2020-11-14 - Hurdle Heartbreak

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
Hurdle Heartbreak

A variety of motivations send people to Ajinomoto Stadium, where they meet track-and-field celebrity Elsa Gray -- not all of them for the first time. Eudial targets her for her Pure Heart Crystal, hoping to uncover a Talisman at last, but something else is revealed instead...


Fuu Hououji, Hotaru Tomoe, Steven Universe, Chibi-Usa Tsukino, Usagi Tsukino, Rei Hino, Haruka Tenoh, Michiru Kaioh, Setsuna Meioh

GM: Pink Moon Stick


Ajinomoto Stadium

OOC - IC Date:

11/14/2020 - 10-12-15

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Ajinomoto Stadium +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
  Though its primary purpose is soccer/football games (the Japanese use both    
  terms for the same popular sport), Ajinomoto Stadium is used for many         
  different sports year-round. One of the largest stadiums in Tokyo at 50,000   
  seats, Ajinomoto is a donut-shaped disk of white poles located near the       
  Chofu Airport, and sunken partially into the ground to avoid disrupting the   
  planes, such that its playing field is considerably below ground level. Two   
  vast tiers of seating ring the field, which during soccer season is a         
  rectangle of green grass. During rainy days or the hotter periods of Tokyo's  
  scorching summers, a panorama roof extends to shield viewers from the         
  Ajinomoto is unusually well-integrated into the Chofu community, and is       
  often put to other purposes. It is an emergency station during extreme        
  weather events, but when the weather is pleasant instead of dangerous, its    
  law is often converted into a sprawling open-air flea market, with tables     
  and stalls selling used goods to bargain hunters.                             
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

It is a lovely Sunday afternoon in Chofu; a beautiful day to celebrate sports and athleticism of all kinds. And there are any number of different reasons to be visiting Ajinomoto Stadium today. Here are a few:

  • A Sister Schools group is participating in a fundraiser for Tokyo's Animal Kingdom humane society by doing a thorough clean-up job on the bleachers! Rubber gloves and cleaning equipment has been provided to all volunteers, and the contented sensation of altruism towards fuzzy animals is also free.
  • A major high school track-and-field meet will be taking place here next weekend, and competitors -- or friends of competitors -- or fans of competitors -- or just curious parties, period -- have a good excuse to come scope the place out, get the lay of the land before things get a lot more intense. It's something of a Mecca for athletes of all stripes, no such excuse required, really.
  • Sometimes there are flea markets here, and opportunities for thrifting. As it turns out, there was some kind of mix-up; there was supposed to be one, but there isn't.

What there is instead:

A hurdling course, set up on a track currently ringing the grassy central field. Bright white obstacles on that spongey red-orange turf. And, taking a turn across it, a dark-skinned woman with a brilliant mop of magenta hair, shorn just above chin-length. She ISN'T a Sister Schools student -- 'SHIRAKABA HIGH SCHOOL', one of the thousands of other institutions of the city, is emblazoned across the back of her teal track suit.

She is intense. She runs with such clarity of purpose that where she should be the one who's blurred with velocity, the whole world seems to fuzz into watercolors around her instead. Her poetry in motion will suffer no rivals for its crispness, its resolution. And all of this, unintentional; head bullishly down, eyes front, she performs for an audience of one, and is wholly unaware of any observers.

There are some reporters taking pictures from the stands, and the name "Elsa Gray" seems to buzz between them occasionally. Whether out of courtesy or obeying a big TRACK FOR COMPETITORS ONLY sign hanging on a rope across the outlet to the grass, they're keeping their distance for now.

Otherwise it is a fairly uncrowded scene; it is possible to feel lonely amid fifty thousand empty seats, even though there are some others around.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Cleaning classrooms and so forth at school is just another thing for most students, but willingly taking on the task of cleaning someplace that *isn't* school-related takes a certain degree of motivation. Fuu didn't think she had that kind of motivation in her ... but here she is, helping to scrub the bleachers of Ajinomoto Stadium, bolstered by the knowledge that it's for a good cause and that she's not alone in the task.

Plus, let's face it, the weather is quite nice, and there are actually far worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. So Fuu is thinking sunny thoughts to go with the sunny weather as she works her way along the seats, either scraping or scrubbing as dictated by her findings. It's certainly a workout to make her glad she didn't dress *up* for the occasion ... T-shirt, track suit, and she brought her gardening shoes as well, which are about as grungy as will ever be found in her closet.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.


A television set is the only light in a very dark and gloomy room. On it, Elsa blasts across the ticker tape of a finish line, pumping her arms jubilantly.

Two reporters commentate:

"And Elsa Gray sets another prefectural record..."

"What a feel-good story she is too. Did you know that she was too sick to leave her bed for years of her childhood?"

"It's inspiring to see someone come back from that kind of setback and become so dominant on the field."

"Mm," Hotaru agrees softly. She's watching on her stomach, elbows digging into the carpet, head on her palms, stocking feet kicked lazily into the air.

As the piece on Elsa comes to an end, she pauses the feed and rolls upright, then settles herself at her writing desk. There are a dozen dozen lamps she could turn on, but she opts to write by Elsa-light instead.

Bending her head so deeply that her fine dark hair swings forward, parting at the nape of the neck to become a curtain to either side, she writes a sentence on a blank piece of paper, then pauses, considering it. Chewing on the end of her pen seems like a good way to work out her feelings while she rereads. Then she writes another. This cycle repeats for a while.

"What are you doing?" asks a sultry voice at -- and above -- her elbow.

"MEEP!" shrieks Hotaru, diving over her desk to try to conceal the page. If she only had something other than twigs for arms, this might have been effective. But she doesn't, so it isn't.

"To Elsa Gray-sama," Infinity Institute Principal-General Kishi, who is also several other things to the Tomoe family, reads aloud. Hotaru doesn't have to look over her shoulder to see her expression. The smirk is audible.

"Kaori-san," Hotaru whines, cheeks redder than they've been in weeks, "Don't come in my room without knocking!"

"I just wanted to encourage you in your upcoming competition. It gives girls like me hope that--" Kaori recites relentlessly, until Hotaru tries more desperately to block her view by putting her entire face down on the desk. Her hair fans out around her, and now those curtains hide the paper as well.

"Go away, Kaori-san."

"Hmhmhm," Kaori chuckles, folding her arms across her chest and straightening up. "What a sweet sentiment. What a shame you don't have the courage to share such heartfelt feelings."


More laughter accompanies her exit.

Hotaru stares down at the page, worrying her lip with her teeth until it's as white as her skin is normally.



Hotaru sadly relates this story to Chibi-Usa over Ikuko Tsukino's hotcakes, of which she only took one and ate about a quarter. She also accidentally relates it to Usagi, because she was listening in.

"And the worst part is, she's right about me, just like always," Hotaru acknowledges softly, her eyes bleak. "I could never meet someone like Gray-sama. I'm not... brave enough."



Hotaru stands at the forbidding rope leading onto the track, shrouded against the (blue sky) elements in her father's massive forest green winter coat, black leggings sticking out the bottom like someone has clothed Baba Yaga's hut -- badly. Her hands are clutched so tightly around a white envelope sealed with a little purple heart sticker that they're trembling. The paper is already a little scuffed and crushed.

She casts a desperately uncomfortable look over her shoulder at the ones who put her up to this. Deer at least have headlights to stare at, but her big violet lamps are the only thing blazing, with considerable distress. And when she looks back down at the track, seeing Elsa's vitality, her excellence, only amplifies her nerves, even as this vision of athleticism involuntarily parts her lips with a sigh of admiration and a deeply complex longing.

The little girl takes one step back, away from the rope, then another. "I-I don't want to bother her while she's training," she demurs. "Maybe it's enough after all... to cheer her on from far away..."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

It was time to get motivated!

Sports is the name of the game today! And as fall is progressing into winter, making sure not to gain that winter layer of extra weight that tends to come with the cold weather, little Steven Universe has heard of an athletic event through Sister Schools lines, and being a kid of much enthusiasm, as shown up to the event, appearing ready to exercise!

...Not that he is participating in any events. Just seeing others take part will get him feelin the flow to exercise himself!

He is wearing some longshorts, a sleeveless tee, and a light cardigan with sneakers. (Pink and white decor, he has to stay on brand!) The sneakers sport super curly pink laces00 the kind that makes the laces not require tying.

He has a red, white and blue headband on. Some shades hang from his tee collar.

But now the track called, if from a hedged distance for the event. "Okay! Ima run around the outside and cheer for the runners! ...Except whe nthe yare actually running because that would be distracting." the second part is said and an accelerated rate, as if nervous. Steven appears to be holding some kind of tape recorder and is taking notes.

