023-Till Our Lives Burn Out-Ch7-Pt2b
Age Rating: 13 +
Till Our Lives Burn Out
Chapter 7- Bloody Sunday
... Hotaru sat at the table, moody and very uncommunicative. Except for the perfunctory “Good morning, Michiru-momma”, “Yes Haruka-poppa,” or “Thank you, Setsuna-momma,” she said nothing. She had judged that she could afford a day of sulking before she kept her promise to Kuryakin-sensei. In fact, she was just thinking heavily, and much of her anger had abated. The other three watched her out of the corners of their eyes as they ate breakfast. They talked of what they would be doing this weekend, but that too seemed idle and perfunctory. Everything Hotaru had said last night seemed to sit in the middle of the breakfast table like a visible thing.
Only Haruka moved or talked with any real purpose this morning. She had been checking the news channels and making a few notes again before she sat down at the table. Whatever she was doing there, she would have to put that aside for a few hours. Today she would be going in to do the voiceovers for the Toyota commercial. She had gotten the scripts in the various languages via email on Wednesday. Michiru and Setsuna helped her with the various languages and inflections. There were a few languages they didn’t have covered but the producer sent along audio of all of them embedded in the email. The producer had booked five hours at the studio and Haruka told everyone she would probably need all five. In fact, she had no intention of putting aside her ‘research’, and hoped to get the commercial work over with quickly. There was an unscheduled call she wanted to make afterward.
Setsuna pensively drank a cup of tea, as she studied Hotaru. Last night, the feeling Setsuna had felt when she discovered Hotaru had left the house began as justifiable concern. As they searched for her and couldn’t find her, much darker thoughts crept into Setsuna’s mind. The thought that Hotaru had run away, and Setsuna’s responsibilities as one of her guardians, was a part of that, but not the whole. The things Hotaru said had Setsuna wondering if she had known, at all, what had been going on in the mind of her charge these last four months, or what she had been taught by him. There was a moment when thoughts of the worst possible thing that could happen had briefly terrified Setsuna. That was transmuted to great fury at Mister Kuryakin when she saw him pulling into their driveway, though it was contained somewhat by the relief she felt when she saw Hotaru safe. If she hadn’t been in a negligee and a thin, rather filmy robe, she would have confronted him herself, and she did wonder what Haruka and Michiru were thinking when Haruka, rightly, charged toward his van, but then Michiru called her off. After her anger abated, and Hotaru was confirmed to be in bed and sleeping, she thought about it and realized that she may, once again though plausibly, have imparted sinister motives to what may have been happenstance and a bit of willfulness on Hotaru’s part.
After a long enough silence, Setsuna spoke.
“Hotaru, I am sorry you are still upset, but I think we are owed an explanation for your behavior last night.”
Hotaru’s eyes flared with annoyance for a moment. ‘Just what part of my behavior do you mean, Setsuna-momma?’ she thought. Setsuna wasn’t specific and if this was about her ‘rant,’ Hotaru was going to have a very hard time not responding, “Forgive me, Setsuna-momma, for thinking.” Setsuna had been deliberately vague, hoping to get Hotaru talking about more than just her running off, but Hotaru was beginning to understand how adult minds, especially those of her guardians, worked. She would play it close to the vest and explain only from the point where she felt she may have crossed a line.
“Kuryakin-sensei was at that scenic spot because he was thinking about things,” she said very mechanically. “He has much to think about these days, and that place reminds him of another place that’s important to him. I saw him there because I was stargazing and you can see that place from the sun room. I wanted to talk to him. I miss him.”
“And that is all?”
“I am sorry, Setsuna-momma …” she said meekly enough.
‘That is better, Hotaru…’
“… sorry that you still think Kuryakin-sensei is some sort of enemy.”
