The Gift of Love

by LadyKeren


* * * * * * * *

After receiving various massages, heat therapy, and several ice packs, Usagi was finally given the green light to return to class. She took a glance at the clock before exiting the infirmary. By then, it was nearly lunch time, which was just as well for the young girl because she wasn't sure how she would be able to remain awake in class, plus her stomach was pained with hunger. Not to mention half of her homework was still incomplete.

All the students looked up when they saw their classmate strolling into the room, walking very slowly and holding a small orthopedic pillow in her hands. She placed the pillow in the back of the chair and stiffly sat, resting her backpack down on the ground. She shifted a little in her chair, suppressing a pain filled groan.

Ms. Haruna had just finished writing the homework assignment on the blackboard for the students to copy down. She rested the chalk down and turned to face the front. She smiled slightly when she saw Usagi had arrived. "Well well, Ms. Tsukino. It's nice that you are finally able to join us. I trust you are feeling all right now."

It was all Usagi could do not to wince in pain. 'I wish I could say that, but if I tell Miss H. how much I'm still hurting, she'll think I'm just saying it to get out of doing my class work.' She managed a, "Yes ma'am."

"That's good." The teacher's facial expression grew serious. "I have instructed Ms. Mizuno to give you the work you missed this morning."

As much as Usagi hated to think about schoolwork, she couldn't help but consider Ami a lifesaver. She nodded. "Okay." 'Maybe I can have her go over the work with me as chances are I wouldn't understand it anyway.'

"And be sure to copy the homework assignment I have written on the board before I erase it after lunch."

The blonde let out a soft sigh, not thrilled at all, but she didn't want Ms. Haruna to pick up on that. 'More homework. Oh joy. And I still have some from last week to do. I have to say, though, I'm lucky she hasn't gotten on my case about that yet.' She put on her best dutiful look, hoping it was convincing enough. "Yes, Ms. H." 'Not like I could go outside anyway, with my back like this.'

Ms. Haruna studied Usagi for a bit, not sure what to make of her cooperation. "Good." Just as she said that, the lunch bell rang and most of the students pushed in their chairs and ran out the door, with the exception of Ami, who opted to stay inside and study, as well as Naru, who was copying down the last bit of notes written on the board.

Usagi gave a dejected sigh as she watched her classmates leave. 'Man, this really stinks! I'm in pain and stuck in here. I wanted to spend some more time with Mako-chan, too. Now that will have to wait...unless my back feels better before lunch period is over.' Her stomach growled loudly. She reached into her backpack for her lunch satchel and pulled it out, resting it on her desk. She untied it and examined her lunch to see if by some miracle it survived the ordeal she encountered, or if she would have to dispose of it. Fortunately for her the sandwich was not totally ruined, although pretty smushed. 'Who cares? I'm hungry.' She picked up the sandwich and brought it to her mouth, taking a bite. 'Mmmm, not too bad, considering.' She was about to take another bite when she heard Naru's voice going, "Hey, Usagi?" She nearly dropped her sandwich as for a moment she had almost forgotten she wasn't alone in the classroom. She put her sandwich down and looked at her best friend. "Yes, Naru-chan?"

"How is your back? Are you feeling okay now?" Naru looked at the blonde with concerned eyes.

Usagi rubbed her back and adjusted her pillow as it was beginning to slide out from behind her and fall out of the chair. "Still pretty sore, but I'll live."

"I hear you. How did you hurt your back, anyway?"

Usagi held back a groan, not particularly wanting to share what had happened, but she knew it would be no use trying to hide the truth as her friend was very intuitive and almost nothing got past her. "I bumped into some thugs while running to school this morning and they beat me up."

Naru dropped her pen and her hands flew to her mouth. "Oh no!" She was beginning to wonder if she would ever catch a break from the bad things happening to the people she held most dear. 'First Nephrite-sama twisted his ankle and now this? I'm afraid to know what's next.' She lowered her head a bit, placing her chin in her hands.

Usagi could see Naru was a bit upset and wanted to set her mind at ease. "I know…stupid lowlifes. Good thing is Makoto fought them off and saved me."

Naru took her hands from her chin and placed them back on her desk, looking up at her friend. "You mean the new girl?"

"Yup. She arrived just in the nick of time, too."

"Well it was a good thing she came when she did or who knows what would have happened?"

Usagi shuddered. "I don't even want to think about it." She took another bite of her sandwich, chewing as if it were losing its appeal. 'Man I can't wait to get out of here…just 2 more periods.'

Naru frowned slightly as she wondered about Makoto and the circumstances of her transfer. 'Umino said she was kicked out of her old school for fighting, but that could just be hearsay. Even if it weren't, I still want to get to know her for myself.' She decided to let Usagi finish eat in peace and picked up her pen, writing down the rest of the notes.

"Miss Osaka Naru, please report to the office as soon as possible!" a crisp sounding voice announced over the P.A system.

'Huh?' Naru's heart started to pound rapidly as she placed the pen in between the pages of her notebook, and closed it.

Usagi finished off her last bite of sandwich, looking puzzled. "You have any idea what they could be calling you for?" She certainly hoped the red head wasn't in trouble or anything like that.

"I don't know, but I hope nothing terrible has happened. There's only one way to find out, though." If it were not for the fact that lunch time was about half over, Naru would have gone crazy wondering what happened. She got up and pushed her chair in. "I'll be right back," she said before leaving the classroom.

'I so hope she'll be all right. I guess I had better hurry and copy those notes before Miss Haruna keeps me in detention again.' Letting out a sigh, Usagi reached inside her backpack and pulled out her notebook. She made a face as she eyed the homework on the board. 'Ewwww, that looks like Ancient Greek to me.' She feverishly opened her notebook and began to write down the notes.

* * * * * * * *

Makoto was sitting behind one of the trees of the schoolyard, trying to enjoy her lunch in peace. However, it was hard to do so as she overheard a couple of her classmates talking about her and how she was kicked out of her old school for fighting.