"Maybe if I can make this motivational tape thingy I can help myself and others...!"

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.


"That's terrible!" Chibi-Usa insists for Hotaru, having moments ago been happily chowing down on hotcakes. But this is enough to interrupt that, as Chibi-Usa shakes her head. "She's wrong," the small pink girl says, and reaches out to take one of Hotaru's hands in hers. "You can do it, if you want to! I'll go with you!"


Chibi-Usa stands behind Hotaru, in a red jacket and altogether less bundled. This doesn't make her say anything about Hotaru's difference, though. She could be watching Elsa... but admittedly her eyes are only for Hotaru at the moment, red sparkling before she suddenly shakes her head and then beams. "You came all this way!" Chibi-Usa says. "I know you can do it. And I bet she'll be happy to get it! I would be."

She is just a little ray of sunshine in a clear sky here, and there is absolutely no doubt in her.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi was delighted to see Hotaru over, given what happened the last time she saw her. She's been especially worried about her fate since then. Though as she hears her tale of how KAOLINITE discouraged her - while she's in her dreary breakfast walk. Usagi feels a certain amount of righteous anger bubble up.

"That's not true!" Usagi rushes up to the table, the thought having taken away the cobwebs. It happens almost the same time as Hotaru's insistence. She still remembers how Hotaru, even terrified still played Old Maid to victory to save the Sailor Senshi.

"Mmm-hmm!" She says in agreement with Chibi-Usa, "You're braver than you know Hotaru-chan."

Usagi seems to course-correct into something more gentle. "But it's hard to be brave by yourself." She knows that one from experience. So when Chibi-Usa offers to go with her... she has someone else backing her up. "So why don't we both go with you?"


Usagi Tsukino was up in the bleachers. Oh certainly she has set this up so that she's here for an animal charity but she's in fact here with an ULTERIOR MOTIVE(tm), which means that of course she recruited Rei Hino - having told her the ULTERIOR MOTIVE(tm) - which is getting Hotaru and Chibi-Usa close to the track. It's just, part of the plan was supposed to be cleaning to sorta work up to that. And she is not doing that.

Sorry animals. You're cute, but compared to someone's feelings it's no contest.

Usagi still has rubber gloves on her hands, and right beside her position that she's taken beside Chibi-Usa and Hotaru beside the FORBIDDEN rope. She's currently wearing an orange light jacket with green collar over a violet blouse. A pair of tight black shorts - matching violet socks. And a pair of white athletic shoes.

"It's her!"

Usagi watches the dark-skinned woman effortlessly spring over one hurdle, before sprinting to the next one.

"Ehhh!?" Usagi makes an impressed noise, "I didn't have any idea she was this good." And then starts massaging her cheek, "No wonder you admire her so much."

Realizing she's massaging her face with a rubber glove, she looks at it in mid-motion, and suddenly yanks it off.

As Hotaru... says that, though, Usagi looks her way. Then at Chibi-Usa's encouragement. "Well if that's what you want, to cheer her from afar... but... there's no harm in doing it a little closer right?"

Usagi says as she gives Chibi-Usa a sidelong glance, as if to ask her to back her up here. "If I just happened to be there cleaning... when she finished her practice. There's no problem!" One wonders what kind of cleaning she thinks she's going to be pretending to do on the field but... with her ungloved hand, Usagi laces her fingers into Hotaru's and...

... ducks UNDER the forbidden rope. Moving onto the field. She's not running out there. She's just sorta moving along the edge to head circuitously towards the finish line in a confident walk, and taking Hotaru along. After all, she has a legitimate purpose for being here.

Legitimate in Usagi Tsukino's dictionary is perhaps not defined the same way as it is for anyone else's.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Shrine grounds must be cleaned every day; it's the god's home first, after all, and it would be deeply improper to give them untidy dwellings. Rei Hino, amongst her many (many, many) other skills, is in fact...

... an excellent sweeper.

For this reason, she is the perfect choice for a PARTICULAR GAMBIT. Of course, she's happy to participate in any plot which advances the causes of Chibi-Usa and Hotaru. It helps that her community participation profile means it is entirely reasonable to expect Rei to support the good cause of animal shelters. She is a trusted member of the volunteering community.

Will she exploit this status so Hotaru can see her hero?

Obviously yes.

"Let's get you the chance to share your feelings with her," Rei smiles, to Hotaru, before she returns her attention to the pretense.

Sweep-sweep-sweep she closes in on the forbidden rope, and she offers, drily: "You know, Usagi, your story would be more believable if you were actually cleaning." She says this, of course, while ducking under the rope.

She sweeps a discarded juice box which has fallen from the bleachers to the grass into the tray on the route to the finish line. A few metres further, and she sweeps up a candy wrapper which has blown out onto the grass. Rei Hino is here on a perfectly legitimate mission. Who would question that?

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

"She looks good out there."

Haruka knows a little something about looking good. Today it's an Aran sweater in ivory, its crisscrossing patterns texturing her well-muscled torso, and black jeans that look a mile long once you notice them. She's wearing semiformal shoes; not glossy, but unmistakably leather. Not running-wear. Maybe that's the message they were chosen to give.

That's not the sort of looking good Haruka is talking about.

The way Haruka stands like she's perched somewhere high, the way her pale lower eyelashes lift, shows the unmistakable markings of a woman whose mind is immersed in her craft. She and Michiru are looking at the same person, but Haruka can't turn off the part of her that is watching Elsa's ankles, her elbows, her pacing. It's the look of a coach, whose body is no longer capable of doing what her mind remembers. And people Haruka's age, in possession of a body as puissant as ever and more, were never meant to look like that.

"Wonder who she's working with," Haruka muses. She's trying a little too hard to speak like she doesn't care much. The reason she's not out there in that place that suits her so well, the reason that the competitions that were her happy youthful world once now feel like they're in a fishbowl for her to look at, is standing next to her after all, wearing tasteful oxblood flats.

Haruka learned a long time ago that if she can hear it in her own voice, Michiru heard it several sentences back at the latest. She smiles ruefully, turning to Michiru with her head tilted a little, like a dog whose ear isn't quite on right at the moment.

"I know who I'm working with," she says, more forthrightly, acknowledging what she'd been talking around. She cups Michiru's upper arms from either side, as if to affirm the space she occupies. Or maybe just to help aim the kiss she places on Michiru's mouth.

"You feel anything?" Haruka asks when she separates. Her voice is serious. She doesn't mean the kiss.

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

"She does," Michiru Kaioh concurs.

Michiru is wearing a soft gray autumn-appropriate dress; the fabric is warm and graphite grey, set off by a turquoise-blue sash at the waist and a diaphanous peach-hued bolero that, in concordance with a collar-high neckline, keeps off any chill from October breezes without confining one to the hell of sweat. Her hair, neatly dressed, waves faintly in the breeze that echoes through the vast spaces of the stadium.

It is, in a place of this scale, something with an air of silence.

Michiru has one elbow on the railing, although she is not quite leaning. It is a casual stance, a leisurely stance. She is not trying to make a show of herself, not right now (though some things cannot be helped). She watches Elsa and she muses in her interior reverie; one of the dark-brown, almost purplish shoes shifts.

She lets her lips part as if to say something. The word doesn't quite come.

A moment later and Haruka embraces her, cupping her arms. Michiru leans back into those warm hands, her eyes lid, and she tilts her head up just in time for that soft press of lips against lips. There is a moment of soft silence, a warm murmur of: 'mm', and when Haruka asks her question, Michiru's eyebrows lift and her eyes half-lid. There isn't quite a smile on her lips, but it is implicit in her features, especially so close:

"Of course.~"

Michiru's tone returns to something more dutiful as she concludes the thought. "It's clear. Something is in motion here. This place... this angle. The reporters. I suppose it can't be helped. Don't you think?"

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

Unlike the dubiously motivated 'cleaners' she's surrounded by, Fuu ACTUALLY has an empty water bottle lead her on a merry chase. Every time she gets close to grasping it, it blows a little further away. It rattles its way down to track level, then under another rope entrance, in need of pursuit. The winds are capricious today, it seems.

Elsa chases them. This isn't a real competition -- it's a practice, a special invitation that might as well have been in embossed golden letters on heavy white matte, 'FOR THE FLEETEST' -- but you'd never know it from her performance. She flays herself down the track as much as she flies it, a pure and unrestrained expression of speed. Her expression, as she crosses the finish line, is a shifting thing, changing like the seasons. First it's blank with exertion, empty of anything but the possession of speed. Then, like the sea spilling into a tidal plain, it fills -- she fills -- with some quiet emotion, trapped behind her big dark eyes now that her limbs have come to a stop.

