2015-02-12 - Colliding Hearts! The End of Dark Mercury!

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
Title: Colliding Hearts! The End of Dark Mercury!

Drawn by Dark Mercury's latest plan, her team and her friends confront her over the many changes in her life.


Ami Mizuno, Eas, Makoto Kino, Rei Hino, Honoka Yukishiro, Nagisa Misumi, Love Momozono, Miki Aono, Inori Yamabuki


The rooftop of an elite Juuban cram school

OOC - IC Date:

02/12/15 - 05/24/14

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Labyrinth is satisfied, at long last, with the resocialization of its newest agent; it's been a long, hard road to get there, especially after her existing programming started -- and continued -- to falter, once from well-placed words and once from well-placed magic... but at long last, Dark Mercury hangs together. Convenient, too -- as it's now time for her to put a plan into action which draws on her unique experiences and skills.

She's found herself back at the cram school at which all this mess started -- not that, at the moment, she feels any grand attachment to it. She's here, after all, on business. /Her/ take on filling the Fuko Gauge is acutely human -- her goal, put simply, is to bring the academic elite of Tokyo under Labyrinth's thumb. It's something that she first thought of while thinking of her new position in the Science Club, but time has taught her that her initial plan was... underambitious.

She sits at one of the computers, clad in the black-and-blue, half-Senshi, half-Labyrinth look that she's worn for what must seem, to some, like an eternity at this point. Her keystrokes are authoritative and forceful, and she seems all too pleased with her results. There's a cruel edge to her expression -- her satisfaction is joined by distinct malice.

She looks to Eas for a moment, as if expecting something; for an instant, what she thinks she desires is approval.. but the urge passes quickly. Part of being an agent of Labyrinth is accepting solitude; the presence of another is oversight at best and an indication one is a liability at worst.

Science glows a lot. The amount of light coming from the upper floor of the cram school is a little out of control, and while the casual observer might think it nothing of consequence, a magical observer might have different feelings -- and a fairly strong inclination to gather her party before venturing forth.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

Eas, most of all, looks bored.

It's a practiced expression, one specifically engineered to keep her as walled-off as possible from this experimental agent, and others, but it is convincing... and in the ballpark of her atual feelings. She is not pleased with being back in this particular building, or with her role here in this moment. But whether she's pleased about it or not is irrelevant, whether the troublesome people she's dealt with before in this show up or not is irrelevant to her. All that matters is this:

Everything for Mobius-sama.

So she doesn't offer the approval in question. Instead she glances once to the screen, and then goes to the window. There's been a strange feeling all day for her, one that is not /just/ her at all--an unusual aura spreading that she can't put her finger on.

Others are likely to have felt it, the blue, watery 'essence' of Sailor Mercury, twisted but there. It leaks out, too strong to be contained.

Eas, white-haired and dressed in the red-and-black of her agent uniform, peers outside onto the busy street with a frown. She hasn't recognized the aura for what it is, but she doesn't like it.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

There is something on the wind.

Makoto's not sure what it is. She's not a psychic like Rei; these feelings rarely come with any kind of sense of *what's* going on, certainly nothing specific. Nevertheless, she's learned not to ignore it when she feels the wind pushing at her. Whenever she's followed it at those times, just like when she felt it blowing her to Juuban, it has always taken her somewhere she needed to be.

And right now, significance weighs heavily in a change in the weather. What it will lead to, Mako has no way of knowing, but she's sure that *something* is going to happen.

One of the ridiculous leaps so common to magical girls brings Sailor Jupiter onto the rooftop of the cram school, and once she's landed she looks to her fellow senshi. "What do you think?" she says, voice quick with something like impatience. "Through the windows?"

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Rei Hino plucks at a strap of her pink dungarees, licking away at a cone of lime sherbert before the spring sun liquefies it completely. Sticky fingers are something that she can't stand. They're impossible to ignore and when she's outside like this it inevitably means putting up with them or imposing on some poor person's restroom.

Normally going out for ice cream is the sort of thing she'd do with her fellow senshi, but fate didn't seem to have that in store for this particular Saturday. She went anyways because she isn't going to let that stop her. Now she's strolling along, everything else on hold until the creamy confection is dethroned from its cone. Birds chirp. A cat placidly pads by.

She stops abruptly, her sneaker digging into the concrete, no relaxed footfall at all. The sherbert spills right out, glopping onto her fingers and down onto the sidewalk in one go, but it's far from Rei's mind. Like a powerful odor she'd caught an unmistakable whiff of an aura. Magic, churning with activity, striped with darkness and the essence of Ami Mizuno.

Something's up..and between the direction of the magical mark and where Rei happens to be, she's willing to bet that she'll find her fallen friend at her cram school, a typical routine twisted by some very atypical extracurriculars. She's still holding the cone. Clucking her tongue with frustration, she sets it on the ground next to the sweetly sugared green goop leaking onto the pavement like an oddly colored egg yolk. As much as she hates littering, now isn't the time to hunt for a trash can. As she runs off towards Sailor Mercury's signature, the placid cat darts over to take advantage of Sailor Mars' minor pollution.

She transforms in an alleyway, and scales on top of the building in short shrift, finding Sailor Jupiter and two other magical girls. They must have all felt the same thing, and arrived at around the same time. Nodding a greeting to her comrade, she purses her lips in thought.

"It would be nice not to break things if we didn't need to, but..the surprise may be worth it. Especially if she's expecting company. For all we know she already knows we're here, and we're walking into a trap."

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

After a battle by the banks of the Tama River...

Cure White, bruised and scratched, lies in the muddy grass, gazing up at the ceiling of stars which have twinkled into place while they were fighting for their lives. There aren't very many, and many of the many are satellites. The price of civilization is a curtain over heaven's stage.

Without looking away, she reaches out a trembling hand for Cure Black's, finding it like a magnet finds its opposite pole and snapping together with equal ease and perfection.

When her voice comes, it is unusually thin and stretched, not its usual rich and sweet vocality. But then, she was punched in the throat a few moments ago.

"...it all started after Christmas. Ami-chan, she was... depressed. Distracted. Unmotivated. I did my best to be there for her... She came to club less and less, and finally not at all. Then she returned, and she was... different. Mean. Like a totally different person."

Her eyes close, a tear tracing her cheekbone from eyelash-tip to chin, pulled inexorably downwards by gravity's call.

"I thought perhaps she was acting out, that there was trouble at home. But then I saw Dark Mercury try to trash Clover Town Street, and I just... knew. Even after that, I still tried to get through to her, but..."

Her fingers clasp more tightly around Black's.

"...I couldn't do it. Not alone. I can't do it alone."

She turns on her side, brown earth sticking to the black of her hair and the white of her armor. Her eyes open, endless blue, to gaze straight into her partner's. And her voice gains strength even as it chokes on all the sadness inside.

"It's sad, but in a way I'm relieved... that this isn't just Ami-chan... this is... compulsion. It's not her fault."

She nods, once, vibrating with passionate emotion.

"We have to save her, Blacku."


Their hands are clasped now, too. She has girded herself in rainbows and friendship once again, and emerged from the crucible of the soul armored in white lace and blue symbols, her hearts on her fists.

Cure White lands on the rooftop, her wide skirts swaying gently with the impact of her boots.

Somehow she isn't surprised to see other girls here.

