Halo – II –

by Dreams in Pink

halo

← I III →

II – Secrets –

The next morning came all too soon and once again, the golden haired girl was wretched from the solace of sleep. She squeezed a white, feather-filled pillow over her head, muffling the alarm clocks’ agitated cries. Eventually the constant ringing broke through the barrier, and she labouredly swung her legs from underneath their protective, warm cover.

Usagi routinely prepared for the day ahead, throwing on her uniform and quickly shoving her school materials into her bag. She shuffled downstairs to where her father was eating breakfast, and stopped when she saw a familiar image flash across the television screen.

‘Last night another monster attack occurred near a convenience store in the Minato district of Tokyo. Witnesses say that the attack was stopped once again by the mysterious heroine, Sailor Moon. An anonymous informant also submitted the following footage. This is the first time that the heroine’s actions have been caught on tape.’

Usagi’s face blanched when shaky footage from the fight began to run. She saw her alter ego manipulate her power to turn a simple tiara into a deadly weapon. She watched again as it sliced through the monster’s body, causing it to disintegrate. Her shoulders dropped as she remembered what was not shown on television – her panic, her fear and most of all, her failure. ‘What would I have done if Luna hadn’t been there…’ she wondered, a frown spreading across her face.

“Usagi honey, you better get moving. You’re going to be late,” her mother warned, drawing her daughter’s focus back to reality.

Her father looked away from the television and smiled, “Your mother’s right! Have a good day at school.” Usagi stared at them in bewilderment – had they not recognized their own daughter? Could no one tell that it was her who was constantly putting her life on the line to save them?

“Sweetie, are you okay?” Ikuko asked, placing a concerned palm against Usagi’s forehead, watching the colour drain from her face.

“Mom, can’t you tell – ” she started, but the words died in her throat as Luna shot her a piercing glare. Usagi felt her entire stature shrink. “I’m fine Mom,” she replied weakly, plucking her lunch from her mother’s hand. “I’ll be home before dinner,” she called, heading out the door knowing that if she stayed any longer, she might burst into tears.

 

As soon as she was out of the house, Ikuko turned to her husband who had moved to adjust his tie in the hallway mirror.

“Do you think it’s drugs?” she wondered tentatively, leaning against the wall and watching as he made a final modification on the knot.

“I’m sure it’s not drugs,” he replied confidently, laying a strong hand on his wife’s slender shoulder.

Look at her, Kenji. Just look at her!” the woman continued, her voice raised with panic and worry, “she’s like a zombie.” Ikuko could sense the invisible weight on Usagi’s shoulders, and for the past few weeks she had watched her once glowing and energetic little girl grow tainted with stress and exhaustion.

“It’s probably just all the pressure from school. You know they have a lot of tests around this time,” Kenji reasoned, pulling his suit jacket from the back of the chair it had been resting on.

“I suppose,” Ikuko sighed, smoothing the down lapels of her husband’s suit.

“Don’t worry,” he reassured her, placing a loving peck on her cheek, “she’ll be fine. This is our Usagi we’re talking about; nothing keeps her down for long.”

 

Usagi began her trek to school with each step growing increasingly cumbersome. She felt as if she was being pulled into the ground by ropes anchored with stones, and a cloud of muddled memories hung dangerously over her head. She was Sailor Moon and she was quickly realizing that this burden was not something she could share or shed. She released an agitated sigh as she heard the light patter of her guardian’s steps nearby. If there was one advantage that came with being Sailor Moon, it was definitely the heightened senses.

“Luna, I know you’re there,” Usagi yelled, annoyed at being followed. Would there ever be a time where she could simply be alone with her thoughts? “You don’t have to follow me to school every day,” the girl snapped, her pace increasing in a vain attempt to lose the feline.

“It’s my job to keep watch over you,” Luna stated, agilely walking along the wall. Usagi only rolled her eyes – this was not the first time Luna had reminded her of that fact. She scowled at the choice of words, knowing that they were true; she did need to be watched, especially in battle.

“My own parents don’t even recognize me,” Usagi stated sadly, causing Luna’s brow to furrow.

