*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*
EP 9b: VIDEO VENDETTA. THE GAME IS AFOOT!
<commercial break; Ami, Greg and Urawa skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>
“Hey!! And how come you always cut out like that as soon as I make my appearance?” Sewaya griped.
He scanned the crowd to see where Urawa and Minako had slipped off to, during his initial complaint. Other people started to turn and look. Greg was one of them.
“Sewaya, what a surprise,” he commented dryly, coming over. “Is there a problem?”
Sewaya spun on his heel. “Aha! You too! You’re the problem! Along with my no good cousin – who’s too much of a coward to come forward!” He glared out at the crowd again. “Because he’s too busy having a good time with Minako!”
There was a series of ‘clinks’ as a bunch of coins fell on the ground. Cheeks going mildly pink, Ami quickly scrambled to retrieve them.
“Jumping to conclusions as always, I see,” Urawa finally stated, re-emerging from the throng.
“Oh, so you’re not going out with Minako behind my back?” Sewaya accused. “This isn’t the first time I’ve seen you together.”
“I can be with whoever I like,” Minako said exasperatedly, as she followed Urawa out of the crowd. “All I know is I WON’T go out with you – so what did you do, follow me here from school??”
Sewaya blinked, eyes quavering. “Minako… don’t say such things…”
“If you can jump to conclusions, why can’t she?” Urawa returned.
Sewaya pointed an accusing finger at Urawa. “This is all your fault! Well I’ll show Minako that I’m better than you… Urawa, I challenge you!!”
Greg smacked his forehead. “Eruh, perhaps you two could take this outside then?” he offered.
“I challenge you too, Greg!” Sewaya countered. “I know you’re both in on this, probably have been since the chess match!”
“What’s going on?” Motoki inquired, coming over to see exactly what was happening.
“Oh, just your average insanity,” Greg muttered under his breath.
“Er, nothing,” Urawa quickly piped up. “Me and my cousin were just setting up a chess match here with Greg…”
“No, not chess,” Sewaya declared, shaking his head. “We need something different, that contest is no longer appropriate. BUT the additional penalty for the loser shall be the same!” he added.
“Uh, Sewaya – your hair is already mostly sheared,” Urawa pointed out, raising his eyebrow.
“So I’ll cut it even shorter!” Sewaya shouted, clenching his hand into a fist and pulling it down dramatically. The others exchanged a glance, imagining Sewaya in even shorter hair. Everyone began snickering quietly.
A few minutes earlier, Mamoru had come up behind Motoki, congratulating him. “Looks like you pulled everything together well,” he commented. “You might not even need my or Kato’s help.”
Motoki turned and smiled. “Thanks. Maybe I overreacted a bit but this is the biggest deal we’ve had here in a while, those Senshi are a pretty popular bunch. Your support is appreciated.”
“Hey, whatever we can do, just say the word,” Kato put in shyly.
Motoki blinked at the sound of raised voices coming from around the entrance. “Er, hang on a minute,” he advised, moving to see what the trouble was.
Mamoru watched him go, then shrugged at Kato. The two of them followed Motoki through the crowd and looked on at the developing scene. As Sewaya started rambling on about hair cutting, Mamoru was struck by an idea.
“Hey,” he piped up. “If you’re looking for a contest in the Game Centre, why not see how many game tokens you can sell to people?” He fired a grin at Motoki who raised an appreciative eyebrow. That certainly might be good for business…
Sewaya paused, then frowned. “No, I don’t buy into that,” he retorted. “I’m not stupid – Greg has an advantage, working here! We need a level playing field, like… like the new video game! That’s it! High score takes all! Now, are you in or are you chicken?” he said, turning to look at Greg then Urawa.
Urawa glared at his relative. “Put it like that and I’m in,” he said angrily. “You know I’m better than you at video games.”
“Just so long as you both conduct yourselves in a civilized manner,” Motoki advised. “Not to mention wait in line.”
Sewaya and Urawa, nodded continuing to look at each other. Greg simply rolled his eyes. The crowd started breaking up and Motoki walked back over to Mamoru and Kato.
“Well, glad that’s settled,” he commented.
