Work Header

Path's Divergence

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

Bête Noir De Chats

The day got off to a bit of a rough start for Hercules, Megara, and their brood. One of the kits had decided to pass along just exactly what they had heard when over at Usagi's place the most recent time. The kits had been asking what in the world someone was trying to do to her when the word 'rape' had been brought up.

"Where did you hear that?" Megara managed to ask once the shock had worn off. She could think of a few different places none of which made her particularly happy.

"When we were spending that time with the girl, Usagi. She was talking to another friend of hers about someone nearly doing that. She just looked really sad mama." The oldest of their kits, Sarpedon, said.

Well, that wasn't entirely surprising to hear. She would look like that considering the sensitive nature of what had been talked about. "She'll be fine. It's just something that was difficult for her. Someone tried to hurt Usagi really badly. That is basically what it means." Though that was putting it mildly possibly.

"You're going after the girl that's been hurting our friend, right?" Ajax another one of the older kits asked.

Megara mentally groaned. They had been trying to avoid letting the kittens know just what they were up to when they were left at Luna's owner's place. But obviously, someone had let it slip. Probably one of the strays that had gotten roped into it. Making a note to talk to the others about what they were telling the kits about their plans she looked at the small gathering of kits before her. Too late to go back now she supposed. "Yes, we are."

"Well…some of us want to help." Sarpedon, one of the older kits, insisted.

Megara hesitated for a moment thinking. Normally she would have said no but that being said the kits were small enough they could possibly get places and do things that the adults in the group wouldn't be able to do as easily. "No promises. I'll see what I can do but you all must promise to do exactly as we say if you're allowed to help." She finally decided. Not a yes, not a no. Just a maybe until they had had more time to process and throw the idea around. Some of the kits that had been with Usagi were starting to get old enough to make their own decisions. If they really wanted to get involved there wasn't much in the way to stop them.

"Do you think Luna knows about all this?" Hercules asked turning to Megara once the kittens had left. He was pretty sure he knew the answer to that question already, but he needed his mate to say it. Based on what they knew of all this and Luna's evasiveness about just what this girl had done to her owner, he was not fairly certain she knew.

Megara shook her head after a moment. "She has to know. At the very least it explains why she was reluctant to tell us everything her owner had been put through." Something told her Luna hadn't expected her to start talking about this subject and she herself could understand why.

"Motoki I know your hurting from the break up with Reika but is flirting with a middle school brunette the best idea...?" Mamoru wondered to himself. He knew Motoki was still hurting over Reika's decision to break up with him so she could freely study abroad. Honestly, he was of the opinion that if Reika wasn't willing to try a long distance relationship before cutting it off then she probably wasn't the one, not that he was going to tell Motoki that, however going after this new girl didn't seem to be the best solution either.

"Mamoru, long time no see!" Usagi greeted coming up behind him bringing him out of his thoughts.

"Usagi…the uniform's new." Mamoru said turning to her a bit surprised. Last time he had seen her during the school year she had been wearing the Juuban uniform. Then again, they had been both so busy they hadn't run into each other lately.

"Yeah, I got accepted into Mugen Gaken's specialty program over the break. It's been helping." Usagi admitted.

"Congrats. I imagine that must have been very good for you." He was a bit surprised she had gotten in but from what he knew about her there was a good chance she had gotten in through one of their medical testing programs. It was probably closer to self-paced then a regular class structure, which probably did help a lot.

"School's still hard at times but there are less problems to deal with at Mugen." Usagi admitted. Due to her program's structure, she had less concerns and stress about learning materials and keeping up with things when compared to her fellow year mates though that didn't stop certain subjects like math from being difficult at times. "How are things on your end?" She wondered if Masato had ever taken her up on the advice to hire Mamoru.

"Going good. Got another new job." Mamoru said. Confirming to Usagi that probably Masato had finally approached him. Or someone that worked for Masato. Something to formally bug him about later at least. "Hopefully this one goes better than the last few." It seemed like he kept running into Dark Kingdom plots.

"Still ending up places with the strange monsters?" Usagi asked. He seemed to have a natural tendency to show up where the youma were. Which may be on purpose if their line of thinking was right in that he was the former Earth Prince.

"Yeah, that's an unfortunate reoccurring problem. Though, come to think of it, who isn't nowadays?" Mamoru asked. With the creatures showing up every which place it was kind of hard to avoid them if you lived in Juuban.

"That's true." Usagi agreed. Though she really couldn't speak much of what classified as a normal experience since her encounters were entirely senshi based. "Makoto…" Usagi said a bit exasperated catching sight of the brunette Mamoru had been watching. She had been hoping the other girl had gotten past her whole crush thing but if she was pursuing Motoki she doubted it. At least this time it looked like maybe the feelings went both ways versus the whole thing with the gamer dude who to her had been using Makoto. She didn't really think Motoki Furuhata, who generally was an all-around sweet guy, would mistreat or use Makoto the way the last one had done.

"She's a friend of yours?" Mamoru asked.

