Halo – IV –
by Dreams in Pink
IV – Acuity –
Friday morning found the girls dressed in white lab coats, and latex gloves. Usagi bit her lip nervously, mentally preparing for what was to come. Ms. Haruna stood at the front of the class, giving instructions on what they were to do. She had already handed back the homework, and noted at the top of Usagi’s paper that she was pleased with her effort.
It was time to begin, and the teacher made her way around the room placing the fetal pigs on silver pans that sat in front of each pair. Usagi glanced at their set of tools and frowned; this was not going to be a pleasant experience.
“Are you okay?” Ami asked, noticing the paling of her partner’s face. The blonde swallowed, as she flashed an unconvincing smile.
“Okay class, please pick up your scalpels and start with the first incision as shown on the overhead,” Ms. Haruna instructed, outlining the procedure on the diagram displayed at the front with a long, wooden ruler. Without hesitation, Ami picked up the utensil, studying the diagram carefully before making any cuts.
“Poor thing,” Usagi whispered sadly, as she anxiously held the tool in her hand.
“Do you mind if I start?” Ami asked, ready to begin. Usagi managed to nod mutely, unable to take her eyes off the tiny animal.
As the blue haired girl began the task, loud cries of agony reverberated through Usagi’s mind. She felt the heaviness in the pit of her stomach, dreading what was to come. ‘No, not now!’ she cringed.
“I… I really have to go to the bathroom!” She announced hurriedly, peeling off her lab coat and gloves, and dashing out the door. Ami watched after her in confused surprise.
“I guess it’s just you and me for now,” she said quietly to the pig. Concentrating on her actions, Ami adeptly cut into the animal, following the instructions to a T and making notes on her worksheet as she went along.
Usagi flew out the school doors, searching for her guardian. The screams grew louder, and she covered her ears in an attempt to stop the pain – she needed to transform.
“Here!” Luna called, peeking out from behind the dumpsters sitting in the school’s parking lot. Usagi sprinted over, taking a moment to catch her breath before chanting, “Moon Prism Power, Make Up!”. A burst of light enveloped her slender body, and within moments her transformation was complete. Heroine and guardian bounded through the back streets of the city, soon reaching a nearby beauty salon. Through the large glass doors Sailor Moon could see a lithe creature with pointed ears and sharp shoulders. The curlers that were tangled it its putrid green hair collected energy from the salon’s patrons and employees. The solider pushed through the doors, and upon hearing her entrance the youma’s head snapped up, and an eerie smile spread across its face.
“That’s enough!” Sailor Moon called, “return these people’s energy!” she demanded, staring down the ugly monster.
“Their energy is mine,” the youma hissed, its back raising in defense. “And once I’m done with them, I’ll take yours,” it promised, as a snake made of its hair darted towards the heroine. Sailor Moon aptly dodged the attack, retaliating by kicking the monster in its side.
“Oh no,” Sailor Moon whispered under her breath as the youma’s eyes flashed red with anger. From the apron on its waist it grabbed a handful of scissors, firing them at the girl. Sailor Moon moved agilely through the assault, but just when she thought she was through, the youma sent more. She moved left and right as the metal utensils came flying towards her, ducking and bending with more accuracy than she thought possible.
“Sailor Moon!” Luna yelled, “you have to attack!” she instructed, momentarily interrupting the girl’s concentration.
“Ouch!” the blonde cried, as a pair of razor sharp scissors cut into her forearm. The youma cackled victoriously, gathering the last of the citizens’ energy.
“You’re next,” it vowed, eyes narrowing on its target.
“Moon Frisbee!” Sailor Moon cried, hurling the radiant disc towards the enemy. Her weapon nicked the youma’s shoulder, drawing a black liquid from its skin. Its hair warped into serpents, which hissed and snapped at the heroine as the monster lunged forward, cornering the girl. Calling on her tiara once again, she held the now energized Frisbee in her hand, swinging wildly at the beasts. However, for every head she cut off, two more grew in its place.
