Flashpoint and Other Analogies

Minako and Kazuo have a belated Valentine's meetup, involving gifts of chocolate, jewelry, information, speculation, and as usual, vast confusion.

Date: 2018-02-19
Pose Count: 15
Kazuo Takeba 2018-02-19 20:42:50 88895
Some things are traditional, in their various ways. There are particular places that people from particular schools go. There are particular days that they go there, and particular times. For instance, there are particular times of a Monday afternoon that someone looking for a Seiyou student who might be in the mood for sweets might, perhaps, stop by the Akimoto family's confectionary. Or keep an eye on it from outside.

Or possibly Kazuo's just been making a habit of surveilling the place in the afternoon because the idea of actually initiating a conversation or sending a message for purely social reasons, instead of practical or information-sharing, has dropped back out of his brain this week for lack of regularly being hammered back in.

Either way, what it comes down to is: it's spring, there's enough breeze to help clear traffic exhaust from the streets but not so much as to make 'pleasantly cool' turn into 'annoyingly cold,' it's not due to rain all afternoon, and there's a familiar overly-tall university student with overly-white hair appearing to display a really, really unlikely degree of interest in the cream puffs.
Minako Aino 2018-02-19 21:22:50 88896
    Minako Aino is out. Artemis is with her, riding on her shoulder like some sort of werid shoulder cat. Like always. Usually, she likes to leave Artemis at home to do whatever it is moon-cats do in their downtime. She assumes important cat bussiness.

    Minako busts into the store with a jingle of the door's little bell and tip toes over to the case. She's about to place her nose against it. Probably, when she peeks up.

    Wait. Huh. "Kazuo?" she asks, squinting a bit. This is not a place one expects to find him regularly. So she makes an assumption: Mamoru really, really wanted cream puffs and sent him out to get some. Or. He's trying to catch someone. Like her. Minako can play those games too. "Hi!" she finally says cheerfully. Artemis also slyly waves a paw. Sneaky kitty can't talky talk in public don'tcha know.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-02-19 21:31:43 88897
The mooncat is with her. Of course the mooncat is with her. Somehow, the mooncat always knows.

(Kazuo is perfectly aware that the mooncats can track him anywhere he goes, because Luna flat-out told him that she was installing a tracker in the boys' communicators. But it's somehow more satisfying to hold just a little bit of an imagined grudge against Artemis's obvious bizarre powers. Ahem.)

Kazuo steps back to yield pride of place to Minako, and also to give him space to bow to her with his usual solemnity. "Good afternoon," he answers. "It's a pleasure to see you. Were you here looking for anything in particular?" There's just a little flicker of his eyes toward Artemis as he says that. Maybe he thinks Artemis is the one who really, really wanted cream puffs.

In fairness, this is not impossible.
Minako Aino 2018-02-19 21:51:37 88898
    The mooncat is with her for a good reason. Mainly that there's a weird girl claiming she's Sailor Earth around and Minako would like someone around in case she gets accousted or something worse to relay information. She still needs to talk to Ace about an idea she has. She needs someone quicker than she is.

    "Me? Nah I come here every so often because it's right down the street for school." she says. "On the way home." she insists.

    She's totally right about that. "Oh! Right." she says as she digs into her backpack and then turns around, dig, dig, dig. She turns back around. "So I tried to make this myself but it kept coming out all wrong!?" she says. "So I just kind of bought it instead." she says, slipping over a medium sized bar of some sort wrapped in gold foil. "From an chocolatier in town who made it." she says.

    "Valentine's time dontcha know." she says. "I mean most people only think it's the fourteenth but it's all month. I know. I'm the love goddess so I can decide these things." she winks.

    Artemis visibly rolls his eyes.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-02-19 22:14:11 88899
When she slips over the bar of some sort, Kazuo lifts both hands to take it, not one; he captures her hand for a moment between his --

Only for a moment, mind. With a thread of his attention directed to wariness of Artemis, lest the mooncat decide it's time to 'accidentally' fall off Minako's shoulder and open the back of Kazuo's hand with a claw or eight.

