“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
unFAMOUS LAST WORDS
(or, Once Upon A Time In Crystal Tokyo)
It had been called the Citadel in the early days, the reformation days--the ones that followed the end of the world and it’s second beginning. It was still technically called the Citadel, though most of the public now referred to it as the Crystal Palace, and it was a fair name considering its appearance. The palace stood in the center of the city, surrounded by sprawling park woodlands, marking where humanity’s last stand had been made. It’s immense, central pillar towered over the surrounding buildings, making it the focal point of any panoramic view. The only structure that came close in terms of sheer scale was the strangely anachronistic steel-and-glass Tokyo Tower. (How it had survived the apocalypse no one really knew, and a multitude of theories abounded, all of them wrong.)
There were roughly four hundred different rooms and chambers inside the Citadel. Small Lady had, to date, discovered and explored one hundred and fifteen. The inherent problem, however, was in the remaining three hundred: they all belonged to the Reclamation Project, where hundreds of advisors, archivists and historians collected and catalogued pieces of recovered history from the world before.
Dozens of excavations were in progress on any given day, both in the broken remnants of Old Tokyo and abroad in places of the world that had not been so lucky. All of their findings were sent to Crystal Tokyo, and until the collection was sorted out enough to allow for a proper museum to be built, everything ended up in the lower levels of the palace. The project itself was a perplexing maze of offices, corridors, storage chambers, cataloguing rooms, reference archives and, more importantly than anything else, locked doors.
Small Lady hated locked doors.
The temptation for her to explore the Reclamation Project’s secrets was at times maddening, especially since she had already traveled to the past on two separate occasions. Each return had brought with it a quiet awe as she saw mere echoes of what had once been such vivid places in her memories. After their almost fatal battle against Nehelenia, she had spent her last day in Akihabara before going back, dragging her father down the bustling streets and through crowded stores. Two days after returning to Crystal Tokyo she walked down that same streets: deserted and broken, standing in the shadows of crumbled buildings overgrown with grass and moss.
It was almost midnight as she scurried through the halls of the Citadel, wary of the way her feet might echo down the corridors. Despite the late hour, some of the Senshi could still be awake, and they were all under the impression she was in her room. For all of the Citadel’s sheer size and majesty, only its upper levels were exclusive to the royal family and their Sailor Senshi, and it was surprisingly easy to cross paths with any of them. At best she’d get a scolding about “being irresponsible” from (of all people) her mother. At worst she’d be put through the rigors during tomorrow’s training session, either by Jupiter or Venus.
Small Lady reached a corner, paused and carefully peered around it to ensure no one else was there. Helios, on the other hand, casually strolled past her and around the corner. Small Lady sighed in exasperation and caught up to him. “You’re being awfully cavalier about this,” she said.
Helios smirked at her. “Out of the two of us, I’m not breaking curfew.”
“Three of us!” a voice above her said.
She tried to tilt her gaze up at the small kitten perched atop her head. Diana was glaring reproachfully at Helios, as if he’d horribly stung her by forgetting she was even there, or worse, assuming she was just a regular cat.
Helios raised his hands in apology. “I’m sorry, Diana. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
They reached the elevator lifts. Helios pressed the call button.
“He is right, though,” Diana said, looking down at Small Lady. “I’m sure if you talked to the king or queen, they’d let you explore the Reclamation Project. With all your recent travels, you could even help identify some the artifacts.”
“I like discovering these things on my own, without everyone’s prying eyes around me,” Small Lady said. She stared out through the crystalline windows, a wistful smile on her face as she watched the lights of the city. “I’m not entirely sure I can explain it, Diana. There’s just…something euphoric about exploring mysteries and secrets when you’re doing it on your own.”
“Or it’s the thrill of sneaking out at night without your parents’ knowledge,” Helios added. With a mechanical chime, the elevator doors slid open and he glided inside. “It’s a teenage thing, I’m told.”
That earned him a punch in a shoulder.
He took it in stride, having expected as much.
The doors to the elevator slid shut behind them.
Small Lady selected the floor she wanted. Almost immediately the elevator shifted and began its swift decent. Transparent, crystalline panels gave them an unparalleled view of the city beyond the surrounding trees.
“Were you ever a teenager, Helios-sama?” Diana asked.
“I’m not entirely certain,” he answered. “I think I was, a long time ago.” He pressed a palm against the window, his expression growing distant. “It’s strange…I can remember the very first dream had by the very first child. I remember standing to the side, watching as she danced and played in the beginnings of the dreamworld…but I don’t remember anything about myself at that time. Maybe I grew as the dreamworld did, maybe I was always like I am now.”
The elevator slowed to a stop, its doors opening onto their desired floor.