Just for a moment, she looked... lost.

And then she smiles -- gloriously, a real sunrise of an expression -- at the funny-looking American kid talking about motivational tape thingies. Her sleekly muscled arm shoots up above her head like a blank from the starting gun, and the height of that vertical wave draws at the line of her torso, defining it, and her, as though she's doing a one-handed pull-up off a skyhook.

The wave is big enough to encompass the blatantly-students-not-professional-cleaners as well. "Yo!" she calls, "What's up?" She displays the sort of friendly curiosity that thinks it already knows the answer but is amiable enough to ask anyway. Elsa is not too cool to talk to fans, whether they're of sports in general or her in particular. She has Strong Senpai Energy, but along the warm axis, not the cold one. "Here to check out the action?"

Her oblivious back to the highly fashionable people in the stands, she approaches those down at the edge of the track by way of a bench along the edge of the field, where rests a water bottle. In one strong gush she squeezes its its contents over her head. There were already sweaty sparkles in her magenta mane but now they multiply a thousandfold, gathering into rivulets that in turn merge as tributaries down her neck and across her strong shoulders. There are stacks of towels and other supplies nearby, and she could probably really use one, if someone was so inclined to deliver. But she herself isn't thinking about that; right now she quietly enjoys the fading burn of the run, even as she awaits introductions, explanations, or...

...well. It feels like there's something else she's always waiting for, but it never comes.

Elsa is happy anyway, to see the collection of cute kids before her. Like the race, like the show -- life must go on, and so it does.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Setsuna Meioh goes many places alone, but not today. Today she is a tall, dark, and anachronistically stylish presence behind her two sisters. She's thrown a crushed velvet blazer over a cami top, burgundy over black, and completed the boxy silhouette with chunky acid wash jeans. It is an outfit from another era -- the late 80s to be precise -- but she renders it timeless with her bearing. No small feat.

She looms, a bit, though not intentionally: a shadow against which their warmth shines, a complementary contrast. And she is politely giving them her classical profile as they kiss, casting her eyes elsewhere. Setsuna has some small practice at this sort of timing, now... But she appreciates being close to their closeness, even as she proffers this slightly stiff and probably unnecessary privacy in the middle of a very public place.

Cast aside, her gaze wanders the sparse crowd and the field below. It catches on the phenomenon speeding downtrack, and Setsuna is impressed. She associates such speed with one person alone. But still, it wanders, as if it has not found what it looks for.

Until it stops upon pink-puff hair tufts, curved and perfect. The corners of Setsuna's eyes crinkle gently, and she places light fingers upon her own chest in a silent gesture.

They then rise, and flutter, as her own singular gaze follows that dear red one to Hotaru Tomoe. She draws a deep breath, and murmurs her own response to Michiru's last question: "Some things cannot. Yet, here we are."

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

When her father's assistant and obviously wannabe stepmother teased her, Hotaru turned red. But faced with Chibi-Usa, Usagi and Rei's unwavering emotional support, the girl turns white instead. That isn't what a person is supposed to do when having friendship mainlined at them from all directions, and a certain twinge of shame at her own panic -- at the wrongness of her reaction -- adds another layer to her shadow.

"Yes," she whispers, when Usagi observes how good Elsa is.

"...yes," she repeats, when Chibi-Usa points out that SHE would be happy to receive such a letter from Hotaru.

"Um," she swallows, when Rei sweetly announces that they'll get her her chance.

"!!!" she -- it wasn't a shriek, she's too alarmed to shriek, she's the kind of girl who only shrieks within the confines of her own bedroom -- it was mostly screamed with her eyes, when Usagi starts bodily dragging her onto the track.

They get as far as the rope, the rope with the sign forbidding their presence, but when Hotaru puts one single toe over that line she is so utterly mortified by her own disobedience that she comes to a dead stop. Her heels dig in, and, in as much of an athletic miracle as she's ever achieved, her wrist pulls loose from Usagi's grip.

The EXTREME CLAMMINESS probably helped. A most unattractive sweat pours down her too-pale cheeks, like the entirety of her tiny body is wringing it out through the agonized twist of her face.

A Hotaru-shaped cloud of dust is all that's there, when Usagi looks back, and by then Elsa's coming over to her and Rei and the others. Hotaru herself has retreated at her fastest scuttle to behind one of the support pillars... nearby, but not near enough.

Only Chibi-Usa is close enough now to hear her miserable whisper, almost a chant.

"Sorry," she whimpers, "I can't, I'm sorry, I can't..."

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa's attention may be on Hotaru, but she can't fail to ntice Elsa's sheer speed and grace. She can appreciate it... in the moments before what happens next. Hotaru's alarm gets Chibi-Usa's attention as sn as she sees it. "Oh!--Usagi--" She starts to say something, and blinks at the speed--she has to turn to see Hotaru again... And there she is, back behind the pillar. Chibi-Usa just looks once at Usagi and Rei and then scampers over towards her friend, slipping nearby but trying not to make it too obvious to the others. "It's okay," she says quitly, hearing that whisper, that near-chant.

"You don't have to," Chibi-Usa says, a wrmth still in her voice. She means it; she worries, even, that she was pushing too hard before.

"It's okay not to."

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi looks back long enough to blow a raspberry Rei Hino's way, "That attitude won't get you anywhere!" She calls back Rei's way. Without specifying what attitude she means.

She didn't really expect what happened next. As Hotaru digs her toes in, and the sheen of clammy sweat causes her hand to slip out of hers.

"Ah! Hotaru-chan?"

Usagi finds herself looking to see that Hotaru shaped cloud of dust, as her hand passes through the appendage shaped dust formation. Her eyes wide and startled. "Eh? Hotaru-chan? Are you in there...?" Usagi suddenly brings up a rag from her bucket, "Don't worry, I think I have a rag in here. We can clean you off before you meet your..."

The dust clears to reveal there is no Hotaru. No Hotaru at all.

Usagi just looks so utterly and completely confused, "E-Eh Hotaru-chan?" Give her some credit, she doesn't think Hotaru DISINTEGRATED, so instead she just looks to try and figure out where she went.

Though her search is thwarted by her objective coming right beside them. As Elsa greets Usagi, Usagi raises up the bucket arm, as if she's still wondering if Hotaru is actually attached to her other in a way she can't comprehend, as she laughs awkwardly. "What's up is you! I don't think I've ever seen anyone run so fast..."

Though Usagi instantly rethinks that one, because of course she has seen ONE person run faster. And that thought brings a lengthy sigh to her lips. "You're... so impressive. No wonder you have so many fans."

Usagi's eyes keep searching to try and find Hotaru. "Soooo many fans... cheering you on... from... afar." Usagi stands on her tip toes and leans sideways in a way that might make Elsa wonder, before motioning for Rei to get over here so as not to leave her hanging.

Not seeing Hotaru, she whirls around, "A-Anyhow! I'm just no good at sports, so I thought I'd admire you practice up close." A beat, "Do you like practicing by yourself?" She asks, out of genuine curiosity.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Watching from just beyond the rope, Steven eyes Elsa and her awesome hairst-- aleticism! Yeah, that is totally what he meant. "Look at her go! She is as fast as a..." he stops for a moment. The boy whips out his phone, and quickly types something, scrolling through pictures moments after. "...a gazelle, her practice paying off! Wait, would she find if offensive if I compared her to a deer? Uh, anyway she is really fast!" he hastily says, before cutting the recording for now.

"Mmh, I need to practice more on talking into a microphone. The mini sing-along karaoke machine didn't help much. Also kept getting disracted by Hall and Oates singles dad added."

Just as Steven is setting up for another minute or two of talking, he hears her shout in his direction! "Uh?!" That wave looks like it is for him and nearby people! The half-Gem looks behind him ones juuust to make sure her coach isn't lingering behind him, then cautiously sneaks past the rope lines toward Elsa, as if Steven is sneaking out past curfew.

And trust me, you don't want to do that around Gem.s They don't quite dish out fair punishment.

He was grounded for a thousand years off the television once.

"H-Hi miss!" Steven says, meek but joyful. "I am uh, trying to get in shape to fight off the winter weight gain!" he says, now turning a bit red. Just a wee bit embarrassed!

Eyes travel nearby to the other folks. "Hey!" Steven says kindly to Usagi, fellow Juuban-goer. Chibi-Usa and Hotaru also get a wave! "Are we allowed to be out here?"

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The efficient thing to do would be to let the bottle come to a halt and then pick it up when she gets to it ... but when the wind decides to send the bottle back in the direction Fuu had been working *from*, that possibility goes right out the window, so to speak, and Fuu has little choice *but* to pursue her carelessly-discarded quarry. And really, once it gets out of the bleachers, it's not like anyone else is going to take responsibility for it.