“That’s part of the power, no one should recognize you,” she explained for the countless time. The magic woven into her power allowed her to remain anonymous. People would see Sailor Moon’s face, but making the mental connection of that image to Usagi would be impossible.

“Can’t I tell someone?” The blonde whined, her posture slouching and her bag dragging along the ground.

From the start, Usagi had longed for a confidant, someone who could help take the edge off her burden. She just wasn’t the kind of girl that kept everything locked away; that’s not how she functioned. Keeping this colossal secret in the tight confines of her mind was spreading through her like a virus and slowly wreaking havoc on every aspect of her life. She couldn’t justify why she sometimes flew from the room without a word of excuse. She couldn’t explain why there were heavy circles developing under eyes, which with every battle were turning lacklustre and empty. There were so many questions that had to go continuously unanswered and she wondered how long things would be able to stay as they were.

“If you’re willing to put their life in danger, go ahead. Tell them.” Luna’s blunt answer sent a wave of guilt through Usagi. She would never want to put anyone she cared about in danger; she wasn’t that selfish.

“I know Luna, I’m just so exhausted.” She managed a half-hearted smile, trying to convince herself that everything was going to be okay. “I hope nothing happens today,” she said wistfully, “don’t these guys ever go on vacation?” With a complete shift of attitude, she giggled quietly to herself as images of hideous monsters sprawled out on beach chairs popped into her mind. Luna shook her head, a light smile appearing on her lips – that girl would never change.

“Talking to your cat again, Odango?” Hearing the familiar, low timbre voice behind her, Usagi froze. ‘I am so not in the mood for him today…’ she thought, slowly turning around to face a tall man, wearing a black turtleneck and infamous olive blazer. It had been six weeks since they had first met, and they seemed to constantly be crossing paths.

“I’d rather talk to her than you, Mamoru-baka,” Usagi spat, her stomach flipping as he flashed her a lopsided grin. It would be foolish to deny that Mamoru was an attractive man, with his sapphire eyes and messy midnight locks, but then he would open his perfectly supple lips and something ridiculously irritating would pour out. Usagi knew she should ignore it, but something inside always made her react and despite his teasing, she felt drawn towards him. It was the way he looked at her, those lingering stares that challenged her to solve the enigma hidden in his stormy eyes.

“Oh you know that’s not true,” he replied, watching the blush creep up her neck. He couldn’t help but smile at the frown that stole her features; she had the most beautifully expressive face he had ever seen.

“She doesn’t insult me,” Usagi remarked, childishly sticking out her tongue.

“I’m sure she could find a few pieces of … constructive criticism if she could talk.” Usagi snorted in irony, and sighed with relief – at least he hadn’t heard Luna talking. “Isn’t that right, kitty?” Mamoru confirmed, reaching out to pet the charcoal feline. The man made Luna’s hair stand on end, and instead of a friendly purr, her ears flattened and she hissed, swinging a clawed paw towards his outstretched fingers. Surprised, Mamoru quickly retracted his hand.

“See Mamoru, even cats don’t like you,” Usagi said smugly, yet she couldn’t quash the anxiety that swelled up over Luna’s strange reaction. She soon shrugged it off as nothing but a bout of over-protectiveness.

Mamoru scowled in annoyance. “You’re late for school,” he stated flatly, without an ounce of urgency in his voice. Usagi cringed – she hated being late and she hated getting detention, a practice that was becoming all too common for her liking.

“This is your fault,” she told him, eyes narrowed with seriousness. “I hope you know you’re buying me a milkshake later to make up for it,” she added, making Mamoru chuckle.

“You’d better run,” he replied, causing Usagi to spin on her heel in agreement. “See you around, Odango,” he called after her, receiving a backwards wave as she flew down the street, golden pigtails streaming behind her. Mamoru watched after her unable to conceal the smile that spread over his face. There was something different about that girl.