"Yeah. We've talked a lot when we've run into each other in the arcade. Outside of a handful of times, we usually have met here at the arcade." Usagi admitted. None the less she felt comfortable calling Makoto her friend. Regardless of how not so well there schedules meshed at times. There was just something familiar about her and comfortable. Somehow using anything else to describe her didn't feel quite right. A thought struck Usagi and she frowned. "I thought Motoki had a long-term girlfriend."

"He did. She's taking a semester abroad in Africa, so she decided to break things off with him." Mamoru answered. Really considering Reika's track record, the break up wasn't the biggest shock. Actually, it might have been a bigger one if they had managed to stay together while she was in Africa. This, however, was the first time he could remember Motoki trying to move past to another girl.

"Ick. If that's the reason she gave then maybe it's for the best." Usagi said making a face. Quitting before the going got tough was no way to pursue a relationship in her mind. She felt bad for Motoki but maybe Reika hadn't been the best match for him.

"I agree with you, but I don't know if becoming interested in someone younger than him is the best way to get over Reika." Mamoru commented frowning slightly.

Usagi quietly chewed her lip worried for her friend. It wasn't so much she didn't want Makoto to find someone eventually, but she wasn't sure if being someone's possible bounce back was a good idea either.

"He's been together with Reika for so long I don't remember him showing interest in anyone else." Mamoru said massaging his forehead.

It took Usagi a while to get a chance to confront Makoto about Motoki. First, she had to find her when she was off work (she doubted Rei would appreciate her showing up when Mako was supposed to be working to talk about personal relationships). Second, she had to actually be on that side of town. Which considering she now lived closer to Mugen Gaken was a bit less common then it used to be. Then it had taken a couple of tries to even get on that subject matter. The first attempt to bring up the subject ended up getting derailed into a completely different territory.

"Yuki's been out the last few days, so class has been almost peaceful for once." Makoto said. Most of Yuki's 'friends' were steering clear of her now that their ringleader was out. Funny how they lost interest in her the minute they had no one to guide them.

"Really?" Usagi blinked in surprise. She couldn't remember Yuki ever missing school in the entire time she had been at Juuban. But then again there might have been days when they were both out so she just didn't know about it. "Is she sick?"

"Not that I know of. Just absent. Maybe dealing with the whole security problem you mentioned." Makoto noted. "Though there's something else…She's been having a string of nasty luck lately. Ruined clothes, someone putting stuff in her food, stuff like that. No one's come forward claiming responsibility for it but since most of it seems to be happening at school some people are thinking it's a former victim of hers finally getting back." Makoto explained. It wasn't that much of a stretch. Based on some of the rumors she had heard in the past about Yuki's exploits she was honestly surprised it had taken this long for someone to fight back.

"You don't think that?" Usagi asked a bit curiously.

"No. I overheard some of her 'friends' talking. The nasty luck's been going on at home too. If that's the case, then it can't be someone at school." Makoto pointed out. No one would be dumb enough to sneak into another person's house to continue the revenge she was pretty sure.

"Right because if it is happening at home that means its someone who has access to her house and I think she's an only child." Usagi realized where Makoto was going. Or at least she believed Yuki was an only child. She kind of genuinely hoped she was an only child. If Yuki had siblings that meant either one of two things. One, there was someone having to possibly deal with Yuki's behavior against them 24/7 or there was someone who acted way to similar to Yuki but younger. That meant a second generation of kids might have to put up with what she went through.

"Exactly." Makoto confirmed.

"When did all of this start?" Usagi asked curiously.

"About two weeks ago." Makoto answered. Usagi blinked a couple of times, the timing was interesting, to say the least. That would put it back when she had finally told the others about the hell she had lived through and when Luna had asked her to babysit the kittens. Which brought up an interesting question. "Mako when you say ruined things what do you mean?"

"Sometimes after PE class, she's come back to find holes in her skirt or blouse or both. Other times it smelled like it had cat pee all over it." Makoto said making a face. That thankfully had been rarer, but it was never pleasant to sit through. "The food when it was targeted wouldn't be edible either, looked almost regurgitated. She actually was starting to take her lunch off campus to avoid that concern." Usagi almost let out a snort at that. Of course, the school would throw a fit about her wanting to eat off campus, but the minute little miss Yuki wanted it she was given it with no questions asked.

Though now that she was thinking about it Usagi frowned slightly. This was starting to sound suspiciously like some of what she had told Luna about that time period. With the exception of the physical harm part apparently. She had a feeling though if she tried to confront Luna about it the cat would deny it. Though Mako hadn't clarified when she meant by stuff in the food if it was Luna she had a feeling she might know what that 'stuff' was.

"You look like your deep in thought." Makoto noted.

"Just thinking about some of the stuff that's been done to her reminds me of some of the stuff she put me through," Usagi admitted. Some of it was more than a bit similar then what she had been put through.

"She did all of that to you?" Makoto said raising an eyebrow.

"All of that and then some." Usagi admitted.

"Then some…?" Makoto trailed off in confusion and then seemed to remember something. "Wait is she why you ended up in the hospital before Christmas?"

