2017-01-30 - The Greatest Gift

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Title: The Greatest Gift

It's Christmas Eve and Tokyo is locked in an awful storm. Santa Claus is apparently missing, but deputizes magical girls to bring the spirit of Christmas to the city in his stead.


Usagi Tsukino, Haruka Tenoh, Kasagami Araki, Steven Universe, Setsuna Higashi, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, Saki Hyuuga, Mai Mishou, Iona Hikawa, Fuu Hououji, Hotaru Tomoe (GM)


Tokyo Tower

OOC - IC Date:

01-30-2017 - 12-24-2014

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Snow continues to dump onto Tokyo at alarming rates, but it wasn't always this way. Just two weeks ago it was cold and clear with nary a flake on the ground -- and it was holiday shopping season. Getting the perfect gift is never easy; sometimes nothing but handmade will do, while other tastes run to the rare, expensive, or simply obscure.

What is your perfect gift?

By Christmas Eve, though, even the worst procrastinators ought to have secured their presents. There isn't much shopping to be done in this weather, and any restaurants that haven't closed down are only open to offer shelter to the many people stranded in the storm, rendering reservations moot -- and there were undoubtedly many of them cancelled by this necessity, Christmas Eve being among the most romantic nights of the Japanese year.

Times are hard. For every family bundled up together under the kotatsu at home, there's another one with someone waiting by the telephone, hour after hour, desperate for a call from their missing partner, sibling, or child. For once, those who work late at the office are relieved to have done so, since it means they're somewhere safe and warm (rather than having been caught out when the trains stopped running), but it's lonely in those skyscrapers. Many, at a loss for what else to do this evening, just keep working, heads bent over their desks, seizing this opportunity to get ahead of their endless labors. Others stare blankly ahead, wracked with regrets, or pick fights with their neighbors. Tempers are running high.

It doesn't really feel like Christmas at all.

Where are you on Christmas Eve?

OOC: Tonight's scene begins with a two-part pose from everyone: First, a flashback, about a holiday gift for their best friend, romantic partner, or otherwise exceedingly precious person (and establishing what you got them, where, and how). Second, in the present, how your character is spending this stormy Christmas Eve, as the hour draws very late indeed. (Note that you aren't at all required to play to personal melodrama here; many families are together or at least know where their absent member is. Also note that if you attended the Chevaliers event on earlier in the evening on Christmas Eve, to avoid confusion in the log I would ask that you refrain from describing what happened in ideological terms -- I'd rather this not descend into one person posing how they went to a stupid, pointless fight while someone else poses how they emerged from a holy war; let's just not go there, okay?)

<Pose Tracker> Mai Mishou [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Mai Mishou had to think hard about the gift. She didn't have to think at all about who to get it for.

Saki Hyuuga isn't the easiest person to shop for. She has a lot of what she wants -- and even if it's old, in her family, that means those hand-me-downs have a spirit and style. Mai had to really look, and she ruled out a painting or drawing early on. It has Mai frustrated, to the extent that she expresses that; it shows more in a furrowed brow, a slight frown, and an intense look as she stares into space.

But she has it, now. She didn't buy it, because that isn't how Mai works. She pulls her hands back, wet with sticky red clay, and looks down at her work.

A statue, of a girl standing, baseball bat pressed end-first onto the base she built. Mai watches with a smile, before she picks it up carefully, and heads for the kitchen -- and the oven.

Christmas Eve

The oven has long since turned off. Mai sits at the window, still wearing the same clothes she wore earlier. She isn't supposed to go to Saki's today -- that's for tomorrow -- but she wonders, as she sits there, if she can even get there tomorrow. A sigh escapes, as she looks out the window.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

A Few Days Ago~

Despite all the weather, a small comic event had taken place in the lower areas of the city near the park! Steven had happily attended, not only to see the sights and artwork, but to look for a perfect present for one of his newer friends! He had shopping for the Gems down easy, but another person that wasn't his dad? A touch more difficult. Where better to start than sharing things he likes with others?

It took all day, and a few trade offs of gathered collectibles, but he finally got what he wanted to gift them at the end of his perilous quest chain-- The Lonely Blade Comic Series! The boy holds his prize aloft as he runs home through the snow, as if he was holding somewhere between nine to fifteen golden tickets. "I hope Fuu likes this... She is really cool, like Lonely Blade! E-Except she doesn't go it alone. Um. Yeah!" he says to himself, scampering across the snowy beach, where Lion is perched near an overturned boat, awaiting the boy.

Christmas Eve~

"Where... is she...?"

A stout child's face is planted firmly against a window in a beach house, providing respite from the weather. Outside, a colossal statue in the side of a cliff holds handfuls of snow in the outstretched hands as it gazes over the rippling ocean. Yet for all its vigilance, a particular guardian has not been seen this eve. "The weather is bad! Is she okay, you think?" Steven looks back to Amethyst and Pearl, decorating a tree in... about the best fashion an alien could. Steven's face is slightly red fro mthe sudden change in temperature. The two Gems look to each other with a worried gaze. It wasn't like Garnet to miss something so improtant. Where could she be?

The boy adjusts a sweater, and palms a mug of hot cocoa as he stares at the lights on the tree. "Maybe she is just out looking for gifts. Yeah. That is it."

He was obviously trying to fool himself. Strange she didn't tell anyone before going...

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hh4OUu30E0

While Usagi Tsukino would procrastinate on homework, housework, or any other responsibility under the sun- she tried her hardest not to procrastinate on friendship. Which is why she got her gift weeks ago. It'd taken her saving up a large amount of her allowance for it months in advance.

And one nerve-wracking experience online, watching the counter for an auction tick down while playing pokemon and some other things. Then after it was delivered- permission for a train ride on one bleary Sunday one prefecture over.

Then standing in line for what felt like hours upon hours of nervous fidgeting with a precious package tucked under her arm. Usagi Tsukino did not do standing in line well.

But it was all worth it as she placed it down gently at the bottom of a thin box. An animation cel with a shot of Kikyou and Kagome facing each other at crimson sunset. The duality of a Miko in a past life and a School Girl in present.

And upon the cardboard border was an inscription in pen: To Hikawa Shrine's Foremost Miko. May you Envision only a Bright Future Ahead of You. - Rumiko Takahashi

The box lid was closed after a few moments of looking at it one last time. The wrapping paper sealed over it imperfectly by tape. Bright and red and covered in Christmas Images. Peeling off the back of a sticky ribbon, she applies it to that.

Days After~

Usagi Tsukino huddles half under the covers, half out- wearing her warmest, fuzziest pajamas. Even with all of that she was still huddled near a portable heater, leaning over a volume of manga. But every so often between the snorts and giggles and gasps her eyes drifted over to that wrapped gift, where she had it sitting atop her vanity. It had caught the attention of one Mooncat enough that she could no longer ignore it, "It's not like she won't understand, Usagi-chan. It's terrible out there- unnaturally so."

Usagi considers it all, then bobs her head and rolls over onto her side, "Well sure- I know she'll understand but still- there's something about seeing her open it on a special day that makes it extra special. You know? It's not the same when it's late. And I'm always late to everything. Late enough that she just expects it of me."

She could almost picture her saying 'That's our Usagi-chan!' in her head and smiles to herself. "I just didn't want to be late getting her this."

<Pose Tracker> Marinette Dupain-Cheng [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

~Shortly after exams...~

"Eeeeeeee!" After a stealthy little trip back to the Fashion Club's clubroom, Marinette Dupain-Cheng is back in her room. The snow's been building up, bit by bit, in the last few hours, but it's not really dangerous yet. If she glances out the window, the artistic girl can see glittering beauty, like countless tiny diamonds in the air. It would be a perfect inspiration for something...

...if she weren't utterly distracted by the -signed photo- she is holding in her hands. "I can't believe it - she liked the coat, and I've got a photo, and Alya is going to be so jealous! I met Sailor Moon - well not me, met, but isn't this fantastic, Tikki?!"

The little red bug-Kwami, hovering nearby, rolls her eyes in exasperation. "Marinette, you do realize you're a heroine too, right? If anything, I think she was happy to meet you too..." She's cut off as Marinette lets her chair go into a spin of sheer delight, and can only sigh in exasperation. "So when do you plan to finish all those other gifts? It isn't that long a time..."

There's a gasp of shock, of utter horror - and the Kwami is nearly blown away with the speed that the girl rushes to her desk. It's a frantic flurry of supplies - modelling clay, sewing needles, swatches of cloth, a paintbrush - and the ancient spirit of luck is no longer able to get a word in edgewise.

"How could I have forgotten?! Right, Alya's cellphone charm needs time to set, so I'll have to focus on that first - I really hope the clay I picked is durable enough, you know? With the trouble she chases, a figurine needs to be tough as well as cute! And then..." The half-finished projects are brought out, one after another - a half-finished apron, an elegant sign that's missing any hint of paint, a handmade stuffed cat devoid of fluff, a black knitted swatch with a bell attached, and of course...

A fuzzy, warm, high-quality Santa hat. Just a little goofy, but something that wouldn't look out of place in a high-class fashion show. Marinette frets over it, looking from one bit of embroidery to another. "Do you think he'll like it? I mean it's Christmas, and maybe it's the wrong message, or is it too soon? I mean, my family has always had this as a time for everyone close to you, not romance, so maybe it's..."

"Marinette, calm down!" The Kwami is suddenly right in front of her, staring sternly. "You're worrying far too much! It's an adorable gift, I'm sure he'll love it - do you really thing he would tell you off for doing something nice?" As the girl before her lets out a sigh, Tikki hums happily - and teases, just a bit. "But Marinette, I don't see anything here for me..."

