Explaining Sonata to Minako's parents had been...interesting.
"You've heard of La Blue Girl, right Mum?" Minako had said cheerfully. "Well, here she is!"
Mrs. Aino had given her daughter a flat stare and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Mou, Minako-chan," she'd said, shaking her head. "Even for you, that was bad." She looked Sonata up and down, pursing her lips. "And this is why I avoid Harajuku like the plague."
"Y-yeah! Harajuku! Totally, she's totally...yeah!" Minako had said, nodding rapidly. "So anyway, umm...sleepover! For...a few nights, maybe?"
Mrs. Aino had shrugged. "Alright." She had shuffled off into the house; Minako had led Sonata up to her room, relieved that her mother had accepted the whole thing so easily.
The next morning, Usagi arrived at very nearly the crack of dawn. "Get her as bundled up as you can so nobody gets a good look at her," she said. "We're going over to Ami-chan's place."
Minako groaned. "Usagi-chan? It's...it's so early..."
"Yeah, and I didn't really get any sleep last night, so just do it and let's move."
Any protests Minako had on her lips died when she looked into Usagi's eyes. She may have been dressed in a soft pink flannel hoodie with a cute bunny on the front and white capri pants, but the girl on the doorstep was Sailor Moon through and through, and she was in full-on leader mode. "O-okay," Minako said, biting her lip.
Ten minutes later, a dressed but bleary-eyed Minako and a rumpled Sonata in a hoodie, jeans, a cold mask, and sunglasses, with her hands shoved in her pockets, were on their way out the door. "So why are we up so early again, Usagi-chan?" Minako asked.
"We need to get over to Ami-chan's place," Usagi said. "I need Dusk-san and Sparkle-san in the same place."
"For what?" Sonata asked. "Oh, and you can just call me Sonata."
"To make it so you two can walk around Tokyo without freaking people out," Usagi said simply.
"But how—" Minako began, then paused. "Oooh, right! The Luna Pen! I forgot all about that!"
"Right, but I can only use it once a day, it has to recharge overnight," Usagi said. "I explained things to Luna, and she thinks it should be able to do both of them for a whole day since it's a minor change." She cracked a yawn.
"Luna?" Sonata asked. "Vice-Principal Luna?"
The two blonds stared at her. "Umm...no," Minako said. "Luna is, well...Usagi's talking cat guardian...advisor...thingie."
"Talking cat guardian?" Sonata asked, blinking.
Usagi raised an eyebrow. "You know, like Artemis." At Sonata's blank stare, she turned to Minako.
Minako shrugged. "Hey, don't look at me. Artemis wasn't home last night. I honestly thought he was with Luna, he usually is when I can't find him."
Usagi rolled her eyes. "Anyway," she said, "you'll meet Luna later. She's already at Mamo-chan's place." A few minutes later, the trio walked up to an upscale apartment mansion. Usagi pressed the intercom button for "MIZUNO"; a moment later, Ami's somewhat sleepy but alert voice greeted them.
"This is a nice place," Sonata mused as they took the elevator up to Ami's floor. They soon found themselves standing in her living room, where Twilight Sparkle sat on the couch, focused intently on fine-tuning her spectrometer. Sonata removed her glasses and cold mask and shook out her hair. "Hi~iii!" she called to Twilight.
Twilight looked up. "Hey," she said, adjusting her glasses.
"Alright, we're going to get you two squared away, then head over to my boyfriend's apartment," Usagi said. "Mamo-chan's gonna get breakfast for everyone, then we'll...then we'll wait for the others to come when they get up at a more, umm...sane hour."
Ami checked the time. "It's seven thirty, Usagi-chan. Most people are up by now."
"That's beside the point," Usagi said. "Sparkle-san? I need you to come stand beside Sonata."
Twilight frowned, but stood, walking over to Sonata and standing beside her. Usagi pulled a fat pink pen with a large red jewel on the end from her pocket and held it over her head. "LUNA PEN! Disguise these two girls to blend in with the rest of Tokyo!"
Swirls of stars and crescent moons exploded out from the pen and swirled around the two girls, who began to glow softly. Slowly, their pastel skin tones faded to a homogenous not-quite-Asian, not-quite-Caucasian pale tone that perfectly matched the other three girls in the room.
Twilight blinked at herself, examining her arm. "What...did you just do?"
