You have just had a first-ever experience that will probably turn everything in your life upside down. You tell: (multiple choice)
When I had finished telling my concerns to Ryoko, she said to me, "You aren't ashamed of this, are you?"
"Maia isn't really ready for—"
"It sounds to me like you are the one with the problem. You are beginning to remind me of Ayeka now, and not the good parts." She finished her drink and poured another.
"Your drinking is a part of you I could do without."
"I could to, sometimes." She tossed off the whole drink, poured still another, but set it down. "I was with Mom when she was looking thorugh your files on this 'Merlin' guy." She started to pick up her glass, but set it down again. "I can see where I can't be seen with the Princess anywhere near Jurai, but what is the problem with you? You live with people who won't bother you. Not the way Jurai would bother us."
"The people outside this house are not as understanding," I countered. "And, besides, you really want to be the Empress, don't you? That wouldn't bother Jurai?"
"Not like me and Ayeka," she said, and added, "Too."
"So it isn't one or the other?"
"Why should it be?" Ryoko the space pirate took my hands. "Don't you have an aunt that's like me?"
"No, I mean the one that looks like you."
"Oh, Aunt Nancy. How do you know about her?" She hadn't come; my father's world was still inaccessible.
"Your mother told me a little about her when she was talking with me about you."
I had missed four days of school. All sorts of rumors were going around about why me and the others had been gone. Maybe the most interesting was that Maia had stolen Evan away from me.
Evan didn't seem to want to deal with me that Friday, at least in school, and I was kind of glad of it. I was more worried about Dexter. I needed to see him. Dexter's father was not going to be so easygoing after I'd put his wife in a mental hospital, even if he didn't know how very much of that was my fault. Fortunately she hadn't told anyone before she'd informed her Prophet personally.
To get Dexter alone and with some free time, is used my pathetically weak telekinesis (my first and worst power) to pull a fire alarm and cancel the last period. Hey, I'll pay back the Orinda Fire Department someday!
I tracked down Dex and took in to the most private spot I could reach quickly, and asked him how he felt, how bad his mother seemed, and started to try to tell him that somehow it would all be all right. He didn't let me do that last part. "She's right! Papa and everyone think she is mad but she isn't! I know! She saw you as you really are! I know! I know!"
"You mean, she saw I was bad for you, Dexter? Maybe she's right about that."
"No, that's not what I mean! You are one of the magic girls with wings, like in my dreams! I knew as soon as Mama told me what she saw!"
Looking into his eyes, the eyes I had loved in another life. I had to tell him. "Yes. Yes, I am bishoujo senshi, what you call a magic girl. My mother is our leader. She'll make this better. She'll find a way to help." I kissed him about where his horn should bud, and took him in my arms. "I promise, we'll help your mom. I promise."
After the clinch, I got up to lead Dexter back, but when I turned around, I found myself looking into a chest. Above the chest was a neck, and on the neck was a head wearing Evan's face.
Like I keep saying, I have got to learn to check my back more often.
Evan didn't say anything much to me until Dexter's father picked him up, but after Dex was gone he asked me: "Why didn't you tell him the truth?"
"What makes you think I didn't?"
He almost took that seriously, but he finally snorted. I decided to let him go on thinking I was just a normal problem for him, and lied, saying I was just humoring Dexter for the moment. I was not a psychologist, after all.
Of course, once I'd cleared the Dexter issue from Evan's agenda for the day, next up was: "Where have you really been for so long?"
"I can't tell you about it."
"Advice of your attorneys?" Evan came back, repeating the mantra I'd been using all day long.
"Look, it really doesn't have anything to do with you, or you and me," I said. "I not only can't talk with you about it, I don't want to. It just isn't your business."
"My father and me aren't your business, either. But that sure doesn't keep you from talking. What's really going on? Is this all about the little guy's mom?"
"No," I admitted. Evan had put me in a worse position; I'd just lied to him about what I'd told Dex. Now was not the time to double back, was it?
But, of course, there were other things to talk about. I stopped; we were walking down the hill to catch the shuttle to the train station, what everyone still calls the BART. "What it is is big and hairy and scary. You don't have any business getting involved in it. It's important, but it doesn't have anything to do with what's between me and you, or me and the Prince, or me and little Dexter, or me and Maia."
