As Michiru made some room for her to sit on the bench seat next to her, Outai recalled what had happened. She had fought the tainted, a whole school of them, then healed them. Afterwards, she had passed out. She would need an excuse for that. Mooney's part in all of this was not a surprise, though - he was like a mother hen, with her, always worrying.
Well, her head did hurt. She probably hit her head on the way down when she passed out. She raised a hand to her head and hissed at the pain she felt when it touched the lump that was growing on her scalp, covered by her hair.
"Just a bump. I think someone might have hit me over the head, or something. I will be fine. Thank you for your concern."
Setsuna watched through her rearview mirror silently as Tabibito-san slowly awakened and rose in the back seat. Still driving toward the Outer Senshis' condo, she contemplated what to do with the girl. 'It's good she regained consciousness so quickly, and she doesn't look too injured. If we take her with us, we could properly determine if she's actually well enough to go home tonight. However, we couldn't discuss anything related to the Tainted, and I only have this data for sure until tomorrow... But I could make a copy of it, I suppose.' She frowned slightly at that idea, not wanting to betray her professor's trust. Then again, priorities to protect the city over protecting her university's copyright came first. 'I guess it's settled then,' she told herself resignatedly.
She spoke up after Tabibito-san mentioned her head. "We're currently headed to our home. If you feel unwell or would like some company, you are free to join us tonight. Otherwise, I can take you to your home. Just let me know," she finished and added a small smile, hoping the girl could see through the mirror's reflection. Setsuna would never want to make an acquaintance of Chibiusa and Michiru feel uncomfortable, though she knew nothing about the girl. She could save her suspicions for later, she supposed.
Outai looked out the window. She had not realized that they were in motion. For that matter, she had only just realized she was in a motor vehicle. Since when did she becomes so...dull? Well, she wasn't exactly at the top of her game right now. That could be it.
As they drove down the street, the woman driving - she didn't know who the woman was, and couldn't really see much aside from long, dark green hair and tanned skin from the rear-veiw mirror - spoke to her. It was not unkind, which in a way baffled her, and was actually even helpful. Who were these people, anyway? Well, whoever they were, they were...refreshing.
"Thank you, but I am well enough. If you could just drop me off here, I can make it home. It isn't far."
Setsuna wasn't expecting that from the girl. This was the second time today someone refused her help. She recalled Rei's state earlier and her refusal. 'I hope I don't sound mean or anything. Am I too intimidating?' she thought and almost sweat-dropped, feeling unnecessarily self-conscious. 'Oh, well. It can't be helped.' She pulled the van over to the lane closest to the sidewalk and stopped, turning her emergency blinkers on to ward off any oncoming traffic behind her. She reached down between her seat and armrest to pull out a folder with her work from the university. She ripped off a piece of loose paper and took the pen clipped onto the folder. She said as she began writing, "If you need anything or feel like you might faint, don't hesitate to use this. One of us--" she meant herself and the other girls in the van, "can find you." Turning around in her seat, she gave Tabibito-san a good view of her face, letting some motherly concern slip into her features, before handing over the small piece of paper. On it was "Setsuna Meiou - 555-432-1987."
Once the woman driving pulled over, ensuring her safety, Outai began to carefully maneuver herself around Michiru so she could depart the van. However, she was surprised when the driver not only offered her help if she felt faint, but also gave her name and number. And that look on her tanned face...it was concern. Why would she be so concerned for a stranger? Why give her number to a stranger like that? These people were truly baffling.
Outai took the paper in hand as she exited the van - Mooney not far behind her, in spite of his contented purring in the hands of miss Tenoh - not quite able to hide her own bafflement on her face, though not for lack of effort. Still, she did give them all a polite bow.
"Thank you, miss Meiou. Thank you, miss Kaioh, miss Tenoh." was all she could bring herself to say.
She didn't know what else to say, anyway, and was still trying to puzzle them out. Maybe Mooney could explain it to her, later. With that thought in mind, she turned and continued her own way back to her apartment.
As Tabibito bowed, Setsuna smiled and waved. When the door closed and the girl walked away, Setsuna turned around to Michiru and lightly scolded her. "Could you give me a simple warning before you bring strangers?" she frowned, more like pouted, before she turned forward and started the van. Michiru understood how she felt about these kinds of situations. Finally, they were off again to the condo.
