In many ways, the Inner Senshi and the Shitennou are similar, and one of these ways is that they were all born, ordinary humans, in the same location, at roughly the same time, with few exceptions1. The difference is that the guardsmen had gaps in their memories connecting their civilian identities, and the boundary that stops them seems much firmer. They have no memory, for example, of transforming, of being Queen Beryl's servants, of concocting nefarious schemes and stealing energy for her and then transforming back to attend school or a job. Luna would be able to say more. After all, it's the same process, the same block she placed on the girls, after defeating Beryl.
But after everything ends, those boundaries are removed, and the memories bleed forward and back again. And then they remember. It's disorienting, to say the very least. Did you know that even though you have a normal person's memories, you share another consciousness with a being who was touched by Chaos? At least there are finally answers for that unexplained forgetfulness.
None of them know each other in real life, even though they live in the same city. How does one find such people? There's the hope that you'll know them when you see them. What does one say? 'Hey, I have a feeling that you're that guy who turned humans into demons to steal their energy? I know because I used to be one too?' Perfect opening.
They happen upon Kunzite - Sato Kenta - accidentally, because Artemis finds him first. Kenta believes he is a stray, and feeds him, and Artemis is a shameless beggar of food and attention2. Neither Minako nor Kenta have any idea of any of this, when he puts out a lost cat advertisement and she answers it, so when she shows up at the door of his apartment this is a complete surprise. But they recognise each other immediately3. This is the guy she fought off as Sailor V, and then later as Venus.
"Here's your cat back," mumbles Kenta, and shoves him forward, then shuts the door in her face. Rude, thinks Minako. But Artemis looks like he's gained some weight so Kunz- Kenta can't be all that bad a guy.
In a similar manner the remainder are uncovered, one by one. It takes a few years, by which time Minako and Kenta have started dating and stopped dating five times. Jadeite and Mars have nothing in common, and neither do Ryouhei and Rei. But Ryouhei gets along well enough with Makoto. He's a fun guy, he's tall - taller than she is, that's saying something - and he plays a good game of basketball. He doesn't seem to mind that she's a giantess on the court where every other guy she's ever met4 has made some kind of fun of her for her height, for her fleshiness. She can't help the way she was made, and Ryouhei doesn't ask her to.
Seiji is quiet. Really quiet, and in an unsettling way. But he keeps to himself. The only one he begins to talk to is Kenta, with whom he forms a curious closeness, and only through Kenta do they find that Seiji is not to be feared, but also not to be approached. "Seiji's like a cat," offers Kenta, "if you sit calmly and ignore him, he will come up to you in his own time." Seiji, who is studying German, spends a lot of time in the library, which is how Ami finds him. There's no trace amount of darkness around him that can explain what it is that pings her radar, but notice him nevertheless she does. Thereafter, Ami chooses to do her studying and revision elsewhere. It is her polite way of transmitting her tacit disapproval.
Masato is the last. When they see his name graduate they think, no it can't possibly be him. It is.
Nephrite's name really is Sanjouin Masato. He really is the supposed millionaire playboy who briefly rose in popularity and fell not long after back into relative obscurity. Masato finds them, because Mamoru bumps into him - yet again - and this time they recognise each other.
Masato is gregarious, loud, and often embarrassing. But he's friendly and open which makes him more like Ryouhei than Kenta and Seiji. Ami likes him, Minako likes him, Usagi likes him. Even Haruka and Michiru. He gets along with people well, he's good at being in a crowd. Makoto wishes she had a little bit of that confidence, but doesn't want his brashness - she has enough of her own.
But can any of them say they really know him? They don't know much about him. Just because he's a class clown doesn't mean he can do one-on-one conversations.
Except with Makoto. He keeps trying. This is why Makoto thinks he's embarrassing. He tries to get her alone. He tries to chat her up. It seems like he's trying to be chivalric, but Makoto doesn't go in for that foppish sort of thing. Besides, Kenta does it way better.
Through Masato's efforts, she learns a little more about him, because he doesn't shut up about himself. He works out a lot, she can tell that much by his choice of clothing - he saves the tank tops for her, the definition in his arms are clearly a point of pride. He likes to flaunt the money his parents left him around. He's generous but calculating about that. He chooses his clothes more carefully than his friends.
