2017-06-16 - Trading Aces

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Trading Aces

Chibi-Usa visits Hotaru's house for the first time, and they trade secrets, and talismans, and hearts.


Hotaru Tomoe, Chibi-Usa Tsukino


Hotaru Tomoe's house, Tama

OOC - IC Date:

06-16-2017 - 01-26-2015

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Waltz of the Flowers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxHkLdQy5f0

A high wall surrounds the Tomoe property, but its front gate is always widely and welcomingly open. If it were spring, the grounds to either side of the driveway would be teeming with blossom, but even in winter there's beauty to be found -- understated, austere. The curvature of a slender tree. The shadows cast across the well-trimmed, frosty lawn by the silent stone fountain. The house itself, which rises with more width and height than most Tokyo abodes. There's no golden gilding, no tapestries or gems -- it is simply a beautiful and well-appointed home.

The Tomoe nameplate is not at the gate but rather at the door, granting them a measure of anonymity perhaps well-advised given the fame (and, admittedly, notoriety) of the house patriarch. And it abuts Tokyo Laboratories, but not on the same street; the two are back to back, with the lab complex further separating the mansion from Infinity Institute. It's enough to make it feel like they exist in separate worlds.

(If only this were so.)

And the door itself is a lovely white affair, with frosted glass panes towards the top and a doorbell alongside it -- a bell which, it must be said, is about a Luna-P's height above reach for the average tiny fourth-grader. It was not designed for small children to ring.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

It's very pretty in its way, but the house is prettier for thinking how it might relate to Chibi-Usa Tsukino's dear friend. In some ways it's like her coat. It's also very different to her, not what she's used to. The fountain is silent. Somehow it seems quiet enough to be...

Wel, it makes her want to talk a little, but also to stay quiet to match.

But she doesn't see the lab; it's in another world from where she is right now. But the door isbeautiful, the door she can see, and the bell... Well, the bell is...

"Hup!" Chibi-Usa, wearing a big red coat over the rest of her clothes, starts to tip in place and scrambles to stand forward again to compensate. "Aaah, come on, come on...!"

This particular tiny fourth-grader has Luna-P parked on her head, trying to use her friend to ring the bell... If she can balance while doing it, anyway. It's kind of terribly difficult.

Her nose is cold.

She is determined. "Come on...!"

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Kaolinite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWO6C04Hhfg

The door opens just enough to cast a single diffuse beam of light into the house's gloom.

Chibi-Usa has seen the woman who looms there, framed by the door, before. Mostly from a distance, at various Sister Schools functions. On Hokkaido, somewhat closer, as the Infinity Institute Principal-General seemed to have a particular interest in her friend's health and safety.

Apparently they also live together.

Kaori Kishi looks a little different, out of her power suit and instead in a red dress that wanders uncomfortably between 'hot wife at home' and 'hot wife on a date'. It's hot, at any rate, and so is she. Its slinky attractiveness suits her fine features and elaborate updo perfectly.

She'd be prettier if she didn't look so irritated, however.

"No solicita--" she starts to snap, before spotting the little girl trying to ring the bell. Her dark eyes widen. Is this understanding? Recognition?

"What do you want?" she corrects herself, no less rudely. Her nose is almost to the ceiling, and she looks down it with scurrilous disdain. "This is not a place for little girls."

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Just a beam! It's enough to catch Chibi-Usa's attention, one red eye closing and the other peering over towards the entrance and then slowly up, bit by bit. She recognizes the woman at the door quickly, opens both eyes in widened surprise to see her here.

She recognizes her from both, of course, but especially from Hokkaido.

There are certain subtleties that Chibs lacks the experience to truly grasp, but some that even she knows already. This woman looks like she's going somewhere, or is somewhere, but...

Oh well. Doesn't matter. Hotaru!

"I'm here to see Hotaru-chan!" Chibi-Usa chirps happiy, smiling and scrambling a moment to set Luna-P under her arm. "Ah, I mean..."

She dips her head politely, bending at the knee. "May I please see Hotaru-chan? I'm expected." No amount of disdain or rudeness is going to dampen Chibi-Usa's enthusiasm. Having a nose turned up at her only makes her that much more defiant.