After Setsuna ushered everyone upstairs to their loft, she politely told Chibiusa, "How about you play with Hotaru for a while in the living room. We'll be in the back, okay?" Reaching her long, slender arm down, she bent over to pat the princess on the shoulder and stepped past her to Hotaru. "Relax for a little while and go have some fun," she said and winked. She hoped that Hotaru understood the implication. The older women needed to discuss matters without Chibiusa's prying ears. With that, she started walking toward her room across the living room, motioning for Haruka and Michiru to follow with her eyes.
Chibiusa grinned, knowing that she would get her way. Of course she knew that she should use her adorableness to her advantage as often as she did, but this way she was safer. And after all, they had agreed to keep her safe right? Hotaru smirked, shaking her head at the little princess' antics. She turned her gaze to the the window, staring out at the scenery as they drove towards their home. The dark haired senshi wasn't too thrilled bringing Outai with them, but she wasn't going to argue against helping someone in need. The girl still gave her a strange feeling, there was something about her that Hotaru couldn't put her finger on. And it was really starting to bug her, as the senshi of destruction did not enjoy being on guard around someone so seemingly harmless.
Hotaru's attention snapped back to what was happening in the van when Setsuna slowed the vehicle and then stopped. Not having paid attention to what had transpired in the past few minutes, she gave a confused look around the van before realizing that they were dropping off Outai. She gave a nod and a smile to the dark haired woman as Setsuna gave Outai her number. "Bye Tabibito-san!" Chibiusa called as the pulled off again.
Once they'd got to the loft, Hotaru nodded to Setsuna. She was fairly certain that the others would fill her in later. Right now, it was important to keep Chibiusa out of the outer senshi's plans. While they were friends, the outer senshi and the inner senshi along with the princesses were never on the same page on how to handle a situation. The dark haired girl led Chibiusa to her room, planning to distract the princess with the various things in her room. Since Hotaru's rebirth Chibiusa hadn't actually come to visit the outer senshi, so this would be a new experience for the pink haired child.
Usagi arrived early for once at Rei's temple. She hadn't seen or heard from Mamoru in a couple of days. She had not yet gone to see if he was alright since a week before he had not been at his apartment. She really hoped he was okay. It was odd that she had not seen or heard from him. She sighed as she sat next to the temple's entrance. Waiting for the others to arrive. It was unnatural that Usagi was so early. But the blonde wasn't sure what to do with herself since Mamo-chan was not in the picture for the moment.
She had left for school before Chibiusa had awakened to leave for her school. Which was also unusual as the blond always ate breakfast as well as had something to carry for lunch when she got hungry. She had gotten her lunch but barely touched it at lunch and ate only a piece of toast before leaving her home. Her mother called after her, wondering what was wrong but the guardian of the moon just continued to walk.
Now waiting on the wonderful friends of hers to arrive, she smiled brightly at the sun. Today would and was going to be a good day. She knew it. Even if school was pretty boring..
Outai checked her watch peevishly. For a week now, that blond, buns headed girl from her class had been whisking her off to these study groups on her way home from school. For some reason, she wanted to be friends with the cool, aloof, raven haired girl known as Outai, and Outai couldn't understand why. Well, today - like any other day in the past week - it had been to either be dragged like a squabbling child, or to at least look like she was going of her own free will. Still, just because she chose the latter did not mean that everyone else wanted her there, or that she wanted to be there.
They seemed like good enough people, but she was afraid she would attract unwanted attention, namely from the tainted, and even though Usagi could be annoying, she still wanted to protect this girl. Her soul was too pure to let it be tainted, and she would die before seeing that happen. Such a beautiful, pure soul must be left untainted. If keeping her distance meant protecting the girl, she was happy to oblige. Besides, Usagi was clumsy, never studied, then wondered why she got such bad grades, and was always whining. A pure soul she might have, but she was also annoying sometimes.
"Usagi, while we are waiting for the others, we might as well start studying. I heard you got another bad grade, today. That won't improve if you won't apply yourself."
Rei sighed as the sun began to peek over the horizon: time to get up. It had been a week since the attack on Chibiusa's school and Rei was still angered and frustrated by her inability to really help at all. She'd been a threat to Chibiusa, who she was supposed to protect with her life no matter what. Sailor Andromeda had done her job for her. It was more than a little frustrating to the fiery Senshi. She'd even trained with Mako all week after school, learning karate and trying to find the best ways to protect herself. She'd never felt the need to know karate before. She had her flames. She was the Senshi of Mars and she had powers most normal people couldn't even fathom and yet she'd been completely and utterly defenseless. She couldn't simply set the tainted people on fire. They were still civilian and innocents who could be saved. So long as Sailor Andromeda was around of course.
