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Seiko (Part 3)

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Saori was looking up at me, oddly nervous. It wasn't like her at all. "Are you sure you're not too busy? Please tell me if you really don't want to go."

I smiled at her encouragingly. "No, come on! It's OK with me. Don't worry. So, what kind of shopping do you want me to help you with?"

But getting the answer out of Seiko was surprisingly difficult. Usually, she was so precise in what she wanted. Now all she would say was, "Well, ummmm, something nice to buy for a guy. I don't know what. You're a guy. Tell me what you would think is a nice gift, Mamoru." And then she smiled at me, and all of a sudden, went quiet and shy again.

I suddenly turned on her sharply and looked at her, "What is it? Did you fall in love with someone, Saori?"

And remarkably, she couldn't meet my eyes. After a long moment of silence, she finally sighed and replied, "I can't talk about it, Mamoru. Please don't ask me. Can't we just shop for something?"

I was no longer enjoying this shopping trip. She was making me uncomfortable, and I couldn't figure out why. [Yes, I know, minna-san. Dense, wasn't I?] Then, desperate to get the task over with, my eye fell on the obvious, conventional "guy gift" hanging there on a department store display. Ties!

"A tie, Saori!"

She looked at me bewildered for a moment, as if she were too lost in her own thoughts to understand me.

"A tie, Saori," I repeated. "Get the guy a tie. That's always in good taste."

And still, she blushed and stammered, as if she had suddenly become incapable of making any decisions. Seiko, the decisive Seiko-whatever was wrong with her? All she would say was, "Oh, I know nothing about ties. Mamoru, you pick out a nice one." So I did. And mission finally accomplished, we then agreed to take a stroll to the local park, and get some fresh air. I was very relieved that the strangely uncomfortable shopping trip was over, and was hoping that now the task was over, Saori would finally relax, and behave more like herself.

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"There she is!" Chibi Usa gloated to herself. "I knew I'd find her here!"

Yes, there was the Moon Princess, still in the plush toy shop, still mooning over which of the adorable plush toys would have to be finally left behind. "This one..." she muttered to herself, eying the pony. "On second thought, this one...." she muttered again, looking at the hippo.

A pink ponytailed head suddenly popped up at her elbow, six inches from Usako's ear. "Hey!" she yelled.

Usako, understandably, jumped and whirled on her feisty future daughter. "Whaaaaa??? Don't scare me like that!" she cried.

Chibi Usa hissed at Usako, "If you just keep fooling around picking out toys, Mamoru is going to be taken away!"

Usako's brow furrowed at this. "Taken away? By whom?"

Chibi Usa looked ready to stamp her foot. "How slow you are! By Saori, of course! How can you be so blind? Saori is more beautiful, she's more mature, more sexy, and obviously, she's much smarter than you! So if you think that Mamoru's love will last forever, you're just going to get hurt."

"Why, I even wished that Saori could be my mom! I don't like to admit it, but if you and Mamoru don't get together, I'll never be born! But there you sit, playing around with fuzzy hippos and ponies, while they go out together! Don't you even feel a little bit uneasy about it?" Chibi Usa pointed an accusing finger at Usagi.

Usagi paused to consider this idea, and began to feel uncertain. "Mamo-chan, please don't hate me!" She cried aloud.

"You see what I mean, don't you?" Chibi Usa replied. "So you'd better start acting more mature...."

But Usagi suddenly broke into a smile. She told me later that she had remembered all the fun we had just a few hours before, how relaxed I'd been, how affectionate and teasing, and had confided to her my true thoughts about my friends, something, she said to me, that I never would have been comfortable enough to do when we first knew one another. That was true, I had to admit to her-before Usako became a part of my life, I was very solitary, and had never confided my real feelings to anyone.

"No, he wouldn't!" she sang out confidently, at last. "How could I ever doubt that Mamo-chan loves me? You don't know anything, Chibi Usa. What I'm really worried about is whether the hippopotamus or the pony would look better on my dresser. And which would go better with my decor, do you think?"