Makoto isn't seduced. Maybe if she were still fourteen, but she's older now. Masato is another boy trying for manhood, shooting the arrow and missing the target. Stick him in an adult body, and it's all the same. At least Nephrite5 could muster some seriousness! Masato is trying to be playful and coming off as insincere, foolish. Now, Makoto has never thought herself particularly intellectual - not ever, and then she met perfect brainy Ami and she knew she was even less an intellectual than she previously thought - but Masato's behaviour and personality strikes her as corny and inane and rubs her the wrong way.
But in a crowd, he makes Usagi and Minako laugh, and Mamoru seems so genuinely thrilled to have his own friends. So send in the clowns, Makoto supposes.
Masato hosts a farewell party when he leaves, because he's been accepted to a university6 in America. She goes, because Minako is going and Usagi is going and Ami is going and Rei is going and Ryouhei is going and Mamoru is going. Not because she really wants to. In fact Makoto is anxious that he leave, that she can stop feeling that uncomfortable itch up her spine.
But when she gets there there's nobody else there.
"Oh no, you're just the first one here!" Masato says.
But Ami is never late for parties. "I thought we were beginning at six," she says. "And it's already six-thirty."
"Well, the rest of them are coming at seven," he explains.
This isn't funny. "You told me six," she says firmly.
Masato sobers and grows serious. "Listen, I ... I wanted to talk to you, and we haven't had much of a chance."
Oh god, she thinks, here it comes. The Talk. This is going to be her version of it.
Bits and pieces remain to them of what happened in the Silver Millennium. They do remember one thing: that the Princess' senshi and Endymion's guards had paired away. And Nephrite was hers. It seems to be the case across the board that the guards have better memories of what happened than the senshi do. Ryouhei privately confided in her his own memories of Mars, mostly because he was trying to see where that girl was in Rei7. As far as she knows8, part of why Minako and Kenta keep getting together is to try and rekindle what must have been there, some time ago. Part of why they keep breaking apart is because Minako falls in love easily, and Kenta doesn't. Ami hasn't said whether she and Seiji have spoken at all, let alone about this.
But Masato is so open, so friendly. So eager to clear the air and get some straight answers. Too cocksure probably to imagine this wouldn't go his way. Of course he wants to talk about this. Well, she braces herself, let's get this over with.
"I asked Minako about you," he begins.
"That sounds creepy," Makoto says.
"I - but - alright, I didn't mean for it to sound like that. It's just that she's the only one I know who really understands how love works -"
"Are you sure about that?" Makoto puts her bag down on the sofa and heads to the kitchen to fix herself a drink. She hasn't been invited to do so, but if this is the game Masato wants to play, she'll grab some water. Something to do with her hands, something to splash in his face, if she needs. "It's how many times she and Kenta have split?"
"That's - different," says Masato. He is growing more and more flustered. "She said, I should just be direct, so." He follows her into the kitchen. "So this is me, being direct."
She flattens herself against the countertop. It's clear from this that she has nowhere to go - he stands in the way of the only entrance or exit out of this room. Makoto isn't worried - she has Jupiter's strength, and she's faced way tougher battles than this. None this awkward. She's giving him exactly one minute to make this right or she'll deck him.
"I don't have a lot of time before I leave next week for school," Masato adds, drawing nearer. "But I wanted you to know that - I would be interested in keeping what we have between us."
"Good for you," she says. Masato takes another step forward, cocksure of success. Millionaires. Nobody ever tells them no. "Look, here, why don't I help you get set up for this party of yours." She reaches for the apron and puts it on - another layer between them.
"I mean romance, Makoto," Masato urges. He steps into her personal space. Bad idea. She puts a hand on his shoulder, and he, smiling, misinterprets.
"I don't think I want that, with you," she says.
"But we have history," he argues. "This marvellous, fantastic history -" he leans in closer, his eyes on her mouth.
Makoto puts up a hand at mouth-level, not touching him, just to ward him off, as a defence. "That's history that I don't remember," she says.
"We could explore it together," he tries.
She leans in closer, and he tenses, skittish. "I don't want to, Nephrite," she says. "Now back off."
Masato's face changes immediately. He pouts and deflates, and his hold around her drops. He slumps and it's enough to give her some breathing room, and then he takes a step back. "You keep calling me that," he complains. "How would you feel if I called you Jupiter all the time?"