"We're here for Ami-chan," she explains by way of introduction, her voice containing all the solemnity of a silvery shepherd's flute, wending through fogged mountainsides, over misty rainbows and past steep, icy cliffs. It is not a lonely sound, however; just a lovely one. "We're here to help."

She may have fought alongside Sailor Jupiter in a past battle, or perhaps she just recognizes them from their plushies in the crane games. Either way, it makes sense; Dark /Mercury/ isn't referring to the metal at all, is it? The sailor collars, the skirts... these are her companions.

Even at a time like this, she's very formal, to an almost silly degree, as she bows her head respectfully.

"I am Cure White, and this is my partner, Cure Black."

Inevitably, they finish introductions in one voice:

"Together, we are Pretty Cure."

<Pose Tracker> Love Momozono [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Located inside one of the more colorful additions to the houses of Clover Town Street, Love Momozono was having a splendid time with her two best friends, Miki Aono and Inori Yamabuki, and the fairy named Chiffon. The very young fairy was in a pleasant and playful mood just like Love herself was! And for once, Chiffon was in the good kind of playful mood instead of the mischievous kind that Chiffon sometimes preferred. Love, a big grin on her face, was holding Chiffon in her arms when suddenly the fairy's mood took a turn for the worse! Balling her eyes out, Chiffon looked to be totally inconsolable which caused Love to instantly have a worried look on her face. Just what was going on? What had happened that could have caused Chiffon's mood to deteriorate so quickly?

Love suddenly grins wide as she connects two and two together. "Miki-chan, Buki! I got it!" Gently setting the crying Chiffon down on her bed, Love quickly activates her Linkrun to summon up something tasty for Chiffon to eat. Unfortunately, Love had guessed completely wrong and Chiffon wants nothing to do with the offered bottle. The young auburn haired teenager was now completely dumbfounded on what to do. Distressed pink eyes going wide, she looks to Miki-chan and Buki for some timely assistance

Sometime later------

Cure Peach lands on the illuminated roof-top with a click-clack-clop as her high-heeled boots noisily announce her arrival. Like several of the magic girls before her, Peach had jumped onto the cram-school rooftop as it had seemed to be their biggest lead on where trouble would be awaiting them. Seeing the various brightly and not-so-brightly colored outfits of her fellow magic girls made it relatively easy for Peach to figure out which rooftop was the one to jump to. The fact that this rooftop was also lit up would also be helpful to Love's fledging detective skills.

But Cure Peach would not be the only making this leap! She would soon be joined by her comrades in arms, Cure Berry and Cure Pine! Cure White's introduction causes the blonde Cure Peach to smile broadly. She quickly extends an arm out over her head, "And I'm Cure Peach!" The young warrior leaves her friends' introductions to themselves. They should be arriving just behind her after all! Or at least that was their plan!

<Pose Tracker> Nagisa Misumi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

The sky, too, is black and white, dichotomous and unified, conjoined principles of light. Cure Black lets the North Star be White's face as she listens, and its uncertain twinkling seems to speak White's hesitant words with its modulation. She lets her hand take the hand of a star, and she fastens it with a grit-stained thumb.

The stars aren't lost up there, in all that black, are they? Nagisa's schoolwork is always suspect, but she has heard Honoka speak on the topic of stars many times. That blackness is their home. They chart patterns in it and keep to them for millions of millions of years, their very weight somehow draws all that nothing to them. It makes no sense and yet Cure Black can visualize it all perfectly.

"You're not alone," she says to the north star, "Huwaito." The proof is right in front of them.

"We'll help her see this sky again, the way she used to see it."

Cure Black impacts harder than her partner, her layered skirt tapping her thighs and then rebounding as she snaps into place beside White. She's one of those not-so-brightly colored outfits Peach sees, save for the shamelessly bright pink trim on her outfit, and perhaps the vivid orange hair. "Everybody's here!" she exults with a grin. "When Ami-chan sees how many people care about her, she's sure to change her mind like that!" She bobs her head in agreement to Honoka's introduction, then joins it.

"Together, we are Pretty Cure."

<Pose Tracker> Miki Aono [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

It was at that time that Miki was eyeing Chiffon a bit warily. A burp blanket was over her shoulder, and she kinda chews on her lower lip - looking between the fairy and Love back and forth. "What happened? Did you bump her against something?" asks Miki - sharing in the confusion at what was making the little fairy cry. Furrowing her brow, Miki takes a step to one side...

And something draws her eyes to the window. "I know what is making her cry!" she enthuses. "...Labyrinth!" Pointing her hand towards the window, Miki purses her lips, and sets the burp towel down. She would help the others arrange Chiffon before...

Some time later~

Bursting to leap alongside Peach a half-second after their fearless leader, her heels likewise ticker-tap against the rooftop, before she arranged herself into a stance that mirrored 'buki's, flanking Peach on her right. "Cure Berry!" she calls, setting a hand against the side of her hip.

<Pose Tracker> Inori Yamabuki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Time which the three friends could spend together is always precious. Which is why when Love invited her over for the afternoon, 'buki all but leapt at the opportunity, even offering to bring the snacks which she'd retrieved from Kaoru's donut stand. Playing with Chiffon in particular, was putting her in a good mood. The distressed cry of a baby bear fairy quickly caused a downturn in that mood. "Good thinking Love-chan. She's probably just a little hungry." 'buki offers hopefully, only giving a quick glance around the room to make sure nothing was levitating away.

When the bottle of Cure Vitan is offered by Love, and Chiffon is still distressed, she scoots a little closer. "What's wrong, Chiffon-chan?" She sniffs the air once, to see if there any 'tells' to whether her diaper was soiled before putting her fingers along the edge and tugging it back for a quick peak. Realizing she was dry, fingers lace around Chiffon, to gently try to lift her up and offer some comfort, but none is to be had.

"I hope she doesn't have colic." She frets, almost already at her limits of infant care knowledge, "I wish you could tell us what was wrong, Chiffon-chan." She looks first to Love in a baffled way, before Miki gets a glance, a quiet appeal to see if she had any ideas.

~Not long after~

Orange boots thud down on the rooftop in a one-two cadence as a golden side tail falls back in place. She looks upon the Senshi first, recognizing Jupiter, and the other she marked as her companion. Was it a call for patience, or a desire to charge forward? She wasn't sure.

She looks upon Cure White next, listening to the grave statement spoken in such a lovely voice. Then upon Cure Black and her passionate confidence that the one responsible will see the light. It always seemed like whenever she met other Cures, they were united by a common cause, a goal which they united to accomplish. They were all awe-inspiring in their own way.

"I'm Cure Pine." The tension was palpable, so she tries to keep the introduction short, her enthusiasm more subdued than her Pink Cure teammate, her look turning into one of determination as she looks towards her pair of companions. "Peach, Berry, are you ready for this?" She wasn't sure if she was, but if she believed enough in herself, maybe it didn't matter.

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's impossible to miss the gathering outside -- the magical power, and the clear, strong intent behind it, are just about impossible to miss. Dark Mercury looks, for a moment, to Eas, and then subsequently out the window. She can't /see/ them -- not from this angle -- but she can feel them.

Looking back to Eas, she says, "... we'll stop for now. One moment." Standing up, she says, "I think I have to take care of this." Not 'we' -- 'I.'