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

"'Hotaru-chan'," Kaori repeats -- mimicks, Small Lady's sweet sopranto turned to poisoned honey in her lower, sultrier, register, "Is a very ill girl. Too ill to be playing with--"

"--Kishi-san," a soft, gentle voice drifts out from the darkness, "Has my guest arrived?"

Kaori's mouth closes with an audible click. Her shoulders droop, minutely. Chibi-Usa gets to see the smile slowly drawn onto her well-lined lips, like a funeral shroud. "Hotaru-chan," she repeats, the name sounding almost motherly this time, refined, though bossy rather than soothing, "Your father wouldn't approve of--"

"Kishi-san," Hotaru replies, snottily, meeting this pseudo-authority figure note for note, "Your presence is not required further. Thank you for answering the door."

"Hmph!" Kaori and her dress slink away together.

And then Hotaru is there, her chin ducked shamefully, looking dreadfully embarrassed. "Mouu. Chibi-Usa-chan, was she rude to you? I'm so sorry! Please, come inside!"

Beyond the threshhold (which is easy to see, since even if she's taller Hotaru is also stick-skinny and unable to block much of a sight line) is a darkened antechamber. It seems likely that there is a rather grand staircase. There are also hallways going off in all directions.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

...Okay, but what's with this lady? Chibi-Usa actually blinks at the sheer venom in the repetition of what she says, which almost makes her feel self-conscious. It's true that Hotaru's really sick, and that she took her inside back in Hokkaido, but--

Hotaru's voice is one the pink-haired girl would recognize anywhere. It's satisfying tose that smile shift, Chibi-Usa isn't too petty to adit to herself. But this discussion is one she knows isn't her. ...It's one that Hotaru clearly has handled. It's not the way she's used to dealing with authority, but...

Well, Chibs resists the urge to stick her tongue out as Kaori slinks away.

Hotaru's shamed look just makes Chibi-Usa stick her shoulders up more and smile more brightly for her. "Hotaru-chan," she greets. "It's so great to see you!" A beat, "It's fine," she answers, with a shake of her head. "Don't worry about it, okay?"

Chibs sure doesn't plan to. Instead, she follows right along, looking around Hotaru curiously because it's sure not difficult to do; the light from outside makes it hard to make out everything as her vision adjusts, but even then she can see a staircase, hallways...

"It's a nice house," Chibi-Usa comments. She isn't marvelling, but she can certainly see for herself. "I'll just follow you!" Her encounter with Kaori doesn't seem to have even slightly dampened her good spirits. She says more quietly, conspiratorially, "You were really cool up there!"

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

Hotaru seethes a little bit more on her best friend's behalf. "It's not fine... just because she's Papa's assistant, she thinks she can involve herself in our private business...!" For an ill girl she seems very energetic; cute little spots of frustration are flushing her cheeks. However, there is nothing more soothing than Chibi-Usa's good spirits, and she lets it go.

"Welcome to my home," she says instead, in her typically formal, lovely way. But she's far from a distant sort of sophisticated -- unbridled joy shines in her eyes, more brightly than anything in the house but Chibi-Usa herself. Hotaru is beside herself with happiness to have her friend here, that's clear enough. "Let's go to my room, okay?"

She leads the way up the stairs, silent in her black slippers, and practically invisible in her black everything else. Maybe the Tomoes are environmentally conscious and that's why they don't run hardly any of their lights...

And then, what feels especially deep within the labyrinthine hallways of the residence, they're at Hotaru's room, which has a little swan sign on it labeling it as such. The door is heavy, but swings open very smoothly when she sets her feet on the carpet and pushes.

To travel within is to again fall into a void, at first glance, shadows predominating any wayward light. However, as eyes adjust to the gloom, a multitude of lamps of all shapes, sizes and descriptions make their presence known, each humbly shining their part into the room. Plush violet carpet threatens to eat feet like quicksand, and a soft bed, dressed in white, is a wonderfully inviting place to rest. Other residents of the chamber include a dainty writing desk, a number of bookshelves containing all manner of texts, a large television, a reasonably compact computer, and a set of drawers beside the closet.

