On the last day of the year 2010, in Japan, Kino Zoë married Ayakashi Juzo. The ceremony was at Hikawa Shrine in Juubangai, "Tenth Street District," familiar to me from many stories and from some memories. I took Evan. Everyone wore kimono, and Evan fit quite nicely into one of my stepfather's that okasan had saved.
After the ceremony, when we were in the garden of the shrine, I told Evan, "Auntie Rei grew up in this place, after her mom died. Her grandfather was the priest."
"No wonder she's so straight," said Even. I giggled. "Actually he was an old hentai, a dirty old man."
"Was he after your moms?"
"Not really," I said. "He had an eye for girls, but he did his real romancing with grown women. Mostly wives and widows, I think. He was pretty steady with old Mrs. Kumada towards the end, though . . . Both gone now."
Evan shivered. I asked him if he was cold and he said, "No, I'm all right." I knew he wasn't, but I let it pass. Then he asked me, "Why did they get married now? She pregnant?"
"No," I said firmly. Zoë's past was something that wouldn't be Evan's business until she decided it would be, so I didn't explain it. "Zo-chan decided she didn't want to wait. Juzo is the one she wants to share her life with, so why not start now?"
"Is that what you want?"
"Are you proposing?"
"I mean, is that what you want? To get married, now?"
I kissed him. "Evan, I know you are going to do just what Uncle Shingo did to Hotaru-san. A year from now, you'll be in college, probably in Harvard, and you'll have found someone wonderful. And you'll break my heart." I kissed him again. "Ask me again after Ms. Wonderful."
Joline Brown and Paula Chin both made it into Orinda for the Spring 2011 term. On learning of Maia's condition while we were riding the train to school, Joline said to MaiMai, "I never thought you would be a baby mama."
"Why not?" said Maia. "I have eight sisters and a brother."
"It seems more like something Sarah would do," said Paula. "You're going to keep it?"
"Them," said Maia. "I'm having twins."
"You are going to be like Betty," said Valentina. "Is she even coming in today?" I was sitting with Evan one row in back of all this. I leaned forward and interjected, "She'll be in."
Actually, she got there before the rest of us. This would make the first day of the new term more memorable.
Betty had gotten better with her teleporting. Practice helps. Mom and her senshi friends of the first generation (except my Asatara) very much frown on 'porting when it's not necessary. Most especially and frequently, okasan is unhappy about my teleporting. But, like I just said, practice helps.
However, Mom's a lot more understanding with Betty, since she has Ariadne and Gloriana to take care of. Day care is right out; they were born with wings and we're not even sure they'll ever be able to hide them. Even if they do, we'd be crazy to risk them among strangers until they're maybe four or even five. So, even an hour of commute time in the morning and an hour at night is a long, long time. By the beginning of the year they were both scooters, soon to be crawlers, and they were aware who their mommy was. So, while the rest of us rode Greater Bay Area Transit buses and trains, Betty Beringer, formerly known as Swainson, spent an extra hour with her children before teleporting to a nicely-concealed spot hidden by Australian eucalyptus trees a bit off from the drive leading up the hill to our school.
Unfortunately . . .
I was literally in the dark when it happened. Before I was born, in fact before my mom was born, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART, then) was supposed to be the wave of the future, with a computerized, automated control system that wouldn't even need people to actually drive the trains!
It should be working right real soon now.
If you ride the trains a lot, you can expect once or twice a month to be stuck for awhile while the system makes up its mind. It's especially nice when you are underground. That's were I was when Betty made the jump ahead to school. The rest of us should have already been there, but we were stuck in the tunnel. I didn't find out about it until my French class.
My French class was First Period. I was taking first-year French because I couldn't take second-year Russian (I took Russian at Kennedy) and Orinda decided to drop Russian just before I transferred.
Myself and mine were not the only Orinda-bound students stalled on the train, so Deja and Maia and me did not get too much a dirty look from Mr. Consodine when we knocked on his door. I guess he was about fifteen minutes into his first lesson. We had to scatter to find seats. I let MaiMai have the seat closest to the door in case she had to make a bathroom dash, which meant I had to pick a seat in the middle of the room.
Everyone had already been in class when we got to the campus, so we didn't pick up any of the buzz about what had happened. I saw there was something changed the minute I came in the room, though. Instead of sitting as close to their Prophet's daughter as they could, Lindie and Kathy were sitting about as far away as they could, in fact clear in the opposite, back corner of the room with all the slackers (in as far as you have slackers in a French class.) They were sitting just far enough away so that I had to work to read them. Betty was trying to concentrate on the lesson, so she was pretty hard to read to, and she kept telling me in her thoughts to stop distracting her.
Mr. Consodine is one of those teachers who really likes to call on students whose attention is drifting, and he's fearsomely good at it. Actually he's a borderline teep, not the first teacher I've met with a bit of telepathy. Unfortunately for me, he kept boring in to catch me whenever I was starting to get something about what had happened. I made a very bad impression, so much so he wrote me a slip for some after-school counseling.
