Pre Story Notes:
Combat is extremely stressful. Like many stressful situations, it has long lasting psychological and emotional effects on those involved. For those directly involved, it has a powerful bonding effect between them. For groups it creates camaraderie, a sense of team so strong you can almost say its family. For pairs, especially male/female pairing, it may create a bond that could be mistaken for love.
In situations where the stressful situation is between enemies, especially when one is clearly dominant, it can create and effect known as Stockholm Syndrome. It is entirely possible for two people who might not even get along otherwise, to grow to care and trust each other after experiencing these circumstances. This is a strong proponent of abusive relationships, and should always be taken very seriously.
So when presented with this situation, how does it affect your character. What about the other characters in that situation? What kind of relationship will form between them from such a shared experience?
Think hard on that one, and read onward.
I'll be blunt…
"OW! Don't touch that."
I was lucky.
"Oh quit whining, you big baby."
To recap the last hour, I woke up in Hino Rei's (Sailor Mars) room, almost escaped undetected, got chased a quarter mile, fought and killed Zoicite, and helped heal grampa. And paid for it.
I'm not in the greatest of shape. While I've had military training, I haven't been on that routine in over five years. And the entire sequence of events was one long blur of adrenaline as I knowingly pushed my body beyond its limits. If I didn't know any better, I'd say I probably tore several tendons and pulled a dozen more. Luckily, Washu's nanomachines were hard at work making my body feel like a summer roast.
In terms of actual battle DAMAGE, I think I did spectacularly well for my level of opponent. Zoicite managed to score only one hit on me, resulting in hitting a tree and landing on my shoulder. Still, the injuries were sensitive. And I was reminded of that as Rei pressed an ice pack to my back to ease the swelling.
Now, one would think that unloading a twelve gauge shotgun and detonating a grenade in the middle of downtown Tokyo, less than three miles from the Imperial Palace, would have the police swarming the area with swat teams…
Well, here's what happened.
Usagi… Pardon. SAILOR MOON arrived, Luna in tow, about four minutes after we managed to get gramps back to his old bald self. The girl may be a klutz, but when powered up and leaping rooftops, she can make good time for one lacking any kind of vehicle. When she got there, ready to start zapping bad guys, she almost started spouting her love and justice speech at me… I got a kick out of watching her freak out when I started talking to her by name.
Luna realized first that I was trying not to laugh my ass off over it and tried her best to get answers out of me. I didn't exactly feel like playing Twenty Questions with a self-important feline, no matter how dire her mission might be for this world. You know, having just finished a very stressful fight… So I told her to buzz off, or I'd feed her to my pit-bull. (Not that my lazy dog would bother even getting up…)
Luna didn't like that, and showed surprising boldness in trying to threaten me with her teeth and claws the same way she'd threatened Usagi on occasion. Unfortunately, the wannabe cougar was easily plucked off of me by the scruff of her neck. At which point she simply glared angrily at me as I dangled her helplessly in the air. It was kind of funny to watch a cat simulate folding her arms over her chest in an unamused fashion with her front legs as she did. In at least a half-assed attempt at diplomacy, I simply told her that her questions would be answered when I didn't feel like a map that had been wrung out a dozen times.
Now, I'm not sure if it's just the world I was in, or what. But despite the amount of time since I fired my first shot, the police had yet to show up. In fact, it was several more minutes before law enforcement finally responded to the disturbance. Something about this world must have the local police force response times nerfed badly. It always seemed the Senshi could have near epic superbattles and law enforcement, let alone the military, never seemed to show up. Not even post-battle…
And even then, you'd figure that with whatever amounts in Japan to 'Shots Fired', they'd respond with more than two patrol cars.
Rei had instructed me to go back inside the shrine building and stay quiet in her room. Something I complied with quite nicely, knowing I didn't really feel like getting dragged away by Tokyo's boys in blue.