Mamoru grinned. “Handled like a pro,” he commented back, turning away to go after his friend. So, as it turned out, only Kato noticed Usagi appear in the Game Centre doorway.
A few minutes earlier, Usagi had been walking down the main street… followed by her somewhat persistent admirer. “Yes, I got out of detention,” Usagi reiterated. “So?”
“So, you never answered my earlier question,” Kaijin noted. “About the date thing. See, with Ginga Seijuurou gone, it doesn’t look like anyone else has been asking about you – which is really a shame for someone as wonderful as you are.”
Usagi blinked back at him in surprise. What? Was this guy for real? “I…” she started uncertainly. He really couldn’t compare to Mamo-chan. “I already have someone,” she stated emphatically.
Kaijin raised his eyebrows. “Really… I’ll have to meet this guy if he shares the same tastes that I do,” he commented absently.
“Euh… right…” Usagi said uncertainly. What did tasting have to do with anything? Well, it reminded her that she was hungry for one thing.
Usagi turned the corner, heading for the Crown Cafe – and spotted the banner at the Arcade. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “The new video game is working!” She hurried down the street, Kaijin still trailing after her.
Usagi rushed up to the entrance. Bonus! It looked like Mamoru was in there! But just before Usagi walked through the doors, she saw the person next to him. Kato. The scene seemed to freeze for a minute, Mamoru half turned away and starting to move back into the crowd. With a brief look at Usagi, Kato moved back, slipped her arm around Mamoru’s and followed him.
Usagi felt her heart sinking as her mood crashed back down to the ground.
“Going in?” Kaijin inquired.
Usagi jumped and turned. “Ah… n-no, I suddenly don’t feel too well,” she said. There were a lot of people inside after all, so it didn’t look like she’d be able to try out the game right away. Besides, she didn’t really want this guy trailing after her to watch. With one more quick glance inside, she quickly turned and hurried back down the street, biting her lip.
Kaijin paused, glancing inside the Arcade to see if he could spot what had unnerved her. What he saw caused both his eyebrows to go up. “So…” he murmured. “You work here, do you Greg…?”
A few minutes later, Minako was still upset. “I feel so embarrassed,” she muttered. She’d slipped back to be with Ami when the shouting had started and was now hanging with her to avoid Sewaya as they all awaited ‘the challenge’.
Ami smiled nervously. “It’s not your fault,” she pointed out.
“I know,” Minako grumped. “It’s Sewaya’s. I wonder what it was I did that warranted such an affliction to fall upon me.”
Ami shrugged. “Well, he seems to think you’re going out with Ura– his cousin,” she corrected.
Minako paused, wondering how to play this. “Well, Sewaya has an active imagination,” she indicated. “Though Urawa certainly has some endearing qualities – wouldn’t you agree, Ami?” she hinted.
“I- yes, I suppose,” Ami said, quickly moving to sort out the change in her pockets. So was Minako really looking into Urawa, she wondered? The coincidences were starting to pile up. Ami realized that in her quest for answers with regards to Greg she’d temporarily forgotten the problems on the other side of the coin. For a minute she questioned whether both Urawa and Greg’s intentions really WERE directed towards her.
Ami slipped a hand into her side pocket, fingering her medallion and allowed herself a small smile. No, as messed up as the situation was, they’d both had feelings for her at some time…
“All right!” Sewaya declared. “We’re in! And just to show you how gracious I am, I’ll give each of you the first crack.”
Urawa glanced at Greg, who simply shrugged and gestured. Urawa nodded and dropped in his money. The screen came up with ‘Select a Senshi’; he picked Mercury. Sewaya snickered. “Don’t make this too easy,” he commented. “I hear she’s the weakest.”
“But she’s higher in agility and there’s a bonus for finding hidden traps,” Urawa commented as the title screen came up.
Ami and Minako exchanged a glance and shrugged. “What’ll they come up with next?” Minako murmured.
The game began. Urawa was quite good, jumping and diving at just the right times and firing digital chips in all the right places… he even managed to execute a helicopter spin. Ami caught herself blushing as the skirt of her digital representation flipped up. Maybe there WAS such a thing as too much commercialization.