She does not dramatically leap from the window to scale the building; instead, she strides out of the room and toward the roof access. Once she reaches the top floor, she swings the door open wide, sweeping her gaze over each of the assembled Senshi and Cures, fists clenched tight. "There's so many of you... more than I'd thought," she remarks at first, eyes wide in surprise.

That surprise turns to disdain in short order, though, as she declares, "I've been waiting for this! All my least favourite people in one place." She isn't sure Eas will follow her -- but that shouldn't be important, should it? She should be able to handle herself.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

Eas is no stranger to most of the faces outside. The red-eyed denizen of Labyrinth doesn't see them from her position either, but it's as if something here has fallen into place. As before, her own colors are dull in their way, black and white still the most dominant aspects of her attire. And she has a different feeling entirely.

...But it's not as if anything up there really has much to do with her.

Eas does not take the stairs. Eas opens the window she was staring at, and leaps toward the building next door, jumping off the window there up to another here, zig-zagging her way to land with a click of her heels on the roof to stare out at the assembled group of magical girls.

She is standing somewhat more distantly, behind the blue agent and atop a mechanical box. "...I thought I would see you again," she remarks to Sailor Jupiter, lifting one eyebrow as if skeptical.

"What I said before is still true..." Her eyes scan past Mars, and then to Black and White, "To you, too."

But her eyes stop not on Cure Peach, Berry, and Pine, her usual foes, but to Ami herself. "Don't underestimate them, Dark Mercury. Mobius-sama doesn't have patience for failure."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

More and more girls make an entrance. Sailor Mars' eyes widen noticeably when Cure White refers to Sailor Mercury by her real name. Glancing to Sailor Jupiter before returning to Honoka, she gives a nod. Hearing such a secret is enough of a surprise to throw her off a bit, and gives a little nod. She's here to help, and there isn't a whiff of ill will from her.

Smiling to each of them, it's no small relief to have so much help. There's a lot that two Sailor Senshi can accomplish on their own..but there's a lot that's beyond them too. "Hello, Cures White, Black, Peach, Pine, Berry. I am Sailor Mars, and I'm glad to see you all. Are you ready?"

The question is soon mooted, as Mercury bursts through the door to the stairs, and a silver-haired companion oozing of malice leaps onto the roof near her. So much for surprise..at least the school won't have to replace the windows though.

Her face isn't hard..but it isn't quite gentle. Unguarded, but with the promise of a firm resolve. "Sailor Mercury. You've been under a dark influence for far too long. That ends tonight! Will you recognize us as the friends we are, and come with us? Or do you insist on fighting?"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sailor Jupiter tenses momentarily when the Pretty Cures begin arriving; her whole stance shifts slightly to the defensive, green eyes going hard and narrow. If she had hackles, they'd be rising. She recognizes several of these magical warriors, has counted them as allies, but if they've come here without any knowledge of Mercury as anything other than an enemy to be fought--

The half-formed fear coiling within her is dissipated in a moment by Cure White's first words to the Senshi. 'We're here for Ami-chan.' Those few words tell Makoto everything she needed to know, and as quickly as she'd tensed up, she relaxes again, inclining her head to the assembled Cures with a slightly strained but grateful smile.

"Thank you," she says, the words brief but heartfelt. All of these girls are here for Ami, all these hearts hoping to save her. With this many, surely...

There isn't time for more, because in the next moment, Mercury and Eas are there, and Jupiter turns to face them. She spares a glance past Ami to Eas, hands curling into fists at her sides and mouth pressing into a thin line - "I thought so, too," she says, voice low like a warning growl of distant thunder promising the onset of a storm - but it's Mercury she's facing, Mercury to whom her attention soon returns.

Where Sailor Mars challenges, Jupiter beseeches, all of the threat of violence that she showed to Eas softening out of her expression when she looks at Ami. "Mercury," she says. "We're only here because all of us care about you. Please, let us help."

<Pose Tracker> Cure White [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vefDE_weK6g

Cure White slowly nods her agreement with Black's optimism, though her vision of 'just like that' involves, very likely, some unpleasantness all the same. 'Dark Mercury' has shown her willingness to cause wonton suffering, even of -- especially of -- Ami-chan's closest friends. A line of tension in her heart, taut as a violin string screaming inaudibly high, sounds that only Chuutaro might hear, snaps when she thinks of what Sailors Jupiter and Mars must have gone through. She thought she had it bad, but... the analogy of Cure Black being forced to become 'Dark Black' is unimaginably painful.

"I'm so terribly sorry," she murmurs to them softly, consolingly, supportively, looking briefly between Mars and Jupiter.

As the other Pretty Cure arrive, her resolve strengthens, and so does her happiness. She gets a very small piece of it as her eyes cross the faces of each of the Fresh Pretty Cure, some of which she's seen from a distance, but never all of them together and never on the battlefield, working towards common purpose. It fans the sparks of hope within her into a small, incandescent flame. Each of their names passes her lips, intoned softly like a prayer, a paean to a bright future.

She nods affirmatively at Mars' question, and takes a defensive stance, her right arm flexing at the elbow, forearm across her chest, hips wide, feet light. Tonight, she's not going to simply allow herself to be treated as a punching bag.

Still, her hand has yet to clench into a fist. Her fingers splay wide.

"Everyone," she adds, in a low undertone, "Eas, Dark Mercury's companion... she's behind much of what happened. She defeated Mercury, and took her somewhere, where she was turned into... this."

This is something of a stage whisper by necessity, easily overheard by the opposition, and she seems to know that as she turns to face them directly. Her voice carries effortlessly across the roof, with the magnificent clarity of a battlefield bugle or a cathedral bell.

"But that's not really when this all started, is it, Dark Mercury?"

She stares straight at this warped image of her dear friend gone through a mirror darkly, and meets her eyes.

Her own are filled with compassion -- and a question.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Peach [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Love Momozono is incredibly grateful that she has Miki-chan and Buki as friends. They always were the right people to talk to when she was in a jam! And Miki-chan did have a point there with how clumsy Love -can- be, but she's usually pretty responsible about Chiffon....usually....sometimes.....well, she tries! But thankfully, Love can lean on her friends when the going gets tough. She can rely on Miki and Buki just like......

....Cure Peach can rely on Cure Berry and Cure Pine! Her two comrades-in-arms join her on the rooftop and Love looks over her shoulder them to flash them a bright grin. She then nods her head once in complete confidence towards Pine. "We're not doing this alone, Pine! We have each other and everyone else here to help out!" Cure Peach nods a second time, but this one is aimed squarely at Berry. She doesn't say anything to her outright, but it's a gesture to let her friend know of the confidence that she has in. Cure Peach also has fought alongside her fellow Cures and the Sailor Senshi enough to know that they would be relied upon as well. With their powers combined, they were ready to fight against whatever surprise Labyrinth had in store for them!

Sailor Mars' greeting is met by a determined nod from Cure Peach. "We're ready!" She calls out quickly before bringing her arms down to her sides where she curls her hands up into two, balled fists. Cure Peach was indeed ready to rumble!