"Thank you," he says. "For the gift, and for trying." He almost-smiles for a moment, just around the eyes ... and then actually does, his mouth turning up at one corner. "And, I hope, for forgiving me in advance when I have to take the same measures."

He's let go her hand well before now, which means that he has one free hand to delve into a coat pocket with. "I've had something waiting for you for a while, too. I meant it to go to you at New Year's, but ... well. Interruptions happen. It's one of a pair." -- a glance to Artemis, as he offers Minako the little jewelry box. "No, I don't have the other one. Usagi does." And back to Minako. "I thought ... well-wishes rarely hurt."
Minako Aino 2018-02-19 22:48:57 88900
    Artemis has better things to do than claw Kunzite hands. He does give Kunzite an evil eye. Minako waves this off. "Don't mind him. He's cranky because some Shenzhen bootleg Mamoru-kun visited us." she says slyly. She obviously means Sailor Earth. "-and he's cranky and protective right now." she adds.

    "It's Caradmon Rose Infused Dark Chocolate." she says. Then she blinks and looks down at the box and eyes it a moment as she peeks inside to see what it is, as she eyes Kunzite. "Sorry. I had to go handle something that night." she asides. "I mean my mom wanted me home." she slyly says. "On New Years. Not next year. I refuse!" she exclaims.

    She does examine what's inside the box though.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-02-19 23:28:56 88901
The box is plain white, no store or brand name adorning it. Inside, laid on a little layer of puffed cushioning, is a pendant on a chain. The frame of it is heart-shaped, one half golden, one half white-gold. Curls inside the golden half support and contrast with tiny heart-cut diamond, silver-white and sparkling. Its mirror on the other half, vividly bright against the white gold, is an orange sapphire. The two are angled just enough to be set as if cuddled up against each other, the diamond more prominent by position, the orange more prominent by color, leaving the two of them equally bright overall.

"Handling mothers is important work," Kazuo says with that same quiet gravity, which may very well prompt another eye-roll from Artemis. Mooncats: more eloquent when they're not talking than most humans are with their mouths open. "Necessary, valued, and important to ensure being able to get to the next party. At which I will have had a quest indeed, to find something suitable to offer you in answer to chocolate like that."

He draws a breath; lets it out; glances aside from Minako and back to her, before he takes up the other thread she mentioned. "That bootleg seems to have been making the rounds. Kyouko had an incident a few weeks ago, too."
Minako Aino 2018-02-19 23:58:56 88902
    Minak Aino takes in the jewelery for a long moment as she eyes it. She takes a deep breath and nods curtly, taking in the symbolism of the colors and material as she gently offers to Kazuo. Why back? "Would you please help me put it on then?" she asks, perhaps just a bit teasingly. They're in an off corner of the store. Near Valentine's Day. They're not causing an issue.

    Artemis does roll his eyes. He does eye Minako though as Minako talks about Sailor Earth.

    "Yeah. Something isn't adding up. She's familiar enough to be disconcerting. But it's like someone took two canons of like a same TV series and mixed them together into one. So it's familiar but the story is different." she taps her bottom lip. "Like she says we trained for years and years like centuries but that can't be because I never interacted with 'The Royalty of Earth' really that much. Or like at all back then I think, until The Princess starting sneaking down there." she adds.

    "I have this idea. Of making Ace take a costume change and act like he knows Earth. from the back then time. See how she responds. Or see if it draws out someone else." she asides.

    Artemis rolls his eyes at that idea too. Mainly for the wording of make him rather than ask or suggest.

    "Hrm. That'd be about the time she came to the Volleyball Court in Seiyou looking for me. I dislocated my arm to make her heal me. It feels like Mamoru. But it doesn't. Shenzhen bootleg- like I said." she offers. "Close, but it feels different and off." she asides.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-02-20 00:16:17 88903
Kazuo takes the chain gently, and shifts position to assist. "If you'll take care of the difficult part," he answers Minako. "I wouldn't dare try to keep your hair clear of the clasp alone." Nevermind his own hair. Hers is longer, and more full, and he's not about to try to cheat with the trace of his powers he still holds in this form. Not on her. Not, as is a theme, with Artemis on her shoulder.

