'Why did you have Buttercup scalped?'
I had two major reasons for that, number one being the obvious hair length issue that I wanted solved before the second installment, Sapphire Visions. The second was that I needed, unfortunately, the main character to be hurt in order to advance the story, and scalping was a very real experience for me that I could portray realistically.
In any case, here is the final chapter to Emerald Mirage. It's been one heck of a ride, and I hope you enjoyed it.
"..is she... is she waking up...?" A feminine voice broke into Buttercup's hearing. The young girl grunted, feeling a raw amount of what felt like hot glass against the back of her head before opening her green eyes.
"Good, you're awake," a set of unfamiliar blue eyes smiled down at her. "We were wondering when you were going to wake up- you've been out for almost two days now, and for a while it was touch and go."
Just then, another set of blue eyes, as well as a pair of pink and hazel, ran in, their matching blonde, red, and auburn hair swinging behind them. Judy tried to jump on the bed to greet her friend, but was only rewarded by a half-jump resulting in Buttercup wincing in pain as her leg was pushed aside.
"Jade!" Blossom smiled at the green-eyed girl, walking beside her, then ever so gently reached out to grab the dark-haired girl's hand. "We- we were so worried- they said you'd lost so much blood, and then it turned out you had type O blood..."
"Which I was more than happy to give," Bubbles added aloud. 'Because you're my sister,' she said into Buttercup's mind, then added a mental chuckle. 'And because others would suspect if normal blood didn't work on you.'
'But-' Buttercup fumbled to come up with a mental response to this, although she shook her head at Bubbles directly. "You didn't have to do that," she told the blonde, then raised an eyebrow as she spoke mentally.
'Does... Does Blossom kno-'
Bubbles looked away, for some reason, uncertain to look the black haired girl in the eyes.
"She's awake?" A male voice asked from the hallway. Suddenly, all three girls fell silent. Blossom looked over at Bubbles, Judy, then back towards Buttercup. The nurse with the blue eyes gasped in recognition of the guest outside, and excused herself with a nod to her patient.
"My... Our," the redhaired heroine corrected herself, looking at Bubbles, "father... would like to thank you. He told us to go wake him up whenever you were up, but I guess he found out some other way..." A set of pink eyes glanced at Bubbles quickly, but the blonde feigned innocence easily enough for her to believe it. Blossom cleared her throat.
"Anyways... he wants to thank you for... all you've done, and given-"
"Wait- what-" Suddenly Buttercup's eyes went wide and she gripped Blossom's hand tightly. "Brother Mark," she said clearly, the raw hurt still evident in her voice. Blossom looked uncomfortably pained until Jade squeezed her hand tightly.
"Was he... was he taken care of?"
"We... had him buried," Professor Utonium answered instead of his daughter, having entered the room. The scientist was bandaged heavily, although it appeared he would be fine, as he seemed able to hobble around with a cane given to him. Behind him stood a woman, her eyes peering into Jade's as the Professor spoke.
Buttercup let go of Blossom's hand, and coughed, clearing her throat. "Did you... I mean, did anyone check on the monestary? Is anyone..." she trailed off, turning her head to her left on her pillow. As she did, a mountain of pain coursed through the back of her neck.
"Careful-" the black-haired man said, wincing as he saw Jade's face contort in pain. "They- the doctors said you injured the nape of your neck whenever you..." he winced, then shook his head. "I mean... we did send people up to the monestary, but it looks like..." He bit his lip. "I mean, we searched all over, and-"
"It's okay," Buttercup sighed. "I guess I shouldn't have expected there to be any of them still..." she trailed off, and looked downward with her eyes, careful not to move her body. She fought back tears that were forming, wincing as she closed her eyes to hold them in.
Professor Utonium glanced between his daughters and Judy and nodded, then back to the woman behind him. Although she seemed reluctant, the lady kissed him on the lips and stole away, followed by Blossom and Judy. Bubbles turned a minute to give her father a curious look, but left the room, shutting the door behind her.
The scientist paused for a moment before he hobbled over to a chair nearby to Jade's hospital bed. After a deep breath, he sat down, wincing as he did so, but obviously strong enough in spirit to give the black-haired girl a smile. Utonium placed his walking aide next to his seat, then sighed.