When Dark Mercury and Eas both make their appearances onto the rooftop, Cure Peach looks a little taken back. She still remembers the last time she faced these two and recalls well what danger their combined might posed! This was going to be a tough one, but hopefully the Senshi and the Cures will be up to the task of defeating this most dastardly duo. "Eas!" Cure Peach begins before pointing a harsh finger towards her foe. "Whatever you are up to here! We'll stop you!" But it is only then that Cure Peach thought hard on what Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, Cure White and Eas had to say. The other girl was running the show here? And she once was an ally and friend of the Sailor Senshi? The blonde Cure looks back over at Berry and Pine in disbelief. She could not even begin to imagine how devastating it would be to have one of your friends become your enemy.

Cure Peach shifts her pointed finger over towards Dark Mercury now. "You really used to be one of their friends?h After hearing what Cure Black has to say about Dark Mercury, Peach simply has to agree! They were all there to help! The blonde teen in pig-tails then shakes her head and stomps a heeled foot against the ground as she stops pointing at Mercury to gesture at Mars and Jupiter instead. gThese are your friends! Please, listen to them! You'll never get your happiness by fighting against them!h She implores of Mercury as if that's the most important thing at stake here. And to Cure Peach, whom values her friends and helping others find their happiness so dearly, it kind of was.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Black [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Cure Black nods to Mars's introduction with the terseness of a salute. Her eyes wander up to the tall Jupiter. "We're here to help," she offers, because while they have a stake in this--White a very deep one--she respects these girls as Ami's family. "We're not going to run away... or let them run away. Please rely on us."

She faces Dark Mercury and Eas with fists clenched, her round-tipped pink shoes spreading gravel with a sharp readjustment. "She has that the wrong way around," she assures White with a smile, regarding 'least favorite people.' "Absolutely."

Glancing around, Black is subtly looking for help, and she finds a bright yellow twintail nearby. Following it to the nearest face, she whispers loudly out of the side of her mouth, as if the teacher were going to hand out a test in about five minutes. "Hey... Cure Peach? Do you know what Labyrinth is?"

<Pose Tracker> Cure Berry [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"It /is/ Labyrinth!" says Berry, with a note of surprise in her tone. It had been a while since... well, it was so obviously them. Like Peach could rely on her, Berry knew that she could rely on Pine and Peach as well, the young woman standing up straight and tall as she looks over the other two.

But the interchange between the senshi causes her mouth to fall open, so much so that Peach's observation, and glance towards her - meant that she was glancing back towards her open-mouthed. "That's right!" she chimes in in response to her leader and friend. "Friends are there to..." A beat, and Berry glances from Darkury to the other Senshi. Pursing her lips, she releases a bit of a sigh, glancing back towards Black and White both.

She couldn't help but let a bit of a smile touch her lips, as she regards the other Cures. "Are you here to stop Labyrinth as well?" she whispers. This was right in time for Black to ask what Labyrinth was, the young woman straightening up, suddenly sheepish. "I um...hmmm..."

<Pose Tracker> Cure Pine [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Pine makes her own respectful nods to each of them, features softening as she comes to realize how much the one responsible for this means to both of the Senshi, and to the other Cures. Glad that so many are here for support, glad that friends which she could rely on so much were here with her While she knew less than the others about the situation with Dark Mercury, she'd hoped that the solidarity of her companions would be enough to guide her through it. A smile does form upon her lips as she answers Mars, "I'm ready." She quickly adds, "I have to be."

The smile swiftly fades as the roof access door swings open. Pine is immediately startled into taking up a battle ready stance. Once she does however, and takes a look at their opponent, she can't help but note how similar she looked in garb to a Labyrinth Executive, but at the same time... she steals a look towards Jupiter and Mars as Dark Mercury speaks with such confidence, frowning just a little at the rancor in her words. Pine didn't doubt for even a moment the threat she posed to all of them, no matter how many were arrayed against her. Eas joins her a moment later, and she takes a wary step back, even more cautious as the Executive warns her comrade.

Cure White fills her in further on the details, before making her voicing her question which is so full of compassion, and understanding. Unlike her however, she doesn't really know Mercury well enough to ask about the events that led up to this even if she understands the implication in the question. So instead she levels her gaze upon Eas, golden eyes trying to meet the Executive's dull red. "You took advantage of her, didn't you Eas?" It's really a rhetorical question, even if she doesn't really know the details. There's no edge of disdain in her plea, despite what her feelings might be on Eas enslaving others, animal or human to her will. "Just let her go. Or..." She bobs her head at Peach's assurance that they'll stop her, staying at her side.

It's only then that she looks again at Dark Mercury, voice softening from White's realization that she's likely more a victim than anything. "Aren't your friends still precious to you? Can't you fight Eas' control?" She steals a look at Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Mars, and Cure White "They believe in you. Can you believe enough in yourself?"

Black poses a question, to Peach, and she looks sidelong as she sees Berry stumbling over the answer. She whispers back theatrically, with a hand cupped over her mouth "They're trying to seize control of all parasol-" She stops herself, wondering why she said that, then remembering Tarte yelling at Love for the misunderstanding. Clearing her throat, she corrects herself, "-parallel worlds!" Her voice dies again, looking sheepish. Hopefully Peach can add more.

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"I'm aware, Eas," Mercury replies, through gritted teeth; she doesn't need to be reminded of the stakes when operating on Labyrinth's behalf. They're as ingrained in her as her name is, now -- and being told, truthfully, grates. Especially here, in front of the assembled magical girls; it feels like she's being treated like a child.

Her gaze hits the senshi first -- and she shakes her head. "This is who I am now. You had no trouble with Jadeite; why should you have any such trouble with me?" she starts, hoping to goad them -- or else simply make them miserable enough to fight desperately.

As Peach implores her to listen, Dark Mercury does her best to shut out those thoughts... but Cure White's astute observation cuts to the quick. "I --" she stammers, before -- as is so often the refuge of those whose positions are starting to become indefensible -- she turns to violence... though it's hardly the high-intensity brawling that she's given herself over to since coming to Labyrinth.

Raising her hands to the sky, she gathers energy in her hands as she says, "Don't ask me about that! I was looking for a dream -- and I found it!" Finally answering Pine, she adds, "I don't need to believe in myself -- I believe in Mobius-sama!" Thrusting her arms forward, she cries out, "Dark Sabao Spraaaaaaaaaay!" The roof is wreathed in inky, dark fog -- a touch of greenish-black added to the usual freshwater blue of Mercury's attacks.

She pointedly does not participate in this agonizing Cure cuteness.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

Looking over the assemble warrriors, Eas's demeanor is all cruel arrogance, as if she's above everything here, only the beginning of her usual offensive--well before blows are struck, she knows the value of getting in the first strike. The rolling thunder of Jupiter's low voice meets the dark skies of Eas's dull red eyes, and Mars... Well, Eas can imagine what the answer to her question is going to be. "I'd say it was nice to see you, but I hear on Earth it's considered rude to lie."

Apologies, greetings--these are the first signs that Eas might be more than just completely distant, as her hand, falling to her side, slowly curls into a fist. 'Here for Ami-chan.' 'We're only here because all of us care about you.'

"Ridiculous," she scoffs, and turns to Cure Pine as she speaks up, "Of course--not that there was much for me to do. She hardly fought back. I probably could have just invited her over for tea or something."

