Disclaimer: I do not own .ed and any of the .ed characters. Why do you keep asking me this?

A/N: Sorry about the lateness of this update. It's been a crazy year. Hope you enjoy! If you have questions, praise, or suggestions, please review.

Chapter 2: A Knight in…Pink Armor?

Dumbstruck, Mimori opened her mouth to say something but just as soon closed it again when she realized she didn't know where to begin or to whom she should address first. Mimori then cautiously leaned over to sneak a peek at Ryuhou from behind Cougar's back and instantly regretted it.

He looks like he's ready to kill someone.

His handsome face was now warped with pale fury. He held his head high, with his jaw squared and jutting out; his eyes narrowed in suspicion burning in phoenix fire.

It's the exact same look! The same look he has…when he faces the native alter Kazuma, Mimori realized with a worried frown. She had seen it enough by now to know Ryuhou was ready to fight. As if she needed further proof, the jerking motions of his right hand caught her eye, drawing her attention down to it.

He balled it into a small fist, followed by the other.

This is so bad, Mimori thought as she set herself safely back behind Cougar. She looked around to see if anyone else had noticed the commotion. Sure enough, several couples were in the process of getting up and moving hurriedly away, hand-in-hand. The braver ones remained where they were but kept throwing curious looks over at them. Mister Cougar's sudden presence appeared to have set off a chemical reaction. Even if the other people on the boardwalk hadn't heard him, they apparently sensed the sudden shift in tonight's atmosphere. The words hanging in the night air just long enough to charge the molecules in it with tension and fear.

And excitement as well, noted Mimori, spotting several teenage onlookers, leaning over the railing on the upper level, peering down at them and pointing. Goofy grins plastered on their young faces while talking excitedly to one another about something. That something, she miserably assumed, was the chance to see a fight involving an alter user no less, considering how Cougar's standard purple and white HOLY uniform was such an obvious dead give away.

Mimori knew what had to be done. It was a common scene found in any one of her romance novels she read late at night while in bed. The beautiful heroine, with tears flowing freely down her flushed cheeks, would step in-between the men (before or during their dual) and beg them to stop. Her legs, however, refused to obey her and she didn't know why. This was her big chance, after all to prove herself to Ryuhou.

So why can't I move?

Before she could sort out her thoughts and feelings, she heard Ryuhou's voice cut in to them; apparently he had recovered from the shock of the interruption, along with some of his composure resembling that of an emotionless robot. Only his voice betrayed him.

"Officer Cougar! Why are you here?" he demanded.

"Why, I've come to take Miss Minori ("Her name's Mimori," Ryuhou corrected for her, his red eyes narrowing into snakelike slits.) home of course, he replied simply, as if he hadn't been interrupted.

After a moment of hesitation, Ryuhou, forcing a small smile on, said through gritted teeth, "Is that so? How kind of you. But that won't be necessary. I'll take her back"— he moved towards them with his hand reaching out once again for her—"Miss Kir-

Cougar held up his hand to stop him, "Hold on there, Speedy."

A "Huh?" issued forth from the HOLY Captain who paused in mid-movement. "Officer, move out of my way."

"I don't think so," he answered, shaking his head from side to side.

"That's an order, Cougar! Stand down," Ryuhou commanded. "Miss Kiryu is not your concern."

Cougar pointed his finger at him like a gun. "That's where you're wrong, Ryuhou." He removed a pair of pink sunglasses from his coat pocket and put them on, all the while saying, "Well, you see, it's like this: I've got my own orders to follow, Ryuhou. Which means looking after our newest family member, Miss Min—

Again, Ryuhou broke in, yelling, "That's Mimori!" Realizing his mistake, he tried to take it back, "I mean, "Miss Kir—a faint blush creeping into his cheeks—"Just shut the hell up, Cougar!"

"Fine by me, I'm tired of wasting my time on you," he answered. "You're a hopeless cause anyway."

The two men glared hatefully at one another for what seemed like eternity to Mimori. She saw Ryuhou retreat a few steps back. Smirking, he called out, "I never figured you for the jealous type, Cougar."

Cougar shrugged the comment off, while a wide maniacal smile stretched across his face, as he looked down at his feet. "There's a lot you don't know about me." He tapped the pavement with the tips of his black boots several times. Fascinated, Mimori silently watched as a shimmering light crept up both his legs until they were completely engulfed in the weird fog. It cleared almost as fast as it had spread revealing pink armor latched onto them, all the way up to his knees. "Shall we dance?"

The guilt of her role in causing all of this surprised her, hitting her like a punch in the stomach and forcing all the air out of her lungs. She bowed her head letting her raven tresses hang like a curtain around her, shielding her pale face from prying eyes while she tried to catch her breath. For a while, she was able to forget about the hot pain in her arm. The guilt swelling up inside her replacing it when she imagined what the HOLY Commander, both Cougar and Ryuhou's boss, Martin Zigmarl would say if he could see them now. Seeing them here, like this, an outsider would never guess that they were both teammates employed by the same organization. Instead, they looked more like mortal enemies prepared to fight to the death—all because of her.

What have I done? She jerked her head back up. By now, both men had their bodies positioned in fighting stances, each focused completely and solely on the other. Neither moved, nor spoke.

And then it happened. One minute, Cougar stood in front of her, and the next, he was gone.