Evan got a knowing look. "I saw that coming, I think."
"I thought I did too, but it turned out to be a lot bigger than I thought." I kissed him. "Look, Dex is stuck on me, Prince Kag is sort of making himeself go for me in case he has to, Maia is sure she loves me, and you? You won't make up your mind."
"Like you are?"
"Point to Evan Shores Maxwell," I said, and kissed him again, this time seriously. "Who says I have to?" said Devil Girl.
"Uh, we'd better get going."
Point to Devil Girl! That was the only really good part of a blah-to-rotten day.
That night I decided to put Prince Kag on my grill. As soon as I got him alone I started out with a big question: "Do you think we're supposed to get married?"
"You mean to each other?"
I couldn't be sure he was joking or simply unclear, so I gave him the benefit of a doubt. "I'm serious. We might have to. But what I really mean is, do you think we belong together?"
He took awhile to answer. "You would make a marvelous queen. An empress, perhaps. And of course, a wonderful wife."
"But I would not be happy if you would rather be with another. Do not misunderstand," he said, taking my hand, "Sharing would not be without its attractions."
"Too bad it's illegal here," I tried to joke. "You won't allow yourself to fall in love with me, will you?"
Kag held up his hands. "I am an open book to you, First Princess."
"So I'm right. But tell me why, please."
"It is best for a crown prince to fall in love with anyone unless he is safely married to her. I am selfish. I wish to be happier than my parents."
Kag's parents were Kakyuu-sama and Lord Taiki, who had both married Hrrr spouses to seal a treaty. The treaty was long broken and Taiki was widowed, but Kakyuu still honored her vows.
Did I forget to mention that Kakyuu-sama is Kageshirou's father?
Speaking of parenthood, my resident spy in Paris, Nereid, confirmed that Auntie Haruka was pregnant again. This wasn't exactly earthshaking news; Haruka has a husband as well as Auntie Michiru—in fact, the both have him, sort of. He's a French musical genius (just ask him!) He's also a horn dog like you wouldn't believe, but he's one of those guys you just can't stay mad at (or he'd be so dead by now!) He'd already had two kids by Haruka and one by Michiru, and Adrienne by his first wife and one more we aren't supposed to know about (though to be honest he has told Haruka and Michiru.) Anyway, having more kids was no problem for him but his wives wanted to hold off until the last two were, say, five. Now the new arrival would come while Aphritrite and Hecate were in the middle of their Terrible Twos.
Nereid reported that Haruka had taken precautions. Alcyone figured that the odds were something like 100,000 to one that a tadpole would swim all the way to the finish line given the precautions Nereid had described (she can hear everything anyone says around her if she wants to.) Alcyone said, "I wouldn't be surprised if this kid grows up to win the lottery."
They only kept Dexter's mom for a week. You have to be really, really crazy or have fabulous insurance to live in a mental hospital these days. Maybe mom really didn't have to do much.
We got five calls before Homecoming, and we were four for five in finding the culprit. One was actually a runaway. Only one dead. Well, two if you count the guy. I wasn't there when it happened, so I can't tell you what he was trying to do at the end, but I can tell you that Maia cancelled his ticket. She was getting really touchy that last week.
For the Homecoming game, I suited up as a cheerleader along with Pelly. It didn't help. We got murdered by my old school, Kennedy, despite six Johnny Brown field goals. They had a ghost on their side. Kennedy had a great coach, Winston Owens. A great guy, who had stayed on at Kennedy when he could have gone one to bigger things. While we were out chasing an abductor, he happened on a fender bender a few blocks from the school. He tried to break up a fight between the two drivers and one of them, or one of their friends, shot him. They all had different stories. I thought about reading them, but I decided not to. What would I do to the guy who did it?
Too much of temptation.
Anyway, the Kennedy Eagles dedicated the rest of the season to him, and while they didn't finish #1 or even #2, they beat Orinda both games. The second game, our Homecoming, outdrew the Wizard of Oz on TV in the Bay Area Henriette Paliser told me a few days later.
