Arc Five - Law and Order

Chapter Thirteen - Falsely Accused! This isn't a Fair Cop!

Ami Mizuno loved to learn. The thrill of drinking in new information, the warm glow that came from understanding the universe a little better, the satisfaction whenever the knowledge came in useful later on... she didn't understand why so many people seemed to resent their lessons and teachers. If you didn't learn new things, you'd be stupid – and Ami hated feeling stupid.

Even for someone who didn't believe in useless knowledge, though, her current lesson was a bit... unusual. Before today, Ami had thought that shopping was a fairly simple affair. Decide what you want, work out where it was, go and buy it. Maybe browse around for a little while to see if you could spot anything that you hadn't planned for, but which still looked interesting enough to get anyway.

Apparently, she had been wrong.

Usagi might not be the world's greatest academic, but the girl seemed to know the layout of the shopping mall down to the last shelf, and she'd dragged Ami around almost all of it. The girl gossiped with makeup counter assistants, haggled at a handicrafts store for ten minutes and parted on good terms with the owner despite not buying a thing, and turned window shopping into something that was half art form, half competitive sport.

Ami was struggling to keep up by the end. Naru seemed to take it in stride.

Now, Ami waited for Usagi to emerge from the changing rooms in the fifth clothes shop they'd entered, and wondered if she was going to be told to try any more blouses on. It wasn't that she couldn't afford the clothes, and she had to agree that what she'd bought so far looked very nice on her.

She just wasn't entirely sure that she would be able to get her new acquisitions home as it was. Any more bags would make it outright impossible.

She eyed Naru carefully, wondering if the redhead would be willing to help carry some of them. Usagi was almost as heavily loaded as Ami herself, not that it slowed her down, but her friend was only carrying one bag.

On the other hand, Ami wasn't totally sure that Naru liked her. She'd been mostly friendly, in a brisk, sarcastic sort of way, but some of her comments had seemed to have an edge that spoke of disapproval. Ami hoped not. Usagi was... nice, and if her best friend was hostile, it would make things awkward.

"Usagi!" the aforementioned best friend called towards the dressing rooms. "Are you ever coming out of there, or have you tied yourself up in a pair of tights again?"

"Wait, what?" blinked Ami. "She... what? How?"

"Usagi," Naru returned, as if that answered everything. Which, to be fair, it sort of did. "Five more minutes, Usagi, then I'm coming in after you!"

"It was one time!" Usagi protested from behind one of the curtains. "And I'll just be another minute; these buttons are fiddly!"

Ami was still stuck on how one could possibly manage to tie themselves up with a pair of tights. She drew a breath to ask, but Naru beat her to the punch.

"How did you meet her, anyway?" she asked, sounding as though they were already halfway through a conversation. "Usagi, I mean. Where would she run into someone like you?" She paused, and a suspicious look crossed her face. "Wait, she didn't literally run into you, did she?"

"No, no- well, yes," Ami admitted, "but not very hard, and it was at the library. It was more like I walked into her… um. And dropped books on her head."

"Oh, so nothing serious then," Naru said dismissively.

Ami wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. She was a little under-experienced in the 'friend' field, but that wasn't the sort of thing best friends were meant to say. Was it? "She was having trouble with some homework and I helped her out," she continued. "And then a little later I called her when I felt, um, ill coming out of my cram school and she came to help."

Naru rolled her eyes. "You go to a cram school," she sighed. "I'm not even surprised. Probably voluntarily, too. Man, how are you friends with Usagi? You literally couldn't be any more different if you tried. You'd have to use a cattle prod to get her into a cram school." She paused and considered. "Which her mum would probably do, actually."

Ami fidgeted uncomfortably. It wasn't the first time people had spoken about her like she was crazy for studying. Naru seemed more bewildered and incredulous than mocking, but it was always embarrassing, even when it wasn't meant cruelly. "I just want to get into a good university," she mumbled, ducking her head and staring at the floor as her cheeks burned. "Mugen is a good school, and I don't want to miss out on the colleges it feeds into because my grades aren't high enough."