Michiru looked as though she’d seen that comment coming. Haruka looked a bit uncomfortable, picked up the copy of her lines for the commercial, and took a sip of coffee. Setsuna looked down and sighed a bit. She desperately wanted to say she was sorry for having spoken in anger last night, for she truly was. She hated that anything had come between her and Hotaru. She wanted things back the way they were. It was beginning to look like that would never be. Part of her wanted to hug Hotaru and tell her that she understood that she was wrestling with the great and troubling conundrums of their Senshi lives, but now everything always came back to that man. Her anger toward him simmered. Somehow, this was all his fault. What a mistake that had been.
Hotaru had not eaten much of her breakfast. Michiru got up, went to the fridge and took something out.
“Hotaru,” she said softly, “you should eat this before it spoils.” It was the strawberry treacle tart that Haruka had gotten for her. She looked up at Michiru, who was pouring her a little more tea, and looking kindly at her with a smile that said, ‘It’s all right. Take your time. We love you still and always.’
“Thank you, Michiru-momma,” she said, a wan little smile at the corners of her mouth. She looked at Haruka, who winked at her, then at Setsuna, and though this caused her smile to fade, there was still enough of it to let Setsuna know she would apologize in time.
‘But not yet, Setsuna-momma. Not yet. There’s something I’ve got to figure out first.’
Setsuna stayed home, and was washing up the breakfast dishes, as Michiru, Hotaru and Haruka drove to the studio. The day’s tasks notwithstanding, Hotaru’s words from the previous night echoed in the minds of all her guardians, like an accusing attorney. Hotaru had always been some sort of “key” to the nature of the Outer Senshi. She was the one who ‘awakened them,’ and perhaps something like that was happening now.
‘We love only what we want to,’ went round and round in Michiru’s mind as they headed out. Usually when driving with Haruka, Michiru ‘took in the scenery’ of which the people were but a quaint little part. Today she found herself really looking at them. How many of them could she truly say she could stand to be around for more than a few minutes? Did she choose her way of life because it ensured that she would always be surrounded by the beautiful, interesting people? Most people weren’t and she knew it. She had once, in the midst of a fight with an agent of the Dead Moon, said that a world without Haruka wouldn’t be a world worth saving anyway. At the time, it seemed to be a bit of heroic posturing, showing confidence before an enemy. But there was some truth in it. As Sailor Neptune, she was a ‘world saver’ and yet it seemed that she was only interested in saving it for herself and Haruka first, and then only for a few select others. There was nothing unusual about that. Soldiers always fought, not so much for flag or country, but for those around them. A country as a whole is but a huge abstraction for which no one could possibly have a comprehensive conception or any meaningful love. One’s country is really the things one loves and desires to keep close and permanent. Yet, with Hotaru’s words about ‘cold and snobbish’ echoing in her mind, she wondered now if that was enough. Was she right, this young lady sitting to her left, leaning on her, and looking more pensive than ever?
She remembered when she’d first met Usagi. They walked along talking of pursuing one’s dreams, as her future queen carried Marine Cathedral, her Stradivarius violin. Then a fan of her art came up to her and pointed out a painting of hers on the museum wall, praising it and her effusively. She had given him the perfunctory ‘thank you,’ mainly because she felt shy, but also because ebullient fans tended to put her off. But why? She never really asked that before. The young fan had been very sincere in his praise, and was indeed present at her exhibition later that month. Funny too, was that, objectively, he was a fairly handsome young man, and quite sincere in his appreciation as well as intelligent in his critique of her work. In short, just the sort of fan an artist wants. He truly understood art, and told her that ‘what she was trying to do’ was well done and awe-inspiring. Yet something about him put her off, and she was unable to be more than a cool, diffident young artist with him. As such, she wanted to, at the very least, affect humility, but it ended up with her looking cold and disdainful at the young man, as if he were some sort nuisance.