Henriette was still very much in the picture with Johnny Brown when I went to the Homecoming dance later. It wasn't supposed to be a formal dance, but Henriette came with Johnny dolled up in her country-club style, and when she made her entrance, she was by far the best-dressed in our made-over gym. I came with Evan, and I didn't make any special effort to stand out. But I had a lot to do with how and when Pleione made her entrance: After Henriette, in a dress Auntie Setsuna made, on the arm of Prince Kageshirou. For once she wore her contacts so her green eyes weren't hidden behind thick lenses. And I made sure I was standing close enough to Johnny so that when he saw her, any feelings about her got enhanced. I didn't really give him that much of a push, though.
Anyway, it was too much fun seeing how jealous I was making Henriette to concentrate on Johnny too long.
After that, I sort of turned off my brain for the rest of the dances, except to notice that Alcyone had come with Dex. Al with her hair done and makeup looked like a different person.
After the dance, I went with my little crowd to the same restaurant I'd visited my first day at Orinda. We got a big round table in back and ordered enough sweet treats from the fountain to give Belgium diabetes. There was me and Evan, Johnny with Henriette, Al and Dex, Pelly and Kag, Usami and her date (a college guy named Tom Something), Valentina Petrov and a guy who is a complete blank to me now, and Zoë, Deja and Maia who had come without dates. We started telling stories, one each. This is the one I told:
Once upon a time, a little princess found her way into the land of dreams, and met its kiung. She fell in love with him, though she was only a small child. The King of Dreams had long reigned alone, and he promised that when the young princess came of age, he would marry her, and share his kingdom.
The years passed, and the young princess grew up, and learned there is much more to being a princess and a queen than dancing in beautiful gowns and waving to cheering crowds. She put aside childish things, and children's dreams.
One day the King of Dreams came to her, or perhaps one night. He said to her, "You are of age. Now we will marry and live in the Land of Dreams."
But the princess said, "It is too late. My kingdom is here, and I have grown up. I must choose another to marry."
The King of Dreams said to her, "I cannot bear to return and reign alone."
The princess said, "You must find another, then."
Some say the King of Dreams faded away, his heart forever broken. But I like to think he found another, for we all yave a true match if we look hard enough.
Thanks mainly to the teachers' unions, public schools in California had a week off for Thanksgiving that year. We dispersed. Evan's family went down to Southern California to spend some time with cousins. Auntie Ami took herself and her kids to Africa to visit her mom (The senior Dr. Mizuno runs a hospital in Botswana.) Auntie Naru went to Japan to visit Uncle Gurio's family, and Auntie Makoto went with her, and all their children, except for Pleione. Pleione wasn't that eager to explain Johnny to Grandma and Grandpa Umino, so she asked to go with Auntie Rei and Auntie Minako to Europe1. Mom went to Washington DC with Kakyuu-sama.
And me? Why, I stayed home and sat my sibs, and had an absolutely riveting six days with Mr. Yamashiro, the man wh ran that Japanese school I told you about. He was really a sweet old guy, unless he was teaching you something. Then he turned into a fire-breathing monster. He reminded me of Auntie Rei's grandfather, who lived with us the last years of his life and who was my first teacher in the martial arts.
It's usually the toughest teachers you find you like t he most. When an unexptected day of freedom opened up (Mom came home a day early) I asked Mr. Yamashiro if he would like to spend Sunday with Kimi and me. So we went to San Francisco together. We visited a museum that had just opened up after a long refit delayed and delayed and delayed because the city was broke. We went to Japan Town and saw a Toshiro Mifune movie I'd never heard of before ("The Bad Sleep Well," I think it was.) Then we went to a real teahouse. Kimi and I wore kimono the whole day with him. I think we could have gotten him to sign anything by the end of that day, but we didn't take advantage (that is, Kimi wouldn't let me ask about adjusting my marks a little.)
That night I had a dream. I was in Japan. It was the Sixties, I think; a long time ago. Mr. Yamashiro was a young man, and I was having tea with him. He said he was going to America for a few years, but when he was a man of means he would come back to marry me. He gave me a ring with a small pearl. He oculd not afford a diamond; this was the best he could hive me to seal his pledge. And then he faded away, and the tea house grew very dark. I could see only a few feet from the candle-lamp over our my table. There were no voices now, no noises from outside, or inside. I called out: "Shinobu, where have you gone?"