And so Fuu gives chase, alternating between quick apologies to those she needs to skim past and occasional mutters at the fickle and treacherous breeze.

Eventually, the wind gives up, the bottle comes to a halt, and Fuu finally snatches it up off the ground, sticking it in the bag she's been carrying. *Then* she straightens up ... and realizes she's on the wrong side of the cordon. Oops. She backs away again, making sure she's out of the athletes' way -- or at least out of Elsa Grey's potential path ... and realizes that Elsa has already gone past.

Even as Elsa comes to a stop, there's something about her stride and the way she carries herself - some might call it 'poetry in motion,' but that expression still seems to fall short. Fuu makes her way over, raising a hand to wave to her Sister Schools fellow-students, casually ducking back outside of the roped-off zone when she has a chance. "I came to help clean the bleachers," she answers honestly. "We don't want any of your spectators distracted because a previous visitor left trash strewn around, after all ... but your running is amazing, Elsa-san!"

It's okay to gush a little, right? Fuu doubts she could ever run nearly that well, that swiftly or beautifully, but that's no reason to refrain from appreciating those who can.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

"Saa," Haruka answers ambiguously, but deferentially. She's a creature of the present, who cannot see what Michiru and Setsuna see. "I'm not worried, come what may. I'm here. You're here. And," Haruka stands straight again, folding the arms she'd been holding Michiru with, to wink over her shoulder. "Settchan is here."

Turning to face the field, Haruka grimaces to see those overlong blonde twintails over near Elsa. And the princess's princess is out today, too. At least that puts a full stop to the idea of killing Sailor Saturn today. The mixture of relief and frustration is familiar, but distant.

"Shall we say hello?" Haruka asks, offering an arm to Michiru. They start down the stairs together, moving more slowly than those innocent children (who are like two years younger than the Outer Senshi). "Or at least have a look... she seems a bit busy."

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Rei is in a yellow vest over a white-and-pink v-neck with a pair of tartan shorts and some white sneakers, obviously. That's always been a thing. That's just how she dresses. It's not as clashing as it sounds, because the tartan is conspiciously red-and-pink-and-yellow.

She notices the Sudden Lack of a Hotaru, but she's already committed, and if she strays from the path then Usagi is going to raise some big questions. "Hotaru-chan..." The words trail like a candy-wrapper in the wind, as Usagi flails. "Leave her be for now," she suggests, in the wake of Usagi's confusion. "It's better if she decides to do this on her own."

It's a lie to say she doesn't sound a little concerned, though, as she turns to look at the place where that shadow of a girl used to be. Perhaps it's reasonable, given the last time she parted with Hotaru.

She's distracted from her thoughts in short order by Usagi being Usagi at a particular -- "Ehh? Elsa-san?!" Rei's eyes widen, as she realises just who has come up beside them. "She's right, you know," Rei points the handle of her broom at the other girls, "we're here to watch you! Er -- and we're volunteering, of course." She gestures to Fuu, now, demonstratively, as if to say, 'see? Totally legitimate volunteers'. Sorry, Fuu.

(She does not gesture to Usagi in that moment. Sorry not sorry, Usagi.)

"Usagi's really more of a manager than a worker," Rei can't help but aside, sly. "Say -- maybe you can become the manager of Juuban's track club, Usagi! Then you could get the club to meet with stars like Elsa-san!" Rei can think of a few track and field members who'd be thrilled about it.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

Elsa laughs from her belly at the variety of places along the exuberance spectrum that her greeters come from. It's a natural place for her to do so -- so much air passes in and out and through it, in her many exertions. And it isn't just a pleasant laugh, but a humble one. Aggressively ordinary.

"Hey, there are no wrong reasons to run," she tells Steven. Between Usagi's gesture and Steven's wave her eyes flick towards the pillar, but whatever she sees there doesn't move her towards intervention, if she sees anything at all. There are plenty of people right in front of her to talk to.

"Thanks," she adds, hearing from Fuu and Rei that they're cleaning the place up; and also for Fuu and Usagi's compliments. "I do my best." She shrugs full-body, working some lingering tension out of herself, then sinks onto the bench, patting it on either side. There's plenty of room for the others to join her without it being crowded.

Smiling innocently, she takes Rei's aside at face value, or at least doesn't follow down that path. Instead, Usagi's own question prompts a moment of real reflection. She's been in earnest with all of them, but at an easy and inevitably somewhat superficial level of interaction.

Now her eyes become mirrors. Fuu sees a great deal of willpower there, and Steven, a certain loneliness. Rei sees a profound competitiveness, and Usagi, a generosity of spirit. And Elsa sees... someone else. Another place. Another time.

"No," she replies. "I don't like running alone. And these days, that's all I ever do..."

Sighing, she relaxes against the concrete wall behind the bench, draping herself into it, heedless of its roughness. If anything, that gritty texture helps focus her memory.

Wistfully, she elaborates: "I'm only the record-holder because someone else stopped running. She was... spectacular. The one person I never once beat. Racing her was like... racing the wind."

She doesn't sound resentful of that eternal second place. She sounds like she misses it. Or maybe what she misses is the chance to overcome it. Even now, she races alone, too far ahead of the pack to enjoy a real competition, but also one step behind those memories. A real worst of all worlds.

Tipping her head back to gaze at the open arch of the ceiling, and beyond it, the open sky, she finds herself gazing upside-down at someone else instead. Someone in the bleachers almost on top of them. Someone, actually, who she introduced to another someone, who are now here together, but not here with HER.

"Hunh," she exhales, turning to straddle the bench so that she doesn't have to look at Haruka and Michiru -- and Setsuna, who she doesn't recognize -- like Spider-Man. Raising her voice to make sure she's overheard, Elsa concludes, a little dryly, "If I'd known that bitching about her absence would get her to show her face at the track, I would have started sooner."

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Michiru regains herself - her lips purse just a bit as she glances at Setsuna, her expression light, almost apologetic. It was a little brazen, wasn't it? Her eyes turn outwards towards Elsa as she breathes out and says, "Yes. All three of us -"

Her eyes open again to see a familiar hairstyle out there, among the group that Elsa's presence has gathered.

Michiru does not scowl but her expression does lose its animation for a moment, before those lips form a momentary moue. She reaches the same conclusion as Haruka, and then answers her, "Are you certain?" Her arm slips in with Haruka's.

"Perhaps she's moved on," Michiru says. And at that she takes a deep breath and lets it out, a sigh... before she looks towards Setsuna again, over her shoulder. "It seems that we've been spotted. Did Haruka ever mention the matter to you?" The matter, artfully, is ambiguous, although the fact that Michiru's attention turns back to Elsa may start drawing some lines.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

At the sound of the fond nickname Settchan drags her gaze away, against all the cosmic rules of gravity. She catches a sky-eyed wink and a ocean-eyed glance with her customary companionable stoicism, like a wall whose stones absorb and reflect the sun's warmth. You may depend upon her to be there, that look says.

She follows her sisters down, letting long evergreen tresses be their trailing punctuation. Ever the observer, she quietly notes Elsa's greeting to Haruka, and glances to the latter. The crowd they approach contains... many familiar faces. She hangs back by a pace, enough of a remove to feel like she is keeping watch.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi is still concerned about Hotaru, but as everyone gathers about Elsa she finds it more and more difficult to extricate herself. Hoping instead, perhaps a touch selfishly that it will inspire Hotaru to reemerge.

"Steven - are you here too for..." Pause. "...the Animals?" Steven asks a question, "Of course we are!" Usagi states, in a confident pose. The rope of forbidden trespassing still VERY much in view behind her. Though according to Usagi's mind, she isn't doing anything wrong because certain things are more important than strict adherence to some rules.

Though as Rei moves up behind her, Usagi crosses her arms... and looks closed eyed. "I already said I wasn't good at sports Rei-chan! You don't have to rub it in!" Though, the final statement gives her pause. "Welllll..." She drawls, as if in thought.

Perhaps the idea of hanging around a lot of athletes is a great idea. Though she seems to be performing some strange mental calculus of the amount of work she'd have to do as compared to the amount of beautiful people she'd get to meet.

Though she opens an eye as Elsa starts reflecting upon her running. "You don't?" Usagi sounds - surprised. Staring at Elsa as she gets some insight into the life of an athlete that seems larger than life to her. Except, not so much anymore.

"The wind...?" She repeats, and it's like a breeze blows through her twintails at that moment - her eyes following Elsa up to the trio. As she blinks in startlement. Stunned into her own realization on the identity of that runner.

