"Ice Cream Bars"By
"Perfect... but too expensive," Puu said to herself as she looked through the windows of the shops she passed. It was shopping season at the Juuban mall, so she had to push herself through countless rows of other shoppers just to move from one store to the next.
She heard beeping from her pocket. Puu pulled out her communicator and flipped it on. Usako's face filled the LCD.
"Help me! Someone come and help me already!!" Usako yelled in a pitch almost high enough to break Puu's ears. "There's a Daimun here and I'm all alone!"
"Can't you talk without yelling?" asked Rei's digitized voice.
"Where are you, Usako-chan?" Mako asked.
"I'm in the Takabu jewelry store on the South end of the mall."
"I'll help you," Puu said calmly. "I'm the closest. The rest of you stay put--I can handle it."
Puu snapped the communicator shut, and continued to act normal. The other shoppers in the mall, of course, just thought she had been looking at her compact. She headed south, walking quickly through the crowd as if she was on a business duty. Then she started thinking about places where she could transform. She'd probably have to step into an alleyway outside the mall and re-enter it again....
Suddenly, something nudged Puu from the side. Since she had been walking so fast, her high-heel missed the ground and she toppled to the floor.
"Ouch," she said, rubbing the back of her head. She looked up and saw a bespectacled, stick-figure of a man standing over her. He was unsteadily carrying three large boxes, which were probably the reason he had knocked into Puu.
"I- I'm sorry, Miss," said the man in embarrassment. He was trembling with the effort of holding all three boxes at once. "I guess I have a bit too much to carry right now, heh heh..." He smiled at her.
Puu got up. "It's all right," she said over her shoulder as she continued towards the battle site.
"No no, I'm really very sorry. You see, I'm upgrading my computer to a Mach-5-class, so all these boxes have fragile stuff in them..." The man started to follow her, still juggling his packages. "Say, where are you from?" He continued. "My name's Eric van der Weyden, and I come to this mall all the time, especially this strip where all the computer stores are." Once again, he laughed uneasily at her.
All she said was, "That's good."
He persisted. "Hey, you're rather pretty. In fact, you're extremely pretty. You're not taken already, are you? Can I have your number?"
"No and no," she said. Quit following me, Puu tried to command him mentally.
Eric rearranged the packages under his arms so he could keep up with her. "Hey, that's halfway alright. You know, Miss, you really should give us computer nerds a chance. A lot of guys I know are absolutely in love with their computers. I was too, but you're prettier than any computer I've ever seen."
Go away, Puu thought. She started weaving in and out of the stream of human-traffic in an attempt to lose him. He kept close on her tail.
"Come to think of it, I'm not that much like other computer nerds at all. I do get out a lot. And not just to buy computer parts. I like to see the world, you know, see what's going on. Hey, are you sure I can't call you?"
An unusual rush of people started heading their direction from the South side of the mall. Some of them were screaming. The crowd broke down into chaos. Puu saw her chance. She expertly ducked her way through the oncoming gush of customers. Sure enough, when she glanced back, Eric was drowned in the sea of people, bulky packages and all.
It's about time, Puu thought. Before long, she saw Super Sailor Moon and the Daimon engaged in combat.
"RAINBOW MOON HEARTACHE!" The Daimun exploded from the immense power of Moon and Pluto's attack. Super Sailor Moon was a bit scratched up from the fight.
"I'm sorry I took so long," Pluto told her.
"No no, don't worry about it," Sailor Moon said, as cheerfully as ever. "I already know that running through the mall really sucks!" Both of them giggled lightly. Puu de-transformed and picked up the shopping bags that she had thrown into the corner before the fight.
"So, what were you doing in the mall anyway, Puu?" asked Super Sailor Moon.
"I was just looking for a new pair of shoes, that's all," said Puu.
Suddenly, they heard an eager male voice behind them. "You were looking for shoes? I know some places where you could get come great discounts!" Puu spun around and saw Eric, peeking out from around the corner.
Sailor Moon screamed and jumped back. "Don't do that! You scared me!"
Puu's scarlet eyes narrowed. "You again-- You watched me de-transform, didn't you?"
He nodded. "Yep, and I watched you transform also. But it's not because I'm a pervert, I swear." Puu felt overcome by the urge to slap him, but she didn't. He was too far.
"Who are you?" Sailor Moon asked.
"This is Eric and he's been following me around," Puu said with her hands on her hips.
"Wow, you said my name!" Eric beamed. He almost fainted.
"Aww, he's cute," Sailor Moon giggled. Eric shook his head.
"I'm sorry Sailor Moon, but I only have eyes for Miss Puu here. To think, I fell in love with her even before I knew she was Sailor Pluto!"
Puu whisked her hair over her shoulder impatiently. "I'm going home." She made her way out, her heels clicking against the tile floors.
"Wait for me!!" Eric cried. He picked up his boxes once again and followed her every step like a dog following its master. Super Sailor Moon couldn't help but smile at the situation poor Puu had gotten herself into.
