"I believe -that-," Jadeite lectured, smirking behind the force-bubble that protected him like a red-smeared windscreen, "is a sufficient demonstration of why we don't just ignore the baby steps and skip ahead." He was talking to the hazy black column of energy that crackling in the centre of the bare room, signing mock quotation marks with his fingers at the last part. A crimson coating of blood and tiny fleshy bits dribbled from the ceiling, running down the grooves between the large stone bricks forming the walls, onto the equally-soiled floor. The only spots of the chamber that still showed its original sandstone hues were the humanoid shadows on the walls, protected when their owners had taken the brunt of the blast with their bodies. With the exception of Jadeite, the three people standing in the room were making disgusted gagging noises and trying to brush the slimy, body-temperature covering off of themselves.

The black energy condensed into the form of Ami, whose eyes widened with fright as soon as she took a look around the crimson room. The paling girl's nose caught a whiff of the coppery smell hanging in the air, and her face turned green even as she pressed her hands on her mouth and disappeared.

"Weak stomach?" the dark general chuckled, despite the fact that the target of his jibe was no longer present.

"You damn arsehole! You could have warned us," the splatter-covered woman standing next to him complained loudly. She was not at all mollified by the fact that the grisly remains of the possessed imp were fading into transparency as they dissolved. The long-haired blonde kept glaring at Jadeite through the snowstorm of greenish motes that was tumbling down from her bangs.

"The lesson would lack a certain impact if I did," the dark general scowled at the swordswoman. "What are all you gawkers doing here, anyway?"

"I was planning to learn something," Cathy replied, tapping her face dry with her handkerchief despite all of the yucky goo having evaporated without a trace already, "not to get showered in imp guts! If that's what you call teaching, I'm out of here!" The woman turned on her heel and stalked toward the door, which slammed shut behind her with a bang.

"Don't look at me, I'm just here because she is here. Was here," Jered corrected before following his girlfriend, shaking his head and throwing a last surly look at the grey-uniformed man.

That left only the short, red-haired acolyte in the room. Snyder seemed to shrink into himself at Jadeite's fixed stare.

"Well? Aren't you going to follow your friends?" Jadeite's white-gloved hand made an impatient gesture toward the door, which was as clean of gore by now as the rest of the room.

"Ahem, actually, Mercury insisted that I remain around," the young man explained, inspecting the hem of his white robes to see if all the gross stuff was gone. Checking for it on the red collar and stole wrapped around his upper torso would have been rather more difficult. Who would have thought that the colour exactly matched exploded imp innards?

"I did not agree to teach anyone but her," the blond general answered with a frown, crossing his arms.

"Oh, that is perfectly fine with me," the redhead replied, "I am not here to learn, but rather to observe and see if I can devise wards or counter-measures against the diverse kinds of magic you will undoubtedly be showing her." He frowned under his bowl cut, "though I dearly hope that not all of your lessons will be as spectacular as this one."

"Oh, I have found that an initial demonstration like this tends to weed out the less motivated students," Jadeite smirked.

"You have taught many students?" Snyder asked, his brown pupils filled with a glimmer of doubt.

"Not really. I had subordinates for that," The dark general grinned, amused at the thought of him teaching his youma personally. He had observed the one or other lesson when he had nothing better to do, as there was precious little to actually alleviate boredom with in the Dark Kingdom, but he knew that he would have never had the patience to hold a class himself. "They used screw-ups like this to get rid of the more obnoxious students. Quite effective, and it made the others pay more attention too."

"I must say, that sounds rather evil," the acolyte seemed disgusted. "Wasteful too."

Jadeite shrugged. "They are youma. There's always more where they come from. Better the useless ones get weeded out early before too much education is wasted on them." A flicker of blue drew his gaze back to the centre of the room. "Ah, and there is the wayward student. I believe the dangers of attempting my style of teleportation without having mastered the basics first has sunk in?" he asked rhetorically. The girl suppressed a shudder, her complexion still sickly, and nodded. However, if anything, she seemed more determined to learn than before. So much for the plan to scare her off. Now he would have to spend his time trying to teach the finer points of dark power manipulation to a schoolgirl who lacked knowledge of even its most elementary basics, as well as an instinctive understanding of the art. Joy. "Very well, let's get started then. First..."

To Jadeite's surprise, teaching Mercury wasn't half as tiresome as he had feared. She was in many ways an exemplary student. Sitting at a school bench that had suddenly appeared when the lesson started, she was eagerly devouring his every word. He never once caught her currently blue eyes wander toward some distraction, she asked relevant questions whenever she needed something clarified, and she was also at the same time managing to take notes at a frantic pace. He certainly couldn't complain about having to repeat himself or about a lack of diligence. If anything, being the focus of so much intense, rapt attention was creeping him out.

