+++++ Hiro-o, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

Ami shared a grim look with her partner. "We'll head that way, Artemis. Tell them we're about ten minutes away."

As much as Makoto wanted to go find Shinji, she had to trust that he would at least be able to protect Usagi himself. He was hurt emotionally, not physically. Stepping off quickly towards where they would meet their allies near the NHK Headquarters, she transformed herself into Sailor Jupiter to allow faster movement. "I hate that we're being attacked so often. It used to be, at most, once a week!"

Now dressed as Sailor Mercury, the brilliant bluenette commiserated. "I had kind of hoped that I would get a chance to sit down and discuss literature with Shinji, myself. He seems rather bright, despite having almost no confidence outside of battle." Both managed to reach the rooftops at the same time, and began bouncing from building to building. "You should have seen him against that monster last night. It was like…like a warrior spirit suddenly consumed him. There were no doubts, nothing of hesitation, I wanted to retreat and he refused."

Yes. I should have seen it. Because I should have been there. "He refused, and it almost cost him his life. Why didn't you drag him towards us? The Princess and I could have helped."

It was no mystery why her friend's retort had been waspish. "Dragging him anywhere is highly unlikely. I barely managed to get him to reposition to where we could cooperate. These Angels, as he calls them, don't seem to have objectives like the Dark Kingdom did. Destruction, death, and killing. Nothing more, and no discernable reason. If we left, we can't be certain that it wouldn't have gone to one of the nearby apartment buildings and begun killing people. He wasn't wrong to insist, and you know it."

"What if he'd died, huh?" Bouncing off of a radio antenna, Makoto redirected her momentum to go around a building that had construction going on. "Everyone is under the impression that we need him to beat these things, and you let him risk everything! You know better!"

"Then he died fighting against beings that have threatened his world for months!" Flipping gracefully over an HVAC system, she fought to keep her own tongue from becoming venomous. "He has fought, alone for the most part, against these beasts for months. He has almost died, again and again and again. He has woken up in a hospital bed time and again. Considering I didn't know the first thing about these animals, the wisest course of action is to trust someone who does. He even taught me a new use for my power during the fight!"

Makoto growled back, "We're supposed to be protecting him!"

Ami finally allowed her retort to show heat, "We are supposed to be fighting alongside him! He is not weak. He is not stupid. He is, most of all, not over-confident. If anything, he's the opposite of that. Now focus on getting where we're going, and stop treating me like I'm an enemy."

"…Whatever." Bitch.

+++++ Jinnan, Shibuya, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

Minako crept over to where she found Rei, keeping low and silent. Crouching down beside her ally, she whispered her greeting, "Sorry I'm late. Traffic."

The raven-haired Sailor of Mars flashed a quick grin to her friend's attempt at lightening the mood. "You didn't miss much. They've been right over there, setting up that…thing. I'm glad you called, I wasn't sure I could take down both of them without the fight spilling over into the crowds. There's some elementary schoolchildren on a tour nearby, so we've got to press the youma away from the studio park."

"Ick." Carefully, she peered in the direction of the studio park, and saw that it was indeed packed with people at the moment. "Ok. Mercury and Jupiter are on their way here, do we wait for them to arrive or start things ourselves?"

Rei appreciated the way that her partner demonstrated confidence in her decision-making and had given the same thoughts to the matter as she knew Minako was. "If we strike, then pull away, the youma will think they have the upper hand. Two on two, we can reposition them away from potential danger and at worst we'll have to hold out for reinforcements." She nodded to the design. "We need to remove the risk to the civilians, and we need to do it sooner rather than…wait."

The sound of one of the youma laughing drew their attention back to the crisis at hand. "There is nothing we can't accomplish, with this new power." Laughing again, a harsh rasping sound, he gestured to the odd monolith they had been working on. "Just imagine what mysteries Chaos will uncover with two universes to explore!"

The second, speaking with a far more urbane intonation, shoved another metal rod into the misshapen spiral. "He will uncover far less if you stand there cackling about victories we haven't earned. The White Moon isn't subjugated yet, and it won't be until we're done."

"Bah, you worry too much!" The first, however, did move towards aiding its fellow. "I can feel the power roiling inside of me, the Dark Kingdom offered nothing like this. We will unleash a war unlike any the galaxy has ever seen, just you wait."

Minako leaned closer and whispered, "Ok. What are the chances that he's as powerful as he's saying he is?"

"Too high." Rei scowled at the scene before them. "If they need that device to be operational, I think that's our target. Hit that hard, blow it up, and move in the direction that Jupiter and Mercury will approach from. They'll be able to see, or sense, where we are, and we can fight this away from the schoolchildren."

The blonde Sailor of Love nodded once. "Love and Beauty Shock?"

"I'll support with my flame arrows," Rei concurred. Readying herself and her energies, "On three. One."

Minako followed suit, "Two."

"I wouldn't." A small voice drew both of their attention at the same time. When they turned to face the new presence, they had to look down to see the youkai that had spoken. The Akaname from Shinji and Makoto's encounter stood before them, worry and curiosity bouncing off each other on her face. "Don't know about you, Miko, but you," she gestured to Minako, "smell of the Silent One. He's taken an interest in you, so I can't let you get hurt." Gesturing to the spire, she shook her head. "That's a spirit well. They use those to imprison folk. You touch one with your magics, you'll like as not end up trapped. Can't help but think the Silent One would start looking to tear the city apart at that. His scent on you has to mean that he's taken a fancy to you. Elder-kind don't go marking people for no cause."

As disgusted as Minako was at the unsightly creature, she restrained her impulses to gather more information. "You're saying that Shinji-kun, err…the Silent one, has marked me?"

"Less important right now," Rei shushed her friend. "This spirit well, can we physically destroy it? If we punch it hard enough, will it break?"

"Yeah, but it'd still imprison you." The youkai shook her head, upset at the situation. "You mahō shōjo use your spirit to do everything. Make your fists stronger, make you jump higher. It's all your spirit, the magic. Need someone like the Elder to punch that. He just uses plain strength, with his form not changing his size and all." Her tone grew nervous, "Is…uhm…is he around? That smells pretty close to complete."

"Then there's a simple solution that doesn't require a man or a machine to do what we can do ourselves." Hefting the nearby enormous dumpster full of construction materials, she launched it at the spire with all of her might. The missile was unwieldy, and incredibly noisy both pre- and post-launch.