Eventually Urawa had exhausted his three lives and his score stood at an impressive 122,928.
Greg stepped forward and put in his money. He also picked Mercury. Ami and Minako exchanged another glance. “Five hundred yen Sewaya picks Venus,” Minako muttered.
Ami smiled slightly. “No bet,” she responded.
The game began. Greg had obviously been paying some measure of attention to how Urawa had handled the situation. He evaded the first few problems with ease – but then took a different route behind a computer conduit that Urawa hadn’t even noticed.
His score continued to increase as Greg started to take a couple of somewhat foolish risks – that succeeded. It took several minutes before he lost his first life… which he quickly gained back by discovering a free one.
Ami found herself thinking back to the first time she’d played the Sailor V video game in here. The scores were comparable – as was the increasing crowd size. Ami frowned. Was it her imagination or were there a lot of girls rooting for Greg? His game finally ended, and he had easily finished ahead of Urawa with 159,964.
Sewaya tried not to look impressed. “I can beat that in my sleep,” he commented. “Especially since I’m picking a more powerful Senshi… Venus!”
“And they say Urawa’s the only psychic around,” Minako whispered to Ami with a giggle. Ami simply shook her head.
The game began. Sewaya’s skill looked to be just as good as that of Urawa. But in trying to be more like Greg, he made a few foolish risks – that did not succeed. Sewaya was soon down to his last life. Realizing this, he started to play a slightly more conservative game, and his score continued to climb, slowly but steadily. He had soon passed 100,000 and Urawa started to worry.
Then, just before arriving at the end of his current level, a hole opened up beneath the digitalized Venus’ feet – with a cry, she plunged in, and the game ended. Sewaya’s score was 122,914.
“Mercury would have been able to perceive that hole,” Urawa commented, trying not to sound too relieved.
Sewaya’s jaw dropped. “Four… fourteen lousy points?” he gasped. “I lost by only *14* points??”
Urawa slapped his cousin on the back. “Cheer up,” he commented. “You said the short hair look was in. Just think how many girls you can impress when you make it even shorter.”
Sewaya swivelled his gaze from the video game screen to Minako’s face. “Don’t even think it,” she advised him.
“MinakoooOOOoo… don’t say such things…” Sewaya cried out with a plaintive look, eyes seeming as if they could brim with tears at any moment.
The others sweatdropped as Motoki appeared. “Well, glad to see things are settled…” he said, looking around. He held out some game tokens to Sewaya. “I’ll even give you a consolation prize.”
Sewaya took the tokens and stared at them despondently. There was a brief pause.
“Er, now how about we all get back to work?” Motoki concluded.
“Well, that went well,” Greg commented as he and Ami walked up the steps to their house. Things had broken up pretty quickly after Sewaya’s loss. Then at the end of the day, Greg, Ami, Mamoru and a few other workers had helped clean up a bit before Motoki closed down.
Ami merely nodded as the two of them proceeded through the front door. The first thing that struck them was the luggage in the hallway. As the two students looked at each other in confusion, Mrs. Mizuno appeared from around the corner. “Oh good! You’re both home. Maybe you can give me a hand in my last minute packing.”
“Packing?” Ami inquired, confused.
“Yes – this is the weekend of the big medical conference I’ve been organizing,” Mrs. Mizuno reminded her daughter. “The one I’ve been planning for the last month and a half? Surely you didn’t forget.”
“That’s this weekend?” Greg said, raising his eyebrow.
Ami’s mother nodded. “Didn’t Ami tell you? I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, putting the house in the care of both of you. That of course assumes I can find my travel bag…” Mrs. Mizuno shook her head and wandered off upstairs.
Ami stared after her. The medical conference. She remembered now. Her mother had been very excited about it last month – hadn’t it been the main reason behind why she’d forgotten to mention Greg’s arrival?
And that’s when it hit her. This wasn’t one of the usual cases when Ami was left alone in the house. For the next couple days, Ami would be in the house… with Greg. Ami’s eyes widened as she felt her heart start to pound faster in her chest. Just the two of them, together, all by themselves.
‘What do I do?’ Ami gasped silently. ‘Oh my, what do I do??’