Notes: This takes place during Sailor Moon R, during the break up.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to my wonderful beta, Moonbeam, and to my demented husband, Fogmaster.
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi*****
Usagi was not having a good day. She hadn't been able to sleep verywell, as Chibi-Usa had climbed into bed with her and had twitched and kicked throughout the night. Arriving late, and without her lunch, shehad already received detention for the day and things didn't look likethey would be improving anytime soon. Usagi looked up apprehensivelyas Haruna-sensei started writing on the board. 'No, please tell me thatdoesn't say what I think it does,' she thought to herself. She closedher eyes and made a little wish before looking again, but those awful words--Pop Quiz--were still there. 'I knew I should have stayed in bed.'
Trudging home after detention, Usagi noticed Mamoru and Chibi-Usasitting on a bench in the park. Perking up a bit, she called out agreeting as she walked up to them. "Mamo-chan, Chibi-Usa!" sheexclaimed happily, her heart beating a little faster as she camecloser. However, when they turned to look at her, Usagi was met withtwo pairs of glaring eyes and her steps faltered. The small smilethat had started to creep up her face fell away at the ice in hisgaze. The stormy blue eyes that had once looked upon her lovingly (atleast, she thought they had), now only held irritation and annoyance.
"Usagi, don't call me that. I told you, it's over. Stay away fromme," he told her coldly and then got up and started walking away.Usagi blanched, her already pale face draining of all color.
"I, I'm sorry..." she whispered to his retreating back, wonderingonce again what it was she had done to bring such scorn upon herself. Tears were gathering behind her eyes and she could feelthe familiar burn of sobs beginning in the back of her throat. Beforeshe could even whimper, however, Chibi-Usa stood on the bench in frontof her and started screaming.
"You drove him away! He's leaving because of you, baka! He hates youand so do I!" Chibi-Usa yelled. She leaped from the bench andran after Mamoru.
'He...they...hate me?' Usagi thought to herself. Staring after themin shock, she just stood there as she felt something inside her startto wither and die. 'Am I really so bad?' She could hear Chibi-Usa'svoice again in her mind, over and over again--"He hates you and so doI!" There was a slight buzzing in her ears and blackness was startingto edge out her vision. She was making her way unsteadily to thebench when her communicator went off. Usagi waited until she had satdown before activating the communicator with shaking hands.
"Usagi, you baka! What took you so long to answer? We need you atthe ice rink right away. There's a droid attack." Rei yelledangrily.
"I...I.." Usagi started to respond, but Rei cut her off.
"Just get over here, Odango Amata!" she demanded before cutting theconnection.
Usagi stared at the communicator blankly for a minute before finallycoming back to herself. She stood up shakily and transformed. Feelinga bit better with the transformation into Sailor Moon, she took offrunning for the ice rink which was, of course, on the far side oftown.
She'd almost reached the edge of the park when she heard a shrillscream coming from somewhere to her right. Veering in that direction,she picked up her speed until she came to a small clearing where adroid was draining the energy from a woman while her children cowered in horror. "Hey, ugly, why don't you pick on someone your ownsize," she called out. "I am Sailor Moon and in the name of the Moon, Iwill punish you." The droid had dropped the woman as Sailor Moonstarted her speech and was looking her way. "Moon Tiara Action!"Sailor Moon yelled, as she released the spinning gold disc.
Unfortunately, the droid teleported before the tiara could reach it.'Uh oh,' she thought, 'Where did it go?' She scanned the areafrantically and was just turning around when she felt the claws diginto her back. She cried out in agony at the burning sensation andthrew herself away from the droid. As she lay gasping on the groundwith the droid advancing toward her, she saw her tiara coming back toher and, with a desperate motion, directed it toward the droid. As the claws were about to rake her chest, the lethal flash pierced the droid, reducing it to metal shavings. Sailor Moon briefly pressed her eyes closed, taking in deep shuddering breaths, then climbed painfully to herfeet. With no more creatures lurking within sight, she continued her dash toward the ice rink.
By the time she reached the battle, she was seeing spots before hereyes and her back felt numb. She stumbled a bit as she enteredthe fray, but caught herself before she went down. Her eyes widenedas she took in the condition of the Senshi. Mercury was crumpled in aheap by a tree, Venus was painfully struggling to her feet after taking a droid blast, Jupiter was clutching her right arm against herchest, and Mars was loosing an attack, though it looked asthough she had suffered a blast or two, herself. The droid deftlyside-stepped Rei's flames and was about to launch a counter attackwhen Sailor Moon shouted her attack, "Moon Sceptre Elimination!" Thedroid froze motionless for a moment, then burst into a cloud of glittery dust. Sailor Moon breathed a sigh of relief, but Mars whirled around and glared at her.
"Where have you been?!" she exclaimed. "We could have used your helphere. What kind of leader are you, to leave us to battle this droid byourselves. We could have been killed!"
"And when you do show up, you have a klutz attack that almost preventsyou from destroying the monster before it gets Mars!" Jupiter added,throwing her own glare towards Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon just stood in disbelief. She started to open her mouth to speak, but Venus didn't give her a chance.
"I don't want to hear any of your excuses. I agree with them. Youcould have gotten us all killed," she spat angrily.
Sailor Moon turned to Mercury in mute appeal, but Mercury just turnedaway and refused to look at her. Tears threatened again as hereyes flitted from one angry scout to the next. 'They hate me. They really hate me. And they're right. I'm not a leader, or a warrior, or a princess. They would be better off without me.' Without a word, Usagireleased her transformation, ripped the brooch off her blouse andlet it fall to the ground. She quickly dropped her communicator andthe star locket next to it and then turned and fled.******
The Senshi stared after her in shock. They certainly hadn't expectedthat. Mars was walking over to the abandoned pile of artifacts whenTuxedo Kamen arrived, looking winded.
"And where have you been?" Jupiter asked him angrily.
"I had to take Chibi-Usa home, then I got to the park just in time tosee Sailor Moon kill the droid there, and then I had to run clearacross town to get here," he managed, still gasping a bit for breath. He looked around and frowned, "Where is she, anyway?"
The Senshi all stared at him. "Droid in the park?" Venuswhispered.
Mars had finally reached the dropped articles and bent down to pickthem up. When she saw the blood on the grass next to them, she felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. "Oh no," she breathed.
"What is it?" Mercury asked, as she limped up beside her. When she sawthe blood she gasped. She immediately activated her visor and studiedthe direction in which Usagi had ran. The trail of blood wasunmistakable. "Oh my god, what have we done?" she said.