Ami, for her part, was enjoying herself. In fact, she was as close to scholastic bliss as she had ever been in this strange world. She was studying an interesting subject and had her own private tutor to explain the basics of a magic system to her. Too bad there weren't any textbooks to make her feel more at home, though, and learning from a former Dark Kingdom general who had been her worst enemy only a few weeks ago was weird, too. It didn't help that Jadeite was an inexperienced teacher who sometimes switched between disciplines with little warning, or assumed prior knowledge of things that appeared self-evident to him, but were not. At least, he didn't seem to mind her asking question whenever he did the latter.

The blue-haired girl looked at the sheets of notes lying on her desk. The subjects she was learning were challenging, because many of the procedures and approaches seemed counter-intuitive to the nearly instinctual way with which she handled her senshi and dungeon heart magic. In addition, it also differed much from the content of the grimoires in her library, which seemed to rely a lot on rote learning. Ami thought back to when she had asked one of the warlocks about spells that could stop scrying, after she had unsuccessfully browsed Malleus' vast collection of books for one. The wrinkly-faced man had explained to her that, because there was no magical creature intrinsically immune to magical means of observation, there was also no template to study and base a spell on. She should request the knowledge as a boon from the dark gods if she absolutely needed it. Alternatively, a ward that suppressed all magic in the area should be able to achieve the same effect.

Seeing that Jadeite was about to continue his lesson, she picked up her pen, being once again grateful for her fabrication spell - also not an original creation, but an emulation of the room-constructing powers of the dungeon heart, as she now realised - and readied herself to continue taking notes.

"You won't need that," Jadeite said, head turned sideways to look at her as he walked slowly up and down the room with his hands behind his back, "I think it is time to check if you can put the material you have seen to use now."

Ami gulped. She hoped this practical part would be less dramatic than his demonstration of the consequences of incompetent teleportation. Judging from the haughty expression on his face, he wasn't expecting her to do all that well. Her eyes flared with determination. She'd show him!

The girl kneeling in front of a blazing fire, her form hidden from the two other observers in the spacious room by the long black hair cascading to the ground, sucked in her breath as an image in the fire formed. Behind her, the gasp was mirrored by the blonde and the cat when they caught sight of the two familiar figures dancing in the flames.

"That's Ami! And Jadeite," Usagi blurted out, blue eyes wide open. "Oh no! Run away, Ami," she shouted when the dark general stepped toward the blue-haired girl, scowling. To her horror, the picture of her friend did no such thing. She didn't even shy away when Jadeite grabbed her wrist and pulled it slightly upward, adjusting how she was holding her hand. The pigtailed blonde was biting her fingernails by the time he stepped away, and Ami actually gave him a faint smile. She turned to the cat sitting to her right. "Luna, why isn't she fighting him?"

"He must have brainwashed her!" Luna worried, hair standing on end when when black sparks started swirling above the girl in the vision's hands. "This is bad! She knows who you are!"

"She wouldn't tell him," Usagi defended her friend. "She has been gone for weeks, and that new general hasn't come after us. You have to find a way to save her!" she demanded.

"I'm trying my best, but it's not easy even finding the Dark Kingdom," Luna sighed, her ears flat against her head and her tail twitching. "I wonder why she has a dark general training her personally."

"And here I hoped we had seen the last of Jadeite," Rei muttered, sweat trickling down her forehead from the effort required to maintain the vision.

"She still has the scary red eyes," the blonde pointed out as she scooted closer to the fire on her knees, "and is also better dressed than him." The ensemble that the girl in the vision was wearing looked vaguely military, but was black, as opposed to the grey uniform the dark generals favoured. It also sported epaulettes with the Mercury sign on them, and was adorned with sinister gold patterns.

"Yes, that is strange. It doesn't make-" the black cat paused, having developed a horrible suspicion. "Rei, can you sense if something is possessing her?"

"Hey, who's that?" Usagi interrupted as a short, red-headed man walked toward the transparent Ami.

"Um, Mercury, sorry to intrude on your lesson, but someone is spying on us with magical means," Snyder said as he approached, having left his comfortable out-of-the-way spot near the wall to present the faintly-sparkling ward resting in his palm.

Ami stopped focusing on the control exercise, and the three transparent rings of crackling black power moving in a triangular pattern between her outstretched hands dissipated. She turned to look at the glyph-encrusted silvery coin in the acolyte's hand. "Is there a way to track whoever is doing it?" she asked, catching a crystal sphere that suddenly appeared out of thin air, and alternated between looking at Snyder and Jadeite expectantly.

"Um, you could ask the crystal ball for everyone who is able to see you right now," the acolyte said after a moment of thought.