Guess Rei must have mentioned it to her since Usagi was pretty sure she hadn't shared that before. Well, it wasn't like she had told Rei not to talk about it at least. "Her 'friends' that were caught on camera causing the injury that landed me in the hospital. They got expelled but since there was nothing to tie directly back to her she got to stay. After that, she backed off. The school must have issued her a warning of some sorts." She frowned after a moment. "I thought you didn't want details?"

Makoto made a face. "I kind of do, but again, the school administration is an issue. If I get in trouble with her I might have to give up my job. I doubt I could win any particular argument involving her." Yuki tended to get her riled up but as much as it made her mad she needed that job and letting herself go against the administration would not end well for her.

"The school administration loves her for some reason. No idea why." Usagi agreed. "Every time it was me versus her specifically they always sided with her. Any chance they got to make my life more difficult they took. I don't blame you."

"I'm sorry." Makoto said after a moment.

Usagi shook her head. "It's not your fault. Besides, at least now I don't have to deal with her anymore. You still do though."

"Yeah but the most she usually does is make rude comments. I think my size intimidates her." Makoto said after a moment.

"That's good at least." Usagi said. She was glad Mako wasn't suffering nearly the same wrath from Yuki that she had back at Juuban. She wouldn't wish that on anyone.

"Ah. I hate to cut this short but if I don't go now I'm going to be late for work." Makoto said after a moment glancing at a nearby clock. She had gotten so sidetracked talking to Usagi she had lost track of time. Best not to make Rei mad.

"Have a good afternoon. Say hi to Rei for me. I'll see you around." Usagi said waving off the other girl before settling in to play some arcade games. "Crap! I forgot to talk about her about Motoki." Usagi realized a good ten minutes after Makoto had already left. Guess it was going to have to wait until the next time she ran into the girl.

When Megara and Hercules had brought up what the kittens had overheard it had caused Luna to wince she hadn't thought about the possibility Usagi might start talking about what had happened with Yuki with the kittens around. "I'm sorry. I should have told her to be more careful with what she was saying around them." In her defense, Usagi had always been so cagey on the subject she hadn't really expected to hear much about it again.

"It's okay. We knew there was a risk of them overhearing things by letting her help with the kittens." Megara said shaking her head. They weren't overtly mad at Usagi. She wouldn't be aware of the fact the kittens could understand her, so she had no reason to be careful what she said. It's just something that needed to be brought up she felt. "We just told them that someone tried to hurt her badly." It wasn't too far from the truth without having to explain such terms to the kits. One day when they were older they would probably understand what Usagi had gone through. But for now, this was the best way to deal with it. "Did they really not get that far?"

"Usagi says they didn't get far enough to do anything that being said…" Luna trailed off there still not wanting to finish that thought.

"You think they got further than she implied." Megara realized what Luna was leaving off.

Luna nodded her head. "I want to be wrong. Really, I do, but my gut is saying her and a friend of hers are hiding something." She let out a sigh. "How did the kits take it?"

"Most seemed to accept it. A couple of the older ones seemed interested in joining in the chaos." Hercules answered her.

That caused Luna to pause at that thought. Normally she wouldn't have thought about that but the younger ones who were still small would be able to get places and wreak destruction that the fully-grown cats couldn't as easily. So, it definitely wasn't without its benefits if they were actually interested. That being said they were still kits. "What do the others think on that?"

Megara answered. "The reactions are mixed. We're handling it as a litter by litter situation. We aren't going to stop the two in our brood that want to join in as long as they don't do something that will endanger themselves but it's ultimately up to the other's parents if they chose to allow them to help or not."

Across town at Mugen Gaken, Haruka and Michiru had to miss school that day due to some of their musical work. That was also the first time she was approached by one of her classmates outside of talking about class. After everything that had happened with Yuki, Usagi still found it easier to stay near her old friends than to interact with some of her new classmates. It wasn't them, it was her.

She was surprised when another girl had approached her before lunch, Hiroko, if she remembered names correctly when she was first being introduced to everyone on the first day. Her brown curly hair bouncing slightly as she tipped back and forth on her toes. "We were wondering if you would like to join some of us for lunch for a change? Since some of your usual friends are out?"

"I was going to eat with Hotaru and Naru actually." Usagi admitted. Though now she was wondering how Hiroko had found out that Haruka and Michiru were going to be out today.

She saw a frown flash across Hiroko's face for a brief moment before it disappeared replaced with a smile. Okay. No way was she going to let herself be alone with this girl for very long. That was an old trait of Yuki's that she remembered from before the whole graveyard incident. She wasn't going to let anyone who was hiding their actual emotions be alone with her for very long. It might be nothing, it might be just a reaction to her trying to turn it down. It also might be something. "That's fine they can come along too."

Usagi still had her hesitations about eating with her but…it would be good to actually get to know some of her classmates. She mainly stuck with Naru and the others because after everything that had happened with Yuki she was still reluctant to approach others. Add in the looks Hotaru got at times and she wasn't entirely sure how much she wanted to interact with her fellow schoolmates. "As long as no one starts being mean to Hotaru like the first day I think I'm okay with that. Let me just ask first."