“Keep fighting,” the youma jeered, as Sailor Moon’s energy slowly drained into the curlers. She began to grow tired, sweat dripping from her brow, her vision growing hazy.
Suddenly she heard the monster scream out in pain, and its attack immediately stopped. The snakes withdrew, their attention now focused on something behind them. With another bang, the monster recoiled, interrupting the collection of Sailor Moon’s energy.
“It’s him….” she whispered, gasping for air.
“Get up!” Luna screamed, rushing to the girl’s side.
As Sailor Moon struggled to her feet, her masked saviour battled the creature. Using his cane as a sword, he thrust the weapon at the monster, lopping off snakes and cutting through to its skin. He drew its focus away from the girl, allowing her to recover. Strong and aggressive, the man continued to fight, his cane cracking one of the curlers on the youma’s head.
“The curlers!” he called, noticing a stream of energy leaking from the break.
The duo worked together, one by one splitting the canisters, fending off the creature’s desperate attacks. The customers began to wake, feeling some of their life force return. When each of the curlers had been destroyed, the tuxedo clad hero finished the battle with a swift slash to the monster’s neck, its head falling lifelessly to the floor, turning to dust. The man paused, breathing heavily and rubbing his shoulder.
“Woah,” Sailor Moon breathed, staring at him glossy eyed.
“It’s deceptively sharp,” he explained, motioning to the cane. “We have to go,” he said, as more civilians came to. The heroic couple darted from the building, seeking refuge atop a nearby building.
“Thank you.” The girl said quietly, shoulders slumping.
“Don’t thank me,” the hero replied, “train harder, and be prepared next time,” he snapped, jaw tight and posture rigid.
“I’m sorry,” her voice cracked, and her lip trembled. The man sighed, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He took her small hand in his, squeezing it as a silent apology.
“Sailor Moon!” Luna called, the masked man dropping the girl’s hand. She turned around, searching for the whereabouts of her guardian. When she turned back to bid the man farewell, he was nowhere to be found.
“Luna, I – ” she started, joining the black cat on the ground.
“Not now,” the feline replied sharply. The two took off in silence, heading back to Juuban High School. The girl’s face burned, and the man’s curt words cycled endlessly through her mind.
Back in her school uniform, Usagi skidded around the corner, finally reaching the classroom. She smoothed her skirt at the door, and pushed a stray tendril of hair behind her ear before entering.
“I’m sorry Ami, I didn’t mean to flake out on you,” the blonde apologized, sliding back onto her stool, fighting to keep her emotions in check.
“Are you okay?” Ami asked. “You’ve been gone for more than half an hour,” she noted, eyes wide with concern.
‘That’s it?’ her mind screamed; it felt like she had been fighting for an eternity.
“Oh yeah, I… I guess the chemical smell just made me feel nauseous,” Usagi explained with a slight shrug. She pulled up her sleeves, and snapped on the latex gloves, ready to do her part. “So, what can I do?”
“Usagi, did you cut yourself?” Ami wondered, pointing at the gash on her friend’s arm.
“I must have just bumped into something on my way back,” she lied, furrowing her brow – her wounds should be concealed by the magic of her transformation.
“Okay…” she conceded, studying Usagi from the corner of her eye; she looked different, and that laceration certainly wasn’t from merely bumping into something. The blonde flashed a small smile, and Ami began to explain what she had missed.
The two girls worked side by side to finish the dissection, Usagi gasping at every cut that was made. Before long the school bell was ringing, and the students packed up their things, ready for the next class.
“Are we still working on the write up after school today?” Usagi wondered, hoping that she hadn’t made Ami upset – something didn’t feel right.
“Oh yeah, of course,” she replied, nodding her head for emphasis. “I’ll be a little late, but did you want to work at the arcade again?” Ami suggestd, knowing that was Usagi’s favourite place to be.