Chibi Usa groaned, and looked, if it were possible, even more disgusted. Grabbing Usagi's shirt impatiently, she dragged her out of the store.

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Meanwhile, Seiko and I were sitting in the sunshine, the tie gift-boxed in her hand. She still seemed uncomfortable, so I decided to try gently drawing her out. I grinned at her and began, "So, do I know this guy?"

Seiko blushed again.

"I mean, do I know this guy you want to give the tie to?"

"Are you curious about it?" The blue eyes darted over to me, almost hopefully. And still, baka that I was, the truth didn't dawn on me.

"Kind of, " I smiled at her. "You know, I can't really imagine the type of guy you would fall for, Saori-san."

The smile died on her face. Seiko seemed to draw in on herself. For a moment there, she had been going to tell me her thoughts. Now, I had obviously said the wrong thing, and no confidences were going to be forthcoming. I sighed inwardly. No one, it seemed, would ever break through to the Ice Queen. After all our years of friendship, still, she had her barriers up.

Her voice was chilly. "What do you mean?"

"Gomen nasai (I'm very sorry), Saori-san. Did I say something to offend you?"

"Does it seem so strange to you?" Seiko asked, with a note of sadness in her voice.

"What do you mean? The tie?" I was still totally in the dark.

"No, does it seem so impossible for a woman like me to have feelings for someone?" Saori was almost in tears at this point-and I felt terrible. What an insensitive baka I had been, worse than Kobayashi. I felt ashamed.

But before I could react, suddenly, there was that "English professor" back again. He was there at Saori's side before either of us noticed him stealthily approaching.

Tiger Eye, still pretending to be a "lost tourist", accosted Saori with the same question as before. His English accent still would never fool anyone who had heard real English speakers into thinking he was anything but Japanese, but it didn't matter this time. He had given up on attracting Saori or getting her to go to dinner with him-this time, he only needed to distract her for a moment.

"Excuse-aa meee. What time eees eet now?" he asked, using exactly the same English words as before [and I'll bet, one of the only English phrases Tiger-Eye knew].

Seiko looked up, always willing to help, bent down again to check her watch, and replied, "Well...."

And Tiger Eye chortled, again in English, "You are my target!" And then, with a motion of his arms, the magic mirror appeared and as he counted, "One--Two-Three!" handcuffs and ankle cuffs materialized, and trapped poor Saori against the mirror. While she was thus imprisoned, Tiger Eye could look into her most cherished dreams within her heart, and see if the Pegasus lay hidden within those dreams.

Horrified, I cried out to her, "Saori!" Instantly, Tiger Eye spun on his heel, and lashed out at me with his whip, knocking me to the nearby stairs. Before I could recover, with a flashing wrist gesture, he hurled at least a dozen throwing knives at me, impaling my clothes from all sides against the steps. Struggle as I might, I couldn't move-I was pinned to the spot, as helpless as Saori, and couldn't move to transform to Tuxedo Kamen, if I had wanted to. I lay, a helpless and angry spectator, as Tiger Eye approached Saori.

Now Saori tried something desperate, and brave. She spoke to Tiger Eye as a police officer would, vainly hoping it would frighten him. "What are you doing?" she cried out sharply, indignantly. "This is assault!"

"Oh, is it?" Tiger Eye sneered, and leaned in close to her, drooling over his captive. Bound in cuffs to his mirror, she was no longer a formidable Ice Queen, let alone a future police officer. She was just a woman, any woman, and his to do as he pleased with, now she was within his power.

"Stop!" she squeaked. "Right now, your charge is a minor one...."

Tiger Eye snickered. "Charge? My lovely one, you're not going to charge me with anything. Now keep still, and let me see your beautiful dream! Show me, where is Pegasus?" Then he entered her heart, through the magic of the dream mirror. Saori cried out in agony, and lost consciousness.

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"Hey, cut it out, Chibi Usa! Where are you taking me to?" Usako was following in Chibi Usa's wake, reluctantly. Chibi Usa was following the route which she had seen Saori and I taking earlier, and arrived at the area of the park where we had been sitting on the steps. [Her fears about my relationship with Saori, of course, were unwarranted, but in 20-20 hindsight, it's lucky for us that Chibi Usa did get upset the way she did.]

