"Who is she?! Hurry! After her! Kunzite, she cannot be allowed to handle the gems!"
Something small darted out to hover aggressively before East King's face, its movement so quick and flitting Mamoru instantly drew the connection – it was the distraction, the thing that threw him off when he had moved to strike at the senshi before; but what it was… what was the Golden Age like that it held such unbelievable realities and creatures within it? People who could control the elements, a Prince with power over a crystal that could change the fate of the world, a Pegasus with a golden horn that could change size on a whim, and now a fairy? As she slowed to hover before East King with hands on her hips, she couldn't be anything else – she was tiny, barely three-quarters the length of his hand in height, with large iridescent wings that beat quickly to keep her in flight. She had long black hair that fell in waves past her waist and wore a black gown accented with a white asymmetrical apron. On her tiny feet were brown sandals, but if she could fly he couldn't imagine what use they had. In any case, her speech was constantly punctuated with expressive hand motions that almost seemed to overpower her tiny frame. After yelling at East King, who didn't appear to be overly concerned, she turned to Midori and South King, pointing at them and then across the expanse, "After her! Quickly! She cannot take the gems!"
"Why not?" Mamoru challenged; if the fairy wanted them to hunt down Jewel Tiara she was in for a rude awakening. She quickly turned to him and twitched, like a jump, holding and then avoiding his gaze for the split second before Moegi cut in.
"You can't order him around," South King admonished skeptically, indicating Midori.
The fairy turned back to them, planting her fists back on her hips as she as she scowled, "Why not?" she asked, echoing Mamoru's phrase.
"Because," Hanada said, regaining consciousness. His voice was a scratchy whisper; he didn't even try raising himself. "He's our Prince."
She retreated to East King's shoulder, landing lightly there and holding some of his silvery hair to keep her balance on the clasp of his cape. Mamoru kept his eyes on her, waiting to see what she would do next, wondering who she was and what story she held. She obviously knew something about the gems; enough, at least, to actively want them, which suggested she knew at least more than Usagi. Maybe he could help Usagi out; he could learn from the fairy was the gems were, and they could work out her puzzle together. It was worth a shot, at least. They fairy's eyes were dark, and a pendant was draped across her forehead, held in place with tiny silver strands. It was a stone of some sort, one that matched the earrings that dangled above her shoulders and the pendant at her throat – a pendant of stone… was she one of them? He watched her eyes, wishing to know her thoughts as her gaze turned from Hanada to Moegi to Midori, then briefly to him before looking at her feet. Who was she? She seemed almost familiar then, like the chorus of a song that he knew but just couldn't remember the words to.
"Our prince?" East King repeated, bringing his hand to his chest and bowing his head in a salute, "I apologize, Prince, for not introducing myself sooner; I am East King, though in another life I was known by the name Kunzite, and guarded you as a representative of the Eastern Kingdoms."
"I knew it," Hanada smiled, raising his head to get a good look at East King before resting again. "From the very beginning, I knew you were one of us." Mamoru shook his head at his friend; of course Hanada would take a moment for an I-told-you-so, even when in all rights he should still be unconscious.
Midori raised a hand as if to ward off East, "No apology necessary – it's a good thing you were here, or North… well, thanks for coming when you did."
"Why did you wait this long?" Moegi asked, his eyes sharp and expectant. Helios, standing behind Moegi's shoulders, looked on curiously, his eyes focused on the fairy as well.
"Watch your tone!" the fairy admonished, nearly jumping off of her perch. She stopped when East raised a hand.
"It was a strategy we concocted – I would stand as a false prince to lead the Dark Kingdom astray; if they wanted the Prince or the Golden Crystal, they could chase me and the real prince would be safe. I stayed away from all of you but kept visible in their eyes, stopping their monsters before they ran amok or foiling their energy schemes; however, it seemed as though luck or fate was against our plans from the very beginning, and it was you four that repeatedly faced the senshi. I regret that I was not there to help you defeat them before now."
