Before the weekend ended, Setsuna went to where the boy who had been changed into a youma was in stasis. Because Usagi now had the means to bring him around, he was retrieved. Usagi was already transformed and ready to act. As soon as he emerged, Usagi hit him with "deep umbra cleansing," and he was returned to normal. They went as Sailors Moon and Pluto to the young man's house to help explain his disappearance. They told his parents about the attack, and how the enemy had affected him. When they started to worry, Pluto calmed them, and let them know that there was no trace in their son of what happened, and that all would be well. With that, they departed and prepared for a new week.
In Sark's lair, Princess Lin-Lin was in heated discussion with Sark. "You cannot be serious about your plan, can you?" she snapped.
"But...but the humans are so gullible, I figured..." Sark said, but she cut him off and said, "Your millennia out of action have caused you to miss out on much. This has been tried several times by the humans, and they had been thwarted every time. Because of the great cost of life in stopping that, they have become more vigil to such things. It may work on the small scale, but on the large scale, it would fail. Too many people watch for that kind of thing."
"You cannot be saying that they could stop an army of youma, can you?" asked Sark in surprise.
"Humans are resourceful," responded Lin-Lin, "They can adapt and figure things out. What's worse, instead of just that brat Sailor V being involved, she now has allies. From what you have told me, Sailor V was only a cover until the rest of her bratty crew could come forth. She was bad enough. We have to be more subtle."
"What do you suggest?" asked Sark.
"Continue to work with the other of your lieutenants, and work your way into society here," Lin-Lin responded, "This may take time, but I can cause things to happen to where what you seek in Japan would come in stealthier. Once they start to bend to my will, it would be easier to get them to do the things that would cause you to have a pretext for war. By this point, you should have worked your way into the politics here, and started to rally the people against the new threat. You can introduce your youma transformation program to the military, and give them incentive to play with their new super soldiers. What I will do is transform the people here, slowly but surely, into monsters that have global domination on their minds. That is when I will step into the limelight and act like the politician that will cause them to attack Australia, forcing you to retaliate."
"What you are doing is causing a global war," said Sark, "That's not what Ienvisioned."
"If you want to dominate the world," snapped Lin-Lin, "you have to cull out those that could resist you. Once they have all decimated themselves, they would be too weak to resist you. Then you could rebuild this world the way you wish, because you would have a real fresh start. They would bend to your will."
"Does it have to go to that extent?"
"If you want to do this, then that is the only way. Otherwise, they would stop you. After it was said and done, no one would care at that point that I was working behind the scenes with you while looking like I was fighting you."
At that, he left it to Lin-Lin, and waited for his chance. What he did not know was that the old adage of "there is no honor among thieves" was going to rear its head. Once he had done all this, she would bump him off, and take over; transforming the world into the image she thought it should be. He had no idea that he had set a time bomb in motion.
A week passed by, with things being quiet enough for them to act more like teenagers and strengthen their friendship. That one trip to the skate park had an influence, in that the girls were now getting into it, and beginning to get into it. Makoto was becoming expert in the half-pipe, as was Ami, who, using her knowledge of physics, was able to know how to move when. Everyone was so surprised at her skating, not because she did any incredible tricks, but because she did what she did with such precision that you would have thought her a machine. Ami still liked to swim, but she learned that this could be fun as well. Minako finally began to learn the half-pipe, with her natural athleticism showing itself strongly. Hotaru, Bunny, and Usagi were all in the street skate area. What was interesting was that Usagi found that she could be proficient at this area. As scatterbrained as she could be, with so much to do on any given run, she could go from one thing to another without trouble. Usagi said to Bunny, "I don't know why you don't want to practice on the bowl first. I mean, this is not as easy as it looks."
"Oh really?" said Bunny, "Then why don't you show me how to do it?"
Usagi did not like how she was being challenged like this, and then set off. She was popping ramps, coming off curbs, popping up on rails and grinding them down, and really putting on a show. When she came back from her run, she said,"Okay, Chibi...Bunny, do you think you could do better?"