For thirty minutes, I tried to make out what was being said outside. Unfortunately, the paper-thin walls are only on the inside of the building, not the external walls. When things quieted down, and Rei returned to her room with Usagi (now in plainclothes) in tow, she informed me that she'd gotten her grandfather into bed with the help of the police, and given them a story on the attack.
Well, from the basic idea of the story, she'd explained that they were attacked by a crazy person matching Ex-General Zoicite's physical description. Clever move… And that this person seemed to be acting on the rumors that had been circulated about the shrine from a few months back when the buses had been vanishing. In short, she'd thrown them a conspiracy nut fabrication.
Apparently, the 'attacker' ran for it after he thought he'd killed grampa. Who was only 'injured' by debris from one of his attacks.
The police bought it, so it seems. They scouted the grounds with flashlights, picked up a number of the shotgun shells that had been left scattered around the scene, catalogued the damage caused from the shooting and grenade blast, helped Rei get her grandfather to bed, and left. Apparently they took her word on it that he didn't need to get carted off to the Emergency Room, or checked he was okay, or… something.
Flipping on her bedroom light, the Senshi got her first real clear look at me.
I assure you that compared to the fight with Motoko, it looked worse than it was. I was covered in scratches from scrambling up the hill, Keitaro's pants were torn in several places, that slipper was still missing, I had several bruises on my arms where I'd tumbled from both Zoicite's attack and tackling Mars down the stairs, and I had a bit of a stubble. Yeah, I haven't had a shave in over a day. At least I didn't STINK this time.
So the result of that was that Rei instantly insisted on getting me cleaned up. I tried to explain that I would be fine with a little water, and that I looked worse than I was, but that stubborn girl simply WOULD NOT take no for an answer. Usagi only made things worse by somehow managing to tap me on the shoulder for a question, and found exactly where it hurt. Rei simply used that as fuel for an 'I told you so' look.
Fine… I'm too tired to argue anyw- NO! I mustn't fall asleep!
Thus, I found myself, shirt off, being doted on inexplicably by a girl who barely an hour ago, was prepared to kick my ass up and down Tokyo.
While she was busy acting like an overbearing nurse (the type that made you wonder if intimidation was part of the curriculum), I had to keep half an eye on Usagi. My gear was now on the floor. And every time I took my eyes off it, she began to make a beeline for the Mossberg. Just think about what kind of problem that would be in the hands of someone as clueless as Usagi.
Luna however, seemed to have some sense and parked herself nicely between the blond, and the pouch containing one remaining M-67 Frag Grenade, and one M18A1 Claymore Mine. Usagi wasn't as technologically inept as Minako was. (Usagi being a video game junkie and mangaphile…) But I'm certain that Usagi, plus explosives, equals EVERYBODY DIES…
"That's not a toy," I had to finally say about the fifth time she'd started to creep towards the shotgun.
"Oh I know," she chirped innocently. "I just wanted to get a better look at-"
"Perhaps I didn't make it clear the first time," I stated in a baritone. "That. Is not. A Toy."
I had no patience left, tired, sore, and jittery as I was at this point. I know I was running on half a cylinder at best, but I also knew that if I so much as closed my eyes, I'd be off in la-la land, and end up who-knows-where.
"Just leave it alone," Rei commented matter-of-factly from behind me. It idly struck me that she didn't so much as use her usual exasperated tone. "That… Thing is very powerful."
"It's just a shotgun," I suddenly responded, downplaying the weapon. "It's nasty, but I wouldn't call it very powerful."
"But you…" she began, then stopped. Apparently she didn't want to finish that one.
"What happened?" Luna spoke up for the first time since entering the room. I can't believe I'm in the same room with a talking cat. That's just cool- man what's wrong with me? I can't stay focused anymore.
Usagi looked between the three of us as the silence grew tense.
"What happened?" she asked in an innocently curious tone.
"He," Rei tried to choke out. "Zoicite…"
"Tell me!" The blond was bubbling with excitement. Luna's eyes suddenly widened as she connected the dots.
"I killed him," I stated blankly. "I killed Zoicite."