Small Lady slid her hand into his as they stepped out, squeezing it once. Helios glanced down but said nothing. Signs on the walls pointed them towards the Reclamation Project’s main offices. At one specific juncture, Small Lady pulled on Helios’ arm, steering them left, though the signs for the office pointed right. The doors lining the hallway grew few and far between. Most of them had no label or signs indicating what was inside.
Helios glanced over at Small Lady, watching her lips move as she silently counted the doors they passed on her side. “Seventeen,” she announced after they rounded a bend, and she yanked Helios to a stop.
“Is this where we left off?” Diana asked.
Small Lady nodded as much as she dared without tipping over the kitten. “The last one was filled with jars of mud.”
“They were geological surveys,” Helios said.
“They were boring. Let’s hope there’s something more interesting in this one. But first,” and she turned Helios around so they were facing each other. “I want you to kiss me.”
Helios arched one of his eyebrows at her.
“For luck?” Diana asked, genuinely curious.
“Something like that,” Small Lady said with a smile.
Helios leaned down, his face so close to hers that she could feel the warmth of his breath against her skin. “Are you certain you want to do this?” he murmured in that voice that always made her heart flutter a little faster in her chest.
Small Lady’s eyes began to slide closed in anticipation. “Absolutely.”
Helios’ gaze turned to their audience. “So do they, apparently.”
Small Lady’s eyes abruptly widened, her head snapping around to behold the sight of four young ladies in pyjamas crowded into the hallway. Ves, Jun and Ceres looked disappointed that the kiss wasn’t going to happen. Palla was holding aloft a sign that proclaimed: 7.6
“I figured you’d lose points for the follow-through,” she cheerfully explained to Small Lady.
Small Lady was indignant. “Why am I the one losing points? Do you know how hard it is to kiss a guy who’s a foot taller than you, and balance a cat on your head at the same time?”
“I’d have given you at least an eight-point-four,” Diana said.
“You’re not helping,” Small Lady groaned.
“Maybe you just had performance jitters,” Helios offered, completely deadpan. “We’ll need to practice for at least a week to get that number higher.”
Small Lady leveled a stern look at Helios.
The Sailor Quartet, however, burst out laughing.
“Did Helios just make a joke?” Ceres said.
“At my expense,” Small Lady muttered, still glaring at him. She turned her ire on the others. “And just what are you doing here?”
Ves wagged a chiding finger at her. “Is it not our job as the Sailor Quartet to protect you, Princess?”
They only called her ‘Princess’ if they wanted to tease her. Otherwise it was just ‘Chibiusa’. It had taken her over four months to finally drill the informality into them. While she admired their dedication, she wanted to think of them as friends as much as her bodyguards. If it was one thing about her mother’s sense of leadership she wanted to keep, it was that.
The quartet gathered around the door, inspecting it thoroughly.
“So this is where we’re breaking into tonight,” Jun said.
“I don’t see any doorknobs or key holes,” Ceres stated.
Jun grinned and cracked her knuckles. “I guess we’ll just have to use our powers and break it down.”
“Or,” Helios suggested, pulling a slender, rectangular-shaped crystal from inside his robes, “I could open it with the master key.”
Ves rolled her eyes. “Take all the fun out of it, why don’t you.”
“I’m not about to explain to the king or queen why one of the doors in their palace has been suddenly reduced to debris and scorch marks,” he said evenly, waving the crystal in front of the door.
There was an audible click and the door swung open.
Jun and Ves peered inside the darkened room.
“How did you snag a master key anyways?” Ceres asked.
Helios shrugged. “I asked the queen to make me one. This only opens doors to the Reclamation Project. It’s not as if this key lets me sneak into anyone’s rooms at night.”
“Ten bucks says Chibiusa already gave him her spare key for that exact reason,” Ves muttered to Jun.
Small Lady shook her head at the crowd clustering around the door. The quiet, romantic getaway with Helios she had envisioned was all but destroyed now. If she didn’t act immediately, there would be no chances of dissuading them to go back upstairs. “You don’t have to be here, you know,” she told her Senshi. “You’re all scheduled to work at Momo’s store tomorrow afternoon after morning training. If you stay up all night, you’ll be exhausted.”
“Ah, the double life of a not-so-ordinary, teenage magical girl,” Ves remarked.
“We’ll survive,” Jun chimed in. “We’ve pulled all-nighters like this before.”
Helios was the first to step inside. The room reacted to his presence, crystals hanging in the ceiling flickering on. The quartet followed behind him, spreading out to different parts of the room.
Small Lady tried to sound as dismissive as she could as she closed the door behind everyone. “This really isn’t something get so excited about. We’re probably just going to find boring, old things in here.”
“Are you kidding?” Palla said. “Last week we scored that stash of yaoi manga they salvaged from Kyoto!”
Small Lady sighed to herself.
There would be no stopping them now.