Tuxedo Kamen was growing irritated, as none of the Senshi had answeredhis question. He stalked over and grabbed Mars' arm. "What? What isthe matter with all of you? Where is Usagi?" He looked down at theitems she was holding. "Why do you have her things?" he demanded.
The Senshi just stared at him quietly, tears streaming from their eyes.Finally, Venus spoke, "We, we had a fight. We were upset because shetook so long in getting here and we were getting our butts kicked bythat droid..." she trailed off.
"We didn't even give her a chance to explain," Mercury added, chokingback a sob.***********
Usagi ran until she reached a hidden place in the park, sheltered fromview by thick rosebushes. There, her legs gave out and she collapsed to the ground sobbing. Her back oozed blood, an intense burning sensation emanating from the gaps torn into her flesh by the droid. But, compared to the pain in her heart, these wounds were mere annoyances. "Oh Mother, why did you send me here? It would have been better if you had let me stay dead in the past," she cried.
"Actually, it would have been better if you had never been born," acold voice came from above her.
Startled, Usagi looked up. Floating above her was a man she did notrecognize, somewhat tall with short blond hair. He wore a uniform of some kind, all gold. His eyes, though, are what froze her in place. They were black and implacable and gazed at her with pure hatred. The malice that she read there stole away her breath.
"Who are you?" she asked, her voice trembling.
"What? You don't recognize me? I'm hurt," he said mockingly. "Don'tworry, Princess, you'll remember soon enough." From his raised palm, a radiant beam of light formed and then shot at her forehead. When the light struck her, Usagi screamed as the crescent moon blazed to life and she was forcibly transformed into Princess Serenity. "Time to go home, Princess," he said as a gold bubble of energy formed around them both.
In an instant, they were gone.*****
The Senshi came racing after Tuxedo Kamen into the park when hesuddenly doubled over, grabbing his head. They heard Usagi's screamseconds later. Mercury tried to help him, while the rest sprinted towardthe scream. A sudden flash of gold came from behind the rosebushes,but when the Senshi arrived, there was no one there.
"Where is she?" Mars demanded, of no one in particular. She lookedaround on the ground, but the only sign of Usagi was some blood on thegrass.
"She's gone." Tuxedo Kamen said flatly, as he walked up. His eyeswere grim and his face was pale.
"What do you mean 'gone?' Gone where?" Jupiter asked, confusionevident in her green eyes.
"I mean gone. I can't feel her anymore. She's not dead, I know that,but I can't tell where or how she is." He looked around helplessly atthe spot that he was sure she had been just moments before.
"He's right, guys." Mercury spoke up while still working on hercomputer. "I can't find any trace of her."
"She couldn't have just disappeared. Do you think one of the droidsgot her? She wasn't in very good shape and she couldn't eventransform into Sailor Moon..." Venus burst into tears as shefinished.
"I'm not getting any Black Moon energy readings, so I don't think itwas a droid. However, there are some extremely high readings of someother kind of energy that I don't recognize mixed with Dark Kingdomenergies." Mercury responded.
"Dark Kingdom energies!?" the other Senshi exclaimed in disbelief.
"That's impossible, we defeated the Dark Kingdom," Jupiter stated.
"There are definite traces of Dark Kingdom energies, but they are notas strong as the other, unknown energies. I'm afraid we might have anew enemy and, from the readings I'm getting, a more powerful enemythan we've had before." Mercury said.
"And now this new, more powerful enemy has Sailor Moon," Venuswhispered.*****
Serenity whimpered softly as she felt someone nudge her side. Sheopened her eyes reluctantly, fervently praying that it had all been anightmare, but the pain in her back and the burning on her forehead toldher otherwise. She reached up hesitantly to touch the crescent moon that was still blazing and winced. It had never hurt before, but she had never been transformed by something other than the Ginzuishou before, either.
"Ah, I see the sleeping princess has awakened. Welcome to your newhome, Princess of the Moon," the man in gold bowed mockingly as hespoke.
"Where...?" Serenity began to ask.
"Why the Moon, of course. I told you it was time to go home. Though,you've probably never been to this part of the Moon. We're in a nicedeep cave on the dark side of the Moon. You, child of light that youare, always remained on the side facing Earth. Now, however, it istime for you to pay for your crimes against your mother and herkingdom." His expression darkened as he spoke and his tone slid from mocking to menacing.
"Crimes? What crimes?" Serenity asked, confusion and fear warring inher crystal blue eyes.
"The murder of Queen Serenity and the destruction of the MoonKingdom!" he shouted. "You were the cause of her death! You were thecause of the fall of the Silver Millennium! If not for you, she wouldstill be alive!" Golden light began to glow ominously from his hands.
"But, I didn't kill my mother! The Dark Kingdom destroyed the MoonKingdom. They were responsible for her death!" Serenity pleadeddesperately.
"Lies! All lies! If not for you, the Moon Kingdom and Queen Serenitywould still be here. It was your fault! And now, little MoonPrincess, you will pay. You will pay for taking my Serenity away fromme!" he raged as the golden light around his hands increased inintensity. "So-called 'Child of Light,' you shall spend the remainderof your short life in darkness and alone, a fitting punishment foryour crimes."
With his final words, he released the energy that had been building inhis hands and it engulfed Serenity. She screamed as the burningenergy surrounded her. She shut her eyes, but could still see theblazing light through her eyelids. It felt like she was on fire. Hercrescent moon blazed more fiercely, a lance of silver light brieflypierced through the ball of orange-red energy that was consuming herbefore she fell, gratefully, into the cool, dark embrace ofoblivion.******
Mamoru sat bolt up right in bed. His breathing was ragged and thesheets were damp and twisted from his fitful sleep. He rubbed hisforehead gingerly, but the pain had already faded. For just aninstant, he thought he had felt his princess, and she had been inagony. Running an unsteady hand through his hair, he slowly rosefrom the bed and headed for the bathroom. As he filled a glass withwater, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He looked likehell. His face was pale and his eyes were sunken and dull. Shadows stood out prominently under his eyes, their dark color a starkcontrast to the paleness of his skin. He looked like he hadn't sleptin weeks. Truth be told, he hadn't. First, the dreams that foretoldof Usagi's death if he didn't stay away from her, and now, dreams ofher tortured screaming while she was being burned alive. He shudderedat the memory. This latest dream was worse, as he wasn't sure if itwas a dream, or actually happening right this minute, while he waspowerless to help her. He didn't even know where she was or how tofind her. He shook his head to clear it as he made his way to thebalcony.
