little uncomfortably, eyes ahead to make sure she didn't run into anything as they walked. "It was two years ago. I was at the arcade after school, I stood up from my chair and found that there was blood on the seat. I was hysterical. Motoki-onii-san had just gotten his driver's licence, so he drove me home and then had to talk to my dad while Mama comforted me," Usagi explained quietly, a deep blush on her face.
Chiba was also blushing. Had been since shortly into the story. "Ah," he said awkwardly.
"Sorry, that was an embarrassing story," Usagi said softly. "But you asked," she pointed out.
Chiba winced a little sheepishly. "I did," he agreed. "And if I want to be a doctor, I've got to be able to handle those kinds of stories."
"A doctor?" Usagi parroted. "That's a lot of studying, isn't it?"
Chiba nodded. "It is, but I enjoy it, mostly."
Usagi giggled. "Mostly?" she teased lightly.
Chiba chuckled, glad for the change of topic. "Yeah, mostly. There are some nights when I don't get any sleep, I'm so busy studying."
"That's not good. Sleep is important for a healthy mind," Usagi noted softly. "Oh, we're here already," she said, and blinked in surprise as she stopped in front of her home.
"It's a nice house," Chiba complimented.
Usagi smiled. "Well, please come in," she invited, and skipped up the path to the door. "Tadaima!" she called as she opened it.
"Okaeri nasai!" Ikuko answered from the kitchen, and then stepped out into the hall where she could see her daughter. "You brought a guest?"
"Mama, this is Chiba-san," Usagi introduced.
"Ah, the tutor you told us about yesterday," Ikuko said with an understanding nod. "Please come in."
"Thank you," Chiba answered, and bowed slightly as he toed his shoes off in the doorway.
"Such a polite young man too," Ikuko said happily. "I'll make you some snacks to eat while you study, alright?"
"Only if it wouldn't trouble you, Tsukino-san," Chiba said.
"No trouble at all!" Ikuko chirped, and disappeared back into the kitchen.
Usagi giggled softly behind her hand. "You have effectively charmed my mother, that's a little scary," she whispered.
Chiba just smirked back. "It's a gift. Come on, Odango," he teased lightly. "Let's see that homework of yours."