 

Usagi’s day droned on like any other – classes were tedious and detention seemed to last a lifetime. She watched the second hand of the clock as it sluggishly made the journey around its black and white face. Her eyes were growing heavy, and every so often, she felt her lids slowly fall and her head rapidly drop, jerking her back to consciousness. She continued to battle against sleep until the shrill ringing of the school bell signalled the release from prison. Glad to be finished for the day, Usagi found herself on autopilot, making her way to her favourite hangout to gossip with her two closest friends – Naru and Umino.

Usagi stood in front of the Crown Arcade’s sliding doors as they opened to welcome her inside. She took a moment to survey the floor, from the machines that were whizzing and beeping under the control of middle and high school students, to the crowded café, complete with a checkered floor and red vinyl booths. Catching sight of Naru’s fiery hair, she skipped passed the games and slid into the seat beside her.

“Finally!” Naru exclaimed, glancing at her watch.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry. Detention lasted forever,” Usagi explained with a groan, shedding her jacket. “So, what did I miss?”

“Umino told me about… bugs,” Naru replied, relieved that her friend had showed. “It was fascinating,” she added monotonously.

“You told me to hold back on the gossip until Usagi got here,” Umino whined, pouting lightly at Naru’s obvious distaste for his previous conversation topic – how could anyone hate the captivating world of entomology?

“Now that Usagi’s here, you can start,” the red head ordered. The boy looked around the room, and leaned in, his voice barely above a whisper.

Well, you won’t believe what I overheard about Keiko Yoshida,” Umino began, the girls listening intently as the hottest gossip spilled from his lips. They always found it utterly amazing how Umino, who was supposedly the class nerd, was always on top of the latest rumours, breakups and hook-ups. He was a source overloaded with information, both academic and social.

“Sorry to interrupt,” a friendly voice broke into the conversation, its owner smiling as he was greeted by three pairs of eyes.

“Motoki!” Usagi grinned up at the apron clad, sandy haired man, watching in confusion as he placed a strawberry milkshake before her. “How did you know? I didn’t even order yet,” she wondered, glancing between him and the drink.

“It’s actually courtesy of that gentleman over there,” Motoki said with a laugh, pointing towards Mamoru who was seated at the café counter, head buried in a newspaper.

“No way,” Usagi whispered in disbelief – she never actually expected Mamoru to comply.

“I swear,” Motoki promised, raising his hands in innocence.

“Will you thank him for me?” she asked nervously, unable to control the heat that rose to her face. Usagi desperately wanted to find meaning behind the simple gesture. She wanted it to be something more than Mamoru merely humouring her.

“I think you should thank him yourself,” Motoki urged, feeling the asinine desire to play matchmaker. He couldn’t pinpoint why or how, but somehow he knew they were just supposed to be together. It was this feeling that he got when he was around them. A reaction to the intense chemistry that bubbled between them.

“Usagi, is there something going on between you and Mamoru that you haven’t told us about?” Naru asked, noticing Usagi’s sudden shyness and the knowing gleam in Motoki’s eye.

“What? No!” She shook her head vehemently.

“Why are you blushing so much?” Umino questioned.

“I’m not!”

“You kind of are,” Motoki exposed her with a wink. Usagi frowned and pulled the milkshake closer, taking a sip.

“He is a jerk,” she managed, as the cold liquid ran down her throat, instantly soothing her mood.

“Oh yeah, what a jerk. He bought you a milkshake,” Naru said sarcastically, rolling her eyes. Usagi sighed, casting a glance in Mamoru’s direction – she knew she was being unreasonable. Here he was trying to make an effort and she was too scared to figure out why. ‘There’s probably nothing behind it,’ she told herself, unsure whether or not that instilled or diminished her confidence.

 

Mamoru cautiously watched her reaction from his seat in the corner, slyly pretending to be engrossed in his paper. No one seemed to notice that he hadn’t turned the page for more than five minutes. A look of intense sullenness captured his expressions as he watched Usagi and Motoki with abnegated envy. Talking to her always came so easily to Motoki; they would laugh, and joke. She would innocently flirt with him, placing a gentle hand on his arm or giving him a friendly hug. Mamoru hated it.

