A Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon story
by Benjamin A. Oliver
Disclaimer: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Author's notes: Dum-da-dum-dah, da-dum-da-dum-da-dum! *BLAAAAM!*
This is one of the side-projects I've had on the back burner for a while, so to speak. It originated from some of the stories generated from an FFML discussion two or three years ago.
Also, I'm experimenting with a different sort of style than what most may be accustomed to in my normal works. The humor is a bit more subdued than, say, NETTG or Heart of Sugar. This is more geared towards those that have found my other stuff a bit too silly for its own good.
But then again, Mad TV or Saturday Night Live is a step down in silliness from those. ^_^
I don't want to give away too much before actually starting the story, but from what I can tell, some will like it, and others won't enjoy it so much. It's all a matter of taste. Nevertheless, I want to hear who liked it and who didn't so I can get an idea of what kind of demographics I'm dealing with.
A young man trudged his way through the gloom.
It was probably the worst Tuesday of his entire life.
It was not so much that the day was not bright and sunny; the temperature hovered around seventy-six degrees Fahrenheit and not a single cloud graced the entire skyline. People were even walking through the streets of the city with broad and cheerful smiles on their faces.
Moreover, birds were chirping.
None of this mattered to the boy, however. The experiences of his day had brought him from a state of unknowing bliss down into the melancholy that he felt at that moment.
The fourteen-year-old looked down at the paper in his hand. It was an English test, and though the handwriting looked decent, apart from the bunny rabbit doodles in the margins, the red marks near the top and throughout the entire paper indicated that most of his answers were incorrect.
"A thirty-seven," he groaned, running his fingers backwards through his short yellowish-blond hair. "Well, Kato, you've done it again…" In the next instant, he looked away, crumpled up the offending sheet, and tossed it over one of his slumped shoulders.
"Hey, watch it!" someone called from behind the boy.
Kato spun around to face the speaker. The man was over a foot and a half taller than him, had black hair, and had on a gray jacket. A dark pair of sunglasses hung from the pocket of his jacket. The guy had to be somewhere around twenty to twenty-four.
The black-haired man had apparently caught one of the more jagged edges of the paper in the eye, considering that his left one was closed and he winced in obvious discomfort. "You should be more careful," he added in an annoyed tone.
"Sorry…" Kato froze and closed his eyes. Well, the man was a lot bigger than him, and could trash him in a fight, so surrender was the only option. "Okay, just beat me up and get it over with."
The man raised an eyebrow. "Beat you up?"
"It happens to me all the time," Kato explained. "I'm not tough enough to fight back— Yes, I've accepted it, so go ahead and do it. I'm an easy target."
"You get beaten up all the time and you don't fight back?"
"I'm a wimp and I always trip over my own feet before I can throw a punch or try to kick. I have absolutely zero tolerance for pain, no strength, and everyone laughs at me. Stuff like that."
The elder male shook his head. "You should have a little more self-confidence," he sighed, then uncrumpled the paper and examined it. His eyes went wide. "And you should study a -lot- harder."
Kato opened his eyes. "So, you're not going to bully me around or anything?"
The man let out a short laugh and handed back the test. "No, it looks like you have enough problems of your own, kid."
As the blond folded up and pocketed his exam, he actually felt the gloom of the day lift slightly. "Thanks!" He looked up at the man's face for the first time and was immediately stuck by a sense of familiarity. "Uh, hey, don't I know you from somewhere?"
The taller one shrugged. "I can't think of anywhere. I know I've never seen you before."
"Hmm…" Kato looked down, rubbing his chin. He looked back up. "Still, I think I know you. What's your name?"
The man frowned for a second, then shrugged as if deciding that it was a harmless enough question. "My name is Chiba Mamoru." He held out a hand. "Yours?"
The boy thought about that for a second. "Mamoru… Chiba." He laughed and shook his head. "Nope, doesn't ring a bell. Anyway, I'm Tsukino Kato. Nice ta meetcha." He also put out his hand.
Some handshakes just felt uncomfortably weird, like ice or sparks were dancing around inside them.
This was definitely one of them.
It wasn't long after Kato's encounter with Mamoru that he met up with one of his favorite bunches of thugs, got his tail royally kicked, and was booted down the gutter and fell through a broken grate into the sewer.
Such was life.
"Why can't they pick on someone else?" Kato moaned to himself. "Maybe someone that's -not- six years younger than them?"
Yes, it was a typical sort of experience. He'd go to school, nearly nod off at Haruna-sensei's boring lectures, and then he'd go home. It didn't matter what route he took; wherever he went, the thugs were sure to follow. They wanted his lunch money, but since it was always after school that they hit him, he never had any. So, what they did was simply beat him up and yell at him to get a job.
Kato rubbed his bruised cheek, muddling over the insanity of his life. He supposed that one day, he could complain to the police and get the whole thing taken care of, but would that really solve anything? Maybe, but he had mostly resigned himself to it. No point in complaining now.
"I love junior high," the blond moaned. He looked up at the light filtering through the grating he'd fallen through. This was the second time this week. The sewer reeked of who-knows-what, and he would have to spend a few minutes looking for a ladder to climb back up.
But on the bright side, he mused, this had given him more time before he had to go back home and show his Mom the latest test results.
Kato sat still for a few minutes, listening to the traffic go by. Why couldn't he muster enough backbone to fight back? Why couldn't he be strong enough to tell those guys off? And why couldn't he get a girlfriend if his life depended on it?
Amidst the calm moments of reflection, the boy heard the sound of several kindergarten children running by overhead. Judging by their squeals of delight, they had found something fun to play with.
"Everyone's happy except me," Kato moaned.
The pitter-patter of little feet grew closer and passed overhead. There was the screeching of tires as a car swerved to avoid some child. Some angry shouting rang out, and the car drove on. There was the tortured mewing of some feline coming ever closer.
Finally, a black cat fell down the gutter, landing right next to Kato.
The boy looked down at the cat sympathetically. "You too, huh?"
The cat tried to stand, but it wobbled around and fell back down. It had a pair of Band-Aids covering its poor little bruised forehead.
"Poor thing," Kato said, feeling a genuine emotional connection to the cat. He experimentally reached down and prodded it to make sure it was still alive.
The dark cat meowed weakly. It looked pretty messed up, having a few cuts here and some scrapes there. If he simply let it stay there, it would probably be dead in a few hours. Maybe even minutes. It spotted him after a moment. It meowed again, its pathetic little call seeming to be directed at him.
Kato frowned. He hated it when animals got hurt, especially dogs and cats. He couldn't comprehend what kind of mean people would do that to a cat. But was there anything he could do? He didn't know anything about first aid, much less how to treat a dying feline. Besides, what would his mother say if she knew he had been messing around with some dirty dead cat?
The cat called again, twice as pathetic as the first time.
Kato sighed and shook his head. Opening his bookbag, he withdrew the P.E. uniform shirt that he was taking home to get washed. He paused, weighing the consequences, but decided that he just couldn't leave the poor cat there. That'd be heartless, and if there was one thing Tsukino Kato wasn't good at, it was being heartless.
Spineless? Yes. Heartless? No.
Kato pushed open the door to his house. It was a pretty big building, actually. Two stories high, multiple bedrooms, a large kitchen— actually, it was probably the second biggest home he'd ever seen. None of his friends had anything that big, except maybe for Naru. She and her mom were pretty well off.
The boy had a sneaking suspicion that his parents might really be wealthy too, but they always violently denied it, especially when he asked for money to spend at the arcade. Money doesn't grow on trees, they always explained. His arguments that it did since the bills were made of paper didn't seem to improve things much. Hey, paper comes from trees, doesn't it? That's what the recycling people said.
Kato cringed. He was straying too far from the subject. Maybe that was why he didn't do well at school. He kept on focusing on irrelevant things. He should have figured it out before. After all, Umino-kun and Naru-chan kept on telling him that, and that maybe he should try cutting through his fear and ask some girl out…
The blond stopped himself when he noticed that he was doing it again. None of that was important right now. What mattered was that he'd decided to try to help the poor, bedraggled cat that he had wrapped up in his P.E. shirt and was now carrying under one arm.
Kato quickly climbed the steps to his room, dropped his books, and placed the cat on his bed. After he unwrapped his shirt from the creature, what he saw made his breathing become a little more labored.
The poor thing wasn't just beaten up; it also had a bad, clotted gash on its little shoulder going almost from the neck down to its underside. Also, one paw looked bent funny— broken, probably. All in all, it was a ghastly sight.
The more Kato looked the cat over, the more he realized that he didn't have the slightest clue where to begin. He wanted to help it, but what could he do, honestly?
The black cat opened its eyes and looked up at Kato. It was breathing very slowly and it was easy to tell that it was in very bad pain. It meowed faintly, pawing at the Band-Aids on its head. The cat had a pleading look in its eyes.
"Great, it's got a cut on its forehead, too," Kato muttered at the sight of the Band-Aids. Grimacing, he started to pace around, scratching his head frantically in an effort to figure out what he should do.
After a moment of this, a young boy walked in on him. He was about a foot shorter than Kato, but bore an obvious family resemblance. His hair was a darker blond than Kato's, and he seemed very happy to see the older boy.
"Kato! How's it going?" the newcomer asked, then paused when he saw the cat. "Eeew, gross! What's that thing doing in here?!"
"Shingo!" Kato started. He considered his response. "Where's Mom?"
Shingo didn't tear his gaze away from the cat. He inched back a little. "She went shopping. Won't be back for hours. What're you doing with that thing?"
The kitty tried to stand back up, but quickly found that it couldn't. It rolled over onto its side, shivering. Its eyes closed and a tear went down its cheek. It meowed again.
Kato's worried look intensified. "Uh, Shingo, do you remember where the closest vet is?"
Shingo looked up at his older brother incredulously. "You're going to spend all your money on some stray that's gonna die anyway?"
"Yes!" Kato replied without thinking.
The younger brother blinked. "Hoooo-kay. It's your allowance money, I guess," he said, and proceeded to give directions to the nearest animal doctor.
Kato ran along the sidewalk toward his destination. In one hand he carried a scrap of paper with directions written on it, and under the other arm he carried the injured cat. The cat was wrapped up in a bedsheet, its head poking out so it could breathe.
"Okay, so I go on for half a block, and I turn right here," the boy repeated the directions, "and I go through this alleyway where all the gangsters hang out-"
Kato rammed face-first into the belly of someone twice as tall as he was. The cat-courier fell, knocked onto his back.
"Oof!" The ten-foot-tall bald thug almost had the wind knocked out of him from the force of the impact.
Kato looked up and recognized the man. It was one of the bullies that always wanted to take his lunch money. He didn't know his real name, but had mentally nicknamed him "Nappa" after a favorite anime character.
"Hey," Nappa said, reaching down with his huge, sinewy arm to pick up the boy by his head and hold him up to his face, "it's that little Katou kid!"
"Uh, that's Kato," Kato corrected in a tiny, hamsterish voice. He dared not move, being completely scared out of his wits. His heart pounded hard inside his chest.
A shorter one behind Nappa, whom Kato had nicknamed Vegeta, cracked his knuckles. He had weird spiky, swept-up hair, and always acted like he was some sort of martial arts freak. "Hmm." He looked over Nappa's captive. "Does he have any money this time?"
"Awww, he -never- has any money!" Nappa complained.
"I do this time," Kato squeaked, hoping to be let off the hook.
Nappa looked at the boy and sniffed the air. "Yeah," he said, "he does."
Vegeta folded his arms. "Well, hand it over and we won't beat you up for right now."