"That Makoto chick sounds like bad news," one of the boys told Umino. "We should really stay away from her."

Umino adjusted his glasses and nodded in agreement. "You're right. Who knows when she'll fly off the handle and beat us up, too?" He spotted a figure behind the tree wearing the tan colored uniform and with long brown hair tied back in a high ponytail. He went quiet for a bit. "I think she can hear us. Let's get away from here."

"Yeah, before she comes after us, too." The gossipers ran away as if they were chickens with their heads being cut off.

Makoto gave a deep frown as she absorbed what the handful of boys had said about her. 'It seems as if I have a bunch of haters already, and the day has not even ended yet. I had hoped I would be able to start anew, but I guess not.' She went to take another bite of her lunch, but decided not to after discovering she no longer had an appetite. Not after the gossip she overheard. She felt like going after them and telling them off for jumping to such conclusions without finding out the whole story. True, she did get into lots of altercations, but they were all out of self-defense against bullies. 'It's no use telling them that, though. They will only believe whatever they want to.' She sighed sadly, placing a hand on her forehead. 'At least that girl Usagi seems to be different from them. Speaking of which, I should check on her. She was hurt pretty badly this morning.'

The brunette got up from her spot by the tree and headed into the classroom, remembering that Usagi was staying inside for lunch for obvious reasons.

* * * * * * * *

Usagi's head was bent over as she wrote busily. She knew her penmanship was a bit untidy since she was writing so fast, but she didn't really care. She just wanted it to be over and done with and besides, she still understood her writing in spite of its sloppiness. Her hand was beginning to become tired as she sped up the process whilst taking down the last question. She heaved a sigh of relief as she rested her pen down. 'Finally.' At that moment, she heard footsteps. 'Huh? Must be Naru-chan. I hope everything went all right.' When she looked up, though, she saw that it was not Naru, but Makoto, holding a tray of food. This was fine by her, since she wanted to get to know her better. She actually had thoughts about taking a break and braving the pain to go outside. 'Now I don't have to.' She smiled brightly as she said, "Hi, Mako-chan!"

Makoto smiled back, not only at the blonde's cheerful spirit but also because it was refreshing to know that someone was happy to see her for a change. 'She seems to be a naturally friendly person. I like her.' "Hey girl! How are you feeling?" She sat on the right side of Usagi.

Usagi winced slightly trying to adjust herself in her seat. "A little better, but still not my best."

Makoto gave her new friend a sympathetic look. "I can tell. You are having trouble sitting upright without grimacing. But I'm glad you're feeling even remotely better."

Usagi sighed. "Yeah, I'm glad, too. However, what I'm worried about is after school. What if it's not healed enough for me to walk home then?"

The brunette rested a hand on Usagi's shoulder. "I'm sure it will be by then. "

"I hope so."

Makoto shook her head slightly, clicking her tongue. "It will be. Try to have some faith." She went quiet, trying to find a way to lighten Usagi's glum mood. "Hey, do you want some of my lunch? "

Usagi's eyes lit up. "Sure! What have you got there?" She licked her lips, thinking whatever it was would be more filling and satisfying than the sandwich she had. 'Besides, something tells me if I turned down food from her, I would be missing out.'

Chuckling lightly, Makoto placed the tray of food on Usagi's desk and she was even more amused as she watched the blonde ogle at all the different foods. 'She's so cute.'

"Wow, all of this looks yummy!"

"Well, what are you waiting for?" asked Makoto. "Dig in! I'm no longer very hungry, so have as much of it as you like."

"Okay!" Usagi practically dove into the food, grabbing a rice cake and eating it as if she hadn't eaten in ages. "Mmmm, this is really good! Your mom sure is a good cook."

Makoto blushed awkwardly as she explained, "I actually made it myself."

"Oh really?" Usagi gave an awed look. Of course just about all the people her age could cook better than she could, but Makoto was by far the best. "You did a great job!" She finished eating the rice cake.

A soft gulping sound popped out of Makoto's throat. 'One thing I can say is that she has a healthy appetite.'

Usagi looked away from the tray and turned to Makoto. "Say, Mako-chan? Do you want to come to the arcade with me after school? You can play the Sailor V game there and while it may be hard, it's also lots of fun."

The brunette girl smiled brightly at Usagi. "Sure! I would love to! I have wanted to play the Sailor V game for some time. "

Usagi smiled back just as brightly. "Great." She was about to eat something else from the lunch tray when all of a sudden Naru reentered the classroom, holding an envelope. She was relieved to see the red head back and was about to ask how things went when Naru walked up to her and handed her the envelope. "It's from Ruby," she explained. "She said to give it to Sailor Moon next time you come in contact with her. "

"Okay." Usagi took the envelope and slowly slipped it in her bag. She frowned a bit. 'So I finally hear from Ruby. But what could she possibly want? Can she be trusted now?' She was desperate to know what the note had said, but she didn't want to read it in front of Naru or Makoto. 'I'll have to show it to Ami and Rei after school, though.'

* * * * * * * *

(after school)

Makoto and Usagi walked to the arcade together. Usagi was holding her backpack in her hand to protect her back, making grunting sounds as if she were still in pain, which she was, despite taking a painkiller during lunchtime. 'I think after the arcade I will go home and take a nap. I hope I don't have to fight any monsters with my back like this.'

Makoto frowned, and looked at Usagi with concern in her eyes. "Hey girl, you need some help with that? You sound as if you're straining. I don't want your back to be more messed up than it already is."

Usagi wanted to ask her friend if she was sure but then she remembered how strong she was. "Yes please. I would really appreciate it."

"Okie dokie then." Makoto took Usagi's bag and hung it on her shoulder.

Usagi reached up a hand and rubbed her back a bit. "Thank you. You're the best. Sorry for burdening you like this."