"Well said," someone said from the other side of the shelf they were leaning against, and Ami jumped with a squeak of fright. It was a young man with dark hair and piercing eyes, carrying a collection of suit jackets draped over one arm and wearing a dark red polo-neck jumper. "Too many people slack off in senior school, but your last few years are critical. Though if you really want to improve your prospects, look at some of your potential universities and try to get an idea of who you might get as an advisor. Or even ask them what they look for in incoming students. You can't over prepare."

Ami nodded firmly, feeling somewhat more certain at the support from a – quite handsome – older man. "I've already done a little," she said more confidently. "I've arranged to shadow someone at a hospital and I should be able to get work experience during the summer holidays next year which will look good on my application forms."

Naru stared at her with an expression of mild horror.

"I interviewed for an internship with Professor Tomoe, too," Ami continued, either oblivious or determinedly ignoring her. "As something to add to my transcript – Mugen is an excellent school, but it never hurts to go a little bit further, and the summary sounded fascinating." She sighed. "I didn't make the cut, though. Too young. He did say that I was an exceptional candidate and that maybe next year I'd get in, even though it would still technically be a year early."

The man raised his eyebrows. "Even getting an interview two years early is impressive. You must be gifted. What are you thinking of studying?" He paused. "Wait, sorry, I'm being rude. I'm Mamoru Chiba."

Ami took his hand as he moved around to their side of the shelf and shook it warmly, smiling at him. "Ami Mizuno. And I'm not sure – I'm considering medicine, though. My mother's a doctor, and I'd like to help people."

Mamoru grinned. "Excellent choice! I'm in my first year of pre-Med. It's challenging, but it's well worth it, and it means you can make a real difference in people's lives."

"Well, the problem is that I have…" Ami hesitated, tossing a guilty glance back towards the stalls where Usagi was still getting changed, "… a few extracurricular things that I can't drop, and sometimes they come up at inconvenient times. And I know pre-Med involves a lot of work, so I wasn't sure how able I'd be to devote enough time to it."

"I'm guessing that these are the kind of extracurriculars that are necessary, not just important?" Mamoru waited for Ami's nod before patting her on the shoulder. "Then you'll probably be fine. I had an inconvenient hospital appointment earlier this week, and it looks like I'll have more in future, but my professors have been really accommodating about extending deadlines and stuff as long as I let them know in advance and make up the work later. They're there to help you learn, after all, they want you to succeed."

Ami brought a hand up to her mouth, unsure of whether to be reassured or concerned. "Oh my," she said, "is… is it serious? Oh, wait, no, I'm terribly sorry, that was rude of me. You don't have to answer, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have…"

Mamoru chuckled, dismissing her self-admonishment with a wave. "Hopefully nothing serious," he said. "I'm just having a-"

"Vile warmonger!"

"… dammit Usagi," sighed Naru without even turning to look at the interruption. "Every time, I swear. Well, at least I get entertained." She leaned back on the shelf, considerably more interested in the developing confrontation than she had been in the conversation preceding it.

"Corruptor of the innocent!" Usagi yelled at the top of her lungs, advancing from the dressing rooms in a fetching skirt and jacket combination. "Rude stalkery… jackass!"

"You were doing pretty well until that last one," Naru commented, unphased, as Ami glanced around nervously. Usagi shushed her with a glare and a flick of her hand before turning her ire back on Mamoru.

"Don't think you can follow me around and turn my friends against me!" she growled, jabbing at him with a finger. "I will punish you if you try! In the name of… of women everywhere in their fight against crude horrible jerks like you!"

"Your skirt is on backwards," he pointed out with remarkable composure for someone being harangued at full volume in the middle of a crowded department store.