Marinette kicks off, letting her chair roll back with a little twirl. "Ah ah, Tikki - it's supposed to be a surprise, right? I've been hiding your present for weeks now - no peeking, when there's just a few days left!" She shares a grin with her magical companion, her friend - and then pales at the sound of approaching footsteps. Normally, this is when she would hide any sign of magic; right now, though, there are far graver things at stake.

"Papa, Maman! Don't come upstairs, I'm working on your presents!"

~Christmas Eve~

It's been snowing and worse for days, now. The happy little Boulangerie Patisserie is, sadly, closed to customers; not much can be done when the main doors are utterly blocked by a snowdrift. All the pre-orders for Yule Logs have been offered refunds - or, perhaps, 'snowcheques' for when the weather is a little more permitting.

Happily, there are more of the latter than the former. Tom and Sabine's regulars can't resist a good pun.

That doesn't mean, however, that the bakery has shut down. The upper levels have had to turn off the heat to conserve power, but the wonderful thing about a live-in bakery is that it needs to have ovens burning full blast. The little family, the three of them, have spent the last day more or less holed up in the kitchen.

There's a sound of creaking, accompanied by a gust of cold, and Marinette clings to her mother out of shock as much as anything. The dough she had been working - under supervision and with more than a few new tips along the way - flops to the side, momentarily abandoned. That creak is followed by a slam, however, and warmth begins to win out once more. "Sorry, Maman, I - hey! You don't have to rub my hair!"

Sabine withdraws her hand with a smile. "Don't I, Marinette? You're acting just like you were when you were little...Tom, how did it go?" The Chinese woman stands up from her stool, moving to help her husband out of his snow-caked coat.

The large Frenchman moves closer to the ovens before answering. "Rough walking - much more of this, and I'm not sure even I'll be able to get anywhere. The shelter was certainly happy to see me, though!" He holds up a large bread basket, utterly empty. "Feeding everyone who had to take cover is a bit of a p-"

"Papa, if you finish that pun, I'm going out into the snow myself!" Seeing his daughter's indignation, the large baker can only laugh. Rubbing his hands together, he goes over to the jars of supplies. As he searches, Marinette lets out another huff, and sits back down. "I'm glad you made it back safely - what are you doing now?"

"Well, it's nearly No�l, and we have all these wonderful supplies. I thought I might whip up a Christmas feast to remember - it's a good way to get the chill out of these old bones!" He turns, holding a jar of candied nuts, regarding the bread-making lesson in progress. "I hope you two haven't filled up on bread!"

"No worries, dear, we were just practising." Sabine holds up Marinette's attempt with a critical eye, finally nodding before setting it aside. She hands her daughter a bowl and a bit of butter, letting her start greasing the dish before giving her a wink. "Besides, you know how it is in a bakery with this weather - we knead to stay warm!"

There's dead silence for a moment, before Marinette lets out a horrible groan as Tom begins to chortle.


<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Picking out presents is hard enough when you know somebody's interests by heart. Shared interests make it easier to shop for somebody - but sometimes, not even sisters have very much in common.

Still, when Fuu Hououji thinks about the best gift she ever gave someone, her thoughts don't have to go back all that far. During her big sister Kuu's last year of middle school, Fuu went all-out, or as close to it as her allowance would permit. She knew Kuu would need a new computer to keep up with papers and research in high school ....

The best she could do, though, was a tablet - one not even compatible with the cell phone service plan Kuu's phone was on. And their parents had already arranged for an up-to-date *real* computer for Kuu to start using, without Fuu ever realizing it.


It's funny how one's mind wanders. With her intuition that the storm was so dire as to be unnatural in origin, the Magic Knight of Wind continues to make her way through the blizzard, stopping frequently to take more shelter from the blowing snow, to warm back up and to buttress her willpower. She's already used more of her magic than she'd have preferred tonight, thanks to the incident in Shinjuku - and she'd truly rather be at home, coming out of her bedroom with solid progress behind her on her indie game-design project, ready to greet Christmas Day itself at the stroke of midnight. Or maybe, the Wind Knight thinks wistfully, spending it with Ferio ...

She sighs, shakes her wishful thoughts off again, rubs her cheeks to chase the blush back into her bloodstream (she can use the warmth, to be sure) and continues onwards. If she doesn't figure out soon where she needs to be, she *will* have to give up, go home, and pray that whatever disaster might be looming is thwarted by other magical girls.

<Pose Tracker> Saki Hyuuga [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.


Saki Hyuuga looks like someone who never thinks at all, always rushing from one moment to the next. Right up until you get to know her.

Minori and Saori Hyuuga leaned around the door frame into the room shared by Minori and Saki, the older daughter silhouetted against the dark outside, her head propped up on one palm as she stared out the window next to her writing desk. Her lips were pursed and quirked to one side, her nose wrinkled in frustration and her eyes narrowed as she glared out at the sky. "Mama," Minori whispered up. "What's she...doing...?"

Saori tittered and gently nudged Minori out into the hall. "I think it's something very important," she said. But before their footsteps could recede, Saki suddenly whipped around, her eyes lighting up like stars. "Mom! Uhm, could you, help me with something!?"


Saki, with her hands in oven mitts and her hair tied back in a bandana, stares down at a bread pan that appears to have magically transmuted into coal. She droops. "Jeeze...with it so quiet, I thought I could focus better, but..."

She glances out at the main room of the store - quiet and dark. There haven't been customers for hours. "...maybe it's throwing me off, instead," she mutters, sighing and unsleeving her hands.

"It's been a while since we had to close up this early," her mother agrees, leaning up against a wall. But then, ever sharp-eyed, she returns to her new task. "Now, what did we learn from that one?"

<Pose Tracker> Iona Hikawa [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Iona Hikawa has done her Christmas shopping. It wasn't that hard this year. Iona, in her usual manner, has no friends. Not any that she'd buy for. Well, of course, she did get something for Glassan, an adorable purple scarf to match Glassan's general purple colors. And of course she had no romantic partner, which was fine with her.

It also didn't help that most of her family was gone. Her parents were not in Japan, and her sister just wasn't there.

This did not stop Iona from shopping for her sister, which she did a few days ago. She stands in the doorway to Maria's room, holding a wrapped present. It was a scarf as well, colored blue just how she liked it. Iona stands there for a few moments, before finally entering the room. She gently places the package on Maria's bed, before turning and leaving.

When she gets back to the doorframe, she stops and turns to look at her sister's room for a moment, before she heads back to her room. "I'll see you soon, sis."

Now, today, Iona has kept to herself, spending time in her room. On the bright side, it's where a kotatsu is, the same one she mentioned when Westar attacked Shibuya. She takes a deep breath and relaxes, attempting to keep her mind off the cold going on outside. She's been out there once tonight. She just wants to relax and enjoy the rest of her day.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Some girls wear their transformation items as jewelry; others keep them in pockets, in purses. Wherever they are, though, they start glowing, shedding a tearfully beautiful silver radiance that makes them seem even more ethereal and otherworldly than usual. To add to this mystery, touching them makes them ring like jingling bells, and an electric jolt of warm but unfamiliar power flows through them.

Well -- unfamiliar to the magical girls.

The mascots /snap to attention/, like a kitten who has just been placed across the table from six pounds of freshly crushed catnip. Fur rises, ears go back. But their eyes are serious, not blissful, and in no time at all they are urging their companions, with words or without them, towards the nearest window, prying it open with paws, keeping it that way with thrusts of their little backs. For those who are already outside, they're directed down a particular street.

"We have to go, now!"

"You have to take us-chopi!"

"Hurry up and transform, it's cold outside!"

  • giant pink fuzzy headbutt towards the door*

"Pu! Pupupupu, pupu PUU!"

Their ears and noses acting like unerring compasses, they guide their charges straight towards Tokyo Tower, where -- as no one can see, since no one else is outside -- the top is glowing with a matching ball of that dazzling silver light.

Those without mascots are pulled instead by the strings of the heart, drawn inexorably onwards towards their destiny.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

At first, the Wind Knight barely notices the newly silver glow of her glove-jewel - but when she spots it, she comes to an abrupt halt, snow falling from a lamppost as she alights precariously upon it. The equally-silvery jingle shen she touches the jewel, the jolt of warmth and strength, make her wonder at what could be going on ...

And then a familiar 'pu-pu'ing reaches her ears. If she hadn't already been drawn out of her introspection, the sound would have startled her, but as it is ... "Mokona-san?" The Wind Knight jumps back to the ground - and then Mokona is off, dashing like the rabbit to which the Knights' guide bears a very vague resemblance, and the green-clad Magic Knight pours on the speed.

She has that speed and strength now, somehow, the warmth and power which surged from her glove-jewel reinvigorating her. She's not going to question it; given the way Mokona is scampering along, she doesn't have *time* to question.

Tokyo Tower lies ahead, and realizing her destination fails to surprise the Magic Knight of Wind in the slighest. Neither does the sight of other magical girls, and/or their mascots, closing in on the towering landmark, still lit up for Christmas in addition to the silver light at its peak. The Wind Knight feels a slight twinge of worry - the last battle she fought in here ended horribly, after all - but she still begins her ascent, wondering idly if the elevators happen to be working.

Well, if the elevators ARE working, Mokona will probably head into the lobby or something, she thinks with a wry smile. And she pauses just long enough to look to the Magic Knights' guide, in case such a hint is forthcoming.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Mishou [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

"What--" Mai stammers. "Choppy?"