She heard Hiroko grumble something under her breath which caused Usagi to frown. She hadn't quite caught the entire comment, but the gist had seemed to be about why was she letting her friends dictate her decisions. "Naru and I have known each other since we were babies. She was the one by my side through all the problems I had since Tohoku. She is my first and longest friend." Usagi said frowning slightly. She wasn't going to ditch Naru especially after everything with Yuki. "Before I came here the situation at my old school escalated to the point where I couldn't go anywhere alone. Hotaru didn't have it that bad but I don't want her to suffer anymore either. She's actually a very sweet girl who collects lamps."

"Sorry. I didn't realize it was that bad." Hiroko said after a moment. Most of Usagi's classmates had experienced some sort of bullying before transferring to Mugen Gaken. Hiroko herself sometimes had to deal with stuff from the other years. Even Hiroko could only think of a couple of cases she knew of where the situation had been severe enough that they couldn't be left alone safely.

Usagi let out a sigh after a moment. "I would like to get to know all of you better but I will not abandon my friends."

"It wouldn't be a bad idea for you to hang out with them." Naru said after Usagi first brought up the topic at the start of lunch. She and the others wouldn't be there constantly as shown by Haruka and Michiru's absence today. Usagi making more friends would be a good idea. Naru could see why Usagi was still a bit hesitant. After everything that had been dragged out by Yuki at Juuban, it wasn't exactly going to be easy making friends outside the senshi. "Not everyone's going to be another Yuki. Just because it's a group of girls doesn't mean it's going to be her all over again."

"I know that it's not that, well not just that." Usagi corrected herself after a moment. If she had issues being friends with a group of girls well then being a Sailor Senshi would be a lot more difficult. "You remember how Yuki would sometimes make one face for a moment and then her expression would completely change?"

"Yeah did this Hiroko do that?" Naru realized making a face. She could now see why Usagi was dragging her heels a bit about this get-together.

"Yeah, she frowned for a moment and then smiled when I asked if I could bring you two along. It reminded me of Yuki." Usagi admitted. She was used to it with Michiru and to a lesser extent Haruka and knew what to expect since it usually went back to a more neutral expression. It still unnerved her when someone did it, especially someone she didn't really know that well yet. She trusted them not to hurt her in that manner by this point. New classmates she didn't know really all that well? Not so much.

"Many people hide their feelings to save others feelings or even their own." Naru noted. It was an interesting problem.

"The problem is I don't know if frown then smile is because she has a more Yuki like tendency or a more Michiru like tendency." Usagi said rubbing her head slightly. This was causing more of a headache then she had intended. Her gut said Yuki just because this wasn't just two people like what she was dealing with reading Haruka and Michiru. But a group which was closer to the Yuki situation. That being said…she would like to get to know these classmates better. She just couldn't help but be worried that somehow it would lead back to the Yuki situation. "What do you think Hotaru?" Usagi said turning to the younger girl for a moment.

"I'm not sure. I wouldn't personally partly because I haven't had the best experience with my own classmates, but that's my year mates, not yours. They may be nice." Hotaru pointed out. It was a slightly good sign she guessed that they were willing to let her attend lunch. "Most people here have a tendency to just avoid me. Even those outside my own year. That they are even willing to let me tag along may mean it is genuine."

Usagi cringed slightly at that. That was true from what she had seen most people gave them a wide berth at school. Though she was never sure if it was her or one of the others. Haruka and Michiru were good friends but could be intimidating when they wanted to be. "I guess just this once won't hurt as long as you guys are fine with it."

It was Friday again before Usagi had really a chance to think about the fact she still hadn't had a chance to talk to Makoto about the thing with Motoki. Her and Mamoru were getting together to drink smoothies at the arcade, though it was unintentional, to begin with, and they sometimes simply ended up sitting together and quietly sharing worries about their suddenly dating friends.

"Hey. Worried about Motoki?" Usagi asked as she slid into the booth that Mamoru was occupying.

"He's currently denying that he is attracted to her. Said the last time they were together they were just swapping cooking ideas." Mamoru said after a moment. That might not be still too much of a stretch but still. "Normally I would believe him, but I just have a suspicion there's something more there. What about Makoto?" Mamoru asked.

"I actually haven't had a chance to talk to her about it. She's very busy. She supports herself and goes to school. She's pretty dedicated to graduating and saving up for her restaurant." Usagi confessed sinking slightly into her seat. It wasn't like she had planned not to talk to Mako about the situation with Motoki.

"It's been a week." Mamoru pointed out with a frown. He would have thought by now she would have seen Mako more than once.

"I had to move closer to Mugen, so it is also harder to get the time where both of our schedules can fit." Usagi pointed out with a sigh. "And I don't want to upset her boss by showing up there to talk to her about the whole thing with Motoki."

"You know where she works?" Mamoru asked a bit surprised.

"Yes." Usagi confessed. "Rei seems to be getting more tolerable of me each time I visit but I doubt she'd appreciate if I showed up to talk about boys while Makoto is supposed to be focusing on the shrine duties and learning from the priest." Rei was still quite closed off towards Usagi but she had been slowly getting a lot less standoffish during the occasional visit. Particularly as she seemed to realize she wasn't just visiting to spend time with Makoto.