“I would love that,” the blonde answered emphatically, energy suddenly returning to her demeanor. “As long as you don’t mind?” she added. Ami shook her head, her glasses slightly sliding down the bridge of her nose. With a friendly wave, the girls parted ways until later that afternoon.
Arm in arm, Usagi and Naru entered the crown arcade, skipping merrily over to their favourite booth. With wide similes and rosy cheeks, they continued to natter away with any thought that crossed their mind. Feeling warm, Usagi rolled up her sleeves, her attention catching the wound on her arm
“Can you see anything on my arm?” Usagi held it out in front of Naru’s face.
“Like what?” she asked.
“I don’t know, like a bruise or a cut?” she motioned to the area where the wound was.
“No, I don’t see a thing… why?” she shrugged, shaking her head.
“Oh, no reason, it’s just kind of sore…” the blonde pulled her sleeve down, wincing as the fabric rubbed against the laceration.
The girls chatted as they waited, Usagi placing an order for her usual milkshake. As Naru delved into a monologue about her secret crush, Usagi found herself only half listening. ‘Why could Ami see it…’ she wondered, absentmindedly drumming her fingers on the table. ‘I hope she’s not one of the bad guys…’ she sighed, resting her chin on clasped hands.
“So? What do you think?” Naru stared at the blonde, brows raised expectantly.
“What do I think?”
“Usagi, were you listening at all?”
“Sorry Naru, I just have a lot on my mind,” Usagi apologized.
“Like… Mamoru?” Naru wondered, a sly smile spread across her pink lips.
“Why? Is he here?” the blonde corrected her posture, glancing around the arcade.
“No,” her friend laughed, “but I heard that you spent some time with him yesterday!” she squealed, causing Usagi’s face to flush pink.
“He was helping us with homework,” she explained, “me and Ami.” Naru continued to grin at her with knowing eyes. “Get real Naru, he was just tutoring us,” Usagi grumbled.
“I bet you could get him to tutor you in other things,” she winked, and Usagi slid down into her seat, wishing she could disappear. “Oh come on, I’m just having fun,” she laughed, swatting playfully at Usagi’s arm. The blonde gave in and allowed a smirk to tug at the corner of her lips; sometimes it felt good to be a regular teenaged girl.
“Sorry I’m late,” Ami panted, as she rushed over to the booth.
“It’s okay,” Usagi smiled.
“Hey, you guys know that Sailor Moon girl?” Naru’s sudden change in subject caused Usagi’s grin to fade.
“She’s pretty amazing,” Ami replied, “I guess there was another attack this afternoon while we were at school.”
“Really? Look it up!” Naru said excitedly, as Ami pulled her laptop from her bag. Within a few short moments, the three girls were huddled around the glowing screen, watching a news report from earlier that day.
‘…and during today’s attack a man, who has been dubbed by the public as Tuxedo Kamen, aided Sailor Moon in defeating the threat. It seems that they are working together. We have received an overwhelming amount of footage from customers who say that the duo saved them.’
“Tuxedo Kamen, how original,” Usagi scoffed, leaning back into the cushion. His words boiled again to the surface of her mind, causing her to cringe.
As Ami watched the footage, something dawned on her; Usagi looked an awful lot like Sailor Moon. Her attention darted between the screen and her friend, forehead winkled, and eyes narrowed. Ami opened her mouth to speak, but words escaped her. She played the video again, noticing the wound on Sailor Moon’s arm.
“Wouldn’t you like to be rescued by Tuxedo Kamen?” Naru sighed dreamily, pressing her palm to her chest as if to still her heart. As Naru fawned over the hero, and Usagi sulked, Ami continued to examine the footage.
‘How could I have not seen it before…’ she wondered, completely convinced – Usagi was Sailor Moon.
The blonde glanced over at the computer screen, seeing a close up of her alter-ego’s face. Her eyes slowly moved up to meet Ami’s shocked expression. ‘Oh my god, she knows,’ Usagi panicked, swallowing nervously.