Hotaru Tomoe wants for nothing material, it seems. But when Chibi-Usa comes inside, she feels truly wealthy for the first time in many years. "Here we are," she says, unnecessarily, shyly, happily.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa spots it bothering Hotaru, can't help but see the sheer energy in all of her demeanor here. But it really didn't upset the pink-haired girl so much for herself. So she offers not-so-quiet support, smiling along.

Little things, here and there...

But that welcome is so lovely, and the joy is infectious, keeping Chibi-Usa's attention more than any of those dull things around them. "Sure!" she chirps, and it really is almost a chirp, Chibi-Usa stepping right along with her to keep up despite her shorter legs, only far enough back to keep following.

Where Hotaru is quiet and nearly invisible, Chibi-Usa pads along with noise and color. She loses track entirely of where she is here and doesn't especially care except for how she's still with her best friend. The littl eswan sign...

Falling into this void too, Chibi-Usa steps inside after Hotaru, blinking about until her eyes adjust and she sees enough light to cause her eyes to widen, her mouth to half-open. "Wow...." Lamps, and violet, and white, and so many other things that all have their own relation to the girl who lives here. But the light...

"It's beautiful," Chibi-Usa says warmly, "I've never seen so many pretty lamps!"

The sheer amount of nice possessions doesn't faze her. But other things...

"It's really nice," she agrees, and pauses. "Ah! Thank you for inviting me." Smile. She starts to step further into the room, peering around before she turns beside the bed. She won't sit somewhere without being invited there, too.

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

Hotaru loses herself in Chibi-Usa's sparkling smile for a long moment. Then she firmly closes the door behind them, like someone sealing a barricade.

By no stretch of the imagination is Hotaru's room appointed for visitors. Indeed, it's filled with every possible entertainment for someone alone, someone who can't go outside. And so it is that the girl has to pause for a moment to think about how to accommodate the two of them most comfortably. Eventually she seizes two cushions from the bed, which has far more pillows than are strictly required, and settles them down on the floor at its foot.

"Is that okay?" she asks, hesitantly, as though seeking permission. "And... I should get us snacks..."

The door flies open! There was no knock. But, Kaori is armed with a tray. But, she's walking in like she owns the place.

Hotaru is immediately very conflicted, and this is obvious on her face -- and obvious to the adult, who smirks at her ward's confusion.

"Kishi-san! You're not supposed to enter without knocking!" Hotaru finally says, lamely. Silence stretches between them for a moment, before she continues, "But... thank you."

"But of course~ ohohohohoPink Moon Stick (talk) 15:07, 23 July 2017 (MST)" Kaori sets the two plates of cake, teapot, and cups on Hotaru's desk, then retreats. The door swings shut behind her, but winds up very slightly ajar. Hotaru doesn't seem to notice, looking instead back at her guest.

"Um... so... do you like strawberry shortcake? Papa was very kind, he picked this up for us especially when I told him you were coming over."

Just talking about her Papa seems to brighten her up a bit.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

There's something to be said for a girl's room being apart from the rest of the house. Chibi-Usa has had that feeling before, closed her own door that way and swept over to the window. ...Or jogged over; in private she isn't always so dignified as she'd like to be.

But here, she can kinda tell that these things are all based on someone being alone. Her own room here in this time isn't like that at all, a staging ground and base for her various outings. It even has a good window for climbing out of.

Two cushions bring a light to Chibi-Usa's eyes and she nods twice. "That seems great!" The floor is... frankly not that distant from or uncomfortable to Chibi-Usa, having learned to sit on cushions long ago entirely side. She's short. Snacks? Gamely Chibi-Usa waits and suddenly--

Blink blink. Chibi-Usa doesn't say anything, but she's obviously surprised, peering large-eyed at Kaori. But she's bringing snacks. Chibi-Usa hesitates, glancing between the two at the matter of tanks. The food is there on the desk, and Chibi-Usa doesn't notice the door either at first in favor of looking at Hotaru.

