Chapter 7 - Friend or Foe? Jewel Tiara chooses a side!
As he turned he caught only a glimpse of her, of a tall young woman with dark green eyes filled with hatred, her lips drawn in an angry scowl. Her long brown hair was pulled away from her face, bangs wet against her forehead, a green gem shining in the sudden lightning. A senshi, close enough that he knew it was too late. He flinched, sensing something coming towards him, but knew he would be too slow to stop it –
But then someone was there, inserting himself between Mamoru and the attacking senshi, his arm held out to stop the blow of the incoming kick that had been aimed at Mamoru's head. Her boot connected solidly with the intruder's forearm, and with the thud of impact the young man transformed. White dress-shirt turned into a blue-gray jacket rimmed with orange-yellow piping, curly brown hair flew freely, just wetting with rain. "Watch out, Sweetheart; you might hurt someone," he teased, a threat in his deep voice.
Midori. Mamoru couldn't believe what just happened; Midori had transformed without Helios's help, without a stone pendant – he really was their lost Prince. … and it was Mamoru's job to protect him.
"North! South!" he called as he pulled their Prince out of the way, blocking the senshi's punch with his own forearm this time, standing guard against her flurry of mixed attacks that followed to give Midori time to escape. She was quick; she was angry. Her outfit matched her tiara – green. Green banding around her gloves, green ankle-boots – the lace-pattern of which might be permanently marked in his arm – green skirt, sailor collar and choker, pink bows. She didn't seem to mind the rain and thunder, her attacks never faltering despite the downpour. But as she fought her expression changed; between dodging punches and blocking kicks, he saw her anger turn to broken desperation. He couldn't be certain that the rivulets on her face were raindrops or tears.
A dagger came dangerously close to hitting her and she screamed in defiance, backing away from him to turn and – throw lightning?! A ball of electrostatic energy formed in the palm of her hand and she flung it outwards, towards South. Mamoru backed up, summoning his rose sword and glancing around to find Midori. He found him near Helios, North rushing away quietly – probably spotting a place to attack from. The hair on the back of Mamoru's neck stood on end and he dropped just as another lightning ball flew over his head.
"GIVE HER BACK!" the girl screamed, her voice breaking agonizingly.
She moved even faster, now clearly crying as she threw attack after attack at them, her teeth ground together, lightning flying in all directions. Though confused, Mamoru couldn't afford to stop, to ask questions – she was a destructive force in motion, intent on doing them harm. As he ducked out of the way of another ball she rushed him, elbow first as she charged. He just barely jumped out of the way in time only to find that she had rebounded off of the wall behind him and was flying after him again, hand drawn back to punch, lined to connect.
But then a frozen rope surrounded her midsection, pulling her aside roughly. Mamoru landed and spun on the balls of his feet to find the senshi picking herself up off the ground, her elbow and most of her right arm scraped and bleeding. North King stood his ground, his whip held threateningly at his side. For a moment, as the senshi held her ground and glared, Mamoru thought it could be over. Maybe this time they didn't have to destroy the enemy – they could question her, learn more about the Moon Kingdom and what they wanted– but then she was up again, rushing North with lightning at her fingertips. Her punch sent Hanada flying into and through the glass display of the bridal shop. She made to follow him.
Mamoru ran forward to intercept her as throwing knives flew through the air, hitting the senshi dead-on and bursting into flame, but it seemed as just an annoyance to the green warrior. She brushed them away, turning her gaze on South, lightning sparking around her. As Mamoru reached the store window he realized he had moved the wrong way – suddenly the Prince was in the game, running quickly towards the senshi with his fist drawn back, something dull and stony on his knuckles. Distracted by South's renewed dagger throws, she didn't notice the Prince until it was too late, as his fist rushed towards her unprotected midsection. When he connected he unleashed a shockwave of pressure that tore through the area, breaking the remaining windows around them… and destroying the green senshi.
