It was a day like any other for the wonderfully talented and beautiful Rei Hino.
But something was... off.
Something wasn't right.
After careful contemplation, she realized what the problem was.
There had been a distinct lack of Minako Aino in her day, and she didn't know whether to be concerned and overjoyed by the lack of Minako's... Minakoness.
She decided to ask her friends if they'd seen Minako at school that day. She first met with Makoto Kino, and asked if Minako had been sick.
"I don't know. She wasn't in today and nobody's heard from her, Rei-chan. Did you try your communicator?"
"She didn't answer. I'm starting to worry. The fact that we haven't heard from Minako in this long is a little freaky."
"Ah well, I'm sure it's nothing."
"But I think we should get everyone else together and look into this."
"Well I can't, I have a date tonight. Actually, I have two. I'm seeing Nozaki-kun from the American style football team, AND Shinokaze from the art club! Can you believe it?"
"Wait, you're seeing both of them? How did that happen?"
"I just went up to Nozaki-kun after practice and he started talking about he'd admired me from afar for so long. We set up a dinner date later this evening. And then Shinokaze approached me and went 'You bring out my inner artist' and then he totally asked me to model for him sometime! Gee, you think it might be a nude painting?"
"A nu-Makoto, are you okay?"
"I've never felt better! Well, I gotta run and get ready for tonight. Finally, spring has arrived for Makoto Kino-chan!"
Rei stood dumbstruck as Makoto ran off, giggling to herself and feeling very proud of her upcoming attempt at two-timing. All Rei could think of was how she heard similar words come from Minako not long ago.
She needed to find Ami. She could talk to Ami. Ami was the smart one. She was the sane one. She'd know what was going on.
"And you're saying that Mako-chan sounded almost exactly like Minako-chan?"
"Yes! It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen in my entire life."
"That's really saying something, Rei-chan."
"I know! And you're saying you haven't heard from Minako either?"
"Not once today."
"This has gotta be some kind of weird prank Minako came up with, and she must've dragged Makoto into it against her will."
"Don't you think that sounds a little ex..."
Ami trailed off when she saw the look in her eyes.
"And I'll just bet that they dragged Usagi into this as well."
"Usagi wasn't in today either."
"She was excused from classes today. Her family had to take a trip to see a sick relative. She won't be back until late in the evening."
"Listen, Rei-chan, I would love to help you figure out what's going on, but after computer club ends I have to head over to cram school."
"Can we talk about this after you're done?"
"Actually, I'm planning on seeing a movie after cram school."
"I've been looking forward to for a few monthes, and tonight's the only chance I'll get to see it. I have an extra ticket if you'd like to join me. Maybe it'll help take your mind off Minako-chan for a little while."
"Uh, sure. That sounds great. What movie is it?"
Ami-chan grinned like the Cheshire Cat.
"Adults Love XXX."
Rei slowly backed away from Ami, who's coy grin seemed so much like the kind of grin Minako would have when talking about anything called Adults Love XXX. Rei finally ran out of the computer room, fearful for her life and confused as all hell as to what was going on.
First Minako disappears, then Makoto talks about two-timing, and now Ami as well? What is going on? Minako what the hell did you do this time?
When she was far enough away from the school, Rei turned on her communicator watch and tried contacting Minako again. Nothing. Then she tried to contact Usagi.
"Usagi, quick! How do you feel about two-timing? Do you want to go see Adults Love XXX?"
"What?! What are you talking about?"
"You know unless Haruka-san, Michiru-san, and Mamo-chan are cool with it, Mamo-chan's the only person I want to be with!"
"That... that is actually the most normal answer you could've given considering today."
"Usagi, listen to me. I need you to come home now. Something very weird is going on and I think we're going to need as much help as we can get."
"What? What happened? Did someone get hurt?"
Rei explained everything that happened so far, citing Minako's disappearance and now Makoto and Ami's odd behavior that mimicked Minako's usual tendencies.
"Sounds like Minako-chan's playing a trick on you."
"But how could she convince Makoto and Ami to go along with her? This is too advanced even for her."
"I'll talk to Mama and Papa about trying to get home early."