Makoto blushed profusely. "Not a problem at all. And don't be silly. You're no burden. What are friends for?"

Usagi's heart swelled with pride when she heard Makoto refer to her as a friend. She had considered Makoto one from the moment she was rescued from the thugs. "Well I owe you one."

Makoto raised an eyebrow slightly. "You don't owe me a thing. Just continuing to be my friend is good enough for me."

"That I can definitely do. It's one of the few things I do best."

"I can see that." Makoto's facial expression grew very serious. "You know, you're pretty much the only student who talked to me instead of behind my back."

Usagi's brow furrowed, not liking the sound of that. "Really? How come?"

The brunette's face flushed as she responded, "It seems like nearly all the students are afraid of me for some reason."

"Why would anyone be afraid of you?"

Makoto set her mouth in a line. "I'm not entirely sure, but I overheard some of the boys talking about me during lunch time, about how I got into fights at my old school."

Usagi gave Makoto a look of sympathy. "Awww that sucks." But inside she was seething as she knew who the ring leader of the gossiping was. 'Umino…doesn't he have anything better to do?! The next time I see him he's gonna wish he was never born.' She balled her left hand into a fist.

"Yeah..." Makoto's voice trailed off as she looked almost depressed. "It's okay, though. I'm used to it."

Usagi side-eyed her friend as if she had grown another head or something. 'I can see how hurt she is. I don't know why she is trying to pretend otherwise.' "No, it's not okay! They're judging you when they don't know the whole story. Even if you had fought at your old school, I am sure there is an explanation for it."

'She's defending me. What a true friend.' Makoto couldn't help but crack a smile. "There is. At least you understand."

"Of course I do. The fact that you rescued me this morning and shared your lunch with me proves what a good person you are, under your tough exterior. So don't despair. Things will get better, you'll see."

"You think so?"

"I know so. In fact, I have a few friends to introduce you to."

Makoto's eyes brightened a bit. "Oh cool! I would love to meet them!"

"And I'm sure they would love to meet you as well. Trust me when I say you'll love them."

"I do." Makoto began to feel optimistic that things would improve for her. It was hard for her not to, given how cheerful the blonde was. She and Usagi soon arrived at the Crown Arcade and entered.

Usagi guided Makoto over to the Sailor V game, and she looked around to see if Motoki was there, so she could say hello to him. Much to her dismay, he was nowhere in sight. 'Oh bummer.'

Makoto glanced up from her game and noted Usagi's disappointment. "Is something wrong, Usagi?"

"I don't see Motoki anywhere," the blonde explained. "I wonder if he's off today. I was hoping to introduce you to him."

"Oh, who is Motoki?" asked Makoto. Her tone of voice changed into a teasing one as she asked, "Is he your boyfriend?"

Usagi's face turned bright red upon hearing the word boyfriend. "Nah, he's just a very good friend." She looked wistful as she thought about how she loved him much more than that. 'I will never be good enough for him, though. Oh well. At least I still have Tuxedo Mask.'

"Oh. Ok." Makoto turned her attention back to the game as it started to load.

Usagi stood behind Makoto so she could get a clear view of her performance. She gave a small grin when she saw the Sailor V logo appear. "Good luck, Mako-chan."

Makoto briefly turned back and smiled slightly before entering the necessary details. That done, she began the game. "Thank you. I have the feeling I'll need it."

Usagi peered over Makoto's shoulder as she watched her get engaged in the game. She watched with excitement as well as a little jealousy. Makoto's skills were not quite as good as Ami's, but still better than hers. 'I must be doing something wrong if someone who isn't a genius like Ami does better than me at such a hard game.'

For awhile, it seemed like Makoto was holding her own whilst fighting the monsters in the game, that was, until one of the monsters launched an attack. She tried her hardest to dodge it, but to no avail and the attack killed her. She groaned loudly when she saw the words GAME OVER flashing across the screen."Ugh! I had him! Such rotten cheaters!"

"Right?" agreed Usagi, placing a hand on Makoto's shoulder. "I know that feeling all too well. But you did pretty good, considering how hard the game is to play."

"Yeah yeah. Whatever." Makoto let out a grunt as if to show she was still sore about what had happened.

Usagi stepped back a bit to allow Makoto some space. She was about to urge the brunette to try again when she heard footsteps coming up behind her and a familiar voice saying, "Oh there you are, Usagi-chan. I thought I would find you here."

The moon senshi turned around and saw that her two friends Ami and Rei had arrived. She smiled widely. "Oh hey guys. I'm so happy to see you. I want you to meet my new friend, Makoto Kino. Makoto, these are my two friends, Ami and Rei."

The girls greeted each other with "nice to meet yous" and handshakes. Makoto could sense a friendly vibe already. 'I can tell I'm really going to like them.'

"Ami here is very smart and sweet, and Rei can be really mean sometimes, so watch out," continued Usagi.

Before Makoto could respond, Rei looked at Usagi, gaping and walking up to her. She knew there were times she corrected the blonde rather harshly, but felt it was for her own good. "Well hold on just a minute! Which second, hour, day, week, month, and year was I mean to you?"

Usagi scoffed and got into Rei's face. "Oh, like, you don't know? You're always being mean, even when you don't realize it!" she shot back, pointing at the raven haired girl, her tone of voice rising to the extent where she was practically yelling.

Makoto looked uncomfortable at all the bickering, then she chuckled a little. "You guys seem to be the best of friends."

"We're nothing of the sort!" scoffed Rei. "All we ever do is argue because Usagi here always picks fights with me!"

Usagi gasped, offended about what the fiery senshi just said. "I do not!"

"You do, too!"

"That's actually your department! Don't confuse me with you!"

In response, Rei stuck her tongue out at Usagi, and the blonde did the same, both girls turning their backs on each other and crossing their arms.

Makoto gave another awkward chuckle while the two girls bickered.

