Rei was far from the top student in her class, but she wasn’t a slacker, either. She scored average to above in most subjects, always turned in homework on time, and boasted a near-perfect attendance record; which was why it was strange that at eight fifteen on a weekday she was not at school, but at the Hikawa Shrine, where she served as a trainee priestess.
She raced to the temple, kicked away her shoes at the entrance and, still in her school uniform, made her way to the altar.
It was there she found Yuichiro, the scruffy haired apprentice, still lighting incense as part of his own ritual. Rei ignored him and his surprise, and threw herself into prayer.
“Hey, uh, Rei? Shouldn’t you be in school?”
The girl did not deign to answer. Time was precious, and a wave of malevolence was mounting the likes of which she’d never felt. If that weren’t reason enough to cut class, then what was?
Rei chanted an ancient prayer, and centred her body around the words. Her breathing slowed, as did her thoughts and the beating of her heart. Her chi flowed without obstruction, giving her sight into the world unseen; a sense dismissed as superstition by some, but had served her well for all her days.
Yuichiro knew better than to bother her, or to question her uncanny instinct. Calling Rei out was the fast track to being cursed, or worse, scolded by the girl’s grandfather. He knelt beside her, a respectable distance away, and started his own prayer.
It wasn’t long before visions of malevolence ran through her. Chaos, darkness, and destruction! Ash and decay consuming all in their reach, looming over the precipice of tomorrow.
Rei’s eyes snapped open. “I’ve got to warn Usagi!”
Usagi, princess of the Moon Kingdom, and the one called Sailor Moon. It was a fact she sometimes forgot under the guise of a crybaby. And yet there was nobody she trusted more to cradle the world. Few hearts were ever so giving. If that didn’t inspire loyalty, then nothing would.
“Usagi?” Yuichiro shook himself from a trance. “Your friend with the blond hair who mixes up her proverbs?”
“No, that’s Mina,” Rei said. “Usagi’s the one with dumplings on her head.” She smirked. It wasn’t her joke, but it was still funny.
She raced into the courtyard and activated her communicator watch.
She signaled Usagi first. No answer. Then a second time. No answer.
Ami, Mina, and Mako were also out of reach.
Rei fought to collect herself. Evil wouldn’t wait until after school. Someone had to warn Sailor Moon!
There was only one place left to turn. Rei scrolled her phone, and paused at the name. She hesitated for a moment, taken by a flash by her former feelings for the boy. Though their romance was a thing of the past, Mamoru Chiba was no less an ally of the Sailor Guardians.
Dread weighed on Usagi until she could no longer sit upright. Was it really the influence of Planet X, or the all-too-earthly state of her grades bringing her down? Whatever it was thickened the air.
Of all her subjects, English was her worst – one of the worst. Why did it matter so much, anyway? English was a weird language. The words didn’t make sense, and neither did the sentence structure. Then there was that strange alphabet with unpronounceable letters. How was anyone supposed to understand?
Naru browsed over her homework. She seemed to understand just fine. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” she said, enunciating every word.
Usagi sank further. She made it sound so easy!
“Did you hear? We’re getting a new teacher! The seniors say she’s a real hottie!”
She looked up to the messy haired boy with glasses so thick they put the Hubble telescope to shame. Trust Umino to be a lech, like an old man before his time.
“Jeez, could you stop being gross for five seconds?” asked Usagi. It was almost enough to pull her from moping.
“I’m serious,” Umino said. “Legs that go all the way to heaven! Lips like sweet smelling pillows! A dream come true!” The more he described her the more he swelled. His face burned red. As if a pervy dweeb like Umino stood a chance with a teacher!
Naru twitched. “A-are you okay?”
He nodded, and fanned himself before drifting back to his seat.
For a fleeting moment Usagi dared to hope. A new English teacher meant a chance to make a first impression. Maybe she would be nice. Maybe she would notice Usagi, and give her a passing grade because she was so sweet!