She look in her eyes then is cruel, and is only stopped by... the questions in the background. Black, that's fine well and good. But Berry? Pine, with /parasols/? "You know full well what Labyrinth is!" Eas snaps, indignant, as--

As Cure White's story filters its way into her ears, all correct as far as she can tell. "You say that," she replies to Mercury's awareness, but then...

With a glare to Cure Peach, she keeps staring right there, even as, with Mercury fighting, Eas stands her ground. "Of course it didn't start there. We both know it. But it's not like it matters now anyway--who could forgive the things you've done to them? Not even /they/ could be that stupid."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The fog of Mercury's power casts the whole rooftop into haze and shadows; Sailor Jupiter braces her stance, bringing her arms up defensively in readiness for some surprise attack to come out of the dark mist, but she has no intentions of striking back.

She's not here to hurt Ami. She won't fight her friend.

"You're wrong!" she calls out instead, in a voice that rings confident and clear through the murk, and though it's Eas' words she's answering, still she speaks directly to Ami. "Of course we forgive you! Of course it matters! You were hurting, right?"

There's a moment's hitch in Jupiter's voice as she swallows hard, before she presses on, words thick with the effort of trying to convey so much emotion with voice alone. "I'm sorry we didn't understand soon enough. If you don't feel like you can believe in yourself, we'll all believe in you! If you need a dream, we'll help you find one that's really yours!" As she speaks, Makoto's voice grows louder and louder, until she's almost shouting: "So don't just let these Labyrinth people push something into your head that shouldn't be there!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Each of the unexpected allies revealed the depths of their compassion in their eyes and their words. They all seem so unguarded, in their ways. Sailor Mars can plainly see that they know the meaning and value of friendship, and they can empathize with the pain of its corruption and collapse. In their concerned faces Rei sees her own quiet anguish reflected back at her, reminding her of its extent.

But her hurt is tempered by an unflappable confidence. She knows, and has always known, that one way or another, Ami will snap out of this. That she's too strong and too true for this to last for forever. And tonight is surely the night. There is no chaos to distract, no youma to deal with. There is only Sailor Mercury, Dark Mercury..and seven girls all totally focused on her rescue.

And..Eas? The red-eyed woman, strange to Rei's eyes, and strange natured at that. She seems alien in a basic way, and her quip about politeness on this planet confirmed as much. This woman is not from here. She does not belong. Labyrinth, and parallel worlds..all of it is new, but the Cure girls clearly knew of it. Well..maybe 'knew' is a strong word..Cure White at least seems to understand the situation.

In all this time she's wondered who was responsible for changing Ami-chan into the hard and cruel girl before her. Now she has a face, a name, an organization, and an agenda. Like so many other strange and threatening forces in this city, Labyrinth must be stopped..and this "Mobius-sama" with it.

Throwing her arms up in front of her face, the corrupted bubbles burn and foam like acid against her flesh. She grits her teeth and groans in pain but stands her ground. It isn't the first time she's suffered this attack, but it will be one of the last. Even still..she does not return fire. Not yet. There's a pile of kindling ready to alight, and Ami had just sent the first spark..but it hasn't caught fire just yet. There's still room to walk this back.

Sailor Jupiter speaks for all of them, her words beautiful and true. Rei's own eyes glisten, her pent up pain swelling in her chest, and oozing into her throat, weighing it down. "There is nothing to forgive..Ami-chan..I didn't know the pain in your heart..none of us did..but we know now and all we want is to be there for you, to help and to love and support you. This woman, these people..they're using you, Ami-chan..they're taking advantage of your pain to push you into becoming something you're not. They don't want you to be happy..they want you to be bitter and angry and to use those feelings against their enemies. You're so brilliant..if you step back you'll surely see that. You mean so much to us and nothing can ever change that. We want so badly to welcome you back..and no matter what you say I know that in some part of your heart your friends still matter. Nothing is too late. Come back to us..please.."

<Pose Tracker> Cure White [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2a6LPOqL4g

The other Pretty Cure have much to say, and her partner asks a salient question. White listens to the answer, such as it is, but instinctively understands or at least assumes that this enemy is not all that different from her own: they want bad things, and are willing to stop at nothing to get what they want.

The definition of selfishness.

"If Labyrinth is what did this to Ami-chan," Cure White replies to Berry quietly, "Then yes."

But it appears that already, as they reach out en masse to try to reach Mercury's heart with their own, they've scored a palpable hit. As she summons that dark energy, White flashes a glance at Mars and Jupiter, one that encourages and promises.

And then the darkness comes.

Cure White's hand reaches out and grasps Black's, firmly, as the fog washes over them. They mustn't get separated in this murk; that would be disastrous. As their fingers entwine, she feels a warmth come over her that can counter any cold.

It leaks into her voice as she, of all things, builds on Eas' agreement. She says nothing of forgiveness. There is nothing to be said that Mars and Jupiter haven't already, their words of friendship as beautiful as they are fierce.

"You have your own dreams! You want to be a doctor, and you want friends, people who will be there for you, and who you can be there for! And you were pursuing these things with all of yourself, body, mind, and heart, often /right here/ in this very building, and you were /achieving/ them..."

Her voice is unmuffled by the fog, penetrating it like a bullet.

"...until the school trip to Hokkaido."

Now she voices the question her eyes had asked before, with the incisive precision of a razor. One wielded to heal -- to do no harm.

"What happened over Winter Vacation, Ami-chan? What /happened/ to you?"

<Pose Tracker> Cure Peach [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Her super long blonde pig-tails swaying wildly, Cure Peach turns towards Cure Black when she gets asked a very relevant question. Her pink eyes blink as she attempts to formulate a succinct explanation of the evil that is Labyrinth. She ends up looking to her allies for help which has her exchanging a comical look with Berry. It seems that the two of them were of the same mind on this task of having to explain what Labyrinth was. But thankfully Buki comes to the rescue by getting the main point across, what their ultimate evil plan was. "Thanks Buki!" She says with the gratitude in her voice being extremely prominent. Finally, she looks back to Cure Black and nods her head firmly. "Labyrinth is like getting gum stuck in your hair, dropping your ice-cream cone, and finding out you forgot about a big test all rolled into one." A beat. "No, the are way, way worse than that! They are -seriously- bad news and a big danger to everyone!" Perhaps it was not the best idea to leave the long explanation about Labyrinth to Peach.

It is hard for Cure Peach to tell whether or not Mercury's friends are getting through to her. It seemed like they were, but then Dark Mercury unleashed a big attack that made it hard to see what/if any progress was being made. Cure Peach suddenly felt very much alone on what used to be a crowded rooftop. "Pine! Berry! I'm over here!" calls out Peach inbetween fits of coughing as she struggles through the fog to find her friends. Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Mars, and Cure White were both doing their darndest to get through to Mercury's heart. That meant it was up to the rest of them to give their support and to keep Eas from interfering with their efforts. But first, they would have to find each other. Peach begins walking through the fog quite aimlessly in hopes of bumping into one of her fellow magic girls and not Eas or Dark Mercury.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Black [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Cure Black glances back and forth between Cures Peach and Berry as they struggle. She seems to have total faith in them to answer, taking Berry's stumbling as deep thought. She looks smart, after all. "Parasail worlds," she sounds out, fusing the original and the correction. She frowns darkly, and for a moment it seems like she might be dubious about that word. "That sounds bad," she agrees. Maybe not.