A pint-sized Elios came out of the darkness, and with Dexter's voice said to me: "It is you that have left him, Miako-san."
"But how could I leave Shinobu-san? I still wear his ring."
"You will always wear his ring."
The next day, I found that Mr. Yamashiro had died during the night. At his wake, I asked the old people there if they had ever heard of a "Miako." One old woman told me, "Miako-san died a long time ago. Yamashiro-san never married."
After the Thanksgiving break, Evan and his mom and his sisters came back from SoCal, but not his dad. I hated it that Evan seemed to be right about his dad, but in wasn't a surprise. Of course, now Evan was feeling guilty about driving his dad away from his mom. I didn't explore that with him with words much. What I got from his mind was more than enough unpleasantness.
All my dates before Christmas were study dates, or at least they all started out that way. Even with Saturday free with Mr. Yamashiro gone and his little school closed, it was a bear making up for lost time. Fortunately we had only one "outcall" I went on for more than an hour until Finals week.
The Saturday night before finals I was over at Evan's place. I wasn't dressed for anything, but that didn't matter much when the moment came. Anyway, after the parts with all the heavy breathing, I gave Mom a call to tell her I was staying, found a T-shirt suitably large and reasonably clean, and crawled in with Evan, who was snoring already. Well, I've had a long time to get used to snoring living with okasan (of course, I don't snore, and don't show me any more fake videos!). I claimed enough territory and snuggled up next to Evan, and soon I was dreaming.
I was walking through Tokyo at night. The streets were deserted. I was looking for . . . Evan and Maia. I would see Evan, or Maia, or both of them, and run to them, but they would always be gone when I got to where I thought they were. Finally I was on the dock, in the lake at the park I knew better from my last life than this one. Maia and Evan were in boats on the lake. There were no boats on the dock; I needed a boat to reach them, or they needed to come to me. I called out, but they didn't answer.
It began to rain, a cold, steady drizzle. A girl with sky-blue hair, her hair and her clothes sopping, said to me, "When will Moon-sama let me come home? I have been waiting so long. Now I am all alone here."
I woke up to discover three things:
I signalled for quiet, and extracted myself from Evan's bed without waking him up. Then I went into his kitchen for a talk with his mom. "Mrs. Petronius isn't crazy, is she?" was one of the first things his mom said to me. "You are like those crazy drawings her son makes."
"I'm not sure about her being crazy," I said, honestly, "But I am a magic girl. That's my big secret."
"When were you planning on telling my son about this?"
"When I'm sure we're serious about each other," I said. "Permanently, I mean. I almost told him at least a couple of times."
"Seems like you're pretty serious now."
"Yeah," I said, finding myself fingering my borrowed nightshirt. "Maybe I should get my mom in on this?"
Evan slept right through the night. We decided not to tell him until after finals. Christmas Eve sounded good to me. Anyway, I had just got back in bed with him when he woke up. I was worried he was going to ask if I'd slept well or something, but Evan had other things in mind before breakfast.
So Christmas rolled around. I'm not a Christian, as anyone on the planet with cable should know thanks to Betty's dad, but Christmas doesn't have a lot of Christian content. Japan adapted Christmas trees and Santa Claus with no problems at all. As Zoë explains it (every year) Christmas is really a thinly-disguised pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice. Keisha had simpler ideas about Christmas, but she knew about Jesus as well as Santa Clause and was not yet bothered that they had so little connection. We invited Dexter over, but his father said that was not such a good idea, the way his mother was. "Maybe for Christmas afternoon?"
What was left of Evan's family came, though.
"I think Keisha has a crush already," said Evan.
"I do to," I said. "Who is that boy?"
"Yo-ichi," I said. "Lord Yaten's son." Who just happened to have died one year before that night, gone to the World of Death to replace his son.
"One of the aliens?"
"Yes, a Kinmokunai," I explained. "Half Kinmokunai; Yo-ichi's mother was a Hrrr."
I expected Evan to make a stupid joke, but he asked, "Aren't they enemies?"