"Usako, my love, where are you?" he whispered to the Moon, whichseemed to glare at him in disapproval for his failure to protect itsprincess.*****
Rei wearily wiped the perspiration from her head. She had beenmeditating for hours, but the Fire still would not tell her whereUsagi was. For just an instant, she had seen an image of the moonbeing consumed by the sun, but then it was gone. A stab of fear hadrun through her at the vision, but she had been unable to recaptureit.
"Rei, you should rest now. You won't do Usagi any good if youcollapse from exhaustion." Ami spoke softly, so as not to awaken theother Senshi, who were curled up in sleeping bags on the other side ofthe room. The soft glow of the computer screen gave a bluish cast toher skin as she looked at Rei in concern.
"I thought I had something...it was just a flash, and then it wasgone." Rei responded, just as quietly.
"What did you see? Maybe it would shed some light on the new enemy."Ami queried.
"It wasn't much. Just an image of the moon burning up in the heat ofthe sun." Rei looked worriedly at Ami. "I don't think that's a goodsign."
Ami shook her head. "No, I don't think so, either. Listen, weshould both get some sleep and then try again in the morning. I wrotea program that will keep searching for her and, if it finds her, analarm will go off. Maybe you're just overtired and your worry isinfluencing your mind." Ami said, sounding as if she didn't reallybelieve it, herself.******
"Serenity..." a silvery voice whispered.
Princess Serenity looked about her. She couldn't see anyone throughthe silver mist that seemed to go on forever. "Hello?" she spokehesitantly.
"Serenity," the voice repeated. "My daughter..."
"Mother?" Serenity searched about her frantically, but she couldn'tseem to focus on the source of the voice.
"Listen, daughter, I haven't much time. This place reeks of evil andit keeps me from reaching you. You must follow your heart. Go toEarth." The Queen's voice was beginning to fade.
"Go to Earth? Mother, where are you? What's going on? Where'sEndymion?" Serenity pleaded, her voice cracking on the finalquestion. As she thought of him, her heart ached and she knew thatthere was something that she wasn't remembering...something aboutEndymion...something horrible.
"Mother..." Serenity cried out as she woke up. The first thing shenoticed was that everything was dark. Not just dim, but pitch black.She couldn't see a thing. The next thing she noticed was pain. Shesucked in her breath as hot fire ran down her back when she sat up.Whimpering quietly, she drew her knees up to her chest and rockedgently back and forth as the tears came. She could feel the crescentmoon on her head blazing, but still there was nothing but blackness."Endymion, please, I need you," she whispered brokenly. As if inresponse to her call, Serenity felt a small tug at her heart. "Endymion," she breathed. Her mother's words came back to her--"Followyour heart...go to the Earth..." Slowly climbing to her feet, Serenity swayed a moment as dizziness swept through her. Carefully stepping forward with her hands outstretched in front of her, she followed the tiny pull that called to her from Earth. After stumbling several times, Serenity finally came to a rough wall. She placed one hand upon it gratefully, the coolness of the rock reassuring her somewhat that she wasn't wandering in complete emptiness.
Serenity had no idea how long she had been following the cavern wall.She had succumbed to the weakness of her body many times and falleninto a fitful sleep before awakening and continuing her journey. Every time she thought she could go no further, the familiar tug wouldcome and she would force herself to her feet, her only thought toget to Endymion. It was vitally important that she reach him. Whenthe rock wall finally ended, Serenity was too numb to notice. She hadbeen moving so long in a haze of pain and exhaustion that it tookseveral minutes for her to realize that she had left the cave. Usingall the strength she had left, Serenity teleported to the one placeshe knew as well as her own bedroom in the palace--Endymion's gardens.******
Mamoru moaned softly in his sleep. His princess was calling for him,but he couldn't find her. All around him was an impenetrable fog. Hecould hear her calling his name and sobbing as he ran blindly throughthe fog. There was a flash of bright silver light and he heard herwhisper "Endymion" just as he woke up. Breathing quickly, Mamorupushed his bangs out of his eyes and was trying to calm his racing pulse when it hit him. Need, stark and urgent, his link with Usagiwas restored and she needed him NOW. Instantly transforming intoTuxedo Kamen, Mamoru leapt from the balcony and headed for the park.*******
"Shouldn't we be doing something? I hate just waiting around." SailorUranus complainedaloud as she paced in front of afountain in Tokyo park.
"We can't do anything until the Princess arrives. It won't be longnow. We'll have to move quickly when she comes, though. Others willbe after her, as well." Sailor Pluto replied calmly.
"The Inners? Do you think they'll even bother?" Sailor Neptuneasked.
"Not just the Inners, the enemy and the Prince will try to take her,too." Pluto answered. She straightened abruptly, "She's coming."
A brilliant ray of silver light blazed from the moon down to the rosegarden in Tokyo park.
"Ah crud, of course we'd be on the other side of the park," SailorUranus exclaimed in disgust as she raced with the other two OuterSenshi toward the rose garden. They had almost reached the roses whena portal opened across the lawn before them.
"I have you this time, Rabbit," Rubeus said as he stepped through theportal and started looking around for the little girl who kept eludinghis grasp. He immediately spotted the prone figure in white andstarted toward it.Summoning a droid as he walked, he stopped afew feet from wherea small figure in white lay crumpled in a heap on the ground. Her once golden hair was now streaked with silver and covered her like a shroud. The elaborate gown of the Moon Kingdom was ripped and stained with blood and dirt.
"That's not the Rabbit..." He walked closer and was stunned at the sight of a dull throbbing light emitting from the crescent moon on her forehead, the only visible sign that the figure still lived.'Could it be? Is this the younger self of the Neo-Queen? If this is truly she, Wiseman will reward me handsomely when I deliver her to him. This is a greater prize than even the Ginzuishou!' By this time, the droid had grown to full size and was awaiting orders. A sizable and nasty looking creature, spiky horns protruded fromall over its body alongside eightlengthy armsterminating inkeen claws. Rubeus gestured toward the fallen princess. "Bring her."
The droid lumbered forward and was reaching for the girl when SailorUranus slammed into it from behind.
"What's this? More Sailor Senshi? No matter, I can deal with youeasily enough." With a flick of his wrist, Rubeus unleashed severalmore of the eight-armed droids that all began to grow rapidly andadvance toward the Senshi.
"Uranus, get the Princess out of here. Neptune and I can deal withthese creatures," Pluto ordered as she brought her staff around toattack an on-coming droid.
As Uranus headed for the princess, several of the droids moved to headher off, placing themselves between her and the still figure. Noteven pausing in her sprint, Uranus shouted out her attack, "WorldShaking!" The droids fell before her like bowling pins. Scooping theprincess into her arms, Uranus turned in time to see Neptune and Plutoclean up the rest of the droids.