Buttercup raised an eyebrow. The way that he sat was so... weak. It reminded her nothing of the man she'd once called her father, the way that his eyes were half-closed with tiredness or the way that his hair had apparently grayed.
The man chuckled, as though everything on his mind were too difficult to say aloud. "Well," he repeated, and sat there. It looked as though he were going to become a broken record until he continued. "I'll say this. You're one tough young woman. Not many would willingly have themselves scalped if it was between pain for themselves or pain for others."
Buttercup winced at the reminder, and started to weakly look up towards her forehead, until she felt a hand on her own.
Utonium shook his head. "Don't. Trust me. It's not... It'll look better once it's grown out," he settled on. Jade winced visibly, and he tried to cover up his previous statement.
"It's- it's not that it's horrible looking," he encouraged. "It's just that... well, it's a good thing you have black hair," he smiled. "Your scars won't show... unlike Bubbles'."
"Huh?" Jade blinked. This was news to her. "What do you-"
The man sighed. "We were able to get the twins the antidote in time- so that their powers wouldn't fade and they wouldn't- they wouldn't-" he coughed and continued, the thought of what might have been obviously affecting him emotionally, "But, I'm guessing you know what I mean," he supplied. "Their powers are fine- they're fine, as you've seen. But as for Bubbles- the antidote wasn't in time to save her laser vision," he added regretfully. "And I'm afraid... it has left scars."
"What do you- she looked fine when she came in here," Jade blinked.
"She was hiding it rather well, then," the Professor murmured sadly. "She has a stripe right through both her eyes- a long horizontal piece of skin that will always be slightly darker because of the spill."
"But I thought-"
"Deception," the man smiled unhappily. "A skill that I didn't teach them, but a skill they needed nonetheless." He looked sideways at Jade. "It's a skill I heard you have. It must be, if it took the girls that long to figure out who you really were."
Buttercup raised an eyebrow, both unsure and unliking where this conversation was going.
"In fact, one might almost say that you are the best at deception that there is," he said aloud. He raised an eyebrow and glanced at her, coughing.
"About ten years ago, I... lost a child."
Jade nodded. "The girls told me."
"Her name was Buttercup, and she was my third and most... violent of all my daughters. I never really understood why she was so gruff, back then- it almost seemed like she was angry without a reason," he said, looking off into the distance. "I just... when I look back on it... she wanted attention, I think, and that's why she was the way she was. So rough... because she felt unloved. So she closed herself off from her sisters and I... and I pretty much didn't notice because I didn't want to realize what I had done to her."
Even though the pain was great, Buttercup turned to look at the Professor, whose head was bowed down.
"...a long time ago, I made a mistake," he said. "And so... I tried to fix it too late. After she was gone, I- I made a radar machine that could detect the presence of Chemical X in a human being- or someone who was like a human. I wanted to know if she ever came back."
Buttercup's eyes widened.
"I... didn't detect anything for years," the Professor continued. "After a while, I gave up all hope. Then, a few days ago, I started to hear a beeping in the closet where I'd kept it. When I opened up the door, the instrument was going off. Someone had come into Townsville... someone who had Chemical X in their system."
"...and why are you telling me all this?" Jade asked.
"...because... I don't know why, to be precise," the Professor said, looking at her with a sideways glance. "Maybe... because I remember some things that I shouldn't, when something entirely new is in front of me."
The Professor stood up, an ironic grin on his face. "Maybe... I know I'm not your father, Jade. I know I haven't raised you for the past ten years or so, whenever you were with those good men at the monestary-"
Jade opened her mouth as though to speak, but the gentle man broke her off.
"And don't listen to that one daughter of mine, Blossom. They WERE good men... some better than I. She does not fully understand... emotion. That's my fault, too. She identifies with me entirely too much, and has become as cold and calculating as the science I study." Looking at her with a face mixed with longing and withheld emotion, he gently reached out with his hand, as though to touch her face. However, he pulled his hand back and instead gave a heartbreaking grin.
"You saved my life, Jade Raven. And for that alone, I'm grateful. But I'm also grateful that you have lived, Jade Raven. Because... if for nothing else, my heart feels whole like it hasn't in a long time."
A genuine smile crossed his face, and Jade blinked, unsure if he meant what she was thinking.