Besides, it keeps them close enough to keep their voices down.

"Yes. Exactly. She made a similar claim to Kyouko, of having ruled for centuries. Wherever she's getting her information, it's someone who doesn't know there was a difference, and knows more of your realm than ours." Kazuo settles the clasp carefully in place, and adds quietly, "I like that idea, with Ace. The more so if we can make sure he has backup in case of trouble. I was considering somewhat more direct a confrontation, if she came to me. But that would get in the way of your plan; I'll avoid that and think of something else."

Silence for a moment as he withdraws his hands. And then says, still that quiet, "Mamoru's healing isn't reliable, now. He has the energy to fuel it. He only can't always reach it."
Minako Aino 2018-02-20 00:40:33 88904
    Minako is more than happy to lift her voluminous hair out of the way, and yes. It keeps them close. That's good for many reasons in Minako's book. But more importantly, it lets them talk. She frowns. "Have we considered the possibility this may be one of Riventon's clones? Like with Makoto?" she asks. "Has he been acting stranger than usual?" she wonders. "I've been trying to stay away from him because Ami-chan asked me nicely too." she says innoncently with an eyeflash flutter. "But when it comes to clones right now that's the first thought that enters my head the more I think about it." she offers.

    "I mean if she meets you, and is difficult enough to warrant a fight or confrontation, do it." she says. "But if we can confuse her with someone that claims to know her and her predicament-- and with enough of that little magical itch at the back of your head some of us have? It might be enough to confuse her. Enough to either get her to remember something. Show that it's a ruse. Or bring out some handler.

    She taps her bottom lip. "Doesn't Riventon's vampire visit the Mamoru's place often enough to visit either your or him? Has she been doing anything odd? I mean. If I wanted to clone someone and had a friend that let me into their place all the time- I'd have an easy way to get what I need." she offers.

    She does frown a bit at that statement. "So this is affecting Mamoru?" she asks curiously. "Ya know..." she asks.

    "This kind of reminds me of an American comic I saw..." she says thoughtfully. "Where like The Flash had to go back in time? But he couldn't because his villian, Professor Zoom was shiponing off the Speed Force. And he couldn't access all his speed until like Old Man Thomas Wayne Batman shot him in the head to fix time." she says.

T"....I'm not suggesting shooting Earth in the head. Yet." she says just a bit teasingly. Artemis also face palms.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-02-20 00:58:13 88905
"It's possible," Kazuo says quietly. "Riventon's been largely quiet of late. He did cooperate with some others in a recent fight, including evacuating a number of us from a distinctly unwelcoming location ... Mamoru included. He could have left us; we wouldn't have known. He chose not to. And there was a report, a year ago, that his servers were raided and some of the relevant documents stolen."

His breath sighs out, slow. "But you and I are thinking in parallel, where it comes to that. He does have a little of that half-confused information. And Lacrima did notice that Mamoru had been behaving oddly at the New Year's party, and did ask after him. Which, as with the rest ... could be only honest concern. Or could mean something. You're right. We need to identify her handler." That she has one is, apparently, no longer in any doubt from Kazuo's point of view.

He gives a brief nod to her more direct question. "He stopped being able to reliably tell where Usagi is in early October. Started having occasional more direct trouble in late October. Over the last few months it's turned into having no access to his abilities more often than not. We're keeping an eye on him. He's been studying to pass the time. We're on break right now, and he's still writing essays; I'm half sure the one he just finished won't be due until June."

Voluntary unnecessary advance schoolwork. During break. Shooting Mamoru in the head right now might possibly be a mercy.