"You haven't seen the last of me!" Rubeus snarled as he teleportedaway. The Inner Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen ran up just as hedisappeared. They moved toward Sailor Uranus when they saw theprincess in her arms, but Neptune and Pluto moved to block their way.
"The princess is no longer your responsibility. From this moment on,we will protect her." Pluto spoke softly, with a hint of steel in hervoice. Her scarlet eyes flashed with barely repressed anger. She heldout her hand, "Give me the Ginzuishou. The princess will need it."
"Now wait just a minute, I don't know who you are, but there's no waywe're just handing over Usagi and the Ginzuishou!" Rei protestedhotly.
"Sailor Pluto," Venus whispered in awe. "I thought she was a myth.Mars, do as she says."
"What?!" Mars looked at Venus incredulously. "Are you crazy? How dowe know they aren't working with the Black Moon family?"
"They are not," Luna stated as she and Artemis reached the Senshi. "They are Senshi, as well, although their duties do not often call for them to attend the princess." She walked slowly up to the Outer Senshi, her eyes tearing as she took in the state of her princess. "Sailor Pluto, Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune," she greeted, inclining her head.
"Luna," Pluto acknowledged. "We are relieving the Inner Senshi of duty." She turned again to Sailor Mars. "I will not ask again. You have proven to be incompetent and now, it seems, rebellious as well." Pluto's voice hardened as she finally gave rein to the anger that had been building within her. "How can you consider yourself Senshi and guardians of the princess when you allow this to happen to her?" Pluto gestured at the limp form of Serenity. Blood was dripping down Uranus' arms from the freshly opened wounds in her back and the glow of the crescent moon upon her forehead accentuated the paleness of her skin. "Every moment you delay puts her at risk. Give me the Ginzuishou now or I will take it from you."
Mars was about to refuse when Tuxedo Kamen placed his hand on her arm."Give her the Ginzuishou. She is correct. We have failed in ourduty and Usako is paying the price." Mars looked at him and the painin his eyes spoke more eloquently than his words. Silently, shereached inside her uniform and removed the Ginzuishou. Mars placedthe Ginzuishou into Pluto's open palm, but did not release it."Promise you'll take good care of her and tell her..." Mars took a deepbreath, blinking back tears. "Tell her we're sorry." At Pluto'ssolemn nod, Mars abruptly released the crystal and strode away.
As Pluto was turning away to follow the Outer Senshi, she was halted byMercury's soft call, "Sailor Pluto! You'll let us know how she is,won't you?" Pluto paused and then turned back. "I will do as myprincess wishes," she responded and then continued on her way.
Mercury's shoulders slumped a bit, but she nodded in understanding. "How could we have done this to her, our princess...our friend? Wewere supposed to protect her, not drive her into danger," shewhispered as tears streamed silently down her face.
Venus hugged her comfortingly, "She'll forgive us. I know she will."
Mercury sniffed a few times and then drew away. "I have my computer programmed for casual scanning when I'm not using it," she explained as she opened up said machine. "I didn't think of doing an intensive scan on Usagi before they left, but this should give us some idea of her condition."
"It's OK, Mercury, none of us were thinking very clearly." Jupiter said.
Everyone was quiet as they waited for Mercury to tell them her findings. She frowned as worked, her fingers tapping quickly over the keyboard.
"Well, don't keep us in suspense!" Mars finally burst out, unable tocontain herself any longer.
"Oh, sorry." Mercury cleared her throat. "I don't have many details, as it was just a passive scan, but this is what we have. Her body temperature was approximately 104 degrees Fahrenheit and rising, she's severely dehydrated, and she seemed to be losing energy at a constant rate. We could see that she was bleeding, so I would theorize that the fever is most likely the result of her wounds becoming infected..." Mercury paused in her recitation of the data at the collective gasp from the other Senshi. She glanced up from her screen to see the three other Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen staring at her in horror.
"She's in pretty rough shape, isn't she?" Venus said after a fewminutes.
"I'm afraid so. The infection and the dehydration can be treatedeasily enough in an emergency room, but it's the energy drain thatconcerns me. Why would she be losing energy now...?" Mercury trailed offas her mind suddenly shifted into high gear. "Oh no."
"What is it?" Tuxedo Kamen asked. He could almost feel the fearcoming from the Senshi of Ice.
"She was Princess Serenity," Ami stated. Tuxedo Kamen's eyes widened as he grasped the importance of that simple statement.
"So?" Mars asked, "She's been Princess Serenity before."
"But she didn't have the Ginzuishou this time," he said.
Luna gasped. "That's not good."
"I don't understand," Venus said, her brow furrowed in confusion."You mean she transformed into Princess Serenity without theGinzuishou? I didn't think she could do that."
"I don't think she did. I think someone else transformed her and thatit's the transformation that is draining her energy," Mercury explained.
"But she has the Ginzuishou now, shouldn't that give her power?"Jupiter asked.
"It might," Mercury admitted, "but the crystal itself drains her, as well. Normally, when she is running low on energy, Usagi detransformsautomatically. Since someone else triggered the transformation,however, Usagi may need to consciously reverse the process." Shelooked around at her fellow Senshi. "We have to let them know whathas happened. They can't take Usagi to the hospital in her currentstate. That glowing crescent moon is bound to generate questions thatwe just can't answer."
"I'll go," Tuxedo Kamen stated quietly. "I'm the one person Pluto can'tpull rank on. Luna, you and Artemis should go to Usagi's house. Someone needs to keep an eye on Chibi-Usa."*****
"Setsuna, she's really burning up. We have to take her to ahospital," Michiru said, placing her hand against Serenity's cheek.
"And how do you propose we explain this?" Setsuna asked, indicatingthe blazing crescent moon on Serenity's forehead. "We must deal withthis ourselves, at least until she detransforms. She can't remain inthis form much longer, she doesn't have the energy to maintain it."Setsuna frowned as she spoke. Something wasn't right. In her currentcondition, the princess should have detransformed some time ago."Something's not right here..."
"Of course something's not right! Our princess is bleeding andburning with fever. That's definitely not right. Are you sure Ican't teach those Inners a lesson for not protecting her?" Harukaasked angrily, punching her fist into her palm for emphasis.