She sighed. “So wonderful…”
“Usagi?” Naru poked her arm with a pencil, but it was no use. The girl was a million miles away, lost in delusion.
The classroom door slid open. Usagi snapped to reality, complete with the weight of her grades. She whimpered. What if the new teacher wasn’t nice at all? What if she was a whip-cracking taskmaster who expected too much of her students?
Heaven help her, she couldn’t stand to look…
“Good morning, class,” said the teacher in clear, refined English.
Her fears abated. There was no monster at the head of the class. In fact it was the opposite, for standing in front of the teacher’s desk was the most beautiful woman Usagi had ever seen!
She was more than Umino described. Tall as a tree, slender and powerful, with tight calves below her pencil skirt. A foreigner, with deep tan skin, long raven waves cascading down her shoulders, and blue eyes as clear as a tropical beach. They glistened through her glasses when she smiled, and what a smile it was! Confident, yet compassionate, that promised any who saw it that everything would be alright.
“My name,” she said, slowly, but still in English, “is Miss Prince. I look forward to knowing each of you. Let’s get along.” The teacher bowed. Her wild hair bounced with her movements.
Usagi was a puddle on the floor. What had she done to be graced by an angel?
She gasped and bolted upright. The teacher knew her name. She actually noticed her!
The woman beamed at her. “In English, please.”
Usagi furrowed, but found the words. “Y-yes, Miss Prince?”
She smiled with such warmth that the girl’s cheeks burned. “English is not your best subject,” she said, “but I believe in you, Miss Tsukino. Let’s work together to improve your grades, okay?”
A cocktail of emotion swirled in her chest, more than allowed room for shame. Of all the students before her, Miss Prince had chosen Usagi to dote upon. It would have been one thing if there was an edge of cruelty, but the teacher lacked any trace of unkindness whatsoever. She wanted for her students – for Usagi – to succeed!
Her muscles oozed into jelly, and her head hit the desk. English became harder with such a beautiful distraction, but somehow Usagi knew it’d be okay.
The school gates were quiet, even pleasant without an army of teenagers swarming through them, but that didn’t put the soldier at ease. Not anything, including the influence of a dark world, looming in wait, came close to the awkwardness of his post.
He pulled his cap further down and hid under the shadow of its brim. It wasn’t an undercover job in the strictest sense, but the last thing he needed was for someone to identify him.
“I feel like such a creep,” he said, apparently to nobody.
A woman’s voice crackled in his ear. “You’re just doing your job, Colonel.”
Colonel Steve Trevor, US Air Force, on assignment in Japan, huffed. Though war was a hell of its own, there was a dignity to the battlefield that evaded him. And yet he couldn’t refuse because a friend asked him for a favor.
“My job has me standing outside a middle school,” he said. “I feel like a dirty old man.”
The woman laughed into the receiver. “You’re not that old.”
“Most of these kids are half my age, or less!”
“Now you’re underselling it,” she said.
Colonel Trevor frowned. She was right, but that was no reason to say it out loud. “I’ll remember that remark during your next evaluation.” He was joking, mostly.
He ruminated for a moment on what could have been; if his plane never crashed on an island of immortal warrior women, or he was assigned their champion as his escort. The Cheetah, Silver Swan – even the war god, Ares – might never have blipped on his radar, along with their horrors.
Then again, what an adventure!
A momentary lapse of focus loosed a smile. A life without Diana. Despite the monsters and the danger, life was richer with her in it. That was something he’d never trade – not for all the treasure and comforts in the world.
A breeze hissed between the leaves. As far as omens went it was an understatement. Neither the brightness of the day or gentle wisps in the sky punctuated the oncoming disaster.
“Colonel. Ten o’clock.”
He peered toward the far wall where, with guile and fleet of foot, a dark haired man – barely an adult by the look of him – leapt over the school fence.
The intruder was a civilian, and one dressed for a ball. A cape and top hat? Seriously? Probably some yuppie punk sneaking in to see his girlfriend, trying to be romantic. Only a fool would do that while class was in session. Regardless, Colonel Trevor couldn’t leave it to chance.