"Liar!" she snapped reflexively, glancing down at it. "… wait. Damn. Shut up!"

Mamoru leaned to the side just enough to address Naru without taking his eyes off Usagi. "This happens a lot, I'm guessing?" he asked quietly, a smirk playing on his face. "You must be very patient to put up with her."

Naru had a sudden and inexplicable coughing fit, but refrained from actually agreeing with him. At least out loud.

"You... you humongous jerklord!" Usagi spat at him. "Stop flirting with my friends!"

"No, no, carry on," Naru encouraged, giggling. "This is hilarious. And you fill out that polo-neck really, really well."

"Naru!" Usagi howled in horror. "Ami, back me up here! You're not betraying me for him, are you? You wouldn't do that! Right?" She fixed Ami with a look that tried to be half pitiable vulnerability and half intimidating suspicion, and didn't manage either very well.

"Um… I…" Ami stuttered, flushing further as she suddenly found herself the centre of attention in the scene she'd been trying to unobtrusively distance herself from. "I don't… think we should be doing this here? We're, uh. Disturbing the other customers."

"Huh?" Usagi glanced around to find that they had, in fact, attracted an audience of rubberneckers and disapproving frowns with the volume of their argument. "Oh, right! Sorry everybody! We'll leave!" She paused. "Uh, just after I get changed back into my clothes. Bye!"



"So, um. Is Usagi always like that? Around Mr Chiba, I mean."

Naru snorted, tipping her chair back onto two legs as she leant backwards to check where Usagi was in the line. The food court was bustling – it was a pleasant weekend lunchtime, after all – but from what she could see through the crowds they had a while longer to wait.

"Those two," Naru said with an eyeroll, "get along like a house on fire. You know; screams, flames, falling masonry – the works. I'm not sure they even know each other's names; they just run into each other and bam, instant fight. She's been bitching about him for months." She sighed. "She'll get over it eventually. He's not the first guy she's done this sort of slap-slap-yell thing with."

Pausing for a moment, Naru cocked her head. "Of course," she added, "the only other one was in fifth grade, back when we were both ten, and that took two years and him moving into a different high school to get over. So I should have entertainment for a good long while yet." She grinned.

"You've known her a long time," Ami observed quietly. Naru nodded.

"Since we started elementary school, yeah, so… going on ten years now? I probably know her better than anyone who isn't her mum."

Not as well as you think you do, Ami thought, but refrained from voicing the thought.

She looked around instead, shifting in the awkward silence. The food court was in the middle of the mall. It was an open square with a large glass roof built over it, raised up from the buildings around it to allow fresh air in while keeping rain off. Two large maple trees bloomed under it, and wooden benches filled the court; easily accessed from the food stalls and shops that opened onto it. During the winter it would probably be miserable in here – too cold, even if it wasn't wet – but on a warm autumn afternoon like this one it was still fairly pleasant. There were even a few animals around; a couple of pigeons twittering at one another in one of the trees and a stray kitten trotting around and looking adorably bewildered.

… actually, Ami realised, that last one was in the same direction that Usagi was coming back from with two loaded trays of food. And from the way her friend was holding them, she probably couldn't see her feet…

The next few seconds played out in Ami's mind's eye just before they happened with the dreadful inevitability of the unstoppable. The kitten, apparently identifying by instinct the kind of person prone to squealing over cute animals and dispensing food, rushed over to Usagi's ankles. It wound itself through them, purring and looking up at her in a way that it had probably already learnt would get it fed. Usagi made a valiant effort to maintain her balance with the little furry thing snaring her feet, but with no visual on what was tripping her up and two heavy plates of food in her hands it was not to be. She made a desperate, heroic lunge that landed one tray on the table with a clatter, lost the second to the cruel and mean power of momentum and slammed face-first into the ground.

Ami opened her eyes from her instinctual cringe and blinked. She was holding the second tray in one hand, and had caught the drink carton that had gone flying from it in the other. Somehow, she'd caught them in a single, smooth motion. Reflexively.

