Don't rise to her bait. Don't get dragged down to her level. Not again. Such were the thoughts running through Camelot's head in the fact of the saccharine and ingenuine simpering that bubbled and spewed forth from Dynasty Queen's lips. Exhaling a misty steam again, Camelot steadied herself and allowed the words to flow over her, acknowledging their content and setting her emotional reactions aside.
Even so, she couldn't help being unnerved by the almost casual self-degradation. No, she was absolutely unnerved, but not exactly by that so much as the just... bipolar heel-turn of the staff-wielding martial artist. This. This was what she could never get over about Tesni, the two-faced nature of her. She held no creed close, dedicated herself to no tangible goal. Instead, she bulled through all situations she could recklessly... and then immediately used a poisonously honeyed tongue when she could not, words so sweet and simpering you could choke on them. She was a chameleon... No, rather, her true nature was almost blindingly obvious, but she didn't even have the honor to stick to her guns or simply acknowledge her faults and overcome them, not mentally. Physically? That was another matter, radically so. To the point that one could only assume it was all she cared about. She was someone who seemed to love taking advantage of and oppressing those that weren't as bold as her, and those that were? She wanted to fight them, beat them, and dominate that way. She was simply someone who did what they wanted with no regard for others.
That said, Camelot... would not comment upon it at this time. What kind of hypocrite would she be to call for peace and then immediately allow herself to be dragged down into the dirt once more? Instead, she only replied, "I suppose that's all I can ask for. Glad to have you on board for the time being."
Burning Heart spoke up then, a righteous fury infusing her tone that Camelot could not deny or, honestly, disagree with. However, there was context there that the new girl was missing. She wasn't incorrect, but she was acting upon some incorrect assumptions. "Unfortunately, despite your impression to the contrary, not a one of us placed upon this team has cultivated such bonds with the others, especially given how uncommon our being comrades was before now. In fact, it is fair to say we share little in common and have avoided each other actively for one reason or another. We've never been forced into close social quarters for extended periods of time before, and you could almost call us a group of complete strangers. So, yes, there are no real bonds of sisterhood here... because they never had a chance to form to begin with." Sighing, Camelot rolled her jaw. "That doesn't mean I don't want to change that, you know? This... wasn't a good look, and it's going to take some work to fix. But I'm willing to put the effort in. I just hope you can meet us half-way, even after all this."
Tsubasa was speaking now, casting some less than subtle shade Tesni's way and referring to Ozma in turn as an old acquaintance... even friend perhaps? There was some uncertainty there, but neither party seemed anything but cordial towards the other. At her words of reassurance, Camelot nodded, though she wasn't sure if Tsubasa was reading the same thing she was from Burning Heart. With a final glance at Lilac Shimmer and acknowledging some parting words from Ozma, Moonlight Tsubasa took hold of one of her Attendants hands and vanished in a mighty flash of light.
Briefly blinking some spots from her vision, Camelot's determination firmed. Teleportation as well? Moonlight Tsubasa was clearly a support type of truly rare depth and breadth, even excluding her Grimoire-less magics. Tsubasa had left, gone on some sort of "sabbatical" to spread her teachings. It must have been a long one, even by Magical Girl standards, because Camelot had never even heard a whisper of her before. Clearly, either before or during her travels, Tsubasa had discovered something about the Pageless that the Grand Ministry either wouldn't -or couldn't- acknowledge. And through that discovery, she had learned the all-important secret to pacifying and controlling them.
She shook herself from such thoughts, as Ozma mentioned the Apex Pageless. Humming, Camelot turned her senses towards the sky and the swell of magics far above the ground for a moment, before nodding contemplatively. "Yes, I suppose that would be Lumiere's team then? Not many are so well equipped to engage in a battle in the sky." The Knight sobered up at the talk of changing up the teams, grimacing, as she quietly replied in turn, "If possible, I'd like both myself and Lumiere to be present for that meeting this time around. This affects all of us, and her input would be valuable. Besides which, I would personally be partial to airing some concerns of mine that may affect the outcome." Honestly, even as bad an impression as this had been, she didn't want to discard either Lilac Shimmer or Burning Heart, but Tesni... They just couldn't work together long term except as anything other than unquestionable equals. Anything less, and egos would get in the way for certain. At Ozma's final statement, Chinami's lips pursed together. "Yes, it really be best that it didn't. We-"
A flash of light pulled her attention to the slumped form of Lilac Shimmer... now Bonnie once more.