She stands up, though, and quickly starts to follow after Choppy. She hurries as best she can -- but her parents are tucked away in the upstairs lounge. That leaves the path to the front door open. She opens it quickly; the blast of cold makes her shiver.

She steps into it, and closes it, as she starts moving.

She looks up at the top of Tokyo Tower, all aglow with a light. Her purple eyes widen -- the light reflects in it -- and then she looks at Choppy. "Choppy...!"

"Saki and Flappy should be on their way-chopi!" the little fairy says. "You should transform-chopi..."

"Right...!" Mai calls out. Silver light floods across her. Then, in short order, Cure Egret soars up the side of the tower, up to the light.

COMBAT: Mai Mishou transforms into Cure Egret!
<Pose Tracker> Marinette Dupain-Cheng [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

All right, how did it go? Knead, knead, turn, knead, turn...or was this the point where the dough becomes a ball? Probably a ball, that's why she has a bowl. Eyeing her would-be bread suspiciously, Marinette places it gingerly in the bowl, as if waiting for it to explode. Her nerves are on tenderhooks, waiting for the yeast to develop teeth or the whole thing to collapse or something...

And then there's a Kwami directly in front of Marinette's eyes, tiny blanket still draped over her back. "Marinette! This is import-"

"Gah!" The girl yelps - because, who wouldn't? - and frantically rushes to cup Tikki in her hands before her parents turn around. And turn around they do, concern and warmth in their eyes. "Hi! It's, um. Everything's fine, I just thought I saw, uh..." Marinette glances around frantically, looking at that dough - still unexploded, somehow - before meeting her mother's eyes.

"Marinette, really. It's fine, relax. The bread won't bite you, it's not that crusty..." Tom chortles, and Marinette groans again - before lurching suddenly to one side, a certain insistent Kwami in her hands proving stronger than she looks. "Are you all right, dear? I know we're-"

"It's fine! I just remembered - your presents! I just need to do one little thing - it has to be perfect! So..." She takes another sidestep toward the doorway, thinking of those cold stairs. "I'll put on another sweater, and come down as soon as it's ready! So, uh, don't come upstairs for a little bit!" Chased by the concerned looks of her parents, she bolts for the stairs - Tikki breaking free of her grip halfway up, gasping.

"Listen, Marinette! I - achoo! I know what I said before, but this is truly important!" Tikki wraps herself in the tiny blanket, visibly shivering - but there's a light in her eyes, in her very being, that can't be denied. "We need to get to Tokyo Tower, as soon as possible!"

"Tikki, they nearly saw you!" Stopping on the seventh step, Marinette hisses at the little Kwami. "And you've been feeling the cold brutally - even Papillon can't send his butterflies out in weather like this, so you need to focus on staying warm!" She tries to be stern, she really does, but...

There's an earnest gaze meeting hers that can't be denied. "...this is really that important, Tikki?" At the Kwami's nod, Marinette reaches forward to cup her friend, to keep her warm on the climb to the rooftop garden. It's the clearest exit left, as long as one can handle a several-story drop...

"Then if you're sure you'll be okay..." Reaching her room, Marinette weaves around shadow-shrouded projects and piles of wrapping paper, bound for the roof. She holds the Kwami close, thinking warm thoughts - this really is a Christmas under the snow - and bursts into the storm with a cry. "Tikki, transforme-moi!"

There's a quiet zip through the howling winds, a flash of red in the darkness - and Ladybug, enduring the cold in her domino mask, is whipping through the air as swiftly as the wind will carry her. Frozen flagpoles are too slippery, but awnings caked with ice are more solid platforms than usual. It's a bit of a wash, and it might be hard to navigate...

But Tokyo Tower is too well-known to lose in this storm, and the brilliant light at its peak is a beacon of hope. Swinging from the nearest advertisement for Starbooks Peppermint Mocha - an offence to coffee to her tastes - she lands on the side of the tower. Catching hold of a rivet, she squints at the silver brilliance above her, and takes a breath.

"Here we go..." It's a steep slope, but there are enough trusses and rivets that - one way or another - she can make her ascent right towards the light.

<Pose Tracker> Saki Hyuuga [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

"What'd I learn," Saki sighs, twisting her toes against the ground. "Well I guess I need to--"

And that's when her bag, on the counter, SCREAMS.

Saori looks over at it, startled, and then back at Saki who is suddenly sheet white. "Was that your--"


Moments later, Saki squeezes Flappy's transformed "cellphone" of a body tightly and stares at him imploringly. "FLAPPY WHY."

"We need to go somewhere-lapi!"

It's not quite that easy, but Saki has long since learned that when Flappy has a feeling, she should listen to the Earth spirit. Although, the message seems a little different, this time.

Regardless, it's not much more than a few more seconds before Cure Bloom is slipping out of Pan-Paka-Pan's upper-story window, her passage only marked by an unwisely-open window and a glimmering trail of sparkling motes.

COMBAT: Saki Hyuuga transforms into Cure Bloom!

COMBAT: Marinette Dupain-Cheng transforms into Ladybug!

<Pose Tracker> Iona Hikawa [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Iona Hikawa continues her kotatsu-ing.

Glassan also continues her kotatsu-ing.

Well, not for long in the latter's case. She jolts up and floats over the table again. However, instead of going over to the window, she heads towards the door, and that brings her Pretty Cure to take notice. "Glassan, where are you going?"

Glassan stops, only briefly, to yell at Iona. "Iona, hurry and transform! Then follow me!" And then she is gone.

Iona sits there for a moment, confused, before she gets up and reaches for her mirror. She stops short, though, as she sees her mirror glow with a weird light. She touches it, and withdraws as she feels the strange energy, but she takes it a moment later.

Iona opens the door to her home, but Cure Fortune closes it, and she takes off towards Tokyo Tower and the light shining in the sky.

COMBAT: Iona Hikawa transforms into Cure Fortune!
<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Usagi Tsukino on the other hand - keeps hers under the cushion she's laying upon. While Luna was scandalized the first time that she intended to lay atop her brooch, and by extension the Silver Crystal; she agreed it was a necessity with a child living in the household that intended to steal it. She laughs herself silly at the slapstick scene of someone applying a wrench to someone else's head- even though she's read this volume more times than she can count, "You tell him Winry! Show him who's boss!"

But- light shines out from under the cushion, radiance flowing out of it like water from a faucet that had just been turned on. Usagi looks confused for a moment, then looks at the door behind her, and scrambling upright in a way that causes her to bump the table, "Gck- Owow-" She sweeps the blanket and does a sort of hopping dance on one foot to stuff it under her door frame to keep it from pouring out in the hall- before running back to uncover the cushion- arm shielding her eyes as more light pours off it, "Why is it doing this right now!?"

"Usagi-chan - you need to transform."

"But Luna it's Christ-" Her head darted up to actually look at her. "-mas." The seriousness of Luna's tone finally registered, her posture finally sealed away all complaint. The way she already stood up straight and alert and stiff on the windowsill. The way she wasn't looking at Usagi, until she turned her head and reaffirmed it, "Right now. We need to go!"

Taking up the brooch in hand, she raises her hand skyward- "Moon Cosmic Power - Make Up!" Pink ribbons transform her into Sailor Moon however- she then immediately dashed for her closet rather than the window. Luna, who had already finished shoving undoing the latch with a precious paw and shoving open the window waited anxiously, "Hurry! Hurry! What are you doing!?" "Well it's /freezing/ out there!" "You're transformed! Don't worry about it!" "Even transformed I was miserable at the North Pole! Just give me a-" She pulled something out of her closet triumphantly, "-second!"

Sailor Moon dashed through snow covered streets, following a light-footed cat for her guide as Tokyo Tower loomed higher and higher in the distance. Her chest heaved with exertion, arms waving at her side. Fog rapidly forming in front of her mouth, twintails flowing behind her. "Do you even know what we'll find there?" Luna looked behind her back as she ran ahead, "No! I just know that we really have to get there right now!"

The tower grew larger and larger- in her memories as well. It carried far too many for her, causing her to be rather abstracted on the way until Luna slid to a stop and pointed up, "Up! That light is where you need to go!"

Sailor Moon hesitated for just a moment or three, as she stared at it. Then dashed and vaulted to the first tier of latticework. Then higher, and higher in a sequence of jumps but her silhouette- there's something different tonight about it. She makes one final leap into the light- and closes her eyes as she does so.

Far down below, Luna looks down- realizing she forgot to say something. A cold draft hits her and even through her fur coat she's starting to shiver now that the adrenaline is wearing off, "M-Merry Christmas Usagi-chan." Anxiously she pads a little further away so she could hole up in a warmer location, "Please c-come back safe. So I can tell you in person."

COMBAT: Usagi Tsukino transforms into Sailor Moon!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Steven feels... empty, without all of his caretakers present. But Garnet is a grown up. She can handle herself.

The boy joins in the decorating festivities of the Christmas Tree with Amethyst and Pearl. The decor is strange to put it mildly. Things one wouldn't normally see on trees are there, including Amethyst trying to decorate it with egg salad and smaller tree seedlings. Pearl's area is meticulously decorated in a gorgeous red-and-gold coloration ensemble, being adjusted multiple times as to have the right distribution of color. THere was just one thing left...!

Steven readies the topping of the star! "Okay, let's-- Lion, NO. OUTSIDE."

Lion begins to make the telltale signs and soundshe is about to hork up a hairball... or something worse. THe boy begins to push him toward the door, but to all his effort, doesn't quite make it, and Lion hacks up... something. Something glowing. "What... is /that/."