However, I did manage to piece together what happened, which was:
Betty jumped in above the quiet spot hidden among the Australian eucalyptus that grow like weeds all over the East Bay Hills. It was good that she jumped in above this quiet spot (but still below the tree line) because it wasn't so quiet that morning. Someone was there, in the little accidental bower. In fact, two someones. In fact, two lovers, making up for the long, painful separation of the Christmas break, I guess. Noisy lovers. To hear Sailor Earth tell it, she could have landed in a helicopter and no one would have heard her.
In fact, the lovers were so into each other they didn't notice Betty at all. She was sure of that; she read them, as she eased down to the ground, before she transformed. This was "icky" according to Betty, and maybe that's why she made a Sarah-type mistake. Betty's not a homophobe, but . . . remember "Hans and Franz?"
The Sarah-like mistake Betty made was to turn all of her attention to Hans and Franz. She didn't notice that anyone else was watching them until she turned to sneak off to the campus driveway.
Since I was delayed by Mr. Consodine's slip-writing and "words" after class, I didn't have time to catch any of the campus buzz between first and second period. Between second and third I heard about Hans and Franz, but nothing about Betty being an angel. Fourth period was my lunch, the second lunch period of the day, and by then the tryst of Hans and Franz was a campus legend. But there wasn't a peep about Betty. "There were more people who were coming to watch after me," Betty explained. "I think it was just Kathy and Lindie who saw me."
"What did you tell them?" I asked.
"Nothing," said Betty. "Listen, we hit them with enough powder to do the job now, I think we'll zap them like Mrs. Petronius."
"That would be wrong," said Dexter, who'd just joined Sarah-tachi as we walked down to the Roach Coach, the mobile Mexican snack shop that parks just off campus at noontime.
"We might have to," said Prince Kageshirou. "This is not a game. They don't have security clearances."
"Clearances?" Evan said. "What about me? I don't—"
"Of course you do," said Kag. "Moon-sama and my mother had you investigated as soon as they knew you were involved with the First Princess." I shrugged off Evan's look. "Let's try something less drastic, first."
"What?" asked Betty.
"Talking with them. We'll have to get to them before Kathy's mom picks them up."
"Not another fire alarm!" scolded Deja.
"That was you?" exclaimed Evan.
I shrugged an answer to that one, too. "I'm gonna invite them home for a little babysitting after school."
"What if they don't want to come?" asked Evan.
"That's not an issue," I said.
Kathy and Lindie were in my last-period class, Phys Ed, which meant that I certainly knew where they would have to be just before they were leaving for the day. The locker room was not the place, though, not as crowded as that last-period class was. Now, the showers would seem an even worse idea, but, you know, showers sometimes fog up so you can't see much of anything clearly, especially after you make a call to Chibi Mercury for a little favor . . .
Now, I just scooped them in with my wings and jumped as soon as visibility went to nothing. I took the sensible precaution of jumping to the spa room down in the basements, because:
But I forgot that:
"A demon!" shouted a round-faced young man. "I will protect you!"
SWISH! went a sword. (Blink) went myself before it divided me in half.
"Blip," said a very lovely and absolutely unblemished girl I'd never seen before.
"Stop that!" ordered my mom.
SPLASH! went Kathy, backing into the olympic-sized pool. Olympic-sized pool?
"She can't swim!" shouted Lindie. "I can't swim! HELP HER!"
Okay, so maybe my plan didn't start out so well.
Round-face, a.k.a. Musaki Tenchi, dived into the pool and came out with Kathy and, of course, her heart (what is it about him?)
So what were a strange girl who could say only "blip," Musaki Tenchi and an olympic-sized pool doing in our spa? Well, the pool was part of Washuu's spa; she'd connected her pocket universe to our spa as well as to Tenshi's house. The strange girl was an android I was soon to learn was named "Masa-7." She could speak about a thousand languages, but unfortunately she spoke so fast only Washuu-san (and Nereid, later) could understand her.
Why had Tenshi-san attacked me? He'd never seen me in my senshi form. Black wings and silver skulls kind of give a bad first impression a lot of the time.
Kathy and Lindie were all in the dark about this because Mom, Tenchi and I did all our talking in Japanese. Tenchi speaks textbook English, but it's from a Japanese textbook. He didn't comprehend North California Gurlspeak, v.2011.
Once we had fished Kathy out of the pool, I of course explained to Mom that I was really trying to keep Kathy and Lindie out of the hands of mundane psychiatry. "And this will help?" okasan remarked. "Transform back. You are frightening the girls."
Prince Tenchi agreed that I was frightening way too fast to suit me.
Anyway, Mom and I told Kathy and Lindie we were senshi and that it would be a very good idea if they didn't tell anyone else about it. Lindie came back with, "Reverend Swainson knew there was something very wrong with you people!"
"Your holy man already knows of us," said my mom. "It would be better if you did not. Please do not talk of our secret."
"Or what? Or you'll have us put in a mental hospital like Dexter's mother?" said Lindie. "Or 'suicide' like poor Mrs. Yount?"
That remark got to my mom. I couldn't let her just swallow it. I said, "How can you be so sure the Reverend didn't have her killed? He knew she was much too dangerous to be left alone with her kids. If she got them back and something happened to them, it wouldn't have looked very good for Mr. Swainson, would it?"
Kathy wheezed, "That's mean."
"Talk to Betty about it," I said. "Ask her about her dad and his dad." Maybe I projected just a bit into their minds at that point. When I'm emotional, it can happen.