Kato nodded emphatically, and Nappa set him down. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small collection of bills.
"Very good, boy," Vegeta spat. He tilted his head. "And what do you have under your arm?"
Kato paused, unconsciously moving around his cash in exactly the right evasion pattern to keep it away from Nappa. He looked down at the sheet, part of which had just now concealed the cat's head. His gaze shifted between the cat and his life savings.
The blond remembered in that instant why he needed the money: He was going to try to save the cat's life. Vets cost a whole bunch, and wouldn't do anything unless he paid for it. Chances were that they weren't going to do it for free, and—
The sheet moved in the breeze and uncovered the cat's face. It was looking bad, and he could feel that it wasn't breathing very hard. It wouldn't be long now before the end came.
"What are you waiting for?! Get his money!" Vegeta barked at Nappa.
Kato suddenly felt something burn on his forehead, and in the next instant found that his fist had crashed straight into Nappa's face.
*KEEERUUUNCCCHHH!* The sound of cartilage cracking echoed throughout the long alleyway, followed by a long, deep silence.
Everyone stared at everyone else for a few seconds.
"MRRRRPH!!" Nappa finally cried, stumbling back and clutching at his face. "ARGH! MY NOPHE!" He turned around and leaned over.
Kato's jaw dropped, realizing that for the first time in his miserable life, he'd actually fought back. He looked down at his fist. It stung really badly, as though he'd been trying to punch through concrete. He shook it to dull the pain. "Ow! Ow! Ow!"
Vegeta's eyes widened for a second before he regained his confident smirk. "Fighting back, are we? This behavior must not be tolerated!" He placed two fingers at his lips and blew, creating a very loud whistle.
Half a dozen giant thugs blocked off the alleyway behind Kato, and another two rushed in from in front.
"Yipe!" Kato was scared out of his wits and still couldn't believe that he just did what he did. Frantically, he looked around for an exit, and, finding none, he jumped up on top of Nappa's back.
"YERPH GONNAH PAY FAH DIS, KID!!!" Nappa groaned, flailing around in an effort to grab the boy.
Kato started hyperventilating as he glanced around, then leapt over the heads of the onrushing bandits. He landed, with a clang, onto an overturned metal drum. "WAAAAAH!" He immediately began to roll away on the drum, his arms and legs a blur as he fought to maintain his balance.
Vegeta gasped. "He's getting away, you fools! Grab him!!!"
"WAAAA-aaa-aaa—AAAAAAH!!!" Kato's velocity doubled, then tripled. He sped away, down the street and rounding a corner, the bullies in hot pursuit.
At one point, he hit a speed bump and the wrapped cat flew out of his arms. He quickly hopped up to grab it again, but the action messed up his balance. He slid off the drum and came crashing down. He rolled around and around on the street, bouncing off the curb and flying straight past a pair of open sliding glass doors, and smacked right onto the only occupied waiting chair in the veterinarian's office.
"Oomph!" The boy underneath Kato had the wind knocked out of him.
The doors automatically slid closed.
The receptionist sized him up. "Hmmm, does your pet have an appointment, young man?"
Kato blinked a couple of times, his surprise too great to have noticed the individual he was squishing. "Ummm, does it need one?"
"No," the lady at the desk laughed, "do you think you can pay the bill?"
The blond boy nodded quickly. "Yeah, I think so."
"Then Doctor Kalypso will see you now," the receptionist said with a nod. She pointed down a short hallway. "Go right in through this door and explain the problem to him."
"Thank you!" Kato called out, and rushed through the office door, protectively grasping his cat.
The bespectacled boy that Kato had landed on stood up and got ready to protest, holding up his fishbowl with a yellow banana slug inside. "But what about Amorphia here!? She's about to give birth!"
A moment later, a band of thugs rushed past the glass doors and looked around. Finding nobody, they moved on.
Kato fidgeted in the waiting room. He tugged at the collar of his uniform, letting out a little steam. It had been over fifteen minutes since Doc Kalypso had taken in his cat. He knew that some things could take a while to do, especially if something was as badly injured as the cat.
The blond looked over to the other boy sitting next to him. He had brown hair and was wearing the same kind of blue school uniform as he was. His most notable feature, however, was that he was wearing a pair of thick, high-refraction glasses. "Umino-kun," Kato said, "do you think my cat has a chance?"
Umino Gurio shrugged. "Maybe. If it didn't loose too much blood, the doctor might be able to patch it back together." He examined the fishbowl he held and shook his head at the batch of baby slugs squirming around inside. "What's so important about that cat, anyway?" He held up the fishbowl. "You made Amorphia go through natural childbirth. She's got to be in a LOT of pain right now!" He looked a bit miffed.
"Eew," Kato grimaced at the sight of the slimy creatures. He looked back at his friend. "I don't know what's so special about it," he said, referring to the cat he'd brought in. "I just found it, and, I don't know. I just couldn't leave it like that, could I?"
"I guess not," Umino replied with a shrug. "I mean, I remember when I found Amorphia. She was ill with a bad case of ick." He sighed in reminiscence. "I spent the next four days and nights nursing her back to health, changing the water, giving protein supplements, things like that."
"That's really sweet," the blond deadpanned.
"Yeah, we've been through a lot together after that."
"So," Kato yawned, wanting to change the subject, "anything new going on in the world?"
The nerd nodded. "Yes. Have you heard that Sailor V caught another bank thief this morning?"
"Sailor V. She's some masked vigilante out fighting crime in a short-skirted sailor suit. She's the talk of the town!"
"Oh. Eh heh. That's great, Umino-kun…"
"Yeah! She's cleaned up the other half of Tokyo and it's rumored that she's been mopping up in England. Osaka-san and I think she's a new member of an elite Interpol police force."
"Elite police force? Er, what's it called?"
"The Sailor Seishi!"
"Sailor Seishi," Kato whispered to himself. He found the term very familiar, but he couldn't quite place where he had heard it before. Suddenly, it hit him. "Oh! That reminds me. I gotta give you back all of your Fushigi Yuugi manga. Shingo's done with them and he's tired of having to hide them from Mom."
The high-pitched screeching of a nearby feline along with a triumphal shout from the veterinarian interrupted their conversation.
"She's alive!" the vet called. "ALIVE!"
The black cat bolted out of the operating room on three legs, pushing past the swinging door and leaping into Kato's arms.
"Mreow!" the cat said to the boy, panting with its eyes wide.
Vet Kalypso entered the room, a mirrored piece of metal strapped to his forehead. "Truly astonishing!" he exclaimed to Kato. "It was touch and go for a little while. She didn't look like she was going to make it, but she fought the urge to give up, and she has triumphed, m'boy! Triumphed, I say!"
"It's gonna be okay?" Kato asked.
The animal doctor nodded. "Yes, she'll be just fine. The leg we thought was broken was merely out of joint. She won't be able to walk on it for a while, but it'll heal. Most of the cuts were superficial. The poor girl was just going into shock."
Kato breathed a sigh of relief, and was about ready to stand up when the vet handed him the bill.
"Bring her back next week and I'll give her a flea bath and spay 'er for no extra charge."
"Great, now I'm broke," Kato muttered, walking down the street as he carried home his most prized living possession. He looked down at his cat. "But at least you're okay."
The cat had white bandages over its cuts and it looked happy while it pawed at a button on the boy's uniform. It also scratched at the crossed Band-Aids on its forehead. "Mreow?"
"Actually," Kato added, "without all the blood and junk on you, you're kind of a cute kitty."
The cat meowed again in reply to the boy's statement.
"But why would those same Band-Aids still be on your forehead? Shouldn't the vet at least have changed them or something?" The boy shrugged. "Eh, maybe I'll change 'em when we get back home."
Kato continued his trek home. As he passed a place called the Osa-P Jewelry and Renaissance Store, he heard a whistle.
"K-chan!" a fourteen-year-old girl with wavy brown hair called from inside the store. "There you are!"
Kato turned, and when he saw her, he smiled and waved. "Naru-chan! Hi!"
Naru skipped over to him. "Guess what?" she asked, holding her hands behind her.
"What?" Kato guessed quickly.
"My Mom's gone berserk," Naru said. "She's having a sale and started to sell jeweled daggers, shot puts, and all sorts of weird things at rock-bottom prices!"
The blond blinked. "Really?"
The girl nodded and held up a very elegant golden knife. "Just look at this." She let the boy to examine it. "How much do you think it's worth?"
Kato pondered that, scratching his head. "A whole lot of money?" he guessed.
"An awful lot of money!" Naru half-shouted, making emphatic hand gestures. "And Mom's selling it for only three hundred yen. Can you believe this?!"
"Wow," Kato remarked.
"Do you want to buy it?" Naru asked, offering the blade to him.
The schoolboy started to rub his cheek with his hand. "Gee, that'd be really nice, Naru-chan. Only three hundred yen? I'd like to have it, but—" He frowned. "—I kind of spent all my money already."
Naru stared at him. "All your money? ALL of your money?! On WHAT?"
Kato paused, looked down, and held up the injured cat.
"Meow," the cat greeted warmly, waving with a free paw.
The girl's jaw dropped. "You wasted all of your money on medical bills for a stray CAT?"
The tint of Kato's skin turned slightly red. "Well, sort of."
Naru hung her head and placed a sympathetic hand on Kato's shoulder. "Ohhh, Kato-san. The clueless brother I never had." She held up the classified ads of a newspaper to the boy's face. "You could have gotten a new cat for FREE, you know."
Kato laughed nervously. "Eh, heh. Yeah, that's right, I could have, couldn't I?"
Naru sighed. "We've known each other for years, and you've always been the same. Maybe someday you'll grow out of it, but at this point, I doubt it." She patted him on the shoulder. "Take your cat home and get some rest. Honestly, you're always picking up these half-dead things and taking them home. Most of 'em didn't last too long, but maybe this time you'll be able to keep this one alive. Not like when you kept forgetting to feed that little bunny of yours."
Kato frowned. "Hey, I was seven years old!"
The brown-haired girl shrugged and smiled. "Eh, I guess you're right. You've changed since then, haven't you?" She laughed quietly to herself. "I mean, who am I to call you absent-minded now?"
Kato smiled back. "Yeah, I'm not that clueless anymore."
Naru's expression grew smug. "What did you get on your test today, by the way?"
"Ummmmmmmmmm," the boy fidgeted. "I just remembered something. I gotta go."
He turned around and started to walk off.
Naru took a step forward, as if something else had occurred to her. "Say, what's your cat's name?"
The blue-uniformed boy stopped and looked over his shoulder. "I don't know. I was thinking about naming it Mokona, Ryo-Ohki, Puar, Oolong, or something like that."
"Sheesh. You've read too many manga, K-chan" Naru groaned.
A dull granite plaza extended as far as the eye could see, eerily illuminated by a strange, unknown source. An army of shadowy figures was gathered at the edge of the shifting light, some whispering, some chanting. The combined tumult caused a low rumble to echo around the humongous cavern.
At the center of the room was a stone throne, adorned with hideous, deformed skulls of an alien nature. Sharp teeth and claws jutted out and curled around the monstrous structure. A pair of torches burned on either side.
Seated on the throne was one who could only be described as a titan among men. Muscles upon muscles adorned his massive frame. Pectorals bulged against his purple-stained chainmail. Legs, arms and neck displayed a stunning array of juts and mounds. A lock of red hair poked out of the front of his giant, horned helmet.
The only man in the room worthy of such worship, with his muscles rippling and tendons straining, stood and motioned for silence.