Doubled over, the girl fell to her knees as she rapidly disappeared. The Prince's cape appeared to counteract the violent energy erupting from her death, but before it obscured all of Mamoru's vision, he saw the girl close her eyes, a word at her lips, and then she was gone. Just as before, all that was left was a levitating crystal, green hued and shining from within.
"JUPITER!" Space seemed to tear around them as another senshi appeared, this one in blue. She ran towards the crystal floating in space, crying outright as she reached for where her teammate had been. Quickly behind her appeared another, this warrior blonde and beautiful, her uniform a mix of orange, yellow and blue. She grabbed the first's hand fiercely and pulled her back, restraining her as they disappeared. The last that Mamoru saw were the orange senshi's dark blue eyes, both sad and murderous as they found him.
As soon as they disappeared, in a flash of white and blonde Jewel Tiara swooped in, grabbed the crystal and cradled it to her chest as she ran through. "Hey!" Midori yelled after her, but Mamoru was prepared. He launched off after her, determined to find out more about her. Whose side was she on? Why was she collecting those gems? If she were working for the enemy, why did she save him? What was the enemy's plan? Puddles splashed beneath his feet as he gave chase; as the rain fell harder he nearly lost her, but he kept trying. In his mind, he heard Helios's side of a conversation:
"She was Sailor Jupiter, senshi of Protection; the others, Sailor Mercury, senshi of Wisdom, and Sailor Venus, senshi of Love and Beauty. … Long ago, the senshi served as guardians in the Moon Kingdom, their lives tied to the royal family as you three, Cardinal, North, and South, were tied to the Prince, Midori. … Could they change? You mean could they turn to our side?" Mamoru continued to run, Helios's voice fading with the distance between them. He had lost her again, but he slowed, turning to see an alleyway not far behind him now. The rain was beginning to lessen, the storm slowly passing. He went back. Helios's voice was just a whisper as he concluded, "They would never betray their Queen."
His hunch had been right. In the alleyway, standing with her back against the wall, was Jewel Tiara. Her gloved hands were close to her chest, holding tightly to the jewel she had taken. He approached slowly, not wanting to scare her off, but made sure to make some noise in the process so he wouldn't startle her. She either took no notice of him or didn't care he was there, her head bent as if staring at her hands. When he was close enough to speak comfortably he paused, wondering only then how he should question her. "Jewel Tiara," he started, speaking softly, "Who are you?"
Her shoulders started visibly shaking and she fell, the wall guiding her slowly to the ground. Mamoru didn't know what to do – she was crying, too. The senshi had cried, she was crying – was she really part of their team? Was it safe to approach her alone? While his mind yelled these and other warnings, he felt no threat from her. Looking at her now there was only sadness, only a desire to help her somehow. Taking a chance, he stepped forward and to the side and knelt down beside her, the puddles on the ground making him no more wet than the rain had. He reached out as though to put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but hesitated and drew back, deciding it would be more awkward than helpful. Instead he just waited, providing company until… well, until she wanted him to go. She had saved his life twice now; even if the situation were different and he didn't want to stay, he owed her this much.
Holding her breath, she seemed to regain control of herself. Her eyes squeezed shut, she put her elbows on her knees, pressing her hands to her forehead, and said, "I don't know."
Mamoru was confused – maybe he wasn't specific enough? He tried again, "Where are you from? Whose side are you on?"
She drew her knees closer to herself, as if flinching, and repeated, "I don't know."
Her voice had cracked but while Mamoru felt like she was being honest with him, he knew she had to know something. They had found their Prince; they needed all the information they could get in order to better protect him. He didn't want to cause her distress, but he still had to try. Hoping that questions about her recent actions might lead to some sort of answer, he asked, "What are those gems you take, and why do you take them?"