"Look Puu, I brought you flowers."
Eric said as he popped up behind Puu with a grin as wide as the moon. He thrust the bouquet in between her and the book she had been reading. She was sitting on a bench at the park. For the past two hours, Eric had been giving her gifts, popping up and then leaving to buy her more stuff. Next to her was already a box of chocolates, a teddy bear, leather shoes, a silk scarf, and some small gold earrings.
"Thanks," Puu said emotionlessly. She put the flowers down on top of the rest of the stuff. She continued reading.
Eric scratched his head sadly. "That's so weird. Why don't you like the stuff all the other girls like?" Puu shrugged.
"I know what you want. You want more books, don't you? That would make you happy!" Instantly, Eric regained his confidence and bounced away.
On his way, he was confronted by a small girl with pink pigtails. "Hey, are you Eric, the one who's been following Puu around?" ChibiUsa asked him.
"That's me," he said proudly.
"My sister Usako-chan told me about you yesterday. I think you're cute too!"
Eric shook his head. "I'm sorry little girl, but I only have eyes for Puu."
ChibiUsa blushed. "I didn't mean it like that, silly... Hey, you want to know a secret about Puu?"
Eric's eyes widened. He bent down to her as if he was magnetized.
"She loves ice-cream bars. They're her favorite thing in the whole world when she's stressed out. She especially likes the vanilla ones with chocolate on the outside!"
"Wow! Thank you!" Eric said, jumping for joy. He kissed ChibiUsa on the forehead, and then sped off in the direction of the closest ice-cream stand, leaving a trail of smoke behind him.
"Hey Puu! Guess what I've got!" Eric said as he advanced on her, his shoulders trembling with sheer delight.
Puu sighed and looked up. "Is it a good book?" she asked.
"No it's ice-cream! And it's your favorite kind too!" Eric said as he held up two sticks of chocolate-and-vanilla ice-cream bars. "Look, I even got two, so we could eat them at the same time--isn't it wonderful?"
Puu didn't respond. A moment of silence passed between the two. Eric's cheerfulness slowly faded away. His face turned red in embarrassment. He stuttered.
"Umm... Well, I did buy two... and one of them's going to melt because I can't eat two at once... you know."
"How did you know they were my favorite?" Puu asked him.
Beads of sweat fell down his forehead. "Uhh, well...I..." Puu sighed again. She stood up. "Don't be mad. Please, don't be mad," he pleaded.
"Look Eric," she said, calm like a pool of water as usual. "You're not a bad person. I actually kind of like you. But I can't accept your gifts. Things just wouldn't work out between us." Her hands were clenched. Eric was quiet. He seemed to slowly melt like the ice-cream bars in his hands. Puu turned away from him and walked away--stiffly, like a soldier. From in between two bushes, ChibiUsa watched her leave.
"Puu..." ChibiUsa said.
"Haruka, I think someone's at the door," Michie called from her bedroom. In the living room, Haruka turned the volume on the T.V. down. She had been watching drag racing.
"All right, I'll get it," she called back to Michie. Haruka opened the door and saw ChibiUsa waiting outside. "Oh hi, chibi-muffin-head," Haruka smiled. "Hotaru's not in right now. She--"
"I don't want to see Hotaru, I want to see Puu," ChibiUsa interrupted. Haruka stood still in surprise for a moment, and then allowed ChibiUsa inside. As they walked down the hall, Michie came out and greeted ChibiUsa.
"Puu's here, right?" Haruka asked.
"Yeah, she came in earlier today. In fact, she's been in there a long time..." Michie trailed off. She shrugged.
"I'd like to go in there alone," ChibiUsa told Haruka. Haruka nodded and went back to the living room.
ChibiUsa found Puu huddled on her bed, her face buried in a pillow. "Puu...?" ChibiUsa asked in surprise. The mass on the bed stirred. Puu sat up and tried to compose herself. "What's wrong with you?" ChibiUsa asked. "Are you feeling sick?"
"No, Small Lady," Puu answered. She was trembling.
"What's wrong then?" ChibiUsa sat on the bed next to her. She paused. "...Don't you like Eric? If you like him, then why don't you talk to him?"
Puu looked down. "I can't do it," she said. ChibiUsa saw that her eyes were shiny, like glass. Chibi hesitated before going on.
"...But you're always telling me to make friends... to go out, and be brave and stuff."
Puu grabbed her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. "You don't understand, Small Lady. I can't fall in love with him because of who I am. I'm Sailor Pluto, the Guardian of Time, and I'm immortal..." ChibiUsa thought she saw a tear fall from Puu's face. Puu hugged her quickly.
"Because you're immortal?" ChibiUsa asked. "Does that mean, that if you fall in love, then he'll die but you won't?"
"Yes, Small Lady. It's part of the price of being the Guardian of the Time Gate. And it's always been like that. I endure through everything... I've seen empires built and I've seen them crumble. I've watched wars being waged and countless people die." Puu's voice sunk to a whisper. "But that's never been what's hurt me the most... It's always been when I lost the people I know-- people I love like you, Small Lady."