"Have you even seen her at all since last week?" Mamoru asked.

"I did once. We just got off on a completely different tangent about a bully from Juuban." Usagi confessed. Add in the fact that she was spending a few hours most days after school in the program and she was spending less and less time in Juuban outside of the weekend and hanging out with Naru. "I would rather not talk about it. Just know that was one of a long list of reasons I was having so many problems before." Usagi said as she saw him open his mouth to possibly ask about Yuki. "Said bully has apparently moved on to making comments about her now that I'm no longer her target. That's why we got off on that topic."

The two sighed drinking their milkshakes and starring at Makoto and Motoki sharing a laugh at something neither of them could hear from where they sat. Sure, the looks the two had been shooting each other looks the last time her and Mamoru had talked seemed to suggest it. But maybe they were reading too much into it. Because if they didn't even try to date each other then they were getting all worked up for nothing.

It took a few more days after she talked with Mamoru but she finally did get a chance to talk with Mako about it. Though the conversation didn't quite go as planned…

"Hey, Makoto." She greeted the brunette.

"Usagi." Mako greeted her in return looking up from the arcade game. "Have a good week?"

"As good as can be expected." Usagi said smiling slightly. Eating with Hiroko had turned out better then she had expected in the end. She still wasn't sure if she wanted to hang out with her every lunch, but it was kind of nice to start to get to know her classmates fairly well. "Whatever happened to the gamer guy you were guarding for a bit?" Usagi asked frowning slightly. That actually was a legit question she had besides the fact that Makoto and Motoki seemed to be interested in a relationship. What had happened with the Gamer guy?

Makoto looked away for a moment. "I haven't heard from him since the last incident with the ponytailed guy."

Usagi cringed slightly at that. "Sorry to hear about that." Regardless of the fact, the guy had been a massive jerk it was obvious Makoto must have had some feelings for him.

"It's all right I'm kind of used to it by now." Makoto admitted after a moment. It didn't make it hurt any less each time it happened. But it was far from her first experience with the subject.

She cringed slightly thinking back to a couple of times she had been stood up by people at Juuban who were faking interest in her either as a friend or as a crush and it had hurt no matter how much she had been expecting it after a certain point. After a while, she had caught on and become a lot more cautious. Especially after the incident with the boys. "Being used to doesn't make it any easier though." Mako shot her surprised look at the comment. "I had it happen a couple of times when I was at Juuban." Usagi elaborated. "How are things with you and Motoki? Mamoru and I saw you two hanging out."

Makoto got a far-off look in her eyes for a moment. "He's great." Well, that sounded a lot less like just someone who wanted to be friends. "We've just been talking mostly but I think we might actually be considering a date soon."

"Nice to finally have someone return your feelings finally?" Usagi guessed fighting a grin. Despite her concerns for her friend, she could tell she had fallen for Motoki, hard. She hadn't even looked that dreamy when talking about Gamer Joe. Makoto had it hard for Motoki, that was for sure.

"Yeah." Makoto agreed before continuing. "Do you think Motoki would do that same kind of thing?" Mako asked looking at her in concern.

Usagi shook her head. "No. Motoki doesn't seem like the type. But he is recovering from a bad breakup with a longtime girlfriend."

"I appreciate the concern but…" Mako trailed off there. "I don't think this is going to end the same way the others have." Something in her heart told her that this wasn't going to end the way all the others had. This might finally work out in a way that didn't end in heartbreak.

"Maybe you finally found that missing piece." Usagi said giving her a grin. Something in her gut told her this was right and it was how it was supposed to be.

The next time her and Mamoru got together it was at the nearby park. Apparently, Motoki was getting a few things back from Reika and for whatever reason they had picked the park as the tradeoff place. Mamoru had asked her to tag along to keep an eye on Mako while the meeting went down.

"Any sign of Reika?" Usagi asked as she sat down on the bench next to him.

"None yet but her and Motoki aren't supposed to meet for a half hour." Mamoru pointed out continuing to watch the couple for a moment who were looking at some flowers in the garden before they sat in silence.

Usagi hesitated a moment before breaking the silence. "Makoto seems to have fallen for him. You know Motoki even better than I do. Do you think he would hurt or use her like the other guys she's dated?" Usagi pointed out.

"No. I don't think so. However, this isn't the first time him and Reika have broken up and I just wonder if this is actually for real this time. If that happens then her feelings will get hurt but Motoki isn't someone to toy with people or play with their hearts either. He would never hurt her on purpose, but he won't likely realize he'd be hurting her by getting back together with Reika. He's not the most perceptive when it comes to that sort of thing." Mamoru confessed frowning in thought slightly. Then again this was the first time he remembered Motoki expressing interest in another girl after Reika broke up with him. So maybe it would stick this time.

Usagi made a face at that. "Would he actually get back together with Reika if he seems to already have moved on to someone else?" Motoki didn't seem like the type to intentionally go out of his way to hurt someone else. But then again Mamoru knew him a lot better than she did.