Both youma turned to face the noise, and despite acting without any unity managed to intercept the projectile and limit the damage to the totem. The less verbose of the two, a reedy blue-skinned character with a vulpine mouth, coughed out a sigh. "If you would have spent more time working, and less time in masturbatory self-congratulation we wouldn't have this problem. Go kill them, I'm going to finish what you should have been doing. You can explain to him when we return why this happened."

"Hmph," the second, a thick green humanoid, chortled, "you make it seem like killing them is some terrible task." Flexing his talon-like fingers outwards, he grinned lasciviously. "Come here, little ladies, and try not to scream too loud. There are children around, after all."

+++++ Maria's Market, Azabu-Mamianachō, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

Maria entered the back half of the store, bearing lemonade and crackers on a gilded tray. "My apologies for the intrusion, Your Highness, but you've been dehydrating yourself for quite a while now. I promised that I would take care of you, and that means going against your wishes from time to time."

"N-no," Usagi's voice was raspy, her throat raw and sore, "it's fine." Gratefully accepting one of the cups, holding onto it with both hands as they were rather unsteady, she turned in Shinji's lap and placed the rim to his lips. "You d-drink first." A sad smile crossed her lips as she addressed Maria, "He's such a s-silly Shin-Shin. Always t-taking care of others."

She could see the short battle between what her other guest felt appropriate and the natural inclination to follow orders. When he accepted some of the liquid, Maria reached over and tousled his hair. "He's a good man, trying to do what's right despite having no idea what that is. Your servant came and checked in on you, by the by. Since he was here, she felt it safe to head back out to try and rally your friends to one location for a talk. She cares about you, very deeply, but feels there was little she could offer that he wasn't already giving you."

The sad smile turned a touch goofy as Usagi took her own drink from the same cup Shinji had. Settling her back against his front, she placed the cup in her lap and nodded. "Luna is a dear. Kind of my older sister, really." Her voice was steadier, after some lubrication, and her stammer lessened with Shinji's hands resting on her shoulders. "I'm very sorry, ma'am. I can't really remember what I said to you, before I fell asleep, but I get the feeling none of it was…appropriate."

She apologized to me, repeatedly. Shinji shrugged his shoulders, shaking his head as he thought about everything that had happened. It isn't her fault that…whatever that was infected her. I'm just wanting to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Seating herself before Shinji, and offering some crackers to Usagi, Maria let an honest smile grace her flawless features. "Then I would prefer you call me 'Maria', Your Highness. I trust his character judgements, since he seems to have a good nose for whether someone should be trusted or not. I accept your apology, in the spirit with which it was given, and declare that there is no ill-blood between our houses."

"Please, then," the twin-tailed blonde motioned to ward off formality, "just Usagi. I may be Princess, eventually Queen, but right now I'm a teenager trying to get her feet under her." Nibbling on several crackers, she tilted her head back to look up at Shinji. Whatever was in her eyes, it was a mystery to them both.

Maria is a good woman. She's kept my secret, she's pushed others to keep me safe, and she tried to avoid hurting you while she was evicting…that thing. The tension in his jaw made clear his opinion on not knowing more what it was he now wanted to kill.

"The spirit of an idea, from your reality." Maria's heart warmed as she saw Usagi carefully hold a cracker up so that Shinji could take it with his lips. This was the woman she knew lay beneath the trauma and horror, and the kind of support that Shinji himself needed, the kind of woman that would teach him to support someone. "I wish I could say we have seen the last of them, but I'm no fool to speak with such arrogance."

If they show up again…. He abhorred not being able to do anything. He loathed the idea that someone could violate the woman sitting on his lap. He would never compare to- His thought cut off sharply as Usagi reached up and pinched his nose hard.

"What did I tell you about comparing yourself to that monster?" Princess Serenity's tone was calm, level, and yet still clearly angered. "What I may, or may not, feel for you is neither affirmed nor condemned by how much I despise that villain. To me, he holds the same level of contempt that your father does to you, and with far less possibility of making amends." Releasing his nose, she tapped it with a single finger. "I've told you as much, and I do not find it attractive to have to remind you of something so basic, so many times."

"Patience, Princess," Maria only gently chided Usagi, "remember that he too is a victim of abuse. He will need patience as he learns cultural and societal norms. He may one day be a powerful ally in diplomatic circles as well as on the field of battle, but one day is not today."

Squirming so that she was closer to Shinji, she wrapped his arms around her. "…I know. You probably know how it feels, with how much he hates himself. He has such a good heart, and if he'd been here, with us, he could have learned to love himself! I can't…I can't undo seventeen years of torment. But I'm not going to let him wallow there, either."

"On that, we can most assuredly agree." The shopkeeper leaned forward and placed her hand over Shinji's crossed forearms. "We'll save him, too. But just like he's showing patience with you, you're going to need to show patience with him."

+++++ Jinnan, Shibuya, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

The situation on the ground had disintegrated significantly by the time Makoto and Ami arrived to lend a hand. Jupiter, less interested in communicating with anyone and more eager to simply start hitting things, landed on the green youma with both feet, driving it to the ground. Ami landed further back, looking to Rei for a general idea of the situation.

"Mars, talk to Mercury. I'll help Jupiter!" Minako understood that she was the least useful in drawing up an answer for the spirit well, and volunteered to deal with the woman she could tell wasn't in the world's greatest mood.

Ami slipped around the brawl, warily eying the blue youma that continued to build something she could not recognize. Reaching Rei, she leaned in. "Why isn't that one attacking?"

"It's guarding a spirit well. According to a youkai that showed up before the fight, if we hit it with our magic, it could trap us." Rei waggled her wand. "I can't reach Artemis or Luna. I think it's interfering with whatever it is that we use to communicate."

"So, magic won't work?" Ami was quick to think of alternate solutions to the problem. "What if it's something made by magic, but not magical in itself?"

The Akaname, crouched behind a smaller trash can, heard the conversation and did what she could to help. "So long as you aren't thinking your magic at it when it touches. If you touch what's touching the spirit well, the spirit well is touching you. Please don't hurt yourself, lady. You have the smell of the Silent One on you, just like the yellow haired lady. He'll be powerful mad if you're hurt."

Blinking at the small creature, Ami's mind prioritized the messages and focused on the more germane point. "So if I drop a giant chunk of ice from above it, and let it drop to the ground via gravity, it won't hurt me?"

The garbage picker shrugged. "Shouldn't. Gravity don't sound like magic. If you control this gravity stuff, that's still a problem."

Rei side-eyed her friend. "Since when were you able to create, quote, 'giant chunks of ice'?"

"Long story, no time. Get the other youma's attention, stop it from stopping me." Springing up to the nearby roof, she once more began focusing her magic in the same way as she had while fighting alongside Shinji. A small part of her mind wondered, as well as thrilled, at how she might 'smell' of Shinji Ikari. Perhaps she had more of a chance than she thought she did.