Resigning herself to this escort, she joined the others in exploring the room. Rows of unlabelled boxes stacked on top of each other ran across two and a half of the four walls, rounded out by a swivel chair and an old, metal desk that looked as if it had been salvaged from an office building hard-hit by The Fall. The remaining wall was an odd series of random, hastily assembled shelves. Various pieces of electronic equipment crowded the shelves for space, cords dangling everywhere.
“Most of these are video players of some sort,” Ceres said as she surveyed the shelves. “Old VHS tape players, laserdisc players, DVD players, holodisc players, and a few in-betweeners I don’t even recognize.”
Palla pulled one of the items off the shelves and turned it over. She grinned. “Hey, Palla found a Wii!”
Ves was leafing through the stacks of papers cluttering the metal desk. “There’s just a pile of shipping manifests here. Just says where each box came from and when they arrived here. No list of contents.”
Small Lady joined Helios, who, along with Jun, was randomly opening up some of the boxes. Most of the boxes were filled with movies. She only recognized a handful of them, and many were in languages she didn’t recognize.
“It’s like a giant, audio-visual time capsule,” Jun said.
“And they used devices this big and clunky to watch their movies?” Ves remarked, shaking her head. “They had some really weird things gadgets before The Fall.”
“It worked for them at the time,” Small Lady said.
Ceres added, “Besides, most of the what we use now only came after Sailor Mercury pioneered crystalline technology. I’m just impressed these are in such good condition, considering what the end of the world must have been like.”
“I think the rejects are in some of these boxes,” Helios said, holding up a battered piece of what used to be a DVD player.
“Do you remember anything about The Fall?” Diana asked Small Lady.
Ceres looked up from the slide projector she was tinkering with.
Small Lady shook her head. “I’ve been to the past twice already. The world came close to ending both times, but we survived. The Fall must have come later on, after I left.”
Everyone seemed hazy when it came to details about The Fall, even her parents. At first she had believed they deliberately weren’t telling her, fearful of some tragic detail she might learn. Yet the more she listened to them talk, the more Small Lady realized that no one could remember anything specific from the time of The Fall. A strange blanket of forgetfulness had enveloped everyone who would have been involved with the event.
If anyone knew, it would have been Setsuna, and she wasn’t talking.
Small Lady glanced over in the direction of Jun’s voice. Jun stood next to a large box filled with tiny discs in clear, plastic covers. The bewilderment on her face was unmistakable. Jun never looked away from the box’s contents as she very carefully asked, “When you were in the past, did you or any of the Senshi ever reveal who you were?”
Small Lady shook her head. “No, never. A few close friends might have guessed who we were, but if they suspected no one ever said anything. Why?”
Jun straightened up and pulled out one of the discs, holding it between her fingers. “These have your mother’s name on them.”
More specifically, the name ‘Sailormoon’ was written on them. Small Lady discovered this after she crossed the expanse of the room in less than three seconds, almost mowing down Helios in the process. He didn’t take it personally.
There were a surprising number of discs, and each one had a different name written at the bottom. Most of them were dated in the early twenty-first century. They all bore the title:
Sailormoon – ASMR Epitaphs
The rest of the Quartet quickly gathered around the mysterious box and began pulling random discs out for closer inspections. “What’s this,” Palla paused and attempted to phonetically sound out the acronym, failing brilliantly in the process. “Ass-mer?”
“I have no idea,” Ves remarked. She turned over one of the covers. “Looks like some sort of fanclub for the queen in her early days.”
Small Lady scratched her head in confusion. “I didn’t even know she had a fanclub back then.”
“It doesn’t seem that strange,” Diana said. “She has a fanclub now.”
“But that’s different,” Ceres countered. “It’s common knowledge these days that she used to be Sailor Moon, just as everyone knows her entire Court were--still are, the Sailor Senshi.”
“Minako-san wrote that children’s book about it too,” Ves said.
Jun glanced back at the one person who had yet to join them in clustering around the box. “Helios, you were around a lot back then. After you were freed from the Dead Moon Circus, you fought with the Senshi in at least three other recorded battles--including The Fall.”
Helios shifted uncomfortably and avoided their gazes.
“I didn’t know you were there during The Fall,” Diana said, a touch of reverence in her voice.
“He doesn’t like to talk about it,” Small Lady said quietly to the Mau cat. “I think that’s where he got the scars on his back.”
Diana lowered her head, apologetic. “Oh.”
“It’s okay; you didn’t know,” Helios said. He turned his attention to Small Lady. “Yes, people knew about Sailor Moon. Between the smaller youma attacks and the more epic battles they fought, there were a lot of witnesses left behind. Of course no one ever could confirm the rumours, but word still got around. There was quite the cult following, especially on the Internet, but no one ever learned who the Sailor Senshi really were.”
Jun scowled at the contents of the box. “So basically you’re saying this could have come from anywhere.”