"No, he wouldn't. I'm just hoping Motoki uses some common sense when dealing with Reika if he actually does have feelings for Makoto." Mamoru said frowning slightly. Reika could be very good at scheming when she wanted to be. He wouldn't put it past her to try and pull something if she thought Motoki had already moved on.

"Well, the fact they're meeting somewhere neutral has to be a good thing, right?" Usagi pointed out.

"That could either work in our favor or against it." Mamoru said after a moment. "Reika doesn't always have the best restraint. If she's going to try and get back with Motoki who knows what she might pull."

"Good to know." Usagi noted. Spotting another brunette coming into the clearing, Reika. "Looks like she is here. Showtime."

Usagi didn't have much experience in relationships. Most of what she knew had been from watching other people so she couldn't really help the situation, so she decided to hang back rather than try to engage any of the trio. Mamoru, on the other hand, had gone up and was standing near Motoki while he and Reika talked. For moral support.

Makoto had chosen to drop back slightly so Usagi walked up to her. "How are you holding up?"

"Okay, I guess. I don't like her making him meet again but she does have some of his things. I don't fault him." Mako said shifting slightly. At least they were meeting somewhere public she guessed. Still, it seemed a bit odd to be having the handover here.

Usagi hesitated for the moment to talk about the fact Mamoru had mentioned Reika had used this kind of tactic to get Motoki back before. She didn't think it would actually work this time so she didn't want to get Mako concerned. It still was probably being worth bringing it up. "Mamoru was saying she's used a similar tactic before to get back with him. Always saying she never really meant whatever she said when they broke up the first time.

"That can't be healthy." Makoto noted frowning slightly. Then again she wasn't exactly in the position to be judging considering her own run of crushes.

"I don't think it is, but I honestly have no experience with relationships. I've never dated anyone." Usagi admitted.

Any further conversation was cut off as a familiar pony tailed general decided to pick that moment to materialize. Pointing the black crystal at Reika and starting what she vaguely recognized as the extraction process from when she had seen him target Gamecren and the priest. Okay, seriously what were the odds that Reika was another one of the crystal carriers?

"Crap." Usagi heard Mamoru say causing her to glance over with a frown. That was an interesting reaction to the general. Almost like he knew the amount of danger he posed judging by the tone. Why would Mamoru seem to know who Zoisite was? Sure she and Masato had debated the possibility before that he was their reincarnated prince. So far other than a wild coincidence in the names, there was nothing to back that theory up.

"Oh for the love of-Mako no." Usagi called after the brunette as she rushed the general as she was brought out of her thoughts. Apparently, the fact that the person being targeted was her possible boyfriends' ex meant little to her. "I am not sure if I am the luckiest person or theleast luckiest person on the planet." Usagi noted pressing the alert button of her watch. Seriously what were the odds she was there when Zoisite went after yet another rainbow crystal carrier? Though that was the good news. The bad news was it looked like Mako was about set to engage Zoisite again. At least Mamoru seemed to have decided to get Motoki out of there for the moment. Deciding to take advantage of the distraction she slipped away so she could henshin. Hopefully, she had enough time before Zoisite pulled the crystal out.

It would be just there luck that the one Great Warrior Youma they hadn't been able to find before Zoisite got to them was the one with the most tricks. Not that Moon had much time to think about it as she found herself hopping back and forth dodging whatever those things were that kept exploding and leaving flames in their place were. She got briefly sidetracked when Tuxedo Kamen showed up which led to her introduction to another of the youma's tricks. Making the same weird flask things explode and have bugs come out of them.

Thankfully that was when the others finally showed up as a Spiral Buster between the legs either destroyed most of the bugs or sent the few remaining ones scattering. "Need to be more careful Moon." Uranus noted.

"Wasn't my intention, Uranus, to have those bugs crawling up me." Moon said as the other two came up to her. "This one's a bit craftier then the others have been. She was throwing mini flasks at my feet. I was trying to not get hit by one when one exploded and I suddenly had those bugs crawling up my legs." Moon explained. This one seemed to have a rather unusually long list of abilities compared to some of the other youma they had fought. Then again, they hadn't needed to fight Hercules or Yumeni's youma forms so maybe some of the others had a rather long list of abilities.

"This isn't a one trick youma then." Uranus said powering up a Spiral Buster. "Well, this should make it interesting at least." Neptune said as Uranus unleashed the Spiral Buster in the youma's direction. Only to have the Spiral Buster get sucked into a flask that the youma had materialized from nowhere it felt like. And then come back out of the flask a moment later sending them shooting off in different directions. Great a youma of many abilities then. "Not another one." Moon complained. At least youma that could turn their attacks back on them weren't a common trend. It didn't make dealing with them any easier. "Saturn! I need cover!"

A second later the Silent Wall flickered to life as the youma that was Reika formerly slammed into a nearby tree falling unconscious. Moon winced in sympathy as she pulled the compact out. Hopefully, the magic would take care of whatever injuries were caused by this fight. Truth be told she was almost looking forward to going back to dealing with youmas in disguises. Dealing with humans turned youmas was so much more dangerous and difficult. "Moon Healing Escalation!"