Just after Hotaru started having the problem with testing, she and Haruka had gotten into a good natured debate with Setsuna around the breakfast table. It was about character flaws. The Time Guardian responded to a witty provocation on Michiru’s part with her best comeback to date: “Perhaps there is a reason your talisman is a mirror.” Haruka nearly choked on her toast trying not to laugh. What did Michiru really think of Peter Kuryakin? Were it not for what she saw in her talisman, what would her honest reaction to him have been? Was he a sort of diversion, something to come along and make their lives interesting, but then just go away after things got too serious? Or maybe boring? Is that why she had thought it best that Hotaru ‘forget him’? Was that the best advice she had for her troubled young charge? Michiru had never before questioned whether she loved Hotaru, truly, and now she was questioning it. The answer of course, was “Yes, I do. I have helped raise her.” Indeed, she had, but as a child grows, the needs change and increase. So it wasn’t the fact of her love, but the quality she needed to think about. Had her love for Hotaru grown in proportion to Hotaru’s need?
Meanwhile, Hotaru’s thoughts had drifted in to a little soliloquy on the perception of time. It would be a week before she could talk to him again. A week probably wouldn’t seem nearly as long to him as it would to her. To someone who is ten years old, a year is a tenth of their life. To some one who is thirty, it is but a thirtieth. The duration of a year does not change, but the perception of that duration does. Even if Kuryakin-sensei were no older than he looked, a week to him was but a third of the time it was to someone her age. And she had good reason to believe he was not merely thirty years old. ‘How old was he?’ she wondered. ‘As old as Setsuna-momma, whose consciousness covered more then a millennium?’
But this was a mere diversion on the way to thinking about something more important. Hotaru was an obedient girl, indeed. It was very difficult to think of her guardians, and the flaws –if such they could be called- in their characters. To a young child growing up, dependent upon them for care, and owing them gratitude for the love they had shown her, they had seemed nearly perfect and hopelessly cool. The first crack in the edifice had to have been the fight with Galaxia. She could think of nothing before those events that would remotely force her to judge whether there was something amiss in her odd little family. She was thinking about this even before she had met Peter Kuryakin, and that was one more reason why it was wrong for Setsuna-momma to blame this on him. Perhaps her time with him had forced the issue, but, if anything, he had been something of a solution to the problem, not its cause. His explanation of history as the inevitable working out of inherent flaws was grist for her mill. She had been very attentive in his classes, and now she squarely faced the question that had been bugging her from the beginning.
Was there a flaw in the moon kingdom? What was it? There was little she really knew about the moon kingdom. She knew that it had been beautiful and a Parnassus of civilization. It was well ordered, and the people were happy. So far as Hotaru knew, they were truly happy, and it would have been hubris on her part to say that they really weren’t. And yet, … and yet …
Why was the Princess, who surely had ample opportunities on the moon, suddenly so fascinated by the earth prince she had met? What had done it? Surely there were plenty of nice boys on the moon?
It was then that she remembered, in stunning detail, one of Kuryakin’s “this is what I think” moments: “Be careful how you take this, but nice and good are not necessarily the same thing. Now as you know, I don’t go in for any single cause explanations for civilizational collapse, but if I had to pick a single cause that did more to bring down more civilizations than any other, I would pick ‘tolerance,’ that is to say MERE tolerance. Don’t get me wrong; tolerance of differences is very important for a civilization. But you can reach a point of ‘dialectical reversal,’ where tolerance devolves into indifference, and even questions of right and wrong become mere academic debates. It’s not for me to say when, exactly, that happens, but if you look out for it, eventually you might see where an unmistakable wrong is explained away as a mere difference: or worse, where no one thinks it necessary to explain it away. Enough of that and you get a critical mass of indifference. Reality abhors a vacuum, especially a moral one. If you don’t deal with reality, reality will deal with you. Something will come to fill that vacuum.”
It put Hotaru in mind of her favorite Yeats poem:
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity …
Was mere happiness enough? Had mere happiness exhausted the Kingdom until the best lacked all conviction? Was it possible that the people of the moon were already dying, or rather living in a perpetual death of mere happiness, before the end came? Had it become a place of mere tolerance? That seemed counterintuitive. The problem seemed to be ‘intolerance’ where the Princess’s burgeoning relationship with the Earth Prince was concerned. ‘Dialectical reversal.’ That’s what Kuryakin-sensei had called it, and by that he meant the point where a virtue striven for becomes a flaw. How curious. The people of the moon were nigh immortal. The full immortality they sought seemed such a worthy goal, but more and more Hotaru’s mind focused on that as the source of the problem. Perhaps the Moon Kingdom could never have fallen from within, not because it was perfect, but because it was ‘well, … too old to die,’ Hotaru thought. Perhaps, though it need not have fallen, it had to be possible to fall, in order to know true happiness. No, not happiness, exactly, but … joy.