That little sprite of a girl caused his emotions to run rampant to the point where he himself could hardly control them. She was intimidating. It was like part of him was constantly calling out to her, trying to make some sort of connection, and the only way he knew how to stand out was to provoke her. To tease her. To make sure that she knew he was there. Mamoru gripped the china mug angrily in his hand and downed the rest of his coffee. He saw her look in his direction, and immediately averted his gaze, hiding behind the flimsy paper.

“Mamoru?” Her sweet voice interrupted his fuming state.

“Odango,” he addressed her, watching as she shook her head in irritation over the name. “Can I help you?” Mamoru wondered, noticing her awkwardly twisting hands and rocking feet.

“I just wanted to say thank you.” The words sped from her mouth, and he paused to make sure he had caught them. “For the milkshake,” she added.

“I didn’t think I had choice,” he replied jokingly, raising his brow with a slight grin. He watched the guilt take control of her face, her eyes dropping to the ground.

“I didn’t really expect you to,” she murmured.

“I know,” he laughed, half-wondering if she would ever learn when not to take him seriously. “Strawberry was right, wasn’t it?” he asked, knowing that anything but an affirmative answer would be a lie. She had a strawberry milkshake nearly every time she came into the arcade. They were her favourite. It was a fact that he had filed away in his memory shortly after their first encounter.

“Yeah, it was,” she confirmed, blushing becomingly.

“Good,” he smiled again, and Usagi’s heart leapt to her throat. It was much easier being around him when he wasn’t being nice. Suddenly, Usagi felt the muffled cries of those in need reverberating in her mind. She glanced towards the door to see Luna glaring at her from the opposite side of the window – it was time to go.

“Sorry Mamoru, I’ve gotta run,” she excused herself, running back to her friends and grabbing her bag. With nothing but a mumbled apology, she slung her school bag over her shoulder and took off sprinting.

“Let’s go!” Luna shouted, joining Usagi at her side. “Find somewhere safe to transform.” The blonde nodded, her eyes scouring the area in attempts to find a location. After a few seconds she saw a darkened alleyway, and within moments she had once again transformed from the gawky high school student to Tokyo’s celebrated heroine. Her senses became more adept, and she quickly tracked the victim’s cries, her legs carrying her effortlessly as she jumped through the city via rooftop.

Soon Sailor Moon was in a residential area known for its wealthy inhabitants. She concentrated, focusing on the calls that lead her to a park, and noticed immediately how the grassy ground was littered with energy-drained bodies. A group of children stood around a swing set with a rainbow coloured youma standing before them, sucking their youthful energy into a black flask attached at its waist. The sun bounced off its scaly skin, creating an illusion of sparkles, and from its mouth came a hypnotic song, which coerced the children into a trance, allowing their life force to be drawn.

“That’s right, give me your energy,” the youma cooed, its voice surprisingly soothing. More children began to approach, the melodic song calling out to them as they left their toys, friends and family behind.

“I can’t allow you to hurt innocent children!” Sailor Moon cried in an attempt to draw the monster from its mission. Its gangly head swung around to identify its opponent, the crowd of children instantly falling as the monster’s magical grasp was withdrawn.

“Sailor Moon,” it chuckled, “I’ve been expecting you.” The heroine’s face went white with fear – never before had a youma spoken her name.

“Yo… you… you have?” she stammered, unsure how to proceed. The creature nodded, a ghastly smile creeping onto its pock marked face.

“Give me your energy,” it demanded, its arm elongating and shooting outwards with an open palm landing before Sailor Moon’s red booted feet. She stood her ground, trying in vain to prove that she was brave and that she could handle this. Its other hand slithered to the left, coiling around a child’s neck. “Give it to me or I will kill him,” the youma threatened, squeezing ever so slightly to prove it was serious. That was its mission, and failure was not an option.

“Let him go!” she screamed, her voice cracking as dread flared up in her chest.

“This is your last chance,” it grunted, its free arm leaping from the ground, grabbing Sailor Moon around the throat.