It felt like an eternity, but what else was new at this point? Before the magic took hold and Reika reverted back to being human. Moon let out a sigh of relief closing her compact. Then the exhaustion from healing hit. Moon's body swaying for a moment before starting to give out. One of the others managing to catch her in time.

"You nearly passed out again." Neptune noted in concern outside of Moon's line of vision at the moment though she could hear her speaking softly somewhere near her ear. Moon had managed to maintain consciousness this time, but it had been a close call. "There has to be another way to go about this." Neptune's concern dealt with just how much Moon had been asking of her magic the last few weeks. How much longer could Moon keep this up before they started to see more noticeable long-term effects?

"I'm the only one who can do this." Moon said shaking her head slightly. Trying to push herself back to her feet and away from Neptune's arms, only to have her legs nearly go out a second time. Uranus catching her this time before she could hit the ground.

"Just because you're the only one means you should be doing this." Uranus commented frowning slightly. Moon was the only one who could take care of the Great Warrior Youma situation yes. The concern that this was becoming too much for her was growing more and more it seemed with each encounter. There were repercussions from pushing your magic too much. When would this get to be too much for Moon? Were they already past that point of no return?

"It's one more crystal carrier. I can live with this." Moon said trying to wave off the concern again through blurred vision, slurred speech, and a tired smile. After they got the last crystal hopefully she would have some time to recuperate between healing bouts. Moon was already aware she was reaching the end of her rope.

"Yeah, but what happens after that?" Uranus asked quietly. Voicing the one question she knew everyone else had to be thinking. Was it as simple as getting the last crystal and Usagi not needing to heal more? Or was there more events on the horizon that could drain Moon?

"I'm okay Uranus you can let me go now." Moon said after a moment. She felt steady enough to stand without support. Uranus hesitated for a moment before letting go and backing up a bit. This time Moon stayed upright without problems.

Moon let out a slight shiver. She had woken up this morning feeling a bit off. It seemed like the healing hadn't helped that. She just hoped she wasn't catching a cold. The last thing they needed was her getting sick right at this moment. For the moment though she had other concerns, particularly Saturn who was starting to look a bit pale.

Neptune apparently noticed that too. "Are you all right Saturn?"

Rather then respond Saturn started to sway. Uranus apparently had enough warning to realize what was about to happen as she caught the girl as she passed out a moment later. Neptune approached the duo putting a hand on the other girls forehead. "She has a fever." Neptune noted frowning slightly. Why hadn't this been brought up? "Did she show up to fight sick?" Uranus asked more to herself then asking the others.

Moon stood back for a moment vaguely recalling Hotaru mentioning that she had been on immune-suppressants when she had first shown her the implants. Was the fighting asking too much of her? A concern to raise for later for now… "We need to get her back to herDad." Moon said making the decision. She wasn't sure how to proceed at the moment. Good chance the others were now going to find out Hotaru's own issues with the way things were going. She wasn't sure if she was the best one to make the call to tell them the details, her Dad probably was. It seemed like anytime something medically related surfaced it was taken out of their control on when they got to share it.

Things from there got a bit muddled. Hotaru's transformation had reverted at one point on the ride back. And apparently, for once she hadn't been wearing clothes that completely covered her body. That was how the others ended up finding out about the cybernetic transplants that Usagi had had knowledge of for weeks now. Hotaru had been whisked away the minute they had arrived leaving the three of them and Luna waiting in the living room. Usagi found her quietly squirming in place as she tried to figure out how she was going to explain that she had already known about the transplants before today as Haruka went on a slight mini-tirade wondering why it seemed like her and Michiru couldn't get others to tell them about stuff like this.

Luna was the first one to pick up on her behavior. "Usagi did you know?"

"She did tell me but she was nervous." Usagi admitted after a moment. Might as well get it out there. Good chance they were going to find out soon enough she knew either from Hotaru or her Dad. "I found out since we're in the same program but usually go in on different days. Apparently, she had to come in on the same day I did one time. She asked me to come over shortly after we dealt with the artist carrier. Wanted my opinion on how you might react. I tried to assure her you guys would handle it fine, but she still was hesitating about coming out about it even though she knew eventually it was going to have to talk about it."

"So those are prosthetics then." Michiru noted. Well maybe prosthetic wasn't the right word. They certainly looked different then the ones Usagi wore around every day. Then again she wasn't sure what the right word for them would be.

"It's a bit more complicated then that." Usagi said not exactly sure what to call what Hotaru had. "I don't know how much I can say. I don't think I understand all of it and it's not mine to tell even if I did." Usagi admitted. Some of the exchange between her and Hotaru had been in confidence she felt like the comment about how she felt sometimes about the cybernetic transplants. She wasn't sure how much she could talk about it without going behind Hotaru's back and violating that confidance.

Thankfully, any other response was cut off by the return of Professor Tomoe. "She just let a cold get away from her, that's all." He assured them. "Since she has a compromised immune system it hits her a bit harder than it would hit most people."

"She has a compromised immune system?" Michiru noted in surprise. This was sounding less and less like traditional prosthetics.

"She didn't tell you about this yet?" Professor Tomoe sounding just as surprised that they didn't know yet. Glancing around the group. He would have thought that would have been something discussed awhile back.