Bunny smirked, and said, "Just you watch!"
She took off, and was doing just what Usagi was doing, only a bit more, and ahair faster, throwing a couple of board tricks in here and there. When she came back, she crested above the ramp, grabbed the board, and landed on her feet in front of Usagi. She just stood there, smiling smugly, waiting for some kind of criticism. Usagi just looked surprised. She asked,"But...how...you...but...where did you learn to do that?"
"Where do you think?" retorted Bunny, leaning in close as if to tell a secret,"I learned that from you!"
"What do you mean by that?"
"This was many years later. You are actually an expert boarder by that point. You have your own private skate park in for the commander scouts that no one knows about. You look like a dainty queen to the public, and a master shredder when you were alone. Wait until Tom teaches you about surfing!"
"What do you mean by /that/?"
"You'll find out! Besides, I'm still a better skater than you!"
"That's not fair! I don't have that skill right now."
They continued to bicker, Hotaru hoping that this would not be going on in the future kingdom. She then set her board down in a way that would get their attention. She then tore off, hitting every obstacle with speed, flying through the air as if she were defying gravity, managing to throw in a board trick here and there as she took her turn. They now stared at her as she just smiled. Now both girls looked sheepish, knowing how foolish they were sounding at that moment. With that, they all set down their boards and took off together. Suddenly, Usagi began to feel something different. As they went, the coordination that she had developed working as a team member with the other was paying off here. They were doing jumps over one another, hitting a rail in series, all seeming like they were going to spill going together, but never doing so. They all landed together in a pose on the end of the run, now to the applause to all those watching, completely mesmerized by what they had just seen. At that instant, she felt like Usagi, but she also felt like Sailor Moon at the same time. That ended with the applause, and she was a bit embarrassed at the attention she was getting. Yet, for the briefest moment, she felt she could not discern between herself and her alter ego. She would have to put some thought to what had just happened.
As she was leaving the park with Bunny, Mamoru was there to pick her up. Of course, there was a struggle to see who would sit up front next to Mamoru, and somehow, Bunny managed to wedge herself between the two, and wrap her arms around Mamoru's left arm. Usagi just sat there steaming. Mamoru still managed to lean over and give her a kiss, and he asked, "So, who do you have the time for this?"
"I've been putting to practice what Tom taught me," answered Usagi, "Get homework done early, and you have more time for fun. All I have to do now is get it done on Friday night, and I have the weekend for myself."
"Has it helped?" asked Mamoru.
"My grades have come up."
"Really? That's good news!"
"It seems I have less to worry about now, and..." Her voice trailed off, and she did not know how to verse what she wanted to say. "...and what, Usa-hime?"
"I don't know," she responded, "I feel like me, and yet I don't feel like me."
"You feel like another person?" asked Mamoru.
"Yeah, that's it! I feel like myself, but not how I always see myself."
Mamoru laughed a bit and then said, "Welcome to adulthood."
Bunny looked up at him, and then at Usagi, as if to say, "Her, and adult-you have to be kidding me!"
Usagi looked a bit confused herself, and she just looked at Mamoru with that curious look. He smiled and said, "Let me ask you a question: are there some things that seem cool about a month ago that just seem silly now?"
"Yes, I would say that."
"Is there some songs or music that just doesn't sound the same anymore?"
He now realized that he was heading into some territory that may take more time to deal with than the time it would take for her to get home. Thus, he decided a talk was in order.
Mamoru pulled over to a little restaurant, and he called Usagi's house. Once in contact, he told them that he was going to treat Usagi to dinner, and that they did not have to put a spot out for her. Her mother thanked her before she started to prepare supper, and she also asked if this included Chibiusa,(Usagi's parents were the only ones that could now get away with calling her that.) Once that was stated as "yes," they all sat at an au fresco table to dine. Usagi was grateful for the dinner, but before they sat, Mamoru gave her a big kiss. Bunny looked cross at this, and then said, "Get used to the sight, because, when you come along when you are supposed to, this won't seem so silly..." he let the thought dangle for a second so it could sink in, and then he got right in her face and said, "...because you will have much love for the woman you know her to be at home, so you had better start giving her respect now, or I will ask Setsuna to never let you come back again! Do...you...understand?"