Shit! Yet again, she failed to pay particular attention to her senior, a girl who she now knew was... not fully okay in a manner she had clearly yet to identify or address. In a flicker of movement, Camelot was beside the redhead and lifting up the lower left side of her shirt to check for... apparently nonexistent bruising on her ribs. Frowning, her gaze flicked up to the other girl's. "Are you okay? Magically exhausted? I assumed we were all going into this fresh, but-" Her brain registered Bonnie's most recent words, stopping her cold.
Camelot took a step back and ran her eyes over the other girl's form, examined her withdrawn demeanor, and she felt her heart sinking a bit. Bonnie had been so full of energy moments before, so to see it all gone so uncharacteristically... or at least, as much so as Camelot could figure, given not so well she knew her. To see that, it was... worrying.
Camelot thought back to how quickly Bonnie had disappeared after the last Pageless battle, how she hadn't stayed to chat with anyone, not even Burning Heart, who she'd hit it off with.
She thought back to the long quiet between them, even as roommates. She recalled her earliest days in the Academy, recalled brushing off the overtures of friendship of everyone around her, recalled getting annoyed at the bubbly Bonnie and starting to pretend she didn't exist, recalled focusing on her magical and physical training to the exclusion of all else, recalled taking her remaining spare time and giving it entirely to the homeless and to the nigh-miraculous friendship with Wilhelmina.
She... hadn't had time for anyone else. No, it was more selfish than that by far. She was a private person, so she innately despised rooming with another. The constant threat of socialization grated at her introverted self like nothing else. And so... she had come to resent Bonnie in some small manner. It wasn't the redhead's fault, nor was it anything she deserved, but... over time, Bonnie had just... stopped trying. She'd thought nothing of it at the time. Blindly, selfishly, she'd only been relieved, not interested in engaging with her fellow Magical Girls beyond the Alters. She'd seen enemies in very corner, resented everyone around her for drinking the Grand Ministry's kool aid without hesitation.
She recalled... Thinking back on it, she only paid attention to Lilac Shimmer on the battlefield, never Bonnie the regular girl. Looking back on it, she could see it, all the unnervingly quiet nights between the two of them, barely a sentence or two exchanged some days. She couldn't honestly remember ever seeing Bonnie bring anyone back to their room, which was... unusual, right? Extroverts like Bonnie were supposed to have friends and bring them over, right? Have gal-pal hangouts in each-other's places and show off wardrobes...
Chinami had never experienced that. She... didn't understand the appeal, of clothes or sleepovers, of makeup and subjective things like beauty and attire, never had. She was just glad it wasn't happening to her, even by proxy.
She never questioned why.
Bonnie... did she-? No way.
The way she acted so impulsively was borne from inexperience, not foolishness. The way she clung to Burning Heart like a limpet and practically threw adoration at her. The way she physically attacked Tesni so thoughtlessly.
Bonnie has no friends.
The very idea all but blew Camelot's mind. That just couldn't be, right? An extrovert like her... Surely, over the course of two years, someone with her high energy on the job could find people to work with consistently. Surely, in a school filled with other Magical Girls like her who bought into the sparkle and pizazz of the occupation, she could easily find others who shared her enthusiasm and interests? How?! How could this be? By all accounts, there should be no reason for her to be so isolated.
A sinking feeling grew in the Knight's gut.
This is my fault, she thought incredulously.
It made a twisted sense. If there was every possible reason for Bonnie to be succeeding and she wasn't, then one had only to look at what set her apart from others to see the truth. As pretentious as it might have sounded to say, Bonnie wasn't rooming with just anyone. No, she was rooming with the owner of the Le Morte d'Arthur Grimoire -in London, the seat of its power, someone who couldn't keep a low profile if they tried, someone who rejected the overtures of others and was exceptionally good at putting an end to bullying, even as she openly supported the Alters that most everyone looked down on. Bonnie was rooming with someone that others were simultaneously jealous of or desiring of the clout of, and yet, Camelot was rejecting even her own roommate? If people couldn't get to Camelot themselves, why wouldn't they take it out on the girl who roomed with her? They didn't even have to be overt. Just rejecting her friendly advances would be devastating enough, both on a social level... and in terms of growing as a Magical Girl.
