Chapter 3 - Are they truly our enemy? Jadeite Power, Transform!
"He's here," Helios announced, appearing a few feet away and quickly growing to his full size.
Cardinal King stepped into the light of the setting sun, out of the shadows surrounding the stair house to see the King of the North land clumsily on the rooftop, arms pinwheeling to keep his balance as he came to a rough stop. "You fought really well back there," Mamoru complimented as the blond walked over with as much dignity as he could muster. "I'm glad to have you working with me."
"And what, exactly, does this 'work' entail?" his peer replied, standing nearly level with him. They were on one of the tallest roofs in the area, clearly out of sight of anyone in Tokyo. When he thought about it, their position was rather incredible; how often did people stand out on the rooftops and take a look around? The skies were beautiful around them, glowing orange and fading to purple as the moon rose overhead.
Helios approached, speaking easily. "Defeating the enemy and protecting the people of Earth. The two of you are currently Earth's only defense against the Dark Kingdom and their senshi, who will stop at nothing to gather enough energy to summon a great and powerful evil that would take the life of every being on the planet and enslave them."
Hanada considered, his brows furrowed. Mamoru wondered what he thought about the revelation, the responsibilities just placed on his shoulders. Was he rebelling against the job he had never asked for? Did he regret being in that building today? But rather than ask questions about himself, North King instead inquired, "Just the two of us? What about the King of the West?"
"The King of the West?" Mamoru and Helios repeated as one, equally confused.
"Yeah," North King replied, one hand on his hip, "He's sometimes called the Evening Star. You haven't heard of him? I've mentioned him once or twice in articles about Cardinal—er, you. He's another mysterious figure running around Tokyo these days; I read about him in a few online forums. I thought the two of you were working together, but apparently not." He shrugged.
"The King of the West sounds like one of the protectors, which means he is supposed to be your ally... but how did he awaken?" Helios wondered, obviously disturbed by the news.
"I wonder why we haven't met? … Do you think he could be why the past two weeks have been so quiet, or do you think things will always be quiet like that?" Mamoru asked aloud of no one in particular, hundreds of possibilities running through his mind, chief among them was this Evening Star character – who was he? Why hadn't they found each other? Did he work with Jewel Tiara? … did she even exist? He hadn't seen her since that night and Helios knew nothing about her... To North King, he commented, "I guess we'll figure that out later."
In a glow of blue light, North King faded away to leave Hanada standing there, holding the Zoisite pendant. He smiled, throwing the necklace up into the air and catching it, "Guess I've got a pretty good story, eh?"
Mamoru was about to power down as well, but froze, "You're not seriously going to report on this, are you?"
Hanada shrugged, "Not in the way you probably think. If I'm going to play hero, I'm going to make sure everyone knows we're heroes and not the cheap jokers other news sources have suggested." He picked up the camera dangling on his neck, "I should have a little over 100 pictures on here, ranging from the attack on the cram school our big red buddy initiated, a few choice pictures of you, and then you fighting him. This with a good story should clear your name," he paused, smiling slyly, "and get my name out there as an excellent journalist, editor, photographer and writer."
Cardinal King shook his head, the transformation fading away to leave Mamoru Chiba standing across from his classmate. "Glad to give you a story, I guess."
"Chiba," Hanada offered his hand and Mamoru took it, shaking it firmly, "I thought it might've been you. Don't ask me why; I just had this feeling."
Mamoru nodded, figuring the declaration for a reporter's boast. "I look forward to working with you, Hanada, especially if you pull more of that crazy stuff in the future – what made you think about jumping on its back and collaring it?" he asked with a smile, remembering the sight of his masked companion using the beast's shoulderblades as skis.
Hanada shrugged, smiling, "I do what I must to get the job done. Speaking of, I'm going home now to start working on the story. See you around, Chiba," he nodded his head, Mamoru nodded back. Hanada turned to Helios and nodded his head to him, as well, "Pegasus."