Was its young heiress the only thing young enough to spark its death? Was it a merely tolerant place, a parody of love, then done in by the real thing?
A funny image came into her mind, of Princess Serenity sitting at the dinner table with the Queen.
“Why must you see that earth prince?” says the queen. “What happened to that nice moon prince from Mare Frigoris you were seeing?”
“I’ve seen all the moon princes, mother. They’re all so boring.”
Hotaru smiled. This didn't seem like a complete answer, but it seemed a promising line of inquiry.
Setsuna was putting the finishing touches on her term paper. On the whole, she was very satisfied with it. In its own way, it was like that white dress she’d completed a few weeks ago. Something daunting and difficult, but now completed, and in this case, months ahead of schedule. It was very satisfying. She had every right to be proud of her work, and feel a gratified happiness.
So why did she feel so miserable?
Twice while checking her work, she had to stop herself, consciously, from thinking about him. This always happened when she was alone, or especially, when she was tired: or more specifically, when she had worn herself out on something. Then, unbidden thoughts of Peter Kuryakin would creep into her mind. Now, her closed laptop in front of her, she stretched and yawned, and she could almost feel his hands on her shoulders, massaging her, though he had never touched her in that way. No wait, he had once touched her there, the day he caught her spying on him. Such fine strong hands he had. How nice it would be to loll her head backward, sighing, and feel them, warm and gentle but firm, rubbing her shoulders just now and …
Setsuna sighed, disgusted with herself. The night she drove him away was painful to her, but she was sure she could get over it. She hadn’t. If anything, it was getting worse. At the time, she truly felt no guilt. She had done the right thing, been honest with herself and with him, and the way he walked out, she had hoped he was giving up, then and there. But now, as the scene played over and over again in the mind, she knew that wasn’t it at all. Quite the opposite. He was accommodating her, yes, because he was a true gentleman, but now, she saw it for what it was: a tactical retreat, in preparation for a renewed offensive later on. It almost frightened her, how truly courageous of him it was. In retrospect, there was no mistaking his ardor. He wanted her badly. This … she … meant a great deal to him, and yet he was willing to draw back for now.
That’s what he called his pedagogical method. Cover the basics, get your head around them, and then come back, again and again, in ever greater detail until the subject was mastered. Apparently, it wasn’t just a teaching method, but the way he lived his life. She was truly stuck by the courage it must take to do that, give up ground and risk defeat in something so very important to him in order to come back better and stronger the next time. She was never going to be rid of him. It shouldn’t matter except for one thing: she could not stop herself from thinking about the man. He must be able to sense that conflict within her, or surely he would give up. He, and Hotaru, even Haruka and Michiru- in their way, were wearing her down. But it was Hotaru first and foremost. Why was she so persistent about it? Was there something else behind this?
‘Oh please, come back to me, Hotaru …,’ she thought, her eyes misting a little. She shouldn’t have stayed home this morning.
As she was wiping her eyes, the phone rang.
Haruka, Michiru and Hotaru went into the studio where they were given special passes allowing them access to the recording rooms. They were told to be mindful of the red “Recording in progress” signs, but otherwise had free run of the place. A guide led Haruka to the room she would be recording in, and Hotaru and Michiru followed along. In one wing of the studio, they saw posters for several current anime series by the doors of some of the recording rooms, and Hotaru assumed that the people inside were voice actors (seiyuu) for those series. One woman was ‘really selling it’, gesticulating wildly as she did her lines. Hotaru smiled a little. Even hearing the person’s voice, it would have been funny; not able to hear, it looked even funnier. The commercial’s director met them at the door and said they were all ready, and could begin at once. Michiru handed Haruka a water bottle, and after a few sound checks, they began.