Usagi's expression crossed between confused, and surprised.
"YOU?" Luna asked incredulously. "That's absolutely INCREDIBLE!"
Incredible? For the first time, the whole thing clicked right into place.
"Hardly," I returned. "The guy's attacks were predictable. I figured out what he was doing, and met him half way. The hardest part was the teleport until I realized I could hear it. And the rest was simply that despite all the flash, he just wasn't immune to bits of metal ripping through him at high speed."
The clarity of it... I remembered my train of thought exactly. Keep him off center, listen, locate, fire, pump, fire… The general had withstood his shoulder taking a hit, and managed to survive point blank with a hand grenade. The only way to make sure that piece of filth would never hurt anyone ever again was too…
STOP. Listen to yourself. That was the BAD guy. Zoicite was the villain of a thousand backstabs. A monster in human form... Pull yourself together before you end up in an institution and think for a few seconds. You're probably suffering from post-mortem shock… Zoicite was a monster. Monsters need killing. End of Story.
"I blew his head off," I glared venomously at the wall. "The last thing that went through that monster's mind was a shotgun blast."
"Are you okay?" Usagi asked. "Your voice got scary…" And just like that, everything was heavy again. I sighed.
"Just don't touch the gun," I tiredly indicated the Mossberg. "It can kill a Dark General, imagine what it could do to you."
Usagi backed away from the weapon like it was radioactive.
"There's no way it could be that easy," Luna picked up at last. "Zoicite is a cunning foe, and to be defeated by a mere human with should be impossible, no offense."
"Easy?" I asked, feeling slightly offended all of a sudden. "Look at me- OW"
Q-tip with peroxide just found a cut…
"Do I look like I had it easy?" I continued. "If I have to fight another one of those psychotic bastards, it'll be from five miles away with a hellfire missile. I've never fought like that in my life, and I hope I'll never have to again."
Luna stared at me long and hard, then suddenly said something unexpected.
"You're tired," the feline indicated. "You're having moods swings just like Lazy Bones over here…"
"I don't have Mood Swings," Usagi quipped.
"I've been awake for over twenty five hours," I squeezed my eyes shut and rubbed my head. Man, I was getting a headache. "I think, every time I try to sleep, I end up jumping to different worlds. This has been the fourth time I've done this, and if it keeps up much longer, I'm going to land in a situation, I can't talk or fight my way out of."
This time, all three stared at me quietly.
"Is that what you meant right before…" Rei began.
"I tried to take a nap," I commanded with a nod. "The next thing I know, I'm in your bed."
Again, they stared.
"That's really weird," Usagi said at length.
"So as soon as you go to sleep, you end up some place you shouldn't be, and someone wakes you up," Luna tilted her head in that way only a cat can do.
"Violently," I added, then cringed as a fresh Q-tip found another cut. "The really strange part is that I know the worlds I wake up in…"
"Know?" Usagi asked.
"Back home," I waved vaguely to the side. "Each world is nothing more than fiction. Even you guys, are little more than an anime."
"I have my own show!?" I swear Usagi about lit up like a Christmas tree. Inwardly, I realized I should have avoided telling them about the fictional part.
"So that's how you know so much," Rei blinked in understanding. "You know everything…"
I laughed. Well, I made a kind of short snort that was more or less a laugh.
Usagi nearly tackled me, causing Rei to jump back trying not to swear.
"You've got to get a tape for me! Please! Pretty please!"
"Get off him you idiot!" Rei snapped. "He's in no condition for this! What if you klutz out on him?"
"Oh you're just jealous because you don't have your own show," Usagi shot back with a grin.
"I am NOT jealous about having my own show in some other universe!" Rei countered.
As the argument that erupted started to degenerate, I shook my head to clear the lightheadedness I was feeling, and managed to disentangle from Usagi as she focused on her friend. As I recovered the Mo Dakka Fo Life shirt and threw it on, I started pointing at each girl in turn as she mouthed at the other, catching Luna's eye.