"Hey scaly," Rei taunted the youma, setting aside her concerns at everything to grasp onto the slender reed of hope they had, "what's wrong? Too scared to fight a lady?"

The blue youma sighed, then looked with undisguised contempt at the young woman. "If there were any about, I might need to contemplate my answer. Considering all I see are prancing youths pretending to be far more than they are, or ever will be, I doubt that 'fear' is an emotion I'm feeling." Turning back to his task, he motioned dismissively. "Go kill the idiot. It will save me the effort later. I have no time to be engaging in a battle of wits with someone unarmed."

Anger, honest and pure, caused the raven-haired Sailor to run her tongue along the inside of her teeth, her jaw tensing to bite back retorts. Ok then. Direct action it is. Stalking over she dared the humanoid youma before her to swing at her first. After she reached arm's distance, she had a minor tremor of worry for how unfazed her opponent seemed to be.

"Child," while twisting the metal rods so that they conformed with the design of the device, he kept his eyes on his task, "I am attempting to do you a favor here. You will die, that is simply what must be. You need not die in agony, which I will be all too happy to produce for you if you continue to test my patience." Without looking, he caught the Sailor's wrist as she attempted to punch him with a stiff right. "That was not a wise choice."

Rei Hino was not someone prone to allowing fear to overwhelm her. The ease with which the youma caught her punch, and the disdainful way he lifted her off the ground, gave her mind more than enough fear to contend with.

"If you would be so kind as to ask your friend to stop trying to perform the impossible, and instead focus her efforts on eliminating Osmius, I would be truly appreciative." A casual toss accelerated his prey towards Mercury, sending her tumbling uncontrolled on a collision course.

The result of that action was that Ami didn't have nearly enough time to put together the boulder she was aiming to create, and instead was only able to drop a car-sized chunk of ice towards her target before she had to ready herself to catch her ally. Neither was able to see the end result before both were sent flying backwards along the length of the building with the momentum that Mars had been given.

+++++ Lunar Command Center. (Thursday + 5)

Luna, unaware of the fight happening over in Jinnan, sauntered down the crystalline stairs towards her mate while lost in thought. Shinji had proven to be a rather complex bundle of issues. If any of the ladies committed to him fully, and could make it past his crippling self-doubt, the thought of tying him to the Sailors for all time was not exactly a heinous one. She was not, in any form or fashion, opposed to it being Usagi that committed to him, either. Maria had been honest about Shinji's actions, how despite his lack of trust in anyone he refused to allow others to be harmed. A spirit like that could be molded, tempered, and polished into something that would reflect her 'little sister's' light. That he would be a replacement for Endymion would not be an indictment of him, as it would be akin to trading a festering lump of garbage with a mound of excellent steel ingots. There really are times where being the second of something just means you've improved everything. That poor kid never seems to have been given a chance to learn these things, though.

"What could possibly go wrong next?!" Artemis' shout carried easily up the stairwell, "How are they degrading my signal strength when they don't even know which polyhedral matrix I attuned the magic to?" There was the sound of metal being scraped over metal. "They can't communicate either if they block everything. Is there another mole? No. That's stupid. None of the ladies would turn on her. The four of them don't even understand their own magic, let alone mine."

Nothing the black cat had just heard gave her a warm and fuzzy feeling, and so she dashed down the steps towards her mate. "What's happening? I tried calling you, but the collar didn't connect. I assumed you were busy with Minako-chan."

Artemis, with only his fuzzy white back half sticking out of the console, growled in irritation. "I'm guessing that means you didn't get my request for Usagi-chan and tall, dark, and apologetic to get to the NHK HQ? Damn it!" Tossing a chunk of cabling out behind him, he slapped something inside where he was. "The last I saw before my communications blacked out, our team was getting its ass handed to it. They need all the firepower we can send!"

She did not feel it necessary to acknowledge the obvious. "It's a thirty-minute walk back to that store…twenty, if I run. Another twenty minutes for them to reach the battle. Can they hold out long enough, or should I head to Jinnan and order them to pull back?" The lights in the room dimmed slightly, and Artemis' back half began to vibrate for a moment before he went limp and slid further into the console. "Artemis!"

+++++ Jinnan, Shibuya, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

Ami's head hurt. Ami's back hurt. Ami's legs…. With a sigh, she accepted that her whole body hurt. Her attempt at destroying the strange monolith hadn't worked, owing to her efforts being interrupted with a ballistic Rei Hino. Following that, the blue youma had decided to simply lean against the structure and await the outcome of the fight between its comrade, and Minako and Makoto.

Unfortunately, Rei Hino had been knocked unconscious with a vicious looking gash on her forehead, as the Sailor for Mars was larger than Ami herself was and the smaller Sailor for Mercury could not abate her momentum enough to avoid damage. The landing had been awkward, and the cement roof of the building was very unforgiving on them both. The bluenette decided that if the blue youma was willing to sit back and ignore opportunities to aid its ally, that the division between them could be exploited by her jumping into the fight against the youma named 'Osmius'.

That, in hindsight, had turned out to be another poor decision. She was skilled, she was dangerous, but the one thing Ami was not was a killer. The fight had turned into a bloodmatch, the green-skinned intruder becoming angrier and angrier as it failed to quickly dispatch the Sailors for Venus and Jupiter. Makoto was, hands down, the best hand-to-hand fighter they had in their group. Minako, while not as talented in that arena was both not a slouch and the most experienced of them all in combat. Ami's introduction into the fight upset the balance, just in the wrong way. Pulling herself up and off of the fence she'd been unceremoniously sent into, she was just barely able to get her guard up to blunt Osmius' follow-up strike.

Sent rocketing backwards, she felt the building approaching more than saw it, and her last conscious thought was both unexpected and surprising. Shinji….

Appearing behind her in a silent whorl of light, and defying physics by not somehow hurting her when it completely halted her momentum, Unit-01 caught Ami just before contact with the building that would have broken her bones. Shinji noted that she had fainted, then saw Makoto and Minako trying to defeat a green monster, then saw Rei bleeding from a cut to her head as she lay on the edge of the building. Anger was already present in his mind, as once again he had been torn away from someplace he'd insisted he would remain. Yet again, he'd given his word that he wouldn't abandon a young lady in need, and once more he'd been made a liar. He didn't care that he didn't understand why or how he'd been summoned to a fight. It didn't matter that it made no logical sense. At that moment, looking at two downed women and two more that were fighting tooth and nail to hold things at a standstill, Unit-01 had all the fuel it needed for motivation. Anger, as mentioned, may have been present. It was rage that drove it towards the fight at supersonic speed.