But that Kazuo neither asks about one of Minako's stranger analogies, nor looks in the faintest confused by it, suggests that he might follow that one, too. Well. Maybe except the Old Man Thomas Wayne Batman part. That one gets a blink.
Minako Aino 2018-02-20 01:13:53 88906
    Minako Aino doesn't explain it. Kazuo will have to go read The Flashpoint arc on his own time. That'll never happen. Maybe. She nods. "Yeah. I think she's been created at this point. With someone who knows a little about the whole mess but not everything." she asides. "Someone did it on purpose. They want to cause issues or they're after something which they needed a copy of Mamoru for because Mamoru wouldn't be complicit in it so they made their own key so to speak, I think. I mean that's my best guess." she offers.

    "So we need to draw that person out, or someone connected."

    "Well I imagine that, people act a certain way around a ball of dark energy with a soul in hopes they don't get drained or hurt and when you act differently, it makes them question things. So it could be honest concern. But it could also be a check in." she offers.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-02-20 01:23:15 88907
Kazuo must be careful never to let a word slip about this, or he will find himself trapped in a small room with Neil, a stack of trade paperbacks, and gleefully malicious enthusiasm. If he's really unlucky, there will be pictures.

Kazuo inclines his head to Minako. "He's usually careful not to touch people," he says quietly, "and twice careful not to touch her, not out of any concern for malice, only not to taunt her. He let himself have contact, on New Year's. Granted, it's also true that he sometimes fortifies himself against parties, so that he can do that. I didn't find it necessary to mention any more than that. It's ... worth trying to avoid her having to confront her divided loyalties, if possible."

About her best guess -- sometimes a moment of quiet, and then a nod, is more confirmation than a five-page essay. "And Ace is the best choice, much as I dislike putting him at risk. The rest of us have already declared ourselves, one way or another."
Minako Aino 2018-02-20 01:43:02 88908
    Minako Aino nods. "Yeah that's why I think Ace works. No one except me and you know who Ace is. And even if this weird double identity is exposed he's still just Phantom Ace under that at the time. And he'll hopefully still have some of that pull that me or you have in regards to the magic connection thing." she offers.

    "Basically. Whoever this is, is playing Chess and we need to play Three Dimensional Chess back at them, I think. Play within the rules but put our own piece in. It'll make them screw up at best." she insists.

    She frowns at Kazuo. "Do you consider her a friend? The vampire I mean." she says. "Eventually. Shes going to need a make choice sooner or later. Either she's gonna be put into a position where she has to really harm any of us beyond like a fight. Or she's going to need to tell Riventon and the others there to eat it."

    She eyes the necklace though and nods. "This is super pretty. Thank you Kazuo-kun~" she says as she dips up and gives a quick cheek smooch. Damn anyone watching.

    "Is there anything else I need to know? Otherwise I'm pretty sure I'm about to..." beep beep beep! "...get a text from my mother wonder where I am." she laments really loudly.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-02-20 01:58:44 88909
No-one except the two of them. The little nod tells Minako that Kazuo hasn't yet found a reason to tell even Mamoru about it. Another nod to her comment about changing the game, and a little twitch of another almost-smile.

And then Minako asks the question about Lacrima, and the hint of gentleness fades back away.

"We can't avoid that she'll need to come to a decision eventually," he says quietly. "And we can't change that Riventon made it possible for her to retain her sanity. But a little at a time, we've been able to change where she stands. If she had to make a choice between Riventon and us, yes. I don't think that would go well for us. If she had to make a choice between Riventon and Ariel ... that might be different. And a few months from now that might be more different still. So we stay ready. But in the mean time, we do what we can."

He glances to the necklace as she does; back to her a moment after. "And thank you for the choco--"

The quick cheek smooch interrupts him, and he simply stays interrupted for a moment, blinking. Connection failed. Retrying in 3... 2... 1...

The beeping of her phone is enough to restart his ability to do things like 'move' and 'speak,' and he gestures toward the display cases. "May I get you a suitable excuse?" he asks. Because no mother is ever going to wonder what else her daughter was doing if she comes home with a bag of sugar under her arm.