"Not now, Haruka. The first thing we need to do is lower hertemperature. Setsuna, help me get some ice. Haruka, put the princessinto the bathtub." Michiru spoke with calm efficiency and ran to thekitchen for the ice. The first rumblings of thunder were heard justas she entered the bathroom.=====
Eight-year-old Serenity was frightened. Papa had awakened her in themiddle of the night and said that she had to help her mama. Serenityloved her mama and she wanted to help, so she obediently crawled outof bed and took her papa's hand. There was a storm brewing outside,and she shivered as a cold breeze went through her thin whitenightgown. "What does Mama need, Papa?" Serenity asked.
"Why, Serenity, she needs you to die!" he screamed as Serenitysuddenly found herself in a dark cave with her father's maniacallaughter echoing around her. Lightning flashed and she saw thetwisted mask of her father's face in front of her. The large knife heheld reflected in his black eyes and she screamed as he plunged theknife toward her chest.
Haruka just about jumped out of her skin when Serenity suddenly letout a blood-curdling scream. Setsuna and Michiru came racing into theroom.
"What is it? What happened?" Michiru asked, looking around wildly.
"I don't know, she just started screaming." Haruka said, shruggingher shoulders.
Serenity whimpered softly, "No, Papa! No!" Her head shook slowlyback and forth.
Setsuna's eyes widened. "She's remembering the past."
"The past? You mean the Silver Millennium? Why would she bescreaming about her father?" Haruka asked.
Pluto just shook her head as she poured the ice into the tub. Shedirected her attention to Serenity, who was trembling violently. "Shh, Princess. You're safe now. No one can hurt you now, Serenity.It's OK," she murmured soothingly until the whimpers ceased andSerenity lay still once more.
Sailor Moon shivered from the cold. Her friends were gone and she wasfacing Beryl alone. But who was that kneeling before the witch? Itcouldn't be her Mamo-chan, could it? "Mamo-chan?" she queried softly.
"Prince Endymion, kill the little moon brat once and for all!" Beryl'sshrill voice cut through the dark cave like a knife to Usagi's heart.She was still standing there in stunned betrayal when he attacked herwith his sword, his black eyes blazing with his hatred for her.
"No, Mamo-chan!" Sailor Moon cried out as the sword slashed across hertorso.
Serenity was thrashing in the tub again and Haruka had to grab her tokeep her head above the water. Through the thunder, the splashingwater, and Serenity's soft sobs, a persistent banging could be heard.
"Now what?" Haruka exclaimed.
Setsuna sighed tiredly in resignation. "Let him in. It's the Prince.He may be the only one who can reach her now. She's slipping awayeven as we speak." The crescent moon that once blazed upon Serenity'sforehead was now flickering and her breathing had become shallow andirregular.
"No," Haruka denied the situation. "We're not going to lose her now."
Princess Serenity looked all around her. The Moon Kingdom was inruins, her friends were dead on the battlefield, and her prince... herprince was bleeding in her arms. "No, Endymion, don't leave me," shepleaded. She knew he couldn't hear her anymore, that she would neveragain feel his delicious warmth engulfing her and making her feelsafe, loved, and complete. She gently closed his staring eyes beforegetting resolutely to her feet. "Wait for me, my love. I will bejoining you soon," she whispered. A few feet away, she found thecrystal sword. Serenity held the blade up to her chest and was aboutto thrust it into her heart when she felt it. The warmth wassurrounding her, his warmth. "Endymion?" she asked, hardly daring tohope that it could really be him.
"Stay with me, Usako. Do you hear me? Stay with me." Mamoruclutched Serenity to his breast. When he had entered the room,her breathing had faltered and Haruka had been trying unsuccessfullyto get her to respond. The whispered question of his name finallypermeated the litany he had been chanting since he arrived in thebathroom and he responded to his Princess' voice. "I'm here, love,don't worry, everything's going to be fine."
"Her fever is breaking," Michiru stated, after placing her hand onSerenity's forehead.
Hearing this, Mamoru lifted Serenity out of the cold tub and Setsunaengulfed the shivering girl in a large, fluffy towel.
Serenity blinked up at Endymion in confusion. "I thought you were dead. Beryl and the Dark Kingdom, they killed you and my Senshi..." Serenity's voice trailed off as her body succumbed to the stress it had been put through.
"Michiru, Haruka, get her out of that wet gown and into something warmand dry. I'll make some tea and then we need to talk," Setsuna said,staring into the Prince's eyes, before turning abruptly and stridingtoward the kitchen.=====
"So, Mercury has theorized that Usako needs to detransform before sheis completely drained of energy," Mamoru concluded his explanation ofwhat Mercury's scan of Usagi had revealed.
"Hmm, that explains why she didn't detransform automatically, butdoesn't answer another important question. Who could have the abilityto force Usagi to become Princess Serenity?" Setsuna pointed out.
Mamoru shook his head. "That, we don't know. It would seem that itmust be whoever kidnapped her from the park three days ago. We'llhave to wait until Usako wakes up before we know more."
Serenity felt as though she were fighting her way through fields offoggy clouds. Everything felt and sounded muffled and it was dark.Dark like the caves... She opened her eyes and looked aroundfrantically, but it was still completely dark. No light couldpenetrate the pressing darkness and Serenity could feel her breathquickening with her pulse. She felt around her and was surprised todiscover the softness of blankets. She had been expecting the dampground. Feeling around a bit more, she determined that she was in abed. A rumble of thunder caused her to shiver and the image of afamiliar face twisted with hatred flashed in her mind. Unbidden, sheuttered the word "Papa." Taking comfort in the soft, warm blankets,Serenity covered her head and slipped into slumber once more.=====
"What is it?" Michiru asked, as Mamoru seemed to withdraw for a fewminutes, staring intently at the bedroom in which Serenity rested. Hethen shook his head and relaxed. Looking back at the Senshi of the Ocean, he shrugged.
"She was awake for a moment, and afraid, but she's gone back tosleep," he finally answered.
"It's the loss of energy. We need to put a stop to it," Setsuna said.
"When they fought Queen Beryl, the Senshi were able to give her theirpower. Perhaps we could do the same, at least enough to sustain heruntil she can reverse the transformation. With our help, she may beable to use the Ginzuishou," Mamoru said.
Setsuna nodded in agreement. "It's a good suggestion. We'll try itin the morning. Right now, we're all exhausted and we won't do thePrincess any good if we all collapse around her. Mamoru-san, you maystay in one of the guest bedrooms."=====
Serenity was running through the dark, damp caves. From all aroundher, she could hear the laughter of Queen Beryl and her father mixingtogether and echoing endlessly in every direction.
"Time to die, little Moon child!" Beryl's voice suddenly came frombehind her and Serenity whirled around. Instead of Beryl, however,she was confronted by her father and her fiancee. Their black eyesglittered with hatred as they advanced toward her. Her father held along dagger before him and she could see a reflection of herself as achild in the blade. When her eyes darted to the sword in Endymion'shand, she saw a reflection of Sailor Moon. She shook her head andstarted backing up, denying the sight in front of her.