She definitely couldn't have done that a week ago.

A groan from floor level interrupted her reflection, and she hastily dumped the tray on the table. Analysing her new reactions could wait. For now.



"Owww…"

Usagi picked herself up from floor level, rubbing her head ruefully. Gravity! Her nemesis! Someday, she'd really need to find a way to purify the evil force as Sailor Moon, freeing innocently clumsy girls everywhere from its cruel and nefarious whims. Even now, sitting on the floor, she could feel it coiling beneath the ground, waiting for her to tip her chair back or lean a bit too far so it could-

"Mreow?"

… so… it could… what? Usagi looked down and found a little kitten staring back up at her. Ah. So this was what she'd tripped over. She'd thought she'd felt something brushing against her ankles. It was a little ginger calico, with a white belly and paws. One eye was a clear crystal blue – sort of like her own, actually – and the other was a murky blueish-green.

"Mraa!" it decided, and nuzzled against her bare shin.

Usagi froze, right in the middle of her brain forming the word 'Kitty!'

She recognised this cat. Not by sight, but touching it – touching her – Usagi could feel an echo of silver light in her body. She remembered.

She had been at the concert. A tiny thing; all skin and bones with matted fur and ribs almost visible through her patchy fur. She'd been small and inbred and sick, with birth defects threading through her frail little organs. Only a couple of months old and doomed to never even reach half a year. Moon had wept, and her light had swept the sickness and flaws from the kitten's delicate frame, cleaned her fur and added desperately-needed weight around her ribs and stick-thin neck.

And now she was here. She was breathing easily and running around and getting under people's feet. She seemed fairly well-fed, even if it had only been a week, and there was still a mote of silver power lingering in her, keeping her safe and healthy.

"Hello," Usagi whispered reverently, brushing a finger over the kitten's head and getting happy purring in response. "Hello, little kitty. Good girl, here you go," she said, scooping the little creature up and putting her down on the bench. She looked up the human food-giver quizzically, rubbing the side of her head against Usagi's finger.

"'Sagi, don't pet random animals," Naru sighed without much hope. "You'll get bitten. Again. Or someone will yell at you for trying to steal their pet. Again. Or you'll manage to find the only one in the park with fleas. Again."

"That dog was adorable and you know it," Usagi shot back. "And I only got bitten once, and that was totally worth it." She shuffled onto the bench, though she didn't stop petting the kitten. The light inside her was odd. Brushing her hand casually against Naru's as she reached for her drink, Usagi frowned. The silver light had left Naru. But it was still lingering in the kitten. Maybe she'd got a more concentrated dose of it, because of being smaller and sicker? But it didn't feel like it was taking longer to dissipate. It felt like it was just… sitting there. Not doing anything, but waiting to.

Not for the first time, Usagi really wished she understood more about the power she'd drawn on at the concert. She'd dug down deep; deeper than maybe she was meant to yet, and instead of her reserves running dry she'd found an ocean of power lying dormant. An ocean she couldn't control and didn't understand and hadn't been able to stop or turn off once it had started flowing. And now it had done something to a kitten that she knew nothing about, and she wasn't completely sure that it hadn't done something similar to any of the people in the audience. Naru was fine, but the younger, smaller children? The people she'd had to heal more? The grass and other little animals in the area?

Lost in thought and staring off into the middle distance, Usagi didn't hear Naru attempting to get her attention. She did, however, notice when she ran out of the burger she was eating and bit down on her fingers in its place.

"Aagh!"

"Oh! Are you okay?" Ami asked, dropping her sandwich in sympathy.

"Fine, fine," muttered Usagi, shaking her hand out. "Doesn't hurt much. I was just thinking."

"Thinking? Really?" Naru quipped. "Hold on, I'll tell the papers." She grinned as Usagi blew a raspberry at her.