Ami shook her head and rubbed her temples wearily, letting out a sigh. "Makoto, was it? Sorry you had to see that. It's normal for them. I always have to break up their fights. I find it to be quite tiresome, actually."

Makoto nodded. "I understand. Well it is said that the more friends fight, the closer they are to each other."

Usagi and Rei forgot about their little tiff with each other and directed their attention at what Makoto just said. "Huh. Not likely," Rei muttered under her breath.

Makoto furrowed her brow, trying to think of how to lighten the mood as there was more tension in the room than she could stand. "Hey guys. How about we play some video games, now that the four of us are here?" she suggested.

Usagi smiled brightly. "Sure, that sounds great. I have to talk to Ami and Rei about something first though."

Both Rei and Ami averted their eyes toward Usagi. "What is it, Usagi-san?" asked Ami. "Is something wrong?"

Usagi scrunched up her brow as she still didn't know what Ruby's letter was about to decide what to make of it. "Um, not exactly, but it's important."

Still slightly irritated with the blonde for her jab earlier, Rei had to fight the urge to make a sarcastic remark. 'However, it must be really important for her to look that serious.' She looked thoughtful. "Okay. It would probably a good idea to discuss it outside just in case it's…" She paused, going to say sailor business but she didn't want to give away any hint about the girls' identities as senshi. "Confidential."

"You're right. Let's go." Usagi quickly pulled the envelope out of her bag and turned to Makoto. "Hey Mako-chan, we're just gonna step outside for a bit. We'll be right back."

"Okay. No problem." Makoto sat back down in front of the Sailor V game, deciding to give it another go.

"All right, you guys. I'm ready." Usagi and her friends exited the arcade. Usagi looked disappointed once she saw there was nowhere comfortable to sit, which meant she would have to further strain her back. 'I don't know how much longer I can take this.' She sighed, rubbing her lower back a little.

Rei smoothed down the pleats of her skirt before asking, "So what was it you wanted to talk about, Usagi?"

Usagi could tell by Rei's voice that she was still a bit peeved at her even though she sounded calm and level. She realized she had better get straight to the point. "Well, during lunchtime Naru-chan gave this letter to me, saying it's from Ruby, and I am not sure whether I should be worried or not." She waved the letter a bit.

Rei frowned in confusion as a bunch of questions came to her, like, why would Ruby write a letter? After several minutes of mulling over the thoughts in her mind, she looked like she might explode. "Well of course you should be worried. I mean, she is one of Nephrite's cronies for goodness sake!"

Ami elbowed the raven haired teen in the ribs. "Rei!" she whispered loudly.

Rei winced as she rubbed her side. "I mean, it all depends on what the letter is about. Did you read it?"

"No, I didn't want to in front of Mako-chan and I was pretty much out of commission, so I couldn't go anywhere to read it in private. Plus, I wanted to wait until I saw you guys, first. " Usagi ripped open the envelope and carefully unfolded the letter. She slowly read the letter, blocking out all the noises made by different people walking by.

Rei and Ami stood there waiting patiently for their friend to finish reading the letter. They noted her unusually serious expression and were anxious to know what Ruby wanted, considering they had not heard anything from her or Nephrite in quite awhile. 'Could she have issued a challenge to attack us? If so, we had better stay on our guard.'

Usagi finally looked up from the letter, exhaling a deep breath. She grew nervous feeling her friends' eyes on her, knowing they were waiting for her response.

"Well?" prodded Rei, looking impatient.

"What does it say?" asked Ami.

"She is letting us know of the Dark Kingdom's plan to find the ginzuishou, and how they plan to do that by finding seven humans who possess something called nijizuishou. "

Rei cocked an eyebrow. "Nijizuishou?" she repeated. She frowned slightly, trying to think of whether she had heard of it before as it didn't sound familiar to her, although the ginzuishou did.

Usagi nodded."Someone named Zoisite was sent for the mission and his first victim is Joe the Crane Game Troll."

"Oh. So Nephrite has been replaced, then." Rei knitted her eyebrows. "I see." 'I wonder what Nephrite plans to do. Not that I really care. He needs to prove he can be trusted first.'

Ami reached behind to scratch her back. "In that case, we had better find Joe and keep a close eye on him."

"You're right," said Rei. "Who knows what the Dark Kingdom will do in order to obtain these nijizuishou?" She fell silent for a bit, wondering why Ruby would bother to give them this information, although she would not be complaining if it were true. 'Could this mean a change of heart?' "So did she say anything else?"

"Yes, she said Nephrite would like to make amends with us and so would she, as well as the other henchwomen. She left us her cellphone number to contact her whenever we're ready. I think she wants to set up a time to meet up with us or something."

"Hmm. Well I believe that could be arranged." Rei still wasn't sure whether she could trust Nephrite or his henchwomen, but she thought it was only fair to hear them out. 'After all, it's Zoisite we have to worry about now.' "What do you think, Ami?"

"It does seem sincere, and it is nice to hear something from her," the senshi of ice responded, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "I had been wondering what was going on with them."

"Yeah, me too," said Usagi. "She happened to mention that Nephrite has a sprained ankle and had been taking it easy for the past week. That's one of the reasons why we haven't seen any trace of him since that night he found out who I was."

"Ouch." Rei gave a sympathetic wince.

"Ouch is correct." Usagi knew the feeling all too well, although her problem made Nephrite's situation seem miniscule in comparison. 'I wouldn't wish this on anyone.' She folded up the letter. "So, are you guys on board with what Ruby has proposed?"

"I am," confirmed Ami.

"I guess I am, too," said Rei. "I am still wary, but I think it's only fair to allow Nephrite and those ladies a chance to prove they have turned over a new leaf."

Usagi looked over at her friend, a little surprised. She had expected Rei to say absolutely not, and while the reluctance was still there, the fact that she agreed showed she was willing to forgive and move on. "Great." She placed the letter back inside the envelope and handed it to Ami. "Here, Ami. I think it would be best if you hold onto this. I would probably lose it, anyway."