"No, this can't be true. This isn't happening. They would never hurtme," she told herself. She shut her eyes to escape the nightmare infront of her and called for Endymion with all her being, "Endymion!"=====
Mamoru rubbed his eyes wearily. Rather than the nightmare he'd beenhaving of Usagi dying on their wedding day, he had been reliving histime as a slave to Queen Beryl. He shuddered at the memory and sat upto clear the last vestiges of the dream from his mind. His breathinghad just started to slow to a normal rate when the sharp pain came inhis head. "Argh!" he groaned as he clutched his head in his hands.Then, he heard her voice in his head, as clear as a bell.
"Endymion!" That single word held so much emotion--love, fear, hope,despair--his princess needed him!
When he entered her room, the Ginzuishou was pulsing in time with thecrescent moon on her forehead. The resulting light illuminated the bedroom in a silvery glow that dimmed and brightened at intervals. Serenity was in the throes of a nightmare and her agonized sobbing pulled at his heart. Rushing to the bed, he gathered her into his arms and began murmuring soothingly into her ear. At his touch, she immediately calmed and turned to nestle into his shoulder. He stroked her hair and gently tucked an errant lock behind her ear. Her hair was out of its customary buns and seemed to have a life of its own. AsSerenity's breathing calmed, he tried to ease out from under her toreturn to his own room. The small sound of dismay she made halted hisprogress and he gave in to his own desire to remain where he was, withher warm body settled against him. The time apart from her had onlyincreased his need to hold her and bask in her light. With a smallsigh of defeat, he leaned back against the pillows and closed hiseyes--more content than he had felt in weeks.=====
There were flowers everywhere and Serenity could see her belovedEndymion, as handsome as ever in a white tuxedo. She looked down atherself and discovered that she was wearing a lacy white weddingdress. The bouquet in her hand was comprised of red roses, herfavorite. Blushing with pleasure as she brought the flowers up to hernose, Serenity sniffed delicately and walked toward herhusband-to-be. She had almost reached him when dark claws clutched her waist from behind and started dragging her away. As she screamed, she could hear a booming voice, "Stay away from Princess Serenity or she will die! Heed this warning!"
Something about the voice seemed vaguely familiar, but Serenity didn'thave time to analyze it further. She could hear the anguished criesof Endymion behind her and anger replaced the fear that had paralyzedher. The crescent moon blazed upon her forehead as she called forththe Ginzuishou.
"How dare you disrupt the happiest day of my life and hurt my love? Inthe name of the moon, I will punish you! Cosmic Moon Power!" TheGinzuishou blazed to life and the claws binding her disintegratedunder the cleansing light. The booming voice was silent and Serenitygently floated down behind Endymion. He was still on his knees cryingin anguish when she placed her hand on his shoulder and spoke, "Arise, Prince Endymion, there is no need for sorrow. Together we can vanquish any evil. Our love is the light that pierces the darkness and banishes the shadows that threaten all life."
At her touch, Endymion's tuxedo was replaced with armor. He turned ashe stood up and crushed her to him. "I thought I had lost you, mylove," he whispered.
"Never. We will always find one another, no matter what happens. Noteven death can separate us. Remember this and believe in our love andall will be well," Serenity told him gently. Her cerulean blue eyesgazed into his darker ones with such love and trust that his breath caught in his throat.
"I will never doubt our love again," he said huskily as he brought hislips down to hers in a searing kiss filled with all of the pent upemotions of the past weeks. As they kissed, a soft golden glowenveloped them and a sense of well-being permeated both of them.=====
Mamoru woke up feeling more rested than he had in years. He startedto stretch, but stopped when he felt the warm body lying against him.Looking down, he smiled when he saw his princess peacefully sleepingwith her head on his chest. Her skin had lost its pallor and ahealthy glow emanated from her crescent moon. He gently traced hisfinger down her cheek and was rewarded with the fluttering of hereyelashes.
"Good morning, sleepy-head," he said.
Serenity blinked a few times and tried to look about her. "Endymion?"she queried softly, her forehead crinkling in confusion and a slighttrace of fear.
"It's Mamoru now, Usako, remember?" he asked.
Serenity frowned. It sounded like Endymion and felt like Endymion,but why would he go by 'Mamoru?'" A memory tickled at the back of herbrain and she got a quick flash of herself wearing strange clothes andshouting "Mamo-chan" as she embraced Endymion, dressed equallystrangely.
"Mamo-chan?" she said, hesitantly.
"Yes! Usako, you had me worried there for a minute." Mamoru huggedher tightly in relief before he remembered the wounds on her back. "Usako! I'm so sorry, did I hurt you?"
"No, I feel quite well..." Wait, that shouldn't be. Hadn't she beeninjured? Everything was so confused...
"Endymion," she began, then thinking about how relieved he had soundedabout his new name, she quickly amended, "I mean, Mamo-chan. Why isit so dark? Where are we?" Serenity asked.
'Dark?' Mamoru thought, coming back to himself. He had known thatSailor Moon healed quickly, but considering the severity of herinjuries, he hadn't expected them to disappear so quickly. Forcinghimself to put off thinking about it until later, he felt a shiver of apprehension as he examined her more closely. 'What does she mean dark? The sun is shining in the windows.' He turned her head so he could look into her eyes. They were the same crystal-clear blue, but they didn't focus upon him. He slowly waved a hand in front of her face. Nothing. She didn't track his movements at all. Mamoru sucked in his breath.
Serenity felt the tension in him and immediately became concerned."What is it? What's wrong? Are you alright?" she asked.
Mamoru forced himself to relax. He had to stay calm in order not tofrighten her. "I'm fine, don't worry." He took her hand and squeezedit. "We're in Pluto's home," he answered one of her previousquestions.
"Sailor Pluto's? Why are we not at the palace?" As soon as she asked,Serenity knew she didn't want to know the answer. Somewhere, in theback of her mind, she already knew why they weren't at the palace.Flashes of a battle, an evil queen, her fallen Senshi, her princedying in her arms after taking the attack meant for her and, finally,the sword that she had plunged into her breast.
Mamoru sensed the change in her immediately. She had stiffened in hisembrace and slight tremors ran down her slender frame. Tears fellunnoticed as she stared into space, unblinking. "Serenity?" he asked, giving her a slight shake. "Serenity, are you alright?"
"Gone," she whispered, "It's all gone. The Silver Millennium, the MoonKingdom, everything. My Senshi, my people, us, we are all dead..."