Osmius, having ignored the direction it had sent Ami towards to pay attention to Minako and Makoto, was not ready for a freight train to plow through where he stood from that angle. With one hand cocked back to launch a punch, the green skinned antagonist bent awkwardly at the hips and found that arm shorn clean from its body. Roaring in agony, it turned to attempt to fight back, to survive to fight another day if nothing else. It might as well have tried to stop the sun in its path across the sky.

Unit-01 drove its knee up into the animal's gut, then dropped an elbow onto the back of its neck with ruthless force. Using that same hand to palm its head, the Purple Eva ripped it backwards and drove his fist into Osmius' neck twice. Taking note of the blue youma, and the casual way it stood about, Unit-01 threw its current victim at the second foe to see what it would do.

What it did was sidestep its supposed ally and allow it to impact the spire they'd been working on. Turning his head to look behind him at the ruined husk of his ostensible comrade, he sighed and rolled his eyes in disappointment as he focused back on the three remaining 'good guys'. "He 'felt the power roiling through him' all right. Arrogant overconfidence was always going to be what killed him."

Banter was never an honored tradition where Unit-01 came from. Posturing and preening simply meant opportunities to exploit. Each time Unit-02 had tried to be witty, bad things followed. Unit-00 understood the value of brevity. Unit-01 knew it was better to be like its blue comrade. Launching itself forward, the bio-mechanical monstrosity intended to ensure victory. Pain and death had been brought to those who deserved neither. They had accompanied him to this new world, upending the natural order. It would be set right, no matter the cost. Raising both fists above its head, it dropped a double-axe handle swing intended to crush the lone remaining foe's skull.

There was curiosity in the blue youma's eyes as it lifted a quick guard in an effort to contest the blow. Pain followed next, though not nearly as much as would be necessary to declare the strike a success. With his teeth gritted in effort, he continued attempts at dialogue, "Not one for-"

Unit-01 shifted tactics from overpowering with main force to repeated and rapid strikes. Misato had drilled into them the need for adaptability in the field. That if orders failed, it was Unit-01's responsibility to buy time for a new strategy to be put into place. The failure against the twin angels had precipitated that discussion, the hesitation and lack of creative thinking in combat nearly fatal. Dropping one shoulder to shove against its foe, intending to gain distance, it followed up with a spinning backhand and leg sweep combo, then a series of punches and kicks to keep its foe off-balance.

The youma managed to avoid further significant damage, and repositioned himself farther back once again. "Really, communic-"

Picking up a large chunk of cement, Unit-01 launched it at the enemy. It was wary. The blue irritant was suffering damage, but seemed to focus on avoiding direct conflict. That typically meant a feint, or some other form of deceit. Two more missiles followed the first, each narrowly missing as their target proved just nimble enough.

"Your allies have the right of things, Time Traveler." Gesturing back behind Unit-01, the youma used distance to allow for communication. "They aid your fallen. How about we call this a draw, take our wounded, and quit the field, hmm?"

A quick glance proved the truth of his words. Unit-01 saw Minako bandaging Rei Hino's wounds, and Makoto trying to revive Ami. When it turned back to glare hatefully at the youma, there was further hesitation as the blue-skinned devil raised its hands to its shoulders in surrender.

"I will take Osmius' body and leave. You can see to necessary medical care for your team. Is pressing this combat forward going to provide any real benefits? Why not simply withdraw?" Calm and measured words, delivered with an even tone, provided a very compelling argument to allow a retreat.

Retreat, however, was equated to death where Unit-01 came from. It had proven unable to significantly damage the blue irritant, and some life yet remained in the green. There was no reason to allow the blue to buy time for its ally to rejoin the fight. A faked first step towards the blue youma sent his foe jumping backwards, allowing Unit-01 to juke back towards Osmius. Two long, lunging, steps put him in place to tear off the green-skinned foe's head, twisting it off as if it were the cap to a bottle of tea with a single motion.

The battle now one-third of the way to being won, the second step followed the first. The misshapen spire of odd minerals and metal bars, resembling some demented art-deco building twisting around its central axis, fared little better than Osmius at resisting Unit-01's wrath. The difference between the two events, however, was that Osmius' head didn't fight back.

+++++ Maria's Market, Azabu-Mamianachō, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

"I…I can't feel him." Usagi, who had attempted to leave Maria's shop, but couldn't identify where it was that she needed to go, had followed the brief altercation between Shinji and the youma from Shinji's thoughts and emotions before he touched the spire and her connection severed. Panic began to set in, the warmth and comforting nature of his presence in her mind having done much to help her soothe out her anxieties. "I-I…I need to find Luna. Luna should know where he is." Summoning her wand, she pressed the radio button. "Luna? Luna are you there?"

Maria was glowering in the direction of the NHK Headquarters, as she was quite able to sense the young man's presence and general state of being. "I believe now is the time for calm, Usagi-chan. Decisions made in haste rarely blossom into delicious fruits."

"I can't contact my team, I can't contact my sister, and I don't know where my Knight has gone off to!" Shoving herself upright, the twin-tailed blonde made use of her anger to drive away the pain and sorrow. As she went to hurry out of the back half of the store, she found her progress blocked. "I can't just-"

"If all of this is a ploy to expose you to danger, alone, going out is exactly what you can't do." The store owner was calm, her tone soothing. "Alone, unguarded, and ripe for the plucking. Your powers aren't steady, and as heroic as you are sometimes the most heroic thing to do is to trust your comrades." She gently rubbed Usagi's shoulders in understanding. "It's not easy, believe me I know that. However, even with how brief a time you've known him, do you honestly doubt there's anyone alive better suited to protecting everyone and struggling alongside your friends?"

The gentle words struggled to gain ground in the chaos that was Usagi's mind at the moment. She knew they were true, she knew the woman wasn't lying by omission, but her every nerve screamed that she needed to be doing something, anything, but stand there and let another die in her name. "You…you could come with me?"

"I can protect you easier here." Guiding the young woman back to the cot, she urged her to sit down. "You are the target, and you know that. Take out the Queen, the country falls apart. This is my Domain, and precious few may enter without my leave." Elegantly taking a seat by Usagi's side, Maria turned on the charm, "Have I told you about how I met your dear Shin-Shin? It's a perfect story."