"Please do, Usagi. In the meantime, I'm gonna look for Haruka and Michiru and see if they can help us find Minako. Call me back if you hear from her."
Rei signed off, and let out a deep sigh over how insane this day was becoming. At least Usagi seemed like herself... for now. But what if whatever is affecting Makoto and Ami will start to affect Usagi as well? What if it affects Rei and she can't stop it? What is going on?
I've gotta find Haruka and Michiru fast before this gets out of hand.
Rei made her way to a payphone and first, she tried to call Minako's home. No answer. She left a message ordering Minako to get back to Rei as fast as she could, because you are planning Minako it's not funny it's sick and I know you're just trying to get under my skin like you always do and it won't work IT WON'T WO-
The machine clicked.
"Damn!" Rei hung up the phone, put more change in the machine, managed to get in touch with Michiru. Jumping past Michiru's passive aggressive trolling tendencies, Rei explained to Michiru that she needed to speak with her and Haruka in person, and that it was an emergency. Michiru told her to meet the two at a nearby coffee shop. Rei knew the place she meant. It was the one that served tiramisu way back when she was still dating Mamoru. It didn't take her that long to get there, but her feeling of unease grew with every stranger she walked past. She wasn't aware blonde hair was becoming so popular again. Hell, she nearly jumped out of her skin when her waitress, who had her blonde hair cut short down to her shoulders, came to take her order. Her hands were shaking as she tried to hold up her coffee.
God I've got to get a hold of myself. This isn't good. This isn't good at-
"Here by yourself?"
Rei looked up.
"Haruka! Oh thank God. Where's Michiru?"
"Michiru had to finish up a painting for her show tomorrow evening, but she said she'll meet us here. Now what's wrong? She said you sounded frantic."
"She didn't explain what I told her over the phone?"
"No. Just something about Minako."
Rei sighed again.
"Sit down, it's sort of a long story."
For the third time today Rei poured her heart out over the strange occurrences, Minako's disappearance, the distubring behavior of Makoto and Ami...
"And coming down here it felt like I was being surrounded by Minako. As a matter of fact I still do! I can't tell if this is some new enemy's plot to take us down or if this is some brainwashing scheme or a bad dream or something! I feel like I'm in a badly-written horror novel, written BY Minako!"
"And you still haven't heard from her?"
"The communicator can't get through to her. I tried calling her house and there was no answer. Usagi hasn't been able to reach her either. I'm waiting to here back from her and in the meantime I told her I'd contact you and Michiru to figure out what was going on. What do you think?"
"What do your instincts tell you, Rei?"
"My instincts are telling me Minako is behind all this, that this is some sick prank to try and get under my skin because this is Minako we're talking about and I have no idea how she managed to get Makoto and Ami involved."
"Do you really think Makoto and Ami would try to trick you like this?"
"Well, n-no, actually. I still don't think they would do something like this."
"Hmm, it sounds to me like maybe Minako IS pulling your leg, but maybe in your uneasiness over thinking about her, you might've misconstrued what Makoto and Ami were telling you."
"Did Makoto tell you she was seeing both of these guys at the same time?"
"No, she just said she was seeing them tonight."
"And did you ask Ami what that movie she was seeing was going to be about? Titles can be misleadng."
"But Adults Love XXX?"
"Ever heard of Naked Lunch?"
"...okay, point. Oh God, I can't believe this. I've been such a moron."
"No you haven't. You just got a little flustered. It happens to everyone."
"No problem, after all, there's no use crying over misspelled silk."
Rei's heart sank to the bottom of her chest.
"What did you say."
"What? Didn't I get it right?" Haruka asked completely sincerely.
"Sorry I took so long, Rei-chan." Rei heard from behind her.
"Ah, Michiru!" Haruka called out.
Rei turned her head around, and what she saw made her scream in horror.
"Michiru! Your hair!"
"Oh, you noticed?" Michiru asked.
"It's, it's, what HAPPENED TO IT?!" Rei lept from the table and backed away from the two girls. The two BLONDE girls.
"I had to shower because I had some white paint spill on me. Did I get it all off?" Michiru ask.
"You, you-" Rei stammered.