ChibiUsa grew sad because Puu was sad and she started to cry. Gently, Puu wiped the tears off the girl's face. "For centuries I was ultimately alone," she explained. "But I don't have to be any more, now that you and the others have been reborn. I'm not afraid to love you, because I know you'll stay with me, from now on until the 30th century. You're the only ones I have, but that's all I need to live." Puu smiled. To her surprise, ChibiUsa became angry.
The young girl pouted. "That doesn't explain why you acted that way to Eric."
Puu looked down gravely. "I suppose, then, that you still don't understand. But that's ok."
"I understand perfectly," ChibiUsa shot back. "Compared to you, his life-span is small and inconsequential. And he's choosing to spend it on you, but you won't even give him your attention in return. You'll have centuries to sit around and feel sorry for yourself. But if you want to be happy with Eric, then now's the only time you could do it." ChibiUsa smiled a little. "Everyone loses their loved ones eventually. You're not any different from any one else, Puu. The only way humans could possibly love each other is if they ignore the fact the one day they'll be forced apart."
Puu was speechless. She looked away in resignation. "ChibiUsa, you're wise beyond your years..." she said.
"What are you talking about? I'm 900 years old, remember?" ChibiUsa tsk-tsked at her.
Puu nodded and stood up slowly. She held her head in frustration. "You're right. I should go back to him, shouldn't I?"
ChibiUsa grinned and threw a pillow at Puu. "Yeah! It's about time!"
Puu was about to make her way out, when she turned back to ChibiUsa. "And another thing, Small Lady--don't give out my secrets again."
ChibiUsa giggled sheepishly. "Heh heh, sorry..."
Puu walked out of the room, out of the house, and back towards the park. The sun had set by now. The air was cold. "It's only right--" she whispered to herself. "Even though I know I'll be hurt."
Cronus's body lay twisted among the sheets. Every once in a while, harsh coughing racked through his frail form and he spit up blood. The foot of his bed was cluttered with potions, crosses, herbs, and other remedies that his relatives had given him in hopes of healing his disease. He hadn't seen another living being for two days.
Suddenly, the door creaked. It opened slightly. From behind it, Cronus saw wispy green hair.
"Puu... No." Cronus gestured for her to stay behind the door. "Don't come in," he muttered between gasps for air. "You'll catch it.... just like me... the curse..."
She opened the door wider, and let the light fall on her face.
"No! Puu!!" He gurgled while choking. She stepped inside. Puu leaned down and wrapped her arms around him tenderly. His body tightened for a moment, and then it became relaxed. He breathed deeply. "Thanks, Puu.. I mean, for doing this for me. Nobody else would." Cronus's eyes darkened and he started to cry. When he cried his body shook and dark liquid came out of the sores on his skin. He croaked something that she couldn't make out.
"Your body feels just as warm as it always has," she said quietly after a long pause.
Cronus smiled briefly. "Yours too," he said, "But I'm not lying."
Puu looked into his eyes painfully. "I mean it!" she cried. "I remember when we first met. I remember it clearly. You haven't changed one bit. I know that I look the same, physically. But I could tell that emotionally you're as strong as always. I'm proud of you for that."
His body tensed. "No, Puu," he said harshly, pushing her away. "Don't pretend like you know what I'm going through, because you don't. Nobody immortal could know what it's like to have your time run out... to be on your deathbed..." Suddenly he convulsed from the effort of speaking.
"Don't talk if it hurts," Puu pleaded. "I don't want you to be angry at me... That's the last thing I want. I came back-- I came back so you wouldn't be angry with me," she said, looking down. She placed her hands in her lap awkwardly. "And-...And to thank you, of course. For everything..." She hugged herself. "You've made a small part of my endless life happy, Cronus. I mean that too."
Cronus's breath churned slower and slower. His muscles became looser. "Thanks Puu. I shouldn't have yelled at you.... not now.... when I have nothing left..."
She put her face close to his and kissed him. "You have me. You'll always have me here."
"That's right..." Cronus said. He was too weak to say anything else.
"I promise I'll think about you for all eternity..." Puu said.
He sighed slowly and deeply with an inner peace. She laid him down and he drew his last breath. After that, everything in the room was still. Puu sat down on a chair next to his bed. She stayed there until a thick layer of dust had collected over everything in the room.
The shimmering reflection of the moonlight in the water made the entire park glow. The light played over the trees and the park-bench Eric was sitting on. His arms were draped over the back, and he seemed as though he lacked the energy to move.
He heard a noise to his left. He saw Puu standing there, quietly like a bird.
She stared at him for a long time. He didn't move--too shy to approach her but too afraid to run away. Eventually, she was the one who came forward. From behind her back, she brought out two chocolate-and-vanilla ice-cream bars. She gave one to him.
Then the two of them sat on the bench together, eating ice-cream and watching the glowing ripples on the lake move by.