Tiger Eye raised his head from the unconscious Saori, furious with disappointment. Again, he had failed to find the Pegasus. "Your cherished dream is a strong one, motivated by your thirst for justice, but Pegasus is not here. And since you are of no further use to me, alas, my pretty, you must die." His throwing knives gleamed in his hands. This time, he would throw to kill. He would not have the satisfaction of seducing her. She, like those other foolish girls, had rejected him. But he would have the satisfaction of watching her blood slowly spill, marring the perfection of her suit, covering the gleaming pearls in crimson. Yes, he would enjoy slicing that lovely neck.

Chibi Usa and Usagi, coming on this scene, stopped in their tracks. "It's Mamo-chan and Saori!" they cried. And with a nod of understanding between them, they both instantly transformed to Sailor Moon and Chibi Moon, holding their brooches and saying in unison, "Moon Crisis, make-up!"

Tiger Eye held his knives poised to strike. But he turned at the sound of Sailor Moon's voice shouting, "Stop it right there!" And then pointing at him, she continued, "I can't forgive those who would make an innocent woman suffer because she chooses to do something strange with her life!"

[Now, minna-san, I know Seiko would not exactly be flattered, to hear her choice to pursue a non-traditional career for a woman, as a police officer, being described as "something strange." But given that Sailor Moon was in the process of saving her from being killed, I don't suppose she felt disposed to quibble about that at the time. Usako does tend to have very traditional ideas herself, about being a wife and doing domestic things like cooking, even though she's a terrible cook. To her at the time, Saori's plans must have seemed exotic and adventurous, even strange. I had a little talk about it with her afterwards. But I digress.]

"We are the agents of love and justice....." Sailor Moon intoned.

"Pretty Sailor Soldiers!" Chibi Moon continued.

"Sailor Moon! And Sailor Chibi Moon! And in the name of the Moon, we'll punish you!"

Saori awoke from her trance, and repeated, woozily, "Sailor Moon?"

Tiger Eye merely smiled at them, and with a gesture, called out his lemure. "Come out, my cute girl, Balloon Girl, Pooko-chan!" At his words, from out of nowhere, a large blue balloon with a red stripe down the middle began inflating, and then rose into the air. Its features were oddly feminine, and it smiled a strange, crazed smile at the others.

"Pook, pook, pooko-chan!" it cried, saying its name like a large, bloated, demented toddler. It looked around at each of the people there, as if deciding which one looked like the most appealing toy. Its acquisitive gaze first settled on Sailor Chibi Moon.

While his lemure was selecting a victim, Tiger Eye, as usual, did not stay to fight. After calling out, "Pooko-chan, take care of them!" his escape portal, looking just like a window blind, materialized. Then he raised the blind, and disappeared into nothingness, leaving his lemure to battle the two Sailor Senshi.

No sooner had he gone, than the Balloon Girl came down on Chibi Moon, seeming to hug her, but actually smothering her beneath the weight of its huge balloon-like body. Sailor Moon screamed her name, and running forward, tried desperately to pry Pooko-chan off of Chibi Moon. But Pooko-chan was immovable. Like a malignant Goodyear blimp, Pooko-chan just sat on Chibi Moon, slowly sucking the breath from her, all the while smiling vacuously. But after a few moments of fatuous grinning, she seemed to become dissatisfied. "This girl is not beautiful!" she remarked petulantly. Pooko-chan looked over at the still prone Saori, eying her as if she were a much tastier dish to squish.

Sailor Moon, not able to do much else, cried out, "Saori, watch out!"

I realized then that Sailor Moon could not stop the lemure alone, and cursed the magic throwing knives that held me fast. With increasing desperation, I strained and groaned, trying futilely to get loose from the knives which had me pinned against the steps. The sound of my struggles, however, diverted Pooko-chan in mid-air, on her way to attack Saori. I saw the Balloon Girl's face change-and I could not mistake *that* look in her eyes. I had seen far too many girls look at me in just that way, as if I were a very tasty morsel. It generally means that the girl in question is about to get "close and personal," whether I like it or not.

