Disclaimer: Neither W.I.T.C.H. Nor Sailor Moon nor anything else that might pop up belong to the writer of this story.
Author's Note, Taeniaea: Sad. And even more secrets revealed.
Author's Note, Rimshooter: And to think this was supposed to be a cool-down chapter...
Chapter VIII: Matters of the Heart, The Stage is Set
In the dim twilight, a portal opened itself up in an inconspicuous alleyway. Moments later, it vanished, depositing Renee and Marielle unceremoniously onto the ground.
"Brings back memories, doesn't it?" Renee asked as she untangled herself from her icy friend and stood, offering a hand up.
"Yeah," The water user acknowledged, taking the hand, "Didn't even use it, and the Heart went out of its way to make our journey... that much more pleasant."
Renee shrugged, "It must love us that much." She quipped, before taking in their surroundings. "So... this is the second capital? It's kind of..." She trailed off, motioning about as she tried to find the word she was looking for.
"Crowded? Dirty?" Marielle offered, stepping out of the alleyway and surveying the small throng of people filtering about, even this late at night. "How long do you think we have until someone realizes what we just did?"
Renee shrugged dusting herself off, "I don't know. If they were actively watching... well, we'd be under arms right now, I'm sure."
"Very reassuring," Her companion drawled, looking about the roofs and ends of the streets, "Where is she?"
Renee shrugged, playing with her strawberry-blond hair, "Up, down, left, right... Nowhere in sight."
"..." Marielle stared at her.
"Come on, I've been laying in bed for the past couple centuries – I'm not exactly at top form."
"...You just wan to explore the second capital, don't you?"
Renee pouted, "I'm covered in dust, wearing an outfit that looks like it's seen hell – and probably has – and we're going to meet Hime-sama for the first time in... well... I don't know, but still!"
"...In other words, you want to play." The other flinched at Marielle's accusations, and her pout grew more pronounced, "Centuries old... and you're still a child after all, huh?"
"That's mean!" The shorter girl objected, "I am a kid!"
"So you admit it."
"No matter how much time passes for me – you'll still be older." Renee retorted impetuously.
The air suddenly grew much colder, and Renee shivered, waving her hands. "Alright, alright! I admit defeat!"
"Which way is she?" Marielle questioned again. Seeing the cat-like gleam in Renee's eyes, she made a hasty addition to that question, "And if you lie about it, I'll treat you to some raw ice."
The blond winced, before pointing toward the end of the street. "That way." She muttered, irritated.
"Good. Seeing as the city is still standing and the people aren't engulfed in mass hysteria, we can assume she's not on a rampage. Maybe we can prevent such an occurrence." Noticing Renee's uncharacteristic lack of response, a small smirk appeared on her face, "What, giving me the cold shoulder?"
"That was terrible, even for you."
General View (Outer's Residence)
"Explain. Now." Will demanded, thoroughly tired and irritated by everything that had just happened. It might have just been a trick of the light, but for a moment Pluto could swear she saw Will's eyes glimmer ominously... and the Guardians weren't even in their transformed states at the moment – the magic that was responsible apparently have finally worked its way through their systems... for now.
"Hotaru is Saturn's reincarnation, and her powers are very reactive to her emotions." The senshi of time asserted, "I don't know what memories she was experiencing at that moment, so I can't tell you for sure why. From what I can tell her past life was mixing with her present, and it was stressing her mind. As a result, her powers left her control."
"The ghost, spirit... whatever... said it would kill you if it weren't for Hotaru – why?"
Pluto shrugged, "Any number of reasons. From a past grudge, to a present one... We've never exactly... gotten along, per say."
"But..." Taranee inserted, "Hotaru called you Setsuna-mama..."
"I didn't say we didn't get along with Hotaru. Bear in mind, it also said she's the only reason we're not dead." The eldest senshi responded, "We... adopted her after the incident."
"You didn't bother to see if she still had any other family, though, did you?" Will pressed, only for it to be deflected.
"It's best we leave that for Hotaru to explain herself." Pluto stated, confusing Will even more.
"Hate to interrupt," Irma cut in, "but this one's been shaking ever since you started talking about whatever incident."
"Something you want to say, small lady?" Pluto queried.
The girl looked from Hotaru's sleeping form, to her locket, before closing it. "She saved me. Without me..."
Pluto put a hand on Chibiusa's shoulder, stilling her into silence, "Without you, she would still be wracked with nightmares."
"But they wouldn't have shown up in the first place if I hadn't been around." The girl persisted, and Pluto's brow rose.
"Or they might have anyway. Time is a funny thing – you never know what may or may not happen as consequence to your actions... and even if you do, it's still hard to tell if it's worth it or not."
"Taru..." Will started, "...wrote about you, in her letter. She was... ecstatic, almost – you gave her a friend, so don't look down on that friendship."
There was a period of silence then, before Will suddenly made for the door. "I'll be back in a bit... just need to clear my head."
"Sure you won't get lost?" Neptune asked, and in response Will jingled the pendant around her neck.