"Yes. It was a diplomatic marriage, part of a peace plan," I said. "Yaten's wife stayed with him, though. She was killed in the war. His father died . . . " I drifted off, thinking how Yaten had gone under the sword, how Minako had been the only one to wield it. I dread when we have to tell Yo-ichi.
"Hello? You still here?"
I flashed with anger. But I realized Evan could have no idea why. "Yes, I'm here," I said, kissing his cheek and rising. I took his hand and said, "Come. We have some things to talk about." Maia rose too, and I quietly signaled that she could follow. Evan sensed trouble of course, but only the most stupid of boys fail to realize that they are in trouble when they hear "We have to talk" coming out of a woman's mouth. Like that other situation I explained earlier, all males are boys at such times.
My sibs started clearing out as soon as I got to my room, but I told Kimi not to go far. "I might—" I began to whisper.
"I'll tell Auntie Ami," said Kimi.
Once it was just me and my pair of paramours, Evan took a seat on Kimi's bed and Maia sat at the other end. I opened the drawer in my nightstand and took out that picture, the one I had said my first mean words to Evan over. Unrwapping it from the silk scarf I used to protect it, I handed it to Evan.
"Your dad, right," said Evan. "You told me."
"Yes, I told you," I came back, "And you said it was good work."
"Well, it's fantastic. It looks like you were really there."
"That's because I was," I said. "The picture isn't a fake. I remember that day. It's one of my clearest memories from . . . before."
"What?" Evan started to laugh, nervously. Then he got serious. "You mean, your father is really still alive?"
"No," I said. "He died before I was born, like I've always told you."
"But . . . " Evan shook his head. "This is crazy stuff. Come on, quit this. What do you really want to talk about?"
"I want to talk about the way I really am, Evan. This is part of it, a big part of it. The me you see in the picture is from the future. Only it's a future that won't happen, I hope." Evan started to say something but I hushed him with: "Why do you really think Kakyuu-sama came halfway across the galaxy to see my mom? Kakyuu-sama thought that Mom would be the NeoQueen by now."
"The Empress of the Solar System," said Maia. "That is what Moon-sama was destined to be, according to . . . Sarah, should you be telling him this much?"
"This much?" retorted Evan.
"It's a big secret. Even most of the people who know about us don't know about Crystal Tokyo." I started to explain it, what I remembered of it from my near-thousand years in the Palace, mostly.
"A thousand years?"
"Yes, but I was a small child for almost all that time. I was still very small when the Silence came. I don't know exactly what it was; no one explained it to me much later. But whatever it was, it killed off almost everyone, destroyed nearly everything on Earth. Senshi like me were able to protect a few places, a few people. Tokyo had the most senshi, so it was the biggest place that survived. And my mother became the leader, the NeoQueen, along with Mamo-chan," I said. "But this time, Mamo-chan is dead." "This time?"
"It's a cycle. I've been through it many times, I think. The only thing that stays the same is that I go back to just when my father and my mother were coming together."
Evan shook his head. "This all sound's crazy. What are senshi?"
"Bishoujo senshi," said Maia. "It means something like 'young warrior maidens." Most of us are women or girls. In fact—"
"We'll get to that," I said, judging that Evan was not ready to assimilate the gender-warping aspects of senshi-hood. "We're people with special powers. Some of us have a lot of power, and my mom has more than any other."
Maia said, "Sarah is expected to be even more powerful."
"Someday," I added, nodding in agreement.
Evan's brain overloaded. He jumped up, looked wildly at both of us, and said, "You sound as crazy as Dexter's mom! Tell me this is all a—"
"Joke?" asked Sailor Maia.
I got out some of Dexter's pictures of me, gave them to Evan, and transformed. "Pretty good, no? Dex has powers himself. He's never seen me like this except in his dreams. He's reincarnated. I knew him in my last life. He can get into people's dreams now, I think. He could do that before." I took the pictures from Evan, stood him up, and embraced him. "Hold me tight, will you? MaiMai, stay put. I'm going to take Dex on a little outing."
"WHERE ARE WE?"
These are words I have heard a lot in the years since I learned to teleport. "About a hundred meters above the Avenue of the Americas in New York City," I said to Evan. "You got any money?"