The sound in the room instantly disappeared.
Emperor Beryl lifted his great, double-bladed axe into the air and tapped the two-meter-long handle twice against the ground with a tremendous clang.
"GENERAL JADEITE," he bellowed in a voice that caused everyone present to kneel down and shiver under the power of his majesty, "SHOW YOURSELF TO ME!"
A swirl of blue light sparkled into view six meters away from the titan's throne. Gradually, a silhouette wavered to and fro, solidifying into the First General.
"Eeeep!" the puffy-ponytailed blonde squealed in shock. Frantically, she whipped out a compact, clicked it open and checked the makeup on her highly-tanned skin. Having made sure it was right, she straightened her hair and made final adjustments to her outfit. "Wh-why, Emperor Beryl!" she stuttered in a decidedly soprano voice while retying the ribbon on her ponytail, "What a surprise— I mean, what were the odds?"
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS, GENERAL JADEITE?" Beryl asked, motioning with his free hand at the woman's attire.
"Umm!" General Jadeite yelped in fright. She looked down at what she was wearing. It was a dark grey leotard with green trim, tan stockings, and a white puffball bunny-tail a little below the small of her back. "It's the latest thing in Dark Imperium military fatigues. Do you like it, Your Majesty?" She posed for him to get the full effect.
The ruler of the Dark Imperium scowled and shook his head. "JADEITE, THAT IS THE LEAST MANLY THING A MAN COULD EVER WEAR."
"I'm not a man!" Jadeite stamped her foot in an ultra-feminine manner and stood up as tall as she could, which was a stunning five-foot-six. "And from now on, I want you to call me Mihoshi!"
The Emperor took a deep breath and shouted in a voice that blew back Jadeite's hair, "WHAT KIND OF NAME IS THAT?!"
"It's MY name now, and I like it. 'Kay?!"
Beryl looked at the woman for a tense moment.
The very girly woman stood firm, her lower lip trembling.
The Emperor suddenly threw his head back and let out a huge, roaring laugh. "HAH HAH!" He turned his gaze back toward the First General. "VERY WELL, GENERAL MIHOSHI. NOW, TELL ME OF YOUR PLANS TO DRAIN THE PITIFUL, UNMANLY HUMAN BEINGS OF THEIR DELICIOUS RESOURCES OF ENERGY SO WE WILL BE ABLE TO RESURRECT OUR GREAT LEADER!"
"Well," Mihoshi began, tilting her head and holding an index finger to her cheek, "I had this idea." She took out a small, green gemstone and held it up in the faint light so everyone could see it. "You see these? I like 'em a lot!" She drew a deep breath. "So, I got to thinking, 'Maybe other people like these.' I went to Earth and found a place with a whole bunch of them. It was a jewelry shop." She put a hand over her mouth and giggled.
"A JEWELRY SHOP?!"
"It's also a Renaissance store," the bunny-suited one amended. "They have all sorts of neat, pretty things like crowns and weapons and stuff. I thought that, maybe if I took control of the owner's mind and filled the shelves with other things that'll take control of whoever touches them, we could take their energy." The blonde paused and took a breath. "Hey, why are we taking energy, anyway? Isn't that evil?"
The Emperor took a step back and sat back down at his throne. The whole room trembled from the impact. "OH, WHATEVER GAVE YOU THAT IDEA?! JUST DO IT!"
General Mihoshi blinked her big blue eyes a few times, then shrugged and nodded at the Emperor. "Okay!" She bowed respectfully and teleported away to make sure everything she had set up was still going as she hoped.
"Mom just HAD to ask about my test, didn't she?" Kato asked rhetorically, sitting on the front-door steps of his home.
"Mreow?" the black cat sitting beside the boy asked, looking up at him.
When he'd shown his mother the test, she'd kicked him out, slammed the door on him, and yelled at him to go to the library and study. The blond continued to groan, reclining against the porch behind him.
"Meow," the kitty said with a frown, lowering her head.
Kato sighed sadly. "Maybe it's all true."
The cat sighed along with him and idly started pawing at the Band-Aids on its forehead. "Meow…"
"Maybe I am what they all say."
The cat started to make some headway against the sticky portion on the plastic strips. One flap had already fallen off.
"Maybe I am clueless and worthless…"
The black feline's eyes widened as it got the Band-Aids half-off, revealing in a flash of light a yellow crescent moon mark. It breathed deeply, ripped off what remained, tossed it away, and winced. "Ow," it whispered in a voice that could have easily belonged to a young and pretty woman. "That stings." She gasped in surprise. "I can talk again!"
Kato rolled over onto his chest. "I'm a good for nothing, mindless twit, I've gotta face it."
The cat looked at him with concern. "No you're not!"
"Yes I am," Kato groaned. "I flunked my test, I always get beaten up, the closest thing I've ever had to a girlfriend is Naru, and she doesn't like me that way—"
"How can that be true?" the bandaged cat asked.
The boy turned on to his side, away from the talking cat. "It just is. I'm such a wimpy, scared loser."
Kato's companion took a step closer. "No you're not! You're the bravest person I've ever met!"
The blond was silent for a second. "Really?" he asked.
"Yes," the cat affirmed, nodding. "You may have been hurt a lot in the past, but what kind of loser takes up an injured stranger, fights off a band of ogres to get her to safety, and gives away all he has to save that stranger's life? Hmm? Hmm?"
Kato sat up. "What are you talking about?" He looked around. "Who…?" He trailed off when he saw the cat. He pointed at her. "Did you just…?" He shook his head. "Naaaaah. It couldn't be. I'm just talking to myself."
The cat tilted its head at him. "I like you, for what it's worth," she offered.
Tsukino Kato looked at the cat for a second. Then, with a loud whump, he fell face-first off the side of the steps. Slowly, he picked himself up and stared across the porch at the crescent-marked feline.
"What?" the cat asked. "Never seen a talking cat before?"
"I had a concussion once," Kato replied cautiously. "Saw a few talking Frisbees. But cats don't talk, do they?"
"Sure they do. I'm talking, aren't I?"
"What's the problem, then?"
"No problem… I guess it's okay… maybe."
Kato's mother let him back in after a couple of minutes, giving the boy the chance to carry the cat back up to his room where they could have a proper conversation.
As the boy placed the sentient animal on his bed and closed the door, he said, "I've never met a talking cat before."
"Neither have I," the cat replied thoughtfully, then looked up at the ceiling as if straining to dig into her memory. "That I can remember. I'm still kind of woozy from getting hit and from whatever it was the vet injected me with."
Tsukino Kato sat down on his blue-quilted bed. "Are you from another planet, on a secret mission to save Earth?"
The black feline wondered about that for a moment. "I don't think so. I think I'm from around here." She paused. "Then again, I could be wrong. I'm having some trouble remembering things."
Something else occurred to Kato. "Oh! Do you have a name? Can I call you Mokona?"
"I think my name is Luna," the injured cat replied hesitantly, but brightened after some thought, "but you can call me anything you like, cutey!"
Kato muddled it over a moment longer. "On second thought, ChuChu would be a cuter name for you."
In that instant, the door opened and Shingo walked in, carrying a stack of manga, including but not limited to Ranma ½, Fushigi Yuugi, Cardcaptor Sakura, Slayers, Nurse Angel Ririka and Shin Seiki Evangelion. "Hey, Kato! Look what I found!"
Kato turned his head. "What?"
Shingo held up the stack so that his brother could see.
"Oh, that's nice," Kato said, then held up his cat. "Look at this. My cat talks."
"Meow?" Kato's kitty said in a surprised voice.
Shingo rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on, Kato! Everyone knows that cats only talk in fantasy! This is real life. We're not living in a Kiki's Delivery Service movie or anything like that."
"But…" the cat began. "I do talk."
"No," Shingo replied, shaking his head, "you," he trailed off and suddenly fixed his gaze squarely on the cat's face. "What the @#%$ did you just say?!"
"Mind your language, young man," the kitty shot back. "And I said that I do talk."
Shingo dropped all the manga in disbelief. He looked back at his brother. "Naaah, you're teasing, aren't you? You've suddenly learned ventriloquism and somehow made your voice sound like a sixteen-year-old girl— Oh wait, your voice was kinda like that when I kicked you in the shins last week—"
The cat glared at the younger boy. "He's not faking it, and we'll prove it." She looked up at her adopted human. "Kato-kun," she began, then paused. "Your name's Kato, right?"
The teenager nodded.
"Ah, yes. Ahem! Kato-kun, we are going to sing both parts of 'Row, Row, Row Your Lunar Gondola,' to prove that I am, in fact, a talking cat."
Kato frowned at his kitty. "You mean you don't care if people find out about that? I mean, if I were a talking cat, I'd try to keep it a secret."
"Humph, well, if people knew that I was special, they probably wouldn't mistreat me so badly, would they? They wouldn't rough me up or put Band-Aids on my forehead, or let me get hit by a car, that's for sure!"
"They'd just lock you up in a science lab or something," Shingo added. He looked down and waved his hands in defeat. "Okay, okay, I believe you. That's a talking cat." He turned his head around and shouted down the hall, "MOOOOOOOOOOM, KATO'S GOT A TALKING CAAAAAAAAAAT!"
From downstairs, the tired, overworked voice of their mother called back, "Oh, really? That's nice. Ask it what its name is!"
Shingo looked down at the cat. "Hey, what's your name?"
"Hmmm…" the black creature began, putting a paw to her cheek. "I'm almost certain that my name is Luna."
"It says its name's Luna!" Shingo yelled behind him.
"That's nice, dear!" Tsukino Ikuko replied with a weary sigh.
"I wouldn't mind a sweeter name, though," Luna considered, then shrugged. "Maybe Luna would be best."
"Naaah, I don't like it," Shingo disagreed.
"I still like Mokona," Kato whispered.
Luna smiled at her rescuer. "As I said, you can call me anything you like, sugar!"
"Nah, she talks too much to be named Mokona," Shingo said.
Kato nodded in agreement. "Yeah, you're right."
"Well," Shingo added, putting his hand on his brother's shoulder, "I guess you're not a complete loss, Kato. I thought it was just some stray cat. I didn't know it talked!"
"Oh, yeah!" Luna perked up. "Thanks again for rescuing me. You're really someone special." She giggled and rubbed her furry head against Kato's arm. "I guess it was kind of hard for you to do all you did—"
"And pay the bills," Shingo added, looking at his brother. "Did you spend everything you had fixing up this cat?"
Kato nodded. "Yeah, actually. I think I did."
"Well, no good deed must go unrewarded!" Luna continued. She limped out of Kato's arms to stand in the middle of the bed. "I want to pay you back, but I'm not sure what I could give you."
Kato shrugged cluelessly. "Uh, just don't worry about it, I guess…"
Luna's eyes widened as she remembered something. "I've got just the thing!" She hunched down and prepared to jump. She pursed her mouth and slumped down after a moment, realizing that she didn't have the strength to attempt the flying leap she had in mind. She looked at Shingo. "Excuse me?"
"Could you please lift me up?"
Shingo hesitantly picked Luna up under her front legs.
"Now toss me into the air! And try to put some 'twirl' into it."
The elementary-schooler grinned and swung Luna backward and tossed her into the air. Fortunately, despite the force of the throw, she didn't hit the ceiling. There was a bright flash of light, a swirl of magical dust, and a golden disc dropped mid-flip.
Luna crashed into the top of the chest of drawers. Fortunately, she got a soft landing since the boy never put his clothes away until his mother screamed at him to do so. The cat turned around and smiled at her benefactor. "That's for you!"