The man walked over to the door and opened it, giving her one last hard glance as he did.
"If you ever need anything- someone to talk to, someone to unload on-" he stopped himself and smiled. "I know I'm not Brother Mark or Issac, or any of the men you grew up with, but- I'm here."
With that, he left, leaving Jade behind in his wake, her mind a mess from stress, damage, and lack of rest. With everything overwhelming her, she fell asleep on her bed, her mind letting her rest for the moment.
'Jade... Jade- Jade.'
The black haired teen opened up her green eyes to see a somewhat familiar face in front of her. She blinked for a moment, then realized that she was no longer confined to her bed, but instead, floating in mid-air. With everything so euphoric, it occurred to her that this must be a dream. However... it was quite insane, even for a dream of hers.
Chalking it up to sleep-deprived lunacy, she was about to place her hands over her face when a hand covered her own, causing her to look at the face in front of her.
'It's okay, Jade,' the calming voice told her. She blinked, then turned a slight shade of pink when she realized that it was a handsome young man before her. He gave her a relaxed smile, then let go of her hand. 'It's okay.'
"Who- who are you? Where am I?"
'Well,' the young man smiled and tossed back what looked like a long braid of black hair, 'the first is easiest, although I'm pretty sure you don't know me by what I look like now, but what I looked like a few days ago.'
Buttercup searched the depths of those eyes before her and gasped in recognition. That edge in his chin- those deep and soulful eyes- they could only be-
"Bro-Brother Mark?" she squeaked out.
'I knew you were a bright one,' the young monk said, snapping his fingers and nodding. 'Yes, it's me... although I'm not... exactly how you remember me.' He smiled. 'But as for your second question... let's just say someone allowed me to bring you here so that you wouldn't worry about us.'
He took ahold of her hand. 'Brother Peter and Issac have already gone on, but She let me stay behind so that you would have some peace in your soul and heart before you go on with your life-'
"But- I-" Buttercup fell against the young man's chest, crying. "I don't know what I'm going to do without you and the others- I realize... I was just pretending, at school. I thought I was okay without your and the others' guidance, but really, I was-" she dropped her forebrow, and her bangs fell forward. "I wasn't ready."
'Nonsense,' he mentally said, gently stroking her hair. 'You were as every bit as strong as you needed to be, and you have more than enough of that strength left over to continue.'
"But- the monestary-"
Brother Mark looked to the side, then nodded. 'The monestary, yes. Well, it's good news, although it won't help the pain ebb away at first. Some,' he started, and smiled when he saw the startled look in Buttercup's eyes, 'Some of the monks survived.'
'Not many. Brothers James and Noah were out already that day, having been at the nun's parish, and the acolytes were away on a boys' choir trip.' He smiled at her. 'Even though we're not here, the monestary will survive.'
"But-" Jade sniffled, and pulled at the robes he was wearing, "that doesn't help me... What am I supposed to do? I can't- I can't tell him who I am, Brother Mark. I can't- but... part of me wants to."
'And that's natural,' Brother Mark said, stroking her hair absentmindedly. His head then tilted to the side slightly, as though he were listening to someone. After a moment, he gently pushed her away until she was floating by herself. He took her hand in both of his.
'Jade- Buttercup,' he smiled, 'Do not worry yourself about us. Most of the monestary has passed onto a greater and more beautiful place.'
"What about you?"
'I- was given another option, due to my past,' he said with a smile. 'But don't worry yourself.' He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead, filling Buttercup with an inner peace and giving her a platform to stand on in her heart. 'Mine was chosen by me, and I feel I need it. Besides,' he winked, 'we might meet again.'
"What-" Buttercup watched as the young man started to walk into slowly forming clouds, and bit her lip. He turned back, and she shook her head, unable to say what she really was thinking. Instead, she blurted out, "What's your real name?"
He smiled and turned to face her fully before the clouds engulfed him.
"Tetsuo," he said, speaking verbally with a smile, then disappeared from her view. Jade looked up into the distance of wherever she was standing, tears streaming down her face, but not ones of pain. Instead, tears of joy were the ones that sloped down her cheeks. She stood like that for eons, then fell back into her somewhat unconcious slumber. When she awoke, she would only recall the dream as a distant memory, but feel at peace.