"It isn't permanent," Usagi said as the gem on the pen dulled in color. She shoved it into her pocket. "It's a disguise spell. I'll need to do it again tomorrow morning, and again every day you're in town. This way, you can move around without freaking people out."
"Interesting," Twilight said.
Sonata giggled. "Heehee, I look funny!"
"You're unusually focused today, Usagi-chan," Ami said with a pensive frown. "I doubt it has anything to do with helping our new friends here find the thing they're looking for. What's bothering you?"
Usagi frowned. "Those two French kids brought a big problem to Tokyo with them," she said. "One we need to deal with before it turns the whole city upside down."
* * * * *
Forty minutes later, five girls arrived at yet another upscale apartment mansion. By this point, Sonata and Minako were tired and grumpy from all the walking and their stomachs grumbled and growled.
They entered to find Ron flopped on a couch, watching a large flatscreen television. Nearby, a tall, dark-haired youth with sharp eyes sat at a breakfast nook, a book in hand. A black cat lay in the sun by the broad window.
"We're here, Mamo-chan," Usagi said, yawning hugely. The youth looked up and surveyed the group calmly, then nodded.
"Chiba Mamoru. Pleasure to meet you. I have croissants, donuts, eclairs, and hot coffee," he said. "Usako, you said something about a visitor later?"
Usagi nodded as she headed directly for the kitchen and attacked a row of plastic bags. "I gave Ladybug your address," she said. "She'll be coming...sometime. She said she'd come whenever she can." She produced two eclairs, then helped herself to a canned juice from the refrigerator and wandered over to the breakfast nook, sitting down across from Mamoru.
The others filed into the kitchen and raided the breakfast spread, then found places to sit around the apartment. "This is a very nice place you have here," Twilight said.
"It suits my needs," Mamoru said. "So, you two are from another universe and are searching for an artifact you need."
"You seem remarkably blase about that, Chiba-san," Twilight said as she tore a croissant in half.
Mamoru chuckled wryly. "I've died twice and met my daughter from a thousand years in the future. There isn't much left that can surprise me."
Twilight blinked at that, a bite of croissant dangling from her mouth. "Umm," she mumbled through the pastry.
"So Usagi-chan, why drag us over here so early?" Minako asked as she selected a donut and helped herself to a cup of coffee.
Usagi sighed. "I'd rather wait until the others are here to explain it, but basically, our new French friends brought a serious problem into town with them. The Candy Witch is just the first symptom of something a lot worse."
"I was afraid of that," Minako muttered.
"The good news is it doesn't sound like the kind of thing we usually deal with," Usagi continued. "The bad news is, we've got a supervillain in town who could potentially turn thousands of innocent people into living weapons."
Minako paled. "That's bad," she said.
"For now, I'm going to eat breakfast, then I'm going to take a nap," Usagi said. "When everybody gets here, I'll..." She yawned. "Explain."
And then she passed out right in her eclair.
Mamoru shook his head, smiled, and gently picked her up, carrying her to his bedroom. They heard him bustling around for a few minutes; when he returned, he put the face-smeared eclair and a fresh, untouched eclair on a paper plate, picked up the juice Usagi had been drinking, and carried both to the bedroom.
"Oh my," Ami said. "She must have been up all night."
"Will she be okay?" Twilight asked.
"Probably," Ami said. "It's just...it's been a while since she's been this serious about anything."
The black cat by the window flicked an ear. "I was sort of hoping I'd never have to see this side of her again, even if her lazy crybaby side gets on my nerves," it said.
Twilight stared, eyes wide behind her glasses.
"Ooh, talking kitty!" Sonata cooed. "Now I know we're in Neighpon!"
* * * * *
An hour and a half later, the other Sailor Soldiers and Kim arrived. Kim looked around Mamoru's apartment and let out a whistle. "Swanky," she said.
"Hey KP," Ron said, waving. "I had a great night, how were your digs?"
Kim glanced at Rei, pursed her lips, and shrugged. "Quiet," she said. "Very...traditional."
"Slept on the floor, huh?" Ron asked.
"Those straw floor mats?"
"Thin walls, cold as heck?"
"Yes and yes."
"Ah, memories." Ron nodded sagely. "Yeah, I'll take modern Tokyo any day."
"I'm right here, you know," Rei said irritably.
"Ah! Sorry," Kim said sheepishly. "I don't mean to complain, especially when you've been so generous and everything..."
