by Rob Kelk
The poor girl looked so tired, as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders for so long and didn't know how to react once it was gone.
Which was accurate, after all. She'd been the only Senshi operating in Europe for months. But it wasn't good for her long-term health.
So I decided to do something about it, starting with tonight's training session. Which is why I was wearing the cheapest shirt I could find.
"All right, ladies, the session tonight begins as a four-on-two battle. The idea is to contain and take prisoners — let's at least try not to hurt each other. Aino-san, you're with me."
As the others left, Minako turned to me. "Is four-on-two really a fair fight?"
"We do have more combat experience than they do. Besides, I said that it begins as a four-on-two battle, not that it'll stay that way."
"You're planning on conjuring up some reinforcements."
Smart girl. "One particular reinforcement that they aren't expecting. I hit on these songs last week... now what was the code again?" Then I grinned. "Hey, Venus, watch me pull our Rabbit out of my hat! Nothing up my sleeve..." I ripped the arm off of that cheap shirt, then keyed in the code for Flamethrower. "Presto!" As I expected but Minako didn't, a duplicate Sailor Mars appeared in front of us. I grinned apologetically. "Oops."
I looked at the girls. Everyone who had actually taken some burn damage (which was everyone but Rei and Minako) was fully healed, but they were looking at Sailor Mars with some new-found respect. "Last night's session worked so well that we're going to do it again." Before anyone could complain, I added, "And, no, I won't conjure up a duplicate Sailor Mars. Off you go, ladies."
Minako and I watched them take their positions. "If you aren't going to call up Rei, who are you going to call?"
I almost answered with the usual movie title, but went with the routine instead. "Hey, Venus, watch me pull our Rabbit out of my hat!"
Hmmm. Maybe she did know my reference. I keyed in the code for Knock on Wood. "Presto!" Of course I didn't get Sailor Moon; instead, a duplicate Sailor Jupiter appeared in front of us. "Guess I don't know my own strength."
Minako giggled, and I kept myself from smiling.
"Hey, Venus, watch me pull our Rabbit out of my hat!"
"But that trick never works!"
She did know my reference. I keyed in the code for Venus. "Presto!" To the surprise of neither of us, a second Sailor Venus appeared beside Minako. "Maybe I need a new hat."
She looked at me, then looked at the other Senshi (who had decided to remain nearby and spy on us while we were making our plans). "And now here's something we hope you'll really like!" Both Venuses continued in unison. "Crescent Beam!"
"Mister Sangnoir, what was the whole point of the Bullwinkle references?"
As the others stretched to recover from being treated with I'm Alive three nights in a row, I sat down on the lawn beside Minako. Since she had asked in English, I replied in the same language. "I thought you'd already figured it out, since you were taking part in the routine this evening."
"Maybe, but it doesn't hurt to double-check."
I nodded. It had taken the girls long enough to learn that lesson that I didn't want to send them the opposite message even for something this minor. "We were preparing for combat, but we were still having fun. As long as all the important matters are covered, we don't have to be deathly serious." Hexe would probably kill me for giving a trainee that advice, but Minako wasn't a trainee. Good thing we were speaking English, though — at least Rei and Makoto couldn't understand us.
"So that means I can lighten up and still fight effectively."
I just nodded.
"Are you telling me that I should lighten up?"
"That's up to you. But I will tell you that you're likely to hurt yourself if you don't."
She frowned. "Changing my whole attitude about combat isn't something that's easy ... but I'll think about it."
That's all I expected, this early in the process. "Thank you, Minako."