Bunny looked at him stunned. She wanted to cry, just to shake of how he had addressed her, but, at the same time, she knew that voice from that future time when she had been misbehaving. It was no different here as it was there, and she knew he meant business! Crying would not help her, because, when he got like this, she knew she was wrong. All she could say was, "But...you know how she is."
"Yes, I do," he said, a little less agitated, "And I also love her dearly, so don't forget that!"
Now she had to defend herself a bit, and said, "It seems like she is not the same person..."
"...and that I deserve better, right?" said Mamoru, finishing the thought. All Bunny could do was look down, realizing that this same immature crybaby was going to be the wise, caring, and powerful woman she knew her mother to be. Once they had sat, Mamoru continued, and said, "I know you love me dearly, and I love you as well. However, you do not help your cause by getting in the way. I love her. Let me ask you something Chibi...I'm sorry, I..."
However, Bunny cut in and said, "It's alright for you to call me that if you want, but back home, you do call me Usagi. But here, you need to not mix us up, so it's okay."
"Thank you," he answered, and then said, "Like I was asking, you probably wonder what I saw in her, right?"
Bunny looked a bit sheepish, and said, "The thought did cross my mind."
"To tell you the truth," confided Mamoru, "(and this is no secret, because Usa-chan knows well how we started off,) when we first met, I was a freshman in college, and she was all of fourteen. I saw her as nothing more than a child, and I really didn't say some nice things to her. Because of that, she did not care for me much either. However, when I found out that the girl I kept pulling out of trouble as Tuxedo Mask was none other than our Usagi here, I saw her in a different light. She was very reluctant to fight, but when it came down to it, she could be brave in ways I did not think possible. Despite her immaturity, she proved that she had a huge heart for people, often putting others first at a great risk to her own life. You remember how she almost cut herself to ribbons just to rescue me, don't you? She is braver than she gives herself credit. How could I not love her? Yet, before all that, I found out that, in the Old Moon Kingdom, she and I were slated to be wed, and if it were not for her original mother-your true grandmother-I would have died, and so would she have died. At first, I did not want to have this knowledge, because I did not want to feel obligated to wed her just because of that. However, as time passed, and memories of the past came back to me, I began to remember how it had been between the two of us, and I remember her as more mature, but with the same heart that attracted me to her in the first place. When you combine all that, I knew there was no one else for me. Now, Chibiusa, understand something very crucial here. Because of those memories, and because I had the privilege of meeting her when I did, I have also had the privilege of watching her grow into the woman I loved then, and still love now. Even now, what she has announced is that she is growing up again. Her adventures have aided in this, and she now has many friends to guide her along the way. Tom has also helped, because he has added another, and unique, point of view to things, and I know that it has helped her to see things better, just as everyone else has helped her so. Let's face it, she has learned a new study habit because of some advice from her friends, and she has improved her grades."
He then turned his attention to her, and said, "Usa-hime, let me ask you, when you watched how your grades were climbing up the board, how did that make you feel?"
"It made me feel great!" Usagi answered matter-of-factly.
"Ever since this started to happen, have you seen yourself differently?" probed Mamoru.
"You know," responded Usagi, "Ever since that started to happen, I've been feeling real good about myself."
"Anything else?" he probed further.
"I have been able to think more clearly," Usagi added.
"Does it feel like a burden has rolled off your back?" he hinted.
Usagi had to admit, she did seem to have more focus as of late, and she then said, "I also took a hint from Luna, and purposely set my clock ten minutes faster than the actual time. I often trick myself into getting up well in time."
"Has that made you feel like things are not as heavy on you?" asked Mamoru, seeing the lights click on in her mind.
"I actually look forward to the next day!" Usagi answered happily.
