Dr. Mizuno stared into the glowing crystal ball before her with wide-eyed wonder. Until Sailor Moon had activated it with a touch, she had considered such devices superstitious nonsense. At any other time, the blue-haired woman would have thought it surreal to have a real magical girl sitting across from her at her kitchen table. Now, however, she could barely tear her gaze away from the image she saw within the glowing orb. Her little angel was alive! She almost wept tears of joy when she first saw her daughter sleeping peacefully in a bed, her blue bangs splayed out over her pillow like a halo.
However, behind the indescribable relief of seeing that Ami was well, a terrible worry gnawed at her mind. Could this all be a lie, an illusion created by the crystal ball? Her voice was shaking with emotion as she looked up at Sailor Moon. "Real magic. I can scarcely believe it," she breathed. "Is that really her?"
The large-eyed blonde nodded enthusiastically, making her distinctive red hair ornaments bob up and down. "Yes, I talked to her myself. That's Ami, without a doubt!"
"You can talk to her?" Dr. Mizuno was suddenly off her seat and leaned forward, gripping Sailor Moon's hands. "Can I too? What do I need to do?"
"Um, you'll need to wait until she wakes up," Sailor Moon replied, startled by the woman's eagerness. "She needs to get her own crystal ball first."
Disappointed, Dr. Mizuno sat down again, filing away the information that her daughter not only had a magical artefact, but also knew how to use it. "I'll wait as long as it takes!" she declared and returned her attention to the scrying device. She felt slightly embarrassed when she noticed that the other girl was massaging her wrists where she had gripped them.
"It shouldn't take too long now," the blonde promised. "She went to bed over half a day ago."
"She looks so pale," Dr. Mizuno murmured, taking in the dark rings under her daughter's eyes. "Are you sure she is all right?"
"She's not going out into the sun much," Sailor Moon explained, "and she was a bit tired last time I checked on her, but otherwise, she should be fine."
"Do you know where she is? Can you retrieve her?" Ami's mother asked, hope seeping into her tone voice.
Sailor Moon shook her head and answered with downcast eyes "If I could, then I would already have, Mrs. Mizuno."
A myriad of other questions went through Dr. Mizuno's mind, but they took a back seat to just looking into the crystal ball. If she couldn't talk to her daughter right now, then maybe she could find out more about her situation instead? Was she safe? Ami's bed looked clean and sturdy, if somewhat simplistic in design.
"Um, what are you doing?" Sailor Moon asked when the worried mother started leaning across the table at weird angles to catch glimpses of other parts of the room. "I can change the point of view, if you like."
"Yes, please," Dr. Mizuno said, her face brightening. When the view zoomed out, the sight of four motionless figures lurking around the bed made her stifle a scream. Fortunately, she quickly realised that the shapes were just mannequins. Crafted from some clear substance, they resembled her daughter and stood around her bed like guardians. Why did her little girl have things like that in her room? It couldn't be to show off her clothes, because the robes the things were wearing were little better than rags. Puzzled, the older Mizuno continued her survey of the place.
The furniture in the chamber was arranged just as it was in Ami's bedroom here in the apartment. This could only mean that her daughter was homesick, the doctor noted with relief. Ami hadn't run away for some reason, then! The painting over her bed that replaced a real window looked rather morbid though, with its dead trees and grey, crumbling buildings. Perhaps it was the best Ami had been able to get? The fact that she had been able to customise a room for herself meant that she wasn't destitute, at least. Even if the place was probably fairly cheap, given the state of its electrical lighting. Then again, those swirl-like frost patterns decorating the walls showed some exquisite craftsmanship. And there were those odd glass statues. She needed to know more. "Can you get a closer view of Ami's desk, please?"
Sailor Moon nodded and waved her hand over the crystal ball. Instantly, it changed to show the neatly-stacked books and papers lined up on the cluttered wooden surface.