"But your face must still be hurting after that fall," Ami continued, unwilling to let the subject drop entirely. "Are you sure you don't need to…"

"I'm fine, really," Usagi reassured her. "Honest. It doesn't hurt anymore. I've always bounced back quickly from falls and bumps, especially since I… uh…" she threw a quick glance at Naru, "hit my last growth spurt." Sighing dramatically, she poked at her knees. "Stupid growth spurts. Mum says it's why I'm so clumsy – my arms and legs are always changing lengths. Hopefully it'll settle down soon and I'll be able to cross a room without tripping."

"Mreeow!" interjected the kitten, jumping onto Usagi's leg and then hopping, with some difficulty and a bit of scrabbling, onto the table. "Mraa! Mrow! Rrrp!"

"Hey," Naru snapped, hastily curling her arms round her lunch. "Keep it away from the food; you don't know where it's been. And feeding them burger buns and stuff is bad for them; they can't digest it."

"Fine," sighed Usagi, blocking the kitten's curious investigation of her meal with her hands and shifting to keep her palm in front of the twitching little nose when she tried to duck around it. "Hey, Ami? Does she seem… odd, to you?"

Ami cocked her head giving the kitten a once-over. "No. Why? Or how, I suppose?"

"Uh, just…" Usagi bit her lip. She couldn't ask Ami to just scan the kitten with the Mercury computer with Naru there. Maybe she could just get Naru to take the trays away when they were finished and ask then? Or if Naru went to the loo, but she couldn't really make her do that, and…

"Mraaaa! Fffft!"

Usagi blinked in surprise as the kitten's tail suddenly bottled out, her fur standing on end as she tried to make herself look as big as possible. Which… still wasn't very big. She was staring intently at… Usagi turned to look… a pair of patrolling mall security guards coming their way, and hissing malevolently. As the men got closer, her ears went further back and her hisses got louder and fiercer, until she abruptly turned on her heel and bolted, jumping from the tabletop and stumbling only briefly before vanishing in the opposite direction.

"… on second thought," Ami said, "yes, that did seem a bit odd. Maybe she's had a bad experience with security before? Oh, uh… can we help you?"

The guards had stopped beside their table, looking down with matching frowns. "Yes, miss," one of them said. "I'm afraid we've had reports of three girls matching your description shoplifting. I'm going to have to ask you to come with us."

Cold dread washed through Usagi like a tidal wave. Her stomach flipped over, and she felt sick. This… this couldn't be happening. Across the table, Naru was just as pale and wide-eyed, and beside her, Ami looked physically sick.

"Wh… what?" Naru said after a couple of seconds had passed and the universe hadn't quietly kicked the guards out of sight behind a curtain in embarrassment over its obvious mistake. "Shop… we haven't done anything like that!"

"We… we've got receipts," Usagi put in. "We were just having…" she gestured at their lunch, unable to finish her sentence. Ami was sitting rigid and trembling, Usagi realised, and someone was breathing fast and shallow; loud enough to be heard, on the edge of panic.

Oh wait. That was her.

"Even so, miss. You're all coming with us," the man said. "If there's been a mistake, we can clean it up in the office." He leaned across the table to take her by the hand, and Usagi's gut flipped again, her stomach clenching as she fought not to throw up.

… hold on.

That wasn't nervousness.

Startled, her head snapped up to look the guard in the eye as his hand came down on her wrist, and the stench of iron and corruption hit her like a brick to the face. This wasn't about shoplifting! These guards were being used by youma! She had to get away! She-

His hand clamped down on her, and Usagi screamed. Not from the touch, though it sent shivers of revulsion running through her. No, her scream came as the ofuda in her pocket ignited. Usagi felt it go up in a flash of spirit-fire, and a frankly scary amount of energy rushed through her to the point of contact.

