*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*
EP 8a: MIXED EMOTIONS. WHAT’S WITH THOSE TWO?
“Hey, Motoki! What’s the latest estimate on when the Sailor Moon game will be operative?” Greg inquired as he donned his uniform.
Motoki shrugged. “They keep saying the part we need will be in any day. So I suppose your guess is as good as mine.”
Greg shook his head. “You should charge extra for the delay.”
Motoki smiled. “Oh, we’re doing okay with everything else I think,” he rationalized. “Besides, we build suspense this way.”
“Well, long as I get paid I suppose,” Greg noted with a wink.
“Oh, Greg!” a girl called out to him. Greg turned and the girl smiled. “Could you help me over here?”
Greg nodded and moved to assist. His thoughts, however, were still partly back at the Tokyo Tower.
He wondered exactly where Ami had disappeared to after he’d broken up Sewaya’s tirade those few hours ago. It had been practically impossible to even glimpse Ami again in the crowds – their encounter earlier had been a very fortunate coincidence. He hoped she was all right… though of course, he’d be able to gauge for himself after work.
It was nice being in the same house as her, if a bit unusual.
“Hey, Motoki!” came a familiar voice. Greg glanced back, recognizing Mamoru – but he was intercepted by another girl from his school before he could even think about going over and offering greetings to Motoki’s friend.
Mamoru glanced around as he strolled up. “So, how’s business?” Mamoru inquired of Motoki.
Motoki shrugged. “Oh, same as ever,” he replied with a smile. “Though it’s expected to pick up when that Moon game’s finally active.”
Mamoru nodded. “You know, they really should have included a Tuxedo Mask character in that too I think,” he contemplated.
Motoki shook his head. “I’ll never understand your fascination with the guy,” he commented.
Mamoru smiled. “It’s the cape, actually.” He paused to glance around the area. Motoki followed his eyes, but everything seemed in order.
“Waiting for Usagi?” Motoki hazarded a guess.
Mamoru blinked. “What? Oh… no, for Kato actually. After buying her drinks the other day she insisted on returning the favour sometime with dinner.”
Motoki raised an eyebrow slightly. “Oh, I see… catching up on old times?”
“Something like that,” Mamoru said with a shrug.
“Does Usagi know about her?” Motoki inquired, smiling again.
Mamoru shook his head. Motoki nodded. “Well, look sharp, she’s coming through the door,” he pointed out.
Mamoru turned. And it was in fact Usagi who was entering the Game Centre.
“Mamo-chan!” she said as she spotted him. She hurried over. “I didn’t expect to see you here!”
Motoki decided to slip off – and rescue Greg from the fans he seemed to be picking up. It had started to get like that recently… what was it about newcomers that attracted such attention? Notably males with Jr. High girls… well, at least it was good for business.
Mamoru smiled. “Usako… I should have known you’d swing by. How was your trip to the tower today?”
Usagi shrugged. “Oh, it went okay I suppose. There were some rumours about free ice cream that never materialized though. Hey, if you want, we could get some sodas and talk? I haven’t really seen you since the weekend…”
“Ummm… actually, I’m afraid I’ve made an alternative arrangement,” Mamoru answered. “Sorry – maybe tomorrow?”
“Oh!” Usagi paused. “Well, there was actually a plan for a girls study session tomorrow – but we can make that later and go out for something before!”
Mamoru nodded and gave a quick glance around the area again.
Usagi followed his eyes. “What are you up to now?” she asked.
“Er, just meeting an old friend from high school,” Mamoru reassured.
“Who is he?”
“Me,” came a quiet voice from behind the two of them.
“Kato!” Mamoru turned. “Er, Kato, this is Usagi… Usagi, Kato…” he introduced a bit uncertainly. Usagi blinked. Kato smiled nervously.
“Sorry I’m a little late, traffic was bad,” Kato noted. Mamoru nodded.
“She’s… your friend?” Usagi confirmed.
Mamoru nodded again. “We go back a few years. Kato went off to a different University and it’s been a while. We’re catching up.”