"Thanks. The magic is smart enough to interpret complex orders like that?" Ami asked, already focused on the clear sphere. The orb in her hands glowed with white light. Jadeite took a step back, reminded too much of another female authority figure who was nearly never seen without a device like that.

Snyder shook his head. "No, I'm afraid that is not exactly how it works. Seeing something establishes an ephemeral, exploitable arcane link with it. Suffice it to say, you can use this to find out who is watching you, but not necessarily from where he is watching."

The interior of the milky sphere swirled while different, fractured pictures fought for dominance. Ami could discern the sandstone tones of the room she was in within two of them, and focused on one of the fainter ones instead. Immediately, she felt the drain on her magic surge, confirming that the origin of this perspective was far, far more remote. Under her stare, the picture peeling itself out of the haze slowly stabilised. Startled, Ami nearly dropped the crystal ball when she recognised the room as Rei's shrine and saw her friends sitting in front of the sacred fire, wherein a transparent picture of her holding the crystal ball, which was again showing the fire, flickered. She could see the beads of sweat glistening on the shrine maiden's brow, and felt a pang of homesickness at seeing Usagi discuss something with Luna.

As the surprise wore of, something occurred to Ami, and she whirled around, sprinting to the desk with notes, and scattered the stack of tightly-written papers all over the floor in her haste. With frantic speed, she started writing something in very large letters on a blank sheet, not caring that her penmanship suffered. When done, she quickly picked the message up and held it out very visibly in front of herself, then glanced back at the crystal ball. Her stomach sank when she saw that vision in the flames was gone, and Rei was sitting hunched-over on the ground, looking tired and massaging her temples while her eyes were closed. A moment later, she saw Usagi put a hand on the shrine maiden's shoulder, who scowled and barked a reply before looking up and narrowing her eyes, pulling out a prayer strip. Ami watched her go through the familiar motions of empowering it, and the reception in her crystal ball started to suffer. Seeing how pale and exhausted Rei looked, Ami decided to cut the connection, as it was unlikely that the black-haired girl would try another fire reading any time soon.

"Mercury? What happened?" Snyder asked, having been caught as unprepared by her sudden burst of activity as Jadeite.

Ami smiled brightly, feeling elated at the knowledge that Usagi, Rei, and Luna were still searching for her. "Those were my friends, from my world! They haven't given up on me yet!" A bit more sombrely, she added "Unfortunately, they stopped watching before I could finish my message. Snyder, can I please have such a warning amulet?" she pointed at the now inert silver disc in the redhead's hand.

"Certainly. They are not difficult at all to craft with my considerable skills," the acolyte agreed.

Ami was nearly skipping as she sauntered back to the desk. She'd have to start carrying a pre-written message around. Or even better, a sign! No, instructions on when to do a fire reading and to bring writing tools. She would be able to talk with her friends again! She could ask them how they were doing, and leave a message for her mother! She- would have to explain Jadeite's presence, the young Keeper realised, coming down from her emotional high. And also why her eyes were glowing red. She hadn't missed the worried expressions the other senshi had been sporting when they had watched her through the sacred fire. This would have to be handled delicately.

Baron Leopold was strapping on his armour and feeling rather irritated at the monks and priests fussing over him. "I have told you, I am fine! If you want to be useful, help me with that buckle over there!"

"But my Lord," one of the golden and white dressed priests began, even as he struggled with the unfamiliar piece of armour, "you just escaped from a Keeper! Surely you must-"

"Bah, speak no more of it. She let me go, the little witch, hoping that I would deal with one of her rivals, no doubt. You are sure you have found no contamination or nasty magic hidden on my person, huh?" Metal clinked as surprisingly light plates snapped smoothly into place on the noble's shoulders.

"Yes, my Lord. Even if we had not, the bath in the sacred pool would have cleansed you of any dark trickery," the holy man confirmed.

"Excellent. Now-" he suddenly went very still and clenched his teeth, then searched his surroundings with a wild-eyed gaze.

"Excuse me? Baron Leopold, this is Sailor Mercury. Do not answer, I cannot hear you. This communication works one-way only."

The noble snorted, irritated at hearing the voice of the wicked Keeper resonate oddly in his head, like a faint dream. He ignored the inquiries of the people worried about his sudden stop, listening as the young girl - if that was her true form - continued.

Ami stood within her command centre, holding one of the giant eyestalks growing out of the ground, and speaking into the melon-sized eyeball as if it was a microphone. It was kind of gross, but not as gross as one hour ago, when she had impatiently tried to get her message to her friends across dimensions immediately. The device had overloaded and burst, drenching her with a cold, pus-like liquid. She had showered half an hour to get rid of the stink. The odd growths were, however, quite reliable when used for their intended purpose.