"Okay." Ami took the letter and placed it in the front compartment of her backpack.

'Darn right, you would.' Rei gave Usagi a small smirk. "I must say that's the most intelligent decision you've ever made."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" asked Usagi, folding her arms tightly.

"I mean, you're very irresponsible, so it's best if you handed it to someone more likely to keep it safe."

"Take that back!"

"No way!"

"You're lucky I'm not one hundred percent!"

"Oh yeah?"

Ami threw her hands up in the air. "All right, you two, that's enough fighting!"

The two girls heard the sternness in Ami's voice and instantly stopped their bickering. Both of them looked sheepishly at her. "Sorry," they said in unison.

Ami sighed and rubbed her forehead, for she felt a headache coming on. "Anyway, we need to tell Luna about this, see what she thinks and perhaps have a meeting."

Rei nodded. "Most agreed."

* * * * * * * *

Makoto was concentrating on playing the Sailor V game whilst waiting for her new friends to return. She was slowly getting the hang of it, but she still had yet to figure out how to beat the game. That didn't stop her from giving her all, though. Even so, her valiant effort was not enough and once again, she saw the two dreaded words GAME OVER appear. She gritted her teeth, letting out a small growl as she fought the urge to punch the screen. 'I swear, this game must be rigged or something!'

All of a sudden, there was lots of murmuring amongst a crowd of people surrounding the game crane machine. Makoto couldn't make out what was being said, but she was distracted. She decided to take a break and see what the fuss was about. She got up and walked over to the crane machine, saying "excuse me" as she walked through the crowd, trying to get near the front so she could get a better view. She nearly bumped into a girl with long black hair wearing a uniform much like Usagi's. "Oops, sorry."

The raven haired girl turned around to face Makoto. "Oh, it's okay. " She studied the taller brunette girl. "Oh I know you. You're the new girl. Your name is Makoto, right?"

Makoto gave a friendly smile. "Yes that's me."

"My name is Yumi."

"It's nice to meet you."

"Thank you. Nice to meet you as well." After all the gossiping there was about Makoto at school, Yumi had to admit, there was no negative vibe from her. 'It goes to show the exterior can be deceiving. '

"So what's going on? What's the big fuss about?"

"There's this guy named Joe who is known as the Crane Game Troll. He is called that because of his uncanny ability to win as much plushies as he wants."

Makoto tilted her head slightly. "Ah." But inwardly she was wondering if such a feat were even possible. She caught a glimpse of the young man everyone was gawking at in amazement. 'That must be Joe.' She looked to see what was getting everyone so excited and saw what Yumi was talking about. 'Wow. I'm jealous. It seems to come natural to him. If only I could beat the Sailor V game that easily.' "I see why they call him the Crane Game Troll."

"I know. It's hard for me to win one, much less a bunch."

"Same here." Makoto got a dreamy look on her face. 'He looks so handsome. I should get him to teach me.'

* * * * * * * *

After Joe was satisfied with the amount of plushes he won, he left the arcade and was on his way to the coffee shop for a quick cup of coffee. He could feel someone staring at him, but he shrugged it off as nothing since people had been doing plenty of that while he was winning those toys. 'They're just jealous.'

Zoisite fixed his gaze upon Joe, smirking evilly as he sat on the roof, watching the young man walk down the sidewalk. 'The first nijizuishou carrier has arrived. His destiny is about to change and he doesn't even know it yet. Time to go to work.´ Clutching the kurozuishou, the sakura shitennou leapt off the roof, landing in front of Joe. "Why hello there, young man. I have been expecting you."

The brunette young man looked up sharply and saw a man with tawny hair wearing a military type gray-blue uniform. His face looked very delicate and child-like, as if he were only a couple of years older. He glared at the stranger who dared to block his path. "What do you want with me?"

Zoisite merely smirked at Joe, clearly amused at his annoyance. "Nothing much, I just want to set you free from your captivity."

Joe looked at Zoisite as if he had lost his mind. "Listen here, blondie, I don't know what you're talking about, but I don't have time for this. I suggest you move out of my way. I have somewhere to be!" He was trying to keep his temper, but so far he wasn't doing a very good job. It took every ounce of self-control inside him to not get physical with this blonde man, whoever he was.

Zoisite chuckled lightly, clicking his tongue. "Now now, there is no need to get so belligerent. You're actually one of my comrades. But first you have to go through a rather unpleasant process. I promise you that it won't hurt for long." He spun the kurozuishou on his finger as he activated its power and then threw it out. "Zoi!" He emitted white energy from the black colored stone towards Joe, hitting him in the chest and revealing a crimson colored crystal.

"Ah! Stop it!" Joe yelled, clutching his chest in agony. He didn't know what the nut job was trying to do, but the pain was like nothing he had ever felt before.

'Those cries of pain are music to my ears.' Zoisite continued trying to extract the nijizuishou and almost got it out when he felt something hitting him in the back of his head, making him hiss loudly in pain before cursing under his breath. He looked up sharply to see a young girl with brown hair. He shot a murderous glare at her. "Who are you?"

"I am someone who despises bullies," replied Makoto. "You should pick on somebody your own size!"

Zoisite gave Makoto a look that was a cross between a smirk and a glare. "This does not concern you. I suggest you get lost before I make you regret meddling in my affairs."

"I don't think so! If I have to use force, so be it!" The brunette girl charged at Zoisite and did an elbow punch. He evaded the blow with ease, and just laughed at her. "Pardon my laughter, but what was that? Then again, I shouldn't expect much from a mere mortal like you."

"Ha! You ain't see nothing yet! I'm just beginning!" Makoto lunged at Zoisite once again, trying to land a blow on the shitennou. At one point she took off her rose earrings and threw them at him, then delivered a powerful shove, thus giving him a small cut on the corner of his mouth.