“Er, yes… pleased to meet you then…,” Usagi said guardedly, looking Kato up and down. She frowned dubiously.
Mamoru shook his head and smiled. “Usako, don’t jump to any conclusions,” he said, winking at her. “Me and Kato have always just been friends. And I’m booking off tomorrow for those sodas as we speak.”
Usagi glanced from Mamoru to Kato and back. Then she nodded and brought forth a smile. “Okay – but in that case I’m holding you to those!”
Mamoru nodded and waved. Then after a brief ‘nice to meet you’ from Kato, the two former schoolmates went out to the Cafe.
Usagi watched for as long as she was able until a voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Hey, I believe the Sailor V video game has some upgrades. If you punch in the correct sequence of buttons, you can get bonus points.”
Usagi blinked and turned to see Greg, who had handily sidestepped his few admirers. She snapped out of her reverie. “Oh! Er, that’s all right… I actually came here to see if the Sailor Moon game was active…”
Greg paused then shook his head. “Sorry, we’re still waiting. Any day now though.”
Usagi sighed. “I guess I should have known that was coming… no free ice cream, no Mamo-chan, no video game…”
“At least bad news only comes in threes,” Greg commented with a shrug. “There are those upgrades…”
Usagi shook her head. “No, that’s okay, I don’t feel like it anymore… I think I’ll spin by the mall. Thanks anyway!”
Greg nodded and Usagi turned.
Then suddenly she turned back. “Oh! Want to tell Ami that the studying tomorrow will be late like last week instead of right after school? You’ll probably see her before me…”
“Will do,” Greg assured. Usagi nodded and turned again, departing the building.
Greg watched her go, frowning. It was a shame seeing one of Ami’s friends downcast. After all, any friend of Ami’s was… well, an acquaintance at least.
A yell came from behind him and Greg turned back to see someone getting frustrated at an older video game. He quickly moved to tend to the immediate problem. Hopefully the other problems would get worked out too…
Ami came home from juku, thinking.
This was not actually unusual in itself – though the topic wasn’t classes, Urawa or even Greg this time. It was Minako, and Ami trying to phrase what she’d say on the phone.
She certainly couldn’t go with some sort of outright ‘what are your intentions towards Urawa’, because the evidence was all circumstantial at best. But she didn’t like the idea of being evasive and wandering around the point.
Perhaps a simple, ‘what were you talking about with Urawa today’? At least she had an excuse to call… Makoto had brought up her comment from last week again, about another study session. They’d agreed to have one tomorrow, barring unusual circumstances at the temple. And Ami had said she’d call Minako while Usagi contacted Rei.
So, she could start with that. Then after some quick chat, move on to ask about Urawa… gauge the response and move from there…
“Hey, Ami! How was juku?”
Ami emerged from her thoughts and looked up as she approached her house to see Greg approaching from the opposite direction. She hadn’t seem him since the Tower… he seemed happy though. Of course, he often did, when he wore an expression at all. Ami worked at imitating his look.
“Greg! Hi… it was all right, I guess. Sorry I sort of ran off on you before, back on the observation deck… I just –“
“No problem,” Greg quickly cut in with a wave of his hand. “I get tired of seeing Sewaya myself.”
Ami paused – that hadn’t exactly been her reason for leaving. Greg always seemed to brush things off! Not that she could tell him about her worries anyway, Ami admitted ruefully.
She finally just nodded and the two of them proceeded up the steps and into the house. “Working late?” Ami asked tentatively, just to break the silence as they removed their shoes.
Greg nodded. “Yeah, putting in a few extra hours after missing a day for the chess, plus we’re still waiting for that new video game to come online.” He paused and snapped his fingers. “Which reminds me, Usagi said to tell you that tomorrow’s study session will be later instead of earlier. Like last time. She’s ended up with other plans.”
“Oh! Thanks,” Ami replied as the two teenagers proceeded down the hallway. Ami moved towards the stairway.
“Not joining me in the kitchen?” Greg asked.