"Bingo!" shouted Mamoru, "That was exactly what I was waiting to hear! Because you have set down some old problems that were burdening you, they did not dominate your thoughts anymore, and thus you were able to concentrate on things that were more important, and I bet you began to ask yourself why this thing or that had an attraction for you, or why you let something get in your way that was no real burden at all."
Usagi did not say anything, but she pumped her head up and down, realizing what was happening. He smiled and said, "I guarantee you that some of your unhealthy habits are going to go by the wayside, because you are going to see yourself with more respect than you had before. You are going to be the confident woman I know you to be."
He let her stew on that while he got the menus. He handed her one and said,"Have whatever you two want, and don't try to hold back on me!"
Bunny said, "Yea!" and started to scan for her favorites. As she did, Usagi looked at herself in the window, and she began to wonder if she saw the crybaby she thought herself to be, or the woman Mamo-chan said he knew her to be.
Meanwhile, back at Ami's place, she was finishing up the book that Makoto had lent her, and truth be said, it was the third time this weekend she had read it. She went to the bathroom to prepare to go to bed, and she started to floss her teeth. However, she stopped and looked at herself in the mirror. That she was a confident girl was not in question. She was smart, and overachiever, and a real go-getter. She was quiet, because she knew that being loud about what she knew only made her a braggart. The truth was that she was already living what this woman wrote. All the book did was give her simpler terms to describe the way she was feeling. Being that was the case, she had to ask herself why she let all the other girls tease her and ostracize her over what she was capable of doing. She never bragged about it: that was for certain. Thus, why in the world did people treat her this way? If it were not for Usagi, she would have spent the rest of her adolescence a loner, and feeling quite lonely, considering the late nights her mother had to work at the hospital. Then it hit her. Usagi saw something in her that the others could not see. All people saw of her was someone who was trying to make herself look good, and everyone else look bad. However, all she wanted to do was help everyone else achieve to her level, and all they did was resent her for it. They only looked on the surface, while Usagi was able to look into her heart and see the person that no one else could. Ami then realized that all it was, was that the other girls were jealous. They wanted all the benefits of what she had but without all the hard work that Ami had done to get there. She never felt attractive, because everyone was trying to belittle her. She had always dressed accordingly, and now she wondered why. Suddenly, she began to get angry. She was angry because she did nothing to ever deserve what they had done to her, and she was angry at herself for letting them treat her this way. Then, she began to get a smile of confidence as she went back to flossing, because of the fact that she now realized that beating them was something of mind over matter-she did not mind because they no longer mattered. She thought she was missing something for being a loner, but now she wondered why she would even miss a friend she never had. Once she was done, she laid out her uniform, but then began to look at the ways she was wearing her hair. He had always had it cut short, but she wondered what it would look like longer. Before she went to bed, she went to her closet and tried to find something that was conservative the way she liked it, which was not so showy, but at the same time that exuded the confidence in herself that she had always had. However, she was disappointed that she could not find anything. Ami looked at her allowance draw, and found all the money she had been stowing over time. Because she was never a demanding child, she never had a need to spend a lot, and just stored it. However, now she had enough there to justify buying a few different outfits and she set in her mind that, on the next weekend, she would have Minako and Usagi take her out shopping. There was going to be a change in her-not to please others, or to try to be someone she was not, but in all actuality, to attempt to be more herself.
The next day in school, Minako was mentioning to Tom that there was a new record label starting up called Baron Records, and that they were having open tryouts. She looked at him and said, "Hey, why don't you come to this with me? You have so much talent."
"You know where my future lies, Aino-san," said Tom.
"Oh, please, you have more talent in your little finger than most of them have in their entire body," responded Minako and she said, "Oh, and please, you can call me 'Minako-chan.'"
"Wouldn't that imply..." asked Tom, but Minako then said, "Oh, don't worry about that, Tom-kun. It just means we're good friends. There are other words that mean something more intimate. Don't worry; we'll get acclimated into honorifics in time!"