“Oh you know,” she started, speech faltering as she awkwardly gathered her belongings, “I told my mom that I would be go home straight after school,” she stammered, “I don’t want to get in trouble, so I better get going.”
“What about the lab report?” Ami asked, determined not to let her get away; she had to know if she was right.
“Um,” Usagi bit her lip, “how about you come over after dinner and we can do it at my place?” she offered, knowing then at the very least Luna would be there to help her.
“Okay,” Ami agreed.
“See you later, Usa!” Naru waved, utterly oblivious.
Usagi rushed from the arcade, face burning and heart racing, with a million questions buzzing through her mind. She made a beeline down the sidewalk, paying no attention to her fellow pedestrians. Making it home in record speed, she flew through the door, kicking her shoes off in the entrance, and sprinted upstairs to her bedroom.
“Luna,” she said, panting heavily as she flopped onto her bed.
“Usagi? Is everything okay?” the feline wondered, jumping up beside the girl.
“NO!” she shouted, “something’s wrong.” Luna waited for Usagi to continue, her cinnamon eyes imploring her to go on. “She could see it,” she whispered. “Ami, my friend from school, she could this,” she gestured to the cut. “Then she could see me, but as Sailor Moon.”
Luna inhaled slowly, “that’s wonderful news!” she beamed.
“HOW IS THAT WONDERFUL NEWS?” the blonde yelled, sitting up straight, her hands shaking with emphasis.
“She must be one of them.”
“One of who? Don’t tell me she’s a bad guy. I really like her,” Usagi groaned.
“She’s not a bad guy,” Luna said, giddy with excitement, “she’s an ally.”
“Usagi, she’s like you,” she explained.
“She’s like me,” the girl repeated, letting the information sink in. “I don’t think we should tell her,” she stated resolutely. “I don’t want her going through what I have.” Usagi looked down, biting her lip. Ami was her friend, and if she was supposed to be the heroine, then wouldn’t she be doing the right thing by keeping her out of danger? By making sure that she wasn’t burdened with the same task?
“It’s not up for discussion,” she snapped, her face stern and lips pointed.
Luna yielded with a simple nod, knowing that a fight would get them nowhere.
Hearing her mother call her name, Usagi bolted downstairs, wanting nothing more than to leave her problems in her room, as she enjoyed a meal with her family. Yet her desired peace did not come, and she found herself trapped in an endless cycle of self-deprecation, confliction and doubt. ‘Maybe I do need her…’ she thought, knowing that she almost lost the battle against the youma earlier that day. However, the thought of dragging her friend into the same situation tied her stomach into knots; it was wrong. With her family finished their meal, all that remained was Usagi, who poked at her food with chopstick, sighing heavily.
“Usagi, sweetie, are you – ” her mother started, but was stopped mid-sentence, when Kenji put his hand on her arm, shaking his head.
“Later,” he mouthed, thinking that all his daughter needed was some time. She was a teenage girl, and if he had learned anything, he had learned that it was better not to ask.
The doorbell’s shrill ring broke Usagi’s daze, and she jumped from her seat. Taking a deep breath, she answered the door, finding Ami smiling nervously on the other side. ‘An ally…’.
Ami stepped into the house, in awe of its warmth. It was much different from her home, which sat perched up high on the seventh floor of an expensive apartment building. The three other remaining members of the Tsukino family came to greet her.
“Mom, Dad, this is my friend from school, Ami,” Usagi said, both parties bowing politely. Ami was accustomed to being brought home for study groups and group projects. It was usually, “This is Ami, the smart girl” as if her intelligence was her one redeeming factor; the one thing that made it okay for her to hang around. She waited for it, but it never came. Ami looked at the blonde, her features softening. Sailor Moon or not, Usagi was her friend.
“It’s nice to meet you Ami!” Ikuko stepped forward, taking the girl’s hand in hers, and giving it a gentle squeeze.