That also bothered her. Why was Sailor Andromeda the only one who could actually purify the tainted? Rei was very suspicious of the Senshi. She could very well be the master of these tainted and she could just be purifying them to gain their trust. She was never very good at trusting people but it was even worse now. There was a new enemy afoot and only one stranger could stop them. A stranger who wore their uniform and carried their name, but whom she'd never even heard of. She wondered if Luna and Artemis knew who the girl was. They seemed to know everything there was to know about the Senshi for the most part. She would have to ask them today. Everyone was coming over for a study session since they all had bif exams coming up within the next week. She could convince Luna and Artemis to talk, she was cure of it. So long as that new girl didn't turn up again.
The new girl was also a mystery to Rei. She reminded her of someone but Rei couldn't quite put her finger on it. But the way she came to the shrine after that first attack and started ordering them around made Rei very cautious of the girl. She was different. Even the flames were acting strange with so many new people and so many new threats lurking around every corner. She hadn't been able to get a clear reading from them since the attack at Chibiusa's school. It was only adding to her seemingly never-ending supply of frustration. She needed her flames. She needed to see the future in some way, to prepare for whatever was coming. But the flames were a mess. Right now, they were like rain puddles. Murky and muddy and indistinct. There was no concrete shape to them, no real underlying meaning to anything they showed her. Just bright licks of heat and the occasional sparks. It was maddening.
Rei rose from her bed, setting about her daily chores before the others arrived. She was moving outside to sweep the courtyard when she noticed a certain blonde-haired Princess sitting at the temple's entrance. She frowned a bit, Usagi was never the first one here and she was most certainly never early. That was more than a little baffling to the raven-haired girl. She grabbed a spare broom and moved to her friend's side. She set the brooms against one of the columns of the gates and settled in beside her closest friend. She bumped Usagi's shoulder, keeping her eyes trained on the sidewalk below in case one of the others showed up. Surely they couldn't be too far behind if Usagi was already here, "You're her early. Is something bothering you, Usagi?" She didn't often let her softer side show in front of her friend like this but no one else was around and it was moments like these that made her remember how much she cherished the girl sitting next to her.
They'd fought many battles side by side and Rei had died more than once for her friend but none of that really meant anything. The things that mattered to Rei were smaller and more rare. It was these quiet moments between them, when they were simply two teenage girls with boy problems and homework. Fighting beside Usagi was great, of course, but Rei cherished these moments even more. These easy silences and little chats they had when the others weren't around. The moments that truly highlighted their friendship and showed why Rei trusted the blonde-haired girl so much. Around the others, Rei felt a little more guarded, a little less like herself. She loved them all of course, but Usagi was like her sister. The one she could run to when things went wrong. Like when Yuuichiro left and then never came back. One month after he was gone and Rei finally accepted that he wasn't going to come back, she'd gone running to Usagi's house in tears. Actual tears. The two spent the night laughing and playing games and by morning Yuuichiro's absence was a dull ache in her chest, not a gaping and bleeding wound. Usagi simply made Rei a better person. That was all there was to it.
Rei let out a small sigh as Outai walked up to the pair and stood. She grabbed her brooms and headed back to the storage room. She would have to sweep tonight not that everyone was starting to show up. She stowed the brooms in their usual spot and rejoined the girls, arriving just in time to hear Outai mention that Usagi had received another failing grade. Rei's fist was faster than her mouth as she smacked the ditzy Princess upside the head, all traces of her kind and softer side from before vanishing, "Baka-Usagi! You failed again?! We've been studying almost all week! Even Ami helped you! I swear, you are so hopeless!" Rei shook her head, her arms crossed in annoyance. She would never understand how Usagi was their Princess. She was such a ditz sometimes. She glanced over at Outai, trying to keep a friendly expression on ehr face, "Hello Tabibito-san. How are you today?"
Outai had to fight to keep her expression smooth and even. She wanted to grimace as Rei attacked Usagi with a broom concerning her grades - it seemed too harsh to her, to attack her friend like that - but in the week she had been dragged up here, day after day, she had learned that that was just how these two were. It was an odd sort of friendship, but it seemed firmer than any other she had ever seen in her life. Strangely, it made her curious. How could they be such good friends when one was a ditz and the other was abusive, both physically and verbally? Well, to each their own, she supposed.