“The labels are written in English,” Diana said.
“North American in origin, do you think?” Ves suggested.
Small Lady made a non-committal shrug. “Probably.”
Ceres turned one of the discs over in her hands. “These are holodiscs,” she said. “I saw at least one projector on the shelves; if it still works, we might be able to fire up one of these things.”
“Yay, a movie!” Palla shouted happily.
Jun and Ves stared at her in disbelief. “And to think,” Jun murmured, “she scores higher than any of us on every Strategy and Tactics exam we take.”
Ceres set about pulling the projector off the shelf. Helios helped her locate the power cords and connect it all to the adaptors. One of the problems with the current crystal-based technology was that it didn’t work well with the older stuff. Sailor Mercury had solved that problem early on by creating special units that would accept the plugs from the older devices.
“These people have some really strange names!” Palla piped up, giggling to herself as she pulled out disc after disc, reading the names in turn before tossing them over her shoulder. She froze upon seeing one name in particular. “Uh…this guy’s name seems awfully familiar somehow.”
The others crowded around Palla.
The name on the disc read: His lordship Chaos.
The Sailor Quartet exchanged worried glances.
“You don’t think Sailor Moon trapped the Chaos entity onto this disc…do you?” Ves asked.
“She did,” Helios told them as he appraised the disc cover.
Everyone’s eyes widened.
“You’re joking!” Jun exclaimed.
“Yes, I am,” Helios agreed.
A chorus of groans went up into the air, along with more than one offering to punch him in the stomach on Small Lady’s behalf. She declined all of them, more than content to exact punishment herself at a later time (when there weren’t so many witnesses around).
“It’s probably just some idiot trying to sound clever,” Ceres said. She bent back over the desk, her work on the projector rewarded with a series of whirs and clicks as the machine started up. “Okay, I think I’ve got this thing behaving.”
Helios still had the disc.
His eyes were focused on the date.
Ceres snapped her fingers as loud as she could; on the third snap she managed to catch Helios’ attention. “We can’t start the show without it,” she told him.
Helios tossed her the disc.
After a few minutes of tinkering with the operating commands, Ceres let out a triumphant shout and flopped back in the swivel chair as the projector began playing the disc. She turned the projector to the side, letting the image appear in the middle of the room. Everyone found a place to sit as the image began to manifest.
A young man stared out towards the back of the room, at something not being picked up by the holo-recorder. The image quality jumped and changed a few times, his skin tone going from pale to green to yellow to pale once more. He looked like he was in his mid-twenties at most, but that could have been deceiving. His hair was brown and looked like it should have been trimmed a week or two prior. He wore glasses, a pair of blue jeans and a shirt that boldly proclaimed some odd rant about coconuts and flying hamsters of doom.
The audio was filled with crackles and static for a few seconds before everything cleared up.
“…don’t see what the problem is. I’m wearing pants for this, what more do you want from me?” he said to someone off-screen. “Are we good? We’re recording?” He turned to the direction of what had to be the camera and flashed a sincere smile. “Hello, there! Well, I’m guessing you’ve already figured out who I am--”
“An otaku,” chimed the entire Sailor Quartet.
Small Lady elbowed the nearest of them.
“--so we might as well get started,” said the man identified as His lordship Chaos by the disc’s label. He leaned down in front of the camera’s eye and looked to be fiddling with a few things. Satisfied, he stood up, took a few steps back and began to speak:
It’s hard to talk about something as if it’s gone when it still stands in front of you. And besides, we’re not here to mourn the inevitable demise of a series and its fandom, but celebrate how much they both became a part of our lives. So consider this my apologia, my defending argument.
This is why I am and shall remain a fan of Sailormoon.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon was one of my two gateways into anime. (The other being Devil Hunter Yohko, which, while featuring the voice talents of Aya Hisakawa, who also shares the voice of Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury, is decidedly not a series for children. Just so you know.) It came at a critical time for me as an aspiring writer.
My grandfather had given our family an older computer he’d since traded up for (bonus points if you see the irony in that), and it possessed a word processing unit, however pithy compared to today’s standards it might have been. Suddenly I was staying up late at night after my family had retired to their respective bedrooms, monopolizing the computer all I wanted. I was a writer possessed.
At about the same time, the Nelvana dub of Sailormoon appeared on television. It was by chance I stumbled across it mid-first season, and I was hooked before the first commercial break. I can’t exactly say what it was about Sailormoon that captured my interest. It might have been the distinctly unique animation and character design, something utterly different from anything else being shown on TV. It might have been the ongoing story arc, where in spite of all the episodic moments, you could see a greater plot slowly rolling towards its inevitable conclusion. It might even have been the very nature of the show: strong, female high school students pulling double duty as warriors fighting against evil.
In retrospect, it was probably the skimpy costumes they wore.