"Even if I do... something tells me this won't let me stay that way." With that, the red-head vanished through the doorway.
Venus frowned and made to follow her, only to find Irma leaning in the doorway. "Give her some alone time will you?"
Venus blinked, how did she move that fast? "You don't know how strong those three are, though – it's really dangerous out there."
Irma shrugged, "She won't go very far, and how likely is it they'll be this close to this house, anyway?"
The leader of the inner senshi fixed Irma with a dead stare, "More likely than you'd think."
"So we keep our eyes peeled – Mercury over there can handle that, right?"
Defeated, Venus let out a frustrated sigh.
Will (Streets of Juuban)
It didn't take Will long to stop.
After walking a block or two, she found a large park with a pond in the center.
It was as Will closed her eyes, leaning back on a bench she'd found, that the air suddenly grew much colder.
Eyes snapping open, Will noticed three things. One – the Heart of Kandricar was glowing again, even more brightly than before. Two – there was a girl about Hotaru's age in front of her with a disturbingly happy smile on her face, clad in dirty, torn up clothes. Three – the bench she was on was slowly being covered in frost.
"So you're the one she's chosen," The girl stated, leaning uncomfortably close to Will's face. The red-head blinked. She might not have been a guardian very long, but her danger senses were screaming at her.
The fact that the Heart was responding to the girl in front of her did nothing to settle her nerves. "Well, I can't really be very judgmental, all things considered." The girl stated, leaning back and folding her arms. "I was going to go straight to her side right away, but here you are. I want to see if you're capable, so..." She continued holding her hand out... and conjuring a small ball of lightning. "Show me how strong you are!" She exclaimed, tossing the ball at Will.
Will didn't have time to dodge... but fortunately, the same aura that protected her before sprung to life, deflecting the blast off to the side and giving Will the time she needed to gain some distance.
"That's cheap!" The girl complained, "You rely too much on the Heart!" To demonstrate, she held out her arm, and lightning snaked its way down it. The attack shot off the girl's extended limb, racing toward Will only to impact against the barrier and be knocked off to the side... and then another of the same attacks raced through while the barrier was flickering, striking Will's left arm. "You have a power of your own in you. Use it."
The frost-covered girl walked over to the younger then, giving a Will an unreadable stare before placing her hand on her shoulder. "We have... visitors." She muttered coldly, voice laced with displeasure.
Before the younger of Will's sudden antagonists could respond, the elder grabbed her around the waist, a large spike of ice appearing and carrying the two up and backward... just as a sudden blast of fire tore the spot they'd just been standing apart, causing the spike to collapse in a shower of white mist and rain. "Fia," The ice-user's dispassionate voice called out, "No. Whatever you are, who wears Fia's face, do not interfere."
'What does that mean?' Will wondered, bewildered. It wasn't long before Fia... or not Fia... responded with the fury that was apparently trademark for her.
"Pft." The fire user snorted as she stepped past Will, prompting the red-head to start at her proximity. "Don't interfere? What bullshit. This girl is under Hime-sama's protection – a hair on her head goes missing and Hime-sama makes my head goes missing."
"..." The two of them stared each other down for several moments before a new voice cut in.
"Please retreat, or surrender." Rumina requested, appearing in Fia's shadow – the violet pinpricks under her eyes glowing eerily in the darkness. "This is a pointless battle. We outnumber you."
"Let me go!" The lightning-girl pleaded, prompting the ice-user to glance down at her. "This – these – I won't just let this sit by!"
"No. The senshi are coming. We're leaving. Goodbye for now, Not-Fia, Not-Rumina," The girl intoned, vanishing into the various shards of ice at her feet.
"Tch," Fia grumbled, "They got away."
Rumina shrugged, "Just as well. We're leaving too, Fia."
"But-!" The fire user started, only for Rumina to reach out of the shadow and grab Fia's ankle, dragging her through with her.
Moments later, the inner senshi arrived on scene. "What happened here?" Moon questioned, "It's summer – and the pond's frozen!"
"Someone attacked Will, obviously," Mars interjected as Mercury gave the area a brief once over.
"The attackers have fled, as well," The senshi of water noted, bringing her computer out and starting a more thorough scan. While Mercury was busy with that, Venus and Jupiter walked over to Will; the former offering her a hand up.
"You look like you got hit by one of my thunderbolts." Jupiter noted as Will accepted Venus' hand, careful not to jar her left arm, which was still slightly singed.
"I kinda did." She admitted, "There was this girl. She attacked me out of nowhere, and used lightning. Said something about me relying on the Heart too much."
Venus paled slightly, 'That sounds like... but that's impossible! Will has the Heart – there's no way...' Holding back a gulp, Venus posed the given question, "What did she look like?"
"She was wearing a dirty, torn-up dress, and had long, strawberry-blond hair, with dark brown eyes." Will noted, "There was someone else with her too – they're responsible for the ice. Long hair covered in ice, sapphire eyes."
"Mary and Renee." Venus breathed out, "Did they have any lines under their eyes? Any markings at all?" She questioned hastily.