+++++ Jinnan, Shibuya, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

"Stop it!" Minako shoved Makoto back several steps, taking charge of the situation on the ground. "Right now, the last thing any of us need to do is rush in blindly." Swirling behind her, instigated by Shinji tearing the top half of the spire apart, was a miasmic vortex of a sickly purple hue obscuring anything and everything that was within twenty meters of the center. What it was made of, neither of the conscious Sailors knew. "We have two injured out here. He would be the first person to tell you that we need to get them to safety, and focus on stopping this from hurting anyone else."

Sailor Jupiter, still keyed up from battle and angered that the last sincere interaction she'd had with the young man at the center of the storm before her was horribly negative, allowed her emotions to boil over. "You can get them to safety just fine. I am going in there and getting my-"

"He is not your anything!" Minako's shout was accompanied by her stepping forward and glaring up at her friend. "He belongs to himself! If you think I'm not terrified something's happening to him, you need to start flexing the muscle between your ears instead of the ones in your arms." The first of the Sailors to remember anything about her past throttled her voice back some to try, once more, to calm the situation. "Neither of us are the brains of this outfit. We need to get Mars, or Mercury, up on their feet. That means medical attention. If either of us stays here alone, we make ourselves targets. One of us would be burdened with two unconscious friends, and the other would be standing here alone. We get them back to the Command Center, and then we ask Artemis and Luna for ideas."

Green eyes began to show the first signs of serious agony. With a voice that was heavy with the same and through at tightened throat, Makoto barely got out, "He's my friend, Venus. Even if he chooses you…he's going to be my friend."

Whatever this madness is that's infecting everyone…I can only hope it doesn't touch their hearts. "And he won't be your only friend." The blonde gestured to Rei. "Why don't you carry her? She weighs more than Ami does, and you're bigger than me." Trusting Makoto, she walked to Mercury and scooped her up. "He'll make it. He survived that terrible place he's from, he survived the journey here, and he survived whatever it was that attacked Moon. He's tough."

+++++ Center of the Storm, Shibuya, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

"Well," the blue youma looked around, showing signs of being more than slightly impressed, "if I'm going to be honest with you…I truly doubted that you were that powerful." Noting the acid-scarred remains of Osmius, he clicked his tongue and lamented, "I had honestly hoped you would take my offer up. I really did want to choke the life out of him myself."

Shinji, now in more control over his actions than Unit-01 seemed to be, kept his eyes warily on his foe. After being blasted backwards by the release of energy from the spire he'd destroyed, the time-travelling dimension hopper had enough clarity of mind to begin to worry about what he might have done in ignorance and rage. He didn't take a lot of damage when I attacked before. I'm going to have to go for the kill, instead of going for destruction. He's humanoid. Probably needs his throat. If I don't take care of him first, I won't be able to escape this…whatever it is.

"So, I get the feeling you can't talk." His enemy was in no seeming rush to fight, his body relaxed and his posture non-threatening. "You've stopped attacking, so I hope you'll listen at least." Spreading his hands to show the lack of weapons, he made another diplomatic effort. "There are, around the world at this moment, another one hundred and three spires, just like this one. In places you will never find, and in places that are rather obvious. Each one you destroy, should you find them, will cause increasingly larger areas of this planet to look," he gestured around them, "like this."

The inside view of the miasma was roiling chaos. Colors fighting sounds fighting smells. There was no order, no purpose. Why is he telling me this?

"You have, before you right now, three options that I can see." He held up one finger. "First, you and I can fight again. You might win, I might win, but either way our fight will destroy this area. I'm surprised I was able to withstand your blows to the degree I did, but I am under no illusions that you weren't holding back for fear of leveling the buildings around us." A second finger joined the first. "Second, you could come with me. I assure you, whatever rewards those children offer pale in comparison to the treasures my master can offer you." A third finger raised. "Third, you could try to save that young woman over there." All three fingers gestured towards an area behind Shinji. "Which would mean I have time to leave."

Shinji hated that he impulsively looked behind him, punishing himself mentally while his head was still in motion. His worry about a civilian being harmed overwhelmed his experiences on the battlefield where any distraction meant death. He did, however, see a pair of legs sticking out from around the corner of a building. Wearing very feminine slacks, and rather long. Whipping his head back to the blue youma, he was surprised that the enemy hadn't moved from his spot.

"I await your decision. Of course, oxygen is probably rather low here, and she might not survive to see the end of a battle." Clasping his hands patiently before him, the urbane youma stood politely still.

…If I let him leave…. The thought of someone suffocating brought to mind the sight of Mamoru Chiba's corpse. Save one person now, and risk others dying later, or let someone in front of him die without trying to save them. Pointing at the youma, he then pointed slightly off to the side. Get out of here.

"Understood, Silent One." A polite bow of farewell, and he turned to leave, calling over his shoulder, "By the by, my name is Lithion. I'm certain we'll meet again."

Dismissing the man from his thoughts, Shinji raced over to the downed civilian. As he rounded the corner of the building, he gained a clearer picture of…. Ritsuko?! Lying unconscious on the ground was the woman who looked like a younger version of the bleached-blonde doctor from his reality, dressed in snug fitting slacks and a charming charcoal grey blazer over a sapphire blue blouse. Once more punishing himself for hesitation, Shinji picked up the woman who didn't appear to be terribly older than he himself was and dashed towards the closest 'edge' of the miasma. Unfortunately, due to losing track of direction in the maelstrom, he exited on the opposite side from the two retreating Sailors. Once he was clear, he knelt down to place Ritsuko in the recovery position and made a concerted effort to apply what Combat Medicine he could remember regarding potential asphyxiation.

His exit was met with a great gasp from a crowd he hadn't expected to be present. Then, and to his shock, thunderous applause and cheers. Somehow, and Shinji wouldn't stake a mayfly on the bet to determine how, a huge crowd of school children, teachers, businesspeople, and most damningly, television crews, were standing outside the new oddity that took up a section of several alleyways around the NHK Headquarters perimeter. The back of his mind was screaming for him to leave, that he had to avoid exposing himself to anyone. The front of his mind was terrified that Ritsuko Akagi was going to die well before she was supposed to.

A sputtering cough followed several long seconds of forceful massages along her back and stomach, and emerald green eyes he remembered being cold and distant locked onto Unit-01's faceplate with awe and wonder. Groggily, she took note of the surrounding crowd of onlookers, all paralyzed into inaction by the press of numbers around them. Much like the Ritsuko Akagi he remembered, however, she was very quick on her feet when properly motivated. Lunging up as best she could, she wrapped her arms around Unit-01's neck and whispered loudly, "P-pick me up. Run s-south."

The tone of command did its magic, and Shinji darted away carrying a woman he had no idea what to do with.