Zoisite was shocked that Makoto actually succeeded in her onslaught against him. 'She's tougher than I imagined.' He felt blood trickling down his face as well as some pain. 'What's this? Oh no. Please tell me this human girl did not do what I think she did.' He proceeded to shake with rage when he realized what had happened. "You prehistoric witch! You'll pay for scarring my beautiful face!" In a flash, he disappeared in a flurry of cherry blossoms, deciding to get some advice from Kunzite on how to alter his strategy.

Makoto stood there panting, trying to catch her breath. She pinched the bridge of her nose in annoyance. 'I swear, people could be such low lives. Next time he shows his face around here, I'm gonna do more than bruise it.' She was about to go check up on Joe when she felt an arm around the small of her back. 'Huh? Who's that?' She quickly turned to her side to see if it was someone she would have to go ninja on. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw it was only Usagi, holding a black cat with a crescent moon on its forehead. "Oh hey girl. So you're finally back. That's an adorable kitty you're holding. Is it yours?"

Usagi giggled a little. "Yes. Her name is Luna. She's a very special friend."

"Oh, I see. I wish I had a cat as cute as her. "Makoto started petting Luna.

Luna purred at Makoto's touch, as if to say how soothing it was, all the while thinking about how she sensed a very strong presence. 'Could she be an enemy or a senshi?'

Usagi smiled, glad that Luna seemed to take a liking to her new friend. "So are you all right? I saw you fighting off someone."

"Yes, I'm fine. I'm not so sure about Joe, though. "

Usagi furrowed her brow as if she were trying to remember something. "Oh. That guy over there?"

"Yes." Makoto walked over to the young man, who was kneeling down on the ground, trying to recover. "Hey Joe, are you all right? Let me help you up." She reached out a hand for him to take.

Joe rudely pushed the young teen's hand away, a reaction she wasn't expecting. "Go away! I don't need your help! Leave me alone!"

Makoto's shock turned into indignity. "Well excuse me for trying to help!"

"Yeah, didn't your parents teach you any manners?" chimed in Usagi, marching over to the young man and standing next to Makoto, her arms folded.

Joe looked up slightly. He saw the two girls' looks of disapproval and was speechless for awhile, as no one with the exception of his parents had really talked to him about manners before. He returned the hard look. "Just mind your own business!" He got up and walked away, grumbling about how nosy people were.

Luna frowned slightly, for she had an uneasy feeling the whole time Joe was around. 'He's giving off evil vibrations.'

Usagi stared after Joe as he left. "Hmph! What an ingrate!"

"He certainly is one," agreed Makoto. "I still say we should go after him and keep watch, though. Who knows whether that blonde guy will come back to cause more problems? "

Usagi made a face of disgust, not thrilled with the thought of crossing paths with Joe ever again."Hmmm, as much as I can't stand him, you have a point. Something tells me that blonde guy is bad news." 'Actually, I believe he's probably from the Dark Kingdom, but Makoto won't know what I mean.'

"All right. Let's go, then." The two girls could still spot Joe walking from a far distance, which was good considering they didn't want him to see them. They proceeded to follow him, keeping their eyes peeled the entire time.

* * * * * * * *

Makoto and Usagi picked up the pace whilst following Joe so they wouldn't lose sight of him from the far distance he was ahead of them. A part of them were glad they were too far away for him to realize he was being followed. This way, they wouldn't have to endure another tirade. Once he slowed down, they caught up with him, making sure there was still a sizeable distance and not to be too loud. He stopped once he was at a coffee shop, and the girls stopped as well. They waited for him to enter before sitting on a stone ledge that would enable them to get a good view of the young man.

Makoto watched as Joe sat at a table that was far from everyone else's. Her cheeks flushed as she got a dreamy expression on her face. "He may be a jerk, but he is just like the guy who broke my heart…"

Usagi looked at Makoto as if she had admitted to being from outer space or something. "Huh? Say what?" She snapped her fingers and waved her hands in front of the brunette's face. "Earth to Makoto. Makoto, are you in there?" 'Goodness, she's acting worse than I can be.'

Makoto finally came out of her dream-like state. She turned to face Usagi. "Sorry. Were you saying something?"

"Not really. I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You seemed out of it for awhile there."

"Oh really?" Makoto's mouth formed an O shape before she said, "That's weird."

"Don't I know." Usagi lazily stretched her legs out in front of her and all of a sudden she yawned loudly.

Luna rolled her eyes. 'What a lazy bones. She seriously needs to go to bed on time.'

Makoto couldn't help but let out a little chuckle. 'She's lucky she isn't in Ms. H's class at the moment. She would be in detention for being so loud.' "Sounds like someone could use a nap. "

Usagi giggled sheepishly. "No no, I'm all right."

"Are you sure? Because I would understand if you wanted to go home and get some rest, which you need anyway."

Usagi had to admit, going home did sound tempting, as she needed to be at her best just in case she had to fight another Dark Kingdom battle, but she had this feeling she would be needed around the area very soon. "No. I'm okay. Really. "

"Okay. If you're sure." Makoto thought of a way she could be closer to Joe other than just spying on him. That would get boring quickly and plus she knew he would yell at her for being rude or annoying. "Hey Usagi. Want to go inside for a bit? I could use a cup of tea."

"Sure! That sounds great." 'Mmmmm. I could use a nice donut, and some hot chocolate, too. Perhaps that will give me energy.' Usagi rested Luna on the ledge since cats were not allowed inside, and carefully got up.

"Good. Let's go." Makoto and Usagi entered the café. They looked around for a place to sit, and settled on a table that was next to Joe's. They each took a seat.

Joe heard the sound of the chairs scraping and glanced over at his right, spotting the two girls. He let out a grunt of annoyance as if to say, 'ugh, not those annoying girls again.' He glowered at them. "What are you two doing here? Will you ever stop pestering me?"