"Wow!" Pooko-chan cried, in a high-pitched helium squeal. "That man looks MUCH nicer!" And she dived toward me, intending to pin me under her weight and smother me, in a sick parody of an embrace.

For a horrible moment, I shut my eyes and muttered to myself over and over, like a mantra, "Damn, damn, why couldn't I be ugly?" My eyes were still shut, when I felt a familiar, small warm body unexpectedly settle itself against me. Unbelievingly, I snapped my eyes open and looked into the warm, concerned sky-blue eyes of my Usako, shielding me with her own body. And just above her, looming like an enormous blue blob, pressing down on her, leering at us both, was Pooko-chan. And I could only lie there, and watch it happen-watch that lemure mindlessly enveloping my Usako, so that her breathing was already laboured. Yet I could hear Usako still struggling, pushing with all her strength to lift Pooko-chan off of us.

My fear for her turned to helpless fury, and I heard myself scream at her savagely, "Sailor Moon, get away!" But typical, stubborn, silly, sweet Usako-she just ignored me, and went on pushing, pushing, her face buried in the balloon body, not able to breathe, yet grappling with Pooko-chan fiercely.

Suddenly, Pooko-chan's expression changed, large tears pouring down her latex cheeks. I marvelled for a moment-can a lemure actually feel compassion? Pooko-chan looked down at Usako, and cried in amazement, "You're trying to save him by sacrificing yourself! What a beautiful thing to do! So very beautiful!"

Like all the Amazon Trio's lemures, it seemed that Pooko-chan was fixated on the concept of "beautiful" and "beautiful dreams," as if they had all been programmed by the Trio to seek for this quality. Still, I had a strange sick feeling in my stomach, that she did not truly understand the meanings of these words. She had not moved one centimetre from Usako's face-she was still trying to smother her, all the while that she was weeping so copiously.

Just above me, I felt Usako getting weaker and weaker, her breathing shallower, slower, her struggles fainter. She was going under any second, I could feel it. Damn it, why won't she leave me? Usako, I don't want you to die for me-please!!

"Damn it, stop it!" I exploded at Usako. Maybe, I thought, if I sound angry, that will startle her into leaving. It was the only thing I could think of.

Pooko-chan was still crying her strange crocodile tears, and smiling her sick smile. "Don't worry," she crooned soothingly to me. "I won't let you be left alone after she does this so beautiful thing. I'll kill you, right after I finish off the girl." My stomach went cold at her words.

At that moment, the sounds of Usako's struggles to breathe stopped, and I felt her go limp. Horror-struck, I screamed, "Usako! Usako!" but there was no answer. My sight went black for a moment in shock. I don't even remember what happened next-it's as if the shock of seeing her like that caused a massive adrenaline surge of strength, and all at once, one of the throwing knives was loose, and in my hand. And I knew *exactly* what to do with it.

I thrust the knife as hard as I could into the side of the Balloon Girl, and then quickly withdrew it, praying that she would react just as a balloon does when stuck with a pin. Pooko-chan's eyes went wide in shock for a moment, then there was a ferocious hiss of air, as the lemure balloon was hurled skyward, trailing helium gas, and growing smaller and smaller as she spiralled in the air.

Released from the lemure's smothering embrace, Sailor Moon fell into my arms. I wrapped my one free arm around her tightly, hoping I had not been too late. I was no longer aware of my surroundings, of what I said, only of the pale little face, unmoving, so close to mine. Anguished, I called out to her, "Usako! Usako!"

Unnoticed by myself or by the watching Chibi Moon, Saori was sitting up now, and had heard me say the name, "Usako" to Sailor Moon. She could not have failed to remember that she heard me call one of my two "girlfriends" by that very name when they visited my apartment. Enlightenment dawned in her eyes as she watched me bend over Sailor Moon, shaking her gently, trying desperately to revive her. "Usako....," she repeated quietly to herself. "I see....." At that moment, I did not even know any other woman on the planet was alive-and I think Saori realized that, all at once.