Rei held up a hand. "It's okay," she said. Looking around, she stage-whispered, "I'm not exactly a fan of sleeping on the floor myself. But, it comes with the territory."
"So where's Usagi?" Makoto asked.
"Late as usual?" Rei wondered.
"No, she's here," Mamoru said. "She's just asleep in the bedroom. She's been up all night." He frowned. "I know Usako has to grow up and what she'll be one day, but every time I see her the way she is right now, I wonder how much longer I'll have with the odango-atama I fell in love with."
"So she's in full-blown Serenity mode?" Makoto asked.
"Close enough," Minako said. "She was at my door before I even rolled out of bed."
"I had a good reason."
All eyes turned to Usagi, who walked into the room with a slight case of bedhead, bags under her eyes, and her clothes rumpled. Nevertheless, her gaze was sharp and full of concern as she sat down on the windowsill, allowing the bright sunlight to silhouette her, making her hair look like shining spun gold.
"Now that you're all here, I can tell you what's happening right now in this city..."
* * * * *
"To be honest, I'm actually here on vacation with my family," Ladybug said. "Mama always wanted to visit Tokyo, and we saved up enough to afford a trip. I was a little worried about leaving Paris unprotected, but Tikki—my Kwami, the fairy who gives my Miraculous its power—assured me that even if I was away, at least Chat Noir could keep the damage from the Akumatized to a minimum if there was an attack."
"Akumatized?" Sailor Moon asked.
"Le Papillon's victims," Chat Noir explained. "He targets people experiencing negative emotions—jealousy, anger, frustration—and uses his Miraculous to take control of them, give them superpowers."
"Then he lets them go on a rampage to draw us out," Ladybug said. "He's after our Miraculous, mine and Chat Noir's." She bit her lip. "I didn't want to leave Chat Noir to deal with it by himself, especially since I'm the only one who can cleanse an Akuma once it's released from its victim. Without me, Chat Noir can't stop an Akumatized without making it worse."
Chat Noir shuddered. "Yeah. Do NOT want to do THAT again."
"Making it worse how?" Sailor Moon asked.
"Once the Akuma is released from the object it possesses, it has to be captured and purified," Ladybug explained. "You saw, right?"
"The butterfly?" Sailor Moon asked.
"That's right," Ladybug said. "If I don't catch and purify it, it'll escape and multiply. Then it can turn thousands of people into copies of the same Akumatized."
Sailor Moon gasped. "That's...!"
"Anyway, Tikki reasoned that if Le Papillon realized I wasn't in Paris, he'd hold off on attacking." Ladybug glanced at Chat Noir, an apology in her eyes. "Although it might have put Chat Noir at risk, his Miraculous."
"I would've been fine, My Lady," Chat Noir said. He stretched. "Anyway, it's a moot point since I just happened to be in Tokyo myself."
"And Le Papillon followed you both here?" Sailor Moon asked.
Ladybug chewed her lip. "That part bothers me," she admitted. "It's too...contrived. My being here on vacation is one thing, but Chat Noir and Le Papillon showing up here too?"
Sailor Moon glanced at Chat Noir. "What brought you to Tokyo?"
"Can't say," Chat Noir said, scratching his cheek. "Sorry, it's...if I explained why I'm here, Ladybug would figure out who I am, and she's the one who keeps saying we have to keep our identities a secret."
"Even from each other?" Sailor Moon asked, frowning. "How do you work together like that?"
"We trust each other enough that we don't need to know," Ladybug said. Sailor Moon couldn't help but notice the faint cloud of desperation and pain that filled Chat Noir's eyes at that.
"But Le Papillon being here...yeah, that's a mystery," Chat Noir said. "Plagg swears he has no way of tracking our Miraculous, but..."
"In any case, for obvious reasons, we can't just go straight back to Paris. Not until our personal reasons for being here are...you know," Ladybug said.
"Yeah, you can't exactly interrupt your family vacation," Sailor Moon agreed with a nod. "And nobody's expecting you to. That's not fair. If anybody knows what it's like to have your life interrupted by being a superhero, it's me."
"Right," Ladybug said. "But in all likelihood, when we do return to Paris, Le Papillon will follow."
"Assuming we don't figure out who he is and kick his butt here," Chat Noir said, cracking his knuckles.
"It shouldn't be that hard to figure out how many Parisian tourists are wandering around Tokyo," Sailor Moon mused. "I'm sure Sailor Mercury can do it." She looked at the two French teens. "Of course, you realize if we try to help you identify your enemy, we're going to figure out who you two are in the process."