Try as she might, Dr. Mizuno couldn't decipher the titles of the tomes. Judging from the symbols, diagrams, and skulls decorating their covers, they seemed to be treating arcane and esoteric matters. Rather unpleasant ones, at that. What had her daughter gotten herself into, and what was so important that she would be willing to learn an entire foreign language for it? Before this afternoon and seeing proof of magic's existence with her own eyes, she would have scoffed at the notion of books on the supernatural containing anything useful.
"Curses Which Blight the Flesh and Sear the Mind?" Sailor Moon muttered under her breath, staring into the crystal ball.
Dr. Mizuno followed the blonde's gaze and looked at her abruptly. "You can actually read the titles?" Dr. Mizuno asked, meeting the blonde's eyes. The other girl didn't strike her as the particularly studious type.
"You mean you can't?" Sailor Moon asked, blinking.
"They are not written in Japanese," Ami's mother said, astonished that the younger girl wouldn't notice something like that.
"Really?" Sailor Moon took another look, and Dr. Mizuno saw the magical girl's eyes widen in honest surprise. "You are right! Uh," she scratched her head. "What language is that?"
"You don't know?"
The blonde shrugged. "Must be magic!" she said and seemed content enough to leave it at that. "Hey, wait a minute..."
"Magic." The blue-haired woman repeated, nonplussed. She decided to drop the matter. If magic could let her see her missing daughter, then why shouldn't it be able to translate languages? And why was Sailor Moon frowning and muttering about a cat? In any case, if that translation of the book title was correct, then Ami's choice of literature was objectionable, to say the least. She looked back at her sleeping daughter, smiling fondly. No matter, the important part was that she was safe. "Sailor Moon, could you move the view over to the wardrobe, please?"
Reminded about the older woman's presence, the sailor senshi blushed slightly and stopped grumbling about a certain forgetful feline. With a wave of her hand, the crystal ball now showed Ami's closet, which remained slightly ajar for some reason. It took the blonde a few tries to manoeuvre the viewpoint close enough to the gap to see some of the clothes inside.
Dr. Mizuno immediately noticed Ami's school uniform, which wasn't as neatly-folded as she was used to from her daughter. Her gaze wandered downwards, towards some kind of gold-embroidered black uniform in Ami's size. From what she could determine, it looked like an expensive high-quality product. Has Ami joined the military? she wondered as her heart started hammering in sudden worry. More hurried now, she continued her inspection. There was a plain one-piece swimsuit, which was fairly typical for Ami. The items on the lowest shelf, however, were not, and much less wholesome to boot. Leather underwear and a metal bikini top were not something that a mother wanted to find in her teenage daughter's wardrobe. What had poor Ami been forced to do to survive? "Show me the outside of her room," Dr. Mizuno demanded, her brow furrowed. If someone was hurting poor Ami...
Sailor Moon looked surprised, but complied. Wiggling her fingers, she directed the crystal ball's viewpoint toward the bedroom door and straight through it.
Dr. Mizuno got her next nasty shock when she caught sight of the corridor outside. There were guards, and they were undoubtedly alive. To make matters worse, they weren't human. Green and spindly, they had large, triangular ears and were holding wicked-looking scythes.
"There are monsters guarding her door! She has been captured by youma! How can you say she is all right?" Dr. Mizuno shouted, her eyes burning as she looked at Sailor Moon.
"Ack, no, you got it wrong!" the blonde squawked in protest, raising her hands to bring them between herself and the concerned mother. In her haste, she bowled over the crystal ball, which started rolling across the table. With a hasty grab, she managed to catch it before it could drop off the edge. Letting out a relieved breath, she placed it back in a central position and reactivated it, showing Ami. "Please don't worry! Ami is their boss, not their prisoner," she explained. "Err, and those things are not youma either!"
Ami's mother shot the blonde an incredulous look.
Sailor Moon started fidgeting under her stare and started scratching the back of her head. "Well, it's true. See, she- wait, she's waking up!"
The blue-haired girl was indeed stirring. Distracted from her current line of inquiry, Dr. Mizuno watched her daughter roll onto her back and then sit up slowly. With the back of her hands, she rubbed her eyes, and then stretched.