The girls headed up to Usagi’s room, ready to write their report. Usagi closed the door behind her determined to keep Luna out. With no mention of the incident at the arcade, they got to work. As their homework progressed, the air of awkwardness vanished, and they were back normal; giggling and chatting. Within no time the report was complete, and Ami logged on to her school e-mail address to send it to their teacher.
“Okay, it’s all sent!” Ami rejoiced, stretching her arms above her head.
“I don’t think I like dissections,” Usagi declared, crinkling her nose.
Ami laughed, “I’m glad we were partnered together,” she said sincerely.
“Me too.” As Ami began to close the windows on her computer, Usagi saw a familiar face on the screen. “Ami, what’s that?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she stammered, her cheeks reddening as she tried to shut her laptop.
“Wait, let me see.” Usagi put her hand on the keyboard, preventing it from closing. Ami backed away, giving Usagi access. She chewed her lip as Usagi cycled through photos, videos and news articles of Sailor Moon. The blonde’s shoulders dropped, her hand falling into her lap.
“After I saw that video today with you and Naru at the arcade, I knew,” she began, “I knew it was you, so I thought maybe if I did some research I could prove myself wrong,” Ami continued, unwilling to allow herself to look at Usagi’s face. “But no one knows, Usagi,” she claimed, truly unable to find any information about Sailor Moon’s identity. “I don’t know why I know, or why no one else sees it.”
A silence passed between the two girls, both unsure what to say. Finally Ami lifted her head, adjusting her glasses . “I won’t tell anyone,” she promised. “How’s your arm?”
A slow smile spread across Usagi’s lips, relief washing over her. “It’s okay,” she said, rolling up her sleeve. “I heal fast.” Ami looked at the wound and blinked – it was nearly gone. Brows knit, she carefully touched the healing cut.
“This is amazing,” she whispered, truly in awe. Her friend was a medical mystery.
“You’re the only one who can see it,” Usagi affirmed, unwilling to share Luna’s theory.
“What can I do to help?” Ami asked, surprised at her own question.
The blonde’s face brightened, “you can cheer me on.”
“Usagi, I can do more than that! Let me help you,” Ami pleaded, a subconscious force pushing her into service.
“It’s too dangerous,” Usagi shook her head, “just be there for me. And maybe cover me at school sometimes?” she added sheepishly.
“I can do that.”
With their report finished, and dusk turning into night, Ami knew it was time to head home. She collected her things, slipping her computer into her bag, and waved her goodbyes.
“Usagi, be careful,” Ami said from the doorway, her friend nodding in reply. As soon as the bedroom opened, Luna slipped in, ears flat with annoyance. She watched as Ami left, swelling with disappointment.
Ami head down the hallway towards the stairs, but paused when she heard an unfamiliar voice coming from Usagi’s room. “You didn’t tell her,” the voice snapped.
“And I’m not going to,” Usagi exclaimed.
“She can help you. She’s a warrior like you,” the voice insisted, Ami struggling to place who it could belong to. ‘They can’t be talking about me…’ she thought, laughing at herself for even allowing the notion to cross her mind. After all, she wasn’t a warrior; she was just a regular high school genius.
A few days passed with no sign of the enemy. Now able to confide in Ami, Usagi felt like a weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. She told her friend all about the previous attacks, about the vile monsters, and her mysterious counterpart. She did not, however, tell Ami about her talking cat. That, Usagi felt, was too much. Ami enjoyed hearing Usagi’s tales, and her feelings of admiration grew. She could only imagine what her friend was going through, and was glad that she could relieve even a little of that burden. Still, Ami wanted to do more. Something in her had been ignited, and she knew that she couldn’t merely sit on the sidelines as she was so apt to do. As she listened, she racked her brain for ways she could help.
School had finished for the day, and Ami made her now routine trek to the Crown Arcade to meet Usagi. She looked forward to the afternoons now, despite her constant struggle of trying to convince her friend that studying was the best use of their time. She hadn’t laughed as much in all her years combined as she had since befriending the energetic blonde.