And that was all that he had wanted.
ONE YEAR LATER...
"No! I refuse to be- No!"
Jade Raven, sophomore high schooler by day, and superhero viligante by night, laughed as her friends tried to wrestle her into a skirt for what seemed the upteenth time this week. Judy pouted as Jade skipped about the room, running from herself and Blossom, who had her hands on her hips.
"Honestly! We have to go to this scholarship dinner, and a set of pants will just not cut it!" she admonished the black-haired teenager.
The redhead wore her hair pushed back behind her ears, and was already dressed for the said event in a dark red business suit with white laced trim. Bubbles giggled behind her twin sister, her own form covered by a matching business suit and hair pinned up into two blonde buns. With the makeup she and Blossom had carefully applied, it was hard to tell that there was a scar that ran across both her eyes.
"Come on- they're wearing skirts," Judy pointed out. Jade snorted.
"Just because they like to fight crime wearing something -ungodly and constraining- does not mean that I have to," she countered. Bubbles rolled her eyes.
'You'd do well to listen, or I'll tell them about that dress you said was, and I quote, 'so adorable',' Bubbles mind-sent to the dark-haired teen. Jade raised an eyebrow in mid-pout, and sighed.
'You play dirty,' she told her sister mentally, while she responded with "I guess I have no choice in the matter, do I?" aloud. Judy smirked at the girl and threw over the dark black skirt she'd picked out for her roommate of almost two years.
"Get it on and get out there. The ceremony takes place in almost an hour, and you're not ready."
Buttercup grumbled but put on the undesired piece of clothing, muttering about 'stupid gender issues' and 'in the east' as she did so. The Powerpuffs and Judy waited as she dressed herself, then turned around to face them. Her expression was one of disgust, but after a chorus of 'oohs' and 'ahhs', she gave a small smirk.
"I guess it'll do," she harrumphed. Bubbles giggled, then strode forward, turning to look at Judy as she took her own arm into Jade's.
"Are you going, too-?"
"Daddy'll be there," Judy said, rolling her eyes. "Apparently he wants to make sure that I'm getting his money's worth for coming here... and he said that he's giving the school a hefty grant, so of course he'd be there." Shaking her head, then waving the blonde, redhead, and raven haired girls off, she smiled.
"Don't worry, I'll see you at the reception. Now get down there, before your own dad gets so worried that the baby gets upset," she teased, making Bubbles bite her lip and drag Jade against her will towards the convention center of the school.
"Slow-down-" Buttercup wheezed as Blossom laughed.
"Bubbles, we'll get there when we get there. Now do you mind slowing down, or will I have to tell the incoming freshmen exactly HOW you brought one of the scholarship recipients down in a coffin from apopolexy?"
"Um..." Bubbles glanced down at Jade, who had an eyebrow raised but was slowly intaking air because of the rest. Upon seeing the teen, she let go of her, allowing Jade to breathe normally.
"Oh! I'm sorry, I just-"
"Let's just get going," Jade grumbled, standing up and rubbing the back of her neck. The scars were still there from the fight with Mojo, but her hair had grown out long enough to go to her shoulders, covering all signs of the marks. She gave Blossom a conspiratory wink.
"Otherwise, I might be tempted to change into pants-"
"We're going, we're going," Blossom laughed and directed her twin and friend. Good Lord, this was going to be an interesting night...
"Are they here yet?" Professor Utonium asked his wife Diane nervously. She shook her head, not having seen either hide nor hair of the twins. The kindergarten teacher then gently shifted her newborn son into a different position in her arms.
"I don't see them," the former Miss Keane told her husband. Just then, a flash of dark blue and ruby caught her eye, and she choked for a moment before nodding towards the incoming Powerpuff twins. "Wait- there they are!"
"Girls!" the man of science called to his teenage daughters. A doublet of blonde and red hair turned towards their fathers' voice, and in mere seconds, Bubbles forgot herself and ran towards the table where her father and step-mother were sat. Blossom followed at a more leisurely pace, her friend Jade strolling behind her.
"Dad! Diane!" Bubbles yelled, a bit of her old child-like personality showing through as she lunged forward and gave her father a tackled-hug. The older man caught his balance quickly and laughed, kissing his daughter's forehead. Bubbles then carefully moved onto her stepmom, being careful as to not jostle the babe in her arms.