She'd seen Rei purify things with her ofudas once or twice at the shrine. Usually they were little things; tiny little bad-luck spirits that were barely there at all. She'd slap a ward onto the person or object they were clinging to, there'd be a faint pop and crackle, and Usagi's spiritual senses would just about make out a tiny something-or-other being expelled at speed.

This discharge ripped the man's hand away from her hard enough that she heard his wrist snap, blasted him backwards into his partner and propelled them both away with enough force to send them crashing across the next table over.

Both the girls and the gathering crowd of onlookers gaped for a moment. The fallen man was literally smoking slightly. Then Usagi snapped out of the shock and grabbed Naru and Ami by the hands.

"Run," she advised.



They ran.

More by luck than planning, the first set of doors they hit led into a clothes store. Usagi retained enough presence of mind to dart sideways into the racks as the guards burst in behind them, shouting for them to stop. Ducking low, she kept a tight grip on Ami's hand, losing Naru's to the narrow avenues between shelves. The guards kept coming, though – including the one with the flower-like char marks covering his uniform and a broken wrist. It was hanging at a sickening angle, but he didn't seem to care. A few people – mostly staff – responded to the shouting and tried to stop them, but most just looked on in shock. The girls fled, shoving past people and overturning the occasional stand of clothes; losing the guards here and then being spotted there…

And then Ami tripped. Usagi skidded to a halt, but Naru kept running for a moment before noticing and looking back, hunched double behind a shelf full of men's socks. An open aisle separated them; and Usagi made an abortive move to help Ami across it, only to be brought down by Ami yanking her back into the shelter of a rack of shirts with all her strength.

"There's a guard," she hissed, jerking a hand to their right. "Coming down the aisle toward us."

From the expression on Naru's face, she had seen him too. If they ran, he'd see them.

"Can you run?" Usagi whispered. Ami shook her head.

"I'm out of breath," she said quietly. "I can't run like you two can. I'd trip again."

She looked over at Naru with something on her lips, but the redhead pre-empted her. Bursting to her feet, she threw herself into a sprint straight past the crouching girls towards the escalators. With a yell, the guard gave chase, turning away from Usagi and Ami and leaving them be.

"She-" began Ami, but Usagi cut her off by physically dragging her to her feet.

"She drew him off upstairs, yeah. Now come on, I think I saw a lift over there. We can transform inside. Hurry, I dunno where the other one is."

"R-right."

With Ami leaning heavily on Usagi for support, they hobbled to the lift doors, hammering the button until it arrived and piling in together.

"It's a little… cramped," Ami noted.

"Well… be careful then!" Usagi retorted, digging her broach out. "Ready? Moon Power, Make Up!"

"Mercury Power, Make Up!"

Blue-silver glory reflected endlessly in the double-mirrored walls of the lift's interior as it jerked its way to the next floor up. Reflected, built and strained, until the doors shuddered open as the light faded, and with a tremendous shattering crash both mirrors exploded, showering tiny bits of glinting glass throughout the lift's interior. Both Senshi screamed – unharmed by the flying glass, but startled – and stumbled out onto the store floor wreathed in cold yet dramatic mist.

It wasn't very dignified. But it certainly attracted attention. Everyone nearby stopped and stared, including the two guards, holding a frightened-looking Naru between them. Moon didn't even bother with a speech; she opened her hands and blasted them with a wave of white magic, dropping them on the spot. Their shadows twisted behind them in the light, writhing and screaming sibilantly before going still. The air tasted of ozone and rust for just a second, before the air currents dispersed the stench.

"… what?" Naru managed, sinking down onto the floor. "I… what?"

"I am Sailor Moon, and those men were being controlled by horrible mean spirits!" Moon informed her, hands on her hips. She raised her voice to carry to the rest of the room. "Something corrupted those security guys to try to arrest three poor innocent not-at-all-shoplifting girls! They were liars! Mercury, can you trace where they came from?"

"… what?" tried Naru again.