"I have found Arachne's lair, but it is well defended. I would advise you to scry it before attempting anything. Please bring a map of the relevant parts of your kingdom, as well as my minion, to an unwarded location, so that I can see the map through the minion's eyes. I will then be able to tell you where on the map you should mark down Arachne's dungeon. I will be checking back on the minion every hour so that we can get the timing right. Thanks in advance."

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Chapter 43: Creepy Crawlers Chapter 45: More Lessons



Attached comments:

  • The Mercury computer has Star Trek style "see trough walls from orbit" sensors,

    Dubious. While I can't say with certainty whether the MC has scanning abilities of its own (did Ami ever set it to passive scanning in the series?) or not, Mercury's visor seems to be its sensor suite.

    processes data that would take a team of analysts days in seconds or minutes, and can produce simple "weak point here" instructions from previously unknown data. It may not be sentient, but I'm sure it's at least as smart as Ami herself.

    I'd say the difficulty of detecting a weakpoint depends very much on the nature of the weakpoint. Looking for a thinner spot in something's armour could be relatively simple, and there might just be many default routines already programmed in. For the more exotic stuff, like finding a way out of Kunzite's warped space, or discovering the source of Nehelenia's illusions, Ami had to enter instructions on her own for a while.

    If magic is the answer, Ami already has a more powerful version of her crystal ball, with extras. And unlike her Keeper spell, MC will not be thwarted by the shrine's anti-evil wards.

    As I have mentioned before, I am not sure if the MC has scanning abilities separate from Ami's visor. Even if it does, it may not have the range.

    However, every time she used it it would have scanned lots of data besides whatever she was fighting at he time, like the Internet. And unless the thing has an infinitesimally small memory and a very thorough disc cleaner application, there's no reason why that data wouldn't still be there.

    Now this is unlikely in the extreme. First, allocating resources to something that is irrelevant to the problem at hand when any delays dealing with said problem can get the user killed is a bad idea. Second, scanning in the "Internet" as such is not possible. Even if the Mercury computer had unlimited bandwidth, Tokyo's infrastructure has not. There would just be no way for all the queried data to get to the MC in a timely manner (not to mention that network performance in the entire area would grind to a standstill for everyone else every time it hijacked it). If you mean 'scanning' in a way that does not require queries and responses - well, at that point, you are simply copying all the data stored on any computer in the vicinity, by some kind of action at a distance. That seems beyond what even the MC can do.

    There are several oline sites and Ebooks describing how to build stuff in primtive conditions ... (snipped stuff about lists,) ...from her minions.

    While I'm reluctant to assign a specific date to the events of the Sailor Moon series, I'm pretty sure most of those didn't exist yet at that point in time.

    Keeping the Reaper chained like that is too cruel, so Ami could replicate him a PS and some games; when time comes for the duel, Horny is either too fat from sitting on his ass playing games, or they'll duel by playing Tekken...

    Well, it is rather cruel, but unfortunately necessary. I'm also not sure he'll get less exercise sitting in front of a game than being chained to a wall, but fattening him up is an *excellent* idea that I hadn't considered yet. Most intriguing. Lastly, it is neither Mercury nor the Reaper who get to dictate the terms of the duel.
  • That's an interesting point. If Ami ever made the connection between what that warlock said, and the fact that she has numerous and detailed scans of youma using their powers recorded on the Mercury Computer, she could very well come up with something useful from it.

    She already did once, with the energy draining spell, so it's definitely possible.

    About Senshi sensors, in the first chapter of the anime Usagi's costume has hairpieces that transmitted Naru's scream for help trough few walls and some distance away; in the manga she also had a Sailor V-style mask that showed the scene too. (IIRC they never appeared again so Luna, Mercury and Mars got screentime as evil detectors.) Logically Mercury's visor is at least as good.

    That strikes me as some form of 'you are needed here' magic, like Tuxedo Mask's 'Sailor Moon is in trouble!'-sense.

    OTOH, if the visor in fact holds both sensors and it's own computer and does all the tricks alone, then logically the many times larger computer is at least as much more capable.

    "many times larger"? The thing is really tiny. It's all so clear that the visor does not do its tricks alone, as Ami uses it often in combination with the MC.

    If DK world has not yet invented moveable type or even printing, books would be very rare and very expensive.

    The evil side at least has no trouble filling entire libraries with books magically.
    To get back to the Mercury computer and its abilities: the best argument against it being some kind of super scanning device is that it never warns about enemy operations, even when the senshi are plodding right through one unsuspectingly.
  • I just saw a scene of Sailor Moon (episode 094) that clears at least some of these things up. Ami is using the MC without her visor to search for a pure heart crystal that has been lost. The best she can do is tell that it is within 10km and to the north. Thus, the MC can scan stuff without a visor, but it's not particularly good at it at longer distances.

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