“I see him.”
He sprinted along the perimeter and vaulted over the wall. There was no time for stealth – the target was on the move. He charged through the bushes and into the long end of a cane. Next thing Colonel Trevor knew he was eating dirt while the dapper young man lorded over him.
“Sorry to cut this chase short,” he said, “but I have urgent business to attend to.”
His words made no impact on the colonel, and still wouldn’t have if they spoke the same language. Driven by fury and grit, Steve Trevor rolled into a crouch and pounced, throwing fists with all the precision he could muster.
“You okay, Steve?” asked the woman over the radio.
“M’fine,” he lied.
The masked stranger danced around the blows the same as a matador maneuvered a raging bull. Though he drew no enjoyment from it. Time was growing short. He reached into his coat and, using the stem as a dart, flung a rose at the soldier’s feet.
It struck the dirt hard enough for the Colonel to think twice, and long enough for the gentleman prowler to make his escape; so fast that he lost him in a blink.
He was alone with his humiliation. Just what had he been dragged into this time?
“Colonel Trevor, I don’t have a visual,” said the voice in his ear. “Do you need backup?”
He brushed the dirt off his sleeve and groaned. “No. No, Etta. I’m fine. I’m-”
Something changed – something so small that the Colonel couldn’t say what, but he noticed it all the same. Gravity, perhaps? The air? Something that threw the world out of sync; something that called him to find shelter.
And then he saw it, high in the sky, smaller than the sun, but just as bright – brighter. It’s eerie glow stained azure into a sickly purple, and pressed into his mind’s eye like a dagger.
Flee, it demanded without words. Flee!
“Please tell me I’m not the only one seeing this.”
“I-I see it too, Colonel,” said Etta. “What in the world is it?”
He couldn’t determine how near the thing was, or how far, only that when the thing exploded trouble was destined to follow. The light burst across the sky, covering everything from horizon to horizon – and in doing so released what looked to be a thousand birds, stained the same color as the star.
Colonel Trevor sprinted for the building. “Etta! Call for backup! We’ve got incoming!”
Miss Prince sauntered between the desks, book in hand, and read aloud to the class.
“Immortal Aphrodite, on your intricately brocaded throne, child of Zeus, weaver of wiles, this I pray: Dear Lady, don’t crush my heart with pains and sorrows…”
Usagi didn’t need to know the words to be utterly captivated by them. The teacher’s voice was like that of a songbird, sweet and uplifting, lighter than air. Maybe, Usagi wondered, Miss Prince was a pop idol in her younger days, back in whatever magical land she’d stepped from.
Every so often the teacher’s sapphire eyes found Usagi, and for a short eternity rested on her. The girl’s heart beat out of control. Miss Prince was looking at her, and nobody else! She followed the teacher, tracking where her gaze landed just to be sure, but that attention was hers and hers alone. Usagi’s cheeks burned so hot they were almost steaming!
Did Miss Prince know? What an embarrassing thought! Yet Usagi hoped, and prayed…
She circled the room, drawing every eye with her. It seemed Usagi wasn’t the only one in awe. Miss Prince fluttered her lashes. Did she know the effect she had on a room? If she did she accepted the fact with grace, never flustered by the attention of students. Somehow that made her more beautiful.
So lost was Usagi in her adoration that she didn’t register the teacher’s change in mood. Then there was a flash of light. Usagi blinked at the phenomenon and tilted her head.
Miss Prince barked, switching languages. “Get away from the windows!”
Next she knew there was glass shattering, and beating of wings so loud they stifled the screams of the students.
Usagi squealed, shielded herself with a book, and pushed into the throng squeezing through the door. The ringing was enough to drive anyone running.
“Somebody please tell me what’s going on!”
Terror flushed the flattery out of her system, freezing her chest in panic. Once that might have stopped the girl in her tracks, but a voice in the back of her mind called to press forward. There was more at stake than her own safety, and only one equal to the task.
This was a job for Sailor Moon… if she could make it that far.