"Not anymore. Serenity, we've been reborn. You, me, the Senshi,we're alive. I am Chiba Mamoru and you are Tsukino Usagi. Yourmother sent us and your court to the future and Earth. Do youunderstand? We're alive," Mamoru told her, his voice catching a bitat the look of total devastation on her face. "You need todetransform and become Usagi once more, Serenity. If you don't, theenergy drain will kill you."
Serenity buried her face in his chest, the darkness momentarilyforgotten as she absorbed his words. Deep down, she knew he spoke thetruth, but part of her rebelled against his instructions. For somereason, she felt it would be better to die as Princess Serenity thanto become Tsukino Usagi and live. Words rose, unbidden, to her mouth,"It is better if I die. Tsukino Usagi does not deserve to live."
"That's not true!" Mamoru cried. "Usako, the world needs you andSailor Moon."
"No, everyone wants the Princess. Tsukino Usagi is worthless andunnecessary."
Mamoru closed his eyes at the self-hatred he heard in her voice. Itwas his fault she felt this way. When he had pushed her away toprotect her, she must have decided that he only loved the princess,not her current incarnation. The Senshi certainly hadn't helpedmatters, either, when they had all turned on her after the last attackof the Black Moon. At that moment, he felt they all deservedone of the worst places in Hell for what they had done to the personwho meant the most to them.
"Serenity, Usako, we need you. Your light, your laughter, yoursmile... You brighten the world with your joy and love. As SailorMoon, you've protected the earth from the Dark Kingdom, the evil forcethat no one else had been able to defeat. Endymion loved Serenity,yes; but I, Mamoru, love Tsukino Usagi, my Usako." Mamoru told herearnestly.
Serenity reached up to feel his face. When she encountered the wettears that fell silently down his cheeks, she paused. With afeather-light touch, she continued her exploration, not stopping untilshe had smoothed the hair out of his eyes. Finally, she sighed beforespeaking again, "If what you say is true, that you truly love 'Usako,'then I must return her to you. There are two problems, however. Thefirst being that I believe I must be blind." she statedmatter-of-factly.
Mamoru let out a soft sigh. She was much calmer about the revelationthan he had expected. "You were kidnapped three days ago in the parkand whoever took you did something that seems to have resulted in yourbeing in this form and, evidently, the blindness. We'll need Mercuryto scan you with her computer before we know more. We were reallyhoping you would be able to tell us what happened."
Serenity nodded slowly. "That makes sense. My memory is somewhatconfused at the moment, but perhaps as Usagi I will have a clearerrecollection. That, however, brings us to the second problem..."Serenity paused, biting her lip, "I am not certain how I am todetransform."
"I think I may be able to help with that. When I first transformedinto Tuxedo Kamen, it was an involuntary action, as well. I learned,however, that I could 'will' myself to be Mamoru or Tuxedo Kamen. So,I would think that you could do the same. Here..." Mamoru picked upthe Ginzuishou from the nightstand and placed it in her hands. "This might help," Mamoru said.
Grasping the Ginzuishou firmly, Serenity closed her eyes andconcentrated on the image of the girl she had seen in her mind who hadcalled for 'Mamo-chan.' The crystal flashed once and Mamoru foundhimself holding his Usako. The faint outline of a crescent moonremained upon her forehead, but it no longer blazed with light.
"Usako?" he prompted gently.
Usagi's eyes remained closed and her continued silence began to worryhim. He gave her a gentle squeeze and tried again, "Usako?" Thistime she responded.
"Yes, Mamo-chan," she said, but her eyes remained closed.
"Open your eyes, Usako," he requested, as he tilted her face up so hecould see her more clearly. She did as he asked and he was mildlydisappointed, but not surprised, to find they were still sightless.
"Still dark," she whispered, a single tear slowly trickling down hercheek. "He said I would know only darkness, and he was right."
Mamoru wiped the tear away and turned her in his embrace so that herhead rested against his shoulder. "It will be alright, Usako," hesaid.
She shook her head slightly and tried to fight the sob she could feelbuilding in her chest. "How can it be alright? I'm blind! How can Ifight as Sailor Moon?" She finally lost the battle and wept quietlyinto his shoulder.
Mamoru just held her, stroking her hair comfortingly as his mindraced. He hadn't thought about the implications of her blindness. Hehad been so consumed with stopping her energy drain and getting hisUsako back that he hadn't even considered how being sightless wouldaffect Sailor Moon's ability to fight. After a few minutes, the sobsdied down to an occasional hiccough and Usagi just rested quietlyagainst him. Even under the circumstances, Mamoru couldn't help butfeel satisfaction at having her in his arms again. Just holdingher filled him with the warmth that had been missing from his life forso long.
"It was the dream, wasn't it?" she asked softly, without moving fromher position within his arms. "The dream was the reason you broke upwith me."
"I'm so sorry, Usako. I had it every night. At first, I shrugged itoff as my subconscious showing my worst fears, but when the dreampersisted, I became convinced it was a prediction, a warning of whatwould happen if we stayed together. Every night I had to watch youdie as I was helpless to save you. Your screams echoed in my ears,"Mamoru shuddered at the memory.
This time, it was Usagi who offered comfort. "Don't worry, Mamo-chan,the dream won't bother you any more. Don't you know that I wouldrather die than live without you? You are part of me. Without you, Ifeel incomplete, empty, lost..." she trailed off at the the painfulmemories of the past weeks.
"I understand, Usako, and I'm sorry. I should have told you about thedream instead of driving you away. I just couldn't bear the thoughtthat you might die because of me..." he explained.
"I forgive you. Just promise me you'll never do such a thing again."
"I promise, Usako," he said and then sealed his promise with a kiss.
The sound of someone clearing her throat brought Mamoru back to thepresent. He raised his head to see Setsuna standing in the doorwaywith her arms crossed. "I take it you have resolved your differenceswith the Princess?" she asked wryly, raising one eyebrow. She noticedthat Mamoru flushed a bit with embarrassment, but Usagi simply smiledin contentment.
"Hello, Puu. It's been a long time," Usagi said calmly. "Please comein and help us with my problem."
"What problem is that, Princess? I see you have detransformed and youappear to be feeling much better," Setsuna said as she moved into theroom.
"Yes, thank you, Puu. I am feeling much better." Usagi leaned backagainst Mamoru and he brought his arms about her once more. "However,it seems that the enemy has blinded me."
Setsuna frowned in concern and placed her fingers under Usagi's chin.Looking intently at Usagi's eyes, she slowly turned Usagi's head fromside to side. "You can see nothing at all? No color or light?" sheasked.