Ami’s thoughts were interrupted as she saw Usagi sprinting towards her, her cat Luna following closely behind. They rushed past without even a hello, completely focused on something in the distance. Curiosity overtaking her reservations, and outweighing her reasoning, Ami decided to follow. She saw a brilliant blast of light burst from a nearby alleyway, arriving just in time to see Sailor Moon take off down the street.
Hot on her trail, Ami soon caught up, glass crunching under her feet as she approached the scene. The front window of a bank had been completely destroyed, and limp bodies were scattered on the ground. Sailor Moon had caught the attention of a slimy monster, its rounded head dotted with eyes. Ami watched in horror as the creature attacked, teeth bared as it snapped at the heroine, yellow saliva dripping down its chin. Sailor Moon leapt towards the enemy, screaming a battle cry as she kicked one its legs out from under it. The youma fell, hissing loudly its tail whipping around its body to knock Sailor Moon in the back, sending forwards. She landed on the floor, glass cutting her palms and knees.
“Moon Twilight Flash!” She screamed, pure energy beaming from her tiara. The monster evaded the attack, barely grazed. The fight continued, with Sailor Moon struggling to get the upper hand. Ami began to panic; she needed to do something. She needed to create a diversion. She inspected her surroundings, trying to formulate a plan. A dark figure standing in the corner of bank caught her attention, and she squinted trying to make out his face. ‘Tuxedo Kamen,’ her mind screamed. She jumped, hoping to get his attention, when her foot landed on a blue stick, topped with a golden symbol lying at her feet. She picked it up, studying it cautiously. Luna watched with relief as the symbol for Mercury appeared on the girl’s forehead; it was time.
“You have to help her,” Luna said, stepping out from the shadows. “Hold the pen in your hand and say Mercury Power, Make Up,” she ordered. Barely phased by the talking cat, Ami did as she was instructed.
“Mercury Power, Make Up!” Water whirled around her, caressing her legs and encircling her arms. Within moments the water dissipated, leaving behind a white bodice and cobalt skirt with matching gloves, complete with a sky blue bow at the back. A gold tiara stretched across her forehead; a sparkling topaz in its center.
“This can’t be real,” she breathed, her heart pounding and mind clouded. Something about it felt right. Sailor Mercury ran to her friend’s aid, helping her to her feet.
“Ami?” She whispered, her face twisted with shock.
“Sailor Mercury,” she corrected. “I’ll distract it, and you finish it.”
The soldiers took off in opposite directions, yet the monster continued to pursue Sailor Moon. With its back turned, Sailor Mercury charged towards it digging her boot into its winding tail. The youma screeched, sharply turning its gangly head. Sailor Mercury ran backwards, drawing its attention away from her comrade.
“Mercury Aqua Mist!” she called, as blue flames of water surged from the palms of her outstretched hands, colliding above her head and covering the ground with a dense fog. “Now!” she screamed.
“Moon Frisbee!” Sailor Moon cried, aiming her weapon towards the hazy outline of the monster’s head. Unable to see through the thick fog, the youma was unprepared for the attack. The girls cheered in unison as the weapon sliced through its elongated neck. The beast tumbling to the ground, defeated.
“We did it!” Sailor Moon bounded over, the fog rising and victims waking.
“We did,” Sailor Mercury beamed, feeling like a piece of her puzzle had snapped into place.
Suddenly the blonde’s face dropped, her expression distant. “He didn’t come,” she said, disappointment laced in her voice.
“He was in – ” Sailor Mercury started, but stopped short when Luna shot her a piercing glare, slowly shaking her head. “He was probably just caught up with something.”
“You girls need to get out of here,” Luna instructed, as onlookers snapped photos and recorded video. With a quick nod, Sailor Moon and sailor Mercury fled the scene, unaware of the uniformed man hidden in the crowd paying them special interest.