"Mm!" Chibs answers quickly, nodding twice. "I do! And oh wow, that's so nice! I hope I can meet him sometime," she says, enthusing over how obviously Hotaru cares about him. "Oh that explains..." She tilts her head, as if something makes sense suddenly.

She smiles regardless, briefly closed-eyed, as she starts moving to one of the cushions, and glances to the plates instead. She'd rather not think about her Papa at the moment. Just Hotaru's.

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

Hotaru watches Chibi-Usa think, but not so closely as to be rude. She's always on a nervous precipice, though, friendship an unfamiliar cliff, one she's afraid of falling off with the slightest misstep. Her hands unconsciously knead one another as Chibi-Usa takes a seat, and then she's in motion -- pouring the tea, serving her first a cup, then a plate, with the slow-motion precision of someone being Very Careful. Once Chibs is all set, she gets her own stuff, and then settles down for a feast.

Seated across from each other, cross-legged, they are almost the same height. Hotaru has always liked that. "I am sorry it's been so long since we've been able to spend much time together," she says softly, quite at odds with the cheerfulness of the strawberries on their cakes, yet no less sweet. "I have not been allowed out much lately..."

Her hand trembles a little, clattering her teaspoon against her dainty little cup. She stills it with a moment of firm will. "Um. Chibi-Usa-chan, may I ask you something a little bit personal? You, you don't have to answer, of course..."

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

It's innocent; while Chibi-Usa isn't an expert on friendship herself, she thinks and acts less self-consciously at the moment by far. ...It still comes through in little things, like how she debates where to move, how, debating manners and what she knows of Hotaru and...

And overall she thinks she made the right choice in her last pick, smiling as she accepts the cup daintily and takes a small sniff to appreciate its aroma. In none of that slow-motion does Chibi-Usa diplay a whit of impatience; she could wait though for Hotaru for a while.

And she likes too being closer to Hotaru's height, having an easier time seeing her. She smiles back as she takes a sip of her tea, setting it down with a saucer to pick up her cake. "Then that's not your fault," Chibi-Usa says warmly. "I'm happy I get to see you now."

She finds this statement terribly satisfying.

A glance to Hotaru's hand and then up to Hotaru's face at the question. "Um, no, I don' mind. We um..." She glances briefly to the side, shy, "We said that's the sort of friends we are... So of course you can ask me. Whatever it is."

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

Hotaru blushes very faintly beneath the warmth of Chibi-Usa's satisfaction. She leaves her cake alone for now, joining her friend in sipping the tea. It seems that she has a very tender little tongue, because she jerks back after a moment, stung by the heat, and decides to wait on it too for the moment.

Besides, it's her turn to talk again, just as she'd asked. Her throat suddenly feels heavy and dry, and she swallows, with effort.

"Um... if it were anyone else I wouldn't feel able to tell them this, but... I think people are after me. Bad people. Magic bad people. They said... they wanted to kill me."

She sounds almost detached about the 'kill me' part, though her voice wavers a little bit on 'magic'. Far more worry springs to the forefront, however, as she presses on, "Are... are they after you, too? I remember, at the shrine... it seemed like that dark lady, the one with the lightning... like she was there for you..."

Abandoning her tea entirely, she reaches out with both of her hands to take Chibi-Usa's free one, and squeezes her fiercely, protectively. Hotaru's hands are so cold, so totally at odds with her heart. "I'm afraid, Chibi-Usa-chan," she confesses in a whisper, "I'm afraid for you. And... I want to help... but I don't even understand anything. Do... do you?"

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa looks over in some small concern when Hotaru reacts so to the heat of the tea, her whole face shifting with it. But Hotaru doesn't keep mentioning pain or anything, so the younger girl relents. She waits with her plate and listens.

It seems very serious, and that's a feeling that shows through on Chibi-Usa's face, too. She watches and waits. And then--

Her eyes widen as the thing Hotaru says gets worse and worse, her wrist shifting and her plate wavering until she sets it down quickly, beside her tea, without so much as looking away from Hotaru. Bad people. Bad people who want to kill her.