Hey, I was a teenager when it first aired. That sort of pivotal detail in any show tends to grab my strict attention.
Say what you will about the dub, good or bad, but for many of us, myself included, without it we might have never discovered anime. The closest I’d come to becoming an otaku otherwise was browsing the “Japanimation” section of the local Blockbuster and being entranced by the concept of animated programs for adults. (See the above Devil Hunter Yohko reference.)
From then on, I religiously watched the Sailormoon episodes as they aired. I was astounded when the Inner Senshi were killed at the end of the first season, something you rarely if ever see in a North American animated series. (“Transported to an alternate dimension”, here we come!) I was equally stunned when the show abruptly ended in the middle of the R season, leaving many unanswered questions.
At the time, I was also discovering something of equal importance to my life: the Internet. In an attempt to learn the fates of the Sailor Senshi, I wandered through dozens of smallish fansites and archives devoted to the series. Ultimately, I stumbled upon A Sailor Moon Romance, fresh off having been transferred from the hands of Sailor Skuld into those of Andrea Hui.
In a moment that forever changed me, I discovered fanfiction.
I walked in the shadows of the old gods--the Tim Nolan’s and Ken Wolfe’s and Angus MacSpon’s, the Greenbeans’ and Jackie Chiang’s and Meara’s. I devoured fanfics as swiftly as paperback books, perhaps even more so at the time. The community was new, only just beginning to grow, and I made a number of good friends I’ve sadly since fallen out of touch with.
They appreciated my fan letters about their stories. They discussed the series and its characters, its questions and quirks. And most importantly, they endured my over-caffeinated newbie antics with good humour. (I’m sure Greenbeans especially would have killed me a dozen times over by now if not for her patience and good graces.)
Not long after, I graduated high school and my parents gave me a laptop to use for college. It was old, even by the standards of that time. It was heavy and clunky, and the screen was black & orange, and it only operated on DOS, even in the word processing system. But it was my laptop, and I treasured it.
My first year of college was upon me, and suddenly I was out on my own, living beyond the boundaries of my family. I was in charge of my own meals and housekeeping. I could maintain whatever sort of schedule I wanted outside of the daily academic regimen. I spent most of it in front of my laptop. I even wrote an essay or two on occasion, once a deadline suddenly reared its ugly head.
Before this point, I had written dozens of short stories and original fiction. Each new attempt was an experiment, an exercise in writing. I owe a lot to those early works, for as flawed as were. But Sailormoon had seized my imagination, an ultimately it was through SM fanfiction that my writing style manifested
Late one night in my room, I created ‘Tales of the Dreamworld’. It was unlike anything I’d ever written before, and it was better than all of them. As a writer, my abilities had suddenly evolved. Without Sailormoon or fanfiction, I don’t know how much longer such a noticeable jump in skill might have taken, or if that would have even occurred at all.
As a writer in the fandom, I made a noticeable splash with the Dreamworld series. From there, the fanbase for “His lordship Chaos” seemed to grow with each new story I wrote and released on ASMR. As a sidenote: it’s peculiar to write about this sort of thing objectively, especially since, being the object of interest, I’m obviously biased and could easily come off as sounding pompous. The theory goes that if I’ve done my job properly, my puppet minions haven’t been fed yet and thusly are not causing the online masses to worship me. (At least not until the Chaos memorabilia stand is set up.)
Over the next few years I wrote ‘Neith.’ ‘Sycophant City,’ ‘When Magical Girls Go Wrong’, ‘Earth*ling’ and the monstrously epic ‘Circles of Time: Messiah Wars.’ I also wrote ‘The Nocturnal Tour’, a now somewhat rare SM lemon/hentai story I’ve since taken down because there are elements of it I wish to eventually incorporate into an original work. (And no, it’s not the sex parts, oddly enough.)
As many of the golden age authors retired or moved on, and the SM fandom’s silver age began, I became one of its more touted names. This probably crystallized when I wrote ‘1101’, the dystopian Crystal Tokyo story that many fans have ranked as one of the best SM fanfics out there.
(On an unrelated note, the Chaos memorabilia stand is now open! Hurry on over; sock puppets are ready to take your orders!)
Somewhere along the way, the ASMR community had expanded to a point where a message board seemed the next obvious step. I remember when the ASMR board first went online. Shortly beforehand, Andrea offered me a moderating gig. I would have accepted in a heartbeat, however I was about to spend 3 months in Brazil and would barely be anywhere near a computer with a working Net connection.
Despite that, I managed to check out the new board whenever possible, and signed on as member 575. Later, that number would officially make me an ‘oldie’, giving me full authority to threaten the newbs from the RPG and Family Tree forums to “get the hell off my damned online lawn!”
I also remember the first two Amazon Wars…of which I served the all-important role of cannon fodder on both occasions.