Sailor Moon winced when Dr. Mizuno let out an ear-piercing scream. "What happened to her eyes?"
Ami woke and slowly sat up, overcoming her reluctance to leave the warm, comfortable covers. She still felt a bit tired and also confused, since she couldn't remember actually going to bed. What had happened? Following her typical morning ritual, she automatically checked the wristband around her left arm. Its scrying alert was glowing faintly, interrupting her current train of thoughts. Sucking in a surprised breath, she turned to the side, dangling her legs over the side of her bed and putting her feet on the ground in case she had to move quickly. Her crystal ball appeared on her lap, and she focused on following the scrying to its source. Her heart skipped a beat when the device showed her a very familiar face with an aghast expression. "Mom? Mom!"
"Ami! I'm so glad you are alive! I'm missing you so much!"
A brilliant smile appeared on Ami's face, joining the tears of joy in the corners of her eyes. Overwhelmed by emotion, she gulped to clear her throat and answered "I miss you too! I wish I could be there with you!"
"Darling, what happened to you?" her mother asked, her voice turning strained. "Your eyes..."
"Oh, this?" Ami blinked, having momentarily forgotten about her unusual appearance. "Don't worry, it's not harmful! It does not hurt or influence my vision in any way!" she hurried to reassure her mother. However, the question managed to bring things back to her mind that she had forgotten in her exhilaration. There were facts she simply didn't want her mother to know in order to prevent her from worrying her too much. First and foremost was her missing soul, and how many close brushes with death she had already had. Mom would never be happy again if I died without my soul and she knew what would have happened to me! Second was her identity as Sailor Mercury. While her mother would most likely be upset about her extracurricular activities, the real problem was that she would also be able to deduce the identity of Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars. It wasn't as if Ami had any other friends her age, sadly enough.
"Is something wrong?" Mrs Mizuno asked. "You looked troubled. Are you safe? There are monsters outside the door!"
Ami checked with her Keeper sight, and waved her hand dismissively. "Ah, they are just goblins. Don't worry, they are working for me. They couldn't harm me, even if they wanted."
"Working for you? Ami, what happened? Where are you?"
"It's a long story, Mom," Ami began, her mind racing as she pondered how to censor the parts she wanted to keep secret. She felt a bit bad about lying by omission, but she didn't have a better solution right now. "I got caught up in a battle between the sailor senshi and a youma-"
Sailor Moon wilted under the glare Dr. Mizuno directed at her.
"Mother, it wasn't her fault! It was an accident nobody could have predicted!" Ami defended the blonde. "In any case, I got transported to a world where magic is common. I have seen maps, and I'm no longer on Earth."
"No longer on Earth?" Dr. Mizuno repeated. "But how are you going to get back, then?" Her head whipped towards Sailor Moon. "You! What are you going to do about this?"
Sailor Moon eeped and slid of her chair until only her eyes were still above the table's surface, looking up fearfully at the wrathful face of Ami's mother. "Scary!"
"Mom! We are working on it! I'm learning magic in order to find a way home!" Ami said, drawing her mother's complete attention.
"Magic? Is that why your eyes are glowing like that? And why those monsters are working for you?"
"Yes, that is part of the reason," Ami said. "When I first got here, I managed to claim an abandoned artefact that provided me with magical power and gave me the ability to build underground fortresses," she began, carefully omitting that she had been able to use magic before. "It's responsible for my current look and also makes the monsters consider me their natural leader."
"Are you sure you can keep them under control?" Dr. Mizuno asked, her voice doubtful.
"Mom, they are terrified of me," Ami confessed. "The typical owners of such artefacts are not pleasant people. The creatures think that I am some kind of evil overlord. They wouldn't dare attack me. And even if they did, I could just do this!" Ami transported herself out of her bed and reappeared standing in front of it. "I have become rather hard to catch."
Dr. Mizuno gaped like a fish. "You- what- that's- " she began as she tried coming to grips with what she had seen. "That should be impossible." She started massaging her temples. "Sorry about that, Ami. When you said you were starting to learn magic, I didn't fully understand what that really means." She looked thoughtful for a moment, which emphasised their family resemblance. "So. The monsters are working for you. Have you been stuck with nothing but monsters these last few months?"