She opened her hands suddenly, staring at the green-hued double-pyramidal crystal with the bright light inside. In her eyes the sight was mirrored, wavering as tears built up again. One hand grabbed at her bangs as the other held the crystal and she cried out, "I don't know!" her eyes shutting tight against everything. Immediately he regretted asking; an apology was on his lips when she continued, her voice weak yet passionate. "I don't know who I am or where I'm from! I don't know whose side I'm on or if I even have a side! I don't know why I collect these, or why it makes me so sad when I do! All I know is that I have to!" By the end her voice was strong and her eyes shot open to stare at him intensely, her pain and confusion bearing into him through them. Speechless, Mamoru remained silent, meeting her gaze but not challenging it. Finally she looked away, a sob creeping through her throat as she unclenched her gloved hand to stare again at the jewel. Quietly, she asked, "Who was she?"
"Her name was Sailor Jupiter," he replied. Her silence prompted him to continue, and he was sorry he didn't have anything else to tell her. "She was a senshi of the Moon Kingdom."
Her free hand moved slowly to her belt and returned with the red gem. Despite the weeks since the death of the red warrior, the gem still glowed. "And her?" Jewel Tiara prompted.
"Sailor Mars," he told her softly, watching her every move. He had wanted answers from her, to learn who she was and why she did what she did, but all along he knew more than she. Would he be just like her if Helios hadn't found him? Lost and alone and confused, blindly following his instincts and hoping everything would work out in the end? But who told her where to go? How did she know where to find him? Why… "Why do you save me?" he asked.
She didn't answer for a moment, just stared at the softly glowing jewels. Then she shrugged, "Because you saved them" she glanced over at him, " – all those people." She looked away again, "They hadn't done anything wrong, and when they were in trouble you protected them… but no one was protecting you. So I did." She had chosen to help him. That wasn't instinct, but a conscious decision. She could have let him die, but she didn't. She was good. She wasn't part of the Moon Kingdom – she couldn't be. "Why do they do it?" she asked, sudden to his thoughts.
"Well… we're not that certain," he began, believing she meant the senshi and deciding to be completely honest with her, "but we think they're gathering energy to reawaken their Queen and take over the world." Saying it aloud sounded crazy – he wouldn't have believed it if his life hadn't become part of the story – but she nodded in acceptance anyway.
Looking sideways at him, he sensed a small smile behind her veil as she said, "Then I guess I'm on your side." She got to her feet; he joined her. Looking down at herself, she inserted the two jewels, red and green, into her belt; they fit snugly, one to either side of the ornate centerpiece. She looked up at him and nodded, backing into the street. "I'll see you again, Cardinal King," she said, and then she was gone.
Mamoru's hunch was right; when he returned to the bridal shop the Kings were gone. In their place were police officers just arriving on the scene and a ring of people gawking at the destruction the battle had left behind. There were compression marks in the pavement and glass all over the street. Mannequins in white dresses hung out of the windows, disheveled and eerily posed. A line of wet silt ran from just in front of the store into the gutter in the street, a single red rose left in the place the monster had died. On the sidelines, sitting beside a girl with a blanket thrown across her shoulders, was Midori. Moegi stood behind him, catching Mamoru's eye and nodding – everything was okay. Glancing around he found Hanada, a notebook in hand with pencil at the ready, pestering the cops for a statement to use in his newspaper. He wondered if Hanada was really that interested, or if he were acting in their interest and trying to ferret out information on what the cops knew about them so far.
When the paramedics dismissed Midori and his cousin, Moegi left with them, jumping into a town car and leaving. Mamoru casually left, Hanada meeting up with him as they walked back towards their own districts, and they swapped information. Mamoru went first, since he had the least to say, telling Hanada what he found out about Jewel Tiara and her decision to fight with them. Hanada, in return, told him that Helios had filled Midori in about the basics – the basics being their past-life origin, whom they're fighting and why, and Midori's importance. "Even after all that, he still jumped in to help. Part of me commends him; the other half wants to throttle him."
"By the way," Mamoru interjected, remembering Hanada's earlier trip through the window, "Are you okay?"
Hanada raised a brow and smirked, rolling up his sleeve to display a collection of scrapes, some with glass still in them. It was a little gruesome, but it wasn't bleeding profusely. "I barely bled – maybe something to do with my powers over ice?" he seemed more fascinated than concerned.