Her expression notwithstanding, this was very exciting for Hotaru at first. Haruka-poppa looked very cool and professional speaking into the microphone, but after half an hour of having to do several takes each time, saying the same short and often cheesy lines over and over again, until the director was satisfied he had just the emphases and inflections he wanted, the shine had worn off. They had started with the foreign languages. An hour and a half later, Hotaru, who was still very sulky, was yawning. During one pause, Michiru was able to talk to Haruka.
“Haruka, Hotaru is bored, and she’s still pretty … introspective. I’m going to take her to that aquarium down the street.”
“Good idea,” said Haruka. “At this rate, I’ll be here all five hours.”
“Okay, I’ll get her something to eat.”
“You’re not bored, too, are you Michiru dear? After all, this is my big acting debut,” she winked. “I’m seiyuu, now.”
“Of course not,” she smiled. “I’m never bored when I’m with you. I’m very proud of you. I’ll bring you back something special.”
Michiru and Hotaru left. Half an hour later, the director asked Haruka if she needed a break. She said that she would much rather plow ahead and get it done. The director applauded her professionalism, and they proceeded. By this time, Haruka had a good feel for what the director wanted, and things began moving more quickly. With most of the foreign language work done, they were able to finish an hour later. Haruka shook hands with the director and took delivery of the check for her work. The director told her she would get a DVD recording of all the commercials in a month or so, and with that, she was done.
Notebook in hand, Haruka jumped in the car, and set off for a residential district to the northwest of the studio. Normally one would call ahead, but given what she was trying to find out, she thought just showing up would be more effective.
Setsuna sat pondering the meaning of the phone call she had gotten a few hours ago. It was from Rei Hino. She had sounded very tired, like she been up all night. And in fact, she had. Unlike the time when The Silence was approaching, there was little forewarning. The Fire Guardian had felt a bit strange these last few weeks, but it there was nothing like the ominous visions she’d had during the Infinity Academy Crisis. Then last night, during a routine séance, she suddenly saw a terrible vision. Dark clouds covered the earth. They spun outward from what looked like an unnaturally large typhoon that covered the whole Pacific Ocean. Beneath the darkness, cities, Tokyo included, seemed to be burning.
“Setsuna-san,” Rei asked, quite alarmed, “do you have any idea what this is about?”
“Perhaps,” Setsuna said. “Have you seen anything more concerning the man I told you about?”
“Hotaru’s tutor?” Rei asked. “I’m not sure that this has anything to do with him. Other than what I saw before.”
“How urgent do you think this is?” Setsuna asked.
“Well,” said Rei, perplexed, in part at Setsuna’s insistence on linking this to Hotaru’s tutor. “I am really shocked at how suddenly this has come to me. It feels like something that could happen anytime. I don’t understand why I haven’t seen this coming before now.”
“Hino-san, I suggest you get some rest. Then try again tonight to see what might be happening. I shall talk to Michiru as soon as she gets home,” Setsuna said very coolly. “Do not worry too much about this. It sounds like something from outside the system. I think Haruka also has some inkling of what might be happening. We shall deal with it.”
“Setsuna-san,” said Rei, sounding very brave and determined, “don’t hesitate to call on us if it’s something really terrible. I’m serious. We want in on the fun, too.”
“We will,” Setsuna replied with a little smile. “In the meantime, see if you can gather the others at Hikawa. Especially, Tsukino-san. It is a very well protected place. Have a slumber party or something. Do not tell them what you suspect, until we all have a better idea of what this is about.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“And remember,” Setsuna said again, “please continue to look into whether this has anything to do with Kuryakin-san.”
‘Again with that man,’ Rei Hino thought as she hung up the phone. ‘I hope I run into him some day.’