"It's good to see you," Mrs. Utonium told her daughter, giving her a one-armed embrace. Blossom by that time had also joined the company, and was already giving her father a hug.
"Ooh! How old is he now?" Bubbles said of the baby, which she held out her hands to. Carefully, Diane placed the babe into his older sister's arms, making Bubbles blush with happiness.
"About a month and a half," his father said proudly. Blossom leaned over and looked at the child in her sister's arms, with an eyebrow raised.
"Profes-" she paused, intook a breath, and started again, "Dad, he has your chin."
The man of science tried not to laugh at his daughter's attempt at using a term of endearment towards him. "Yes, but have you noticed," he pointed out to his red-haired child, "that he has Diane's dimples?"
"Honey," Diane admonished her husband, then stopped speaking to smile at the newcomer.
Buttercup stood outside of their circle, the parents and children, watching as they all stopped admiring the newest addition to the family to welcome herself. She cleared her throat and scratched the back of her head nervously before biting her lip and making an awkward bow before the husband and wife.
"Congrat-Congratulations," she stuttered for a moment, then smiled. "On your son, I mean..." The Professor grinned genially.
"Would you like to see him?" Diane smiled, nodding to Bubbles to hand off the babe to the raven-haired girl. Buttercup panicked for a moment as she was handed the baby, never having dealt with a child before.
"Um..." She blinked down at the child in her arms, then gave a weak smile. Buttercup wasn't certain what to do with the little baby in her arms; and she showed this through the wet trickle of sweat that beaded down her forehead. "Hi- um... what did you say his name was again?" she glanced at the Professor.
"Alexander," the man stated proudly, placing a hand on his wife's shoulder. "We thought it was appropriate, since he's so obviously destined for greatness." Diane snorted visibly at her husband's words.
"I pity the day that boy comes home with a C in science," she teased.
Buttercup glanced down into the baby's eyes, and smiled, getting used to the idea of holding a child in her arms. As she smiled down at him, those eyes caught her, and she found herself drawn into them.
They were dark green, although there was an intelligence in them that made her shiver. She turned to the husband and wife.
"Where did he get the green eyes, if I may ask? It doesn't seem like either of you have green eyes-"
"We... honestly don't know," Diane shrugged. "We think it might be a recessive trait that's finally come to fruition in him." She smiled. "But in any case, they make him all the more handsome, wouldn't you agree?"
"Y-yeah," Jade agreed, turning back to the baby. "Alexander..." she murmured, and stared into those eyes. Suddenly, something snapped in the back of her head, and she found herself not looking into a babe's eyes, but a young man's, who wore a gentle smile on his face.
'Besides... we might meet again.'
As her mind twisted around this revelation, she heard Bubbles and Blossom in the background, talking to their parents, even as her world seemed to spin around her.
"Marcus- that's so cute! Alexander Marcus Utonium!" Bubbles squealed, then watched as Diane took the baby back from Jade, whose eyes were wide with shock still. Blossom snorted.
"The poor kid's going to be teased to death. Pr-Dad, why'd you have to give him a middle name like 'Marcus'? That's just asking to be beat up, with Alexander as a first name- it's too long for one thing, and-"
"At least I didn't name him Alexander Brutus-"
"Dad, that's even worse! And it's Caesar, not Alexander!"
"Honestly, I swear it just came to me," Diane smiled, causing the twins and Jade to snap back to the present. "It just seemed to... fit."
Jade smiled and grinned, then drew her hand forward towards the babe. When she was close enough to touch him, she drew the mark of the ceremonial cross on his forehead, then smiled at Diane.
"It's a good name," she agreed. "A strong name."
Bubbles looked at her curiously, sending out a mental tendril of question, but Jade just grinned. Suddenly, a bell rang clearly through the auditorium, causing the Utoniums and she to turn and face the stage, where a man stood in front of a microphone, holding the said rang bell.
"Excuse me, but we need the scholarship recipients to report to the stage as the program is going to begin in five minutes."
"Well, we have to go," Bubbles said to her parents. She kissed her father and stepmother on the cheek while her sister gave them each a quick hug. Jade nodded to both of them, her eyes never leaving theirs, then followed the twins forward, leaving the couple and child alone.