With a smile and a pat on the back, she said, "So, are you going to do it? Even if you were to become famous, that would not mean that you couldn't be aMarine. Wasn't there some singer back in the 60's from your country that was amilitary man and a singer?"
"Oh, you mean Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, right?" said Tom, now having his memory jogged, and then he said, "You know, you're right. In fact, there was aband from that time while they were still Marines, and hit it big just before they all finished their time. They called themselves Essex, after the aircraft carrier upon which some were stationed."
After a pause, he said, "Okay, I'll be there! What time does it begin?"
"It starts at four o'clock."
"I'll try to get most of my homework done at lunch and study hall so I can have the time."
As they were discussing this, they saw Ami walk up, but there was something different about her. She almost seemed to strut a touch instead of walk. She had a confident grin on her face, and something else that surprised everyone. She was actually wearing a silver bracelet and a necklace. They had not seen her with jewelry outside a formal occasion, but it was the light make-up that she was wearing that caught their eye even more. It was only a touch of mascara, some natural tone lip gloss, and very conservative eye shadow well within the school's dress code, but this was something they could never recall seeing her do before. They began to follow her to the shoe lockers, and then to class. Now everyone was looking at her in amazement, and some of the boys were actually looking at her with a different look than they had used before: they were smiling and looking her up and down. A couple of the girls that were deeply jealous of her approached and started to tail her, saying, "Well, well, well: look who thinks she's all that!"
The other girl then said, "It's about time she stopped acting and started to act like the snob she is!"
Ami was just ignoring it, not wiping the grin off her face. The first girl then said, "So, do you want a red carpet your high..."
"Stuff it up your nose!" was Ami's reply, still with her grin and gait. That got their goat. No one had ever seen Ami retaliate like that before, and they came around to the front and got in her face. "Okay, you female dog, you've had this coming..." and she was stopped short, and now begging for mercy. She had remembered what Makoto, and now Tom, had taught her about defending herself, and she was putting it to good use. She had grabbed the spot on the girls wrist where there was a nerve and pinched hard. She then flung her to the wall. It wasn't all that hard, but with enough authority to hint that maybe she should stop while she was behind. All the first girl could do was to stare at Ami, but fear and common sense kept her in her place. The other girl said,"I'm going to tell on..." but Ami cut her off and said, "I used minimal force to defend myself, and there are plenty of witnesses that can attest to the fact that she started it, and I merely put a quiet end to it before things got worse."
"Got worse?" she snapped, "How could you make it worse. Why, I have a mind to..." and that was all she got out, because, while she was poking Ami in the chest to punctuate her words, Ami had reached up and grabbed the girl's forehead, with her fingers spread at various spots, and squeezed hard. The other girl was in too much pain to scream, and she tried to pry her hand off, only to have Ami grab her own wrist to reinforce the hold. She then said,"This is something a good friend taught me-the Von Erich claw hold. Just to let you know, I would walk away after this, because what you feel is the least of what I know how to inflict. Besides, you know how precise my measurements are, and you know I can hit you in the precise spot that would cause you the most pain. Care to try me on that?"
Ami now had a stern look on her face as she let go, and then walked from the scene. The two girls wanted to tell, but what could they say? They were in the wrong, and there would be plenty there who could corroborate on that. Ami got that grin back, and Tom was amazed at the sight. For Ami, she knew this would not exactly make her friends, or remove the proverbial shun that was on her, yet, on the other hand, that did not matter. She asked herself again why she should miss friends she never had. The only difference now was that they would reverently fear her now, knowing to leave her alone and not to upset the fruit cart. Tom then said to Minako, "Looks like Georegy Girl has woken up!"
It took Minako a second, but she did have a vast knowledge of old pop music, and remembered the song by the Seekers. She then said, "Hey, maybe we can do aduet on that song?"
"Let's get together in the music room after class and see if we can put the harmonies together," said Tom, still amazed at Ami's change, and happy for it. When Ami entered the class, she went over to Usagi and handed her the book, saying, "I think you need to read this!"
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