“I’ll… gi… give it t-to you….if you l..et him g-go,” she managed through struggling breaths. She searched the depths of her mind for some sort of way out, knowing that she would only emerge empty handed. The youma considered her offer, and slowly let the boy drop to the ground.

“Give it to me,” it seethed, its attention focused entirely on the girl. Sailor Moon tried in desperation to reach her tiara, willing her arms to grow to no avail. “Give it to me or die!” It screeched again, its second hand latching around her waist, its sharpened nails pricking her flesh. Sailor Moon could feel dizziness set in as she fought to breathe. Tiny beads of sweat pooled on her forehead, and she clenched her eyes closed waiting for the final blow, salty, silent tears streaking down her face. She wished she could be stronger, braver, swifter… she wanted to live.

A sharp wind crossed her cheek and within seconds she felt the youma’s grip retract. The air came rushing back into her lungs, her hands flying up to rub at her assaulted throat. The creature released a shocked scream as a razor sharp stem sliced through its flesh. Sailor Moon’s eyes fell on a perfect crimson rose, stuck in the soft soil.

“Finish him!” A voice demanded from behind, causing her to spin around. Her eyes went wide with disbelief as she saw him standing there in a full tuxedo, with a black cape hanging from his broad shoulders and a white domino mask covering his identity. “Focus!” He shouted, shoving the heroine back into the task at hand. ‘Right, kill the monster,’ she reminded herself.

She swallowed as trembling fingers clasped her tiara, “Moon Frisbee!” She yelled, sending the radiant disc of light towards the monster. It moved slightly, causing the weapon to only nick its neck. Blood seeped from the wound releasing a putrid odour, and feeling the pain shoot through its body, the youma unveiled a deafening shriek into the sky. Sailor Moon’s frisbee circled the area, returning to its original form and landing in her grasp. Her enemy lunged forward, grossly aggravated, and the young heroine retaliated with a well-aimed kick, her heel digging into its now open wound. The creature stumbled backwards, its hand wrapping around the injured limb, protectively covering the gash. Once again it shot its arm forward, gnarled fingers decorated with sharp nails latching around Sailor Moon’s leg, pulling her to the ground. As the monster drew her closer, her fingers dug into the ground, her other foot kicking wildly in an attempt to make it let go. Another panged yelp echoed through the air as a black cane came down on the creature’s arm, cutting straight through. A strong hand steadied Sailor Moon’s leg, prying off the now motionless claw, leaving the youma with one less appendage.

The girl’s breath caught in her throat – he had never been this close. His forceful touch caused her heart to beat erratically within her chest. His cool voice broke her reverie, “hurry up,” he ordered gruffly, yanking her to her feet. She nodded mutely, calling on her tiara for the second time that day.

“Moon Tiara Frisbee!” She watched with relief as it hit the youma straight on, its body bursting into colourful rays before falling to the ground in a lump of soot. As always, the captured energy was released back into its rightful owners. Slowly, children and parents alike came to, memories of the battle patchy in their minds. Sailor Moon turned around to notice the tuxedo clad figure leaving the scene, and she quickly sprinted after him.

“Wait!” She called, reaching out to grab his arm. Her fingers grasped lightly at the fabric of his sleeve, and he quickly turned around, pulling it away. “I.. I just want to thank you,” Sailor Moon stuttered, her focus fixed on his jaw, unable to look him in the eye, “for saving my life,” she continued, when he didn’t respond. Shyly, she peaked up at him from under her heavy lashes, taking in his strong face and angled cheeks. Despite his mask, she knew he was beautiful, and the golden flecked, midnight orbs that shone from the slits in the white fabric only further proved that notion.

“Are you injured?” The man asked, his stance relaxing and his voice softening. Feeling spellbound, the heroine could only nod her head. “You have to be more careful,” he warned gently, watching for some sort of understanding.