"Hanada," Mamoru stated disapprovingly – open wounds with glass? Was he trying to get infected? He took Hanada's wrist and held it still with one hand as he hovered over the wounds with the other, exuding energy that slowly mended the tears in Hanada's skin. Bits of glass fell like glitter, pressed out of the wound as his powers worked to heal it.
"That's a neat trick; do you think your powers are over growth?" Hanada asked.
"What?" Mamoru replied, moving on to another area of the blond's arm.
"You summon a plant that turns into a sword – that's kind of growing, right? And then you can heal things, which is accelerated re-growth." Mamoru looked up to see Hanada staring at his arm curiously. Hanada continued, "I mean, I've got ice, Moegi's fire, Midori has Earth – makes sense, right? I mean it looked more like stone and pressure, but close enough. Other ancient elements left would be nature, metal, light, and death and rebirth- you could be death and rebirth!" Hanada looked up with excitement.
Mamoru cocked a brow, "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not be."
Hanada went on appealingly, "Oh, come on. It's just like nature and growth and stuff – things can't grow if things don't die. You're like a cycle person."
"I wonder, if you concentrated hard enough, could you reverse heal? Like could you inflict wounds on someone rather than taking them away?"
"Want me to try?" Mamoru stated deadpan, pulling his energy out of Hanada's wounds but keeping hold of his wrist. Hanada laughed it off, pulling his arm away. He started walking again and Mamoru took two steps to catch up. "So what do the police know?"
"Not a lot; they attributed the mess to vandals and the fainting women to anemia. But then that could just be their story for the press." They traveled in silence for a time, walking the wet streets, both drenched head to toe. Mamoru still wore his soccer practice uniform, his cleats ringing against the pavement. Hanada, his long hair curling as it dried, wore casual clothes that stuck to him. When they reached their crossroads, Hanada paused. "So… what's next?"
"I'm not sure," Mamoru replied quietly. "It looks like our plan has changed. Midori is in on the fight, and he's not the type to back down or step out so there's little use in trying. We'll have to be careful in battle – if Helios is right, the senshi could want Midori for the Golden Crystal, and now that we've found him he'll be a target."
"I wouldn't be too sure," Hanada mused. Mamoru waited for the explanation. "Midori's uniform looks exactly like ours. There isn't any additional ornamentation or markings of his royalty; so far as the Moon Kingdom is concerned we just gained another member. If we could keep it that way they might be led to believe that West King is really our Prince. His uniform is rumored to be gray and his cape blue, and with the four of us nearly identical to one another the obvious reasoning would be that he is different, thus he is the Prince."
"So we should now concentrate on finding him," Mamoru stated, "For his safety and his help; if he's survived this long alone, he'd be a valuable addition to the team."
"I wonder how much he knows," Hanada looked off, his gaze straying down the street towards their school. "Does he, too, have a guardian like Helios? How much does his guardian know about the Moon Kingdom?"
The mention of guardians brought Mamoru's thoughts back to Jewel Tiara, alone and confused, crying in the rain for reasons she didn't understand. He wouldn't wish that on anyone. "We need to find him," he stated simply. Hanada nodded in agreement, and they said their goodbyes.
Helios didn't return that night, but Mamoru didn't blame him. The horse had been working long hours, changing gears from looking for West King to verifying Midori, all the while keeping his senses open to new attacks. He was probably with Midori now, explaining things in greater detail, maybe even checking on the Golden Crystal to ensure its safety. In truth, it made Mamoru a little uneasy without Helios there; he had gotten used to him being around, even if they did fight a lot of the time. But then, their duty was to their Prince, to Midori, and it wasn't like Mamoru could up and move in to keep an eye on him, so a teleporting Pegasus made for a better watchdog. And, he reasoned, looking down at his watch, it wasn't as though he were completely cut-off. If something happened, he'd get an alarm.