Thus primed, she attends with all of her considerable academic talents to Peach's explanation. Considerable, in the sense that her talents are technically something you can perform the verb 'consider' on. Her mouth gets small and her eyes get big as Peach drives home the dire situation so eloquently. "Just one of those things is really bad!" she says, leaning forward. "No wonder Ami-chan is in such pain..."

The sudden theft of visibility is accompanied by stinging, foul bubbles. Black squeezes White's hand gratefully; there is the girl she'd go to if she found out there was a test /she/ forgot about, and Ami should too. She doesn't have the same inerrant sense for where Peach is, but she was looking at her when this happened, so she quickly grasps the pink-clad Precure's hand before things get too foggy. "Cure Peach! Grab someone else's hand," she says excitedly, inspired by White's initial action. "Yeah! Everybody hold hands, then no one will get lost, and no one will get past!"

<Pose Tracker> Cure Berry [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Berry nods her head towards White at that point. A silent confirmation - her eyes tracking to the way the two Cures hold hands.

Oh, Eas gets the wryest look in the universe from Berry, the fashionista waggling her brows at the Labyrinth executive. Already, her mind was whirling. Already... her eyes start tracking towards Peach, her features brightening with the idea that she was about to share when...

Fog covers the battlefield. A choking, acrid thing that clings to her lungs and makes drawing breath harder.

Where had she seen Love before?!

"Peach!" she calls, "Pine!" Hands extending in front of herself, she starts wandering in the direction of... Berry finds White first. "Peach, Pine! Over here! Anyone! Over here!" she says, reaching out to try to grasp the other young woman's hand in the fog. "If you don't mind," she asks, voice a bit hoarse, giving the young woman a wide smile.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Pine [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Pine continues to look at Eas through golden eyes, sheepish at first, "Tarte-kun didn't tell us much. We know enough though. When you take advantage of someone having a hard time, then you make it clear what you represent." Peach's elaboration to Black gets her an affectionate look, her nose twitching as she considers just how awful that would be to have all of that happen. She has no time to speak more on the subject though, as Dark Mercury is on the attack, and not knowing what to expect, she bends at the knees in anticipation, ready for a quick evasion.

What she gets instead is something that covers the entire rooftop and instead she takes a short hop to the side, nearly slipping when she does. The inky black fog feels smothering. With a chill that seeps right through her battle garb and right into her bones. She finds it difficult to pinpoint Dark Mercury at all any longer. She listens to Peach as she calls out, trying to find he by voice alone, as she moves a few wary steps carefully forward... "Berry, are you there? Peach? Where are you?" Her hand gropes around blindly, seeking the hand of one of the other Cures as Cure Black offers her advice

Jupiter and Mars speak their beautiful words of friendship, and her eyes mist up just a little in a way that she's not certain whether it's just the fog or not, while Honoka tries to cut to the heart of the matter. She's quiet for a while, as she thinks on what Ami said, before her voice, far softer than the others, but still clear through the fog rings out, "It's hard isn't it? Believing in yourself after something like this has happened. But you need to have the confidence to dig down deep, and take your life back into your own hands." A beat as she looks up, "Don't give up on yourself."

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Eas insists that Dark Mercury's friends won't forgive her... but they put the lie to that in short order, even as her magic reaches out, quite specifically, to hurt them. Even if she doesn't believe in herself -- even if she doesn't think she can dream -- her friends will believe in her. Her friends /want/ to know what happened. Something she should've known, perhaps, before -- but something she was too hurt to see until now.

The data diamond at the center of her tiara starts to glow blue, a tiny beacon in the fog. "I -- it doesn't matter what happened!" she says, a little more insistent now -- she sounds hurt, practically. "I -- I fought for Sailor Moon, and I -- I overextended, or --" Her own memory of the particulars of that fight is hazy, dreamlike... but... She knows she fell in the world of dreams. ... for Sailor Moon's sake.

Is that really it? Is everything that simple? ... no, she thinks -- something had to have already been wrong... but...

It is at this stage that, even though she's carved a perfect opportunity for herself to attack, she loses her nerve. Looking over to Eas, she calls, "Eas! I -- you -- ugh, just -- /deal/ with this!" She knows, on some level, that she can't, now.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

Eas's frown becomes so dour under Cure Peach's explanation of Labyrinth, her red eyes narrowed and her mouth faintly twitching in anger, that if it weren't already getting dark thanks to Mercury's magic the sky might just cloud over on its own. "Labyrinth is the home world of Mobius-sama!" she shouts back, like the teacher /giving/ the test someone forgot. "And soon, every world will be like Labyrinth, ruled by Mobius-sama!"

Berry's wry look is somehow even worse than parasail worlds, and Pine's retort twists the last of the disaffected boredom right out of her. She can't even pretend that at this point. "You don't know anything!"

"You can't be serious!" she follows up to the group as a whole. "Oh, we'll believe in you--we didn't know your pain--all this talk about /dreams/!" In the mist, she can't be seen, but her voice proves that she is moving, echoing of the structures here on the roof.

"I think I'm going to be sick." She shakes her head, not that it's visible, but as Mercury speaks, she can begin to see the glow of that magic, too. Her red eyes are already narrow, but for just a moment, she is silent.

Mercury all but demands her help. ...She considers it, for another moment.

"...I told you before, Dark Mercury. I'm not interested in something as pointless as 'friends'. I'm not so weak that I'll stop fighting for something like that. ...You already failed them once, when you couldn't even fight me. Why do you think I'm going to step in if you do the same for Labyrinth?"

She leaps upward, out of the mist with a faint 'poof', landing lightly on the roof of the enclosure holding the door to get back into the building. She keeps this perch, out of the darkness, now. Something like spite is creeping through her voice.

"Deal with it yourself."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Dark Mercury stammers and stutters. In her heart of hearts Sailor Mars knows that at least a few of their collective arrows have found their marks. An opening has arisen, a precious opportunity blossoming in otherwise unforgiving soil. It could be there best chance.

Her arms are at her side. She takes a step forward..and another. Slowly, cautiously, diplomatically, she walks to her friend in the heat of her pique. Walking into the heart of the warzone, her arms are at ease, her defenses utterly lowered. If Ami wishes to destroy her there will not be a more ideal opportunity.

Rei opens her arms before she reaches her friends, her every gesture as intentionally obvious as possible. Her stride is measured and consistent, neither quickening nor slowing as she approaches her friend step by step. Her eyes sting, reddening at their corners. She is quietly weeping and carrying the consequences in stride.

Her arms wrap around Ami's shoulders, her cheek pressing against Ami's temple. A slick streak of saltwater smears upon pale flesh. Her embrace is as tight as her conviction, but loose enough to allow her to escape. If she wants to.

And she speaks. A whisper, a ghost given body and mass by the lurching, careening emotion in her voice, heavy and fraught with pent up consequence and apprehension. "We've missed you so. I don't understand how deeply we've wronged you but I know that we have and from the depths of my heart I am so, so, so so sorry..please come back to us..with all my heart and soul I beg you, please come back..I want to weep out all our tears and laugh and hug you from now until we're both old crones, wondering where all the time gone by..you've been out in the cold for so long, Ami-chan..please come in where it's so warm inside..please be my friend again..please don't make me live a life without you.."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

She can see that pinpoint of blue light through the smothering dark fog, and Sailor Jupiter moves toward it, one step at a time, feeling her way blindly across the rooftop. It's a slow progress, and she's nearly distracted from it by the spark of rage that ignites in her heart when she hears Eas dismiss Mercury so callously...