ASMR is the place where, in a roundabout way, I met Mel, the woman who would (some might argue foolishly) later agree to become my wife. Mutual friends of ours helped conspire to get us to talk with each other, be it through forum posts or chats or private IM’s. As it turned out, she was one of the now infamous Wives of ASMR: Wife #13, the Blushing “Fanboy Whore” Wife.
Interesting fact: by virtue of being one of the first “family” members to start “adopting” other board members as kids/siblings/spouse/cousins/pet rocks, back when the whole ASMR Family craze began, Mel also became the closest thing to the Biblical Eve…or Kevin Bacon. Almost everyone could trace their lineage back to her in some way. Even when the Family Tree forum swelled to an almost freakish size, sooner or later anyone making the flowchart would inevitably arrive at her if they went far enough back.
Mind you, Mel had already met me twice before all this, so to speak. She was one of the highest-ranking Generals in the Amazoness army during the Amazon Wars. And by virtue of having a Y-chromsome and a sense of humour, I joined the ranks of their sworn male enemies. Naturally our two encounters were brief: I made some sort of comically egotistical posturing, usually about the sexiness of my ass, and she in turn kicked it across three time zones. Which is actually a pretty accurate description of our relationship even now.
Ah, good times.
But sooner or later, like all good things the party has to come to an end. I was being tapped on the shoulder by that chilling spectre called Life, who was asking what I wanted to do with myself in the years to come. I still don’t have anything resembling a coherent answer for it. (But if you’d like to offer up suggestions, sock puppets are standing by to claim your ideas as my own. Act now, as space is limited!)
As my passion for Sailormoon began to wane, so too did my contributions to the fanfic community at large. After going strong for almost eight years, I was fast reaching a point where I felt I had written all I could in the SM universe. A growing desire to try my hand at original fiction started to gnaw at me, and slowly but noticeably I began my lurking days in the fandom: regularly checking up on things, but rarely ever putting in an actual appearance.
Those were the days when I witnessed the meteoric rise and fall of the ASMR message board, and later the ASMR website itself. In the aftermath, I watched Dejana (one of the more recent highly-touted names in quality SM fanfiction) create and maintain what is perhaps the last bastion of Sailormoon fandom: Dotmoon. I still visit Dotmoon frequently, though I tend to shuffle around in the shadowy corners like someone at a particularly elegant masquerade ball who’s managed to forget their pants.
All this brings us back to the SM fandom itself.
My time spent in the fandom has been both enjoyable and oddly scattershot. I’ve been part of the general masses and touted as one of its cult celebrities. I’ve crept into retirement once, failed beautifully at it and returned to crank out two more large stories that refused to go unwritten. I’ve since mostly-retired for a second time, and shall eventually (as all things do over the passage of time) fade into obscurity.
I’ve had the luck in becoming an anime otaku before anime itself became anything close to mainstream in North America. Even in the late 90’s, fansubbed VHS tapes were the only way to catch up on the latest episodes. Since then, anime itself has exploded in availability…as has my anime DVD collection, much to my poor wallet’s lament. But for as much as I’ve enjoyed many of the series that have come out, nothing has quite managed to capture my passion like Sailormoon did.
It’s been more than a decade since I first became an otaku because of SM, even longer since the series itself finished airing in Japan, but I wouldn’t trade it away for anything in the world. Because of Sailormoon, and websites like ASMR, Dotmoon and the Bitch Board, I found my craft, met my wife and encountered a great number of trusted friends and fellow writers.
It’s been a long and strange and wondrous journey, and I am glad I took it and was able to meet so many cool people along the way. The fandom may be smaller, and it may be fading, but it’s still here. So long as it remains, so too shall I. Probably in a lurking capacity, but I’ll still be around. Just look for the guy in the shadowy corner who isn’t wearing pants.
--His lordship Chaos (August 10, 2008.)
(Elegantly transcribed copies of this glorious, historic speech can be found at the Chaos memorabilia stand. Hurry, as quantities are limited and prices are likely to skyrocket once the rigged Ebay bidding wars begin!)
The image started to fade, and within seconds disappeared entirely as an audible ‘click!’ came from the projector. Everyone stood in silence for a while, each one pondering what they’d just heard.
“Wow,” Ves said finally. “That was…long-winded.”
“And pointless,” Ceres added. “It seemed quite pointless too.”
Jun turned to Small Lady. “Were all of the Queen’s fans weird like him?”
All Small Lady could do was let out a nervous laugh and shrug her shoulders.
“Hey look at this,” Palla called out, and pulled another disc out from the box. “Here’s another one with that guy’s name on it.”
The label on it proclaimed: His lordship Chaos – Curse of the Fanboys!!!
Palla tossed it to Ceres, who was closest to the holo-projector. Ceres popped out the previous disc. “I wonder what’s on this one,” she mused, poised to slide in the new disc.