Utonium pulled out a chair for his wife and son, then sat himself down. Diane glanced at him, then on the young women walking towards the stage. With a raised eyebrow, she looked at her husband.
"You know, with her hair cut that way, she almost looks like-"
"Don't bring it up," the Professor said with an ironic grin. "She isn't. Buttercup Utonium is gone, and we'll just have to accept that. Until the day she returns to us, we'll just have to enjoy the company of Jade Raven. That's all I can ask for."
Diane smiled and patted her husband's knee with her free arm, juggling Alexander in the other. "And that's all we need."
Buttercup smiled as she was served the dinner in front of her patrons and other childrens' families. She felt more at peace than she had in a long time, and it wasn't just due to the calm music in the background.
Jade Raven, young apparent genius and martial artist by day, superhero by night, had finally found her center in the world she'd once inhabited long ago. She hadn't expected it to be as easy as it now seemed to be... although she knew in her heart that it had been a harder journey than she'd have liked.
If she'd have had her way, none of the pain and suffering that had occurred would have happened. She ate her food silently at the table with the twins, letting her eyes wash over the crowd of people below them. As she did, she had to smile.
Even if she hadn't returned as whom she'd been born, Jade Raven felt more at home here now than she'd ever been. She held her glass up towards the parents and other students in front of her, nodding as the President made some speech about scholarships and how important they were to their childrens' futures.
Glancing across the crowd, she saw the familiar faces of the Professor, his wife Diane, and a babe in her arms whom she knew better than to call Alexander. Beside her, she felt her sister Bubbles radiating calm outward, her own face betraying how nervous she was in front of all those watchful eyes.
Even though she'd lost so much... she'd gained a lot as well. Glancing at Bubbles, she gave her an encouraging smile, noticing just how much the blonde was hiding the scarring around her eyes; a lump of guilt rose in her throat, until she herself forced it away through the realization that she couldn't stop everything that went wrong- although she sure as heck could try.
Just as the audience started to clap in appreciation of the man's speech, a loud crash came from the back of the auditorium, making all the heads in presence swivel around to see what was going on. An oddly colored pink creature huffed from the back of the room, his pointed teeth bitten together in anger. He pointed a hairy finger towards the stage.
"You. Powerpuffs. I thought I told y'all that I would find you, after you done destroyed my last meat ray!"
Jade raised an eyebrow and looked at Blossom, who appeared slightly amused. The redhead gave Jade and Bubbles a significant glance.
"What is he talking about-?" Jade started, then laughed, her voice coming out a chuckle. Bubbles and Blossom stared in amazement as the dark-haired teen laughed until tears came out of her eyes. She stopped snickering for a moment and smiled at the twins, wiping the tears from her eyes. "Nevermind. I don't want to know." She grinned at Blossom.
The redhead grinned. "There's a curtain right over there- don't take long or we won't leave you any to fight," she smiled, and rose out of her seat, Bubbles on her left. Jade pushed back her seat and ran towards the side of the stage, smiling as she flew out the back towards her room, diving into the window and grabbing her remade robes, compliments of Judy.
Within seconds, she zoomed back towards the stage, twisting and moving her body instinctively, enjoying the moment of flying as she never had before. Blossom and Bubbles smiled as she arrived on the scene,both of them waiting for the dark-haired teen. With a single yell, all three of them jumping into the air, their colors streaming behind them.
The Professor watched as his girls jumped into battle again, fighting together for the first time in years. As he watched, a memory of three little five year olds doing the same superimposed themselves against Bubbles, Blossom and Jade.
She had been gone, but now she had returned.
His precious emerald mirage.
I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed with tips, including Hairy Gregory, Byrnstar, PinkPuff514, Song-Obsessed1, veronica155, BekllOBella, Ivygreen, cerebrus5550, The Wild Ambition, Lady-Dragon-Demon, and Zoe Rose. I'd also like to give a special thanks to Byrn and Shadow, who both helped me at various points in time with beta-reading (and many, MANY suggestions to make this a better story.)
I'd also like to thank you, the readers, whether or not you reviewed. You were what kept me going, and I hope you'll enjoy Sapphire Visions as much as you enjoyed this one. Look for it in January!
LOVE AND PEACE!