A single word, repeated in what she said... brings to mind something so fresh. Usagi says a touch breathlessly, "So you knew then that Haruka-san was..." Usagi trails off, still staring at that spot, and this small smile contrasts with this abstracted look in her eyes. As if her mind were somewhere else. "... I guess it's true what they say about rivals."

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

They're spotted indeed. Whether Haruka actually wanted to have this conversation or not is hard to tell from her face, even for Michiru. One way or another, she put one foot in front of the other to bring herself to it.

"Elsa. Ossu," Haruka greets, in that barbaric tongue of the jock. "I must be showing up pretty late if you passed the finish line."

Taking a few steps past Michiru, Haruka draws a palm back lazily, to slap into Elsa's and, briefly, grasp.

"Been a while," she says. It has the sound of a greeting again, as if she had not made the first one. The expression on her face is complex.

"New fans?" she asks, returning to a light and carefree tone. She favors Rei and Usagi in particular with a glance, as if including them in the joke. "They're cute."

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

By the time Chibi-Usa reaches her, Hotaru is hunched in a sort of half-dogeza against the back of the pillar, her knees and forehead both kissing its concrete. There's a little wheeze at the bottom of each of her panicked hyperventilations that doesn't belong there. Or, more accurately, it SHOULDN'T be made, by ordinary lungs. It's perfectly familiar to Hotaru's best friend, in the worst possible way.

She's on the edge of going into a seizure. One of her weird fits. The ones that the Outer Senshi seem to despise her for. The ones that she despises herself for, too.

The ones where bad things happen.

Swallowing desperately at the giant lump in her throat, and finding herself unable to, like a baby whose mouth is unequal to the task of wrapping its way all around a big lollipop, Hotaru closes her eyes. Not here. Not now. Not like this.

'It's okay' is a sweet, gentle lie, and no more effective at warping reality than a hand around the wrist of an anxious child.

A little dampness falls free of her cheek and spatters onto the ground between her feet.

'You don't have to' makes her next breath groan like bent metal. It was a complex sound for a complex feeling. One cannot call involuntarily L-shaped rebar RELIEVED to be that way.

'It's okay not to,' Chibiusa says, and Hotaru finally swallows her lump. It plunges into her stomach, then keeps going, boring into her like a hot iron of raw misery.

"No," Hotaru gasps.

She breathes, not more deeply, but more slowly, with an exacting act of control that is ungentle to her lungs.

She peels her face off the pillar, and lets Chibi-Usa see it... the tear tracks that have overtaken the sweat tracks, the puffiness, but also something else. Something sad and hurt and... more. It isn't light. Chibi-Usa has, all in kindness, and wholly by accident, forced Hotaru to face a dark mirror. But not every kind of darkness is bad.

"No, Chibi-Usa," she repeats, her hands clenching into fists. "I don't want... to be the kind of friend... who you have to say that kind of thing to..."

She couldn't make herself go to Elsa out of spite towards Kaori, nor to live up to Usagi and Rei's enthusiasm, or even for Chibi-Usa, who had encouraged her so warmly.

But, dizzyingly, it feels like she might be about to go for herself.

Her chest swells with a deeper breath, and she unclenches the rictus of her free hand (the envelope is hopelessly crumpled, but maybe she no longer cares). It kind of looks like a claw, still, and a shaky claw at that, but it nudges towards her best friend carefully.

"...will you...please...go with me?"

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa knows that sound, all rght. She knows that way of being, but the small pink girl doesn't move back--she stands close, and she tries to be a presence. She watches Hotaru, in worry and in distress, hearing those awful breaths and then--

No. No? Chibi-Usa blinks once, and she looks over Hotaru as she looks to her. She sees the tear tracks, the puffiness, the sadness, nd the hurt, but something else, too. She may be a ray of sun(moon?)light herself, but there is something to this particular darkness that is more, that is drawing. "Hotaru-chan...?"

Chibi-Usa does not want Hotaru to do this for her, or for Usagi, or definitely not just or Kaori. The truth is that she doesn't need to have any especial outcome as long as Hotaru is all rigt. But this...

Chibi-Usa smiles, just as warm as before, not regardless or in spite of that sadness but maybe in part because of it. She accepts this, too. And that claw?

Chibi-Usa reaches out her small hand towards that claw like it's the most precious claw in all the world, and moves to take her dear friend's hand.

"I will," Chibi-Usa says simply, and waits. She'll go at Hotaru's pace.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Fuu's first thought, as she hears Elsa's story (at least its short version), is that if Elsa overcame the record itself, perhaps that's all she needs to do - but that thought is held up, and then joined by, an additional realization: how will she ever know if her original rival would have beaten the new record Elsa set?

And then .... the look, and Elsa's wry realization. Fuu follows that look, sees Haruka, and puts the pieces together.

What to *do* with those pieces, though ... well. Given that Haruka dares to approach, it would seem Fuu doesn't need to do anything. She lingers nearby, though - looking among the others, and looking about for any other trash that may need gathering from the track or the field. Possibly she should get back to where she was working .... but she can linger here a bit longer.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Steven has quite the smile to share with Elsa and everyone present as talking starts. From time to time he looks down to the small recording device. He fights the urge to record her upbeat style and those around, in case they don't desire such. But! He is definitely taking mental notes.

Though the boy feels as though this competitive runner is wiser than just a high school girl in some strange way. It was probably nothing, though. A thought of whimsy at best. "Oh, that stinks... I would try to race you to give you a run for your money but I am not... exactly able to do that, really!" he says, trying to offer some kind of comfort.

The touch of loudness is noted however. "Huh? Oh naw! I needa try and trim up for winter! Everyone gains weight in winter," Steven replies with to Usagi. "Plus its sorta like training of sorts! You never know when you need to run fast!"

Cue a cutaway of Steven running from any number of evil forces faced within the past multiple years.

Cardio. It helps. "But... did you say animals?" Might be a prospect in the very near future.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Rei smirks at Usagi, of course, as she crosses her arms, but her attention is soon on Elsa. Is there really no one who can challenge her..?

These days...

Rei listens to the tale of who she's measuring herself against, only to raise a brow in surprise as her tone suddenly changes. "Wait..."

Enter the wind. Rei has the decency to look a little surprised. "Haruka-san, Elsa-san, you know each other?"

She still manages to blush when Haruka calls them cute, though, even now.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"Animals." Usagi repeats, and it becomes easier to believe it's true when she's explaining it to Steven. "We're cleaning the Bleachers for charity."

Haruka showing up seems to give credence to the idea that indeed, Elsa and her were rivals. That the two had some kind of special relationship. Haruka calls Usagi and Rei cute, but not Elsa.

And indeed, despite Usagi's mind registering this, she still smiles and flushes with pleasure - because even knowing someone like this exists. It doesn't make her feel like she's any farther from Haruka. Just that Elsa was able to articulate a feeling that places her closer.

But Usagi still feels something of a kinship there. Indeed she knows what it's like to try and chase the wind, and come up short.

Rei seems taken aback by this revelation, and Usagi isn't used to seeing Rei Hino on the back foot. It's enough that she steps up to her and tries to help her recover by giving her some sure footing.

"It's true. We are her fans." She insists to Haruka. Before she then adds, in what feels like some whim of teenage mischief, "Butttt, nothing says a fan has to be... exclusive."

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

"Hey, I appreciate the thought," Elsa reassures Steven. "But you gotta run for you, not for me." Then she smirks, HARD, at Usagi's little unfinished thought. So she knew then that Haruka-san was...

Oh yes. She recognizes that state of being, that post-clarity confusion, all too well. She read it off the faces of every girl they ever knew in middle school. But never her own in the mirror. Perhaps the singular benefit of first meeting Tenoh on the field of an ever-losing battle is that she never, not even once, not even vaguely, was under the impression that she was a boy.

There's plenty of masculine gallantry to Elsa as well, a certain commonality of jockdom along with her own intrinsic tomboyishness that didn't NEED athletics as an outlet but got it anyway, happening onto a sort of path -- or track -- of least resistance. But it's different for her... totally separate worlds of identity and expression, as all people have. Tough as she is, Elsa would have to work to be MISTAKEN for a guy, though the image of her pulling it off is pretty glorious. But she wouldn't ever bother.

That didn't stop her from helping her friend navigate those seas however they saw fit, though, person to person, day to day. Elsa Gray was a no-judgement sort of person with a humorous streak a mile wide. Good thing too, for their relationship. It made her a better loser.

"Ossu," she mirrors, in both greeting and handclasp, which she uses to lever herself off the bench and back onto her own two feet. She faces Haruka almost eye-to-eye, but the passage of time has left her even further behind than she was before, in that respect, which goes a little hard. "YEARS late. A hundred finish lines late." Brutal words said lightly, casually. Teasingly. And... unresentfully. But Haruka doesn't get to trash talk like she's about to race her. They both know that's not going to happen.