"It's what I am," she replies simply.
"That's not the point and you know it! I don't think you're over what I did."
"Maybe you need to get over what you did," she replies. "Because that's what we remember most clearly."
"Not the others!"
Makoto glares. "Then go talk to the others."
"Look, I get that you don't wanna trust me -" he begins.
"I don't think you do," she grumbles.
"- but if you just tried," he says. "You'd know I'm a nice guy!"
"A nice guy who lied to me so he could get me alone? A nice guy who backs me up and has to be told no?"
"Alright, that was maybe a jerk move," he replies, "but you can handle yourself, I've seen you!"
"I shouldn't have to," she replies.
The doorbell rings. "Oh good," she says, "Ami's early." Thank god.
"I don't care about the others so much as I care about you. I just wish," he says, "you knew who I was."
"Yeah? Well, I wish you knew who you were," she retorts, and gets the door.
With Ami there, Masato doesn't try anything, and Ami can read an atmosphere well enough that she doesn't leave to so much as use the washroom until others have joined. In the end, Makoto has a better time than she thought she would. Masato is subdued. "There's no denying a fantastic opportunity to study abroad. He says he's always wanted to travel. He'd better send pictures!" Minako comments, as they all walk back to the train station together, "He seems sad to leave his friends, though."
"I hope that's why he's sad," says Makoto.
"Yanno, he's not so bad a guy," Minako says, elbowing Makoto lightly in the side. "Pretty hot, too. Don't you think?"
"You date him, then," Makoto replies.
Two years pass before he returns. He returns the first year, for summer9, but she doesn't make an effort to see him and he doesn't stay long enough that it becomes a problem with their mutual set of friends.
The second year, she doesn't get in to culinary school.
"It's fine," she says, putting on a brave face, "I'll figure out something else to do. There's lots I could do! I'll try again next year."
"That's the spirit," says Minako.
"You're upset, aren't you," says Ami quietly.
"I'm angry, that's all," Makoto replies.
Honestly. She's never been so brainy as all that but this is a new low. It wasn't the cooking that was the problem - that was never a problem - it was all the extra stuff that was required course material. Entrepreneurship. Marketing. Stupid courses that have dumb requirements and are graded subjectively! Sure, it was competitive but she's a legitimately good cook! Or so she thought.
Ryouhei is really understanding. "I don't wanna say you'll find something else, I'm sure your girls have been all over that," he says. "I think you should let yourself mourn a bit. You're depressed."
"How can you tell?!" Is she really that transparent?
"You're playing terribly," he replies. "You never play this bad except for that first match you let me win."
Makoto laughs a short bark of a laugh. "That was over two years ago now. You still remember that?"
"'Course," says Ryouhei. He blushes, his blue eyes twinkling. "I thought it was cute," he adds.
It's easy to mourn. It's easy to be depressed for a little while. There goes her dreams of opening her own restaurant. "Not necessarily," says Rei. "Maybe you just need someone else to handle the math side of things."
"I wish I could do it all myself," Makoto argues. She should be strong enough. She feels dumb for not being able to. "I put everything in this. Everything I invested went into this small part that made me different, that made me better at this one thing than most people. I thought, I'll never win beauty contests, I'm no genius, but damn, can I cook! Rei, sometimes I feel like that's all I am. And all of my effort wasn't enough!"
"Well, you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket," Rei says. "Anyway, so what, so one little setback is gonna ruin everything? That's not who you are."
How would Rei know? Makoto doesn't! "This is who I've been for so long!" she complains. "This was more important to me than one little setback! I had a plan for where I wanted things to go and this isn't it and I can't force it to go my way."
Rei softens. She seems to understand that she's not providing the answers Makoto wants. Well, nobody can. That's kind of the problem. "You'll find a way," says Rei. Makoto loves her but sometimes it's like talking to a wall. Who is she now? Without her dream?
Two months into her slump Masato comes home. He wants to see them all, of course. They're meeting at the arcade, then for dinner and drinks, and then maybe karaoke. This time Makoto goes. Terrible idea? Maybe. Maybe he can cheer her up. He's good like that, isn't he, clowning around?