Hershoulders start to sink until she freezes in place when Hotaru mentions the dark lady with the lightning; if Chibi-Usa intended to lie about it, she's doing a terrible job, startled into remembering just how terrified she was that day, her face ashen. "I--" A hand on hers, protective. Chibi-Usa shivers, but that feels warmer, despite the chill in Hotaru's fingers, and with two hands free now she squeezes her own knee with the other to steel herself to speak up. "Afraid for... me? After what you just...?"

Chibi-Usa bites her lip hard enough that it hurts, breathing in a ragged breath. "Hotaru-chan..." She hesitates, and then nods. "I... I know things," she admits, looking down.

"If they started targetting you because of me, I could never forgive myself." She laughs faintly; she isn't amused, rubbing her thumb along her knee. "I wasn't going to tell you this, because I thought it would put you in danger, but..."

Chibi-Usa nods eventually, "Y-Yeah. That lady was after me. She's not the only one, either. There are a lot of them trying to find me. ...Trying to kill me." Her hand shakes, and she curls her fingers within Hotaru's. "Y-You don't have to be afraid, okay? I'm here on a mission. I'm in this time to make it right. I... I have to. I'm the only one who can. Everyone else I could maybe rely on would only get hurt." She hesitates, "But since it's you, I can tell you more of what I know. If you still want to know. You... You might not like what you hear. About me."

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

Hotaru listens intently, respectfully. Worriedly, certainly, though there's one thing she's sure of: "No," she interjects softly. "They wanted me dead, not captured... if they wanted to have leverage over you, that wouldn't accomplish anything." Her eyes are a little bit weird when she explains this, with a harsh maturity far, far beyond her years -- cold and distant, that way that they get sometimes.

Her hands stay with Chibi-Usa, though, and so does her heart. None of that coldness is for her. And she nods with total understanding when it comes to worry about putting her in danger.

That's what this is all about; Makoto Kino, it seems, gave very good advice after all. If they're both worried about putting the other in danger, and their friendship fell apart over it, that would be just too sad.

"A mission... in this... time..."

Hotaru is very sharp, and her eyes fly wide again, innocent and amazed and so very, very large. No amethysts can be so soft and sweet -- these are plums.

"Chibi-Usa-chan... are you from... the future?" No one comes from the past to alter the future; it only makes sense the other way around. "I don't matter what you say," she continues passionately, "There's nothing you could say that would make me not like you. No matter what!"

She links her fingers more intricately in Chibi-Usa's, weaving them together. It's a pinky-ring-middle-pointer-thumb swear.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Hotaru's interjection surprises Chibi-Usa almost as much as its content. Hotaru explains something that makes... Perfect, awful sense. Is it weird? Yes, but it doesn't seem strange to her too much. It's something she should know as a princess. ...But the look in her eyes... Chibi-Usa wonders again where Hotaru goes, when she looks so far away like that.

"...That makes sense," she says instead, and it doesn't dispel the worry, but it brings a close to that door--and brings a different sort of concern with it. If they aren't after Hotaru for her, then there must be some reason...

But first she can answer the questions she's been asked. She can't even think about what that sad oucome could be. Not now, anyway.

Hotaru is so smart, and Chibi-Usa blinks at her once before nodding the same way, surprised but not shocked at how quick her best friend is. It's confirmation. That she figured it out elues Chibi-Usa for half a moment, who hadn't even noticed what she'd said about this time. But heir fingers link together...

Chibi-Usa smiles slightly, more distantly than normal for her except in her eyes, shining with gratitude and love. "Thank you..." Another bite of her lip--it's marked now by her teeth, as she thinks how to start.

"...I'm from the future. From I think... Nine hundred years ahead of your time?" It's weird to say 'your time' to anyone, least of all to Hotaru. She maintains that handhold, that connection to this present anyway. "I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to say about the future's details, but my official title is Princess Usagi 'Small Lady' Serenity. They just call me Small Lady. And I'm the reason the future is in ruins. I... I did sometehing I wasn't supposed to do, and my Mama couldn't use her powers to defend us when the Black Moon attacked. It was... horrible. And it was my fault. I don't know where my Papa is, or everyone else. I just ran, and I ran..."