Kato picked up the golden disc and examined it. It actually looked a bit like a brooch. It had a crescent-shaped indentation and a pink circle on it. Flipping it over, he found nothing but a polished gold surface. "What is it?"
Luna padded her way back around to face Kato. "It's…" she began. "It's…" she paused. "I have absolutely no idea. Don't you know what it is?"
Kato shook his head. "Not a clue."
"Hmm, I'm almost sure that the one I'm supposed to give that to should know what it is and how to use it. Or maybe I'm supposed to know that. I can't remember."
"Maybe we could sell it," suggested Shingo. "You know, earn back some of your lost savings and stuff?"
Luna nodded. "I guess you could do that. Or maybe you could put it on your outfit somewhere and shout 'Moon Prism Power, Make Up'."
Kato laughed slightly at the absurdity of the idea.
"Ooh, wait," Shingo added, examining the disc close-up, "this is like one of those things that they say Sailor V uses. Except she uses a compact. Or maybe it was a pen…"
Luna frowned. "Sailor V?"
Light filled Kato's eyes. "Oh yeah, I heard Umino talking about her."
"What did he say?" Luna asked, looking very interested. "I think I remember a Sailor," she hesitated, unable to find the words, "someone."
Kato shrugged. "He didn't say much. Just something about some Sailor Sushi and whatever." He paused. "Oh! Shingo, can you get out that Fushigi Yuugi stuff I got from Umino? I forgot to ask this morning."
"Not now, Kato! I'm on a roll here!" Shingo rolled his eyes, then looked at the cat. "Sailor V goes around fighting crime in a multicolored school uniform that's, like, a couple sizes too small for her," he explained. "She always wears a mask that looks like a pair of big, obnoxious red glasses, and she's gone all around the country and's been in China for a while. Rumor has it she's going to visit England soon!"
Luna rubbed her head. "Hmm. No, I don't think that's anyone I'd know. My friends wouldn't travel so much. I don't like traveling. It gives me allergies." She turned her head to the side and sneezed a cute kitty-sneeze.
"So this girl uses something and it makes her want to dress weird and fight crime?" Kato wondered.
"And gives her some kind of funky magical powers," Shingo added. "They say she shoots laser beams out of her compact and has patented moves like the Sailor V Kick."
"Where did you find out about all this?" Luna wanted to know.
In that moment, a Sailor V manga slipped out of the pile Shingo had brought in. The young boy quickly stepped in front of it so the others couldn't see. "I, uh—" he began, "—have my sources. I know these things."
"So this is magical?" Kato asked, holding up the golden disc.
Luna nodded. "And I'm sure its activation phrase is 'Moon Prism Power, Make Up'."
Shingo grinned at his brother. "I dare you to try it!"
Kato looked at Luna, who nodded thoughtfully. The boy pursed his lips for a second, then opened his mouth to speak. He hesitated, remembering something important that had been mentioned. "Wait a sec, this isn't going to do anything weird, like turn me into something I don't wanna be, is it?"
"Eh," Shingo said with a shrug, "you've read too many Ranma manga, Kato. It's not gonna turn you into a girl or anything."
Kato blinked at his brother's choice of words. "Um, I didn't say I was worried it'd turn me into a girl. What'd make you think I was worried it'd do that?"
"Eh heh," Shingo laughed nervously. "Nothing, nothing at all."
"Besides, that's ridiculous," Kato continued, turning to Luna. "Isn't it?"
"Isn't what?" Luna asked. She seemed distracted, as if she had been trying to remember something.
The elder brother held up the gold brooch. "This isn't gonna turn me into a girl or anything like that, is it?"
Luna froze, shocked by the idea. After a while, she laughed and waved a paw, shaking her head. "Oh, don't be silly, Kato-kun! I'd never give something to a handsome boy like yourself that'd turn you into—" She giggled again. "—A GIRL. Don't even bother joking about a thing like that!"
Kato cocked a grin at Shingo. "There, see?"
Luna suddenly stopped laughing. "I think I've got a pen that could do that." Kato's grin fell as the cat thought for a moment. "But, no, that'd just be a disguise, and the user would have to ask specifically for it."
Kato looked between Shingo, Luna, and the golden object in his hand. "So, do I try it, or don't I?"
Shingo sighed and grabbed the brooch. "Okay. If you won't, I will." He cleared his throat, held the device aloft, and cried with a dramatic flair in his voice, "Moon Prism Power, Make Up!"
Everyone waited for nearly a full minute, during which nothing happened whatsoever.
"Darn," Shingo muttered under his breath before handing the object back to Kato.
"I guess it won't work for just anyone," Luna noted. She looked at Kato and rubbed her head, still feeling the blow a fender had made to the back of her skull. "You can try it, if you like; but if you don't, it's no big deal. You can sell it, or even—"
Kato stared at the yellowish-orange object. "Well, I might as well see if it'll work. I mean, it couldn't hurt, could it?"
Kato took a deep breath. "Moon—"
*KER-BLAAAAM!* Before the boy could finish his phrase, the room suddenly burst into a bright flash of light.
The magic awakened from its eternally long slumber, seeking the one who was destined to wield its powers. Sensing the boy's presence, it could feel that he was unquestionably the right person.
However, something was wrong: As the magic attempted to assert itself, it ran into a strong resistance. It seemed that either the user was actively blocking it, or the magic was somehow not on the correct wavelength for him. In any case, the power of the planetary soldier could not bond with its master.
Had it simply been the wrong person attempting to activate it, there would have been no problem; it most likely would not even have been disturbed. However, this boy was undoubtedly its true owner.
Instead, acting with a mind and a will of its own, the enchantment metaphorically furrowed its brow and went about trying to discover why the individual's aura continually rejected the power that so desperately wished to be bestowed.
After a few seconds, the intense light melted away, leaving three very dazed sentient beings strewn about the bedroom.
"Cool," Shingo breathed, grinning from ear to ear as he sat up against the wall, his dark blond hair blown backward.
"Mreowwwwww," Luna groaned, stars dancing around her head. "Sorry, Kato-chan. I didn't think it'd do anything like that…"
"Ugghhh." Kato hung off the edge of his bed and rubbed his head. When the brooch went off, the blast had thrown him against his bed's headboard and given him a nasty conk on the noggin. He slipped downward a little, clutching at his sheets and blankets. "Owwww…"
Luna struggled to her feet and limped over to check on Kato to see if he was okay. His legs looked fine, and his arms didn't seem to have any burns on them. Actually, he didn't seem to be wounded at all, aside from the lump forming on his head.
"What happened, Luna?" Kato asked, looking over to his cat. His attention was suddenly drawn to his right hand, where he still held the golden brooch. It was still intact. Moreover, it was glowing.
"I don't know," Luna replied helplessly. "Something good was supposed to happen—"
"I loved it!" Shingo exclaimed. "Do it again!"
Kato leaned forward to examine the disc closer. Finding nothing else, he cautiously placed it on the middle of the bed and slid backwards a little.
The magic was still confused as heck, trying to work out what had gone wrong. It knew that the one who had tried to activate it was the correct one. The power knew its purpose and what it would do under ideal circumstances, but having an intelligence quotient only slightly higher than a trained puppy, it failed to make the right connections between its observations and a proper course of action.
For several seconds, the magic kept trying and failing to assert itself, until, unbidden and unexpected, another force stepped in to provide assistance.
The gold disc's glow solidified and a small, flickering image appeared an inch above its surface.
The transparent figure of a woman, about seven inches tall, hovered in the air before Kato's eyes. She wore a long, white dress with a thin bow and a crescent moon where it ended, cut such that it left her neck, shoulders, and arms bare. On her back were two sets of gossamer wings. Her hair was done in a pair of small, round buns and ponytails that went down to her ankles. Her tresses were also a very pale shade of blonde, such that they appeared somewhere between white and lavender.
The woman smiled faintly, seeming to peer directly into Kato's center of being. The boy stared, transfixed by the sight as she spoke in what was to him the most pure, unaccented and caring voice that had ever reached his ears.
"Help her, Tsukino Kato. You are her only hope."
The image flickered, unable to resolve itself for a few seconds.
"Who was that?" Kato asked, his face very serious. "She was," he briefly searched for the right word, "beautiful."
Shingo blinked hard. "Whoa! Yeah, Luna, who was the BABE?"
"I know her!" Luna replied immediately. "She's—"
As if responding to Shingo's question, the woman reappeared and spoke in that same sweet tone, "My name is Queen Serenity of the Moon Kingdom."
"Serenity," Luna breathed, gazing into the light.
The image of Queen Serenity took a breath. "Many years ago, perhaps even centuries or millennia, I lived on a happy and prosperous world, the Moon. Unfortunately, we had enemies. What we call the Dark Kingdom attacked us and nearly destroyed us all.
"At the last moment, I was able to seal away this great evil, but not before everyone," the woman paused, "including my beloved daughter, the Princess, was taken from me. I tried to save her along with the others, but my magic was not strong enough— She vanished!"
"Princess," Kato whispered, a hint of familiarity in his tone. The title felt very personal and near and dear to him.
"I do not know what happened to her," Queen Serenity added, "but even though I will be long gone and too late to save her, there is another that can. I have foreseen of one that will be able. Somehow, she will be close by him, so close that perhaps he will not know it at first."
Kato glanced over to Shingo, who shrugged cluelessly.
The elegant and ravishing female waved to the space below her. "This talisman, this prism, is for the one chosen to defend the Princess. It was not made for him, but I have done all I can to make certain that it will change to be bearable for him."
"That's comforting to know," Shingo commented.
Luna looked at Kato's brother and put a paw over her mouth. "Shhh!"
Queen Serenity held her hands together. "I will not force anyone to do something that he or she does not wish to do, but I know what will happen to the Princess if you decline to aid her. I also know that there is none other that could do it." Holding her hands up in supplication, and with desperation in her eyes and voice, she finished by saying, "Help her, Tsukino Kato. You are her only hope."
The image above the brooch flickered and vanished, as did the glow surrounding the magical talisman.
Nobody said anything for about five minutes.
"Say," Shingo finally piped up, "you gonna help this girl, Kato?" He winked. "I'll bet that Princess'll be very grateful, and if she's even HALF as good-looking as her mom…" He trailed off, shivering in delight at the possibilities.
Kato continued to stare after the departed images as if it were something intensely personal and meaningful. "It feels like," he exhaled, "I've met her before, a long, long time ago. It's like I want to go over to her and spend hours in her arms…"
"Tell me about it!" Shingo nodded vigorously in agreement. "I could do with some of that!"
Shaking off the nostalgia and forgetting his surprise at his own words, Kato recalled that his little brother had long ago passed the stage of having the notion that girls are icky, perhaps a little sooner than he should have.
"So, what'cha gonna do?" Shingo asked, looking at his brother. "Gonna help her out, or what?"
"The Princess," Luna whispered. "Yes, the Princess!" She lifted her gaze toward Kato. "That's who I was looking for! You're the one that's supposed to know where she is." At the boy's blank expression, she amended, "Or at least be able to figure out where she might be." She smiled hopefully. "C'mon, whaddaya say?"
For once in his life, Kato thought carefully about his response and the implications of actually having to maybe get up every morning and look for a girl that he had no clue about how to find.
Then the phone rang.
The phone rang again and again. After the fifth time, a wearied Ikuko called up, "Kato! Can you get that for me, please? I'm kind of busy right now!"