It takes but a few moments to change shape, but what was what the three thought was a magical hairball turns out to be a pair of glowing silver bells! "Whoa, Lion! Where did you-- oof!"

Lion has immediately headbutted Steven outside the open door, and grabs him by the scruff of his sweater before running off down the beach with Steven in tow.

"I dont have my Jackeeeet!" a pause. "Also, you have to tell me how you coughed up glowing stuff!" The boy finally gets a moment to get out of the cat's mouth, and sit atop him as he runs. Steven conjures his shield almost out of reflex for some strange reason. Lion is tense; he can tell something has to be afoot.

COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Steven Quartz Universe!
<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> J'envoie Valser https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAUvz6G-Qos

The phone is already ringing when Haruka opens the door, a wedge of yellow light falling across Michiru's cell as it vibrate-crawls across a decorative glass table. Haruka lets the door close behind her and guides herself to it by the illuminated rectangle of light in the dark, lifting it to her ear.

"Office of Michiru Kaioh," he says. She drops her keys on the table thoughtlessly, then just as thoughtlessly picks them back up and puts them on the magnetic keyholder near the door. "An hour?"

Haruka wanders to the floor-length windows. Her golden hair and features reflect dimly against a dark, jagged city immersed in snow, most of it far below the penthouse Haruka looks down from. "That may be difficult," he says. Continuing through the room, she passes through the bedroom, pausing alongside it. A luxurious halo of teal glistens across the pillows. Michiru's body is limp with exhaustion, her brows knit even in sleep with stress. Her hip has shed half the sheet. Haruka regards her as she listens to the cell phone.

"How long is this performance?" he asks.

Leaning over, Haruka plucks at the edge of the sheet, pulling down Michiru's waist and up her shoulder, then tucking it by her neck. She shifts, moues an unconscious complaint. "I am afraid Kaioh-san is going to have to cancel. The weather is simply too severe," he says. He only allows the man on the other end a few seconds of carefully worded objection before he thumbs away the call and pushes the phone into his pocket.

"You won't yell at me on Christmas, will you?" she asks.

Michiru murmurs something, and Haruka bends her long torso, to plant a kiss on her temple. "Call it a present."

  • * *

Haruka leans into the rope, rotating her wrist into it to wrap another length. She's already sheathed the rotors of her chopper against the inclement conditions, and a half-empty jug of antifreeze speaks to her efforts to preserve the engine. She knows machines, at least the sort that race, that fly, that share that unnamable lust for motion that has been her defining trait since birth and birth before.

Tonight, Christmas Eve, she's securing a vast blue tarp atop the vehicle, fighting the wind at every step of the way. The powerful triangular hews of her shoulders haul against the inflating plastic, her boots digging against the helicopter pad until she's within reach of the fastening hook. Overbalancing herself on purpose, she thuds onto her back next to the hook and pulls as hard as she can, looping the rope through. With quick motions she knots it tight.

Standing and panting, Haruka grimaces as she watches one of the already secured corners of tarp rip free, the rope clanging around against the metal frame of the chopper. She could always hire someone for this. She could just push the damn thing off the edge of the building into the water and buy a new one. But Haruka hasn't lost to wind thus far. She isn't about to start.

Just then, the transformation pen in her breast pocket begins to grow agitated. Haruka lopes behind the sheltered stairwell and removes it, staring at the glowing artifact. A wry smile touches her lips. "All right, all right," she says. "I get it."

  • * *

From rooftop to rooftop Sailor Uranus bounds, leaving bootprints on fire escapes and fences, dislodging snow with her landings. At the edge of Shiba Park, she dismounts at last into the street and runs, clearing fields and hills until her feet are clanging on orange girders. By the time she reaches the top of the tower, even Sailor Uranus is panting. But she can always spare breath for a lady.

A gloved hand comes down unexpectedly atop Luna's head, rubbing her ears around affectionately. "I'll pass that along for you, koneko-chan," she assures the dark little feline. Confidently she leaps into the light.

COMBAT: Haruka Tenoh transforms into Sailor Uranus!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Passing into the light is a tingling feeling -- and a jingling one, as it was before. There's a rising sense of anticipation wholly appropriate to Christmas Eve, and then, there it is -- The Sleigh.

It's golden and crimson and gilded and engraved and may not look exactly the same to everyone who gazes upon it; the shade of everyone's heart is different, after all. It's piled high with overflowing red velvet sacks. They bulge tantalizingly.

There's no sign of a driver, though, and no reindeer, either. What could have happened to them? The sleigh seems lonely -- and pregnant with undelivered potential.

There is so much sadness, down in the storm-tossed city below.

With soft popping sounds, santa hats materialize on the heads of the mascots (who emerge, with more soft popping sounds, if they had been temporarily inside a transformation item, as relevant). And silver, eight-pointed stars that are both /absolutely definitely/ sheriff's stars straight out of an American Western, and absolutely not that at all, they're too pretty, too fancifully wrought, appear in front of the hearts of the girls in a fairly blatant offer of deputization.

It's very quiet, peaceful even. The howl of the storm outside is muted within the radiance. The top of Tokyo Tower has seen countless acts of violence and equally countless acts of wonder, but right now it feels less like an altar, and more like a cradle.

Something could be born, here.

OOC: You'd betta believe that if you grab your star, your outfit is going to go all over red with white trim, which you are encouraged to describe in splendid detail. Also, despite their small size, your mascots are very eager to get hooked up to the sleigh...

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami Araki arrives up towards the sleigh amidst the small sea of magical girls quite suddenly. Not necessarily due to any stealth on her part, just a lucky vault off of a rather tall building with a water tower high above. Red highlights, roses, she smells as usual, though looks a little sleep deprived.

She doesn't bother explaining her presence, too enraptured is she by the sleight. And most importantly, a silver ring.

Without a word, heart in the christmas spirit, she grabs that star. And with a flare of magic, she's...well, not much has changed, really. The reds of her student council uniform are brighter, and all of those roses on her? They're green. Very green, with the center of her coat having a christmas tree done in various colored roses!

Is...her nose suddenly round and blinking red too? Nah. Surely not.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

"Bloom!" Cure Egret cries out, but she smiles -- despite all of the sadness. She looks ahead, then, and spots Choppy. Now sporting a red hat. Her eyes widen, before she smiles brightly and nods quickly. "Oh--oh, look at us!"

Egret touches down on the top of the Tower, eyes locked onto the sleigh. She quickly shoots forward, reaching out -- and it's with gloves turned red, with white lining, that the Pretty Cure begins to help Choppy with the sleigh.

She doesn't ask why. It makes sense to her.

"I wonder if this will work," she murmurs. "Everyone is so sad...!"

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

... Well.

The Magic Knight of Wind takes three steps further forward after entering the light, and stops to take in the sight ahead of her. She wasn't sure what she was expecting, but this is definitely not it. No monsters, no archvillains, no spells pulling down endless snow over Tokyo ... just a sleigh that looks, not familiar *physically*, but well-known to her innermost heart. This is The Sleigh that her inner vision of Santa rides, and she doesn't have to ask anybody else what they think. She just *knows*.

She reaches forward, taking the eight-pointed silver star that floats before her, and even as a wave of white overtakes her normal green, she fastens the 'badge' to the upper corner of her breastplate. She's used to wearing armor adorned with green and gold, but it no longer feels like armor at all: the breastplate and pauldrons and backplate shine like freshly-fallen snow, the red trim which replaces gold as brilliantly festive as candles celebrating the most joyous night of the year, the deep lustre of hollyberry-hued rubies replacing the normal emerald of her armor's gemstones. Her boots and gloves, and the skirt and blazer still visible, have gained the same coloring - except the cloth is both heavier and lighter, red fluff lining the hems and cuffs.

"I hate to ask this burden of you, Mokona-san," she begins - but Mokona has already found a spot on the harness, and with a wry smile, the Magic Knight of Winter bends her knee to help secure the harness. "Hopefully, among all of you, the burden will be light."

She finishes her work and stands up straight, looking around at the other magical girls. Most are familiar, some are better known to her than others, but all have been drawn by the same miraculous beacon. "Everybody ... we've been called to a magic far transcending our normal spells and attacks. I don't know what lies ahead this night, but the miracle rests in our hands."

She raises one arm - not clenching a fist, but holding her palm upright as if she were holding something aloft. "Let's make Santa-san proud of us tonight, everyone! Whatever we need to do!"

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Cure Passion leapt for the light, carrying Tarte and Chiffon in both of her arms, gray ferret looking fairy and adorable... fairy alike. She's been hopping about the city from here, and this seemed the fastest place in order.

Earlier, Setsuna was introduced to the urgency of the situation by being levitated by a very urgent Chiffon. It was more the surprised than the action that got to her at the time.

But it's hard to dampen Setsuna's spirits tonight. She gathered up Tarte and moved to the window to /leap/--

Which brings us to now, around the sleigh. The red Cure looks with some surprise to see the amzing conveyance, see its sacks. She tilts her head. "But why is a sleigh here...?"

"Oh!" Hats on Tarte and Chiffon. Chiffon especially looks /adorable/ in hers, with bright eyes and excited trills. The gray ferret fairy hopping along after is pretty cute, too.

But Passion can't entirely see cute; she saw the loneliness in that sleigh, saw the sadness below. So when the sheriff's star appears before her, with unfamiliar meaning, she nevertheless feels a communication in her heart. She reaches out for it, and as she takes it her red and white outfit bursts into color, the red dress turning a very Christmas green, the frilly trim red, the same of her sleeves. Her black undersleeves and tights are red too, and her shoes have little bells on them. All her jewels at her headress are still brilliant shining red, but there's another change in her nevertheless: her ears are pointed, like an elf's.