+++++ Lunar Command Center. (Thursday + 5)

"This isn't happening." Luna frantically worked at the machines around her, those that still worked after her lover had short-circuited several subsystems by acting as a temporary living conduit for the energies involved. "Come on…. Come on, you…you…."

"Luna? Artemis?" Minako's voice called out from near the stairwell, "Is anyone…oh…oh no."

A brief glance up, and the black cat took control of the continually disintegrating situation. "Put Ami on bed two. Rei on bed five. Three and four are broken for the moment. One is occupied." Tapping out more instructions, she put some restraints on further frantic urgings.

Makoto gently laid down her burden, arranging Rei's limbs into a comfortable position. "What happened to Artemis?" Without further instructions, the statuesque stunner just stood there tapping her toes into the ground, her nervous energy needing somewhere to go.

Luna checked several darker thoughts at the door. "To put it in terms you'd understand, he didn't unplug the toaster before sticking the knife in. Get clear of the beds, I'm putting the lids down."

Minako moved to support her second favorite cat in attempting to save her first favorite. "What can we do?"

Triaging matters helped her remain focused. "I need a briefing on the situation out there. Did Shinji and Usagi make it to the fight?"

"Shinji, yes. Usagi, no," Makoto gave a terse answer.

"There's a new…thingy. Purple, and ugly. Swirling around what used to be a bunch of metal and stone that two youma were constructing." Minako gave what she had at hand. "Shinji broke it in half, and the cloud of…stuff, whatever it was, burst out. We couldn't see him and the last youma standing afterwards."

Luna choked back a biting comment. "Since the two ladies who can hear him in uniform are unconscious and…likely to be so for a while based on the scans, did he happen to say where Usagi was?"

"He just appeared." Minako was hovering near Artemis, struggling to restrain her impulse to either begin crying or demanding answers to why her companion wasn't awake yet. "Bright flash of light, stopped Ami from splatting against a wall, then began tearing one of the youma apart." She laid her hand upon the clear, hardened, covering that helped keep Artemis sanitary while the procedures were ongoing. "I prioritized getting Ami and Rei safe…over helping him."

"That was the right call." Luna wasn't going to mollycoddle anyone. "Inside of that metal shell, he doesn't need to breathe. You two do." Leaving Artemis' care where it was, she began working on the other two Sailors more earnestly. "Without more information about it, that cloud has to be presumed to be dangerous. With everything that's been happening lately, I can't assume that your magic would save you." Responsibility made its demands clear. "You two need to go to the following address, and see if you can't find Usagi. Take her, find out what you can by observing the cloud, then report back."

+++++ Hiro-o, Japan. (Thursday + 5)

Following a series of narrow escapes from further detection, guided by the woman in his arms, Shinji came to a stop in a familiar alleyway. After gently setting Ritsuko on her feet at her request, he stood tall and looked around. This is where I came through last night on the way to Ami-san's apartment.

"Ok…ok…ok…." Following several calming breaths, Ritsuko took a few steps towards the apartments and looked for the number of people that might be a witness if they proceeded. "I know you probably have secret abilities, or…I don't know, technology that's helped you remain undetected. I really didn't know that you were actually a…a whatever you are." With her back to Shinji, she missed how he asked the wand he'd been gifted to make him appear 'human', despite still being too keyed up to drop out of Unit-01. "But we need to figure out a way to cross the street here, because my apartment," finally turning around, her words slowed down as she finally saw what lie beneath the armor, if only magically, "is…over…. Hi."

I don't have my chalkboard. Crap. Waving with a meek smile, he put his hand over his mouth and shook his head.

"…You're mute?" Snapping her fingers as if she suddenly understood, she pointed at him. "You're in disguise! You're still that purple machine, you're just hidden! Perfect!" With a swing in her hips, she hurried over and took his arm in hers, leaning against his shoulder. "Ooo, it even feels like a human." Dragging him forward, she walked out into public view as if nothing were wrong. "We'll just walk into the complex like a normal couple, then."

Couple?! Shinji attempted to slouch, hoping not to draw attention, but was forced to remain upright due to Unit-01's insistence that he not shift his center of gravity too much while 'in disguise'. Looking around at the people going about their day, he noted that few people took note of his presence as 'odd'. He was just another young man with a young woman on his arm. He, of course, did not see the look of excited joy on Ritsuko's face, nor the looks of several others that were apparently surprised she was walking with someone at all.

"I'm so glad I ran into you today," she spoke at a natural volume, further layering their cover story, "I was feeling really lonely after not seeing you for a few days. You really left an impression on me, and my friends were all jealous that I thought to give you my number first."

What do I even say to that?! As they approached the front door to the same apartment building he'd entered the night before, Shinji pulled it open for his host with a slight bow offering that she enter first. When her lips touched his cheek, he blushed a bright crimson.

"Why thank you kind sir. It's an honor to be under the care of such a thoughtful gentleman." Twirling about to pull him in after her, she giggled as she walked backwards towards the number-pad that allowed tenants to control who could and could not gain access to their areas. When the door closed behind him, sealing off the outside from being able to hear, she asked him with her smile remaining in place, "So, are you actually a human under there? You certainly blush like one."

With cheeks still firmly red, he nodded twice. This can't be Ritsuko Akagi. It just has to be a coincidence. Doctor Akagi wouldn't flirt with some random man. She certainly wouldn't act like a…like whatever it is she's acting like. Turning his head to avoid seeing the PIN she was going to tap in, he was grateful that it wasn't the same elevator as the one Ami had used prior.

"Awesome!" With a small, elated, victory dance, she waited impatiently for the elevator to arrive. "So, it's not Gundam or Mazinger…is it like Guyver?" The car arrived, and she hauled him into it, pressing the button for the uppermost floor. "I have about a million questions, but the one I need the answer to first is: am I dreaming?"

Sorrow replaced confusion, as Shinji realized that if this were all just a dream life would have been much better. If the nightmare that he'd been going through the past five days would disappear, like a soap bubble bursting. Gone, with only a lingering trace remaining before fading to nothingness. With that dour frown on his lips, he shook his head. No. No, you're not dreaming.

"Aww, don't scowl." Playfully poking at his stomach, Ritsuko pushed for a smile from him. "You just rescued a damsel in distress! Fought monsters! How awesome is that?!"

Far less than someone on the outside would believe it to be. Gently taking hold of her hands, and pushing them down where they wouldn't touch him anymore, he looked towards the door. I'll get her home, make sure she's alright, and ask that she forget she ever saw any of this. He once more did not see the contemplative reaction from the young woman his actions had created.