...but soon Makoto can make out Ami's shape in the mist. And not just Ami's. Seeing Rei embrace Ami with tears running down her face, hearing those words, Sailor Jupiter moves without even thinking to throw her arms around the both of them and hug them tightly. These are her friends, her teammates, her *sisters* and they're both hurting so much, and she can't *stand* it.

What can she say? She's never been good with words to begin with - what needs to be said, to break through this tangle of hurt and doubt?

"She's right," Makoto says, low and fierce. "We miss you so much, Ami-chan. We just - we want you to be happy, really happy." She can feel tears stinging at her own eyes, but she ignores them, desperately willing Ami to understand and not simply shake them off. "Isn't that what you want, too?"

<Pose Tracker> Cure White [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlUM7GTL2iA

Peach's explanation of Labyrinth brings a stern frown to White's lips. That really /is/ bad news; it's the way that the Dark King and his minions try to taint everyday life with their constant assaults that sometimes feels the most damaging, even though the true stakes are much higher.

Her palm finds Berry's and twists to lock it into place, holding the other Pretty Cure's hand firmly, though not with the perfection with which she fits into Black's. This feels nice too, though. Pretty Cure from all over the place, standing together, hand in hand.

"Please do," she invites succinctly, though her actions have already spoken louder. "Perhaps you might grab Cure Pine?"

Mostly, though, she only has ears -- and eyes, as the blue tiara light appears -- for Dark Mercury. A knife lodges in her throat, piercingly painful, both at the explanation and at the interchange between Mercury and Eas. Eas forced Mercury to throw away all of this friendship, to treat it like garbage... and doesn't even give her a little bit of respect in return, much less affection.

She slowly, deliberately moves forward, gently pulling the line of Pretty Cure with her, to approach Dark Mercury. Mars beats her there, and that's as it should be. There will be time later for her own reunion. For now, she stands with the others in an arc, a Red Rover line that's unbreakable, ready to stop Dark Mercury in its own embrace should she attempt to flee.

And because she knows she must be a little bit cautious, as much as she would like to lose herself to hugs and tears right now -- tears that are welling up in her eyes. She blinks them down her cheeks, clearing her vision so she can make sure that the control over Ami doesn't cause a last-minute piece of suffering, such as a knife in the back.

If it's going to, she's more than ready to move, to intervene.

"You were injured, Ami-chan," she calls instead, with her own quiet passion, following the reasoning to the end of the rainbow. "You were hurt in the Land of Dreams, weren't you, when most of us went up the mountain to save the world? Your /dreams/ were hurt. Weakened... maybe they even disappeared for a while. And that left you lost... and vulnerable."

Her smile kindles with the soft power of a thousand thousand candles.

"It's okay, though. We just carried your dream for you, for a while. It's safe and sound... and ready for you to accept it in your heart again. It wants to come home."

Berry and Black can feel her hands clenching with the ferocious urgency, the intensity of her plea.

"Come home, Ami-chan."

<Pose Tracker> Cure Peach [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

When someone lends you a helping hand, you should take it! Cure Peach takes the mysteriously offered hand and soon finds Cure Black on the other end of it. "Thank you!" Peach says joyously to the older Pretty Cure before looking on the other side of her to see both Cure White and Berry. The pink-clad warrior's heart jumps for joy in seeing one of her friends found, but that still leaves, "Buki!" Peach calls her name out loudly as she too reaches out for her other friend. "Come towards my voice! I'm on one end and Berry's on the other! Grab one of our hands!" With the four of them in line, it would be much easier for one of them to offer a helping hand in return to Pine.

Love moves forward with the rest as she listens to the impassioned pleas from Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Cure White. "I hope it's working," whisper Peach to her fellow Cures. But in Peach's heart, she knows that they must be getting through to her! "Keep it up! Reach out to her heart!" It seems that Peach just cannot help but cheer something loudly to her fellow magic girls as she jumps up and down while keeping ahold of Cure Black's hand.

Eas' appearance out of the fog and onto the roof causes Cure Peach to once again look to her fellow Cures. "Hey!" She begins in a loud stage-whisper. "Eas is right up there!" The young teen then does her best to gesture towards the Labyrinth agent despite the fog. "If she tries to interfere at all! Let's Pretty Cure!" The red eyed agent of Mobius may be powerful, but could she handle a Pretty Cure quintuple kick? Now Eas herself was seemingly intent on staying out of it, but it was always good to have a backup plan!

<Pose Tracker> Cure Berry [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Berry clutches White's hand all the tighter, sparing her a brief glance. No doubt it would not feel as much a home as that of Cure Black's, but Berry lends a certain strength to the grasp, turning her eyes to one side, managing to clasp the hand of another Pretty Cure, no doubt. White's impassioned plea lends to something further, but Berry's own heart was more in tune with Peach's.

"Eas is..." Berry narrows her eyes, observing the nature of their opponents. Eas seemed rattled. Someone to watch.

"You don't have to suffer either," she tells Eas. Words simple. But spoken, perhaps, to the shadow of a ghost as Eas leaps away. Lips purse, chin lifts, jaw sets.

Thought fills her eyes, her attention drawn away from the moment, but she remains in step with the other Cures.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Pine [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Dark Mercury's will seems to be wavering. It's hard not to feel it in the timbre of her voice. As White and Berry lock hands, and White offers her suggestion, Pine offers a soft reply, words steeped in quiet affection, "I'd appreciate it." Not that she had any doubt that they would. Neither Berry nor Peach would ever leave her behind. When Peach calls out her real name, there's no admonishment there. She doesn't mind, as she finally finds Miki's hand and gives it a quick squeeze, glancing at the blue fabric on her wrist to confirm her identity, "I found Berry, Peach! Thanks!"

Eas leaves the rooftop, and while she can't see it, her words rather seal that she's not likely to help any longer. She's abandoned her comrade. Eas and Westar never seemed more different to her in that moment. How strange was it that she could hold Westar in higher esteem? And yet, that is exactly what happened, as even Westar treated his Nakewameke as having worth, and value as comrades. Did that mean in Eas' eyes, that Mercury was worth less than a Nakewameke? "How cruel." Is all she can say that, even as Mercury's azure light pierces the fog.

The words from Mars and Jupiter, they're beautiful for Mars' passionate eloquence, Jupiter's strong affection which seems just as towering as the Senshi herself. Cure White's own sweet forgiveness, as she tugs them all forward to grow closer to Ami. Could she ever be as brave as those three, to say such beautiful things about her own friends? She hoped so, if the time came when she were ever tested, which Setsuna indicated was quite likely to be in store for her in the future.

"I think it is." Reaching out to her heart was a job for the Senshi, for Cure White, so she only adds to her fellow Cures in a whisper, "All we can do now is believe in her." At Peach's loud stage whisper that Eas is right there, she looks around in the direction of her gesture, giving Berry a questioning look, one of wonder. Was she trying to reach out to Eas' heart too? She's not sure, there's something in her words that doesn't leave Pine certain of her intent. Pine bites down anxiously just inside her lip, just watching in Eas' direction for now. Even if that is what Berry was doing... she wasn't sure she wanted to try herself. Not after what she'd learned here today.