And there's a silver star over her clover emblem.

"Right! You... Oh you want to what?"

And Elf Passion spends the next bit of her time hooking up Tarte and then Chiffon. ...Chiffon bounces more.

COMBAT: Setsuna Higashi transforms into Cure Passion!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Fortune [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Cure Fortune makes her way and finds... a sleigh. It's a very interesting sleigh. Something about it just draws her to it. She can't explain it very well. But she's here, and so is Glassan. Glassan is even wearing a small santa hat.

Cure Fortune, though relatively new to the entire world of mysticism, knows what this means, what Glassan and this sleigh wants her to do.

And she smiles, reaching out for the star in front of her. Even though her Christmas isn't that great, given her circumstances, that doesn't mean /everyone/ should have a bad Christmas. If that's what she's gotta do, she'll gladly do it. And, like the others, her outfit changes. Anything that's not purple turns white and red.

Cure Fortune looks over at Cure Egret while she goes to hook Glassan up to the sleigh. "We have to try!" And that's all she has to say about that.

Afterwards, before she gets on the sleigh, she looks down to the city below. Hopefully, it does make everyone feel better.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

"Lion, slow doooown!" Steven cries as Lion begins to pick up speed. The mascot comes to a sliding halt in front of Tokyo Tower of all places. Something is shining up there. "Huh, what's-- wait!" Lion roars, and a circular portal opens, before the animal leaps through, and ends up above the glowing light, where both move to land into it. "We're gonna crash!"

The crash never comes.

Everything seems to go white as they both connect with the light. The next thing Steven knows is he is on his feet, walking forward. The sound of the weather is muffled in this strange light. Others seem to be around, too, but more importantly is what is in the center of the light. "Is that...!"

Before he is able to run up to the sleigh, a silver star appears in front of him, floating. The boy hesitates for a moment, before glancing around. "I guess it couldn't hurt to at least pick it up..."

A moment later, there is a Steven who looks to be in some sort of reverse santa outfit! White ensemble with black buttons, edge collars rimmed with red adornments. Flip-flips with a very unconventional elf toe-curl at the end. A perfect shape is missing out of the lower torso between two buttons, where a pink gem pokes out. It actually looks a little more on the red side right now for some reason. Perhaps the supporting color ensemble?

His shield, which has a swirling thorn motif on most of it, now appears to have more of a thorny wreath appearance to the mid section! "W... We get to save Christmas, everyone!" A look to Lion. "Ready, buddy?! Uh."

Lion looks completely unenthused that a magical had has been placed upon in, though unlikem almost every other situation, makes no effort to remove it. A Christmas miracle...! "Okay buddy, you are super stroung, we might need your help too!" he adds in, watching others begin to add strange creatures of sorts to the sleigh. Perhaps magical friends of their own?

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Usually when Flappy starts yelling at the top of his lungs it's because he's sensed some horrible evil. Cure Bloom is ready for it!! The evil seed at the heart of the light!! It's!!

...Bloom's lips split in a big smile. "Egret!" she chimes, feet coming down on the edge of the tower beside her partner. Her eyes cast around. Even now, she's a little stunned by the spread of magical girls in Tokyo. Part of her still remembers when she thought it was her and Egret fighting one desperate battle after another, a never-ending struggle to keep the world alive as the enemy hounded their every step.

She looks down, sensing the slight loss of weight on her skirt marking Flappy disembarking. She didn't entirely know he could do that while she was transformed, actually, but the half-on santa hat already gives her an idea this is no ordinary moment.

He's saying something but Cure Bloom finds her eyes drawn back to Egret, grinning again. Somehow it makes sense that the Pretty Cure of the Sky would figure this out right away, she decides, and Cure Bloom reaches a hand out to grasp her own star. Obviously. Like there were any doubt, she thinks, as the light races up her arms. It's a simple transition, in its way, the only slightly dark pink of her Cure outfit raising in temperature until it burns a cheerful Christmas red. The white highlights stay right where they are, but with twinkles of Earthen light the yellow highlights flash to a more festive green, leaving the floral blooming of her skirt to look a little like a tree wrapped in a jacket. The deeper purples of her gloves and boots turn a deeper red to match, like the lovingly-crafted fruit filling in a nice Christmas cake.

She looks down at herself, a few seconds of assessment, and then steps off. "It's not like that's ever stopped us before," she chides Egret, swinging down to scoop up Flappy. She holds him out at arms' length and gives him a long, hard look.

"If you're going to work, no whining for snacks until after!" she chides him.

"What-lapi!! What kind of hard-working dedicated deputy-Christmas fairy do I look like to you-lapi!?"

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Jingle, jingle. There's a small part of Ladybug that is completely, totally on edge, watching for a trap. With the schemes she's run across already, some suspicion might be warranted...

But on the balance, it might not. There's a magical feeling in the air, like the sight of those first signs of snow. Before it was ominous, before it became a thing of terror and sorrow, there was that magical joy to the season...and the atmosphere around The Sleigh is exactly that. It's distinct from joy, from fantastic excitement- but it's hope.

Her eyes take in the lonely vehicle before looking around for its absent driver, and she's soon distracted by those fellow souls venturing into the light. Masked as ever, Ladybug gives each a smile as she takes notice - it's hard to say who got here first, but they're all here now. "La veille de No�l...it's a late night, and it seems there's much work to be done...oh!"

Her eye caught Sailor Moon just then, noticing her coat. She catches the blonde's eye, giving a bit of a teasing smirk. "That really does work in this weather, doesn't it? I'm a little bit jealous..." She could make her own, after all, but it somehow isn't the same... But then again, she does have the signed photo as thanks, doesn't she? Well, 'Marinette' has it, anyway...

She turns back to the sleigh, mulling. "It certainly seems - what?!" There's a pop, as her earrings shine brilliantly for a moment - and suddenly there's a little red fairy-thing in front of her, covered with black spots and with a large head - a head swiftly adorned by a crimson hat with white trim. The buglike Kwami seems as surprised as anyone, and Ladybug's hands fly up to her mask. "Tikki?! You're out, which means I'm-"

"It's Christmas, Ladybug! There are ancient magics known to this night alone - so consider it a special occasion!" Twirling in the air, tassel on her hat spinning around her, Tikki gives a little curtsy to those assembled. "A pleasure to meet you all - I am Tikki, Ladybug's companion. I'm afraid I don't have time for proper introductions, though - I think that we have a great deal to do this night!"

Ladybug's panicked attempt to hide her identity, mercifully, is unnecessary, and she wipes at her brow. "A special occasion...well, there aren't many more special than this! If it means making a difference, then..." She takes a breath, and reaches out to grasp the shining silver star before her. There's a mantle to take up, and she'll gladly accept...

Snow whirls around her - or something finer, that glory of deathly chill called 'diamond dust'. It doesn't freeze her, surprisingly, but sparkles around her as the magic takes the form best suited to her. The first wave sparkles around her earrings, adorning the ladybug-pattern with a framing of a silver Christmas star. The second washes over her outfit, turning black spots white before poofing out into white fur trim around her wrists and neck - no need to make the red redder, after all. The third and final wave rushes up from behind, abruptly becoming a hooded cloak - red, of course, with white fur trim. The hood settles down just enough to shade her mask, and her arms pull the newfound warmth around herself.

There's a brief sigh of relief, because that is so much better - and reminiscent of the P�re No�l costume she'd seen a few times in her youth. A moment - but that's all the night will permit. She pumps one fist, dashing over to The Sleigh to hook up an adorably tiny harness to a little Kwami. "Tikki, are you sure you'll be all right? I mean, earlier-"

"I've never felt better, Ladybug - and I love that I finally get a chance to help out by your side! Now, we both - no, we -all- have jobs to do tonight - so let's get moving!" Hesitantly, Ladybug gives her friend a nod. Checking her yo-yo (which has a wreath on it? Okay, then...) she leaps over to the sleigh, catching hold of a golden ornament as she sets foot on the runner. A thumbs-up to the hitched-up Kwami, who returns the gesture, and she grins beneath her new hood.

"You've all said it as well as I would - but we have a lot of gifts to deliver and not much time!" Spinning her wreath-yo-yo up in the air once, she catches it with a grin.

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

It happens so quickly that she swears the wind has just passed her by. Gloved fingers rubbing her ears affectionately. For some reason it made her feel giddy inside- like it was a familiar touch. She has no idea it's because she once got some fur on that person's meticulously drycleaned suit when Usagi handed her over to them. "What-?" But like the wind it passes and she sees only a Sailor Fuku- and a head of short blonde hair and she recognizes it was the glimpse of an Outer Senshi- "-Hey! Oh there's no way-" But there's this warm tingly feeling that causes her fur to stand on end-

"-I'm letting you tell her for me!" Which matches the one Sailor Moon is feeling right now- she opens her eyes and feels a weight on her shoulder and turns her head, instantly pointing a gloved finger, "Tell who what? Wait- what are /you/ doing here?" Luna's back arches as and her hair stands on end as she realizes she changed location and just got caught in an embarrassing situation. "Gah! What am I doing here? Uh- it's not important!"

And then both their eyes face forward- finger still pointed at Luna, Luna's back still arched in that position they realize where they are The Sleigh. Sailor Moon's jaw drops, bobbing up and down in enthusiastic incomprehension- "Is that- what I think it is?" Sailor Moon claps her hands together and let's out a squeal.