Then, she noticed something even worse. As Haruka and Michiru stared at Rei with twin smiles, Rei saw their eyes. Saw that, they were changing color. Changing shape. Becoming a lighter shade of blue. Just like Minako's.
Rei ran from the coffee shop, despite the cries from the two Outer Senshi following after her. Rei ran into a sea of blonde hair, breathless and terrified.
This isn't happening this isn't happening this isn't happening-
Then! A flash of red!
Rei spotted a girl with long blonde hair, wearing a familiar red ribbon, and walking with two blonde guys on each side of her.
"MINAKO!" Rei cried out, and ran up to her no longer missing friend. "What the hell did you do Mina-"
Rei screamed once again as the girl with blonde hair turned around...
And it was Makoto. Or rather, she was looking at Makoto's face. Everything else was like Minako.
"Rei-chan, do you mind? I am on a date right now. Or, do you want to join us? There's always room for one more, Rei-chan. What do you think guys?"
Mako-Minako's male companions turned to face Rei, and Rei went pale as a ghost when she saw THEY BOTH HAD MINAKO'S FACE.
"Always room for one more."
"Always room for one more."
"Hey come back, Rei-chan!"
Rei ran as fast as she could, regardless of who she ran or bumped into.
The only place it seemed logical to go to was Minako's house. It was the only place she could think of that made sense. She had to be there.
By the time she got to the Aino residence, Rei couldn't remember seeing anyone with hair that wasn't blonde. Even though she was exhausted from running and screaming, Rei banged on the front door and shouted at the top of her lungs for someone to open up. She rang the bell over and over again until she accidentally jammed her finger and nearly broke it.
Just then, the door began to slowly open, and Rei barged in without bothering to see who was behind the door.
"Minako! MINAKO! ANSWER ME! WHERE ARE YOU?!"
"I'm right here, Rei-chan."
Rei looked at the top of the stairs, and there she saw Minako illuminated by the overhead light on the ceiling.
"Minako! Is that really you?!"
"I'm right here, Rei-chan." Minako repeated.
"Tell me what's going on! Why is everyone-"
"I'm right here, Rei-chan."
Spoke the Minako who stepped from behind the Minako standing at the top of the stairs.
"Wh, what is this?" Rei whispered.
"I'm right here, Rei-chan." A third Minako spoke at the top of the stairs.
"I'm right here, Rei-chan." A Minako stepped out of the living room.
"I'm right here Rei-chan."
"I'm right here Rei-chan."
"I'm right here Rei-chan I'M RIGHT HERE REI-CHANIMRIGHTHEREREICHANREICHANREICHANREICHAN-"
Rei stood back until she was right up against the door, shaking her head in total disbelief at the mob of Minakos that surrounded her when she heard-
"Rei-chan, I'm right down here."
Rei looked down.
And saw Artemis.
With Minako's face.
"IS SOMETHING WRONG, REI-CHAN?" They smiled.
Rei began sobbing hysterically at this nightmare, and began to fiddle with the knob as she tried to leave, not knowing where she could go to get away from all this.
"WHERE'RE YOU GOING REI-CHAN?"
"GET AWAY FROM ME!" Rei screamed. "YOU'RE NOT REAL! YOU'RE NOT REAL!"
Rei finally got out the front door and ran as fast as she could, ran smack dab into-
"Hey! Be careful!"
"GET AWAY FROM ME YOU SICK PIECE OF-"
Then, through tear stained eyes, Rei saw she had not run into another Minako.
"Usagi! USAGI IS IT YOU?! USAGI!"
Rei grabbed Usagi and hugged her tight, sobbing hysterically the whole time.
"They didn't get you! THANK GOD THEY DIDN'T GET YOU!"
"I was looking all over for you! Why are you crying?"
"Usagi, we have to get out of here! It's Minako, or Minakos, Minakii, I don't know! But she's everywhere and I don't know what to do! We have to go! They're right behind us!" Rei screamed.
"There's no one there."
Rei turned around. It was true. The door to the Aino house was wide open, but there was no one there. The hallway was empty.
"Where'd they go?! They were just here!"
"Oh, so this is the prank." Usagi said, confused. "I have to say, I don't really get the joke at all."