"She didn't tell them yet. She told me some things…" Usagi admitted not sure how much she could say without Hotaru getting in trouble. "But she was still nervous about telling the others."

"It's fine. I expected you lot were going to find out anyway. Hard to work with people this close without this kind of thing slipping out. No matter how much they try to keep it under wraps." Professor Tomoe assured her realizing she was worried about getting Hotaru in trouble. Usagi relaxed slightly at that.

"The short version of the story is that she was badly burned in a fire as a young child. Hotaru has cybernetically transplanted limbs in a couple of places. Her body has a hard time accepting it so she's on medicine to keep her from facing rejection problems. Those medicines also suppress her immune system. Normally we catch it a bit earlier, so it doesn't come to this but, as you can see, that doesn't always happen." Professor Tomoe admitted scratching his head a bit frowning slightly. Normally the program caught them if he didn't notice it first. This had somehow slipped past all of them.

"The limbs are a bit unique looking as you probably saw. The next time she goes under for replacement they'll look more normal. As they are now Hotaru is self-conscious about them." Professor Tomoe explained. That was definitely true from what Usagi had seen.

"So, can we visit her or is it best to just let her rest?" Luna asked.

"Actually, she asked for Usagi to come." Professor Tomoe admitted. Sounding a bit awkward being put in that position. It wasn't too much of a surprise considering the similarities in the situation between Usagi and Hotaru getting found out.

"Of course, she did." Haruka grumbled as Usagi got up to follow Professor Tomoe back to Hotaru's room.

"I'll try to talk her into letting you allvisit." Usagi said with an apologetic expression. She got what Hotaru was doing considering she had done the exact same thing back in February. But maybe they could avoid a complete repeat of the aforementioned situation.

"I won't stay too long." Usagi assured him as she slipped into Hotaru's room. Hotaru needed rest right now more than anything and her standing around talking to her wouldn't let her get it. "Hey, Hotaru."

"Hey." Hotaru greeted from her spot on the bed hands nervously wringing. "So they know now?"

"Yeah. I think they'll surprise you though." Usagi admitted scratching her head slightly. Once the henshin had come undone there was no going back. If it had held maybe there could have been away she could have covered for Hotaru.

"How are they taking it?" Hotaru asked after a moment worry and dread slipping into her tone. This had been the one thing she had been dreading since the moment she became Saturn. Them finding out about just her own physical state. How it could change things, like their perception of her. She wasn't sure how well she could handle teammates constantly giving her looks. Classmates were one thing. People she was supposed to be fighting beside on a regular basis was another.

"I think Haruka's more annoyed that they were kept out of the loop about someone's condition again." Usagi smiled after a moment. Her mind briefly going over Haruka's rant while they had been waiting to talk to Professor Tomoe. Definitely seemed more annoyed about the hiding thing than anything else. "Though that might be more my fault then yours. I'm the one with the longer track record of hiding things from the both of them. Either way they appeared to take it well. Do you feel up to seeing them?"

"No not yet. I know I am going to have to face them eventually. I would rather do it when I'm back at my 'full' health." Hotaru admitted. It was going to be a long tiring conversation she figured. Best to do it when she was actually up to it. "I get that they appear to be taking it fine but…"

"I might not have the exact type of prosthetics, but I do understand the want to hide them. I was the same after they first found out but, in the end, the only thing anyone was upset about was hiding it from them. They didn't look down on me or treat me differently. I was still 'Usagi'." Usagi admitted after a moment sensing where Hotaru was going with that. Admittedly her own reasons probably varied a bit from Hotaru's.

"Does it get easier? I mean people knowing about them?" Hotaru asked after a moment. She wasn't entirely sure if there would ever come a day she would ever really be comfortable.

"I don't know. Yuki was mean about them and it's only been recently I've come to peace about it with the others accepting me the way I am now. Sometimes I can even forget I'm not a whole person anymore." Usagi said after a moment. She was still self-conscious about them. It was getting better, the other two not making a fuss about her legs actually helped in its own way.

"What did Yuki do?" Hotaru asked after a moment in a quiet voice. She had heard bits and pieces from Usagi before, like the apparent incident with the boys at her school, but she had never quite gotten the full story like the others.

"Maybe I'll tell you after you get better." Usagi said shaking her head slightly before smiling. She didn't want her friend to get stressed out by her problems. She was already sick and should rest.

"Promise?" Hotaru asked. She didn't like feeling slightly out of the loop when she knew the others had been told the full story from what she had heard.

"Promise." Usagi giving a tight smile.

"You really think it's OK? With my..." Hotaru asked before trailing off clearly not wanting to reference them directly out loud. Part of her wanted to believe it would be all right in the end but she just couldn't see that at the moment.

"I am sure they will. They did while you were in the car." Usagi pointed out.

Hotaru looked like she was going to respond when Professor Tomoe took that moment to stick his head back in. "I hate to break this up but it's getting late. Hotaru needs her rest so you'll have to continue this conversation later."

"Of course. Get better soon Hotaru." Usagi said getting up and giving Hotaru a final wave before following Professor Tomoe out.

End Chapter 22