"Uh, sure, Mom!" Kato replied. "Be back in a sec," he told the others, then walked out, went down the stairs and picked up the phone when it rang for the eighth time. When he put the receiver to his ear, there was nothing but a dial tone. Frowning, he replaced the phone on the hook.
The phone started ringing again. This time, Kato picked it up just after the first ring. "Mushi-mushi?"
"Excuse me?!" the voice of Naru replied on the other side. "Bug-bug?!"
Kato shook his head in an effort to clear it, but it was still a lot more full than it was used to being. If felt like he had been trying, but failing, to remember some ancient, forgotten language. "What? Oh! Sorry, Naru-chan. I meant to say 'moshi-moshi.'"
"K-chan, I CAN'T believe you mispronounced it like that," Naru muttered incredulously. "I mean, you're a little clueless sometimes, but even if you can't muster decent grades in Japanese, you can still SPEAK it okay. Or, at least, I thought you could."
"I'm sorry," Kato repeated. "It's just that I've been a bit distracted today."
"Distracted enough to not know how to say 'hi' on the phone?!"
"Um," Kato began hesitantly, "sort of. Remember the cat I had earlier? Well, she talks. She says her name's Luna, but Shingo and I wanted to call her Mokona, but then we decided that she talks too much to be called Mokona."
There was a long silence on the other end of the line. "Oookay, that's nice. You didn't trip and hit your head again, did you?"
Kato blinked. "Umm, no. Why?"
There was another uncomfortable pause. "No reason, Kato. No reason at all." The girl's voice was starting to sound a bit strained, but continued to be supportive and friendly. "So, what else did your cat say?"
"Not a whole bunch, really. She gave me this gold-brooch-thingy and told me to say 'Moon Prism Power,' but that didn't work and it sort of blew up in my face and this woman appeared in the air in front of me and told me that I was her daughter's only hope. She said she was a queen and her daughter was a princess, so then Luna, my cat, asks me if I want to try and help her find the princess and all that."
There was yet another long silence on the other end.
Kato shifted the phone to his other ear. "What do you think I should do, Naru? Should I take the job?"
Naru started laughing softly.
The boy's frown returned. "What?"
"I think," the girl giggled, "you've been reading too many shoujo manga, K-chan. I mean, a talking cat, a magical brooch, and a princess? Get real."
"But I don't read shoujo manga," Kato said. "Well, apart from Rayearth and," he paused, trying to remember the title, "that other one. Does Revolutionary Girl Utena count as shoujo manga?"
"Yes, it does, but what about all that Fushigi Yuugi that Umino said you borrowed?"
"That was for Shingo. He REALLY likes that kind of stuff."
"Right, right, of course…" Naru cleared her throat. "The reason why I'm calling is because everyone downstairs in the store started acting really weird, like a bunch of zombies."
"You've got zombies downstairs and you think it's weird that my cat's been talking to me?"
Naru groaned for a few seconds.
Kato held the phone away and stared at it until the moan dropped to tolerable levels.
"Kato," Naru sighed, "I didn't say there WERE zombies downstairs. I said that everyone started acting LIKE zombies."
The boy leaned against the wall and again switched which ear he held the phone against. "Oh yeah. You're right."
"Anyway, things have gotten a bit weird around here and I just wanted someone to talk to until it all calmed down."
A happy gleam came to the blond's eyes as he stared up at the ceiling while twiddling the phone cord between his fingers. "Wow, so the first person you wanted to talk to was me? That's great, Naru!"
"What can I say?" Naru added in a tone that suggested that she was shrugging. "You're like a brother to me."
"That's nice to hear," Kato commented softly with a slight smile, "I mean, at least I'm something." He laughed quietly before continuing. "So, they're acting weird there?"
"Yeah, a little bit," Naru admitted, her voice starting to sound a bit more calm than when she had first called. "Eh, maybe it's nothing. The whole thing'll probably sort itself out in a few minutes."
Kato nodded, rubbing his foot against the wall. "Yeah, maybe they will." He heard a faint tapping on the other end. "What's that?"
"What's what?" Naru asked, pausing to listen. "Oh, that. Someone's knocking on my door. Talking to you, I barely noticed. I'll be back in a second."
Kato heard Naru set down the phone. "She's got a phone in her room?" he asked himself, then shrugged as he answered his own question. "Well, her mom makes a lot of money, so I guess it's…" He trailed off when he heard a loud crunching of wood on the line, followed by a scream. He heard Naru pick up the phone.
"KATO!" Naru pleaded. "They ARE zombies! THEY'RE BREAKING THROUGH—"
"Naru???" Kato asked urgently, his heart skipping a beat. "Naru!" His eyes widened when he heard the cutoff signal. "Oh boy…"
"I wonder what's taking Kato so long?" Shingo asked rhetorically, turning over and examining the gold Moon Brooch in his hands.
"Shall we go to see him?" Luna asked, looking up at the preteen and padding towards him.
Shingo nodded. "Yeah," he said, and turned over the brooch again. "I want to see how this thing really works!"
"Could you pick me up, please?" Luna requested, rubbing her injured front leg with the side of her furry face.
Shingo nodded his assent and gingerly picked up Luna. "You know, before, I really didn't like cats. But you're cool, Luna."
"You've decided on what to call me, then?" the cat with the crescent mark asked as she rode under the boy's arm down the stairs.
"Uh-huh. I thought about it and I guess Luna's not such a bad name after all." Shingo laughed to himself. "It sure beats 'Tral-fazz.' Kato once named a hamster that."
"Tral-fazz?" Luna wrinkled her nose. "Yeesh…"
When they reached the bottom of the stairs and entered the kitchen, they saw that Kato had put down the phone and was frantically running his fingers through his short hair, muttering to himself, "Oh-no-oh-dear-oh-boy-what-do-I-do-what-do-I-do???"
Shingo tilted his head at his brother. "Uh, Kato, what is it?"
The yellow-blond started panting while explaining quickly, "Something bad's going on at Naru's house! Something about zombies breaking down her door!"
Luna gasped. "Oh dear!"
Shingo's eyes widened at that. "Whoa, really?!"
Kato nodded. "Yeah, they just got her, and I don't know—"
Shingo grinned. "Cool!" He clenched a fist and shook it around excitedly. "Man, we GOTTA do something!"
"Right!" Kato nodded quickly and, obviously calling upon the many training sessions given at school, picked up the phone again and dialed an emergency number. After a couple of rings, it was picked up. "Moshi-moshi, yes, hello and—? What? Yeah! I was on the phone with Naru— she's this girl that lives a few blocks away— and she screamed and her door got knocked down by zombies and I don't know what happened to her and—"
The boy trailed off as he listened to the response.
"Umm, yeah," he added after a moment. "I was talking to the girl that lives down the street and she said people were acting like zombies, only later they came into her room and they really WERE zombies…"
Shingo bounced impatiently on his feet while his brother listened.
"Umm, okay, I guess if that's the best you can do. But she's in real trouble!" Kato listened for a few more seconds. "Well, okay, bye." He hung up the phone.
"What did they say?" Shingo asked anxiously.
Kato turned to face his brother. "They said that the zombie divisions are fighting a riot in the cemetery and couldn't be over for a few more hours." He frowned. "But we can't wait that long…"
Shingo slapped his forehead. "Um, Kato? They were being sarcastic. They don't deal with zombies." He thought about that. "At least not the flesh-and-brain-eating kind."
"Oh," Kato said softly, then once more picked up the phone. "Then maybe I should tell them something different so that they'd come over anyway?"
Shingo chuckled softly and held up the magical disc so that his brother could see it. "I've got a better idea."
Luna gasped and nodded wholeheartedly in agreement. "Yes, that's it! You can use those powers to defend your lady-friend!"
Kato took the brooch when his brother handed it to him. "But what do I do? That 'Moon Prism Power' thing didn't work last time." He held the object in his hand and stared at it pensively. "Moon Prism Power, Make Up?"
"Come on," Shingo prodded, "say it like you mean it!"
The blond furrowed his brow and stared at the magical item, nothing much on his mind other than trying to help Naru. "Hmm!!! "Muuun Pahrisuhhhm… Powaaaaaaah!!!"
The magic, which was still trying to adjust to the wishes of Queen Serenity, sensed the strong desire for its owner to activate it. Unprepared to be called upon so soon after receiving such unorthodox instructions, the magic frantically tried to piece together a suitable template to follow and made what last-minute adjustments it could.
Finally, seizing upon a semi-familiar pattern, the power and magic flared into action.
Outwardly, the pink dot on the golden device flickered and a sparkling dust rose off of the brooch, twirling around in the air for a moment.
Kato heard a faint, familiar voice whisper, "Thank you, brave one. I wish you luck." He recognized it from the woman that had appeared to him earlier.
*BZZRRREEEOOOWWW!!!* The disc vanished from his fingers in a wash of light, which spread out in a transparent ring of gold. The magic rose above Kato and came down upon him all at once.
For several seconds, the boy glowed with a tremendous power as the swirling, confused magic desperately tried to weave itself into a passably compatible state for him.
Naru had never been grabbed and hauled off by zombies before. It was a lot less traumatic than she thought it would be. None of them were rotting or anything. In fact, most of them were in at least semi-formal attire. Actually, they looked exactly like the customers that had come in earlier for the sales.
Wait a minute, they WERE the customers from earlier this morning, and later that day, and at night…
All the people from the sale were here, and their combined strength was more than enough to render her immobile while they hauled her downstairs and brought her before her mother, who looked just as zonked-out as the rest of them.
"Mom," Naru began as she was tossed to the floor in front of the woman. "I'd ask you what's going on, but I don't think I'd get much of an answer, would I?"
The redheaded jeweler just stared at her daughter in reply.
A black vortex formed behind Naru's mother and another woman appeared. She was blonde, tan, and had a puffed-out ponytail. She was also wearing a slightly modified version of a dark grey bunny suit, minus the ears.
"WAAAAH!" the blonde cried, falling down and planting herself face first into the floor for a second before standing back up. "I just can't seem to get the hang of teleporting…"
"Who the heck are you?!" Naru asked, standing up and glancing at the motionless people around her before glaring back at the newcomer.
"I'm General Mihoshi of the Dark Imperium," the blonde replied brightly, bowing several times in rapid succession. "I'm SO happy to meet you!" She flashed a pleasant smile at the girl. "Who are you; what's your name?"
"Err, Molly," Naru lied, deciding to stay cautious in this situation. "Did YOU do this to everyone?!"
General Mihoshi nodded vigorously. "Umm-hmm!" She clasped her hands in front of her and stars appeared in her wide eyes. "I'm working for the Emperor, and he needs to borrow a whole bunch of energy for a while so he can resurrect this really nice, kind, and wise leader to help us, you know, bring stability to the planet!"
Naru's mind made the connection. She motioned toward those around her. "So, you're draining ALL of them for their LIFE energy?!" She shook her head disapprovingly and glared at Mihoshi. "That's evil!"
"No, no, no! We're only borrowing the energy, really! We'll give it back later, and besides they won't miss it in a day or two. Don't you want to help us by letting us have some of your energy too?" The woman held a hand to her cheek, looking worried. "If I don't get enough, Emperor Beryl might yell at me again!"
Naru took up a defensive posture. She had never attended a single martial arts class, nor seen anything real demonstrated to her, but she had read a LOT of Ranma ½ and Kenshin manga with Kato and Umino, so naturally, she knew everything there was to fighting. "Kiiiiiiiiii—"
Or not. Mihoshi scrunched up her face and waved a hand. A pair of Naru's friends from school reached up and grabbed her arms from behind. Another two dove down on the ground and secured her legs. Naru looked forward to see Mihoshi approach.