"It's not a joke, Usagi! I was wrong! There is something horrible going on!"
"Wrong about what?"
"Wrong about Minako and what she's doing! I explained this to you Usagi!"
"This is the first time I've talked to you all day, Minako-chan."
Rei didn't hear that.
She couldn't have heard that.
"Usagi it's me, it's Rei! I told you I can't find Minako but she's everywhere!"
"Minako-chan I don't know why you're tricking Rei but I already know this is a joke so please don't I've already had a long-"
"I AM NOT MINA-"
Rei stopped. She saw a reflection in the puddle on the ground.
She saw Usagi.
She saw Minako.
But she didn't see herself.
And then she realized who she was really looking at.
She slowly raised a trembling hand to her head... and felt a red hair ribbon tying back long, blonde hair.
"So where is Rei-chan, Minako-chan? It sounds like you really did a number on her."
And then, Rei, Minako, whoever it was, started to laugh. First a giggle. Then a guffaw. Then a cacophany of hyena noises to mask the sounds of Rei Hino's mind shattering into a million pieces.
"Hey Usagi! I found Minako! Do you see?! Do you see?! I've found Minako! I'VE FOUND MINAKO! I FOUND MINAKO! MINAKOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"
"Rei? What is it?"
"Oh geez. I must've fallen asleep for a minute. I had the weirdest dream. Everywhere I looked people were turning into blonde zombies."
"Yeah, and then I turned into one and it was like my mind just snapped. These late nights must be doing a number on me, Calaveras."
"Well, look, Nehellenia has another assignment concerning GENOM and after that it might be our last for a while. Help me with my armor."
Knight Saber Rei Hino helped her compatriot Calaveras into her pink-and-blue armor. Rei then finished suiting up into her green armor.
By day, Rei is a an aerobics instructor who dreams of an international life of success. But by night, she is part of a four woman band of mercenaries who protect the city of Mega Tokyo. They are the Knight Sabers.
Rei and Calaveras joined their leader, Nehellenia, in her light blue armor suit, in the war room. Nehellenia did not have her helmet on, exposing her impressively long, wavy black hair down to her feet.
"We're still waiting for Priss, but in the meantime, I've received word that GENOM's back door political dealings has led to an unsteady alliance with a Middle Eastern power. They're expecting a shipment of combat Boomers later tonight, but word has gotten out that a splinter cell is planning on intercepting those Boomers for the sake of instigating a massacre. After we deal that, I have one other assignment for us, and that's TO DESTROY EVERYTHING THE WHITE MOON PRINCESS HOLDS DEAR!"
"AND FOR THE LAST TIME I SAID WE'RE NOT DOING THAT!" Rei screamed.
"I'm still not happy with my armor's color design. You know I prefer something more festive, like black." Calaversa moaned. "Oh, Priss, you're here."
Priss Asagiri stood slack jaw in the archway of the ready room.
"WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!"
Rei woke up in a cold sweat.
"Rei-chan? What's wrong?" Usagi asked.
"I had that dream again."
"The one about the penguin with the knife?"
"I mean the one where I'm an aerobics instructor and I'm fighting alongside Nehellenia and Calaveras."
"I'm sorry. Do you want a drink of water?"
"No. No I think I'm alright. I didn't mean to wake you. Good night, Usagi."
"Good night, Rei-chan."
"Good night, Rei-chan."
"Good night, Ami-chan."
"Good night Mako-chan."
"Good night Ami-chan."
"Good night Usagi."
"Good night Haruka-san."
"Good night Rei."
"Good night Michiru."
"Good night Michiru-san."
"Good night Makoto."
"Good night Makoto-chan."
"Good night Minako-chan."
"Good night Mina-chan."
"Good night Mamo-chan." Minako kissed Mamoru goodnight.
Minako woke up in a cold sweat. She tried to catch her breath. She looked around. She was in her room and it was a little after 2 in the morning. Then, she got pissed. And proceeded to take a megaphone out from under her bed.
Over at Mamoru Chiba's apartment, he'd been working late on a thesis paper when his phone rang.
"Hello? This is Mamoru Chiba speaking?"
"STAY THE FUCK OUT OF MY DREAMS!!!"