Choosing to remain silent for the last few seconds of the journey upwards, she set the trap for when the doors opened. Taking him by surprise, she leapt up onto his back as she had during the photograph taken at the park and pointed forward. "That way! There're only two doors up here, other than the fire escape. I'm the door on the left."

With no choice but to either be rude or move as requested, Shinji looped his arms under her knees to stop her from potentially falling and ducked under the entrance to the elevator out into the hallway. There was a marked improvement in the already absurdly well-appointed hallway that the Mizuno apartment resided within. This, it seemed, was what he believed would be called 'luxury'. A 'penthouse'. Or, more personally, 'beyond his paltry reach'. As he reached the door she'd indicated, he went to kneel to allow her to climb down and was squeezed between her thighs.

"Nope. Don't need to let me down." Producing a key via sleight of hand, she waggled it before his eyes. "You go ahead and unlock it. I can hold myself up. Lots of swimming, strong legs." Squeezing him a few more times, she noted his blush and grinned as he took the key.

With a turn of the wrist and a solid click, the lock disengaged. I'm sorry for bothering you. The rote, formulaic, phrase echoed in his mind as he took the first step into a much different world than he was used to. The first thing he noted was that everything was fastidiously clean. The second, that there was a large number of cat-related decorations. Third, and finally, this was the apartment of someone who had more money than he believed existed. Everything was, though dated by his knowledge of electronics advances, seemingly top of the line. There was art, both sculptures and canvases, as well as a number of musical instruments that he knew had at least nine zeroes to the left of the decimal as far as cost went.

"It's not much, but I like to call it 'home'." Urging him further inside, she finally dropped down of her own volition once she could close the door and prevent his exit. "So," drawing out the sound and leaning against the door with a vulpine grin on her face as she watched him turn to face her, "can you show me what you look like again?"

I guess she wants me to show her Unit-01. Asking the wand to dispel the illusion, he was once more standing before the world as a fusion of biological and mechanical. Purple hues and green highlights, sharp angles and menacing curves. Clenching one hand into a fist, then relaxing it, the subconscious tic providing some small relief for his anxiety, he tried to think of a way to communicate his needs and intent.

"You…are the most handsome creature I have ever seen in my life." Walking over with small, giddy, steps, she hopped the final few to begin smoothing her hand along his various surfaces. "If what you just showed me was what you look like, and this is what you can transform into…I really don't believe in love at first sight, but I really want to see if it exists."

Warning klaxons and alarm bells began sounding in Shinji's mind, causing him to lock up physically. The motion largely went unnoticed owing to the minor tremors not translating outwards through the armor. She…how on Earth could she think I'm handsome? Me?! She likes me…and Unit-01?

Stepping up against his front, and tilting her head slightly back to smile at him with playful seduction, she tilted her head at a coy angle. "Please, please, tell me you're into women."

Too fast. Moving too fast. There were few 'Asuka-Approved' places Shinji could set his hands on a lady…well, no that was a lie. There were no 'Asuka-Approved' places he could set his hands on a lady. Regardless, he made the best of a bad situation and gently disengaged himself from the woman before him by pressing on her shoulders and taking a firm step backwards. Spying a pad of paper intended to write down notes on, with a pen lying next to it, he moved quickly to engage in communication. 'Are you alright? Are you injured?'

Ritsuko's emerald eyes weighed him, her smile never leaving her face. "You're serious…aren't you? The blushes, the careful placement of your hands on a woman's body, you're actually serious about treating women with respect."

What. The. Fuck. Showing the note again, more urgently, he tried to connect the dots between her actions and her words.

"I'm fine, sir, thank you for asking." A small chuckle escaped her lips. "You save the damsel in distress, carry her home, disguise yourself to avoid causing her problems, and when she throws herself at you…you ask her if she's injured." Folding her hands behind her back, she turned her shoulders playfully. "Ok, I admit. That was a test. I wanted to see if you were that kind of man. Too many guys in the classes I teach at the University look at how I dress, and that I'm twenty-one, and assume I'm cheap and easy." Walking past a stunned Shinji, she called back over her shoulder as she went to the kitchen area, "My mother was easy, and she used it to her advantage constantly to get ahead in her career. Swore I'd never do that. It's not incorrect to say I'm a cheap date. Sitting at home, watching something on VHS, snacking on something and discussing the movie? That's my ideal date night, not that I've ever really been on one." Arriving back before him with two bottles of water, she offered him one. "Let's start over. Hi, my name is Ritsuko Akagi. It's a pleasure to meet you."

Social reflexes, more than any desire for water, prompted him to accept the offering. He looked down at it for several seconds, his mind swirling with potential replies to several sudden discoveries and admissions on her part. She…she can't be Doctor Akagi. Doctor Akagi never acted like this at all, that I saw. Did she? Was it just because I was a 'teen', and not an adult? Did she act differently around me because I wasn't a peer?

Ritsuko watched Shinji think, observed as Unit-01 dissolved from view and left the man within behind. Quietly sipping on her water, she categorized every reaction for further analysis. Everything she saw from him said that he was honest, earnest, and way out of his depth in whatever it was he'd become enmeshed in. Problem is, she thought with a tight smirk, I think he is absolutely adorable. You can see the confidence hiding beneath the surface. All he needs is the right touch, and he'll be the same man standing here as he was fighting those two hyacinthum exemplaris. He just needs a woman to push him towards actualizing his potential…and maybe he might even become interested in other things too…. "So, now that you're out of your formal wear, are you still unable to speak?"

Her comment caused him to frown in confusion, then look down and see that Unit-01 had indeed left the residence for the moment. Oh. After a moment of deliberation on where to put the bottle of water, he decided to set it on the carpet next to the table so as not to risk water damage to what looked to be an expensive piece of furniture. Picking back up the notepad, he scrawled out quickly, 'It's a long story. If you're doing ok, I really need to make sure my-', he paused, trying to think of what he should call the Sailors. Were they his allies? Friends? Colleagues?

Explains why he never called me. Not much use for a phone when you can't speak. Reading the note, as far as it had been written, Ritsuko pursed her lips in thought. "So…are you dating one of them? All of them?" When his eyes shot wide and snapped to hers, she tittered a laugh. "I see." Now laughing a bit more broadly, she smiled in understanding. "Pretty women, fighting alongside you. You don't think of them as potential girlfriends, or wives. They're warriors like you, and you're just trying to stop them from dying."

She's not really…wrong. He nodded, agreeing with what she said. Makoto and Minako could say all they wanted that they were interested in him, but he'd only ever be compared to the men they first loved.