"Not that I could see." Will replied, "But... the one with sapphire eyes was covered in frost. It was like looking at a walking ice sculpture with color."
"Kaguya?" Jupiter questioned, garnering the others attention immediately.
"No," Venus shook her head, shivering, "Worse, in a way. At least she's not out to freeze the planet... I think."
"You think," Mars, Will, Jupiter and Mercury all noted dryly, in unison.
Venus shrugged, "She's one of the former Keepers. Judging from Fia's reaction to Moon... I have no idea what her motives are."
"Quit beating around the bush. Who are we facing, exactly?" Mars cut in.
"I can't say for sure, but it's probably Renee and Marielle – Former Keeper of the Heart and Keeper of Water, respectively. And... impossible as this sounds... since they lack the markings, it's possible they're the originals, and not reincarnations, or clones, or whatever the dark guardians really are."
Mercury's computer beeped again, and she glanced at the screen. "The Mercury Computer is confirming it. The energy signature here matches up with one, 'Renee of Saturn: Keeper of Heart,' and one 'Marielle of Saturn: Keeper of Water."
"Fia said something about me being under 'Hime-sama's' protection, and Marielle said something about Fia not really being Fia..." Will inserted, recalling the odd conversation between the dark guardians and the ice maiden.
"Wait – Fia was here?" Moon asked, latching onto the familiar name, "As in; 'I'm going to burn you alive on spot for slighting my Princess in a past life' Fia?"
Will nodded, "Oddly enough... she and Rumina showed up to protect me from the other two. When asked to step out, she said, and I quote: "A single hair on her head goes missing and Hime-sama makes my head goes missing!"
"That's impos-" Moon started, only to cut herself off, remembering Saturn's rather... pointed refusal to let her help in the battle against Pharoh 90. "Well... maybe not so much." She muttered quietly.
"What do you mean?" Will questioned, "This is my little sister we're talking about, she'd never-"
"Hotaru, no." Mars conceded, "But Saturn is a bit less... scrupulous."
"Though Fia might still have been exaggerating," Venus assured, seeing the faint horror on Will's face, "She's deathly afraid of Saturn's wrath. They all were, actually – even before her powers awoke."
"That... doesn't reassure me at all." Will noted, before her eyes widened, "Renee said she was looking for somebody, and that she was going to go straight to her until she saw me!"
Venus blinked. Renee had the ability to home in on the other keeper's locations – particularly Saturn. "Crap. We need to get back to the Outers' House."
Outside Outers' House (Renee)
"Drat," Renee muttered, prompting a curious gaze from Mary.
"She's surrounded by the other Outers, and the new guardians. We can't talk to her without drawing their attention, and I don't want to deal with them until after we talk with her." Renee elaborated, prompting Mary to sigh.
"They're not going to let her out of their sight." She noted, prompting Renee to mimic her earlier sigh.
"Of course not. We have to bide our time – talking to her will be impossible at the moment."
"At least she doesn't seem to be volatile. I can't feel anything right now."
Renee nodded, "There is that, so at least we have the time to bide... so, does this mean we can see the city now?"
Mary palmed her face.
"Damn it!" Fia fumed, "Finally find a nice opponent to vent on and they run away. Again!"
Rumina glanced at Fia impassively, "Prometheus once defied the heavens and bestowed the knowledge of fire to humans. As a result, those who wield fire are cursed by the gods. Of course, the idiocy of Men in their use of the holy flame only incensed the gods further, prompting them to chain Prometheus to a rock, to be eternally tortured."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Fia fumed, glaring at Rumina, only for the earth user to continue staring at her impassively. Blinking, Fia suddenly remembered who she was talking to, and the fact they were in a greenhouse. As if to reinforce this, several large plants seemed to tremble slightly.
"It means," Rumina responded, "That you should be more careful, lest you get yourself burned. Last I checked, Onee-sama didn't like being attacked. She likes it even less when someone else gets caught in the crossfire."
Fia stared. Then she blinked, and blinked again – the color draining from her face. "B-but Onee-sama's not here! She wasn't summoned!"
The hazel-eyed girl shrugged, "We can't say that – our eyes can see only so much, our ears hear so many things, and our fingers stretch so far; who knows what may lay hidden in the dark, out of reach, and yet to be revealed."
"But..." Fia muttered, losing steam as a cold shiver went down her spine, "...if that was Onee-sama, who was it that...?"
Rumina shrugged again, picking up her book once more, "Knowing the luck the players of our role hold, it was probably Renee." Opening the book, Rumina began to read nonchalantly as Fia shattered, falling to the floor in a gibbering daze.
That was when Syl returned, poking Fia with a stick, "What happened to Fia-nee?"
Rumina gave Syl and the fire-user a sidelong glance, "Situational irony."
"Huh," Syl mused, continuing to poke Fia, "Irony's scary."
Returning to her book, Rumina nodded, "Indeed. You might want to stop that – Fia's not going to be very happy when she finally finishes processing the fact that she very nearly signed her own death warrant."
The girl tossed the stick away, pouting.