"Okay, Molly, taking your energy might sting at first," the Dark Imperium General said in what she tried to make a reassuring tone as she reached towards her victim, "but it doesn't hurt all that much, really! It's just like taking a nap. There's no need to struggle or scream or—"
"—AAAAAAAAAAH!!!!" Naru screamed as loud and hard as she could.
"Waaaah! Why'd you have to go and scream?" Mihoshi whined. "I know you'd be much happier if you just went along with it. Just think about how you'll be helping the planet!" She wrung her hands and made a gesture toward her zombies.
A large, possessed woman reached forward and clamped her hand over Naru's mouth.
"Ouch," the controlled lady muttered in monotone, withdrawing her hand when Naru bit her fingers.
"AAAAAAAAAAH!!! HELP!!!" Naru continued to scream, struggling against her captors.
"GET AWAY FROM NARU-CHAN, ALL YOU EVIL ZOMBIES, YOU!!!" a forced voice from the doorway cried.
General Mihoshi blinked and looked around before turning to face the speaker. "Huh? Who's Naru?"
Naru tilted her head and squinted into the light surrounding a silhouette by the door. "All right! I'm saved!" She motioned with her head toward Mihoshi, hoping that her rescuer would get the clue. "Get her! She's the one behind this!"
Mihoshi held up her hand to block out the glare from the outside lamps. "Hey, who are you? Are you here to help donate some energy?"
Some dramatic music would have been appropriate at this point, for when the figure stepped forward, his silhouette cast the sort of shadow that usually had evil shaking in its grimy boots.
Then the effect died down when they could finally make out his features. Naru couldn't recognize him, but he was a young man somewhere between fourteen and seventeen with short blond hair. He wore a blue tuxedo with a white shirt and a red cape flowing behind him. He had on formal black shoes and wore a pair of white gloves.
"I," the boy began, "am Tsukino Kato." He fidgeted, as if struggling to come up with something appropriate to say. "I-I fight for— I don't know! It's just that you got here and the zombies and the— Well, just stop hurting Naru, okay?!"
Naru raised an eyebrow. "K-chan?!" After a moment, she found that she could easily recognize her best friend in the tux. Her jaw dropped and she boggled at the concept.
"Kato's wearing a tuxedo," she whispered to herself in disbelief. "He's never worn a tux before…" In the next instant, she found herself unable to resist tossing out an off-color remark. Stifling a laugh, she whistled approvingly. "Whoo! Looking GOOD, K-chan! What's the occasion? Finally find yourself a girl that actually wants to date you?"
Kato ran his fingers nervously through his hair and replied, "Um, not really, Naru-chan. It's kind of a long story…"
"Well, I'm glad you're here!" Naru shot back. "Now would you mind rescuing me already?!"
The young man jumped back to attention. "Oh, right!" He tried to go through a few dramatic poses, but his muscles appeared to be rebelling against him. After straining for a long set of moments, he settled into a wide stance while pointing at Mihoshi. "I'm Tsukino Kato," he repeated, "I—"
Behind the young man entered an even younger boy with darker blond hair dressed in a green and yellow shirt with jeans, carrying a cat. Naru recognized him as Kato's younger brother, Shingo.
Shingo slapped his forehead and groaned when he caught the last few fragments of the speech. "Kato!" he reprimanded his older brother. "You're not supposed to tell the bad guys what your real name is!"
"I think your brother has the right idea," agreed a voice from the direction of the cat, who was squirming to try to find a more comfortable position in Shingo's arms.
Naru's eyes widened. "K-chan," she exclaimed, "do you realize that your brother's holding a talking cat?!" She pursed her lips, the oddity of it all almost having made her forget her dire situation for the moment. "And where'd you get the tux?"
"That's not important!" the cat replied quickly.
"He'll tell you later," Shingo declared. "Right now he has some zombies to fry!" He looked up at his brother. "Let's try this again, with feeling!"
"I know, I know," Kato muttered, straightening his tuxedo jacket before pointing at General Mihoshi. "Ahem! You shouldn't go around trying to hurt people, or—"
"Or drain their energy!" Naru added.
General Mihoshi blinked a couple of times at the conversation that had gone on between the group. She looked around at everyone quizzically.
"He's come here to stop you!" Shingo announced to the general, pointing at his brother.
"That's right!" the cat agreed.
"You have?" General Mihoshi asked Kato, who nodded. She took out a pen and a notepad. "Well, then. I'm writing you a ticket," she beamed, "for interfering with Imperial business."
Kato's shoulders slumped. "Awwwww, man… Not a ticket!"
Mihoshi nodded enthusiastically. "Umm-hmm!" She scribbled a few things down on the paper in front of her.
"Mom's gonna kill me," Kato moaned dejectedly. "I'll never be able to pay off a ticket…"
Naru rolled her eyes and groaned. "K-chan, did you know that the word 'gullible' isn't in the dictionary?"
"Really?" Kato asked with a blink. "I'm going to have to look that up sometime…"
Naru's groan intensified. If her best friend had been a girl, she would have been calling him a blonde ditz. As it stood, she'd have to settle for thinking of him as an airhead. "Ugggggghhhhhh…"
"So, what kind of neat, mean and dirty energy attack does Kato have?" Shingo asked the cat in his arms.
The black kitty put a paw to her temple. "Hmmm," she began, "let me think…"
"Oh! And what did you say your name was?" Mihoshi looked up from her notepad and over at the blond, expecting a quick and direct response.
"Errrr," Kato began, a drop of sweat forming on his brow, "I'm, uhhh…"
Shingo motioned for him to stop. "Don't tell her! They'll get after you for that, like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
"I never read that one," Kato whispered back, tugging at the jacket of his tuxedo. It fit him perfectly, as if it had been tailored specifically for him, but the stress of the situation made him feel itchy.
"It's a movie," Shingo replied, and pointed at General Mihoshi. "Now hit her with your patented energy blaster or whatever it is that tux lets you do!"
"You have powers, I'm certain of it," the black cat confirmed. She looked as if she were straining to dig into her memory for the explanation.
Mihoshi gasped and pulled out what looked like a small handgun. She frantically pointed it at Kato, then at Shingo, Naru, then back again. "Stay back and don't try to use any firearms. By order of the Dark Imperium, I'm placing you all under arrest for threatening to assault one of the Emperor's Generals and for interfering with Imperial energy taxation."
Kato, Naru, and Shingo looked at each other, then back at the general.
"Do you still want to drain all of our energy?" Naru asked, making some headway against those that held her captive, slipping a wrist further out of one of the girls' grips.
Mihoshi's head bobbed up and down. "Yes! I must complete my duty. Now please cooperate!" Her eyes were big and full of hope. "Pleasepleaseplease!" Were it not for the gun in her hands, it would have looked like she was begging.
"Get 'er!" Shingo shouted at his brother, waving a finger at General Mihoshi.
"With WHAT?!" Kato asked, looking at the cat Shingo had while holding his hands up in clueless worry. "Luna, what do I do???"
"Sheesh, this sure is SOME rescue party you've managed to put together, K-chan!" Naru shouted impatiently. "I can't WAIT to see what you'll come up with next!"
Kato winced at that, and asked, "Uh, Luna?"
"Ah, yes, now I remember. Ahem! Take off your tiara," the cat recited— her name was Luna, Naru remembered— "Charge it up, and throw it at her, saying, 'Moon Tiara Action'." She paused. "Or was that Moon Frisbee? I can never remember…"
Kato blinked at the cat. "Um, what's a tiara?"
"It's kind of like a girl's crown," Luna replied in a meditative voice.
The blond checked his pockets and his bare forehead, then shrugged with his mouth hanging open. "Errrrmmhhh, I don't have any of those!"
Mihoshi pointed her firearm at Kato. "Throw down your weapons and put your hands up!" With a click, she deactivated the safety. "I mean it! This is a mark four special issue laser pistol with eight beam settings with auto-fire and a recharge function. It could hurt you really, really badly, so please cooperate, okay???"
Kato lifted his hands into the air, not having anything else to do since he had no weapons, had no special strengths that he seemed to be aware of, and didn't look to have any plan of attack.
*Whoosh!*Chink!* Then a sharp, long-stemmed rose came flying on the scene from above, nicking Mihoshi's hand and knocking her gun away before imbedding itself in the ground by the woman's feet.
"Owwwie!" Mihoshi cried, nursing her stricken hand. Tears started to fill her eyes as she looked up to the window where stood another man wearing a tuxedo.
"Believe in yourself, Sailor Moon," the tall, black-tuxedoed man said in a distant voice in Kato's general direction. He wore a top hat, a white mask covered his eyes, and he held a short black cane in one hand.
Naru saw Luna's eyes widen in realization. "That's it!" the cat cried, looking over at Kato. "The powers you possess are of the Soldier of the Moon, Sailor Moon, the warrior for Love and Justice! You are Sailor Moon, my darling boy!"
Naru coughed in disbelief. "'My darling boy?!'" She stared at Luna. "Oh, great, he finally gets a girlfriend and she's a CAT!" Louder, she quipped, "Wow, K-chan, you got yourself a cat-girl! I never thought you had it in you!"
Kato paused, shrugged off his best friend's remark, and whispered to himself, "Sailor Moon…" For some incomprehensible reason, the title sounded about right. He shrugged and called back to Luna, "Okay! I guess that'll work." He looked up at the masked man. "Thanks! Who are you?"
"I am Tuxedo Kamen," the taller tuxedo-wearer replied, leaping down to stand in front of the boy, "I have come to help you, Sailor Mo…" He trailed off and frowned, tilting his head quizzically, as if seeing Kato for the first time. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry."
Naru whistled softly as she caught sight of the tall man. "Hey, now THIS guy's good-looking!
Tuxedo Kamen turned away, gripping his heart as if suddenly getting VERY bad chest pains. "I was expecting someone else. Anyway, Sailor," he trailed off in thought for a moment, "whoever-you-are, you must have confidence if you wish to defeat the monsters of the Dark Kingdom—"
"It's the Dark Imperium!" General Mihoshi corrected him, starting to kneel down to pick up her pistol. "And don't be so mean!" she whined. "We're not monsters. We're the good guys, really!"
"Whatever," Tuxedo Kamen replied. He paused and looked at the general, whose hand had just touched the side of her weapon. "Sailor," he looked to be having trouble getting the name out, but he couldn't seem to get anything else to come, "Moon! Stop her right now!"
*THWACK!* Naru finally got her hand free and dove at General Mihoshi, delivering a nasty, sharp slap to the woman's cheek.
"OWWWW!!!" Mihoshi yelped, stumbling backward and dropping her gun again. "Heeeey," she whispered, rubbing her reddened cheek. "Don't you know it's against the Imperial Laws to slap a General?!" She held her hands together. "Now I'm going to have to use force to apprehend you! Those who break the law cannot escape punishment!"
General Mihoshi held her hands together, gathering the energy she had collected so far from the human beings in the room. "Okay, guys, I'm soooooooooo sorry about this," she said with teary puppy dog eyes. "This is gonna hurt a bit, but you brought this on yourselves. Please, please, PLEASE try to remember that!"
Shingo looked up at his brother as the light grew stronger. "Uhhh, hey, err, Sailor Moon? You better do SOMETHING. This looks BAD!"
"But I don't," Sailor Moon began, then stopped as something clicked on the Moon Brooch. Looking down, he noticed that it hung from a long gold chain around his neck.
The Lunar Magic worked overtime on correcting the problem of how to enable its owner to generate some sort of energy-based attack.