Makoto narrowed her eyes. "Well excuse me. Last time I checked, this was a public place."

"Yeah, so get over yourself and lay off," added Usagi.

Joe opened his mouth to retort something nasty, but the argument was interrupted by someone saying, "Now now, there's no need to fight. How about ordering a nice hearty meal to help calm whatever troubles you? I will be your server."

Makoto sighed and got butterflies in her stomach. 'Hmm. His voice is so yummy.' "Um yes please, I'd like some tea with milk and a large curry rice to take home."

"And I'd like some hot chocolate and 3 donuts, please," said Usagi.

"Good choices. Too bad you fools will never have another meal again."

"Huh?" Both girls narrowed their eyes. They knew this man was no waiter. Makoto and Usagi glanced up sharply at the imposter. Makoto gritted her teeth as she saw it was the same man she confronted before. Zoisite. "It's you again," she growled.

Usagi gasped. 'He's from the Dark Kingdom. I can't tell Mako-chan that, though.' "What's your problem? Don't you have anything better to do?" She turned and glared at the sakura shitennou.

A smirk appeared on Zoisite's delicate facial features. He let out a soft chuckle. "You thought you've seen the last of me, didn't you? Zoi!" He knocked over all the booths and tables in the café. Joe, Usagi and Makoto managed to get up just in time but just barely. They sped out of the café like a bolt of lightning. Zoisite came after them, breaking the glass in the process.

Usagi clenched her fists, seething with anger. "Whoever that guy is, he's gonna be history!" She went behind the building, away from view and transformed. "Moon Prism Power, Make Up!" 'Okay time to blow this Popsicle stand!'

Joe realized his attacker was after him once again, so he started to run away. Before he could get very far, though, he was thrown off his feet, landing on his rear end. He made an "oof" noise when he fell. 'What the…?' He trembled as he watched the blonde man approach him.

"You're not going anywhere. Now where was I, before I was so rudely interrupted by that young wench? Oh yes, I was about to free your true nature and take what's mine." Zoisite took out his kurozuishou, about to activate it.

"Oh no you don't!" Makoto charged at Zoisite, about to attack him and knock the kurozuishou out of his hands, but Zoisite shoved her away.

"Owww," moaned Makoto as she landed on her rear. She rubbed the soreness away.

Zoisite laughed at the brunette. "Consider it revenge for damaging my face earlier." Fortunately, the cut had healed, so that was enough to calm him down some. "Now, as I was saying. It's time for the kurozuishou to go to work! Zoi!" The tawny haired shitennou activated the ebony colored crystal's power, and a beam struck Joe in the chest. He let out a scream of pain as Zoisite increased the power level of the kurozuishou a notch. With this power boost, the nijizuishou was extracted with very little trouble. He caught the ruby red gem in his hand, chuckling lightly. "Success." He watched with satisfaction as a billow of smoke swirled around the young man and he transformed into a humanoid shaped machine creature, letting out a loud battle roar. "Gamecen!"

Makoto's jaw dropped open at what she had just witnessed. "What the..." She got up and brushed off her skirt.

Luna observed with a grim expression on her face. 'Just as I suspected. Joe is from the Dark Kingdom.'

Zoisite's lips stretched into a wicked smile. "Welcome back, my friend. It's time for you to destroy the world."

"Not likely! You can kiss your friend goodbye!" yelled out a female voice.

Zoisite's smile faded and turned into a look of annoyance. "Who dares to interrupt me?"

Sailor Moon leapt off the roof, landing in front of the flaxen haired shitennou, forgetting about her back injury until she felt a sharp pain. She held back her wince, though, for there was no way she would give the sakura king the satisfaction. "Shame on you for exploiting someone who has gaming for a hobby! I will not forgive you for that! I am the pretty sailor senshi of love and justice, Sailor Moon! In the name of the moon, I will punish you!" She folded her arms tightly across her chest.

Luna looked up, her eyes filled with hope. 'It's about time the slowpoke showed up. '

"Sailor Moon," Makoto gasped softly. She was filled with excitement at seeing one of her idols.

Zoisite smirked evilly, eyeing the young heroine up and down. He was unable to believe she outwitted Nephrite numerous times. "Well you're a little too late to stop me, Sailor Moon. You are about to feel the wrath of Gamecen. "

"Gamecen?" Sailor Moon looked around to see the monster destroying some trees, and then she faced Zoisite angrily. "And just who are you? "

The corners of Zoisite's mouth curled a bit as he responded, "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Zoisite, one of the four kings of heaven. I am not like that sentimental fool, Nephrite."

"Zoisite…" Sailor Moon mumbled. 'So he is the one Ruby told us to watch out for.' Her eyes narrowed when she heard him talking smack about Nephrite."Perhaps you should try learning about love sometime, then you wouldn't be so evil."

"I don't think so. Love is for fools." Zoisite's face turned slightly green. He levitated and hovered midair with one leg crossed over the other." As much as I would love to stay and witness your destruction, I must be going so I can get this nijizuishou to Queen Beryl. We will meet again. Gamecen, you take care of the rest. " With that, Zoisite teleported away.

Sailor Moon turned her attention back to the youma, glaring at him. "Okay, freak! Show me what you've got!"

"With great pleasure! Take this!" The crimson colored monster thrust out his hand, using one of the weapons at his disposal to ensnare the moon senshi.

Moon struggled to get free. "Aaaaah! What is this? I can't move! Someone help me!"

Gamecen laughed. "No one will save you now!" He whirled Sailor Moon around before shooting another of his projectiles at her. "Say goodbye!"

"Aaaaah! Let me go!" Sailor Moon squirmed, trying to breaking free of Gamecen's weapons, but he was much too strong for her. _'This is one of the moments I could use my friends' help.'