Once Rei finished her tirade, she had turned to greet Outai. She could see the effort on the girl's face to be friendly - she knew Rei did not like her, not since a week or so ago when she had cleansed the shrine and tried to help the wounded, even though she HAD apologized for being so bossy - and knew that was about as good as she was going to get. Well, at least she tried. That was what mattered. No one was required to like her, and was surprised that anyone at all was making an effort.
"I am well, thank you, miss Hino." she said with a polite bow, "How about yourself?"
Usagi gave a smile as Rei came up and then Outai. She grabbed her head after the hit, which she knew was coming after Outai's statement about the fail... Of course she would love to ask what Rei thought was wrong with Mamoru... But she wouldn't while Outai was there. The new rave haired girl was seemingly un-trusting of her. But that would change whether Usagi willed it too or not, it would change. Usagi gave Rei an, I'll tell you later, look before standing and trying to keep tears from her eyes.
"Yeah... I got another bad grade, although last week I was sure I had studied extra hard... But atleast the grade wasn't as awful as it used to be. Maybe you can ask me questions and see how many I get right so I know what to study with Ami? Rei! Why do you have to hit so hard! I really did study.. At least the grade wasn't a 50... It was a 65..." The blonde asked with a friendly smile and then whined at Rei. Her mind kept roaming to Mamoru but she tried to listen for the questions from the new girl. She glared slightly at Rei but she couldn't stay mad at her... They were best friends.
Although she loved Rei like the sister she never had, Usagi sometimes wondered why, such things happened between them. Like when Yuuichiro left, Rei had come over and she had helped her settle the ache in her chest. Then there were times like just now when Rei was a total nightmare to be around. But Usagi knew her friend didn't mean it like that.
Rei kept the same friendly smile in place as Outai greeted her. She knew that Usagi was putting forth the effort to be friends with this girl and Rei knew that before Usagi, she was in pretty much the exact same position as this girl. Even Luna had briefly wondered if Rei was trustworthy when students and buses were disappearing from the stop in front of her family shrine. She shouldn't be so quick to judge. If Usagi had taught her anything, it was that appearances could be very deceiving. But Rei, for reasons unknown to her, could not trust this new addition to their group. She'd be kind of course. Well, as kind as Rei could be with people she didn't fully trust, and she would be careful not to hurt the girl's feelings if she could help it. Usagi wanted to trust her so Rei would give her the benefit of the doubt until she was proven otherwise, "I have been well, thank you for asking."
She threw her hands in the air and let out an annoyed sound at Usagi's attempt to make ehr bad grade sound even the a little bit better, "I don't know how you made it this far without being held back. Honestly! And Ami-chan helps you every time you have a test coming up! If she can't help you then nobody can!" She knew she probably sounded a bit harsh and to outsiders she would probably appear rude and no very friendly. But this was just another way she and Usagi interacted. Rei couldn't help the random flares of her temper. They just came flying out of nowhere and tended to dissipate as quickly as they appeared. Like right now. When Usagi sent her that look that said they could talk later. Rei's temper vanished. Something was bothering her friend, she could tell. And Rei didn't like that.
She teased Usagi and could sometimes be a little abusive but if someone hurt her friend they better watch out. Usagi hadn't even seen Rei at her angriest before. She toned down the rage that could boil inside of her when she picked on the blonde, not wanting to hurt the girl's feelings too much. But when they fought enemies, Rei let out of all her anger out. Anger for the lost innocents, anger for the way her friends were treated, and anger that someone would dare attack her friends when she was around. She was temperamental but she was also fiercely loyal and anyone who hurt her friends would suffer the consequences. More than once she'd wanted to whack Mamoru upside the head for making Usagi worry. Especially when he broke up with her because he thought he was protecting her. Rei had wanted to punch him more than once back then.
It was an effort to keep a straight face during their argument, but Outai managed it. Over the last several months, she had become good at wearing masks, though she still could not manage a smile or a laugh - she didn't think she remembered how to do either. Still, it was a waste of time, arguing like that. If they were going to study, then they should do so and be done with it.
"Usagi, a 65 may be better than a 50, but it is still not passing. I am sure you can pass the test if you apply yourself more, both during study time and during the test. On that note, perhaps we should begin studying? I am not as smart as miss Mizuno, but I can help."
Outai intentionally left the suggestion as a question. She didn't want to be seen as bossing people around again, not even a whiff of it, so she left suggestions - even the mildest ones - as questions. You cannot 'order' people around when you were asking questions.
"I know some study tips that can help you, miss Tsukino."