The more time he spent with Midori, the more at ease he became. His first trepidations had been about duty of his past life taking over his present, that out of loyalty to a life that ended millennia ago he would be bound to protecting someone he had no real ties to, but he and Midori got along well. Midori's attitude was usually upbeat and jovial, and while he did enjoy showing off and being the center of attention, he did so through making people laugh. Not that long after they started hanging out together, Mamoru knew that if Midori were in trouble, he, Mamoru, and not his past life alter-ego, would be stepping up to protect him. He would make that choice, and not have it dictated by a past life he barely remembered.
It was true that lately he had a few hazy memories come to mind – nothing Earth-shattering, just hazy images and voices and a general feeling of happiness. He occasionally wondered if this was what others remembered when thinking back on their earlier years; he couldn't remember anything before he was age six, but he had read somewhere that memories from young childhood were often confused and muddled with time, so maybe it was the same.
After soccer practice he, Midori, and Hanada would hang out together; he made sure Midori did his homework to keep somewhere in the middle of class rank. When he had the chance Moegi would join them, his complaints about his busy schedule growing less and less frequent. Occasionally they would transform and train; Midori was somewhat of a natural – if there were any issues with his first practice, it was only in that he was putting too much force behind his jumps and constantly overshot the target landing spot. Midori's weapons were stone knuckles that rumbled like thunder when he knocked them together; the harder he punched something, the more the thunderous noise turned into small shockwaves. While the brunet wanted to try jumping from the top of a building and landing fist-first into the ground to test the extent of the abilities (would he make a crater?!), Mamoru and the others were able to talk him out of trying it. In the city, at least; he returned one day with a smile on his face and a smug remark about trouble for his gardener.
And, sometimes, the four of them would spend some time in Game Center Crown. Midori and Hanada were great at the games – Hanada commented nonchalantly that he had a machine at his house that he used to play a lot when he was in middle school; Midori complained that his mother wouldn't let him get one. Whenever they went, Mamoru kept an eye out for blonde odangos, hoping to find Usagi and regretting not knowing where else to find her or how to contact her. It had been a little over two weeks since the masquerade and he hadn't seen her; he was starting to feel defeated, crazy ideas coming to mind – maybe she moved. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she saw his score under hers and thought he was a stalker; maybe she was avoiding him because she had changed her mind and didn't want to face him, embarrassed or uncomfortable about kissing him. But when he finally spotted her through the Crown windows heading into a new video rental store, he took the chance to find out. With a quick goodbye to his friends, he left the arcade and followed her into the store.
As soon as he passed through the doors to the store he was struck with how weird the place felt, but with the fragrance of black licorice in the air and the thermostat turned to almost uncomfortably cool, he shrugged it off and wondered if it was some strange marketing strategy. Certainly the company had something going for it – the brand was popping up all over Tokyo: "Quicksilver Video", with a website available for those with internet. A few of his schoolmates talked about it, raving about its selection and cheap prices, but Mamoru had never really been into movies so he hadn't looked into it. If, however, a certain someone else had an interest in movies, he could give them a try.
He spotted her down one of the isles, her hands folded at her chest and a thoughtful expression on her face as she perused her choices. She looked well, if a bit tired; the little pout on her lips as she reached for one movie and then another made him smile – she was taking her decision very seriously, and it seemed to fit her perfectly. "Yo, Odango," he greeted, butterflies in his stomach. How would she react?
She jumped, for starters, her hair whipping around as she turned to look at him. "Mamochan!" she squeaked in surprise, and a warmth spread through him. Again with the nickname. "Er..." she blushed, shaking her head in negation, "Mamoru-kun. H-How are you?"
He shrugged, "I'm well, how are you?" … smooth, Chiba.
"I'm good," she said with a smile, but then the smile faded into a look of shame. "That's a lie. I'm grounded," she mumbled. "Dad just let me out today to grab a movie so I'd stop bothering him."
He couldn't help but chuckle at her reaction; while he hadn't been grounded personally, he knew the general concept and had heard a few stories about the experience from others. "Why are you grounded?" he asked, curious about what she could have possibly done to bother her parents.
"Well…" she said, looking at him guiltily.
He blinked in concern, "It wasn't me, was it?"