"Helios," the mentor corrected, "I'll be serving as a guardian and guide. Before you go, take this," from Helios's horn shone a sudden burst of light that lanced to each of their wrists. When the light faded, both Mamoru and Hanada had handsome wristwatches, his accented with golden stones, Hanada's with clear blue gems. "Communicator watches. When you want to send a message, turn the clock hands to 12; an alarm will go off on the other person's watch. As soon as the other person sets their hands to 12, a communication channel will open and you can speak freely."
Hanada nodded, "Okay. Well, have a good night." He disappeared into the building through the stairwell door and was gone. Mamoru elected to stay for a few moments, watching the red door and considering his new ally, and the possibility of allies to come.
Mamoru checked the time, glancing down at his new 'watch' as he strode down the busy street in the Juuban shopping district, weaving in and out of foot traffic as he searched for the nearest bus stop. He wasn't late just yet, he decided, but if he didn't catch the next bus he would be. As he passed the storefront of the Osa-P Jewelry store he looked inside; it had been nearly a month since the attack and no traces were left within. Hanada had told him offhandedly about how he and other reporters had gathered at the store every night for a week to see if the mysterious caped figure would return, hoping to expand upon the breaking story without luck, and once the store opened again after repairs it had been swamped with customers; it had even come out with its own commemorative earrings: red roses with green stems. The articles were still on display, the paper blown up to an oversized poster behind one of the counters. He kept walking.
The crowds thinned and he spied the bus stop, but before he quite reached it a wadded-up piece of paper came flying towards him, bouncing off of his forehead with some force. "Hey!" he yelled reflexively, but whoever the litterbug had been, they were lost in the crowd and the bus had just arrived. With the nearest trash receptacle closer to the storefronts, he held on to the paper as he stepped up onto the bus and made his way to the open seat in the back. As soon as he was seated the bus started, he heard a sharp gasp from the girl sitting beside him.
"Where did you get that?!" she cried with astonishment, her bright blue eyes wide as her hands covered her agape mouth.
"Someone threw it at my head!" he replied, holding the paper just out of reach as her hands shot out to snatch it from him. "I take it that was you!"
"I didn't throw it at you!" she disputed, squirming over him to try to grab it. Thrown by her too-familiar behavior, he let her take the paper and watched as she sat back down, her lips pursed in annoyance as she crumpled the paper into an even tighter ball and stuffed it into her school bag. Judging her uniform, he recognized her as a local middle school student. And with that long blonde hair in pigtail buns, she made for a familiar local middle school student.
"So… another less-than-stellar grade there, odango?" he asked teasingly. He'd seen this girl before – he'd been hit by this girl before. Well, not physically – it had been another crumpled up test. And a shoe, before that. He was beginning to wonder if he should start carrying an umbrella whenever he ventured into that district, as it seemed that every time he was there, she was, too, and, inevitably, something was airborne and landing on him.
With her nose in the air, she crossed her arms and looked away from him, "That's none of your business, jerk!"
"It wouldn't be if you didn't hit me on the head with it so often. Why not pick up a book instead of pitching failing grades at innocent passersby?" He enjoyed getting her riled up – she was so strange, reacting so outwardly where everyone else tended to keep things private. Rather than yell back at him, she just "Humph!"d loudly, the eye he could see was closed. "I mean, really, whatever happened to keeping Tokyo clean? You alone are—" his watch sounded an alarm, interrupting him and catching her attention. He glanced down, wondering what was happening on Hanada's end – but not quite daring to answer the call with the girl right there, looking from him to his watch and back again.
"I didn't know those types of watches could have alarms!" she commented curiously, all anger from before apparently gone. When he didn't immediately answer, glancing outside to see how close the next stop was, she asked something else, "Where did you get it? It's kinda cool! Do they come in pink?"
"It was a gift from a friend, so I'm not sure," he commented offhandedly, standing as the bus slowed. He looked back to the girl, "Study harder, Odango!" he called, waving curtly as he made his way up the aisle and got off the bus. As it pulled away, he approached the fence and kept walking in the same direction as he moved the watch hands to noon. With another short beep, he heard static and the watch face popped up out of its casing and flipped around to display a screen; Hanada's head against a blue-sky background stared back at him. "What's up?" he asked.
"Where are you?" Hanada asked, "I thought you would catch a ride! You'll never get here in time if you're walking!"