The bickering bobbed back and forth, barely functional arguments quickly getting ditched for petty insults. For which Rei was more verbally armed… At which point, I pointed at Usagi and mocked sticking out my tongue as Luna watched. Usagi did the same thing a moment later. Then I switched to Rei, who reciprocated. Then I stopped and pointed at Luna.
"Okay that's enough you two," the feline snapped, trying to hide a smirk at my antics. Part of my brain idly mulled over the human faces the cat was making.
"Hey, I'm not done yet," Rei stated as I started strapping the tactical webbing back on. I still haven't counted what I had left.
"I'll be fine," I commented. I had to get on my feet. As much as moving was starting to hurt a little. If I didn't stay in motion, I'd fall asleep where I stood. I had to keep busy, keep moving. I couldn't risk jumping to wherever in this kind of shape…
Still, a twelve-hour nap would be nice.
"You're barely standing," Rei pointed out.
"I'm trying not to fall asleep," I responded, letting the implications of that statement sink in.
"YOU just want to get his shirt off again, don't you?" Usagi teased. I swear... She had no sense of crisis. (I think Luna even said that to her once…) I ignored the conversation as Rei paused to look at her friend. It was enough to give Usagi more fuel for the tease turbine as she throttled it up to N1.
"Why would I want to do that?" Rei huffed at her friend while I bent over to retrieve my explosives.
"Something I'd like to know too," Luna muttered at herself while I happened to be right next to her. I slowly turned my head to the cat, then yanked the little pack of extreme destruction up and away.
"You like him, don't you?" the blond continued in an ever more playful voice. "He was all heroic and brave, wasn't he?"
"Y-you didn't see how he fought!" Rei snapped back, turning a shade red before turning pale. "He-"
"Was you knight in shining armor, wasn't he?" Usagi half teased, half wistfully sighed. I decided not to touch this one with a thirty-nine and a half-foot pole and instead, started counting rounds.
While Usagi did her best to corner her best friend, Luna watched me curiously as I picked up the Mossberg, put it on safe, and started placing rounds on the stock rail. Stopping just a moment to remind myself to turn so I wasn't covering them with the barrel, I did a quick count of what was left on the webbing, and finished by thumbing a few rounds into the chamber.
Between what was already in the weapon, and what I had on me, I had thirty rounds left. I had used almost half my combat load on that one fight.
"I happen to have a boyfriend!" I heard Rei continue as my ever-diminishing attention span picked up what she was saying.
"Oh but I saw how you were looking at him," Usagi teased. The girl was ruthless.
"He helped me save my GRAMPA!" Rei was getting a little flushed. "Not that someone like you who was late would-"
The argument died in the air before Rei could finish her scathing remark as they all looked at me in surprise.
"What?" I asked, and placed one last round in the tube, then realized how it must have looked. "Oh, don't mind me… One in the chamber, five in the tube, five on the rail, I've pain on sale…"
Did I really just say that?
"You could learn a thing or two from him," Luna piped up. "He's already preparing for the next fight. Something you should be doing."
"Oh, you're no fun Luna," Usagi moaned. Yeah, serious cat is serious.
"I may not be any fun," the feline continued. "But then again, when was the last time you took out an enemy commander?"
Usagi mulled on it, looking slightly guilty.
"I didn't think so," Luna continued, secure in her argument. "I expect you to take after his example if you hope to defeat the Dark Kingdom and find the Moon Princess."
I snorted ever so slightly as my brain fired the right neuron to realize the irony in Luna's statement. Of course, they didn't know USAGI was the princess yet. Oh, I could almost imagine the jaw-drops already if I told them. But I won't…
"What are you smiling about?" Rei asked.
"Hmm?" I began. "Oh, nothing, just how right Luna is."
At my seeming praise, the cat seemed to hold herself in a more regal posture.
"Hey!" Usagi asked. "He knows us right?"
Oh great, now was a wonderful time for princess bunny of the moon to actually show us that she was pretty smart when she needed to be.
"Why don't we just ask him who the princess is?"