It was so hard for Makoto to watch Sailor Moon be so sorely outmatched. "I have to do something," she muttered under her breath. 'Okay, monster. You've already had your fun.' "Hey ugly! Get a load of this!" She strode over to the monster cornering Sailor Moon and grabbed him away from her, hoisting him overhead. A symbol of the number 4 appeared on her forehead whilst she was holding up the youma.

Sailor Moon watched in awe as Makoto held the monster above her head. "Wow. She's so strong. I'm kind of jealous."

Luna saw the symbol on the girl's forehead and gasped. 'Of course! Now I know why the powerful aura surrounded her…that's the symbol of Jupiter!' She smiled softly, realizing that nearly all the senshi would be awakened soon. She did a back flip, making a green colored power stick appear and it fell to the ground.

Makoto threw Gamecen onto the ground. "That's for messing with my hero, Sailor Moon!" She patted her hands together.

Sailor Moon let out a sigh of relief, rubbing her lower back, which had been further strained. "Thank you, Makoto. You saved me again."

"Don't sweat it."

"Makoto, catch!" Luna grabbed the transforming stick into her mouth and tossed it to Makoto.

'Did Luna just speak? No, that's just my imagination. Animals can't talk.' Makoto looked like she had seen a ghost when she heard Luna speak, but before she had time to react, the transforming stick was being thrown towards her. She caught it just in time. She gazed at Luna with wide eyes. "You can talk?"

"There's no time to explain," said Luna. "Hold up that stick I just gave you and shout, Jupiter Power, Make Up!"

"Okay." Mystified, Makoto thought to herself, 'Look at me. I'm talking to a cat. I have officially lost it. That doesn't matter, though. Sailor Moon needs me.' She held up the transforming stick and yelled, "Jupiter Power, Make Up!" Her school uniform turned into a sailor fuku with a white top and a short green skirt, and a pink bow in front. Her moccasins were now laced boots. 'Wow, I'm a sailor senshi.'

Sailor Moon eyed Makoto in astonishment. "Wow! So Makoto is a senshi, too? This is cool! I wonder how many more there are."

"Well there's no time to wonder about that," said Luna. "You still have to take care of that monster."

Moon rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I know. Now that you've mentioned it, where is the monster, anyway?" Just as she asked that, she heard groaning as Gamecen was beginning to regain his senses. He slowly arose to his feet.

"You won't be lucky this time, Sailor Brats!" Gamecen thrust out his arms, preparing to unleash an attack.

"That's what you think!" Jupiter crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Guardian Jupiter, I call upon you to send down the clouds, bring down the thunder, which will enable me to defeat my foe. " The antennae started to spark with lightning. "Supreme Thunder!" The massive thunderbolt hurtled towards the youma, and he was hit before he could find a way to dodge it.

"Aaaaah! Curse you, miserable wench!" Gamecen hunched over in pain.

Sailor Moon took this as her cue. "All right, creep face! Say goodbye!" She reached for her tiara to take it off.

"Hold it, Sailor Moon," said Luna. "Don't attack yet."

"Huh?" Moon removed her hand from her tiara, rather confused by the sudden change of heart. "What gives, Luna?"

"Remember, that monster is originally a human. He can be returned to normal."

"Say what?" The moon senshi gaped at Luna. 'I swear, she never ceases to amaze me.' "How in the heck am I supposed to do that?"

Luna didn't answer Moon's question, but instead did a back flip, making a crescent moonstick appear."That wand will help you."

"Okay…" Sailor Moon picked up the wand and examined it for a bit. 'It's kind of cute. I can say that much.' "So how am I supposed to use it to heal Joe?"

"Hold it up and say, Moon Healing Escalation!" instructed the feline guardian.

Sailor Moon nodded and held up the wand, waving it in a circular fashion. "Moon Healing Escalation!" Moon dust rained from the wand onto Gamecen, making him clutch his head in pain.

"Refresh!" Joe yelled out with his arms stretched upwards before falling on his knees and onto the ground.

For awhile, Sailor Moon just stood there in utter amazement. 'Wow. Who would have thought I had it in me?' She looked at Joe's unconscious form. 'I hope Joe will be all right, although he's a jerk.'

"Excellent work, Sailor Moon," said Luna. "Keep up the great work."

Sailor Moon's cheeks turned bright red. "Oh, thanks Luna. It means a lot."

Luna smiled slightly, and then her smile disappeared as she looked at the moon senshi with a serious expression on her face that she wore when she had something important to say. "I want you to pay very close attention to what I have to say. That moonstick I have entrusted to you signifies your leadership. "

"Oh wow! You really think I have what it takes?" Moon's eyes lit up, for ever since she had become a senshi, she had to endure lectures for being irresponsible.

"Well, you have definitely come a long way, but you still have a lot to learn before you become a true leader."

Sailor Moon's mood plummeted and her smile faded. "But I thought…"

"No, let me finish," said Luna, giving the blonde a look that was between amusement and mild exasperation. "I feel that the leadership position will motivate you to do your best in your mission, as well as boost your confidence. The battle is about to become tougher, now that the Dark Kingdom realizes what they must do to find the ginzuishou."

"Oh. Ok." Sailor Moon actually did sense things would be tough for her down the road, and not just because of the reason Luna mentioned either. 'Have to make sure they don't go after Nephrite and his youma, too.'

"Well, although I don't know her that well yet, I have a gut feeling she can do it," piped up Sailor Jupiter.

Moon looked at her friend, wide-eyed. "You do? Thank you so much! You have no idea what it means to me! I'm so glad you're on my team!" She threw her arms around Jupiter.

Surprised, Sailor Jupiter lightly patted the blonde's back." I'm glad to be on it."

Sailor Moon could see that the senshi was not used to her level of affection, so she let her go. "And I promise you as leader I will try my best not to let you down." It made Sailor Moon feel good to know there was at least one person who had confidence in her, but at the same time it was a bit scary, too. With so much faith in her, it would add that much more pressure on her to live up to the expectations of the other senshi and Luna.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 6

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury