Duo groaned, his head feeling as though a ton of bricks had been tied to it as it wobbled from side to side in pain. He could hear voices, or rather, a single voice but it echoed viciously through his skull that it felt as though he were centered in a room packed with socialites.
He could hardly remember what he was doing before he had fallen into this strange slumber but when blue hair shot through his vision, he was immediately reminded of the surprise blow to his head from the seemingly harmless teacher who wasn't so harmless after all. He grunted, the sound alerting her immediately as those calculating blue eyes shot straight to him.
She didn't look so innocent now and he wondered how he could have overlooked that wise gaze that meticulously planned future moves by the second. Careful and fluid like the steady stream of water in a quiet lake, she moved across the room to stop at the corner where he had now seen the door. It was a deep midnight violet with a circular peephole centered towards the top. Smooth paint remained unstained and perfect, a reflection of the condition of the room he currently inhabited. There was absolutely no mistaking that this had been her home.
"Amateur," he muttered under his breath, dropping his head down and releasing a frustrated sigh.
He was now suddenly pained by the realization that Wufei's jab at his instincts not being as sharp as they used to be might actually have some merit. To think that he had been kidnapped by a petite woman who had blubbered an apology and dragged him to her own home for capture did more than bruise his ego, it might possibly throw him into a deep depression.
Still, no matter how injured his ego had become, it could do nothing to stop the onslaught of questions that arose from the moment he realized that Ami Mizuno wasn't quite what she appeared to be.
"Is she some kind of experiment?"
It was the first question to escape his parched lips and his mind reeled with scenarios as he anticipated a response.
"I'm sorry?" Ami had replied sounding genuinely confused. For some reason, this had angered Duo enough for him to muster a glare that bore into her pale skin.
"Rei Hino," he snapped. "Is she a product of your doing or did you find her with hellish powers beforehand?"
Ami scoffed, frowning through her slight hurt that such an accusation could be made. To be quite honest she hadn't known if she was bothered by the way that he spoke of Rei as if she wasn't human or if she had been offended that he'd assume she'd use her intellect for some mad scientist vendetta. Either way, her skin crawled with irritation as a pensive frown pushed her lips southbound and as a natural habit, her arms had folded over her chest.
"It seems I've overestimated your investigative skill," she remarked rather coldly. All prior regret had fled from her as she was immediately reminded that sympathy towards a kidnapped soldier would do nothing in her favor. Kidnapping him may not have been a plan that she fully supported but she had gone through with it anyways and there was no turning back. "You don't know nearly as much as I had originally thought."
Duo's unforgiving gaze studied her firm expression and he grew to believe her words were truth, as she frigidly remained posted by the door. If his question was a complete miss, then what detail had he overlooked that could piece this mystery together?
"Mind filling me in," he dully replied, again perturbed by the idea that he had severely underestimated her involvement in this entire operation.
She frowned, scoffing slightly and unconsciously brushing strands of hair from her eyes.
"This is not a briefing," she blandly stated. "And I am not your informant."
It was silent afterwards.
Duo's indigo gaze burned cinders into Ami's skin as her ice blue stare chilled his bones. It was certainly perplexing how he could have missed this calloused side of the doctor, which merited little leeway and plenty of arduously thought out strategy.
He would think to yell and scream to alert the neighbors but he reasoned that Ami would have gagged him if she thought it were necessary. Besides, she had been living here for years. There was no telling what type of rapport she had with her neighbors. Sweet, intelligent, and petite Ami could never be guilty of such a heinous crime like kidnapping. It was simply impossible!
Oh how he would love to see her ignorant neighbors' reactions to this incriminating scene…
They both seemed startled by the high-pitched ring of the telephone and Ami slightly hesitated before walking to intercept the call.
"Hello," she steadily answered, her eye trained towards Duo's tied up position.
He took notice of the blue jean shorts she wore with a loosely fitted v-neck shirt that matched the pristine white color of her ankle socks. For someone so ordinary looking, she sure had a large closet of secrets, the first being the kidnapped man in her living room. The others, well, he couldn't imagine what those could be quite yet.
"I'm terribly sorry," she said, running a hand through her short blue mane in slight distress. "But I'm afraid I won't be able to return to work for some time. My father isn't as well as I had hoped so my hands are a bit tied up."
Duo snorted. "You mean my hands are tied," he growled. "Why don't you tell them the truth, babe? I'm sure they'll give you vacation leave to tend to your prisoner."
Her eyes narrowed and the temperature dropped, disturbing Duo enough to make him shiver. In a brief second he could've sworn he saw her eyes gloss over with ice before returning to their same shade of blue but he shook it away in disbelief. Then again, weeks earlier he was introduced to speaking cats and Rei turned out to be a fire-breather while Haruka had a special trick of her own. So who was to say that Ami wasn't somehow involved in all this?
"Its some sort of mental disorder affecting the frontal lobe," she explained through the phone, "so his temperament has been quite unpredictable."
"Shit," Duo cursed, his head lowering in frustration. He could hear the woman on the other end sending her condolences to the undeserving doctor with a father who was supposedly ill. No matter what he decided to say, Ami would explain it away without falter and the receiver of her lies would accept her words without hesitation.
"Thank you, Namade-san. I do appreciate your concern," she spoke sweetly but her lips were frowning, eyes still glued to Duo.
"You've thought this out for a while, haven't you?" He whispered to himself, taking a deep breath and forcing himself to calm down. With a kidnapper of her character, getting riled up would not get him free. He had to play her game and try to outthink her.
The world-renowned charity ball was fast approaching. What grew to be a monumental event for some, who had marked the day excitedly in red on their calendars, was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode for the Preventers.
High profile celebrities, senators, wealthy businessmen and women were just a few classes that were expected to attend, Quatre R. Winner being among them. Even musicians and artists such as Vincent M. Fernad, Andréa Bocelli and the ever-elegant Michiru Kaiou were on the guest list, which had earned even more attention to the already star-studded cast.
However, neither Bocelli's angelic tenor nor Kaiou's heartbreaking violin melodies could surpass the buzz flittering around about the expected arrival of one Relena Dorlian Peacecraft. If it wasn't merely her name that had won rapid media coverage, then it was her announcement months prior that she would be auctioning off the most coveted diamond of the new age: The Diamond of Hope.
Its chiseled hexadecimal shape was fascinating to the eye and it had a substantial fan base just waiting to take it. A jewel no larger than three inches in diameter had been responsible for achieving the highest R.S.V.P.'s to the annual ball since its first creation. Collectors were lined up and ready to throw money at the Peacecraft family heirloom that could only be given away by Relena herself. Hence, her absence would breed nothing less than a riot upon the Sanq kingdom grounds, which harbored the Preventer's primary dilemma.
Relena was still amiss.
Frantically, the Preventers raced against time, Milliardo anxiously trying to devise a way to keep people unaware of the truth. The diamond was well in his reach, but his eligibility to give away such a precious stone was forfeit when he had signed away his claim to the Peacecraft fortune left behind by his parents.
Quickly it seemed that he was beginning to regret his noble gesture that resulted from a wish he had for his sister to be taken care of and supported through her efforts since he had grown to trust her judgment more than he had sometimes trusted his own.
The one thing he had done, was dress for the occasion. Noin attempted to ease some of his nerves with words of encouragement but her shaking hands as she folded his tie were hard to excuse. As it stood, he would be attending the ball spreading the small rumor that Ms. Peacecraft was feeling ill in the morning and mentioning that she may not be in attendance. Meanwhile, the Preventer's Corps would be scurrying across the background trying to find a plan to keep the truth of Relena's disappearance hidden.
Milliardo had left the primary preparations behind the scenes to Wufei and Heero while Quatre and Trowa attended the high profile ball. Trowa would be a guard and Quatre would be working undercover while keeping up his public appearances.
Even Setsuna Meiou had been included in this ploy, her expertise with security systems and analyzing body language and the like were precious tools to Milliardo, as he grudgingly allowed Setsuna's high school intern to come along.
How Milliardo would avoid the unfolding of his lies about his sister was a heart-trembling question. Nevertheless, he would persist as though nothing had happened and that his sister was in deed sick like he said.
"Oh dear, is it the flu?" asked an elderly woman with a concerned frown.
Milliardo shrugged. "I can't be sure. The doctor, however, was there all morning evaluating her. I would have asked for her diagnosis except I was busy with other tasks."
"Oh my," she replied, shaking her head from side to side. "I do hope she has sense enough to stay in bed if she is too ill to attend. Her health is certainly more important than that silly diamond!"
Milliardo smiled appreciatively. "I share the same feeling," he said with a nod and she was off, socializing with the next person who fit her fancy.
It seemed the small rumor was met with mixed feelings. Those in attendance knew they should be worried for Relena's health, some actually genuine in their concern, but many were noticeably fretful over the idea that because of her health issues, the auction of the coveted Diamond of Hope might be postponed. He sighed, nodding towards those that passed and unconsciously searched for a corner of the gathering that harbored the least amount of attention.
Quatre R. Winner could be seen towards the center of the room. His pristine and sleek tuxedo only amplified the angelic hue of his soft blonde mane that handsomely accented his sea blue gaze. His charm was sweet, the smooth skin of his face inviting as the smile alighting his features remained taut and unwavering. The solid build of his shoulders were easily kept unnoticed amidst his calm demeanor, and even the tense muscles beneath his expensive attire were unseen as he expertly kept conversation amongst the crowd.
From the corner of his eye he could see Trowa milling around unnoticed through groups of guests that somehow never seemed to notice his tall frame unless he merited it be so. He disappeared in moments behind a wall and Quatre suddenly found his periphery skimming to the exotic Setsuna Meiou whom he had little knowledge of.
Supposedly, she had done many spectacular things in the past that had won Milliardo's favor, else he doubted the platinum blonde would have worked so hard to get her name on the guest list. Which reminded him…
"Hotaru Tomoe is a promising young botanist," Quatre introduced, cordially directing his peers' attention to the young violet haired girl beside him.
"She has been awarded the Winner's Future Leaders scholarship which includes an internship. This is the first time I've had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with students so she's had to suffer through my inexperience with this sort of arrangement."
It wasn't his best explanation but it sufficed and he knew it as soon as the woman happily shook hands with Hotaru.
"How darling," she exclaimed in regards to Hotaru whose cheeks had reddened slightly.
Quatre chuckled in amusement, nodding in agreement. The young violet-haired woman rose to a meager 5 feet 4 inches but her slender features made her look taller than she truly was. Her hair neatly fell in a straight line above her shoulders, light lavender eyes standing out like crystals against the dark pallet of her bangs. She donned a lilac knee-length dress that accentuated her fragile stature. Hence, it was no wonder why Quatre had felt somewhat responsible for keeping her safe amongst the crowd of high-society members with large egos.
She didn't really need his help though. Even without his accompaniment he was certain she'd be able to fare quite well in this setting, which was shown in the way she interacted with a dazzling elegance he hadn't expected to find.
"Is she nothing more than just a promising intern?" Lady Elizabeth of the southern hemisphere had asked with a devious nudge to Quatre's ribcage.
He grabbed his side in surprise and gave half a smile, nearly ready to make a proper response.
"Well, from what I gather, Miss Tomoe is only about 16 years old," spoke an authoritative and pristine voice, sweeping in like a giant wave that threatened to wipe out all in its path if unwisely approached. "Meaning Mr. Winner would be accused of fraternizing with a minor, if this relationship were anything more than he has stated and I doubt that he would douse in such a heinous thing especially given his remarkable reputation, wouldn't you agree?"
"Michiru-sama," Hotaru muttered beneath her breath, hiding her astonishment quickly as she glanced towards Quatre who was now frowning.
Lady Elizabeth was baffled.
"Oh, of course not," she replied, fanning herself profusely as the tension rose amongst them. "My apologies, Mr. Winner, I never meant to accuse you of such a crime."
"There's no need for apologies," Quatre assured with a smile. "It was an honest mistake."
"Of course," Michiru agreed with a sparkling smile. "But it is a mistake that could tarnish an entire family's reputation. Such deeds should be avoided at all costs. But that's only my own personal philosophy, others may believe otherwise…"
Hotaru frowned, noticing the unmistakable sting of Michiru's words. Something wasn't right but Hotaru didn't have to think long to know what was bothering the aquamarine-haired musician.
"You are perfectly right," Lady Elizabeth blubbered afterwards. Discomfort permeated her entire body and as soon as she was granted time to speak she immediately shot to escape.
"Now, it was such a delight to be able to meet with you all. If you'd excuse me, I do believe I see my husband calling me over to meet his associates. Have a splendid evening!"
"And the same to you, Lady Elizabeth," Quatre replied.
Michiru respectfully bowed as a farewell, Hotaru doing the same. As she walked off, the three were left to their own accord.
"Kaiou-san," Quatre started with an apprehensive nod. "I am a big fan of your music. Will you be playing this evening?" He spoke so fluently, acting as though there were no disturbance among them.
"I don't believe so," she said plainly. "But the night is still young and the future is certainly malleable. There is no telling what could possibly happen before the end of the evening, now is there, Hotaru?"
The young teen stiffened, feeling the pressure of the situation rising around her. A glance towards Quatre, however, had shocked her, his eyes concerned as he watched her carefully. Had he felt the pressure too?
"Not that I am aware of," Hotaru responded.
"You two know each other?" Quatre curiously asked.
"Yes, through Setsuna," Michiru answered in a single breath, placing a gentle hand upon Hotaru's shoulder that made the younger girl uncomfortable. "Speaking of which, have you seen her here at all? I was hoping to catch up with my dear old friend but I haven't had the fortune of finding her quite yet…"
Hotaru gulped, now fully aware of the bitterness in Michiru's voice.
"I do believe I last saw her by the auction house," Quatre cut in curtly, having half a mind to inconspicuously sweep Michiru's red-knuckled hand from Hotaru's pale shoulder. Somehow he had managed to refrain himself.
"Is that so?" Michiru replied, glancing to her younger peer and back to the cordial President of the Winner foundation.
"Yes," Hotaru affirmed. "She was meandering around a few items that had caught her eye…"
Michiru scoffed, removing her chilling hand from the girl and slightly smirking.
"I'm willing to bargain that an ancient relic has managed to captivate her attention. Those prehistoric artifacts have always fascinated her…"
Hotaru smiled wryly as if to agree and Quatre was again the perfect conversationalist, making the situation seem casual and lax though Hotaru had known they were standing on pins and needles.
"Mr. Winner, it was a pleasure. Do make sure to take care of Miss Tomoe, but not too much care…" she insinuated with a slightly amused smirk.
Hotaru was unenthused by Michiru's wry behavior. Then again, Hotaru couldn't entirely put her at fault given the truth that was looming just above their heads concerning Haruka…
"Have a wonderful evening," Quatre bowed, his hand gently touching Hotaru's surprised shoulder. She gave a small jump, but smothered it with a discrete nod.
Michiru was gliding through the crowd before Hotaru had even had the opportunity to say goodbye, but she doubted that mattered. The senshi hardly ever had eternal farewells. Reuniting was as inevitable as the sun rising and setting each day. Her sharp violet orbs trailed after the aquamarine tresses swaying behind cream shoulders until they disappeared behind a wall.
Rei's lungs felt as though they were constricting with every breath she took, her body shaking dangerously as if threatening to go mute at any given moment. Her hands trembled with rage but by then the numbing sensation of pain had won over while her eyes struggled to stay focused. For hours it seemed she had been hunched over on the damp concrete flooring of her cell, just staring at the back of her hands as they lay plastered against the ground.
Dirt settled in the crevices of her fingernails, blood leaving jagged trails along her once clean palms until they climbed up her wrists to lead to the trickling paths that stemmed from various new wounds. Fire burned relentlessly within her soul but somehow she still had a reserve of patience pooling even deeper than she had expected.
"Being stubborn won't benefit you now."
Those words made her scoff, even amongst the mind-numbing pain and her feelings of injustice. Amused, she lifted her gaze, grinning slightly as she stared into his dull blue eyes.
"In truth," she laughed, teetering on the verge of restraint and the complete release of inhibition, "it should be me saying that to you."
He didn't seem too amused about her statement; rather, he remained monotonous with a blank stare and nerves of steel. She had seen firsthand why so many soldiers around the precinct had walked in fear around him and quite frankly she couldn't blame them.
Though he hadn't harnessed a natural control of some magnificent element like she had, he was still plenty intimidating. She only wondered how long he had gone with his limitless skill and soul of black.
He scoffed, his shoes clicking against the hard floor until the exit slid open for his departure. As soon as the metal doors had shut, Rei felt herself exhale in relief, the weight of her body dropping as she nearly let herself collapse onto the floor.
She knew they were probably watching her through the camera feeds but she at least took pride in the fact that she hadn't completely faltered directly in front of their eyes. She winced slightly as she slowly eased herself onto the concrete flooring, her breath staggered and far different than its normal pattern.
It had been quiet at the Preventer's headquarters but she assumed it was due to the big ball at the Sanq kingdom. Meanwhile, Heero and who she sensed was Wufei were left to try and squeeze answers from her.
She gave them what she could, telling them that she was a rebel and had defied her master's orders in favor of the humans. She explained that she was trying to retrieve Relena herself with Haruka's aid but was unsuccessful.
She cringed. It still pained her to think what might have come of her sandy blonde friend. She tried so hard to be optimistic , to believe that Haruka had survived but when recalling the condition that she was left in and the ferocity of the carnivores, she knew it was foolish to be so naïve. Haruka was a great soldier, but even she had her limits.
Angrily, Rei sent a fist flat into the ground, heaving with labored breath as she felt the sting of tears in her eyes. She should've never left Haruka in that cave alone.
Staying behind to trifle with the carnivores seemed much less deflating than remaining captive to the Preventers who had dismissed her supposed betrayal and treated her as enemy number one. She could see the fear in their eyes, that tormenting mistrust festering into a solid resolve not to listen to her. They had no intent to reform her or to make her an ally or friend. No. What they wanted was information and as soon as they had exhausted all that was possible from her, she was certain they intended to kill her if possible.
With a deflated sigh, she lay herself flat on her back, no longer concerned with soiling her clothes with the blood she had shed. Her raven hair was matted together as it spread across the ground. There was a force piercing through the walls, a power that she found to be familiar but not of her own origin. A stern expression crossed her tired features, as her body started to resonate with heat.
Something was coming.
Setsuna was as elusive to Michiru as fire is to water. The cool droplets would try to meet with the burning flames but in the end they always just washed away the fire. Michiru imagined that this particular trait of her time-conscious friend was one that was likely to never fade.
With idle eyes, Michiru skimmed the various items up for auction spanning from the infamous pen used to sign the treaty between the colonies and Earth to the largely discussed Diamond of Hope.
A crowd had gathered around the diamond the entire evening save for this single moment where Michiru had found herself in solitude, unconsciously studying its curves and luster with her sea-brazen eyes.
It was a gorgeous jewel she had to admit. The way the light was reflected off its surface was reminiscent of the many shooting stars she had witnessed in the evening sky. Hence, it wasn't too difficult for her to imagine why so many had wanted it for themselves.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Her ears were perked by the velvety tone that melted over her skin in a striking manner. With a slight frown, she nodded, lifting the flute of wine to her lips for a sip.
"It is," she simply stated, her eyes still trained on the diamond.
It sparkled in that moment, almost as though it was taunting her like the presence of this sly stranger.
"The Diamond of Hope," he chided in wonderment. "They say it has the potential to bend men to its will just by its beauty," he said.
"Really," Michiru nonchalantly replied.
"Yes," he confirmed with a smirk, taking a step forward to place himself a mere step in front of her so she could see him in a better light.
The ethereal glow of his silvery white mane made her blood turn to ice, her grip tightening over her glass as she struggled to keep herself civil. Of course, his snide grin that shined even brighter than the diamond wasn't helping much.
"But I think you'd agree that the magnificence of this gem pales in comparison to a crystal with the actual power to conquer nations and bend men to its will through a much greater force…"
She scoffed, feeling her veins turn cold as an angered frown tugged at her lips. She was still beautiful, even with the venom prevalent in her eyes.
"Elios," Michiru acknowledged coldly. "I had never thought you to be a creature with a spine. You're quite brave to show your face in such a public place."
He chuckled, the deep baritone of his voice drifting across the stale air.
"Dear Princess of Neptune, you're still as lethal as the sea," he commented with a sip of his wine. "I'd expect nothing less from the daughter of Poseidon."
"Since you know me so well," Michiru softly spoke, "then you know I won't let you escape my sights."
He gave a genial smile, brazenly looking her in the eye as he wagged his forefinger in front of her ire-filled glare.
"Tsk, tsk," he teased. "I know you're angry, princess, but I doubt you'd sacrifice the life of your future queen for something so personal like revenge…"
Michiru's jaw clenched, her stalled movement an indication that she was tamed by that statement alone. He had to laugh at the fact that the senshi could be halted so easily, their queen's life always the most important priority that trumped their own personal goals.
To be bound by duty was a marvelous thing, a concept that he had always found to be so fascinating…
"What do you want?" Michiru icily questioned, averting her gaze anywhere else but at his expressions of delight. Restraint was not an easy task for her and she struggled with holding back especially when she was so close to the key source of this sudden disturbance.
"To talk," he answered with a relaxed shrug.
Her eyes flashed to him quickly before she frowned.
"A ransom," she assumed.
"No," he hastily shot down with an amused grin. "That would insinuate that you senshi have something that I want. But you wish it were that easy, don't you?"
Her steady blue gaze was uncouth as it bore cinders into the Diamond of Hope, a beautiful gem but worthless in the scheme of things. She did wish he was simple, that he wanted something in exchange for their princess but she knew it wouldn't be so. He was scheming, and she'd imagined he had planned this for centuries.
She ignored his question, now growing impatient by this encounter.
"Well then do you plan to get to the point or is your goal to bore me to death."
"To death," he said in amusement. "I never knew boredom was such a severe weakness—"
Michiru hissed, water swirling in her glass as she cut him off.
"Your knowledge of the Princess' whereabouts may give you an advantage," Michiru dangerously spoke, the waves of oceans flashing in her eyes. "But you know that even my patience has its limits."
He smirked, taking her words into consideration and wisely choosing to get to the point.
"I've come to warn you."
She was in disbelief and it was displayed clearly through her features.
"Warn us of what?"
His expression grew dark, a feeling rage and disgust sweeping in amongst them. He scoffed.
"You see," he steadily remarked, "that's the problem with you senshi. You're so arrogant that you don't think anyone from Earth could rival your strength."
Michiru could see his grip tightening over his glass and for the first time this evening, she was entertained.
"If you were a challenge," Michiru started, "then you wouldn't need to kidnap our princess as leverage."
He laughed cynically, sending a disturbing aura in Michiru's direction. Her expression was less enthused, a deep frown bending at her lips as she anticipated his words.
"Leverage, huh?" He repeated. "I suppose she's become that much but that wasn't my original intent."
"Then what was?" She asked. She knew she shouldn't have but the question escaped her before she had a chance to stop it.
The glint in his eyes made her angry and it wasn't long after until her blood had started to boil.
"I wanted her to watch her legacy crumble starting with her beloved senshi. I really wish you could've seen her face when she watched Uranus get torn by those carnivores…" he taunted in a low, sinister tone. "It really would've broken your heart. That girl has the most readable features. She tried to hide her sorrow with anger but eventually she just gave up and begged for me to spare her friends."
He laughed heartily. "Can you picture that? Your princess groveling at my feet, willing to do whatever she could to save Uranus who was already dead…"
Michiru's jaw tightened, her restraint teetering on a needle point.
"And what made it even more entertaining," he continued, now whispering into Michiru's ear as if to provoke her to do something. "Was watching her face as the carnivores ripped Uranus apart...
If ever there was a time where the warriors of Neptune were criticized for their slow reaction, it was refuted and challenged in this single moment. Without regard of the public ball surrounding them, Michiru harshly grabbed Elios' wrist with moisture already rising through her fingertips. Not keen on easily submitting, Elios had countered, slipping his wrist free and witnessing first hand that Michiru was no push-over when it came to hand-to-hand combat.
Completely oblivious, the crowd had not noticed them, their agile movements quiet as Michiru angrily pursued her target. Elios was getting short of breath and for a brief moment he was regretful of his choice of words but was swiftly reconciled when recalling his own ramifications for this entire situation.
Ire rose through him and in a moment where his mind had missed a crucial fact, he had separated himself two steps too far from Michiru and her lips curved into an acute grin. His face faltered when he noticed the orb of Neptune's power in her hands and he silently marveled at the magnificence of it all. She looked like such a normal woman but she had the rapid seas at her call just waiting to aid her. How he would escape this one, was a complete mystery. He hadn't been at his full strength and Earth's reserves of power were dwindling with time.
He closed his eyes to brace himself for contact, but it never came.
"Michiru," Setsuna intervened, grabbing her harshly by the wrist and urging her not to continue. The aquamarine-haired woman looked surprised, the seas somehow disappearing from their previous glow. Elios attested that was probably Pluto's work.
"Ah, and the big sister comes out to scold her fellow senshi. I see some things haven't changed…"
Setsuna's garnet orbs looked frigidly in Elios' direction, her body in front of Michiru's as if to guard her from any surprise attacks.
"You're a fool for coming here," she stated plainly.
"Well I had a message that needed to be sent and good help is just so hard to find," he replied, straightening up his suit and repositioning his bowtie. "And I believe the message has been well received."
He smiled, giving a curt bow as if they were having a cordial meeting and both parties were happy to see each other. Michiru was seen glaring at him from behind Setsuna who was monotonous and waiting for him to take his leave. It wasn't even a second after when his feet had moved across the ground to walk past them and back into the oblivious room of guests.
Within a mere foot of exiting their hearing range, he stopped, turning his head slightly to relay one more message.
"You two should find yourselves a comfortable seat," Elios smugly suggested. "There's going to be one hell of a show…"
Setsuna tensed, as did Michiru, but neither made any motions to act on their discomfort.
He exited without trouble, Michiru yanking her wrist from Setsuna after his departure.
"Why did you stop me?" Michiru questioned angrily.
"You know exactly why," Setsuna replied, moving to leave but Michiru stopped her.
"We could have found Usagi even if he was dead," Michiru nearly yelled.
Setsuna turned around silently, eyes heavily distraught and tired as she remained stern.
"Say that again and this time look me in the eyes and tell me that you're certain nothing would've happened to Usagi if Elios had come up dead by the end of this evening," she challenged, looking point blank into Michiru's shaking teal eyes. "Go ahead, Michiru," Setsuna prompted.
Michiru stayed silent, turning her gaze away in defeat. Setsuna exhaled, running a hand through her bangs as she tried to think of a way to sooth her friend.
"There are infinitely many ways that this situation could play out," Setsuna started, catching Michiru's ear only slightly. "I've gone through millions stretching from universal chaos to complete annihilation. Choosing not to intervene before Rei and Haruka set out on their own seemed the least damaging. I know you're angry with me and I can't blame you. I'm angry with myself for letting this happen…" she drifted.
"But I need your help, Michiru," she muttered just barely over a whisper. "You're the only other person that knows the truth."
Michiru stayed quiet for some time, just soaking in the question and wavering in her head which path she should take.
"It's good to hear you ask for help given how I know you don't ask often," she stated calmly with a slight gulp, her hands clammy from apprehension. "But you should've asked sooner."
She strode off without another word, leaving Setsuna by the Diamond of Hope that sparkled in ignorance.
Duo had assumed Ami had swept through his entire hard drive, article clippings, files and post-it's just to gather what hold he might've had on his private investigation around Haruka and her feline friends. She ignored him for the most part, typing vigorously on her computer as her blue eyes darted from lines and lines of texts.
She was no blunt cookie. She had managed to capture and calibrate the intonations of his voice so that any call made to his phone was answered by a blue-haired Duo who expertly kept suspicions low and reconvened business as usual when she hung up.
By now, Duo had given up trying to get under her skin with threats, name calling and the like since she was quite skilled at retreating to other places despite her physical presence in the same room. He imagined she must've had a lot of practice at blocking out the rest of the world while growing up else she wouldn't have been so good at it today.
One thing had caught his interest, however. Duo, or rather, Ami had received a call from the Preventers about the charity ball being held at the Sanq kingdom. They had hoped to get all hands on board for this event since there was an obvious issue plaguing the Preventers, but Ami had told them that she was tied up and could not attend.
When they tried to convince her otherwise, briefly mentioning Relena's recent disappearance, she was somewhat shocked.
Duo could literally see the cogs in her brain turning as she greased them up with newfound bits of information.
"Relena's been kidnapped?" He heard her mention to herself.
If not for her bad habit of talking to herself while she worked then Duo would've been completely kept in the dark knowledge-wise. She tried to monitor herself to make sure she didn't talk so loudly but some habits were just hard to break.
"Com'on babe," Duo had groaned after hours of sitting tied up in a chair. "Most women don't keep me tied up for so long without some type of action. Could you at least wave a gun at me and make me think you plan to kill me? Cause right now I'm kinda feeling like a third wheel."
He smirked when he noticed the deep red blush upon her cheeks and for the first time he realized she was somewhat unaccustomed to people with shameless charisma, as he liked to call it.
"Shut up," she bluntly replied, pushing aside her blush and continuing her work.
He sighed, she may not have adapted well to men with charisma, but at the moment she was too wrapped up in work to even care.
There was a beeping from a funny looking device lying flat on the coffee table near her desk but she made no motions to silence it. Like an annoying chirp, it beeped, a red light flashing at its blue edges. There was an interesting gold emblem on its front but Duo couldn't recognize its origin. It was familiar though and it bothered him that he couldn't pinpoint why.
"Are you gonna answer that?" Duo rambunctiously quizzed.
Ami looked up in surprise, scrunching her brows in an admittedly cute look and suddenly bolting up from her seat as she noticed the flashing red light upon her blue gadget.
"How long has that been going off?" she asked.
"I'm your prisoner. Do you really think I'm gonna answer that?"
She rushed to the coffee table, flipping it open and typing away. Duo was intrigued, trying to peek from his tied down position at the technology that had interested him. Perhaps after this was all said and done, he could steal some of her gadgetry and dissect it to see how they were engineered. He had to admit, she had some fascinating developments in her small one-room apartment.
A gasp was the last thing he heard before the device was suddenly gone and she had moved sprinted to the back of his chair.
Milliardo's throat was dry as he anticipated the fast approaching moment where he would have to walk up to the stage and announce Relena would not be in attendance and therefore the diamond could not be auctioned. The host was already making his way to the mike as attendees were heavily concentrating on his ascent up the steps.
Milliardo could literally feel their desire seeping from their very pores, his stomach sick as he contemplated the words that would best keep this situation to a minimal riot. One thing was certain, he couldn't let them know that Relena was kidnapped otherwise all hell might break loose. A small rebellion he could handle, but a war was not something he was looking to start, especially not after discovering Haruka and Rei's well-kept secret.
"Ah, Prince Milliardo, I had thought I saw you back here."
The platinum blonde blinked in slight surprise, nearly forgetting that he was known and that others might want to start conversation with him.
"Just Milliardo," he corrected. "I've forfeit all royal recognitions."
The newcomer smiled, his silvery blue eyes glistening in response.
"Royalty is decided by blood," he said. "And you, Prince, are of royal decent whether you care to acknowledge it or not. It's not really something that can be denounced."
Milliardo scoffed, feeling strangely affected by this man's presence. He stood at the same height, his hair a snowy white in contrast to Milliardo's somewhat darker shade of mane. His skin resonated with some majestic aura but Milliardo disregarded it.
"We're all entitled to our own opinions, I suppose," he said in response to this stranger's blunt statements.
"Opinion?" The stranger retorted. "In ancient civilizations that fact was recognized and well consolidated as law. No one dared to go against it."
"That's interesting," Milliardo deadpanned, not really concerned about history at a time like this.
He heard the man scoff to the side of him.
"Bloodlines were crucial topics in ancient civilizations," he started to ramble. "Back then particular bloodlines held power that others couldn't even begin to comprehend. Some were stronger than others, and in most cases, those bloodlines would eventually rise to rule over the masses."
"Hn," Milliardo grunted. "So you enjoy history, I assume."
"Very much, yes," he replied.
"That's good," Milliardo stated. "My friend Mr. Winner has a fascination with the subject as well. I'm sure he'd love to discuss ancient civilizations with you if I could just see him and introduce you…"
There was a small laugh.
"Forgive me," the man said. "I've been boring you."
"Not at all," Milliardo quickly refuted. "I'm just distracted at the moment."
"Hmm, I see," he said with an understanding smile, one that didn't sit well with Milliardo. "Looking for someone?"
Milliardo paused a moment, staring suspiciously into this stranger's face who seemed harmless and almost angelic.
"Not particularly," he lied hesitantly.
"Oh," he replied with a slight raise in his eyebrow. "Then would you mind if I asked you a question?"
"Sure," Milliardo replied without thinking.
"Why have you denounced all claims to your political standing in favor of your younger sister?"
Milliardo tensed, now fully attentive to this strange man beside him.
"Excuse me?" He said, not really intent on answering a question of this magnitude.
The man smiled brightly, that radiance that made Milliardo uneasy was back and somewhat ethereal.
"You're a noble man, Prince," he said proudly. "One that understands the power of innocence in such a corrupt world. It's not often that leaders of you and your sister's temperament are born."
Milliardo opened his mouth to make a response in this strange conversation but was stopped when he heard the host announce that the auction would be starting. Completely cleared from his previous talk with an unknown man, he turned to face the front stage with anxiety boiling beneath his skin.
It was a perplexing moment. In the brief second that his heart had been rebounding off his ribcage in a hasty rattle, it was shut off in pure disbelief in that same instant. The glass in his hand was cracked, the pupils of his eyes dilated to display his shock. His ears fell deaf to the sounds of the crowd who convened without hesitation and had even broken out into a cheerful applause.
Time seemed to still, not only for him but for the entire group in the audience that had known the truth throughout the evening. For there upon the stage was an unharmed and perfectly groomed Relena Peacecraft wearing her diplomatic smile with an equally inviting shine to her eyes.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," announced the auctioneer. "Let the bidding begin!"
"Master Elios," whispered a suited man just beside the white-haired ancient who had recently departed from Milliardo's side.
"Have the preparations been set?"
"Yes, soldiers have located all the remaining senshi. They await your orders."
Elios smiled, catching eyes with the young princess of Saturn for the first time that evening. He waved towards her and watched as her eyes hardened. His smirk only widened.
"Initiate the attack."
Whew, this took me forever to finish. I am extremely apprehensive about this chapter. I think I may have been a bit off with character development and such with Michiru and Setsuna...if you agree, please let me know! Alas, thank you for reading though. Any comments, questions, concerns, or gripes are easily submitted via the review section.
twilightrocks100: Thank you for your review! I'm glad you like this so far and I hope it continues to be likable :)
Sunshine Fia: Thank you for your review! I'm relieved this story is still interesting despite the fact that it is a Usa/Mamo which a lot of people don't like XD Hopefully it stays interesting! And thank you so much for reading!
oombala: Thank you for your review! I'm glad you liked Mako/Wufei. They've got a sweet spot in my heart somehow and I honestly don't know how it got there but I'm super excited that you appreciated it!
Nerf-or-Nothing: I watched an episode of the Legend of Korra and oh my gawsh I knew if I watched more I'd be a crazy fanatic so I had to contain myself and stop watching it before it became another obsession XD But yeah Tenzin is an awesome name. I first heard in the movie 2012 and was determined to make that a name for one of the twins and then seeing Tenzin on the Legend of Korra was just more reinforcement for my liking of the name :) Anyhow, I'm so glad you like this so far and thank you so much for your review!
AquaTonic: Thank you for your review! I'm glad you liked the Mako/Wufei part I hope to make you squee some more later but I fear my luck with that will be dismal lol. We'll see I guess ^^;
TopazDragon: Thank you for your review! They are always so lengthy it makes me feel special lol. There are certainly lots of questions coming up in this story, so many that I have trouble keeping them in check haha. Nevertheless, I'm glad you think the questions are feasible sometimes I think I might be pushing it a little with that and that everything will start sounding too far-fetched heh. Anyhow, Minako's status is certainly on my to-do list. There wasn't much of her in this chapter but I've got plans for her, too many actually, so I keep having to debate with myself which one would be the most optimal...But, thank you again for reviewing! They are always such a pleasure to read, just like your stories ;)
Realms of Destiny: Thank you for reviewing! I hope your studies went well! I'm glad you find the plot to be intense and yeah Rei's situation is a sticky one. Thank you again for reviewing and much more thanks for reading!
Espresso Seraph: Thank you so much for your review! I'm glad you're enjoying the story so far and I appreciate your constructive criticism! A block of text is hard to read so I made an effort to break up paragraphs more often. I hope I did well with that ^^:
SuperNova23: Thank you so much for your review! I'm glad that you like this story so far and especially that Mako and Wufei appear to be a pretty decent working couple! On another note, Haruka is certainly one of my favorites so its always great to hear that I've done her character right and Rei has always been a challenge for me so its a relief to hear that her characterization is decent! As for Setsuna, she is different here and I'm hoping that later I can rationalize her actions so that they'd be more in her character. But thank you so much for pointing that out! I do sometimes have trouble with tone and dialogue...Anyhow, that was a cool fun fact! I used to do the same thing with my friend, pairing Duo with Ami and Rei with Quatre lol. Except we never did try Minako with Wufei. I've actually been thinking of that pairing since you've mentioned it and I agree they do have a lot of contrast and now I'm constantly exploring ways they'd come together XD
suisei no mitsukai: Thank you so much for reviewing! I'm glad you're enjoying it! Ami's situation has to be one of my favorites in this particular story and hopefully I can bring her character justice throughout!
Once more, thank you all for your reviews! They are all truly appreciated!