I was still calling her name when Usako's eyes fluttered open. "Usako, are you all right?" I asked, still anxious. She smiled up at me.

"I'm fine," she replied happily. I continued to support her on my arm while she regained her strength.

But an indignant squeaky voice interrupted this happy little scene. "What did you DO to me?" it wailed. It was Pooko-chan-a Pooko-chan I had to blink to recognize. No longer a distended balloon shape, the blue balloon girl now had a svelte female shape, and two crossed strips of red tape, covering the puncture hole in her hip which I had created. From seemingly nowhere, the lemure had now materialized a bicycle pump, and was furiously trying to pump herself back up to her normal swollen balloon shape.

Pooko-chan grumbled to herself as she cranked the bicycle pump with her foot. "Damn! This is such a nuisance!" she muttered. If it hadn't been all so strange, I would have wanted to laugh hysterically at this scene.

[I must say here, minna-san, that Pooko-chan is probably the only female I've ever heard complain about being instantly transformed from a blimp shape, to an hourglass figure. But if I talk about this any more, Usako is going to come in here and bean me with a pillow, so I'll shut up about that now.]

I have to hand it to her-Usako then seized the opportunity offered by the lemure's being busy for the time being, *repairing* herself. She quickly yelled to Chibi Usa, "Chibi Moon! Now's your chance!"

Chibi Moon then called on the Pegasus, ringing her bell to summon him. "Please Pegasus, protect our dreams!" she called. "Twinkle bell!"

Once the Pegasus appeared, Sailor Moon invoked her most powerful attack, "Moon gorgeous meditation!"

Waves of energy surrounded the balloon lemure. Pooko-chan's last words before she was destroyed, were the same ones used by all the Amazon Trio's lemures-like a circus performer having to end the act suddenly, she called out, "Stage out!" and disappeared.

Sailor Moon bent over me, and now removed the remaining throwing knives from my clothes, and helped me to my feet. "Arigatou," I said softly, and I did not let go her hands. I stayed looking at her for a long moment, wanting to drink in her little rosy face, and she started to blush. At that moment, I had eyes only for my Usako.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, little Chibi Usa stood by all the time, beaming. And Saori got quietly to her feet, looked over at the two of us sadly, wistfully, and left without even saying goodbye-and I didn't even realize she had gone.

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According to Kobayashi, the next day, he ended up being the flabbergasted recipient of that tie which Seiko had spent so much time agonizing over choosing. After getting his hysterical letter, and arranging to meet him at a café on the campus, he told me the whole story. But I only got it out of him after I assured him that I had never, never had any designs on Saori, and in fact, now that I understood the situation, I would put in a good word for him with her.

[Incidentally, I decided to explain to him that Chibi Usa was Usako's little cousin, who had a crush on me. Well, minna-san, it was easier than trying to tell him the truth, that she was my somewhat possessive future daughter, who had inherited her mother's tendency to come up with hare-brained, if well-intentioned schemes.]

Kobayashi looked down at his coffee; it seemed he couldn't meet my eyes for a moment, "Saori-san bought that tie for *you*, sempai. Are you really telling me you never guessed?" He looked up at me, challengingly.

I was, at this point, on my third cup of coffee [when in doubt, more caffeine or chocolate, is my personal philosophy ;-) ] and wondering how long Kobayashi was going to agonize over telling me what happened. But at his words, I nearly choked on the coffee. The last time I choked on my coffee like that was when Usako startled me by offering me *something special* for my 18th birthday present, but let's not get into that, minna-san. SOME things are personal, all right?

"Seiko?" I sputtered. "Seiko? Interested in ME?" I was just so stunned, that I forgot, and THAT name slipped out.