And she mirrors her old rival in secondary -- tertiary -- aftermath, too. She drinks in Haruka's appearance on the track, nurses it like an old friend, but part of that imbibement must inevitably be her pretty clothes, her sportless shoes, and their now-mutual friend on her arm.

"Not as cute as your girlfriend," she quips back. Glancing at Fuu and the others, she backpedals loyally for her fans, "Well... maybe it's a tie."

Maybe it's a LIE, but a cheerful one.

She turns to give her other old friend Michiru her full attention.


<SoundTracker> Daimon Appears - Sailor Moon S OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLmo9tQC8kk

A station wagon drives onto the track, popping out from the ramp where the lawnmowers come! It arrived at an unsafe speed, and leaves a huge black skidmark over the orange surface, one that becomes churned-up grass as it winds up in the middle.

"What the hell?" exclaims Elsa, her eyebrows shooting up into her shaggy hairline.

The window rolls down, and lightning-quick, the barrel of Eudial's technomagical gun is thrust straight out of it -- and right towards the runner.

There's a crash of power, though the shot itself is invisible...

...even as it dissipates against the empty concrete wall behind the bench.

"--get down!" Elsa is shouting, just FINISHED shouting, having reacted faster than her sound. And she matched word with action, having dragged down the nearest two kids -- Steven and Usagi -- with her.

But she's already up and running again.

"Shit," Eudial grunts, tossing her heavy, triplicate ponytails over her shoulder, before lifting it to get a better angle. Another shot. Another miss -- Elsa has LUNGED back upright and out of the way. "'The next Talisman candidate has a Pure Heart that yearns to run'," she quotes herself, from a few hours ago back at HQ. "...maaaybe should have seen this coming."

Abandoning the gun on the front seat for the moment, she thumbs the release on the hatchback instead. It explodes open, pink daimon steam billowing everywhere.

A particularly bizarro silhouette within it is darkening by the second, as the monster achieves full physicality. There is a sports shoe. It is not at ground level. More details to follow.

"HURDLER!!" the daimon screams, naming itself at the moment of its actualization, as all of her kind do.

"Get her, Daimon!" Eudial instructs, thrusting her pointing finger out the driver's-side window, even as she's kicking the door open to gain her own mobility. "Pin her down!"

"They're after me!" Elsa recognizes, correctly. "Get out of here, it's dangerous!" she yells at the group, even as she lowers her head once more... and runs.

COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick transforms into Daimon Hurdler!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Like most magical girls, Fuu Hououji has refined and perfected a simple yet elegant three-part strategy for protecting her secret identity when a monster makes its presence known in a public space. It runs as follows:

Step one: scream in manifest horror, as if somebody just took off a Jason Voorhees mask to reveal a Freddy Kreuger face, their free hand clutching a fiery chainsaw in a knife-fingered glove; for bonus points, assume that both the chainsaw and the glove are already dripping with blood.

Step two: run like hell away from the monster, blending in with actually-panicked-and-fleeing civilians as if she were just another terrified teenaged girl. Ideally, the route of panicked flight should pass conveniently close to - or even through - something architectural, providing a measure of safe respite for ...

Step three: duck out of the fleeing crowd and into a measure of cover, getting out of general sight long enough to pull on her glove-jewel and call upon her magic. Then it's just a matter of returning to the fray - or in this case, the field - once the actually-fleeing civilians have actually fled.

And then, of course, there's step four: stop the monster. The Magic Knight of Wind makes her presence known, not by dramatic proclamation, but by an arrow loosed at Hurdler's leg. (It's a track-and-field daimon, and named as such; logically speaking, its legs are either a weakness or a point of monstrous pride. *Then* she calls out from her spot in the stands: "I'm sorry, Hurdler-san, but I can't let you hurt an athlete whose star is surely still rising!"

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Trick Arrow Shot on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Hotaru's hand relaxes in Chibi-Usa's grip, softening like butter in the pretty-in-its-imperfection, handpainted ceramic dish in the Tsukino kitchen. One of a million signs of love in that house, each one glowing like a tiny little lamp.

Her smile is as involuntary as her wheezing was, but for the opposite reason...

She rarely smiles, Hotaru. And when she does, it's rarely quite so lovely. For a singular moment, she basks in the radiance of her friend's warmth and shines with her own.

She hasn't crashed through any finish line's ticker tape today, but for the first time in her life, she can imagine what it might feel like.

Hand in hand, she turns to leave the barrier of the pillar--

--only to be wracked with a violent, spasmodic cough that steals the air from her lungs entirely.

A moment later Hotaru's knees bark against the ground. She frantically detached her hand from Chibi-Usa's to keep her from going down with her, and now one clutches at her throat while the other is flat against the concrete.

She dry heaves -- again -- thrice.

"Chibi-Usa," she wheezes, what little voice she can summon tight with agony. "Go... go get help..."

Her thick eyelashes flutter so rapidly that they form a nearly opaque barrier. What's behind them, to the extent that her eyes are visible at all, is more whites than pupils. "...please..." she pleads, hoarsely.

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Michiru gives Usagi a slight tilt of her head and a soft smile as she speaks on Haruka having rivalry, but her attention turns swiftly back to Elsa. This is, after all, delicate. Because...

There she is.

Michiru breathes out, just a fraction, when the hand is clasped. The tension is there, the pain beneath the bravado, but... Well: There wasn't a punch thrown.

So that wasn't what that speeding pale blur was, Michiru thinks with relief. Her eyes half lid.

Here, with Elsa's voice...

'There's someone I'd like you to meet.'

That sense of hope, tentativeness, but certainty. A feeling of a meeting long expected and finally reached. A warm heartswelling, as her hands clasped a large-sized drawing block.

'You can hear the wind rustling, can't you?' she had said. A drawing back of the veil. That feeling - that tension, that sense of dawning shock, of hope, on Haruka's face.

'I would like you to be a model,' Michiru remembers her lips saying, 'for my painting.'


Even the memory of that moment, that sense of her rise being averted -- that uncertainty, that shock, that surprise in its turn. Even that, now...

Michiru's eyes open, and she says, warmly, "Elsa,"

and that is when the car begins to come towards them.

That is, of course, the danger of foresight; the peril of prophecy. Michiru had expected, certainly, for something to occur. The visions are often clear when you read around the lines; when you learn the subtle allusions and the dreamlike logic of memory and awakening. They are tricky things, but you can, in time, become confident. There would be a great movement of something light-colored-- and Michiru had thought, perhaps, it would be Haruka, especially when she chose that softly radiant white sweater.

But instead, it is a sedan.

And within that sedan is a redhead with blood in her eyes and a weapon, firing an invisible and perilous shot directly at --

-- and Elsa is not struck; Michiru puts a hand on Haruka's forearm to steady her posture for a moment, even in the moment of Elsa reasoning that the Daimon being loosed is after HER -

"We have to go," she says, to Haruka and Setsuna alike. (And more softly, "She cannot run forever.")

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Steven vigorously nods his head to Elsa's reply. "That makes a lot of sense! Yeah, yeah... I think I will!" Everyone is their own motivator in the correct light. "I dodn't know that was a thiiiing!" the boy responds to Usagi, eyes wide like dinner plates! "Oh I bet the animals are gonna be so happy!"

...Close enough.

Eyes cut over toward Chibi-Usa and Hotaru. He remembers the former quite well from previous meetings) and the latter from a recent festival. Though Hotaru seems to be having some trouble, or at the very least, some misgivings about joining the collective on the field. Maybe he should--

"Hey, what the--!" Screaming turf and burnt rubber change the scenery of the field quite quickly to something not so friendly. "Not gonna lie, I gave it about a twenty percent chance of being my dad, or Pearl driving his van for a moment," he says serious-deadpan, both unamused at this newcomer's treatment of the track, and relieved it isn't related to him.

"Gun?!" is all Steven gets to say before he hits the ground, shoved there by Elsa. "Guh!" His exhalation forcing a noise out of him. "What was-- hey!" The boy barely gets to unwrap his hands off his head before the track runner does what she does best; take off.

The voice that comes from inside that vehicle is familiar in a insidious way-- heard before in other clashes. An emergent Daimon helps solidify that though. "Yeah okay, nah! Like I said, I am not the best at running. But what I am good at..."

The boy takes thsoe aviators and slides them over his eyes. Forming, cupped in the left side edge of his hand is that spiral rose shield. "...Is the disc throw."

It takes only a singular spin before the shield flies across he track toward the newly revealed monster!

"Oh, also saving that day! I like to think me and my friends are pretty okay at that as well, or at least getting better at it!"

COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Throw Shield on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

For that one, singular moment, Chibi-Usa sees not the blue sky above or the sunlight but one brilliant light in Hotaru, and she smiles back at her with an innocent love that she desn't notice shines brghtly, too. For that one moment...

And then she looks with distress and dismay at Hotaru falling. "Oh--Hotaru-chan!!" Chibi-Usa immediately kneels down beside her, eyes wide. She barely even notices what's happning otherwise at first. "I--H-Hotaru-chan--" She wouldn't leave. She doesn't want to leave. But she can't handle ths herself. "O-okay--just--just hang on!"

Chibi-Usa rise and turns immediately to look at everyone else--and what she sees is a monster loosed; she sees Euial firing a strange weapon, hears a daimon scream its new name. She sees Elsa running.

"H-help," she starts, but her voice comes out much quieter than she wanted. "Help--" It's hoarse, her voice failing again as she sees the danger all around. She wants, very badly right then, to go home. Just home, or see Puu. And her eyes fill up with the start of tears. But--

But she can't just stop, and so instead she wails, "SOMEONE!" There might be the barest flicker of something in the air, there. But only just.


Where can she go? Where can she find it? She doesn't know. But she'll be a target if it gets someone to help Hotaru.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

It goes a little hard for Haruka, too. Elsa is supposed to be up higher. Their height gap had never been big enough that Haruka felt like she was looking down to make eye contact, before. Her bland smile falters only minutely, in that moment when her eyes drop, before it returns.

They are getting close, Haruka feels. Soon Hotaru Tomoe will be dead. Haruka had long wondered, in a distant and distracted sort of way, to what degree things could go back to the way they were, for her. But that all relies, she realizes for the first time, on whether things have waited for her or not.

Well, Elsa may have mysteriously shrunken instead of grown in puberty. But those tawny limbs are as strong as ever. And they are here, on the field.

You could fill the basement of the biggest charter school in the country with all that Elsa doesn't know about why Haruka doesn't come here anymore. Not here-here, to Ajinomoto, but here, to the scent of rubber and paint, to the bright green of installed grass, to the taste of iron in her mouth and the fresh gleaming burn of sweat on her skin. She knows that Elsa doesn't get it and it's not her fault. But the sting of it lingers, yet.

Haruka closes her eyes, her handsome face rueful, keeping its own counsel for a moment. Among a sea of Yamato Japanese, Haruka's rich golden tan always seems dark. But compared to Elsa, she is a white gold, and the paleness of her hair sometimes takes its turn feeling exotic, like the frost on the northernmost aisles where Japan falls into the sea.

Somehow they match well. It can be difficult to get along with someone too similar to yourself.

"What can I say?" she asks. Her eyes are open again abruptly, vivid beneath the straw-color sheaf of those heartbreaker bangs. "You found somebody who could beat Haruka Tenoh on the track." Haruka's arm wraps the narrowest part of Michiru's waist, gently, so their hips brush. Her smile is so wholesome, so gentle.

"I owe you one for that, Gray."

And yet, the skies can turn, faster even than the seas.

"But that's all that I owe you," she states coldly. At moments like this, the aristocratic arch of her eyebrows can be a sort of impassible gate. Aware of her audience, Haruka briefly closes her eyes again and sets a light smile in place again, for the sake of the younger girls.

"Near the end of the race," Haruka tells Usagi and Rei, with a note of nostalgia. "She was in the front, often as not. But somehow I always passed her by the end." Those blue eyes return to Elsa, her mouth flat.

"After all these years, I think she's still always a little surprised by the finish line."

Haruka takes a few steps back in surprise with everyone else when the car bursts in, her hand going to her pocket for some reason. She does not, however, duck. You'd have to be pretty stupid to look for a Pure Heart inside of Haruka.

"Her," she notes to Michiru, recognizing the vehicle before she even sees the person. They were here just in case something LIKE this happened, and it being something that happened to Elsa was always a known suspicion. But Haruka finds that she had not prepared for that at all.

She didn't expect to be... angry.

"Michiru," she says in answer to her partner; an agreement that they have to go. She starts to back away, in preparation to (what else) run, but as the Daimon is about to make its appearance, Haruka comes to a different decision. The magical girl community knows who Haruka is now, and it's not much of a hop skip and a jump from there to Michiru.

"This will do," she decides, looking at Michiru's eyes. When the Daimon comes out and (surely) draws the eyes of anyone who has never seen one before, Haruka swings her transformation wand up diagonally across her chest, and lets the power of her lost planet sparkle across her body right then and there.

"Acting with elegance," she announces herself, in a starker tone than usual, directed right at Eudial. "Sailor Uranus!"

COMBAT: Haruka Tenoh transforms into Sailor Uranus!
COMBAT: Sailor Uranus has used Acts with Elegance on Sailor Uranus.
COMBAT: Sailor Uranus accepts Sailor Uranus's Acts with Elegance, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Empower and Surge applied to Sailor
<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi finds herself admiring that seeming closeness, that strange gallantry that seems to radiate off this runner. Though she then blanches somewhat as Elsa compares 'her fans' of which Usagi is included to Haruka's girlfriend. Because even she understands that when Elsa says it's a tie, she's being extremely generous.

Haruka's girlfriend is not someone she could ever measure herself up against. And indeed, she flushes as she catches a glimpse of Michiru's gaze being sent her way.

"I mean - you don't have to go that far..." Usagi says, good naturedly. Even if it means a small measure of self-deprecation is involved. It's more positive in her view, just to understand her limits.

Haruka's words though feel like they hold the weight of some wise philosopher. Or at least, wisdom that feels far more mature than anything Usagi could come up with. "That's... how it always went." Usagi says. It's not actually a question, or soliciting confirmation. "It sounds like neither of you were really running to cross the finish line." She says quietly, so mutely that it might not be heard - genuine respect and awe in her voice.

And then the sound of a station wagon engine causes her to turn her head.

For just a moment her eyes are wide and her jaw is slack, but even before the barrel of the gun sticks out of the window, "Elsa-san!"

And that's before Elsa bears her down to the ground. "WhmmF!" Usagi hits the ground, but the weight is off of her in a moment, as Elsa is up and running. And Eudial misses again.

Sitting up, dazed and genuinely impressed, Usagi notes.

"No wonder she was Haruka-san's rival..."

It won't last long, because she sees that Daimon barreling after her. Suddenly scrambling up, she tries to pull Steven up. "Your family drives around in stadiums!?" Beat, "Later! We need to evacuate-!" Usagi says to him. And Rei. It's a token cover. Because of course she's not going to make certain of it. She knows Steven can fight, so she's not actually going to supervise him getting off the field. "Steven - Rei-chan and me are your senpais, so we're going to go make sure noone else is in danger!"

And then dropping her bucket, she takes Rei's hand and rushes towards the forbidden rope, hoping to catch a glimpse of Chibi-Usa and Hotaru on the way. Though perhaps, if she doesn't... it's good news, even if their absence worries her.

As she goes though... she briefly looks Haruka's way. Trying to catch her gaze. It's not like she expects her to come with her but...

... maybe, just maybe. In the spirit of everything that came before. In the spirit of the day. She can think something changed. And that even if the two aren't going in the same direction. That maybe today they might be on the same team.

Even if she doesn't though, a sudden cry distracts her from the hand on her brooch, "Chibi-Usa!?" It's her instinct to always instantly go to her when she's in trouble...

... but right now, she feels bad. Because she lost Hotaru on the way to the field. And it feels like it's her fault. Whatever is making Chibi-Usa cry for help, is her fault. "Rei-chan! As the future manager I'm counting on you to go help her!" Usagi says before darting off in another direction to make her transformation reality.


"Hold it right there!" Sailor Moon's Moonboots tap down on the track. As she tries to get between Station Wagon, Daimon, and Elsa Grey.

"It's unsportsmanlike to pursue a track star in a station wagon! I'll never forgive anyone who tries to overcome all of their hard work and training to achieve their dreams by cheating!"

Striking up a fierce pose, "I'm the Pretty Guardian of Love and Justice: Sailor Moon! In the Name of the Moon-" She points down the track at both Daimon and Witch, "-I will punish you!"

Her attempting to interpose herself is perhaps a courageous effort... but definitely not her wisest move.

COMBAT: Usagi Tsukino transforms into Sailor Moon!
COMBAT: Sailor Moon has used In The Name Of The Moon on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick partially dodges 4 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Trick Arrow Shot, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Pink
Moon Stick's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace Sailor Moon's In The Name Of The Moon, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sailor Moon
is Psyched!  Diversion and Exhausted applied to Pink Moon Stick!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick dodges 14 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Throw Shield, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Pink Moon Stick's
Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Michiru's eyes turn to Haruka in wordless communion. She meets the wind, and in a moment she seems to understand.