Masato is quieter than she remembers. School has changed him, but more than that, experience has changed him. "There's actually not a lot of Japanese students where I am," he says, filling her in on the details she missed last year. "Chinese, yeah; Korean, yeah, and they're cool guys, but I speak to them all in English. There's nobody I can speak to. I feel really isolated and doing any one little thing is really hard now." He laughs, "Can you imagine? Picking up a package from the postal office. I have to psych myself up for that some days. It's not so easy when it's not your language!"
"It's not that hard," says Mamoru, laughing.
"Says the guy studying where there's already a healthy Japanese community," Masato points out.
He's more interesting than she remembers. He's sharing a lot more about himself, about his fears and likes and dislikes and experiences. This is the kind of thing she could've gone for, two years ago.
Yanno, he's not so bad, she remembers Minako saying. Yeah, he's really not. Pretty hot, too. He doesn't wear tank tops anymore. Not flexing and posing, making sure people see his best side. Now he wears a black band shirt and he looks like a metal head. It's different than playboy rich asshat. And different is good.
So Makoto gathers up the courage to talk to him - it's actually not that hard, part of her thinks it's still 'just' Masato, which is comforting and familiar in its own way10. Confident, she invites him out for ice cream, and that's where she makes her move.
"Ah - listen," he says, nervously looking at their hands where she has covered his with her own. "I'm -"
She realises immediately. "Not interested," she says. She leans back.
"Living in America," he explains. "It's hard. And I want to finish what I'm doing. I don't like starting and stopping."
"I wouldn't have you stop and come back all the way for me," she says.
"But I would want to," he argues. "If I were doing it right, I would."
"You're saying I'd be a distraction," she says.
He drains of glass of water - slowly, stalling for time - before he speaks. "Let me tell you about life in America," he says. "For someone like me. It's been an experience, and sometimes it's been a trial. There are actually a lot of reasons why I would want to come back. I took for granted how simple life is here for me. Because I'm from here, right? Everything is natural. You'd be surprised how difficult simple things can feel when you're not used to them. How frustrating that is. And so, a large part of me is very keen to find the first good reason to come back. Makoto, that's you. I'm not saying no, I'm just saying..." he trails off. "Well, anyway. It's been humbling to have things be difficult. It's been good for me."
"I think so too," she says. They agree to exchange numbers.
Part of her feelings about Masato, after he rejects her, is embarrassment and jealousy. Why is he enjoying it so much to be there? She doesn't trust that it's not a dig at her, somehow. She pokes around more on his online accounts, where he has dutifully uploaded tons of pictures and videos. Pictures and videos of everything - of plants, of the grocery store, of houses, of the sky, where he's been, when he's out with friends, at restaurants, all sorts of different things and sends them to her, when he can, when he's not busy with schoolwork (which is all the time). Maybe he's sharing all these pictures and videos to show off all the amazing things he's done. A show off is what Masato is, sometimes. Showing off how great his life is.
One day she looks closer at a video of people juggling bottles in a fancy restaurant where the food is served on what looks like bathroom tiles instead of plates (This strikes her as unsanitary. Later in life, when she finally opens her restaurant - later than she had hoped, but better late than never - she adamantly refuses to put any of her dishes on anything but plates.). What are they doing? she comments.
Flash bartending! he replies. Doesn't it look cool?
It does. I've always wanted to do something that cool, she comments.
He texts her back personally. So why don't you?
Don't have the money for it, she nearly replies. No. What if handsome courtly knightly Masato tries to send it to her? Oh god, no. Maybe I will, she replies instead.
He replies two days later, busy with exams. Look, there's a course starting in a month in Tokyo, with a link.
On a whim, she signs up.
She still doesn't have the money for it, but she takes a job at a local restaurant. First waiting tables, because she's polite and sweet and gives good service. But then she tells the owners that she'd really rather be in the kitchen. This, they don't mind because she's good service but she doesn't look the part of what they think a waitress should be (petite, darling, not ready to dropkick a patron with wandering hands). It's not a high-paying job, and the hours can be rough. But it gives her enough to live off of and enough to take another course.
This starts the addiction. She goes from course to course and they get weirder and weirder. Broadsword fighting. Hey, why not. An archaeology dig. Book binding. Loom weaving. And every culinary course she liked from the program she had applied to, but separately and on her own time, with none of that boring economics to worry about. A course just on gelatin desserts. Meringues and macarons. Candy sculptures - that one, she really likes. She does all the pastry certificates at Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo, and then she starts to learn French.