"...I'm here because the Silver Crystal I ruined... There's another in this time. So I can save my Mama. And everyone else. But they wanted to kill me before I came back to the past, so I don't know why, or what it gains them, or why they attacked in the first place. I just know Puu helped me get here."

Her voice is subdued; she holds tightly to Hotaru's hands.

"I thought the girls I read about in this time could do something, but... I've seen it. Even they only get hurt. Only Mama is strong enough. So I'm alone in my mission. It's my responsibility anyway. Even if it weren't my fault... I'm the Princess. I have to do it."

"...The Tsukinos aren't my real family. I know that. But they're really nice. It's nice to... pretend. My family..." She sniffles, looks down to the floor. "I-It's..."

She takes a breath, blinking away tears as best she can. "But... You don't think they're after you for that? It might've been someone else from their group. They all have these upside-down crescent moons in black." It can calm her to think about Hotaru.

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

It doesn't take very long into Chibi-Usa's story for Hotaru to shift around the side of the tea set that stands between them. It's a bit complicated to do this without ever letting go of her best friend's hands, but she manages it, ultimately arranging Chibi-Usa's arms across her chest, with their hands on her shoulders, and Hotaru curled over her from behind, like a little black tent. It is a hug, and a cuddle, and it is much easier to listen to Chibi-Usa talk about what horrible things have happened to her when Hotaru has her held as close as possible.

She's upset, of course, but it isn't 'I did something I wasn't supposed to do' that she's fixated on. Chibi-Usa can feel little tiny hot wet tears pour into the back of her head. They gently rock back and forth together, Hotaru's trembling willow tree barely strong enough to move them both -- but she manages.

"You-- you're so brave... and carrying all this all alone... through so much horrible stuff... and I had no idea... oh, oh Chibi-Usa..."

She holds her like a treasure. Like a sister. Like a love.

"I'm so sorry..." Not that she didn't know. Not that any of this is her fault. But because her friend has gone through all this. That's worth being sorry for. "Even now," she says wetly, "You're being brave and I'm all..."

Messy. Snotty. Huggy.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa keeps talking, finding it too hard to stop once she's started to pause even for the complicatd movemnts of her best friend. It means her other han gets caught up in it all too, but she doesn't mind exactly; the chill in Hotaru's hands still doesn't make her feel any less warm to Chibi-Usa, least of all shen she's curled over her like this.

Hotaru's tears make it that much harder for Chibi-Usa to hold in her own. She wants to be strong for her through all of this, but Hotaru crying too... Chibi-Usa shifts as Hotaru moves her, and sniffles again. She tries to answer more at first, but instead she's held and listening and this is what she wanted, for just a moment, and...

"I-I..." Chibi-Usa sniffles another time and it stops being notable, tears slipping down her cheeks. "I-It's so hard, and I'm so scared, and I..." She stops, and shakes her head fiercely, "B-But you're not all anything! You're all wonderful! I have to do this myself but I don't have to be alone, since I met you, and..."

She glances to the side, though she can't look back at Hotaru, "Even if the future, I've never had someone like you."

"...I'm not brave. I'm scared all the time, I just stop thinking about it sometimes. But you... You're in danger and you don't even know why..." A frown, and she feels her own tears drip down too; she can't wipe them like this, and she doesn't care.

Luna-P bobbles over closer to the bed, facing away.

"I can't imagine the sort of person who would want to hurt you!"

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

Hotaru doesn't answer the implied question. She just keeps holding on for dear life. Her tears dry in their own time; she isn't used to crying around other people, only alone, and finds herself surprised by her own unselfconsciousness. Crying for Chibi-Usa is different than crying for herself. Crying with her, different again. But not a bad different.

Finally she composes herself, with a few harsh breaths. They start to shake a little in a familiar, seizure-impending way, but somehow she manages to sigh through it.

"You can't be brave if you're not afraid," she says finally, solemnly. "That's the rule." It's the law.