“I know…” she whispered, her gaze dropping as she felt the embarrassment creep up the back of her neck and spread to her ears. An awkward silence passed between the pair, and Sailor Moon could feel him visually examining every aspect of her appearance. A silky gloved hand cupped her chin, drawing her startled eyes to meet his. His brow furrowed as he concentrated on her face, searching for something – what was it about this girl? The blonde swallowed nervously, alarmed by his sudden, tender touch. “I… I have to go,” she choked uncomfortably, causing him to drop his hand to his side. Sailor Moon backed away slowly, before spinning on her heel and sprinting away.

Her cheeks burned as she ran through the city, the strange scene streaming through her mind on repeat. It had been the first time they had truly met, yet she couldn’t shake the sense of familiarity. She knew he had always been there, watching her from afar, but today he had stepped in. He had rescued her.

“Sailor Moon!” Luna called, chasing after her charge. The girl slowed, her feet pounding hard against the pavement as she came to a halt.

“Luna,” she panted, bending slightly and resting her hands on her thighs. “Tell me who he is.”

“You should de-transform,” the cat replied, avoiding the question for the countless time.

“No. I want answers,” she demanded, standing up straight and glaring down at the feline. She was tired of being ignored. “You know something about him, and I want to know what it is.”

“Usagi…” Luna began, suddenly feeling at a loss for words. “There are more important matters to discuss,” she stated, trying again to draw the heroine’s focus elsewhere. Sailor Moon only raised an eyebrow expectantly. “I know the monsters are growing stronger, but there’s –”

“Luna, he saved my life,” the blonde interrupted, “I would have died,” she continued, stubbornly crossing her arms over her chest.

“I don’t know anything about him,” she lied, “but I do know that he can’t be trusted.”

“Were you not there? He saved my life!” Sailor Moon yelled, her hands balled into tiny fists, as anger and frustration sped through her. She knew Luna was lying, there had to be something more to it.

“That doesn’t mean you can trust him!” the guardian spat, her patience wearing thin. “Why hasn’t he ever helped you before?” she challenged, watching as the colour drained from the girl’s face.

“I didn’t need it before,” she replied quietly, “it’s never gotten that bad.” The question rang through her mind, poking holes in her confidence.

“You don’t need his help,” Luna bit coldly, her sharp tone sending a chill up Sailor Moon’s spine.

“I do, Luna. I can’t do this by myself anymore! They’re getting stronger and stronger!” Her hands shook emphatically as she tried in vain to push her message across.

“Calm down, you’ll draw attention,” she scolded, checking for curious passersby. “Let’s go home, and get some rest.”

Sailor Moon refused to budge, and instead remained motionless, staring down her opponent. Luna sighed, her head dropping as she made her decision – it was time.

“There are others,” she whispered, her commanding voice struggling to fight against the breeze. The cat lifted her cinnamon eyes and was greeted with confusion, relief and fury.

The blonde was rendered mute, as she was overrun with questions. Who were they? Why weren’t they here? Why had she been forced to struggle on her own? She felt betrayed; the one soul that she had completely entrusted her life to had lied to her. Sailor Moon closed her eyes, taking deep breaths to quell her anger and to push back the agitated tears that threatened to fall.

“What?” Her voice cracked with the question.

“Let’s go home, and I can explain it all to you later,” Luna offered.

“I’m not going anywhere,” the girl replied stubbornly, jaw clenched. “I want an explanation,” she demanded, “now.” Silver flashed through her eyes, and Luna knew she had no choice but to comply. There had never been a chance to reason with the girl, not when she was like this.

“I never told you because I don’t know who they are,” the feline started, ashamed. “I don’t know how to find them, and I don’t know how to awaken them.” Sailor Moon’s features softened at the confession. “But as your powers grow, so will theirs. We’ll find them,” she reassured her charge who only nodded in reply. The heroine opened her mouth to ask once again about the mysterious man, but seeing the embarrassment hidden behind her guardian’s eyes, she allowed the words to die in her throat. Placing her hand over her broach, her costume faded. Her body weakened, she groaned, gritting her teeth as she felt her wounds begin to throb. The damage had been worse than she expected, and she wanted nothing more than to return to the comforts of her own room.

“We’ll find them,” Usagi repeated, her head giving a determined shake. “Let’s go home.”

 

← I III →
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