"Well then," she gestured for him to pick up the water bottle and drink, "let's hydrate properly, and then I'll walk with you to wherever it is you need to go."

This caused Shinji to frantically write down, 'You can't! I might be attacked, you could be hurt or killed! You need to forget you ever saw me and-'

"No." The calm, even, statement was delivered with the type of firm control Shinji had long associated with the bottle blonde from his reality. "Walking across the street, I could be hit by a moving truck. Staying late at my university to finish up projects, one of my students could try to rape or murder me. Sitting here in my apartment, an earthquake could topple the entire structure. If I live my life by what 'could' happen, then I'll miss out on everything I want to 'make' happen. I have never seen a man like you before. You're walking proof of a number of theories I have, and I am willing to put my life on the line to advance humanity's understanding of extra-scientific phenomena. If I can prove a rational, evidence-based, connection between what the average layperson deems 'magic' and our understanding of the various scientific disciplines involved, biology, chemistry, physics, then I might go down as the greatest scientist the world has ever known."

…Ok, that sounds a lot more like Doctor Akagi. His next thought was Maria's words to him earlier. Nobody was pulling his strings anymore. He needed to plan, just like it seemed the woman before him was. Turning away, and walking a few paces to silently ask for time to think, he took note of several framed degrees hanging on the wall. Ritsuko Akagi, B.S. in Biochemistry. Ritsuko Akagi, M.S. in Scientific Computing. Ritsuko Akagi, Ph.D. in Quantum Physics. The idea that this wasn't the same woman he knew, only younger, quickly lost a great deal of traction. He felt her approach, and only slightly flinched when she put an arm around his waist.

"Not used to physical contact?" The way she looked up at him spoke more of curiosity than anything else. "Sorry to say, I'm a bit more tactile than most of our society would deem acceptable. I've spent time in other countries, and Westerners have a much different idea of 'personal space'. My mother dragged me all over the place, forcing me to earn most of these," she gestured along the line of degrees with her free hand, "constantly on the move. If I'm honest, the master's in chemical engineering was the real pain in the ass. There just aren't that many qualified and funded labs that are willing to allow ad hoc scholastic lab work around the globe."

He attempted to dredge up any memories regarding the mother of Doctor Akagi, and came away blank. The scientist he knew was much more distant with everyone, even those he thought she believed to be friends like Misato. She was, if he had to guess, at most a decade older than the woman before him. That made even less sense, considering it was over two decades into his past. The look of blank searching crossed his face, as every other emotion he ever felt tended to, changing to slight confusion when Ritsuko giggled again.

"You think you know the name 'Akagi', but you're just not quite placing it?" The look she gave him wasn't as clear as many of the others, speaking of hidden thoughts and judgements. "I'm kind of surprised. I would have thought everyone knew of Naoko Akagi, what with her 'discovery'," there was more than a hint of contempt in her voice, "of a 'technique' to create a super-solenoid. Bah." Stepping free of the side hug, she waved the topic away. "I'm kind of glad you don't know about her. That means you'll judge me based on me, and not on who I came from."

That was something Shinji could definitely get behind. His face brightened, hearing that someone else was tired of living with the specter of their forebear hanging over everything they did. She's…different. If this is the same woman as Doctor Akagi, only younger, I'm kind of sad I never got a chance to get to really know her back home.

Meeting his slight smile with one of her own, Ritsuko nodded to her own designs. "I promise you…. Huh. You know, I never got your name." Tilting her head to the side thoughtfully, she tapped her lips with a single well-manicured nail, "You…kinda look like a Shinji to me. Faithful. Honest. True." The way his face went blank caused her to snicker again. "Wow, did I really guess it?" His nod confirmed her suspicion. "Go me, then. Well, Shinji, I don't think we need to bother with any formalities. You've saved my life, I'm keeping your secret, and we're going to be thick as thieves before you even know it."

He didn't know where he got the strength of will to ask such a personal, and loaded, question, but Shinji quickly scrawled out the one curiosity that had remained following the up and down conversation. Turning his hand around to offer the note for examination, 'Do you actually want to spend time with someone like me?'

A series of calculations happened behind the young brunette's soft smirk. "If you are asking me, via subtext, if I'm interested in seeing if you and I are compatible then yes. Yes, I would very much like to spend time with you. If you're asking if I just want to study you, then no. Analyzing you like a lab specimen wouldn't yield all of the data I'm interested in. I want to know more about you. Where did you come from? How long have you been like this? What's your favorite type of food? If you could only take one thing to a desert island, what would it be?" Spreading her hands with a slight shrug, her smirk became a smile. "I see a great deal of intellect hiding behind caution and fear when I look at you. I'd like to tease it out, see where it leads." A few steps brought her closer to him, and all she had to do was lift up on her toes slightly to match him in height. Pressing her lips against his gently, she patted his cheeks after dropping back down. "So, thank you, Shinji. Thank you for saving my life today. I promise you, if you give me a fair chance to prove to you that I am not antagonistic to you and your designs, I'll do everything I can to convince you that a mad scientist like myself can be loads of fun to be around."

She's never met someone like me. She wants to get to know me. Those two factors warred against his genuine concerns for her wellbeing. It wasn't that he had no interest in talking with her, she might very well manage to send him back to his own reality. The prospect of actually gaining a friend, one who was capable of fully understanding what it was like to be a small human in a larger war, helped push him towards his final decision. Another note, another offer, 'I'll do what I can to protect you. Please, don't put yourself in danger. I wear armor, you don't.'

"And he even asks me, accepting that it's my choice." Inclining her head slightly in obeisance, Ritsuko agreed with his request. "I will do what I can, to not go about seeking trouble. I can't very well advance the cause of Science if I'm dead now, can I?"

+++++ Author's Notes:

General:

Several people have asked, and considering it's no longer a 'spoiler' of any sort, yes. This takes place 'after' YA(N)C in a part of the multiverse that The Wanderer eventually allowed to come into existence.

Huagh:

I'm not a big fan of the direction the game is taking, mainly because it messes with the theme of trinities that is so important to the OG continuity. Kotone Suzunami has potential (and not only in the electrical engineering sense), but I'm waiting to pass judgement on her until her story and past is more fleshed out.

Timingchameleon:

We have not seen Unit-01 'freed' of its constraints. The roars and growls are still muted by the mouth clamps remaining in place.

DJexe:

Artemis and Luna serve as 'older siblings' to the two Sailors they're attached to. I felt that it fit better for them to act in a similar manner with poor Shinji. When things calm down, I would imagine they'll want to spend more time with him to try and help everything calm down further.