Tell me everything, Masato texts her, desperate for details, and she does.
They talk longer than she thinks would. Masato is ... intelligent? Comforting? This hasn't always been there, she's certain of it.
Makoto and Masato continue to text, though intermittently, because he's busy with school and she's busy with her work schedule11. It's not uncommon for her to send him a text replying to something he's said two days ago. Their conversations become short bursts, interspersed with long silences.
The time passes very quickly until two years have passed and Masato has come home, having finished his degree. He invites her out for dinner to catch up, as she isn't able to make any of the get-togethers that he has hosted since his return. He says it's his treat, because he wants to try a fancy restaurant. If that's okay.
Sure, Makoto thinks, shrugging it off, why wouldn't it be? She and Ryouhei trade off every time they grab drinks. She'll get the next one.
That implies there'll be a next one. She contemplates it. But that would be okay, too.
It is a really nice restaurant. The food is stellar and the plating is attractive. She notices these things now, and tells Masato about them all, about the properties of the wine he orders and the reasons for different glasses - from one of her viticulture courses. He hangs on her words and half the meal passes talking about the science of wine. Still, he doesn't take her food recommendation and orders the chicken offering of the table d'hôte, saying he's still focused on his protein intake.
"You get to the gym much?" Makoto asks.
"Haven't had the time in fourth year," he replies. "Wanna get back into it though. I miss it."
"Still a frat boy," she teases, and he grins.
"Maybe. But I like the feeling of working out too. How about you?"
With what time? "I don't go to gyms that often," she says.
"I meant more what kinds of things have you been doing," he says. Conversation between them is natural. This is just like hanging out with Ryouhei.
Only... she doesn't go to a dimly-lit fancy restaurants with Ryouhei. And Masato's skin seems even more tan than it usually is. And his hair is shiny. And his eyes sparkle in the candlelight. And she's staring.
She quickly puts her eyes back at her plate. Masato doesn't seem to have noticed but the fluttery chest feeling isn't going away as quickly as she had hoped.
He really is good looking, she thinks.
"Why'd you invite me here?" Makoto asks.
Masato avoids her eyes. "'Cause I should've done this the first time," he says. "Public place, a nice place. Not tricked you to get you alone."
She shrugs. "Well, I wouldn't have met you for dinner back then."
"Then that should've been part of my answer," he says.
The silence this time is awkward. "Why did you pick economics anyway?" she asks eventually.
He shakes his head. "Aw, it's dumb, you'll laugh."
"I won't! I wouldn't," she says.
"Well, it was what everybody expected, right? With all that money. That I should do something with it, invest it. I don't know what to do with money, I feel like I didn't really value it until I left and now, I still don't."
But if he's so rich, he could do anything he felt like doing. "Why would you stay in a program you had to do?"
"It got more interesting, there's some parts that are really interesting. And - y'know, maybe it'll be useful. But sometimes I wanted to... to just do whatever I was interested in. In a lot of ways, I envy you."
"Really?" With her ten-hour days, six days a week?
"Yeah, you've done so much!"
"Says the rich guy who studied abroad," she says.
"Sure. But you had this great dream of opening a restaurant -"
"And look where that got me."
"- but now you've taken so many courses, you could do it."
Makoto shakes her head. "I never had the mind for the accounting side of things, that's what got me rejected."
"Well, that's. One of the reasons I thought it'd be useful to study economics."
She looks up. "What?" He didn't plan it that far back. He couldn't've.
"I thought it'd be useful for you," Masato confesses. "I didn't even think, whether you needed help, at all. I never doubted you could do it all yourself, I was just trying to make some space for me. Because we always - we were a good team. We complimented each other well in our skillsets. And I know that you say you don't remember -"
But she does.
In a flash it passes, his brown hair as he flits by her. Don't move, he said, with a massive weapon, some sort of bolt-thrower, held at her shoulder. You're the perfect height for this. He has better vision and good aim, but one hand is shaking, he's damaged it - and she's less effective on an enemy that far away, but together they bring down the demon, and he whoops with a loud cheer.
"I remember that," Makoto says. "We were good partners. We could be good partners again."
Masato looks uncertain. "Only partners?"
"Maybe more," she says, her heart pounding, and puts her hand over his12.