"I want to get some herring while we're here. MaiMai has a craving she hasn't told me about yet."
Maybe twenty min7utes later, because Grechky's, my favorite deli on Planet Earth, was crowded and they hadn't restocked the herring yet when we arrived, Evan and I came out again. "I'll pay you back, don't worry."
"You do this all the time?"
"Not just for herring," I said. "But I had to prove myself to you, and Maia really wants some herring. Herring doesn't last long in our place."
"Pickled herring. I thought maybe octopus."
"Could be, next time, but tako is more my thing."
"That too, but tako is Japanese for 'octopus.' Actually it's squid I really like, and that's—"
"Something I'll never need to know," said Evan. I laughed a little. He was still very much in shock, but he'd recovered enough to tell a joke. "Where are we going now?" he asked.
"Somewhere to jump back." The street was pretty crowded, even if it was after midnight in New York. "How do you know Maia has this craving now, anyway? You said she hadn't told you."
"I read her mind, of course," I said, and before Evan could say anything I asked, "Wanna know why she has cravings?"
"Why?" He didn't believe me about the mind-reading, yet.
"MaiMai is pregnant. Let's duck in here."
Maia maintained her composure for about fifteen seconds before she tore into the herring. "I guess Sarah made the right guess about the herring."
"She told me you were pregnant."
Maia nodded, not pausing in her eating.
"Uh, who's the guy?" asked Evan. "I mean, if you want to tell me." Maia pointed to me. Evan turned back to me and said, "What does she mean?"
I took a deep breath. "We didn't know something like this could happen until Auntie Ami ran a test on Auntie Haruka. It turns out that the other parent of her new baby was Michiru. Well, once we knew that, it explained a lot about how MaiMai has been lately."
Evan took a small but significant step back from me and from Maia. "But how—"
"Oh, we're both girls, and all the time," I hastened to emphasize. "So are Haruka and Michiru." I was trying to ease him through some stuff that was really hard for him to take.
But then Maia began to talk, and with her mouth full. Now, this was unthinkable two months earlier, but now she seemed to be behaving more like her sister Al, or their dad. "No, we don't change sex like Prince Kag or his parents or the other Kinmokunai—
"Yes," said Maia, rolling on right over Evan's ordered world like a monster truck. "So far, Kimi and Ishi's dad has been the only senshi who wasn't female in senshi form. That is, unless you want to count some of our enemies like Himeko's father Nephrite-san, or Prince Rubeus, or maybe—"
"Maybe the Amazon Trio," I said, remembering my dream with the blue-haired girl pleading with me in the rain. "Although Fisheye was, well—" I saw Evan's eyeballs were about to roll back. "Never mind that for now. Anyway, that's me, that's us, that's the big secret. We have powers and abilities, blah-blah, but—"I kissed him—"We don't want to take over the world. We have lives like everyone else. School, boyfriends, jobs . . . kids . . . husbands, maybe."
"Maybe," Maia echoed thoughtfully.
Evan was having very interesting thoughts about Maia at this point, and I decided it was a good time to say, "I really can read minds, Evan Shores Maxwell. Yours and Maia's, for two."
"She can mess with minds, too," said Maia. "Put stuff in, change things."
"Yes," I said. "But I try not to do that too much." I retrieved Dexter's artwork. "I messed up Dex's mom by accident."
Maia said, "You remember in Washington when all those people felt pain, lots of them passed out? That was Moon-sama, Sarah's mom. That was an accident, too."
"You did that to Mrs. Pretorius?"
"Not pain, not exactly. I was sending something to Kag, and I sort of leaked."
I sent something. Not fighting the Iraqi helicopters or the Iturbe monster, but something more recent and fairly pleasant. After what seemed like a long, long, long time Evan said, "Was that what it was really like for you?"
Maia demanded, "You didn't send us, did you?"
"No," I said. Then Devil Girl added: "But I suppose it would only be fair since—"
My phone chirped. It was Moon-sama. "We would like to speak with Evan-san now, please. Myself, Naru-san and Nicholle-san." My mom, Maia's mom and Evan's mom.
Mom, of course, can read me anywhere in our house when she puts her mind to it.