As much as she didn't like to acknowledge it, "Friendship" absolutely factored into a Magical Girl's growth. Having people to love and fight for and alongside was proven to "spark" growth more easily. It was those emotional highs that drove improvement as much as obsessively exercising one's magic, like Camelot had. And in her own case, Camelot had somewhat "cheesed" the system. Despite her recalcitrance, she formed strong bonds with the Alters, with Wilhelmina, and she further went out into the world and personally came to know and care for the people she was fighting monsters to protect. Her growth in this manner had been so explosive that she had actually overworked her Grimoire and stalled.
But that aside, it would... explain why Bonnie was so, frankly, weak compared to so many other physical Magical Girls. Despite The Wonderful Wizard of Oz being a mere Fable, Ozma existed as living proof that one could far overcome the supposed limits of their ranking, and she did it presumably through spreading her love and care to all and sundry, getting to know nearly every Magical Girl personally and, theoretically, being the most befriended individual in the entire damn Academy. Bonnie didn't train her powers... at all as far as Camelot knew, which meant the only other way for her to increase in power was friendship, and if she wasn't even getting that?
Holy shit. In theory then, that was the ingredients for a very destructive spiral. Bonnie was her senior. By all rights, she should be as strong as her, and between her willingness to befriend -and even half the effort in training, she could likely have been stronger still. And yet? She was weak, despite being significantly senior in experience, despite having had a team even before Marrywell. People would look at her experience on paper, only to be shocked by her lackluster performance in the field. As a result, they would stop working with her, crippling her potential even more.
A death spiral of loneliness and a resultant inability to meet expectations. Camelot could think of few worse fates for someone like Bonnie, and she honestly had trouble imagining what sort of self esteem issues constant rejection might level upon someone. In that case... she shouldn't be treating Bonnie like a senior, like someone who could always handle themselves... but as a junior, a student. That was why she'd been placed under Camelot; she was in desperate need of training, friendship or both. Camelot wasn't sure if she could do all that, but she'd be damned before she gave things up as a lost cause only moments after realizing the issue.
"No," she eventually answered Bonnie after far too long a silence. Clasping the redhead's shoulders with both hands, she stared her dead in the eyes with steeled determination. "Not yet, not today, not ever again... or at least, not alone." Nodding, she smiled the same smile she'd only long since aimed at her people at the Round Table and the Alters, a smile of genuine care. "I'm not sure exactly what's going through your head, Bonnie, but you are needed here." She chuckled wryly. "If for no other reason than to keep Burning Heart from tearing me a new asshole." Shaking her head, she refocused her gaze on Bonnie, releasing her shoulders and taking her hands instead. "You're a Magical Girl, and even if it's not the one we were expecting, we're supposed to be a team, you know? Don't tell me a fellow warrior of Love and Justice is going to walk away after tripping up once or twice? Hah! That's not how Sailor Moon did it, and dammit, that's not how we do it."
There was a thrumming in her chest, but Camelot tried to put aside exactly why her Grimoire was so damn pleased right now. "You may not be the strongest of us or, heck, even the most observant or socially adept, but you are irreplaceable. You want to know why?" Her right hand released Bonny's left to prod the center of her chest. "You got heart, something that's in disturbingly short supply on this team. And you are strong, in a way that the rest of us haven't had to be." She leaned closer, whispering now, low enough that the rain might drown it out for all but Bonnie and the nearby Burning Heart. "I can't imagine what it's been like for you all this time. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you been going it alone for all too long, haven't you? And you know, that might unintentionally be partially my fault... and for that, I truly am sorry beyond words more than anything else. I've been blinded to the problems of those quite literally closest to me... I hurt you in a particularly sinister way. I never realized what kind of pressure you were under, but from now on? I'm not going to let you stay crushed under that load."
Stepping away from the redhead again, Camelot straightened up and extended a single hand, scratching the back of her neck with the other. "It's, uh, really late in coming and maybe a bit too forward of me after what I just did and I'm not usually the sort to reach out first, but uh... would you be up for being friends from now on?"