Haruka arrived at the house of that former member of the Japanese parliament who committed suicide. Trying to talk to a grieving widow about her husband’s death would be the height of discourtesy, but from her researches, she had some suspicions about it that didn’t jive with the “official story.” What she needed was an angle for getting for getting in the door. When Haruka looked up the story on the Internet, she saw a picture of the man’s family, taken well before his suicide. He had a daughter and a newborn son. It was the daughter that might give her a way in. In the picture, she was proudly displaying a “Haruka Tenoh / Dakar Champion” button.
“Are you a reporter?” said the rather severe looking maid who answered the door.
“No,” said Haruka.
“Are you a private investigator?”
“Then why are you here?”
A voice came from another room.
“Kajiwara-sama, I’m not sure who it is,” said the maid. “She seems unwilling to give me a name, or state her purpose.”
“I am not unwilling,” said Haruka. “I’m Haruka Tenoh. I heard about your recent tragedy and I found out that the young daughter is a fan of my racing. I wanted to come by and pay respects, as well as chat with the daughter.”
The door opened wider and a very elegant looking woman was now standing next to maid, who deferentially moved to the background. The young daughter was next to her, her eyes getting increasingly wide.
“It is her, Okasama,” she said, awed.
“Please come in, Tenoh-san,” Mrs. Shiori Kajiwara said.
Haruka felt a bit guilty now. For the moment, she was here under false pretenses. The house was a small mansion, very well thought out and meticulously kept. As the maid walked them to a sitting room, Haruka took note of the double staircase surrounding the main receiving room, the elegant dining room with its dark cherry wood furniture, and nice veranda surrounding a corner bay that made up a good portion of the back of the house.
“And who is this?” asked Haruka of the young girl watching her every move with her mouth agape.
“This is my daughter, Aiko.”
“Aiko-san, thank you for supporting me,” said Haruka, sincerely enough. The young girl turned very red, and then shyly whispered something to her mother.
“I don’t see why not,” said Mrs. Kajiwara in response. The girl trotted off and headed up the stairs. After watching her leave, Mrs. Kajiwara looked very sternly at Haruka and said “So then Tenoh-san, why are you really here?”
The woman was no fool. Haruka thought it over for just a few moments, and decided upon the direct approach.
“Kajiwara-san, I did come here to see your daughter, but I also wanted to ask you some questions about your husband’s death.”
“Please leave, Tenoh-san,” said the maid, who appeared out of nowhere.
“Wait,” said Mrs. Kajiwara, regarding Haruka warily. Until she saw Haruka, her daughter had not smiled once since her husband’s death. That was enough, barely, to keep Haruka in the house for a few more minutes. “Why do you want to know about this?”
“I have been following … certain events,” said Haruka very carefully, “and I have reason to suspect that … well, forgive me, that your husband did not die for the reasons stated.”
“You mean, you don’t think my husband’s death was a suicide? I assure you, it was. I am the one who found him.”
“Apologies,” said Haruka, feeling most uncomfortable now. “I didn’t mean that exactly.”
“Speak your peace, Tenoh-san,” said the elegant woman, over the obvious objections in the expression on her maid’s face.
“You’re husband didn’t kill himself because of the scandal, did he?”
“So you are a private investigator.”
“No. I am here as a private citizen, but one who needs to know what you know about this.”
“Why? Why do you need to know about this?”
“Let’s just say I know some people who can help when … these kinds of things come up.”
“My husband is past any help.”
“I know, but those who remain behind are not.”
“You’re wrong, Tenoh-san,” she said. “It was because of the scandal. At least, in part.”
“The missing money,” Haruka said, looking disappointed in herself. Of course. She should have made that connection.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Kajiwara. “He was aggressively pursuing the investigation. He was making progress. But then, there was a night, when he came home, more drunk than I’ve ever seen him. I thought it had something to do with his investigative work, but that day he had not convened the investigative committee.”
“But there was a meeting of the Jouhou Honbu (Defense Intelligence Office) oversight committee, wasn’t there?” said Haruka, who was quickly putting two and two together.