"No, I have some humans working for me and helping with the research too," Ami answered. "I have to avoid most contact with the surface world, though."
Dr. Mizuno understood immediately. "Because of the monsters? Do they think you are some kind of dark lord?"
Sailor Moon chimed in "Empress, actually."
Ami narrowed her eyes at her. She had been trying to avoid mentioning that, since she was known as Empress Mercury.
"Empress?" Ami's mother gasped. "Are you letting the power get to your head, Ami?"
"That's not it!" the teenager protested. "It all started when..." She proceeded to give her mother a heavily-edited summary of what she had been up to since she had arrived in this world She left out the parts where she had to duel a reaper and where several dark gods were after her head, and severely downplayed the danger she had been in. Naturally, she also omitted the more embarrassing incidents, her current reputation, and her crush on Jadeite. "...and so I'm currently the Empress of an empty wasteland surrounded by oceans, with no enemies around. I should be safe here."
Her mother's eyes were watering. "My poor darling. You shouldn't have had to go through to all that at your age! Or at any age! Please be careful and keep away from the fighting from now on!" She shook her head tiredly. "It's enough to give any mother nightmares," she muttered.
"Sorry, mother," Ami apologised.
"Can I have a look at those people you saved?" Dr. Mizuno said suddenly. "You may have some healing magic, but I'm a proper doctor. Maybe I can help."
"Of course," the blue-haired girl agreed. She was already starting to feel guilty for spending so much time for her personal benefit, instead of trying to help the poor victims. "Just track me to my new location!"
"The capabilities of this crystal ball are fascinating," Dr. Mizuno's voice came from the glowing sphere in Ami's hands.
The blue-haired girl was still in her pyjamas and standing next to a moustached man sitting on a chair. Since he couldn't see, she was unconcerned about her state of dress. "Please don't move your head," she instructed in a friendly tone of voice. "An expert is zooming in on your wound through a crystal ball to see what can be done to help."
"As you wish," the man muttered, stiffening.
"Look at the magnification on this thing," Ami's mother stated with professional interest, "and with no risk to the patient or casting shadows, either! Get me closer, please, it looks as if that scab is coming loose."
"Y-yes." Sailor Moon's face was taking on a greenish tint as the image in the crystal ball turned more and more the colour of raw meat.
"No pus or other contaminants," the doctor noted professionally. "Ami, do you have antibiotics to prevent infections?"
"I have a spell that can target and kill bacteria," she replied.
"Really? That's amazing! Do you realise what that could do for medicine in general when you get back? You make me so proud!"
Ami smiled. "Thanks, Mother."
"Sailor Moon, can you zoom in on the remains of the optical nerve please?"
The queasy-looking blonde threw her a questioning look.
"The wobbly bits over here," the doctor explained with a sigh, stabbing her index finger at the image.
Sailor Moon, who had so far successfully avoided looking directly at the magnified open injury, was forced to take a closer look. "W-wobbl- Urk!"
Ami saw her friend jump up from her chair and sprint toward the kitchen sink with a hand in front of her mouth before the crystal ball went black. About half a minute later, the image returned.
"Sorry about that," Sailor Moon said.
"No, this is my fault," Dr. Mizuno said, patting the pale girl on the head in a comforting way. "I forgot that you are not trained for this. Ami, I think we better stop. You are already keeping the wounds clean and trying to prevent infections, which is the only thing I could recommend doing from here. I will see if I can't find more specific books on eye surgery for you, though." With a fond smile, she continued "You have done great."
Ami blushed, pleased at the praise. "Well, I suppose I could show you the interesting parts of my current home instead."
"Um, I hate to interrupt," Sailor Moon said, and pointed at the clock on the wall. "But Mom will kill me if I get home any later than this!"
"Your mother doesn't know what you are up to, young lady?" Dr. Mizuno asked, putting her arms akimbo as she looked at the blonde with a stern gaze.