The primary mechanism for doing so, the tiara, had been lost in the struggle to adapt to the owner. Only too late did the Magic realize that it could have made something like a crown or a top hat to serve the same function.
At the moment when it thought it would run out of power to make any further modifications, it felt Queen Serenity's wishes; her hopes, dreams, love, and desire to protect her daughter flow through it.
With a renewed sense of purpose, the Magic found a way to make it work, and whispered into its owner's mind what he had to do.
Suddenly, Kato's demeanor changed. He remembered how sad and injured Luna was when he first encountered her. He recalled the woman who pleaded for him to save her daughter, and he thought of how he felt when he heard Naru's frightened cry.
Despite all of his fear of being beaten up, he had rescued Luna, and she had been grateful. Even though he had no idea how, he had promised to save the Princess, and the Queen had thanked him for even being willing to try. And even though he had no weapons, no fighting skill, and as he saw the Dark Imperium General prepare her deadly attack, he realized something.
Naru was his friend, and even if it cost him his life, he'd do all he could to save her as well.
*SHRONG!* The boy in the blue tuxedo felt something burn on his forehead and a rush of power go through his body.
"Whoa!" Shingo cried, his eyes going wide.
"It's the symbol for the Moon!" Luna announced.
*THWACK!* In the next instant, Sailor Moon found his right hand slamming directly into Mihoshi's cheek, and his elbow rose to connect with her lower ribcage.
*WHAM-WHAM-WHAM-WHACKKK!!!* "WAAAAH!" General Mihoshi cried as she got brutally pummeled all around the room. She lost her control on the destructive power she had been gathering and it dissipated into the air.
*THWAM!* Finally, Sailor Moon kicked the Dark Imperium General aside, sending her reeling backward onto her rear. The boy found himself assuming a martial arts pose that he'd never seen before. Breathing hard and shocked by the action, he took stock of what he just did. "Wow…"
"Neat-o!" Shingo exclaimed hopping up and down in excitement. "Now name your attack! Call it something cool!"
"Uh, Moon Pummeling Action?" Sailor Moon ventured to say. He paused, thinking of the words. "Moon" and "Action" felt appropriate, and "Pummeling" seemed to be the right descriptive term for what he just did.
Naru stared at him. "K-chan's actually fighting back," she whispered to herself. "I never thought I'd live to see the day…"
"Well done, Sailor Moon!" Luna breathed in appreciation, a broad smile growing on her face.
"WAAAH!" Mihoshi screamed briefly in fright and pain. "Owwwwie!" She leaned forward and held her face and ribs, a large bruise starting to form on her entire body. Tears started flowing from her eyes. "What did you have to do THAT for?! WAAAAAH!"
The zombified humans started falling to the ground, moaning and groaning as they were freed from the general's control.
Naru slipped her feet out of the now-limp hands grasping them and took a menacing step towards General Mihoshi.
Kato winced at the General's pathetic sobs. The burning on his forehead subsided. "Oh! I'm sorry…" he whispered softly.
"You did what you had to do," Shingo said, patting his brother on the shoulder. With a grin he added, "And you say you've never read Fushigi Yuugi. That ROCKED! Heh heh…"
Sailor Moon blinked at his brother's comment. "What do you mean?"
Tuxedo Kamen's expression remained neutral.
Naru glared at General Mihoshi. "Do you STILL want to drain my energy???" she demanded to know.
Mihoshi dried her tears and looked nervously between Naru and Sailor Moon. "Ummmmmm!"
"If she does," Luna noted to Kato, "then you'll have to stop her."
Kato nodded grimly. "Okay…" He held his hands up in fists and asked in a not-so-commanding voice, "So, do you, like, want to stop trying to hurt Naru-chan, or—"
"I wasn't going to hurt her," Mihoshi protested, "I was just going to borrow all her life energy and—"
"That would kill her," Luna said, sounding awfully sure of herself for once.
"Yeah, that's evil!" Naru explained, drawing close and getting ready to throw a punch or a kick, should the woman try to pull any other tricks.
General Mihoshi suddenly dove for her gun, accidentally knocking over Naru in the process, and managed to pick it up.
"Stop her, Sailor Moon!" Luna cried.
"Yaaah!" Naru shouted in surprise, crashing to the floor with a loud thump. A second later, she found the gun pointed right at her face. "AAAH!"
"Now, Sailor Moon!" Luna cried.
Kato again felt the burning on his forehead. He let out a yell and held his right hand above his head. A very large, light-red heart-shaped energy disc appeared, spinning quickly enough to look like a disc. "Moon," he said, his jaw moving in such a strained manner that it appeared as though it would break if he did not voice the words, "Spinning Heart Attack!!!"
The boy chucked the thick, glowing heart at General Mihoshi.
Tuxedo Kamen responded even more quickly than Kato did, taking out a set of three roses, two of which he sent flying blossom-first into Mihoshi's face and the other went stem-first at the gun, knocking the strange pistol behind a far-away counter.
*CRAAASH!* The light-red heart slammed into Mihoshi, shattering on impact and driving her up against the wall in a spray of sparkling special effects.
"YEAH!" Shingo cheered, waving his arms over his head.
"WAAAAH!" General Mihoshi cried, holding her hands against the wall in horror. "That stings soooo baaaaaaaaad!"
"Then maybe you shouldn't have tried to go for the gun!" Naru nearly growled, picking herself up off the ground.
"Yeah!" Shingo agreed, nodding emphatically. He shook a fist in the air at the woman. "Now we've got YOU! Do you surrender?"
"Yes! Yes! I give up!" Mihoshi cried, holding her hands up, wincing from her bruises. Her eyes were tightly closed. "What are you criminals gonna do to meeeeeeee?"
"None of us are criminals," Tuxedo Kamen said in a wearied voice, seeming to have recovered from his initial surprise.
Kato stepped around the taller tuxedoed man and added, "Yeah, we're not criminals." He sighed in a flustered manner. "Look, draining people's energy and attacking innocent girls like my friend Naru," he waved at the brunette, "is just plain wrong. You shouldn't be doing that!"
"And if you do it again," Shingo added while starting to go through some pretty odd poses, "in the name of the Moon, he will punish you! 'Cause he's SAILOR MOON, the Soldier Against Evil That Fights for Love and Justice, with his Moon Pummeling Action, got it?!"
"Sailor Moon?" Mihoshi asked, looking at Tuxedo Kamen, who shook his head and pointed at the younger man beside him.
The tuxedoed youth nodded slightly. "Yeah, so just leave, okay?"
"Yeah!" Shingo shouted in agreement. "Get lost!"
The blonde general in the bunny-suit blinked a few times. "You mean," she sniffled, her great, big eyes full of tears, "you're going to just let me go?"
"Uh, sure," Kato replied quickly, "if you promise not to come back and try to hurt Naru or anything like that."
"Now get out of here," Naru said with a sigh, tapping her foot on the tile.
"Oh! Of course not! I wouldn't want to hurt anybody," Mihoshi said, her voice dripping with sincerity. A bright smile instantly came to her lips. She quickly jumped up while those near her backed off, clapping her hands for joy, hopping up and down. "Thankyouthank youthankyouthankyou!!! You're the nicest bunch of criminals I've ever met!" She waved. "Thanks again. Bye!"
General Mihoshi of the Dark Imperium levitated into the air and a black vortex appeared behind her. Her image wavered, and in another moment, she was gone.
Everyone stared after her for a while after she left.
Tuxedo Kamen clutched the bridge of his nose with his fingertips, looking like he was experiencing a severe headache.
Naru ran up to the tall man, hearts beating in her eyes. "Hello, handsome! Thanks for coming in to save me!"
"You're welcome," Tuxedo Kamen replied, glancing over at Kato before shaking his head and turning away. "I must go now."
Before anyone could get in a word edgewise, the man in black had leapt into the air and flew out the large, open, second-story window.
"Oh," Naru added, seeming to take notice of Kato for the first time in the past few minutes, "and thanks to you too, K-chan."
The blond shrugged, not looking like he knew all that well how to deal with gratitude. "Umm, you're welcome." He smiled. "But I'm sure glad you're okay, Naru-chan!"
Luna struggled up higher in Shingo's grasp. "Excellent work, Sailor Moon."
"Wow, K-chan," Naru began, taking a few steps closer and looking sideways at the kitty. "So you really do have a talking cat…"
Luna nodded proudly. "Indeed he does." She hopped over to Kato's shoulder. It was only a couple of feet away. "He did me a big favor earlier today." She rubbed her furry cheek against the side of the boy's face. "And now he's even agreed to help look for my lost Princess!"
Naru stared and started counting off on her fingers. "A talking cat, magical powers, an evil general, and now a princess…" She frowned. "And you're Sailor Moon, a guy that fights for love and justice? That's funny, you don't look like a sailor."
"I'm still trying to figure that one out," Kato admitted. He yawned. "Well, Naru-chan, since you're safe for now, can we talk about this tomorrow?"
"Awww, don't leave me in the dark about this," the girl insisted. "Come on, be a pal!"
The large group of people scattered about the room started sitting up and glancing around. The still looked exhausted, but they were at least moving like normal people.
"Okay, I'll tell you while we make sure everyone's okay," Sailor Moon said with a nod.
"Heh," Shingo chuckled, grabbing his brother by the arm. "No, now is when we have to make our dramatic exit."
"But why?" Kato asked, tugging against the younger boy's pull. "I want to make sure everyone's okay."
"And I want to know the details on what's going on," Naru added.
Shingo shook his head. "You don't know the first thing about the superhero business, do you? We can't stick around after the job's done. It just isn't how these things are done!"
"Come to think of it," Luna said, "it would probably be a good thing to keep a sort of secret identity for now."
"Yeah!" Shingo agreed. "For security reasons. I don't want to wake up to vampires knocking at my window all the time."
"Oh," Kato replied with a frown, suddenly unable to combat Shingo's logic. "In that case…" He turned around and waved. "I gotta go, Naru-chan. I'll tell you later."
The brunette laughed to herself and shook her head at the insanity of it all. "Hoookay, bye, K-chan. But call me when you get home, okay?"
Kato brightened. "Sure!"
Shingo, Luna, and Sailor Moon slipped out the door.
Naru's mother regained consciousness and struggled to stand. "Naru?" she asked, looking at the girl. "What just happened?"
"That's a long story," Naru replied with a sigh, "but it starts with…" She trailed off when she thought about how she could explain the whole thing in a reasonable manner. Finding none, she continued, "Have you ever heard of mass hallucination?"
"And then BAM, POW!" Shingo commented as they walked through the door to their house, chuckling at the memory. "That was a GREAT Tamahome impression, Kato!"
"Who's Tamahome?" the tuxedoed boy asked blankly.
"You've had those manga all this time and you haven't read it?" Shingo asked incredulously. He turned and shut the door.
"What manga?" a woman's voice asked.
Kato and Naru whirled around to see their mother looking very disapprovingly in their direction.
"And WHAT were you two doing out so late?" Tsukino Ikuko asked, glaring at them.
"Ummm," Kato began, looking for all the world like a pet rabbit that had been cheerfully hopping about the back yard until the moment that it realized what the big, winged shadow circling about it meant.
"W-well, umm, y-y-you see," Shingo stuttered.
"I'm waiting," the tall woman said in a deathly patient voice that screamed if they didn't have a very good excuse, then they would be in very, very deep trouble.
"Um, about the manga," Shingo fidgeted, "I can explain!"
"And what are you doing with that dirty, messed up cat on your shoulder, Kato?!"