Mimori hadn't even seen him move when he launched himself at Ryuhou. But suddenly, he was kneeling in front of the other man, and almost instantly, the HOLY Captain went flying up into the air. Blood spurting from his mouth as his head snapped back. Cougar then jumped up and kicked him in the center of his stomach, knocking him backwards several feet, a cloud of dirt rising up along his path until he skidded to a stop. Around them, people began to scream and scatter.

She heard one man yelling, "It's an alter user. Run for your lives! He'll kill us all!" But she couldn't tell if he meant Ryuhou or Cougar or both. Either way, Commander Zigmarl would be hearing about this tomorrow, and they would all be in trouble. Cougar. You idiot!

"Ryuhou!" a shout came from close behind Mimori.

Somewhere in her mind, she registered the voice to belonging to Scheris before the blue-haired alter user came to a sudden halt beside her. She had forgotten all about her. The young girl's face was flushed and she was panting heavily. She bent over clutching at both her bare knees. Like Cougar, she too was in uniform.

"Are you okay?" Mimori asked her.

Scheris's words came in-between short gasps, "Ryuhou…is…he…okay?"

Ignoring the familiar stab of jealousy, she turned away, back to Ryuhou's unmoving body. "I'm not sure." After a minute or so, however, she saw him sit up, shake his head, and take a swipe at his mouth with his coat sleeve.

She heaved an audible sigh of relief. "He hasn't gotten up yet, but he's moving."

Scheris coughed. "Thank goodness," she said softly, straightening up.

While Ryuhou struggled slowly to get to his feet, Cougar performed several amazing acrobatic back flips until he landed back in front of them in a crouch. This time, he was facing them both. He instantly sprung up flinging out his arms towards the sky like a circus performer in front of an audience awaiting applause and cheers. If Mimori were able to and if the circumstances had been different, she might have considered clapping, but at the moment…

Cougar lifted up his sunglasses and placed them on top of his orange head, his eyes focused only on her. "How's it going, Miss Minori?" he asked, grinning stupidly down at her.

…All she really wanted to do was slap him.

From deep within her, whispered a silky voice, Why are you angry at Cougar? He's just doing his job after all.

But that doesn't make it right! He lied about his feelings for me. He never wanted any sort of relationship with me. Just like Ryuhou. "You lied to me," she said so softly that she didn't think he had heard her until she saw his smile falter and his eyes widen in comprehension.

He looked away from her refusing to meet her piercing gaze. "Miss Minori…I'm sorry," he apologized, ruffling his hair. Twins spot of red manifested themselves on either cheek.

Scheris glanced from her to Cougar and then back again, confused. Neither offering her an explanation.

Finally, she heard Scheris mutter half-heartedly, "Showoff." Just before she ran over to check on Ryuhou, leaving the two of them alone.

For once, she ignored his mispronunciation of her name as she rose shakily to her feet. "Mister Cougar, I was right, wasn't I? You have been following me. Why?" she asked. "Was this all Commander Zigmarl's ideal? Or, did my father—

Mimori broke off abruptly as another wave of pain crashed into her body, drenching it in a cold sweat. Faintly, she heard Cougar say something (her name, perhaps?), but her ears popping so loudly prevented her from hearing him, or anything for that matter. She lifted her injured wrist away from her chest, wincing at the sight. Her wrist was now swollen to the size of an orange and the skin around it had taken on a bluish black tint. Clenching her teeth, she fought back the acidic bile rising in her throat. Throwing up in front of everyone, especially Ryuhou, was definitely a big no-no. She would rather die first than live with that embarrassment.

Suddenly, the exhaustion that had been building up over the past few days started to catch up with her. Her vision began to dim and she yawned. As the world faded to black, the last thing she recalled seeing was the ground tilting up to meet her. Unbalanced, her body swayed back and forth for an instant, just before her legs gave out once more.

But she never hit the ground.

Mimori waited and still, nothing happen. "What the…?" That's when she became aware of strong arms holding her up: one gripping her waist tightly from around her lower back and the other hooked beneath her knees. Still blinded, she could not tell who had her in his lap. It had to be Cougar, she told herself. No one could move that fast, not even Ryuhou.

Apparently sensing her inner confusion, Cougar decided to speak, "Miss Minori? Can you hear me?"

Licking her dry chapped lips, she answered automatically, "It's Mimori." She bit her lip hard enough to cause it to bleed, desperately forcing herself to remain awake. The nausea passed and her vision cleared enough so could make out Cougar's concerned face hovering inches above heart began to race. He was so close to her that he could feel his hot breath on her face. Also, she could see his eye color wasn't normal like his hair.

Without thinking, she told him, "You've got green eyes. They're beautiful."

"H-Hey now," he said, sounding almost nervous. "Isn't that the man's line?" Before she could reply, he hoisted her up in his arms easily. "Do you think you can walk? It would be faster if I carried you and ran."

"Um…" she hesitated, thinking things over.His alter must allow him to manipulate the speed of his body as well as his vehicles. We could be at his car in less than five seconds probably. Maybe less. Mimori's stomach flip-flopped at the thought, remembering his speed attack on Ryuhou. Nor could she could forget the countless times she had thrown up after riding with him. Hoping not to insult him, she offered him a weak smile. "If it's okay with you, I think I can walk."

A/N: This chapter was a lot longer than what I originally planned and not as much action as I had wanted, but there are more chapters to come with LOTS more action. Oh, yeah! You wouldn't believe how many times I had to revise this into something halfway readable. I also changed my style a little bit. The thoughts are in italics as well. Hopefully, you liked this chapter. But I won't know unless you push that little button. C'mon, pretty please.