It's now easy to tell that tonight she's not just in her standard Fuku, but she's wearing a coat over her standard Fuku.

It's elegant and handmade. There's hints of some styles worn by royalty in it; twin columns of pearly white buttons run down the front, standing out against a light baby-blue fabric. It's cut a little long, and reaches just past her knees; both the lower hem and ends of the sleeves buff out with white fluffiness, speaking to what lining lies within. The piece de resistance is the collar; somehow, a soft pink frill seems to balloon out from the coat, diaphanous in how it seems to drape itself even in the air.

Saluting Ladybug with two fingers at her brow she grins, "Isn't it the best Ladybug? Now I can look chic even in the dead of winter!" A Santa Hat materializes onto Luna's head- Sailor Moon's eyes turn back to her with a look of glee, "Where'd you get that cute hat? Have you been holding out on me?! Well it looks like we're both going to be looking our best tonight!" Luna grumbles, "Is fashion really your biggest concern right now!?"

A star materializes in her hand, "Huh? Oh! Is this like one of those Western movies?" Her eyelashes flutter a few times before she reaches out to take a star. When she touches it, she undergoes a second transformation. Her Marinette Dupain-Cheng original coat changes color- baby-blue becoming bright alabaster, pink frill changing to the consistency of a red garland. White Fur lines the lower hem and sleeves. Beneath it all the blue of her Sailor Suit becomes red. Her Moonboots become stylized to look more like they belong in winter with the fur lined cuffs. And her gloves take on the same. The jewels in front of each Odango take tiny stars.

Afterwards she poses once. "How do I look?" "Like- look we don't have time for this."

Sailor Moon's expression becomes a feminine moue as she crosses her arms and Luna hops from one seat of the sleigh after another until she gets to the front. Then she hesitates and casts a look at Sailor Uranus- Waiting, watching. It's perhaps in this moment that Usagi starts to feel that sadness all over the city- she uncrosses her arms and begins to take the situation a little more seriously. "Alright! Let's get-"

It's only then that she follows Luna's eyes to notice someone else in a Sailor Fuku. "-to it." She still remembers the last time she saw Sailor Uranus. What she said. For a moment Sailor Moon looks like she's distinctly insecure, anxious and then- "Um- wow funny running into you again right here-" Like she'd just run into her at a train station on accident, "You know- since we're both here-"

Her cheeks start to look ruddier, as she pokes the tips of her pointer fingers together and apart- "-on Christmas- together. As Sailor Senshi." She's growing as red as her coat, as she closes her eyes and blurts the rest out, "Maybe just for tonight we can set everything aside and work together?"

Luna heaves out the world's longest sigh, then starts muttering as she hops lightly into the mascot line to get herself hooked up, "Now I'm glad I'm here to chaperone. That girl, I swear."

She'll tell her later- once the job is done.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Uranus [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Haruka comes through the other side fists ready and brows knit. She is ready for all sorts of world-ending horrors--it is Tokyo Tower, after all. She isn't ready for--

"...Santa?" She keeps her martial posture for a few more seconds, assessing the sleigh. But when the hat appears, she slowly lets her guard down. "This better not be some sort of trick."

Turning to face Sailor Moon, her face only hardens further. Their last interaction was not positive. But the tiny senshi is fumbling her words the way she fumbles her kicks. Uranus is right there waiting for her when she says 'on Christmas together', lifting a perfect, sharp eyebrow in a mixture of incredulity and flirtatious challenge.

She taps her arm with a gloved finger. "You want my help, is that it?" Bending at the waist to get a better look at the far shorter girl, Uranus examines her white and red costume. "You're supposed to leave out milk and cookies, you know." She touches the tip of Sailor Moon's nose, in an attempt to brighten her cheeks. "Not strawberry shortcake."

Turning decisively, Uranus snatches the hat out of the air. "Well, I'm not about to ruin Christmas. Why not?" Pulling the hat on, Sailor Uranus straightens her arms as a white fur collar sparkles its way down her shoulders, a broad, masculine belt gripping her waist, big thick buttons springing out of red cloth on her torso to fasten a hearty coat. Bare legs are soon sheathed in red pants, her footwear bulging to huge, chunky black greatboots, a gleaming brass buckle clanking down and tightening atop each. She looks down at her black gloves, emerging from billowy white fur around the wrists.

As the eager, chattering group of familiars and fairies array out in front of the sleigh, Santa Uranus regards the rest of the group dubiously. She walks forward, catching a hint of an accent from a girl standing on the runner. She pauses to glance down at her feet a moment, then meet her eyes. "Alors vous feriez mieux de tenir bon, poup�e," she says, in only faintly accented French. She winks at the spotted magical girl, then plants a hand on the rail and mounts the front seat with an effortless vault.

"Does a single one of you have your driver's license?" She calls back to the group. "I won't even ask about a pilot's certificate..." Taking up the reins, Santa Uranus tugs a little to test the reaction of the fairies. "It can't be helped," she sighs. "Everybody get aboard! We're about to find out how fast this thing is!"

Bracing herself, Santa Uranus sends a single thrash down the reins to the waiting fairies.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Ode To Joy -- Flash Mob Style -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbJcQYVtZMo

The wildly different sizes of the mascots doesn't seem to be any real obstacle to making this work; they all get snowy little sparkles under their feet and paws and such. In fact, /everyone/ does, and for those who don't normally get to experience the sensation of flight, there's a swelling feeling in the heart that tonight it might just be possible -- just for a little while. Which isn't to say it's required; there's plenty of room in that sleigh, though it's warmly cozy.

And into the night they go. The violence of the storm is a vivid reminder that something is very wrong in the city tonight, that there's a /reason/ they've been called to undertake a desperately important duty. And it seems the cold, the wind, the water, they all combine in swirling shapes (dimly animal, vaguely round, though it is difficult to identify the details other than a sort of fluid grace completely at odds with their harsh origins) that will slam against The Sleigh if not intercepted.

But there are far more important things to do right now than /fight/.

There's a tapestry of people down below -- and an apparently endless supply of presents to deliver. Sometimes the sleigh, which despite the steady hand upon it is kind of doing its own thing, sets down on a rooftop for more personal deliveries; sometimes the presents, which also seem somehow animated, alive, yearn to be free of the hands they're in, to be thrown like javelins, launched like missiles, into the streets below. They pass effortlessly through windows as though there's nothing there. They land daintily on desks, on scattered restaurant tables.

They don't all contain... typical knick-knacks. Perhaps that's to be expected. Delivering the Christmas spirit means something else tonight, something more important than commercialism.

OOC: You are hereby invited to pose a vignette of a present being delivered to someone in need -- someone stranded in the storm, or someone waiting to hear from them! It could turn out to be anything from a miraculous phone call to a bright light that promptly attracts search-and-rescue (for those unfortunate enough to be caught /outside/) to a personally meaningful picture or trinket thought lost forever, a surprising item implied to be from a cubicle-mate, even a coat or a hot meal. One person at a time, Tokyo's Christmas is awakened, reborn! If you have no particular wish to write the little mini-story of one such miracle present delivered by you and the sleigh tonight, feel free to instead pose protecting everyone from the Storm Beasts, whatever they are, or focus your pose on the larger experience of flight and the wondrous journey itself! My next and final "pose" will come in the form of a bbpost addressed to the game as a whole (though you have a special level of involvement already), pertaining to the finale of the winter storm plot, which will be run this weekend; the bbpost itself may not actually appear until tomorrow, TBD. You're welcome to continue more interactive social roleplay with each other, or write more than one story, as you like. The night continues until it ends, at which point the sleigh fades away and the magic drops you all lightly down to the ground to make your way home in time for Christmas Morning. Whether you pose once more or several, thank you for playing, and Merry Christmas!

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami very much clenches her fist in a show of solidarity! Even with the Wind Knight! "That's right! Look at it, it's a sleigh! And that storm! How could we all possibly let down so many young children down there!?" Passion flows into her voice, she stands up in the sleigh after leaping up into it! Her santa hat and coat sways dramaticaly in the wind as she puts one festive boot atop the seat in front of her! She points to the snowy, stormy horizon!

"A true King doesn't forget her subjects! Let's dash through the snow like true magical girls, and grant every good girl and boy their gifts, so that tomorrow is magical despite the weather! We can't let them down everyone! Put your hearts and backs into it! I believe in you all! NOW MUSH LIKE YOU'VE NEVER MUSHED BEFORE, TINY REINDEER-KUNS!" A single finger points at the team of mascots, her airs both imperious and warm as she grins like a madwoman, one sack of present slung over her shoulder as she belts out a perfect Student Council laugh!

Not even /Moon's/ presence is stopping her Ambition to Save Christmas or her manic laughter tonight as Santa-Uranus snaps the reigns!

Kasagami fires presents from the sleigh like some kind of cannon. All of that time on the baseball field at Ohtori has served her well, as with the help of christmas magic, each one is perfectly tossed and utterly without harm to home or hearth. It's only as her bag is near to empty that she pulls out a final present, and frowns.

Her heart pounds, half in the ache of vague familiarity, and a sense of urgency. The sleigh passes a house, and without warning, she pitches herself off of the thing. As she lands, suddenly there's a small burst of magic, and things like rooftops and doors mean nothing.

The orphanage is quiet. This one has been rather successful, as all but one little girl remains. A single girl, weak from disease and ravaged by the recent loss of both parents to the snow storm. To her, the howling storm outside is a terrible demon even worse than the Snow Beasts. It reminds her of how they didn't return, and now, she's here alone amongst strangers.