"No worries," Hanada replied, weakly waving his hand, "we're alive, they're not, it's all water under the bridge. But," he raised his head again to look East King in the eye, "if you could keep up that little charade, that'd be great."
Moegi reached forward and used one finger to push Hanada's head back down, "Do us all a favor and at least pretend to be asleep before you pass out again."
Mamoru added on Hanada's idea, engaging East King, "We'll help you; we'll act like you are the prince, pretend to protect you when really protecting Midori. If we could keep him safe long enough to defeat the last senshi, the Moon Kingdom's plot will fail. Without the senshi collecting energy, they cannot awaken whatever evil force awaits. Are you willing to continue, Moring Star?" he inquired, using the moniker as an alternative to the 'king' title that connected East to the rest of them. As of now, the more separation and deference the better.
The man regarded him thoughtfully, a smile slowly spreading. He nodded, "I can do that."
"Kunzite," the fairy called, her voice low and anxious, "the gem? She's getting away –"
"She's long gone by now," Mamoru stated, hoping he was telling the truth, "She's quick; she can easily keep up with me so she's probably halfway across the city by now." Or she could still be in that building, crying for reasons she doesn't understand over the glowing remains of an enemy of the planet. "What are those jewels, and why are they important to you?"
Instead of answering, the fairy and East King shared an uneasy glance. "You two have run together before?" East asked cautiously, as though carefully phrasing his words.
He nodded, seeing no reason to lie. Their attention made him feel slightly uneasy, as though they thought he had done something wrong. He pushed the uneasiness aside; nothing about Usagi was mistrustful.
"Do you know who she is?" East asked seriously, "Can you be sure where her allegiance lies?"
"She could be a senshi in disguise, sent from the Dark Kingdom to infiltrate us," the fairy added, looking back to East King, "that would explain why she wants the gems."
Mamoru sat back, placing his hands firmly on his legs as he regarded them darkly. New team members or no, they jumped too quickly to conclusions. They didn't even know her and already they mistrusted her – what right had they to judge her?! Usagi was not a senshi, the suggestion was insane! But he had no proof, and he certainly wasn't going to divulge her civilian information to try to placate them—
"I've never sensed anything from her," Helios commented, unexpectedly defending her. Mamoru's anger cooled as he looked thankfully towards the Pegasus. With Helios's support it was two verses two and he wouldn't sound so gullible.
"And so far, she's stayed pretty much out of the way, not helping either side," Midori added thoughtfully, "In fact, she only appears to carry away the shining crystal at the end of a senshi battle."
"Not entirely true," South commented, "at the masquerade ball she appeared and defeated the being that had been stealing energy; she saved Cardinal King's life that night, and there wasn't a senshi anywhere near there."
"That means she saved my life, too," Midori mused contemplatively. Mamoru felt more secure then – there was no way the new pair could continue to think Jewel Tiara an enemy. "I think we should trust her, for now at least. I mean, maybe not with everything, but we shouldn't treat her like an enemy."
"I agree," Mamoru seconded immediately, deciding to add, "When I confronted her after Jupiter's demise—" he tried to ignore the fairy's look of shock as he spoke, "-she said she was on our side. She's against what the Moon Kingdom is doing and wants to help us."
"You confronted her alone?" the fairy repeated incredulously, a hint of fear in her voice. "Listen, even if we are going to trust her for now, I don't think meeting with her alone is the best of ideas. What if she's –"
"She's not." Mamoru defended darkly, tired of the little creature's bias against Usagi. "She's an ally. End of story."
"I can see where she's coming from," Hanada commented, keeping his eyes closed and thus making Mamoru's glare ineffectual. "If she were a spy or an agent for them, we shouldn't let her be so close to our Prince."
"So we'll make a compromise," South decided matter-of-factly, his political side surfacing in his tone. "Midori, you're not to be alone with Jewel Tiara. Okay?"