"I was on the bus," Mamoru replied, "I had to get off to answer you! Not everyone could use their parents' chauffeur to get around, you know."
"Wait, what?!" the blond cried, "You were on the bus?!"
"Yes, the bus," he stated flatly.
"Heading towards the Hikawa Shrine?"
"Yes," he replied forcefully – that was where Hanada has asked they meet, so why was he so startled? "Why?"
"I just saved your ass – get to the shrine as soon as you can!" Hanada ended the call, and Mamoru's watch face flipped around again to reveal the time – 5:55 pm.
He reached the shrine to see Hanada running in the opposite direction, farther down the street. "Hurry up!" he yelled over his shoulder, so Mamoru started running again, feeling foolish but catching a strange aura in the air that made his skin prickle as though on pins and needles. Something was wrong. At the next opportunity, when he passed between the covered bus station and a wooden fence, he transformed and caught up to Hanada in no time, and in a flash North King was running with him.
"What's going on?" Cardinal King asked, his breath coming more easily after the transformation even while he was running much faster than before. Up ahead he saw the bus, a pair of familiar blonde buns prominent in the back window.
"It's the Phantom Bus!" North King replied, his eyes flashing behind his light green mask. "Every day this week the bus that passes the Hikawa Shrine at 6:00 has disappeared and young people on the bus vanish into thin air; I think the Dark Kingdom is behind it, kidnapping the youth for their energy!"
"Good thinking, North King!" Helios replied, appearing beside them suddenly.
"Helios!" Mamoru exclaimed, "Did you find the King of the West?"
"Not yet. Watch it!" The Pegasus shot forward, his golden horn shining with the burst of speed, "It's disappearing! Hurry! Don't let it get away with those innocent people!"
Up ahead the front of the bus had disappeared into a swirling black vortex, like a funnel cloud to nowhere. In the back seat he saw the girl – Tsukino Usagi – look out of the window towards him, and then she was gone. Both he and his partner lunged and made it through just before the world disappeared behind them.
For long moments there was nothing but darkness, but soon his eyes adjusted, finding a strange, dark silver light glancing off of the world around him. North, beside him, held up a hand as a sign for silence – not that he needed someone to tell him to keep quiet while in enemy territory –and pointed to a group of empty buses suspended in space above them, their doors wide open and an eerie blue light leaking from them.
"Energy," Helios identified silently, flying off to follow the streams to where they gathered, but paused as if struck, winging behind the nearest object. "SENSHI!" he warned shrilly in their minds. "Be careful! It is Mars, the Senshi of Passion and War!"
Mamoru's eyes searched the scene for the sinister warrior, one of the leaders of the Dark Kingdom's forces, and was caught off-guard. Standing in the middle of the broken columns that littered this world, glaring down at an unconscious form heaped by her bright red high heels, was a strikingly beautiful girl. Long, pin-straight raven-black hair reached nearly to her knees, her bangs framing amethyst eyes that glared curiously down at the figure at her feet; she appeared unthreatening, and he wondered if Helios was right – this girl didn't look like she would hurt anyone; she definitely wasn't dressed for it. Red high heels would be difficult to maneuver in, short red skirt with white leotard, bedecked with bows and a sailor collar, seemed more decoration than war garb, and the white gloves that came up to her elbows looked to be more suited to attending a dinner party than leading an army of monsters bent on collecting energy. But then… she definitely seemed in charge of the situation. The heap at her feet was, at second inspection, a guy. A teenager, like him, with short dark blond hair and wearing a public high school uniform; he appeared to be unconscious.
Slowly, the girl uncrossed her arms and pointed with her right hand to Helios's hiding spot, "I see you there, Earth Kingdom Scum." Suddenly a jet of fire burst from her fingertip, lancing forward in a rush to where their guardian hid, and there was no question as to her alignment. His eyes seared with pain at the sudden light, but he had little time to recover if he wanted to free Helios.