Luna blinked and frowned while the two boys attempted to explain themselves.
"Right, zombies at Naru's house, and you were keeping the manga for someone else. Of course!" Ikuko didn't look so convinced.
"But," Luna finally spoke up, "I can vouch for them if you'll let me!"
The blue-haired woman's expression fell. "Err, did that cat just talk?"
Luna nodded. "Yes."
In a refined accent, the Moon cat proceeded to tell of her trials, difficulties, and extolled the boys' virtues, bravery, and honor. She sang praises to Kato's kindheartedness, and outlined the mission she had been sent on.
Ikuko started feeling faint and had to sit down.
"And thus my homeland was destroyed," Luna continued, "and our beloved Queen sacrificed her life to bring the souls of her friends and family forward to the present date! She has chosen Kato, your absolutely WONDERFUL son, to seek out the Princess, and guide her to safety, so saith my Queen!"
The black cat took a deep breath, looking into the woman's eyes, convicted of every word of her speech.
Kato and Shingo's mother stared back at the cat, then at the boys. In a defeated voice, she muttered, "Okay, you're off the hook this time." She motioned toward the refrigerator. "There's some leftover tuna. Give the cat something to eat." She stood. "I need to go lie down."
Ikuko walked off to her room and closed the door.
Sitting down at the kitchen table, Kato and Shingo breathed a sigh of relief.
"That was a close one," the younger brother whispered.
Kato looked down at his tuxedo. "Hmm, now how do I get this this off…?" He tugged at the chain around his neck and removed the Moon Brooch.
In a wash of light, the boy's normal clothes reappeared.
"Oh, okay," the blond commented.
"Dark Imperium," Luna thought aloud. "That's odd. I was almost certain that it was the Dark Kingdom. And I don't remember a General Mihoshi. I remember Generals Jadeite and Zoicite. Kunzite, certainly, but most definitely not 'Mihoshi'…"
"So, tell me more about this Moon Princess," Shingo said to Luna, distracting her from her present train of thought. "Is she pretty?"
The cat looked up at him. "Hmmm? Oh, yes, she was arguably the most beautiful young lady in the entire realm."
"Oh yeah, your tuna," Kato remembered, placing his cat on the table. He got up, went over to the refrigerator, and dug out the food in question. It was in a ceramic bowl. He put it in the microwave and set the timer.
"Where do you think she could be?" Shingo continued.
"The Queen said," Luna recalled, "that she is closer than we might think."
"Hmmm, who could it be?" the young boy muttered to himself. He twiddled his fingers in thought. "I guess it could be Naru… Maybe even Mika."
Luna looked interested. "Do you think so?"
Shingo shrugged. "It could be Mom, for all we know." He scratched his head. "What was this girl like?"
"She was very kind, very refined, always thought of others before herself… Oh! And she loved to take care of animals."
"Here you go, Luna," Kato said, pulling the tuna fish out of the microwave and putting it in front of the cat.
"Thank you," the cat said, and took an experimental bite. "It's still sort of cold."
"I could warm it up some more," Kato suggested.
Luna smiled and waved away the offer. "No, no, it's fine, thank you." She thought a bit more about the Princess. "Ah, yes, I remember. She couldn't cook a decent meal if her life depended on it, either. She walked slowly, because if she didn't, she'd trip over her own feet, and she had trouble taking her studies seriously."
"Heh," Shingo laughed, "it sounds like she'd get along with my brother just fine."
The brother in question looked at him. "Hey!"
In the blackness of the Dark Imperium, Emperor Beryl grew impatient to hear of the results of his first and most brilliant General.
"WHERE IS SHE?" he demanded of the minions that stood near him. "WHERE IS MY GENERAL AND WHERE IS THE ENERGY?"
A gaunt male youma appeared in a puff of smoke and bowed before him, replying in a voice of utter obsequiousness, "General Mihoshi is in repose, my liege."
Beryl's eyes glowed red for a moment. "REPOSE? EXPLAIN TO ME WHY SHE CHOOSES TO REST WHILE OUR GREAT LEADER PERISHES FOR WANT OF ENERGY!!!"
"It seems," the emaciated beast continued, "that she was injured in battle while trying to obtain this power we so badly need."
The Emperor grunted. "INJURED???"
The minion nodded gravely.
The titan waved his gigantic axe in rage. If arms were cannons, then the battleship carrying his enormous appendages would have capsized from the force required to move them. "AND WHAT OF THE LEGIONS OF YOUMA I PLACED UNDER HER COMMAND?"
"She did not deign to take them, Majesty. Sending them to Earth would have been too great a drain on our resources. She instead fought single-handedly, but she was able to return with a portion of the energy we need."
"SHE FOUGHT ALONE?!"
"FOR THE GLORY OF THE EMPIRE???"
The gaunt youma nodded.
"AND MANAGED TO RETURN WITH A PORTION OF THE ENERGY WE NEED?"
"That is correct, Your Highness."
Emperor Beryl sat down on his garish, skeletal throne, his muscles rippling as he completed the task in a single smooth motion. As he did so, a peal of deep, roaring, bellowing laughter escaped from his powerful lungs. "BWAHA HA HA HA HAAAA!"
"Are you displeased with my lady's performance?" the minion ventured to ask, prostrating himself on the ground.
"FIGHTING ALONE FOR THE GLORY OF THE EMPIRE!!! NO MAN CAN POSSIBLY DO A MORE BRAVE AND MANLY THING TO PROVE HIMSELF!"
"You will allow her time to recover?"
The fist-sized vertebrae in the Emperor's neck cracked as he nodded. "YES. SHE MAY REST FOR NOW." He turned toward the empty darkness before his throne. "BUT UNTIL SHE RECOVERS, I WILL BORROW THE STRENGTH OF ANOTHER." He filled his gigantic lungs with air and called out, "THE GREAT AND POWERFUL MANSLAYER, GENERAL NEPHRITE, SHOW YOURSELF TO ME!"
An ominous form began to appear in the shadows…
It was actually one of the nicer Wednesday mornings he'd had, thought Kato. Against all odds, he had managed to get up on time, and finish his last homework assignment before leaving for school.
He had left Luna at home in the care of his mother, who still hadn't quite gotten over the idea of a talking cat. His father didn't seem to notice, not having taken his eyes off the newspaper during breakfast.
The young man smiled in spite of himself. Things were actually starting to look up for him.
*Whump!* Then he ran face-first into his favorite bunch of tall, muscular, and violent thugs.
"Heh," Vegeta laughed, his arms folded and looking with a predatory gaze at Kato, "I told you that he takes this route in the mornings."
Oh no, Kato thought, they'd switched to the morning schedule.
Nappa stepped forward. His nose and part of the rest of his face was bandaged up. "I told you that you was gonna pay fah dis!" He jammed his giant fists together.
"Well, kid," Vegeta added, "since you performed the favor of breaking our dear friend's nose for him, he would like to repay you, with interest, by grinding your body into powder. That sounds fair, doesn't it?"
The rest of the goons chuckled evilly in agreement.
"Er…" Kato began uneasily, slowly backing off. "If I said no, would that help me any?"
Vegeta smirked. "No, not really. But we'd enjoy seeing you beg."
"Okay," Kato whispered weakly, wedging his eyes shut, "let's just get this over with."
Nappa laughed loudly, and took a pair of lumbering steps forward.
*BREOW-BREOW!* Then Kato heard a pair of loud semi-electrical discharges, and heard Nappa's nearby howl of agony. He opened his eyes to see the giant fallen to his knees with a pair of smoking holes in his left shoulder.
"WHAT?!" Vegeta shouted, then gasped when he saw who had fired the shots.
"Huh?" Kato turned around to see a brown-haired girl in a plain blue, red, and white sailor uniform standing on the top of a nearby building. "Naru-chan?!"
"That's me!" Naru called back with a smile. She held in her hands the gun that the boy remembered General Mihoshi had carried. "Hands up and against the wall, boys!" She waved with the barrel of her pistol.
Everyone hesitantly obeyed, even Kato.
"Except you, K-chan," the girl deadpanned.
Grinning nervously, Kato quickly moved away from his bullies. In fact, he tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and fell hard on one of his knees. "Ow!"
"You can't do this!" Vegeta protested loudly. "Guns are illegal in Japan!"
Naru laughed them to scorn and turned a dial on her weapon. "Oh, and extortion's 'just business,' right?"
"Curse your logic!" Vegeta spat.
"You're BOTH gonna pay fah dis!" Nappa cried in anger and pain.
"Say," Naru continued, "why don't you just leave the poor kid alone and we'll call it even?" There was a new laser sight duct taped to the barrel. She turned it on and made sure the leader of the thugs saw the red dot on his chest.
Kato stared at his best friend in a mix of relief and shock.
"I'll count to three," Naru prodded. "One, two—" She pulled the trigger.
*BZZR-TWANG!* The laser bolt took a chunk out of the brick wall the thugs were standing near.
Most of the band yelled in fright and took off running.
*BZREOW-REOW-REOW!* "Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaa," Naru laughed maniacally as she fired off several more shots into their midst, just barely missing their feet.
"We'll get you for this!" Nappa called back as he stumbled quickly away.
"'Course you will!" Naru retorted with a grin. "And when you try, I'll be ready and waiting for it!!! Hah hah hah haaaaa!"
Kato raised an eyebrow at the girl. Was this the same sweet, kind, and polite girl he'd known all his life?
When it appeared that the thugs weren't coming back, Naru blew the smoke off of the barrel of her gun, put it away into her book-bag, then climbed down off the building to stand near her best friend.
The girl helped the young man to stand back up. "You," she said, "should really try and stick up for yourself a bit more."
Kato allowed himself a hesitant smile. "Thanks, Naru-chan."
"Now we're even," Naru added. "You helped save me, and I just saved you." She frowned pointedly at the boy. "And you forgot to call me and tell me what the whole tux and cat mess was about."
The boy blinked. "Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I'll try and tell you on the way to school." He tried to take a step forward, but his hurt knee failed him. He nearly fell, but Naru moved quickly to help him up.
"For crying out loud, K-chan, can't you take two steps without falling down?"
"I kinda hurt my knee…"
Naru sighed, put one of his arms around her neck and helped him limp along.
"That was a neat trick with the gun," Kato said after a while.
Naru smiled at that. "Yeah, it was, wasn't it? That's a nice piece of equipment there. It had some instructions hidden in the clip. It's got eight different beam settings, from light stun, to instant vaporize, and it'll recharge itself in the sunlight or wherever else there's power!"
"Neat," Kato commented back.
"So, tell me about the cat and this 'Sailor Moon' thing."
The two discussed the situation all the way over to school.
"Well, it all started yesterday, when I was having a really bad time in the afternoon after I got my test back…"
To be continued.
[End Part One.]
Affirmative action in the Magical Girl League! Ain't it great? ^_^
Special thanks go out to those that helped out:
And I think Jussi Nikander helped out along the way a long while back… (shrug) Eh, he's been a great help anyway. Thanks, guys!
This is one of those themes that aren't taken up too often in non-Ranma fiction. Nevertheless, some very fascinating and well-written pieces have been made.
Chris Jones, for example, did an excellent job on his Sailor Moon: Reversal series. It's in the fan fiction section in furinkan.net. It's worth reading!
Then there's Aaron Bergman's "Fushigi Yuugi: Turning the Wheel," which also switches the gender roles in fascinating manners.
There's probably a few more, but those are the most prominent ones that come to mind. Right now, I'm rather curious as to what the general response on this particular one was. Whaddaya think? ^_^
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