Midori shrugged, "Okay."
"Done deal." Moegi stated, crossing his arms. Hanada, eyes still closed, nodded once with a hint of a smile on his face as though he had planned the Moegi's reaction. For all Mamoru knew, he did; in any case Midori's agreement seemed to have taken the fire out of the fairy's eyes, but she and East still seemed uncomfortable about the situation, so something told Mamoru that he hadn't heard the end of it. Moegi continued, "Now what are those crystals she's been taking?"
The fairy sighed, glancing again at Mamoru before fixing her gaze on Moegi. She sounded resigned as she said, "I'm not really sure."
She didn't know either?! All that fuss about how Jewel Tiara couldn't have the crystals and she didn't have any concrete reasons why not?! He was about to stand and walk away – he had had just about enough of this new team – but she hurried forward, jumping into the air and taking flight for their attention, hinting then that his reaction wasn't the only negative one she had received. "But if I had to guess those crystals are the senshi's Soul Gems!" She hovered above Hanada, looking at Moegi and Midori as though the information should have made them recoil. Mamoru looked to East King, but he didn't seem to know what the fairy was talking about either.
"Alright," Hanada said, one eye peeking open. His voice was stronger, but still sounded hoarse as he continued, "I'll bite. What exactly is a 'soul gem', besides the obvious interpretation of the name, and why would you want them?"
She crossed her arms, "It's less that I want them and more that I don't want the enemy to have them. The gems are why Helios can sense when a senshi is near and why a senshi can control her element – they are a source of immense power and energy, and if the enemy were to get their hands on those crystals and knew how to tap into them..." she trailed off, but her meaning was clear: the crystals would be used to awaken the Moon Kingdom's leader, and the war would really begin.
They were in silence for nearly a minute, each contemplating the threat; Mamoru wondered how best to return to the Jewel Tiara topic and place it in a better light. If she were guarding the senshi's "soul gems" and those "soul gems" could be used as keys to the enemy's awakening, he would prefer she work with them directly and not be stuck out by herself. If Venus knew that the crystals could be used that way, it would make Jewel Tiara, Usagi, a target; if she were with them she'd be easier to protect. He knew he'd be better able to keep his head in the game if he could see her and know she were safe. But how could he go about making that suggestion when it was clear that, if none else, East and the fairy were against anyone even conversing with her? He'd have to phrase it just right – he couldn't be the only one that was thinking about Jewel Tiara after the reveal; maybe one of them would give him an opening?
"Shouldn't they be called "Power Gems" or something then?" Midori asked skeptically. Mamoru dropped his head a bit, hoping he hadn't just lost his opening due to semantics. "I mean, are their souls actually in them?"
"What?" the fairy looked a little thrown off by the question; she shook her head as if to clear it. "Their souls? We can't really prove that their souls are in there, but that is what old mystics used to say."
"Do only senshi have them?" Midori continued, "Soul gems, I mean?"
Helios answered in place of the fairy, "In the classical sense, every person that has a soul has a soul gem, but only those with great powers have physical soul gems. The gems are said to link the person to their power source; I suspect the senshi are connected to the very planets they represent, as are you, Prince." Mamoru's attention turned from Helios to Midori, watching the look of confusion on his friend's face turn to thoughtfulness; Mamoru didn't envy him. It seemed like a lot of pressure to be under for one person, but then Midori wasn't alone. And even as he didn't envy the guy, Mamoru knew he'd be there in a heartbeat to help whatever way he could, even if it were just trying to find ways to keep the thought of having a personal connection to Earth out of mind. "Everyone here, in fact, has a soul gem within them that should manifest in physical form." The thought entertained Mamoru for a moment as he wondered what his would look like, but glancing down to see the pyrite pendant on his chest cleared the question up pretty quickly. He half-smiled – his 'soul gem' was fool's gold.