A firm hand suddenly clamped down on her wrist. “I’d rather you didn’t,” Setsuna said. “Trust me on this.”
The only one who didn’t seem surprised was Helios; his amused expression flickered for a moment. Only a moment.
“S-Setsuna-san!” Jun stammered nervously. She looked around, very much aware of how none of them were supposed to be in this room. “I didn’t hear you come through the door.”
“I didn’t,” Setsuna replied with a smirk. “I did, however, want to inform you that Sailor Venus is under the impression you are all currently together in Small Lady’s room, and she is on her way to check in on you. Should she find the room empty, I hold little doubt you’ll spend tomorrow morning running laps…with Venus cracking her Love-Me Chain at your heels the entire time.”
The look of horror on all five of their faces was identical and priceless.
“Oh, gee, look at the time!” Ceres abruptly exclaimed, making an exaggerated glance down at a non-existent wristwatch. “We’d better get going.”
What ensued was something between a graceful dash and a mad scramble out the door, culminating in Palla almost shoving Ves into a wall as they fought to make it through the door first.
Left behind, Small Lady groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. “And they’re supposed to be the ones protecting me,” she sighed.
“They remind me of your mother’s Senshi when they were that age,” Helios said, a hint of fondness in his voice. “Nothing wrong with that. But I think you’d better catch up to them, unless you want to run those laps all by yourself.”
Small Lady made a face at the thought. She leaned forward on her tiptoes and gave him one of those kisses meant to keep him up all night thinking about it and nothing else. Helios was reluctant to pull away.
It was Small Lady who drew back.
The warmth of her kiss lingered on his mouth, and suddenly she looked the one who was hesitant to leave. “Go on,” Helios told her. The words left him feeling contrary. “I’ll lock up here. Good-night, my maiden.”
Her cheeks flushed.
“Good night, Helios-sama,” Diana said from atop Small Lady’s head.
There was a warm smile on his face as he watched Small Lady dash down the corridor and shout after her Senshi: “Wait up!” She disappeared around a corner, and, still smiling, Helios turned back into the room.
He paused and laughed as Small Lady’s voice suddenly boomed: “I see you pushing that button, Palla! If that elevator leaves before I’m on it, you are so dead!”
Helios listened for the faint noise of the elevator doors sliding shut; the ensuing quiet meant Small Lady had managed to get on with her Senshi after all. He took a few steps back into the room and picked one of the discs off the floor. His smile began to fade. “It’ll be soon now, won’t it?”
“Her next trip back will be the last,” Setsuna said. It was hard to tell if there was any regret or worry in her voice. “We need everyone’s power if we’re to survive The Fall. She and her Sailor Quartet must be there.”
Helios let out a long, weary breath. He tossed the disc back into the box, content enough to let the archivists sort through it in the morning. “You should know she hasn’t let up yet. She wants to know why I’m not going back with her, and I’m running out of lies.”
Neo Queen Serenity and King Endymion, the Mau cats and the Sailor Senshi--why, out of everyone who was there at The Fall, were he and Setsuna the only two whose memories were still intact? And it wasn’t just regarding The Fall either; years before, the siege of the Black Moon had caught the others by total surprise, as if the events from the past had been wiped clean from their minds.
When it first became apparent that only he and Setsuna remembered, he had sought her out at the Hundred Gate. At the time, she told him the simple truth: because they were different. She lived out of time, and he…he had been the lord of dreams for a very long time. The Ginzuisho’s effects had bounced harmlessly off them both.
“It feels cruel not to tell her,” Helios said.
“If Small Lady goes back, she won’t be able to hide what she knows from the others,” Setsuna stated. “You know this as well as I do. The end of the world has to catch everyone off-guard, including her. If they know what’s coming, they might change everything.”
She stood back as Helios picked up the last few, scattered discs left behind by the Sailor Quartet. He never spoke up about doing it alone, and didn’t seem to mind. It wasn’t often he saw her in the palace, rarer still when he saw her out of uniform like this. The final discs were tossed into the box, the holodisc player set back on its shelf.
As he departed Helios paused in the doorway, glancing back over his shoulder. Earlier he’d recognized the date on that one disc: it was made two weeks before The Fall. Small Lady and the others had left the room assuming the people on those discs had lived long and meaningful lives. He found it difficult to turn his back on what he knew.
“Is that really such a bad thing?” he asked. “How many billions of people will we save if we tell Chibiusa-chan before she goes back?”
Setsuna gave the box and its contents little more than a dismissive glance. “At the Hundred Gate, I see more than what will be. I also see what might be. There are dozens of different futures out there, Helios, and each of them can change depending on the choices we make here and now. In choosing to stay silent about the past, we are ensuring this future remains.”
Helios’ grip on the doorframe tightened. “So why choose this one?”