Ladybug grimaced. "As...as long as you keep that information to yourself," she said. Her eyes flicked to Chat Noir. "Agreed?"
Chat Noir sighed. "Agreed."
Sailor Moon nodded. "So, Le Papillon. What are the limits to his power?"
"As far as we know, the only limit is he can only Akumatize one victim at a time," Ladybug said. "As far as we know."
"And the whole 'army of a thousand Akumatized' thing only happens when an Akuma gets away from us, which is something we go out of our way to avoid," Chat Noir added. "Once was enough, believe me."
"But he can Akumatize anyone feeling strong enough negative emotions," Ladybug said.
Sailor Moon winced. "In this city? That's a problem..."
* * * * *
"So it's like pretty much every other bad guy we've faced that did the whole 'turn innocent people into monsters' bit?" Makoto asked. "No sweat!"
"Except we have no way of knowing if my Moon Healing Escalation will work on these Akuma, so if one does show up, we have to wait for Ladybug and Chat Noir," Sailor Moon said. "And in the meantime, we need to try to help them find this Papillon of theirs and try to help our friends here find the thing they're looking for."
Minako laughed. "Is that all? Pizza cake! Compared to everything else we've ever put up with, that's pretty tame!"
"She's not wrong," Makoto said. "Except about the 'pizza cake' thing, I mean." She shook her head. "I don't see why you're so worried about this."
Usagi sighed. "I just...I just have a bad feeling," she said.
Rei raised an eyebrow. "Is that Usagi talking, or Serenity?"
"Serenity," Usagi admitted. "Usagi just wants to go back to bed with Mamo-chan, yakisoba pan, and some manga."
"Then thank the spirits for Serenity," Rei muttered with a small smile.
Twilight frowned. "You keep talking about 'Serenity'," she said. "You make it sound like...like she's a different person."
"That's...a really long story, but that's kind of how it is," Makoto said.
"All of us are reincarnated from a past life," Ami put in. "A very long time ago, Usagi was Princess Serenity. A thousand years from now, she will be Neo-Queen Serenity."
"Her personality when Serenity manifests is very different," Mamoru said. "Lately, her Serenity self has been surfacing more and more. We all want to think it's just a sign that Usako is maturing, but..."
"None of us are really ready to let go of the lazy crybaby we know and love," Makoto said. "We don't...really know where Usagi ends and Serenity begins."
"Wow," Kim said. "That..." She trailed off. "I got nothin'."
"None of which really matters right now," Usagi said. "What matters right now is we have work to do. The sooner we find the thing these people need and help those two French superheroes deal with their problem, the better."
"About the latter part," Ami said. "It looks like there are only five Parisian tourists under the age of eighteen are in Japan right now, and only two of them are staying anywhere near Azabu-Juuban." Her fingers danced across her tiny palmtop computer. "One is a boy named Adrien Agreste, who is here with his father Gabriel Agreste. They're staying at the Yamagoto Plaza Hotel." She looked up. "The other is a girl named Marinette Dupain-Cheng, vacationing here with her parents Tom Dupain and Sabine Cheng, staying at the Ladybird Suites."
Makoto raised an eyebrow. "Ladybug is staying at the Ladybird. That's like, the opposite of trying." The others laughed.
"Assuming it's her," Rei pointed out.
Ami projected a hologram of the girl in question onto the wall of Mamoru's apartment. Everyone stared.
"It's totally her," Ron said.
"Gabriel Agreste," Rei said with a frown. "I feel like I should know that name..."
* * * * *
Cameras flashed in a crowded press room at the Yamagoto Plaza Hotel. Gabriel Agreste stood behind a podium, hands clasped behind his back, gazing dispassionately out at the sea of reporters. His son Adrien stood uncomfortably at his side.
"I am pleased to announce the opening of my boutique in Ginza next month," Gabriel said. "I am also pleased to announce that a second boutique, showcasing an...alternate line inspired by youth culture and certain recent events in my native Paris, will be opening in Harajuku at the end of summer."
As Gabriel droned on about his new boutiques, fielding questions from reporters, Adrien let his mind wander.
How did Le Papillon track them to Tokyo? What were the odds that he and Ladybug would be in Japan at the same time? Who were those strange people that had shown up during their battle with Candy Crusher? How far could they really trust Sailor Moon and her team?
So many questions and so few answers...