"Well, almost everyone," the fairy objected; her tone sounded playful, but forced. She returned to East King's shoulder and stood there again, her hands folding across her chest. "So you see now why that thief can't have the gems: if they fell into the wrong hands – which could be hers for all we know – the Earth is doomed."
"Then we should keep her close," Mamoru challenged, not willing to let this opening go. "That way we can keep an eye on her and protect the gems at the same time." He paused to let the option sink in before continuing to fight his point, "She has shown no ill-will towards us and she can fight. She doesn't know Midori is our Prince and we'll keep it that way; just like with the Moon Kingdom, we'll make it seem like East is the reborn Prince of Earth. Besides," he added finally, "wouldn't you want to know if anything happened to her and the three gems she carries?"
"Three…" East King echoed thoughtfully.
"And how do you know she hasn't phased back to the Dark Kingdom and returned the blue crystal by now?" the fairy contested.
He felt the flush in his cheeks – she was wrong! How could she be so confident?! – but without revealing her secret to parties who clearly didn't like her, he had nothing to defend Usagi with. A beat passed without his response.
"You see? This is just too big to bring random strangers into the mix. The stakes are too high for this. It's up to us and us alone." The fairy finished, crossing her arms pragmatically, keeping her eyes anywhere but on him.
He was tired of her and her inability to look at him – if she had to constantly shoot him down, she should own up to it and look him in the eye! "Who are you, anyway?" he challenged.
The fairy froze up, like she had been hit with something. As her head bent forward, long hair concealing her features, she slowly relaxed. She clasped her hands together in front of her and he began to regret his words. The probability was high that she was someone from their past, with that green-stone pendant she might have even worked with them to protect the Prince. It wasn't her fault that he didn't remember. … but that didn't change that she was being rude and accusatory of an innocent party.
"Don't mind him; his thick skull should be put on display one day to be marveled at the world over." Helios cut in. While Mamoru didn't appreciate the remark, he did appreciate the gesture to bridge the gap. The Pegasus, still in his full-sized form, tilted his head to the side questioningly, bright red eyes intent upon the little fairy. "I think I know you. You are Beryl, are you not?"
She perked up a little bit, unclasping her hands to take a more casual stance. "I could be."
"You are! But how did you survive the attack?! No one else…" Helios trailed off, his voice halting.
The little fairy – Beryl – stood even taller. She brushed her hair behind her shoulder and, looking a little smug, commented, "No one else was me. I knew a spell and I used it at the last moment, just as the light was exploding outward. I survived. In a new form," she fluttered her wings, rising off of East King's shoulder before alighting there again, "but I survived."
"Your magic did that?!" Helios asked incredulously. She nodded once, looking as pleased with herself as Helios looked taken aback. "And that's how you…" he nodded his head forward, "I knew I saw true talent in you! You should have been inducted into the Maenads –"
"And where would I be if I had?" Beryl replied snippily. "Besides," she amended, her voice full but with faint discolorations of bitterness in her tone, "Who said I would have accepted? I didn't want to live in the Gardens of Elysion anyway." She launched up into the air far above their heads, and hovered there for a moment before zipping back down towards them. "It's close to 4:00," she reported to East King.
He nodded his head, "North, how are you feeling?"
Hanada cleared his throat, sounding much better than before. "Like I was just stabbed in the stomach and almost choked to death," he pushed himself up to a sitting position, grimacing, and looked to East King. He shrugged, "You know, pretty good."
His jest seemed to fall on deaf ears. The silver eyes fell on Mamoru, "Could you help him home?" Mamoru nodded, then he and East helped Hanada to his feet. While he still felt light-headed from earlier, Mamoru supported Hanada as best he could. East looked to Helios and Midori, "we'll escort the Prince home," he said, including the fairy, Beryl, in their party.
Moegi stood and went to Hanada's other side, taking Hanada's other arm over his shoulder. "I'll help Mamoru; I'm heading in that direction anyway."