“Er, there’s just something I need to do first,” Ami admitted. “I’ll see you shortly.” Greg nodded and went in another direction as Ami proceeded up the stairs. As she reached the upper landing, she encountered her mother heading in the other direction.
“Oh! Already finished your dinner, dear?”
Ami shook her head. “No… there’s something I need to do first,” she reiterated.
Mrs. Mizuno nodded. “Sorry we haven’t had a chance to connect too much recently – maybe after I’m done with the organization of this Medical Conference the three of us can get together for a barbecue or something.”
Ami nodded back and smiled. “That would be nice.”
“Anyway, I’ll let you get back to whatever you need to. Dinner should be ready in the kitchen, I’m just going out for a short while.” Ami’s mother waved and continued downstairs.
Ami nodded back and watched her mother depart. But as she turned away and walked down to her room, she suddenly stopped to reflect on their conversation.
The THREE of us, her mother had said. Obviously including Greg. And Ami hadn’t even noticed. She’d been worried about getting too comfortable with the living arrangement back when Greg had first arrived.
When had that ceased to be a priority? Just because she might have feelings for him?
Even her conversation with Greg before… they’d been talking like… like… well, Ami wasn’t sure what actual couples in the same house talked like, but asking about work and school and stuff seemed plausible. She’d have to be more wary!
Ami entered her room and shook her head, pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind. She had other things to think about now… though she mentally resolved to stop writing off the fact that the rooming situation WAS unusual!
Plunking her books down, Ami turned to look at the phone on her desk. Now what was it she would say again? She’d start with the study session, then mention seeing Minako and Urawa at the tower, and ask what they’d been discussing. Ami reached for the phone and dialled Minako’s number. It rang. Minako answered.
Ami stared at the receiver. What had the plan been again???
“Ahhhh, Minako, it’s… it’s Ami. Just calling because… because… oh! Because we’re planning on getting together at the temple tomorrow to study. It would be late though because Usagi has some plans – hopefully you can make it?”
“Tomorrow? Yeah, that should be okay… same time as last week then?”
Ami nodded. “Er, yes,” she added. Like Minako could see her nodding on the phone. ‘Get a grip,’ Ami mentally told herself. She paused to clear her throat – and head.
“Um, is that it then?” came Minako’s voice.
“Actually, one other thing,” Ami continued, pleased at how nonchalant she sounded now. “I noticed you and Urawa together up on the observation level of the Tower today, just before Sewaya showed up. If you’re still discussing chess like the other day, maybe I could be of some help?”
“Oh… no, that’s okay, we were talking about something else,” Minako replied, hesitantly.
There was another pause, during which Ami stared at the receiver. Minako wasn’t being entirely helpful here…
“Er, okay,” Ami affirmed. “So, what exactly were you talking about then?”
“Well, a bit about school, a bit about our experiences with Sewaya… not like you can finish a conversation when that guy’s around of course. But as Urawa said, you can’t choose your relatives.”
There was another brief pause.
“You and Urawa are just comparing notes on Sewaya these days then?” Ami verified.
“Well, that’s one of the things,” Minako agreed. “Sewaya is something me and Urawa have in common after all. Like how you have chess in common with him …and Greg.”
Ami blinked. Minako had almost tacked on Greg as an afterthought. Did that mean she’d forgotten about him? And had moved on? Or… maybe it was a way to distance Greg from something Ami had in common with him, signifying she’d prefer Ami had relations with Urawa…
“Ami? Still there?”
“Er, yes,” Ami answered. Or maybe it had meant nothing. “So, you’re finding some things that you and Urawa have in common?” Ami forged on.
“You could say that,” Minako remarked. But she didn’t elaborate.
Another pause. Ami closed her eyes and counted to three. Was Minako being deliberately vague? How direct would she have to be to get the information she wanted to know? I mean, would she have to ask… “Ami?” Minako prompted once more.
“Minako, did you talk about a romantic relationship at all during your conversation??” Ami blurted.
<commercial break; Usagi, Mamoru and Kaijin skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>