"Well…" she repeated, all but confirming his suspicion. He felt remorseful – all this time he had wondered if she were evading him or if something had happened when she had been stuck at home and it was his fault. Before he could apologize, Usagi was shaking her head and hands in a 'you've got it all wrong!' manner, "No! Not that – I mean, partly that, but not just that." Her hands clasped together and she started tapping her index fingers – he really liked how animated she always was; she wore her emotions on her sleeves and while she constantly kept him guessing about other things, when she was right in front of him he never need wonder if she were upset. "There were my grades… and detentions for being late… and sleeping in class…"
He chuckled, remembering the horrible grade she had thrown at his head all that time ago. She blushed in embarrassment and he let it go, wondering if she might be interested in getting a tutor. And then he blushed, realizing the possible implications of such a question, and decided it'd be best to change the subject. "So, what movie are you getting?"
She glanced back at the shelf, filled with anime, and took a title from the display with fondness, revealing another three copies behind it. "This one," she said with a smile, showing him the cover. "Kiki's Delivery Service" it read, with a picture of a girl in black riding a broom and a little black cat dangling off the broom stick. He smiled at seeing the cat, wondering if that was why it was a favorite.
"What's it about?" he asked.
The movie dropped a few inches, "You haven't seen it?" she asked incredulously.
He shook his head, "I don't watch a lot of movies," he excused.
She thrust the movie into his hands; he took it so it wouldn't fall, and she grabbed another copy off the shelf. "You have to see it! It's not all that new, but it's really good! It's about a witch who's going out into the world to start her training!"
He half-smiled at her enthusiasm, "Who's the cat?"
"His name is Jiji; come on! Let's get it!" she walked past him on the way to the check-out counter, then turned to grab his arm and pull him along. He went willingly, but slowed just to mess with her. "Mamoru-kun! You'll like it, I promise!" She plopped her copy on the counter and reached into her bunny backpack, but he put his down on top of it and pulled out his wallet before she could fish anything out of the plushie bag.
"If it's that good, I'll pay the fee for you." He handed the payment over to the cashier, who bagged their movies and returned them in record time.
She smiled up at him, "Thanks! That means I can get ice-cream on the way home!"
When they left the shop he accompanied her to Crown Fruit Parlor, where he handed her a copy of the movie, and afterward, her ice cream cone in hand, he offered to walk her home. He wondered if he was being too bold, but after going so long without seeing her, he wanted to see her as much as possible before they had to part. She hesitated for only a second before shyly nodding. He tried to hide his smile, but it didn't work too well. She lived in a nice neighborhood not too far away; on the way to her house she talked nonstop about whatever came to mind, but mostly about the movie he had to watch; eventually she declared that they would watch it together. He looked at her, surprised at her suggestion. She looked up at him with determination, "So call me when you put it on, okay? I'll start mine when you start yours and we'll watch it together!" She reached into her backpack and pulled out a starry pink pen, then put out her hand as if to accept something.
"I don't have any paper," he explained, and she took his hand, turned his arm to she could see his wrist, and wrote her phone number on his arm. While she kept her eyes determinedly fixed on his arm, he could still see the slight blush on her cheeks.
When she finished she looked up at him with determination and stammered, "Don't lose it, okay?"
He shook his head no, his heart thumping loudly in his chest. "I won't."
She nodded, her lips twitching into a nervous smile. She tucked a long bang behind her ear nervously, glancing up at the house behind her. "Well, we're here." She glanced up at him and away shyly, "Thanks for walking me home, Mamoru-kun."
"You can call me the other, if you want," he offered, nervous about making the suggestion but wanting to offer anyway. He liked that she had given him a nickname; to him it meant… well, maybe he was looking too much into things.
"Okay," she replied, a smile in her voice as she looked down at her feet and corrected, "Mamo-chan." Suddenly she turned and ran, stopping before the door to turn and wave. "Don't forget!" she yelled with a smile before opening the door and disappearing inside.
He waved once, then looked down at the numbers scrawled across his forearm. Then again, maybe he wasn't overthinking things after all.
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