She loosens her vice grip on her best friend so that they can turn and face each other, now knee to keee, forehead to forehead. Hotaru's seriousness hasn't lightened at all, but it's a good kind of heaviness, like the weight of a gorgeous waterfall, like being buried under Christmas presents.

"And... I don't care what time you're from. I will be your friend in every time. I will be your friend in all of time."

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa can't just let the question go. She can't just not concern herself with her best friend, even if she feels her own heart raw and her eyes red talking about the rest already raised. Crying around others, alone, crying in general... It's something she's used to, though. Chibi-Usa just can't hide her feelings as well as some.

ut it's different with Hotaru. She's not sure what kind of different this time. It means Hotaru's crying, too.

The shaky breathes bring a brief, quiet, gentle pause to Chibi-Usa as she starts to ready herself for signs she's starting to know, but it doesn't become that. All the same it calms her a little, too.

Rabbit odango bob forward as Chibi-Usa thinks about Hotaru's rule. It sounds like something smart, something wise, but then Hotaru said it and everything she says seems wonderful and worth listening to. Chibi-Usa doesn't think about that for long. "Maybe," she says instead, and turns when Hotaru loosens her grip, looking with wide red eyes as she stares at Hotaru back. This heaviness seems warming somehow, makes her own sadness seem patted dowd, away. Somethng ele, something solemn, is in the air for her, as Hotaru mentions another fear she hadn't voiced. As she...

Makes it seem far, distant, like it never was there.

Chibi-Usa stares back still. She stares for a long few moments, and dips her had a little more, forehead against Hotaru's forehead, breathing quietly and tear-streaked.

"...Always," Chibi-Usa says softly. "If I only came back to the past to meet you, I'd be happy."

It's a promise, but Chibi-Usa couldn't say she was promising, or what she was promising.

"I'm so happy I met you. Even with everything. And that you..." She trails off, blinks slowly. "...Thanks for saying that..." She flushes slightly, shy. "I haven't told anyone else."

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

So close together, Hotaru's fine, dark hair is drawn forward by gravity to brush against Chibi-Usa's shoulders instead of her own. "You're my very first friend, too... but I think that all the years of being alone were worth it. Even if you're the only friend I ever have."

A faint smile brightens her eyes. "I won't tell anyone, Chibi-Usa. Though I think... maybe I always felt you were a princess. You're kind, and strong, and pretty..." Her skin may be cold but right now her cheeks are giving off a little heat. Shaking her head -- her hair goes shush-shush against them -- she clasps their hands with newfound strength.

"And you didn't come back just to meet me. You have a mission... I want to help. I'm not like you... I don't have any mission." There's an underlying melancholy to that statement, but also an uncertainty, like she's on shaky ground. She couldn't say why, though. "There's... there's one thing..."

Finally reclaiming her hands, she slides her thumbs under the neckline of her black tunic, and a chain emerges, pulled over her head. "It's my amulet... it's called a Taioron Crystal. Papa gave it to me... he said it had an important power, that it would keep me safe. But... I think you should have it."

It looks something like a closed flower bud, or perhaps a sprouting acorn. It is all over bumpy and faceted and strange, and, indeed, quite made out of a silverine crystal. And it definitely pulses with magical power, a very real, unearthly strength.

She folds it into Chibi-Usa's hands. "Please. If this can protect you even a little bit from the Black Moon... I want you to have it. They aren't after me. It must have been another group, because they didn't have that symbol..."

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa likes Hotaru's hair. Gravity can do what it likes; mostly she doesn't feel it through her sleeves, feels what Hotaru is saying and finds it so, so difficult to look at anything besides her eyes. For her part, there's an earnestness to Chibi-Usa's gaze that's quiet for now but can't be hidden.

She stares, again; it's hard not to. "Hotaru-chan..."

But she won't tell anyone, and she always felt that? Chibi-Usa's cheeks color again, too. From someone else she might not want to be called that way, but the qualities Hotaru gives her make her think of someone older, someone better suited to the title. "Ah..."