I quickly thought up an excuse as Luna gaped at the girl in surprise.
"That's actually a good idea," she gaped. "See? He's already having a good influence on you."
Luna turned to me and stared at me for a moment, then asked.
"So, what do you know?"
"Couldn't tell you," I lied. "They haven't finished the series yet."
The cat's formal posture evaporated.
"So much for that idea…"
Usagi's stomach growled, which got us all looking at her as one.
"Eh…" she shrunk away with an unsteady laugh. "I guess I'm hungry."
To tell the truth, so was I. I know I only ate what for me was something like two hours ago. But anyone who's ever had a workout knows you get a little bit hungry. Plus there WAS Washu's standing order to consider. And the way my legs were wobbly and I could feel the shakes coming on; my blood sugar was probably going through the floor.
"I could slap us a breakfast together if you've got eggs," I offered. An excuse to keep moving, an excuse for food, plus a defacto payment for my meal, all at once…
Rei looked at her clock for a moment. Quarter to six.
"I guess we can do that," she shrugged. "You can cook?"
Can I cook? CAN I COOK? Okay, I'm no iron chef, but any idiot can cook eggs. Plus, I'm not an anime character working on their physical laws. I do not suffer from the Epic Win and Epic Fail division of cooking skills. If you want to get into the list of things I can and cannot cook in life, the only thing I have failed at so far has been making eggroll wraps from scratch. How the hell do they get those things so thin?
Anyway, the shrine building actually had a kitchen, believe it or not. You know... You expect these temples to be some kind of bass-ackwards place, but people had to live in them. So they had to have SOME form of food preparation area. Rei wasn't a Tibetan Monk; she didn't subsist on incense.
So after a few minutes of familiarizing myself with the place, finding one of those half-sized mini fridges on the counter (with a very quiet compressor), and getting set up, I set about making scrambled eggs. Easy, easy, EASY meal… It required next to no thinking, and the portioning was a cinch. Three for me, because I'm the biggest, three for Usagi, because she eats like a horse, two for Rei, because she doesn't, and one for Luna because it would be mean not to feed the cat. Nine in total... I'd have to figure out a way to restock nearly a dozen eggs for her.
And I made the eggs very quickly. I had too. It was all I could do to stay awake now. Every time I slowed down, I could feel my body turn into a lead weight. Had to stay awake.
Usagi wanted toast, so Rei fixed her toast. I was tempted to have some myself, but remembered all the times I fixed eggs that I was a toast fiend. And that starch would pretty much finish me off in terms of making me tired.
While Rei did a quick check on her Grandfather sleeping in the other room, Usagi decided she was going to try and help. I ran her over, more or less.
"Get out-the way," I had stated in English.
Rei returned and finished bumping the road kill bunny out of the kitchen again before adding just a bit more to the meal in the form of some reheated leftover rice. Oh god, more starch. Still, she knew her way around her own kitchen better than I did. And managed to avoid my rather territorial kitchen habits as my workspace (and mess) slowly expanded.
By the time we were done, it was probably just rolling on six.
"Not bad," she smirked as I set out four plates of food.
"I can do better," I shrugged, but smiled at the compliment. There's a bit of showoff in me still, though at this point, it was buried under a layer of suppressed cynicism, and pragmatic sarcasm.
Usagi wasted no time in tearing into the meal. Rei had started to make a snide comment on how Usagi would just casually eat other people's food with little care, but stopped mid sentence to look off to the side.
I don't know what it was, but I figured it had to be something in the 'relevant to the plot' category. It also seemed to grab at Luna's attention.
Usagi actually noticed only after we'd all froze in silence for several seconds…
"What?" she asked.
Implications caught up with me, and I was out of my spot with a spin, pulling the Mossberg off my shoulder where I had looped the strap as I quickly made my way towards the front, where Rei had been looking. Rei was on my tail a moment later, followed up by Usagi within' seconds.