East nodded, and their team split in two, with East, Beryl, Midori and Helios turning to jump over rooftops towards the outskirts of town, and Mamoru, Hanada and Moegi remaining on the rooftop.
"So," Moegi said questioningly, "Do we try rooftops or jump down and walk?"
In the end they had jumped off the building and chose to walk – it would put less strain on Hanada's new 'stitches'. Holding tightly to either side of Hanada, the three had jumped together and landed almost softly on the ground, barely jarring North's injuries. There they powered down – police sirens could be heard all around them, probably in response to the 'raids' of the jewelry stores – and started the long walk home. When he felt strong enough to, Mamoru threw more healing energy into Hanada; by the time they reached his parents' expensive apartment building, Hanada barely needed any help. He said goodnight as he walked through the building's doors alone, greeting the confused doorman casually as he disappeared into the lobby.
Mamoru and Moegi parted there, their homes in opposing directions. With a quick transformation the rest of his trip took mere minutes, and by 5:30 Mamoru was in his apartment. He turned off the television after removing the video tape and breaking it in two, and as he gathered the phone cord and put the phone back in its place by his desk, his mind finally matched his body in exhaustion. He was asleep soon after.
He woke up the next morning to the phone ringing. He checked his watch first, just to make sure it wasn't a message from the Kings, but the clock was acting normally. It was 11:45 am. He rolled out of bed and stood shakily; the healing from last night was still taking its toll. Stumbling into the main room, he picked up the phone and greeted, "Hello, Chiba Mamoru speaking."
His heart skipped a beat. "Usagi, good morning –"
She interrupted him, her voice in a whisper, "I can't talk for long – they thought I snuck out last night and I'm grounded again. I just wanted to see if you were okay – are you okay?"
"Yeah," he remarked, "I'm fine." It felt good to have someone checking up on him.
"Really? You looked like you were going to faint last night – I can't believe you can heal people! That's so cool!"
He smiled, "I'm fine, really; just hungry. I could probably eat a horse –" he turned to face his kitchen and almost choked on his words. Standing on the kitchen table, reading the morning paper, was Helios. The white Pegasus flicked his tail casually, then used his horn to turn the next page. Red eyes flashed up at him and if horses could raise their eyebrows, Helios was definitely raising his.
"And your friend?" she prompted.
"Uh," he stammered, turning away from Helios but keeping his eyes on him, "Hanada? He's fine, too. Good as new." He paused, then corrected, "Well, he'll have a scar for a while, but that should be just about it."
"Oh, good!" she exclaimed as if releasing her breath. Then her voice dropped even quieter. "I think I hear Shingo. I'll try calling again later!" she paused, and he hung on the pause just as he hung on her words. "Talk to you later, Mamo-chan."
"Talk to you later, Usagi," he replied, deciding that it would be too forward to admit how much he'd be looking forward to the call.
When they hung up he turned around. "So you're back?" Mamoru said by way of greeting as he walked to the kitchen, dumping the hot chocolate from the night before and starting a new kettle for a quick lunch. As his stomach grumbled loudly, he added a few saucepans to the stove as well.
"Eh, for a while at least," the unisus replied with bored tones. "East has moved into Midori's house under the guise of an exchange student and Beryl went with him, so I thought I'd stay here with you instead."
Mamoru caught the hint of distaste in Helio's mental tone at Beryl's name and he chuckled, "Well, thanks for liking me more than the fairy."
"Don't feel too special; it's not exactly hard to do." Helios returned. He looked up from the paper, as though considering something seriously. Finally he turned to Mamoru and added, "Rock and a hard place, really."
"Shut up," Mamoru rolled his eyes and threw the dish towel at him. In truth Mamoru was glad to see Helios back with him, even if it was 'just for a while'. As Helios used his golden horn to toss the towel to the ground, Mamoru asked, "You hungry?"