A silent figure stands above the girl caught in nightmares. Something warm settles over the girl's shoulder as she clutches thin blankets. The cold and sounds dissappears, and something sits at the side table for the little girl, no more than ten.

A single card and letter. The last christmas card her parents would ever write, lost in the storm. And yet, thanks to tonight, this girl will be able to cherish her parents' last words to her filled with love and hope.

And the letter they braved the storm for. Treatment at Mitakihara. A cure, and a life yet to be lived. Kasagami gently ruffles the sleeping girl's head, soothing sounds from her, until the nightmares recede.

"Stay strong, little one." And then, she's gone.

Kasagami is a far cry from before, one leg curled up against her. Tears of joy cross her cheeks as she shivers, too emotionally spent to say anything as she huddles in the Sleigh.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Her armor may have been transformed, but her bow and quiver are still more or less as they have been - and the Magic Knight of Winter is going to need them, it looks like.

There are so many gifts to be given, and she can feel in her heart where some of them need to go ... but the Storm Beasts are far more worrisome to her, proof that she was right about the unnatural storm. She was hoping, if not praying, to be wrong.

But at least she can do something about that now. If it's a side effect of having been deputized by Santa, so much the better. The Sleigh is airborne now, and the Magic Knight nocks an arrow, drawing back smoothly and taking aim, then loosing her shaft - and the arrow doesn't so much punch through a malicious twist of the wind as *shreds* it into snowflakes on a gentle if chilly breeze.

She can feel in her heart where some of the gifts need to go, and when she has a moment, she tries to convey to her allies, that box into that window, or this package down the chimney over yonder. Once or twice, she sees somebody far below, about to fall prey to the arctic wrath of the blizzard ...

Only for the blizzard's embodiment, the Storm Beast, to instead fall prey to her arrow.

Most of her attention is spent on shielding the Sleigh itself, though. Each arrow that flies dispels a Storm Beast, maybe more than one, and if she should run out of arrows with monsters to spare, she can turn instead to her magic, or in the most desperate need, her blade.

This is Christmas, a blessed night even to those in Japan who aren't Christian. The Magic Knight of Winter shall not let curse nor harm befall anyone within her reach, magical girl or helpless innocent.

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

"It's nice to meet you, Tikki." Passion's response is prompt and polite, paired with a little smile. But she looks around at the others, stepping back from her work with Chiffon and Tarte, and is happy to recognize others in all of this. The dire happenings outside don't dampen that much.

But she finds herself at something of a loss for what to do, before The Sleigh looms in her mind again. And then Sailor Uranus is in the driver's seat so to speak, and her question gets a simple, "Nope!" about her driver's license. "Right!"

Bending at the knee she hops in a single bound the rest of the way into the sleigh, where at first she hovers close to Uranus so she can see around her, pink hair streaming behind, the night ahead of them. She sits back and looks to the side in a moment after, her face shifting to a neutral-looking expression that nevertheless hides a deep concern. She sees the strange shapes, but she sees the people far below, too. She is not the first to deliver a present. She doesn't have to hear what needs doing first; she needs to see it, to feel it, and that happens as the sleigh alights on a rooftop. Passion looks behind and sees the bag shaking, reaching back to pull a present out. "Me? Are you sure?" Who she's talking to she doesn't say, but she rolls out of the sleigh and down the side of the house, peering in through the window. Inside there's a girl sitting in front of the TV, checking weather reports, only a few years younger than Passion herself. She's alone, her face knit with worry, looking down at her phone as it starts to run out of power.

The present rattles in Passion's hand and she tosses it forward. The phone rings. The girl blinks but immediately answers. "M-Mom?"

A mother trapped in an office and a daughter home on her own get the chance to talk, to show that neither of them is really alone. ...The daughter's phone just happens to be charged enough that they can talk for a long time, now.

Cure Passion hops back to the roof and vaults again into the sleigh, where she announces as they move back up with a smile, "I love Christmas!"

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

For Cure Bloom, flight isn't new - it's a power she discovered as Pretty Cure some time ago, and has been slowly mastering it. But her power isn't really built for control. Usually, Cure Bloom rockets around on streamers of light, blasting from place to place, barely controlling the awesome power of Pretty Cure.

The magic of Christmas betrays her: That's actually just her personality.

Cure Bloom rockets off in temporary formation with the Sleigh, then bullets away, trailing candy-cane red and white sparks as she tears into the clouds. Flashes of light betray her taking on Storm Beasts amid the gloom.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

On the streets below, a single track of footsteps begins abruptly at the street; plods across a yard that has only just recently finally succumbed to the futility of shoveling out the storm; and ends at a young girl, wrapped up tight in warm jacket and festive hat, scarf pulled up around her neck, but none of it able to stop the fire-engine red pigtails from escaping. Good little girls should be in bed by now.

Vita thinks she hears a distant jingle, and her eyes glance off, drawn in a certain direction. From this far, she couldn't possibly see the dazzling light through the gloom.

A hollow chime, like a stick striking a bowl.

"No," she says, quietly, and forces the door a little, sticking in the cold. She winces as her foot comes down on the entryway, hastily shifting her weight. "...Not us."

The same chime; three notes lower.

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

Cure Fortune crowds into the sleigh with everyone else, and the sleigh shoots off into the distance! The force does push Fortune back in her seat for a moment, though not so much as to completely unbalance her. It does take her a few moments to sit directly back up again, though.

Since she's not driving, she instead puts herself on present duty. And so, throughout the trip, she takes a present out of the bag, and drops it to the Earth. It's not quite as cannon-like as Kasagami's throws, but it does have some sort of force behind it. The presents float down to Earth though, their own magic making sure they find their targets.

Between these fits of presenting, Fortune just... enjoys the ride. She can fly whenever she wants as Cure Fortune, but there's something to be said for just riding in the air. Snow sweeps past her, and the air is pretty chilly. But for the first time since the storm began, Cure Fortune finds it pretty nice. It could just be the warmth of the sleigh, the warmth of everyone else, or even perhaps the warmth of the season, but these moments... don't feel that cold.

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Ladybug stows her yo-yo for a moment, regarding the storm. It's ugly - it's not just bad weather, it's not even just the anger of some maligned meteorologist. There's something nefarious about that chill, that wind, that seems to stand in direct opposition to the hope gathered here. Something standing against any chance of doing good.

Well, they'll certainly have something to say about that.

Sailor Moon's pride in her new coat - and its fantastic transformed state - catch Ladybug's attention, and so she's privy to the interaction between the twintailed blonde and the older-seeming Sailor Uranus. There's not much she can say to Sailor Moon's side of things, not given certain...actions at Juuban. Sailor Uranus, on the other hand - for a moment, she's struck by the thought that this stranger and Chat Noir can never meet, or the flirting jokes will know no end.

The Sleigh is ready to set out - but the lead driver turns to give her a personal warning. Ladybug starts in surprise, frowns momentarily - a doll, is she? - and then settles down to an answering smirk. "Ah, avez-vous peur de vitesse? Ne t'inqui�te pas de moi, loupe ludique, on doit courir l'horloge cette soir�e!"

A challenge of speed, perhaps - but this miraculous sleigh is swift indeed, and in spite of her confidence she really does need to hold on tightly after all. For a moment, it's all Ladybug can do to take in the storm - but as the dim lights of Tokyo spread out below, she can see much more.

She can feel much more.

Gifts, like lucky horseshoes, are flung out into the night. Perchance they might find some soul in despair who desperately needs a glimmer of hope - or perhaps they'll just be reminders that the year to come will be a shining one. Cloak drawn tightly around her, Ladybug is a dervish; wind and arrows fight against the fangs of the storm, freeing her to swing through the air and spring off of diamond dust to toss gifts every which way.

Mysteriously, some of her throws miss stockings to land in shoes. Ah well.

Some scenes catch her eye, demanding a little more personal attention. In one place, two teenage boys bundled against the cold each hold a beautifully wrapped present, staring forlornly at the hilly street utterly choked with snow that separates them. Swinging up to the sleigh, she rummages in a sack for a moment, finding something delightful for just this moment...

The boy at the top of the hill is certainly surprised when a brand-new toboggan lands squarely in front of him - but beggers can't be choosers, and he takes the chance to rush downhill with a whoop. For some, Christmas is a time for romance - and part of Ladybug hates to see it go awry.

In another place, there is noise. Impatient children who seem to hope that yelling at the TV will bring their movie back, as an exhausted mother tries to keep them in check. It's a great cacophony of noise and anguish - but there's a sudden series of thuds to interrupt them.

Oranges and chocolates drop into stockings as if by magic, accompanied by a jingling of bells. Forgetting their tantrums, the children rush to the window to catch a glimpse of a red suit trimmed in white - but the gift-giver is already swinging off. Still, that hope excites the kids, and they dash from window to window, searching for another glimpse...as the beleaguered mother can relax with a thermos of coffee and a dark chocolate bar of her own. Christmas is a time for family, and Ladybug can only hope to get back to hers soon.

In another place, the terrors stalking the night are in more force. Sensible souls would have some notion of danger, and take cover - but the brave and foolhardy and curious might look further. Alya had hoped to get some good shots of the strange meteorological phenomena, but now they seem to be closing in a lot faster than she'd hoped...