Their hands are clasped, and Chibi-Usa curls her fingers slightly beneath Hotaru's. She doesn't understand the uncertainty, and so in that way that innocence can, she settles on the melancholy instead; she doesn't want that for Hotaru, though. Not like hers. But help... "Mm? What do you mean...?"

Chibi-Usa blinks as Hotaru shifts back enough to remove the chain, looking down at the amulet and up at Hotaru's face curiously. It's strange, but pretty, and even Chibi-Usa can feel the sheer magic in this object. Her hands slip upward towards Hotaru's, and she lets the little amulet be deposted into her palms, closing them up around it. "From your Papa..." Chibi-Usa takes that as a sacred trust, its own kind of magic that she would not underestimate. Not her, of all people.

"Thank you, Hotaru-chan. I'll treasure it. If I have this... I feel like something from you really will help." She bites her lip, but finds it's nly over the words; she already knows what she wants to do next. She lowers the amulet into her lap and reaches around for the back of her neck, pulling a chain that rests there, too, over her head and past her wide hairstyle. A beautiful, ornate key slips up from her top, dipping low around her chin until she lowers it into her hands and holds it there. It may be that she wants to combine the chains. But...

"This... Is something very important to me. It's a special key. It's... The only way that I have of going home. Obviously I can't until I complete my mission anyway, though. But it's important to me because Puu gave it to me. It... It would take a lot to explain her, but she's precious to me, and I know that if she knew you, she'd want to keep you safe, too."

The key to the Time Gate hums with its own power.

"And... I do, too. I don't know what else I can do... but maybe it can help you. And if it can't, maybe... It'll just be nice to have." She's sure Puu wouldn't mind. Puu would see how much she cares about Hotaru.

"Besides... I'd never go back to my own time without..." She trails off, and presses the key into Hotaru's hands, only then picking up the amulet again.

"T-that part doesn't matter! Please keep it." Separately, "I'll wear your Crystal all the time!"

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

Hotaru gazes steadily at the Key. Too steadily, too levelly, her eyes unfocusing like they're taking in a Magic Eye. For a heartbeat it's like someone else behind her eyes is staring out of them, someone who feels only hunger.

When the Key touches her palms, it reacts immediately, like another lamp in the constellation of this room.

"Ahhhhhh~" she sighs, and there are weird reverberations in her voice, something strange, something wrong. It could just be the power of the Key making Hotaru sound weird, like someone talking through an electric fan during summer vacation, but it's definitely off. "I can feel its power... it feels good..."

Gradually the Key's power flickers back down to normal, and Hotaru blinks, herself again. "Did I... did I say something weird?" she asks, worriedly. "I... I didn't hurt you, did I?" She doesn't see any signs of bruising or other injury on her friend, which makes her shoulders slump with relief.

The Key is still in her palm, and her fingers close around it tightly. "I'll never take it off," she adds, fiercely promising in turn. "And when the time comes that you need it again... I'll be there for you, too."

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

"...Hotaru-chan?" Chibi-Usa can think of no reason Hotaru should go all unfocused like that, other than maybe health-related or spacing out normally, but for an instant it's different. It has to be something in Chibi-Usa's imagination, except...

It's so bright. Chibi-Usa has seen the key shine beore, but that strange, wrong voice worries her. "Hotaru-chan? Are you okay...?" But of course the voice has its own focus. Maybe it's the key; she's never seen someone other than Pluto or herself touch it, and Pluto gave it to her. But Chibi-Usa keeps up her worry as the key flickers down, and...

"N-No," Chibi-Usa answers immediately, shaking her head. "You didn't hurt me or anything. You just sorta... spaced out." And spoke strangely. But that's covered by 'sorta'. "Don't worry about it, okay?" A smile.

She holds the amulet up against her heart, close, with her hands, and nods firmly. "Right! I..." Her expression falters. She still doesn't want to think about what it would mean, when she needs it. Would that--

"Thanks. Knowing you have it makes me happy. And um..." She starts to put the amulet on, hands back behind her neck, "Right..."

She flushes again, "You still want cake? We still have it..."

Despite herself, she smiles to get the amulet on, feeling better already.