"Already on it," Mercury replied, tapping away at her sleek tablet. "There's a large siphon of life energy and a group of corrupted spirits in the security office."

"Right." Usagi turned to Naru again, who was staring at them both wide-eyed. "Don't worry, we're here to help," she said cheerfully. "And you were very brave, drawing them away from your friends like that. They're safe too, don't worry. Okay, Mercury? Let's go!"

The security office was near the entrance of the mall, with a counter facing onto the lobby and several rooms behind it where the CCTV camera feeds were displayed. By the time they were halfway there, Mercury had hacked into the systems and shut down the cameras throughout the building. A few moments more were all it took to bring up the inside of the office on her tablet's screen. Coming to a stop at one of the upper entrances to the two-storey high lobby, Moon and Mercury huddled together to get a good look.

"… that's quite a lot of guards," Moon observed.

"Yes. But they're taking orders from…" Mercury tapped the screen, "her." She'd selected a petite Chinese woman who was definitely not part of the mall staff; dressed in a slinky black dress and wearing ornate jewellery of bronze and some kind of black crystal. "If we subdue her first…"

"Then the guards might snap out of it!" Moon nodded. "That's a great idea! Even if they don't, they'll be put off. Okay. you fill the room with fog, then I'll go in."

"Right."

"… um… excuse me?"

Both Senshi turned, and found a teenage girl trying to stand as far away as possible from them without actually moving away. It made for an interesting stance. She glanced back at a group of friends some way behind her, who urged her on. "Um, are you… are you Sailor Moon? Only, uh, I was at the concert a week ago and… you look a lot like… I mean…"

Moon and Mercury traded glances. Then Moon turned back to the girl, her face lighting up in a grin.

"I am Sailor Moon, yeah," she agreed. "And I'd love to stop and chat, but we've got a bit of a monster problem. Can you try to get everyone out of the lobby while we go in and deal with it?"

The girl froze, wide-eyed. "Get… what, me? They… nobody would listen to me if I started…"

Moon's hand landed on her shoulder, and she looked up into crystal-blue eyes that were, somehow, both gentle and deadly serious. "What's your name?" the Senshi asked her softly.

"... Koharu."

"Koharu. Right. Here's what's going to happen. We're going to go in and deal with the monsters. It'll be pretty obvious that a fight's going on, so people will panic. What I need you to do is stay calm, look like you know what you're doing and tell everyone to get out of the lobby and avoid the security guards." She smiled, seeming to shine, and the girl drank her in wide-eyed. "If you sound like you know what you're doing, people will listen to you. I believe you can do this. Okay? Mercury can back you up if you need help, but I know you can handle this yourself; you and your friends together."

Mercury raised an eyebrow at that. But the little pep talk seemed to have worked. Koharu swelled with confidence, and gave a shaky nod. "I… I'll try," she promised, sounding star struck. Moon gave her a wide grin.

"Great. I'm counting on you, Koharu! Do your best!"

"Y-you too!"

Moon saluted her, and with Mercury following her lead, took a running leap off the first-floor balcony and landed with a crash on the lobby floor. Mercury came down behind her and raised her hands, already incanting.

"Mercury Aqua Mist!"

White fog rushed out and filled the office, before fading into a sparkle in the air and faint coils of mist. Moon moved in past her, vaulting the counter, already hearing Koharu and her friends start shouting for people to follow them.

"Malls are a place for people to have fun and relax on a weekend with their friends!" she called, letting her voice echo sourcelessly. "And security guards are there to stop shoplifters and keep us safe, not to arrest people for things they didn't do! I won't forgive you for using them for evil like this! In the name of the Moon, I'll punish you!" She came through the door to the main office with her tiara off and ready to throw, one finger pointed dramatically at the woman languishing on a swivel chair in front of the static-filled screens. She seemed remarkably unconcerned about her sudden blindness.

Her reason why was revealed with her next words, as a quiet smile spread across her lips.

"I surrender."