"WHAT did you call her?" Kobayashi's jaw dropped about 10 feet. He looked at me horror-stricken for several sweatdropping moments. Then he started to shake all over. For a moment, I was afraid he was going to explode at this insult to his Goddess, his Saori-san. But then I noticed he was making hoarse, choked breathing sounds-he was laughing! Laughing so hard that he couldn't speak.

He finally slapped the table with the flat of his hand. "Seiko! Seiko! It fits!" and he broke into high-pitched giggles, at last. We started to talk about Saori then, and all her little idiosyncrasies, in a way we never had before. I was no longer his "sempai"- finally, it seemed, we were buddies. At the end of the discussion, I could tell that he still loved Saori, but he was no longer in awe of her. Now, he might approach her, without putting her on a pedestal that I think that Seiko never wanted in the first place.

Now relaxed, Kobayashi told me a little more of what happened, that day when Saori gave him the tie she had apparently originally intended for me.

"I asked her why, if she'd bought the tie for you, she was giving it to me, and wasn't she ever going to tell you her true feelings? And Mamoru-kun, all she did was shake her head at me and smile mysteriously. God, she drives me *crazy* when she does that!"

I grinned at Kobabayshi--yes, I know well that annoying, mysterious, "I-know-something-you-don't!" smile of Seiko's.

"Then, Mamoru-kun, she said the weirdest thing to me...she said, 'I can't compete with the girl who is protecting the peace on Earth!' Now what on Earth did she mean by that?" He looked at me challengingly-I was still the "sempai" who knows all, at that moment. And of course, I did know exactly what Saori had meant, though it made me feel very uneasy. It meant that Saori had found out that Usako and Sailor Moon were one and the same person. Now she no longer felt worthy of me. How long had she been nursing that and not let on? No wonder she'd been so sad, and silent, when we met recently to study together. On thinking it over, I knew Saori would never reveal the secret-if nothing else, out of loyalty for our years of friendship. But for the first time, I saw her not as perfect "Seiko," success incarnate, but as lonely, withdrawn Saori. Then I remembered that Kobayashi was still waiting for an answer from me.

"Whoever knows what Seiko is thinking about? Five years I've known her, and she's still a mystery to me. All I know is, she's always ticking away!" I grinned, and hoped that Kobayashi would now stop frying his tired little brain cells trying to figure out Saori's secret.

"Ticking, ha, ha-ticking!" Kobayashi roared. [All right, minna-san, so it wasn't that brilliant a joke. But as you may have surmised by now, Kobayashi is easily pleased.]

"But although I never know what's she's thinking, I DO know what Saori-san likes!" I told Kobayashi. [Well, after five years of friendship, I'd better know, minna-san.] So I spent most of that evening coaching Kobayashi about Saori's likes, dislikes, and how to impress her--and yes, he took down copious notes-Kobayashi has a head like a sieve, minna-san.

Five years later, a miracle occurred. Yes, Usako and I were invited to Saori and Kobayashi's wedding-and Chibi Usa was the flower girl. Well, it seemed only fitting. And yes, minna-san, Seiko in time became head of our province's police department. But my Usako doesn't want to be a police officer anymore-it seems they have to fill out a lot of long detailed reports, that sometimes math is involved, and well, you get the picture. All in all, being Queen of Crystal Tokyo is an easier job.

Gotta go now, minna-san. It seems there's a new plush toy on the market that's the latest craze, and well, I have some shopping to do...for a certain Odango. Ja ne!

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: The title Seiko in relation to Sailor Moon, and the fan fiction of this title, is copyright of Pandora Diane Waldron. If you use it on a web site without my permission, that constitutes copyright infringement. I have never said no to anyone yet, OK?

Please e-mail me your comments. Fan e-mail is the only *pay* we fanfic authors receive for our hours of effort. When you write, please tell me a bit about yourself, such as what city you live in, and your interests [i.e. Do you watch other anime besides Sailor Moon? Do you read manga?]. I like reading comments such as "That was really great and please write more!", but I would love to know a little bit about you, too. Make sure you mention the title of the fanfic [I've written more than one!] and on what site you read it. All of you are roses in MY garden, and I like to *see* your colours.

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