"Hey!" he yelled, running from cover to stand across from her in the clearing. She paid him no attention; so he called up his rose and threw it at her. It sailed true and glanced by her face, its thorns cutting a neat line in her cheek. He summoned another and held it threateningly, ready to throw it, too, but the jet of flame stopped as she turned to him. He kept his eyes on hers, waiting for her to address him, but she stayed silent. So he continued, hoping Helios had gone to find the energy store and release it. "Let these people go! They will have no part in your sinister plans!"
"They are already a part; soon we will have enough energy, and then this planet will get what it deserves."
"Which is what? What did Earth do to you?" He asked, slowly circling around as he noticed North King covertly maneuvering behind her. On the floor by her feet, the civilian stirred; they had to get her away from him.
"Something for which it will never be able to repent." Without blinking, she turned and sent another lance of fire towards North King, whose icy whip sublimated in his hands to a wisp of water vapor. The flames then turned, surrounding him in a ring to keep the King of the North in place. But while she busied herself with him, Mamoru dashed forward, pushing her off balance as he grabbed hold of the unconscious figure's hand and pulled him to his feet.
"Run!" he commanded of the confused young man, pushing him away just in time for Mars to reel around, her long hair flying as her fist connected solidly with his cheekbone. Stars swam in his vision as he stumbled back and fell, caught completely off guard by her attack. Glancing over at North King, his heart sunk – the fire ring hadn't disappeared. His ally was still trapped, and their enemy was above him, her dark purple eyes reflecting the fire she had summoned. He kicked back, away from her, but his head swam with the effort and his elbow gave out, leaving him completely sprawled on his back with the fire senshi standing above him.
"Die," she commanded as her index finger extended towards him.
This was it; it wasn't a game, it wasn't a dream, and it had never been. It was only too real, and he was about to die in an alternate dimension. He hadn't saved anyone. Hanada might die, all of the people… Odango, too. In his hand another rose came, unbidden, but he didn't get a chance to use it.
"Jadeite Power, Transform!" a burst of green light flooded the area, distracting the senshi's gaze. Mamoru threw the rose and it stuck in her side, and a mere second later it was joined by a small throwing knife. She cried out, and suddenly the throwing knife burst into an all-encompassing flame that surrounded her body.
"Wait!" the voice called from behind, but the green flames paid him no heed, and the inferno continued. North King, freed from his prison, rushed forward and helped Mamoru to his feet and the pair of them stepped back from the flames, ending up beside another King, this one's uniform lined in red. With short dark-blond hair, Mamoru had little doubt it was the same person who Mars had as a personal captive. They looked at one another, the newcomer alarmed, North nodding to him, silently telling him he had done the right thing. Mamoru wasn't as sure; the monsters had turned to dust upon their defeat; to him, that meant they were normal, which is to say, weren't natural, but this senshi… she looked like them. Sure, she was going to kill him and said as much herself, but this defeat wasn't the same. He felt bad – he wanted to stop it, to put out the flames, to see if he could save her –
And then a blast of cool air rushed through them, their capes appearing to keep them in place as a figure jumped in from above. It was a girl wearing a short black-and-white cocktail dress, boots, and gloves, her long blonde hair in bunned pigtails atop her head. With a golden tiara and the bright red gorget around her neck, Mamoru knew at last that she was real: Jewel Tiara. She landed where their enemy had been and plucked from the air a red double-pyramidal gem that was lit from within; the only thing left of their opponent. She held it to her chest, looked over at them with shining bright blue eyes, and jumped off again, disappearing into the darkness, silver light glancing off of her receding form.
"Who was that?" North King asked.
"Jewel Tiara," he replied, "She saved my life that first night."
"So she's on our side?" he continued.
Mamoru shrugged, "I don't know; Helios didn't know anything about her. Her tiara… Mars had one just like it." He didn't care for the comparison, but felt it needed to be said. As much as he wanted to trust her, he knew blind trust was something they couldn't afford. Above them, the bus' lights turned on, all at once, their headlights piercing the darkness. They were all tied together as one giant chain, all ready to leave.
"It is done." Helios stated, reappearing beside them. "As the last of the energy is released, another opening should appear that will lead us back to Tokyo. The citizens should fully recover without complications, though those who were taken that first day may need more sleep."
Mamoru nodded, looking around for the suggested opening.
"So…" the new voice said, "What's going on?"