"Err, well... I got to go!" She made a grab for the crystal ball, but the blue-haired woman was faster.
"Can't you leave it here? There is so much I still want to tell Ami!"
"You could not use it by yourself, Mother," Ami pointed out in an apologetic voice, "it requires quite a bit of magical power to keep going."
"Is that so?" Dr. Mizuno said, sounding dejected. "I suppose it can't be helped."
"I'll visit again as soon as I can," Sailor Moon promised.
"Thank you," Dr. Mizuno said before her expression got sterner, "but do enter through the door next time, please!"
"Ah, yes," the blonde said, giggling nervously as she took the crystal ball from the unresisting doctor.
"I love you, Mom!" Ami cried out.
"I love you too! Take care!"
"Jadeite! Meet me in the throne room at once!"
The dark general standing on feather-covered ground smirked down at the clucking chicks before him when he heard the Empress' mental call. His gaze briefly went to the bloody scythe leaning against the stone wall behind him. Armed with what he now knew about wounds inflicted by cursed weapons, he would be able to deflect her wrath. The sacrifice of many chickens in the name of science would not be in vain! His form dissolved into black vertical lines as he teleported.
"Your Majesty," he said, bowing as he shimmered into existence before the blue-haired girl, who had returned to her super-powered form. Instead of her sailor uniform, however, she was wearing her more official Keeper outfit. A bad sign?
"Jadeite. While I do understand why you did it, I do not like having you decide important things over my head. I-"
"Wait, please," Jadeite said, raising both hands with their palms outwards in a defensive gesture. "Before you berate me for my actions, let me explain what I have been up to while you were asleep."
Sailor Mercury crossed her arms and looked up at him, her eyes narrow red slits. Nevertheless, she fell silent. "Go ahead."
"I have been working on a solution for the cursed wounds problem, and I think that I have found one."
"You have?" Mercury's features softened, and her mouth formed a little "o" of surprise.
Seeing that she was hanging onto his every word now, Jadeite continued "I performed some experiments on chickens to verify my ideas. Cursed wounds prevent healing. But what is healing? The body replacing and repairing parts it has lost. It is a gradual process." He started walking up and down, "but what if you completely bypassed this process and directly went from injury to replaced and healthy tissue?"
"You mean-" Ami said with a gasp, being able to follow his train of thought with no difficulty. "Your glamour? Will that really-"
"Yes!" Jadeite spread his arms dramatically, the cloth of his uniform fluttering in an unseen wind as his eyes started to glow white. "Observe!"
Mercury actually took a step back as she felt the pulse of magic emanating from him. He closely watched her face for her reaction. Right about now, she should be using her Keeper sight to check on the patients - patients whom he had glamoured to have their eyes back. The sight of her jaw going slack was quite satisfying, and the radiant smile that appeared on her face almost made all the effort he had spent on the pathetic humans worth it. Not that he hated them, he simply considered them beneath his attention. But if helping them made his Empress hap-
"Jadeite, that's wonderful! Thank you! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"
A warm, soft missile impacted Jadeite's chest, and the dark general felt slender arms encircle him even as Mercury's curves pressed closer against him. Too stunned to react, he offered no resistance when the deliriously happy girl in his arms stood on tiptoes and pressed her lips onto his.
After a few silent seconds of contact, her blissfully closed eyes flew open. The dark general could see her pupils shrink into tiny pinpricks as she realised what she was doing. In an instant, she was a metre away from him, looking at the floor.
"Sorry! Jadeite, I- I don't know what- I mean- " Mercury stammered, covering her tomato-red cheeks with her hands. "I need to go check on the patients!" she squeaked. In the blink of an eye, she was gone, and Jadeite felt a weak breeze as air flowed into the vacuum she left behind.
The dark general blinked and slowly raised two fingers to his lips, touching them. A kiss. That had not been among the possible reactions he had considered. A small smile appeared on his face as he kept staring at the spot the girl had just vacated. It had been a rather pleasant surprise.
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