“Yes, a closed door session. After that, he was … terrified. He tried to hide it, but sometimes he would look at our daughter, and then break down and cry. I begged him to tell me what was wrong. He tried to, a few times, but always ended up invoking state secrecy.”
“What was he terrified of?”
“Of … everything. He lost all interest in the investigation, but then they called him to testify before his own committee. They were trying to pin it on him. His suicide effectively ended the investigation and the story eventually fell off the front pages of the newspapers.”
“Anything else?” asked Haruka very deferentially.
Mrs. Kajiwara’s reticence overcame her at this point, but then her daughter, who had come downstairs carrying a big rolled up poster, suddenly chimed in.
“Tell her about the man with no eyes.”
“The … what?”
For the next few minutes, Mrs. Kajiwara explained, and became increasingly nervous as she did so.
“All right,” Haruka said. “Thank you for telling me these things. Aiko-san, why don’t you and I talk for a few minutes?”
“Can we get a picture together, too?”
“Aiko,” said her mother reprovingly, but then changed her mind. “Well, actually, Tenoh-san, I think you owe us that at the very least. You have probably put me and my daughter and infant son in danger.”
“Kajiwara-san, you have been very patient with me, and brave to tell me of these things. I thank you very much. Take as many pictures as you like. And Aiko-san, I’ll sign anything you want. That way if anybody asks, you can just tell them I heard you were a fan of mine and, in light of the tragedy, I came to see you.”
“Why don’t you go out back?” suggested Mrs. Kajiwara. “That way if we are still … being watched, they will see that you are here because of Aiko.”
“Very well,” said Haruka.
As the maid took pictures of them together, Haruka talked with the Aiko, asking her about her dreams. It was a fine ten minutes for the young girl who talked of her desire to be a race car driver like Haruka, and later perhaps, an astronaut. Haruka smiled at her enthusiasm, and told her those were wonderful goals. She signed and personalized everything the girl asked her to, including the big poster of her crossing the finish line at Dakar. Finally, her mother came and told her it was time to go upstairs and get ready to go shopping.
“Kajiwara-san, you have … told the right person,” said Haruka, as Mrs. Kajiwara walked her to the door and her cell phone buzzed in her pocket for the third time. “I really do know people who can help. They’re starting to understand what might be happening. I’m very sorry for your loss, but don’t give up hope.”
“Haruka, where are you?” came Michiru’s voice from Haruka’s cell phone. “We got back fifteen minutes ago and they said you had finished around 1:00.”
“Are you there at the studio now?” asked Haruka.
“Yes,” said Michiru.
“I’ll be there in ten minutes, and then I’ll explain everything.”
She began explaining as Michiru and Hotaru got into the car. What Haruka had come up with in her researches was still vague, but very interesting and Hotaru listened intently, even while appearing distracted and still very moody, especially when she told them both about ‘the man with no eyes.’ When they got home Hotaru still hadn’t come up with the answers she was looking for, and so dinner was spent being moody. Setsuna waited until Hotaru went to bed to tell them of Rei Hino’s phone call. Michiru immediately got out her talisman and had a look while Haruka explained her findings to Setsuna who listened very attentively. Michiru saw nothing, and so it was decided that whatever Rei Hino had seen, it was not an imminent threat, though everyone certainly was taking it all very seriously and would be very curious to know if Rei Hino saw anything tonight.
They talked about their plans for tomorrow, with which they would proceed if Rei-san saw nothing more. Haruka and Michiru had planned an afternoon to themselves, with lunch at a fancy hotel they knew of down the coast, followed by several hours in a hot spring spa. Setsuna decided that she would take Hotaru shopping, if Haruka could drop them off in at the Azabu Juuban shopping district before she and Michiru headed off. Haruka agreed and then Setsuna went to call Hino-san. Rei told her she was about to start her séance and that by tomorrow evening all of the Inner Planet Senshi would be gathered at Hikawa shrine for a ‘slumber party.’
“Get some rest, Setsuna-san,” Rei said cheerily, “I, Hino Rei, am on the case.”