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

'Dealing with it herself' seems to entail... not fighting back any longer. It's when Rei reaches out for her that a dam in her heart crumbles; even /Rei/ reaches out to her. Rei, who Ami'd always thought was just a little too aloof to /quite/ be a real friend just yet. She knows that she /could/ simply form an icy blade and slide it in -- could hurt Rei worse than anyone else, right now... but...

... she can't. Those tearful pleas, the growing embrace -- even the willingness of the Cures to protect them, and her, from Eas's interference. Everyone's reaching out to her, defending her...

... and all she can do is collapse into that embrace and let herself cry. The data diamond over her tiara cracks, hairline fractures spidering through it as it ultimately shatters. "I -- I'm so sorry," she breathes, burying her face in Jupiter's shoulder amid the group hug. "I'm r -- ready, to... to come home." Despite the sadness, despite the sobbing -- she somehow seems less weighed-down than she has in months. The world seems a little brighter.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

It would have been the perfect opportunity for Mercury to strike, to end these threats to her free action once and for all. ...It might have been the perfect moment for Eas herself to step in. She knows how fast she is quite well--she isn't certain she could win against the entire assembled group, but she wouldn't have to win to cripple her opposition.

...Dark Mercury already seemed so much more vicious than even she could be. And yet...

No strike comes. Ami collapses, under the weight of all these /feelings/ pressed against her, giving up to Eas's eyes just like she'd said she expected all along. She should be pleased, to turn out to be right, to have driven off this competition for Mobius-sama's good graces, this /interloper/ in her mission. But looking at this group, hearing them all...

It's just as well her face can't be seen.

"Hmph," she vocalizes, forcing the volume to be heard over what's going on now. "Worthless, just like I thought. ...Don't think I'll go easy on you in the future, Mercury. Or any of you."

But despite her harsh words, she doesn't interfere, makes not a single move to strike from cocealment or act against Mercury as the diamond shatters.

Instead, she glares Berry's way, just from the sound of her voice, "Me, suffer? Don't be absurd. I'm not like her, or you. I'm stronger than that. I don't need someone else to 'believe' in me. I'll achieve my mission by myself!"

"So don't worry. I'm not going to try to take your /friend/. I just don't want to have to watch you cry over her. It's embarrassing." She hurls the words like darts, glaring over the entire assembled group before she finally turns to start walking away, straight towards the next building.

It's not like she cared about having someone her age on the team. ...It's /good/ that she's gone.

She never belonged anyway.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Sailor Mars falls to her knees. What more can be said? Ami is ready to come home..at long last she's returned..like a shattering dam Rei's last reserves crumble and collapse. All her words bend and break in favor of an irrepressible wave of emotional release. The catharsis is all consuming and undeniable.

A long nightmare seems to be ending, at long last. The reality of it hasn't sunk in, not remotely. All that she can do is to ride with the surreal thrill of the moment. Ami-chan is returning to the fold. There are so many bridges that need to be rebuilt. Such havoc has been wrought..but in the moment it doesn't matter one white.

Ami-chan is returning to the fold. At long last she seems like herself again..she wouldn't have dared admit it but that image of her friend, that /understanding/ of a clear and essential companion..so much of it was a construct. Ami Mizuno could have scorned and deflected Rei's notion of her friend. All that she thought she knew of her could have been swept away by the callous instance of an unfeeling backhand. Instead..she chose to stay. She chose to be human.

That essential, elemental friendship wasn't annihilated in that moment, but Sailor Mars is consumed with the realization that could have been. She understands in that moment just how ephermeral and fragile and precious this bond truly is. It is to be treasured in direct proportion to how thoroughly it could be destroyed.

She's far beyond rational thought. It doesn't seem like a battle at this point. Her friend is back. There are so many considerations beyond that..but for the life of her Rei Hino can't grasp them any more than she could take a fish in her fist.

Ami's back.

Is she?

She dare not hope..things seem so terribly fragile right now.

Maybe she's dreaming..but for the moment..

It seems..


At long last




<Pose Tracker> Cure White [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Cure White returns Berry's look with a soft nod, but she barely hears her other allies engaging with Eas, plotting about Eas, debating Eas, nor Eas' reply. The whole of her awareness is focused on Ami -- and thus she, too, is indeed vulnerable in that moment.

Her tears flow more freely, no longer banished by rapid blinking, once it's clear that this nightmare has come to an end. A terrible ache in her heart, one that had refused to mourn Ami's loss until this moment, now seizes with the awareness that it might have had to, how close the razor's edge had come.

Relief floods her like liquid flame. She yearns to embrace her kohai, but doesn't go -- she's a terribly private person, and even in a moment like this, just a little bit too reserved to dare to penetrate that circle of love and friendship. It isn't shyness, not precisely, and it certainly isn't maturity. It's just... hesitance, an unwillingness to intrude.

So instead she looks on, gladness overflowing, and when Eas turns away, lifts her gaze to her. She isn't surprised -- she's thoughtful.

She doesn't say anything. Now is not the time. Instead she watches protectively, the look in her eyes so fierce in so many different ways, but most of all, fiercely loving, daring anything from another Labyrinth agent to the hand of Buddha Himself to try to interfere with this group hug.

"Welcome home," she intones gently, the ritual phrase meaning what it does among family at any sacred portal, be it a rice-paper screen door, a sturdy piece of hardwood, or the arch at a shrine:

I love you.

Through her hands, Black and Berry can feel the strength of her raw, largely unexpressed emotion.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Pine [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Mercury... is no longer Dark Mercury it seems in Pine's eyes. The tiara cracks, the apology... the sorrowful but /willing/ statement that she's ready to come home. Her own eyes glisten from the myriad of emotions surrounding her as she watches the heartfelt moment, using her free arm to dab her eyes against the back of her wristlet, her grip on Berry's hand tightening as if to say how precious she is to her. It's then that she hears it. Eas hurling words like spiteful darts, trying to ruin the moment. Pine felt it couldn't be tarnished, not for the people who Ami, Mercury meant so much to.

And yet, they still stung her.

Especially when she rejects Berry's own words. And so her eyes search for Eas, they find her, and her mouth opens as if she were going to offer some spiteful rejoinder of her own. But she thinks better of it. Instead she looks away, giving a small shake of her head as if she felt Eas was the only one embarrassing herself here. There were much better ways to heal those wounds than trying to open new ones of her own, and watching Mars, Jupiter, and White welcome Mercury home... well it was like nourishment for the soul. A smile returns to her lips as she lets the warmth of the experience take her over.

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The blackness of Ami's uniform gives way to the white of the Sailor Senshi; the blue is untouched -- perhaps a sign that Ami really was the same all along, despite all of the changes, despite all of the hurt. She continues to lean into the embrace for as long as her friends want -- but it breaks, eventually, of course, for such things must always end eventually.

Taking a few deep breaths of what seems like impossibly fresh air as the mist fades away, she says, "... It's good to be home. I -- I have a thousand things to say, and a thousand questions, but..." With a tearful smile, she says, "... later. For now..."

She looks to the assembled Cures -- new friends and old -- and as her gaze lands on Cure White, she says -- quite simply -- "Thank you." And for now... that's all that needs to be said.