Right up until a wreath-adorned yo-yo slices through the air, driving the darkness back with a howl. Sparkling snow in the air forms a foothold for Ladybug's rapid leaps, two more snapped throws driving back unnatural chill - and in the momentary clear, she gives Alya a quick salute. One moment, two - just enough for Alya to get a good look, not long enough for her to remember her camera in time - and Ladybug is off again. Because Christmas is a time for friends, and she'll never leave hers in the lurch.

Bells jingle against the howling of the storm as Ladybug swings back up to the sleigh's runner once more - as if to spite the driver, she hasn't set a food inside the sleigh proper yet. Which sack is next, she wonders...but as she grins to her fellow gift-givers, she knows that this is what it's all about.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU21Q5eJBBY

If you thought she looked red before! The moment Uranus' fingertip comes into contact with her nose she outdoes Rudolph's legend for a few moments. Both of her hands clasp over her mouth and her shoulders sink down. "W-Well you did say- I just had to..." She trails off then about ten seconds later a hand breaks away from her face and she reaches forward before withdrawing it- "Wait- were you?"

A little bit longer then, "Was that a crack about my- hey!" Adorable indignation and embarrassment floods off her to the front of the sleigh where Sailor Uranus is taking the reins. She did cut a resplendant figure in that outfit- with those biceps and broad shoulders and-

Sailor Moon balls her hand into a small fist and sorta taps the side of her head. Of course Uranus wasn't! Of course she wasn't thinking that!

Hopping into the sleigh she stares at the bag, and from the long line of mascots- she looks at the sack, hand on her chin and from the mascot line one of them calls- "Don't even think about searching for your present early Sailor Moon!" "Of course I wouldn't even think about doing that Luna!" "Really?" "Really!"

But then they're off, and Sailor Moon almost whoops with delight, despite the violence of the storm, but gradually it settles in again just about the time she's trying to tame her twintails for the tenth time. Just the importance of this mission.

There's a reason she's being sent to do this.

Adding stars to her Odango jewels don't stop their function. Her expression changes. The side of the bag tips open- and something slips into her hands.


A brief draft startles her awake again. Alone on Christmas- and with weather like this. It's like the Universe was confirming for her what she already knew. The years hadn't been kind to her after all. Family and friends alike had drifted further and further apart- and she'd thrown herself into work instead until even that felt hollow. Forty two year old Salarywoman Kaede Nishiyama takes one final bracing sip of liquid courage out of a glass before setting it down decisively- "Well this is it." -then unsteadily staggers to her feet, pinching her nose and brushing something away from her eyes.

The scent of incense is cloying in the air, making her feel like she's floating towards her destination in the other room. Until her feet- tap into a small package, which taps the glass of her balcony door.

Staring down at it, clearly confused, she squats down and picks it up- then looks one way then the other- for the presence of someone in her apartment. She undoes the tape, and pulls the wrapping paper off one side then the other, and flips off the top.

A strangled gasp leaves her lips as she falls to the floor, and scoots backwards away from it like a striking snake had just leapt out at her. Tears burned her eyes again as she howls to the void, "I-Is this someone's idea of a prank!?" No answer, "Well it isn't funny! It's sick!"

Silence is all that met her. And in the dark and the quiet she slowly crept back up to it- picking it up skeptically. It was still bent all over lined, just as she'd remembered it up and casting it into a trash bag years ago.

It's a cut out construction paper ornament, the kind a grade schooler might make of a Christmas tree. Glue is still visible behind glitter of decorations and tiny plastic jewels with a star at the top. She turns it over. The writing is in an unsteady hand, a second year's writing at most- it says- a hand covers her mouth as an almost animal sound leaves her lips.

Merry Christmas Okaasan! I love you!

Vision blurring, she turned around and put her back against the ice cold glass as she sobbed to herself alone in the dark, clutching it to her chest as she felt some of the tightly held grief loosened as if some strands had been cut through a knife. Her eyes turn to a small, meticulously cared for shrine in the hallway, incense sticks still lit.

"Muh-Merry Christmas- Ai-Aiko. Mommy luh-loves you..."

Set in the shrine was a picture of the smiling face of a girl who couldn't be more than eight years old.

Outside on the balcony. It was cold out here, and Sailor Moon shivered with a hand over her mouth, the feel of saline stinging her eyes and running down her face. But she didn't leave. Not yet. She waited until she heard footsteps slowly retreat back across the room. Then waited longer, long enough that even with her coat on she could barely feel her shoulders.

Then she slowly moves over to peer through the frosted glass, rubbing away some condensation. She could barely breathe- worried she might see something else entirely but there she was, settled in on the floor, comforter over her, the contents of the package just in front of her.

Usagi's eyes moved from her to the shrine, and she mouthed something silently.

Somberly she turned away, and leapt back through the night. Eventually to rejoin the sleigh. There's a smile on her face as she wipes her eyes one last time. "Wow this weather makes it really hard. I don't know how Santa does it! I think I almost got lost out there." She sits back down in the sleigh- and felt ready for the next one.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Uranus [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

It's very rare that a girl has the courage to flirt back at Uranus; even more rare for her to do it without stammering. And with a challenge of speed? The whole sleigh of magial girls is lucky that Uranus manages to control her competitive instincts and avoid mushing the fairies to a full gallop. "Effront�," she grins wolfishly. There's one to keep an eye on.

The sleigh pulls up in a wealthy neighborhood. These are mansions in the Western sense of the word, with large grounds, gates, and enough square footage to host a ball and a tennis match at the same time. Most of the girls here may wonder what miracles such wealthy people may need. To Uranus, this looks like middle class. You couldn't even park a helicopter on most of these.

"All right, let's move, girls, move!" she says. "Anybody who's not back in five minutes better have four legs and antlers, because otherwise she's walking home!"

Hopping the edge of the sleigh, Santa Uranus picks up a slowly floating object to carry it more quickly to its destination. She doesn't look at it; it isn't that she doesn't value miracles, but she's a hard soul, and she understands it has no greater value if she does or doesn't see it. Tromping across the deep snow, she approaches one of the wide glass sliding doors without pausing, and a glimmer of sugarplum dust sweeps out and curls its way through the lock and slides the door soundlessly aside. Uranus closes it quickly to avoid the cold air flooding in, but she pauses in confusion at not meeting the same rush of heat she has in other houses. Turning her head to exhale through the cloud-smothered moonglow, she confirms her suspicions as her breath mists visibly. Slowly, she regards the room she's entered. Strange shapes fill the room, some bulbous, some triangular. Square, star-shaped, even a ring. They are lamps, not one of them lit, all surrounding the pale moonlit bed of a child far too small for the mattress.

OST https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrjoTTH165E

Uranus only realizes she's staring when the metallic sphere in her hands tugs a little. Resisting its gentle tug, she finally lifts it into the moonlight. It's a bronze lamp, antique, shaped like a paper lantern, with red string to hang it. The bulb inside is thick, heavy glass with an old-fashioned filament. Hand-hammered metal has shapes punched out of it--celestial forms, swirling galaxies, stars, asteroids, arcing moons. They're so abstract as to veer past childish and into mysterious. There's a Near-Eastern exoticism to how these familiar forms are rendered. Moonlight streams through them and onto the bed, a tiny shaft of star-shaped light resting in the dark violet hair of an achingly thin child.

The lamp in Uranus's hands clacks to the ground, a soft noise in the thick carpet.

Uranus's hands tremble as she regards the pale cheek of the slumbering girl. She doesn't need to see her face to know her identity. That ghastly presence haunting Infinity's night hallways, seeking to drain the life from sleeping victims. The face that may conceal the Hell that even tonight was disturbing Michiru's smooth brow with fear. The cold tickles the back of Uranus's neck. One of her bootheels shifts back in revulsion.

She's so small. She too finds little peace in sleep tonight. She shudders at the apex of her breaths; something amiss with the lungs, Uranus the soldier notes. Her paleness seems a pallor. Uranus looks again at the lamps, which had once seemed to haunt the room, to turn it into a strange lair. Now she sees in them dozens of tiny joys for an innocent heart in agony. They are wonders to calm this girl, she can see it from how they are arrayed around the bed. She can see too that there will never be enough of them.

Bending her knees, Uranus hooks her finger through the weathered red string of the lamp, and lifts it again. It no longer seeks to tug anywhere, and Uranus feels alone because of it. She stares down at the laboring shoulder of the suffering girl. Numbly, she steps forward, around the bed. There's still one socket left in the power strip on the floor, and it accepts the oddly-flat plug. The bulb comes to life only slowly, with a subliminal electric hum, and rises to a dim, faintly throbbing glow. The room fills with strangenesses from the sky, the bed and walls decorated. Uranus hooks the lampstring to the edge of an unused medical device of some kind, and watches it for a moment when she lets to go be sure it will stay.

The soldier, the athlete. Her internal clock is instinctive by now. She gives herself the remaining minutes, allowing enough time to jog back, and spends it watching the sleeping waif's face. When she feels her heart thumping with the urgency of expended time, she considers what softness she might show this child, what mercy she might leave behind. A word, a touch, a tugged blanket.

In the end, she does nothing but run.

Regaining the sleigh, Uranus inhales raggedly as she takes up the reins again. There will be no flirting this time. "Is everyone--!" she starts, just as Sailor Moon sits down.

She can see the girl's eyes are wet, and the sense that they're experiencing the same feeling, or one very close to the same, strikes her silent. It has calcified Uranus, made her cold again. The cost perhaps of dry eyes, of avoiding the weakness of this girl who pretends to be a warrior. Yet somehow, at the very same juncture, Sailor Moon wears a warm smile below her wet eyes?

Uranus turns to face the night. "Keep better track of where you are," she says. "One day there will be no one to save you."