It surprised him to feel Setsuna’s fingertips touching his cheek. She brought his gaze to her face and spoke in a sad, quiet voice, “I’ve seen the alternatives. We don’t win in any of them. Humanity falls, and we get wiped out completely. During The Fall, a hundred years after--it doesn’t matter. In trying to make the future better, we’d sentence it to an even darker fate.”
She withdrew her touch and stepped away.
“How do you handle it, Setsuna-san?” He asked it without malice, but the frustration was more than evident in his voice. “How can you do this for so long and remain unaffected?”
Her smile was melancholic at best. “We all have our ways of coping. I drink amaretto coffee in cafes whenever I can. I grow bonsai trees and design clothes for Momo-san to sell in her shop. I pretend it’s a game I can just reset if I end up with a ‘bad ending.’ I try to believe I’m beyond everything. And I remember. Before everything else, I remember. I changed things, once. I saw terrible events on the horizon and tried to stop them before they could transpire.”
Setsuna hesitated. “Walk with me,” was all she asked of him.
He stayed by her side as they moved through the corridors of the Citadel. They were silent as they stepped into the elevator and ascended to the upper levels of the palace. They spoke no words, shared no glances or worried expressions until they sat in the palace’s great garden, its towering central fountain behind them.
“Ask me again,” Setsuna said.
There were birds singing somewhere in the depths of the garden. Helios wondered what sorts of colours they were, and if they were singing for a mate or territory or for love of the song itself. Helios clasped his hands together, letting them rest on his lap.
“What happened when you tried to change the future?” he asked.
Setsuna closed her eyes and drew in a long, deep breath. “The Silver Millennium was completely destroyed,” she answered, and opened her eyes. “The future I saw at the time was of Beryl enslaving the Moon Kingdom for twenty years, before a rebellion would rise up and overthrow her. But so many people would die during the revolution, and so many would have been slaves…families torn apart…Queen Serenity murdered. And I placed my hand into the flow of time and tried to forcibly change it. I failed.”
Through the crystalline windows she watched the city sleep peacefully. Beyond that, stars defied the darkness of the night. It was summer, but she wished it could snow. She’d always liked to watch the falling snow. It reminded her of a life long ago, almost completely wiped away by centuries of duty and solitude, when the silhouette of who might have been her mother walked behind her, smiling as she tried to catch snowflakes in her hands.
Summer reminded her of mistakes she couldn’t erase.
“That is what happens when I play God with time, Helios,” she told him.
Summer reminded her of rash promises she couldn’t take back.
“It is method and madness all at once, and the actions I thought would prevent a tragedy instead created a greater horror.”
The summer always brought with it the lingering scent of blood.
Setsuna shook her head at the memories. “Time…time rules everything, they say. We’re out of time. We don’t have enough of it. Time is what binds us and what splits us apart. It’s how we measure so many seemingly insignificant things. Time is the watch telling us we’re not going to make the morning bus. It’s the moment we realize we’re no longer children, and some part of us is irrevocably lost forever.”
It was then Helios realized she was crying.
“Time is just a word,” she said quietly as the tears slid down her face. “The reality is much more cruel. Would you want to admit to the people you love and trust that because of you, their entire world was annihilated?”
Helios didn’t answer. He silently wondered if anyone else knew, or if she had carried this secret for hundreds of years, letting it devour her from the inside out. And he doubted he’d want to know the answer.
“Humans are not beyond good and evil,” Setsuna said, “but Time is. And it’s ruled by choice and consequence. I cannot change what happened to the Silver Millennium, Helios, but I like where we are now. I like this Crystal Tokyo. I like the way the stars shine over the city at night. I like the amaretto coffee served at the twenty-four hour café not far from here, and the way the cherry blossom trees still bloom in the fallen parts of the city. I like how my friends have become my family. What will you choose?”
For what felt like a long time, Helios gazed down at his reflection on the floor.
Everything has its rise and fall, he told himself.
He closed his eyes and made his choice. “So what else is left for people like us?” he asked Setsuna.
“Hope. Always hope.” She began to smile. “We’re still here, aren’t we?”
Helios nodded in affirmation.
It was still very early in the morning. The darkness would be around for a while yet, but it was a warm night outside, and he wanted to feel the wind against his face. “You want to get a coffee?” he asked, rising up. He extended his hand towards her. “I hear there’s this great twenty-four hour café not far from here.”
Setsuna placed her hand in his. “I’d like that very much.”
Naoko Takeuchi, for giving us the world of Sailormoon and its heroines. The stories we have, the stories I’ve written, would not exist if not for her efforts. Whatever creativity I can lay claim to here must first be given to her.
Andrea & George, who gave the fans and their fics a place to belong on A Sailor Moon Romance.
Dejana, who still believes the fandom is worth fighting for. Check out her archive at: www.dotmoon.net