A child's screams. The roar of engines and the drift of the inevitable colored fume that the Daimons' arrival always holds. "Mm," Michiru says as she draws out the pen from a small pocket hidden with cunning beneath the sash of her autumn dress. There is a rising again, as ever it was, as the sea rises to meet the wind and --

-- "Likewise - Sailor Neptune!"

"It doesn't speak well of her courage, either," Neptune muses in counterpoint, after the admonishment of Sailor Moon rings out. "A motor vehicle *and* a Daimon..."

COMBAT: Michiru Kaioh transforms into Sailor Neptune!
<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

How did it happen? One moment, Rei is trying to figure out how to feel about being called cute by a girl, which is surely different to when she thought Haruka was a boy. (And not just by Haruka, too. Rei will believe any lie about how wonderful she is. This is the tragedy of Rei Hino.) Well, she at least has Usagi to rely on, while she's trying to puzzle it out.

The next moment she doesn't have Usagi, because Elsa has rescued Usagi, because a van has pulled up and --

And Rei scrambled to the side, too. She didn't much think about it. She just did it. (Is this the power of a thousand years past? She wonders, but vaguely, at the corners of her mind.) "Elsa-san!" She gasps, as she scrambles up. A girl who warns everyone else to run --

-- of course she's being targetted for her Pure Heart. There could never be any doubt.

"We'll get everyone out of here!" Rei yells a promise over to Elsa, for once not arguing with Usagi for an instant. They're just normal girls, after all. There's nothing they can do against whatever this thing is. Even a shrine maiden couldn't fight a monster, right..?

So they run. And a cry rings out.

"Chibi-Usa-chan..!" It's concern in Rei's eyes as she looks to Usagi, recognition -- but she nods. "You can count on me."

And flame circles, encircles, becomes skirt and ribbon, one star and another as earrings come forth, fine red heels --

There's no Pretty Sailor-Suited Soldier beside Sailor Moon to protect her, on the field. Maybe that's because there was already one there, before she made her entrance. "I'm counting on you, too," Sailor Mars says, under her breath, a glance to Sailor Uranus.

And then, quick as the bellows, she's beside Chibi-Usa. "It's going to be okay," she assures her, crouching down, a hand on her shoulder. "Where's Hotaru-chan? We're going to get you two safe." A prickle at the nape of her neck, and maybe she's unsettled on account of the Daimon.


There's this little piece her intuition can't quite place, and her other hand has produced an ofuda-slip, that prayer which wards away evil.

COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Fighting for The New Age on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Rei Hino transforms into Sailor Mars!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune accepts Sailor Neptune's Fighting for The New Age, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Empower and Surge applied to
Sailor Neptune!
COMBAT: Sailor Mars has used All Prayers Shall Be Answered on Chibi-Usa Tsukino.
COMBAT: Chibi-Usa Tsukino accepts Sailor Mars's All Prayers Shall Be Answered, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Chibi-Usa
Tsukino is Cheered!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Daimon Battle #1 - Sailor Moon S OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZEx2neikps


The Magic Knight of Wind's arrow closes in from the left; Steven's shield from the right; together, they flush the daimon out of hiding. Like the dusty outline of Hotaru's body, the pink mist of her afterbirth is left behind, but she herself is gone.

Oh, no, there she is.

Skidding to a half a few feet away, HURDLER is revealed to be a gorgeous pink elf in a black-and-white-striped (referee...) bikini bottom and arm warmers. Her bikini top... or maybe just her entire bust... is a gigantic, forward-facing white sneaker.

Also she has regular sneakers on her feet, and bangles around the terminus of all four limbs plus matching hoop earrings, and a giant pink bow at the back of her fluffy purple hair that honestly wouldn't look out of place of Minako Aino. In fact, NONE of this look would look that out of place on V.

Well... not much of it, anyway.

"HURDler," she calls again, and honestly it sounds a lot more like HURT-ler. Thrusting her arms to either side, ticker tape explodes out of her palms, obviously sticky and supernaturally strong. It heads straight for her two first engagements, Fuu and Steven, in a twist on the former's favorite play. And besides trying to tie them right up, it impacts crackingly hard. It's very rude.

It's obviously what she's going to have to do to Elsa, in the end.

And that is -- immediately -- her main focus. Props to any youma that remembers to obey their lieutenant's main command while surrounded by this many opponents. She blurs through the enemy lines, momentarily Elsa's opposite in that way; though her monstrous speed may be graceful, it is not beautiful, and the invisibility it renders her is a mercy to the eye. Her passing ruffles hair and skirts and, not incidentally, leaves FIRE in her wake, nominally frictional but juiced up a little extra with the power of Hell, or whatever strange origins these creatures really enjoy.

On the far side, she grabs the red hurdle off her butt (it was pinned there like a senshi's bow) and chucks it, javelin-like, in the runner's path. It turns out to not so much detach as clone itself, and soon a spectacularly difficult field of hurdles is in the runner's path.

Well, at least she's truth in advertising.


When it turns out that Four Out Of Five Schoolchildren Are Magical Girls, Eudial isn't really that surprised. She's too veteran now. They've tangled too many times. She's made some statistical models based on her many battles and they suggest exactly such a ratio, with the added twist that it isn't so much that 80% of all Tokyo teenagers are deadly combatants, it's just that 80% of all Tokyo teenagers are the same dozen kids.

And she's fine with it, for some overworked, grimly competent value of fine, as long as it's just the Magic Knight of Wind and The Quartz Universe and even, honestly, Sailor Mars and Sailor Moon. She could lie, like Elsa did, out of appreciation for their odd reliability, their peculiar breed of loyalty, as regards interfering with her plans -- and say they were her big problem, her grand nemeses. But it would be a lie. Sorry ladies. Sorry Steven.

It's the appearance of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, who are so bold, so dismissive, of the threat that she poses their well-being, that they straight-up transform right in front of her, that makes her gnash her teeth.

Why is it always THEM. Why are THEY always here?

Also like Elsa, she has never beaten them to a Pure Heart Crystal. It is ONLY because all her targets have been duds that they haven't absconded with the fruit of her all-nighter labors, her endless analysis of the denizens of Tokyo, teenagers and otherwise.

How utterly tiresome.

Well, maybe today will be different. Something about all this feels more personal than coincidental. And making things personal means making mistakes. She's constantly trying to drill that into her dumbass kohai Mimete, with zero success.

Speaking of, EVERYTHING'S personal for Sailor Moon all the time. She particularly presents herself directly in Eudial's path, and she obligingly shifts the car back into gear and stomps on the accelerator with all the rage she can muster. Her red heel hits the pedal with so much force that it punctures it.

She leaves it behind.

Eudial explodes out of the car in a roll, curling her body around the gun's fragile and complex architecture to protect it as one might a child. She comes up on one knee, and is in firing position with blinding speed.

"Acting with irritation," Eudial snaps back, "Eudial, first of the Witches 5!"

She pulls the trigger.


'We have to go.'

'But that's all I owe you.'

Cold words echo between Elsa's ears as she pounds turf desperately to lead these monsters away from her fans. And her friends. Old friends. Former... friends... maybe...?

She shakes her head unhappily, sending her magenta mane in all directions like a halo, desperate to clear it. The finish line may be her unfamiliar new acquaintance now but even she would lose to someone who isn't Haruka if she ran with a brain full of thoughts. This is not the time. When this is over... maybe they can... deal with everything.

Not now.

Her eyebrows lower like the crossing bar at an intersection...

...and then the train comes through.

<SoundTracker> Pure Heart Crystal - Sailor Moon S OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVKolCf7pzM

Accelerating, she leaps over the first hurdle. The second. The fifteenth. At some point she's empty again, empty and perfect, her form, her velocity, her height, so empty that she almost -- maybe -- for once in her life -- is nothing at all but empty air in motion, nothing at all but wind.

That's the same point where she forgot that someone was trying to gun her down.

Her path hemmed in, defined, by the track -- the trap -- the daimon made, she's suddenly an easy target. Unsafe at any speed.

Eudial's shot takes her in the back mid-hurdle. Her phenomenally athletic form is ruined in midair, not by the force of the blow but by the suddenness of her unconsciousness.

She goes down hard.

And, hanging in the air where Elsa once was -- like the dust, like the mist, and not like either of them, not at all -- is the glittering, gorgeous red-pink perfection of her Pure Heart.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Sailor Moon has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Chibi-Usa Tsukino has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Sailor Mars has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Sailor Uranus has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Steven Universe has saved his current combat state for later!