I held my hand up as we approached the main entrance, indicating for them to hold back. I could see Rei already fishing her little transformation pen out as I slowed down and stalked up to the entrance, thumbing the safety on the Mossberg.
The glow in the eastern sky above the trees gave a little more light to the otherwise dark temple grounds, but as I leaned slowly around the corner, I saw it. The gray and white cape, and the silver hair...
Kunzite… My blood ran could. He WOULD use a shield.
I ducked back and looked at the two senshi for a moment, held a finger to my mouth, pointed at my eyes, and held up one finger. Then I slowly crept towards the door, mossy coming up to eye level as I did so, and braced myself up against the door.
Kunzite was standing where Zoicite had fallen, and as I watched down my sights, the general reached down and picked up a few of the remaining cherry blossoms that had been left. Then he slowly surveyed the area. You could see the battle damage a little now. Splintered bits of tree trunk, pockmarks in the brick walkways. It was obvious a serious fight had occurred.
The difference between the two was that where Zoicite had been a low down sneaky sadistic bastard, Kunzite was a ruthless powerhouse. And the only reason I didn't try to send him right along to meet up with Zoicite in the afterlife was because I knew, that it was too risky after the battle I fought to try and push my luck with another major firefight if I screwed up here. So I just kept my weapon trained, just in case.
Vaguely I was aware of the other two just out of sight behind me, staring.
Kunzite stared at the blossoms in his hand, turning it over slowly to let it dump into an almost non-existent wind, spreading them out as they scattered. Then he gazed around again, and walked over to where I had unloaded as many rounds on Zoicite as I could to try and take him down, watched the silver haired general lean down, and pick up something dark, yet shiny. When he stood up again, he seemed to squeeze the object tightly before glancing around again, his gaze only just missing me in the dark of the entrance. And then with a quiet pop, he was gone.
It took about ten seconds before I began to relax again, but I finally lowered the Mossberg and put it on safe.
"Well?" I almost jumped as Luna spoke.
"Kunzite," I nodded. "And he, is, pissed."
"How could you tell?" Usagi asked.
"How can you tell when your mother is about to kill you for horrible test grades?" I asked.
"Er…" Usagi gulped, but nodded.
"If you encounter him in battle," I cautioned. "Don't even make a PEEP about Zoicite. Because if he flips out… Ah man. You run the other way and don't look back."
My tactical advice given, I tried my best to take my mind off the possibility of fighting that powerhouse, quickly returning to breakfast. The food had the instant affect of cheering Usagi right back up from the grim atmosphere I had seemingly produced.
Now, for the most part, I hadn't really put much thought past the girl beyond her basic personality traits. But now that I had time to examine her, I realized quite obviously, that with her… It was the simple things in life. Her friends, food, video games… It made her seem very simple-minded, but it also made her less inclined to get into the complex problems of other people. That seeming obliviousness made her real good at making friends. A simple, romantically inclined worldview.
Yep, she was a princess.
Once we finished eating, I did the dishes, fighting to stay awake as best as I could. I'm not sure how much longer I could hold out. My body was getting stiff, and I had to pace to keep from dozing on my feet.
"You really don't look so good," Luna had commented as I circled the shrine building for the umpteenth time. It was going on six-thirty. I think I was around twenty-eight, to thirty hours without sleep. Rei was preparing for school, and Usagi had raced home to prepare herself before her family realized she wasn't there. Luna had stayed to keep an eye on me.
"I'm slowly losing my mind," I commented at the feline. "If I go to sleep, I jump. If I jump, I have to go through this all over again."
"You can't fight it forever," the feline advised. "From what I've seen, you've all but pushed yourself to your limit. If you don't find a way to get some sleep…"
I nodded. And had to shake my head to keep it from spinning. The cat was right. At this rate, I was going to drop, and there would be nothing left in me for the next world. I couldn't fight it forever.
I turned to Luna as she jumped up on the counter next to me, turning her head to look me in the eye with a rather irritated expression.
"Hey," she swatted me across the nose. "Wake up…"
But I'm not asleep.