"No, nothing. Just dark." Usagi answered.
"Hmmm, I didn't really want to involve the Inner Senshi right now, butI think we should have Mercury scan you with her computer. It is muchmore advanced than any of the medical technology available today,"Setsuna said.
Usagi flinched at the mention of the Inner Senshi. With everythingthat had happened, she had briefly forgotten the harsh words that hadpassed between her and her Senshi. Pulling away from Setsuna's grasp,Usagi leaned back against Mamoru. "I will do what you think best,"she said dully.
Setsuna squeezed her hand. "Usagi, they are truly sorry for the waythey treated you. I am angry with them, as well, but there was nodenying the regret they felt for their behavior. If you wish, I willonly contact Mercury and you can deal with the others later," she said.
Usagi nodded in agreement. "OK, maybe that will work. Perhaps Mercurycan find a way to cure the blindness before I need to face theothers." 'Otherwise, I will truly be worthless to them,' she added toherself.
Mamoru, who had been listening to the conversation in silence,shifted slightly. "Usako, I believe she is right. The other Senshifeel terrible about what has happened. Actually, I promised them Iwould let them know how you were doing, so perhaps I should go now andcontact them. I can bring Mercury back with me." He glanced at Setsunafor confirmation and she nodded. Mamoru carefully disentangledhimself from Usagi's limbs and he felt a small pang of disappointmentthat she did not protest. He missed her warmth the moment he left thebed and he noticed that Usagi rubbed her arms as if she'd justexperienced a chill.
"You'll be back soon, won't you?" she asked.
"Yes, I will be back soon. Don't worry," he reassured her. Mamorukissed her lightly on the forehead and then left. As he walkedthrough the living room on his way to the door, he was confronted byHaruka.
"Are you deserting her again already?" she asked, her blue eyesblazing in anger.
"No, I'm not deserting her. I have never deserted her and I neverwill," he bit out. Only his joy at being reunited with Usako allowedhim to keep his own temper under control. "I'm going to bring SailorMercury here. We need her and her computer to run a scan on Usagi. Setsuna will explain," he said as he stepped around her and went outthe door.=====
"Puu," Usagi began, "What can you tell me about my father? I mean,Princess Serenity's father," she corrected herself.
Setsuna froze for a moment. That was the last thing she had expectedUsagi to ask. She drew a deep breath and let it out before answering."I'll tell you what, why don't you take a hot shower while I fix yousome breakfast and then you can tell me what you remember. Then, I'lltry to fill in the blanks as best I can, OK? I'll send Michiru inwith some fresh clothes."
"Oh!" Usagi exclaimed as a thought struck her. "What about myparents? They must be worried sick!"
Setsuna smiled slightly. "That is not a problem. They believe thatyou are spending time with your 'Aunt Setsuna,'" she replied.
"You mean the Luna-P ball has convinced them of this in the same waythat it convinced them Chibi-Usa was my cousin," Usagi stated.
"That is correct. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go get Michiru tohelp you with the shower. I would do it myself, but I'm the bestcook." Setsuna exited the room to inform Haruka and Michiru of Usagi'smuch-improved condition and to start breakfast.====
Alone for the first time since discovering her blindness, Usagi slowlymade her way to the side of the bed. Swinging her legs over, shetested the floor with her toes. Thick, plush carpeting cushioned herfeet and she stood up with a sigh. For a moment, the all-consumingdarkness overwhelmed her and she stood paralyzed, but she gave herselfa good shake and began to move determinedly forward, using the bed asa guide to the wall. She had just reached the nightstand when Michiruentered the room.
"Usagi-san, you are looking much better!" Michiru exclaimedcheerfully.
"Just Usagi is fine." Usagi said with a wan smile. "I'm still notexactly at my best, but thanks."
"Nonsense, you're doing just fine," Michiru said with forced gaiety.She hated to see her princess struggling so. She felt that she hadfailed in her duty somehow. "Here, let me guide you to the bathroomso you can start to learn some of the layout of the house. After yourshower, Haruka or I can give you a tour of the whole thing." Michirureached for Usagi's elbow as she spoke.
As Michiru's hand touched her arm, Usagi was suddenly immersed in a sea of emotions not her own. She could hear the waves of the ocean in her ears and smell the salt of the sea in her nostrils. Within the ocean there were feelings that rose and crested--love for the wind and moon, guilt and acceptance, fear of silence... Usagi closed her eyes and rode the storm. When the sea calmed, Usagi could dimly hear someone calling her name.
"Usagi! Usagi, can you hear me? Usagi!" Michiru called frantically.She was frightened that the Princess had frozen at her touch and sheseemed to be somewhere else entirely. Michiru was just about to callfor help when she felt the rush of power come through the hand thatwas holding Usagi's elbow. A feeling of well-being and love infusedher and she sucked in her breath at the intensity of emotion she felt.She stared at the girl in front of her in amazement and was startledto find the crescent moon glowing upon her forehead once more.
As she stood in almost a trance state, a face took form in Usagi'smind. Delicate features framed by a cloud of sea foam green hair.Eyes of the same color gleamed with intelligence, but were darkened byhidden shadow. "Michiru, Neptune, Senshi of Water," Usagi breathedin a far away voice. As the words were spoken, the face changed intoa column of aqua light and Usagi could feel Michiru's confusion andsurprise. With those feelings, Usagi also realized that she knewexactly where Michiru stood. She could feel her presence, a warm,soft presence at the moment, as tranquil as the sea on a cloudlessday.
Not wanting the moment to end, but knowing that it must, Michirureluctantly spoke. "We had best proceed with your shower beforeHaruka and Setsuna wonder what became of us."
At her words, Usagi's whole demeanor suddenly changed. Where a momentbefore she had seemed very royal and almost ethereal, there now stooda fifteen-year-old girl worried about receiving a scolding. "Oh, webetter hurry. Puu hates it when people are late!" she exclaimed.
Michiru grinned. Although she loved her princess dearly, she thoughtshe would come to love the sweet Usagi, as well. Impulsively, she gavethe small blonde a quick hug and was amazed at the warmth and love shefelt in return.====
Usagi was thoroughly enjoying breakfast. Her hair was back up in thecustomary odangos and the food was wonderful. "Setsuna, this isdelicious. I feel like I haven't eaten for days!" she exclaimedhappily. "Oh, I guess I haven't," she said and then giggled inembarrassment that she had forgotten and continued eating. Setsuna hadthoughtfully served her only easy-to-eat foods so she wouldn't have todeal with cutting things she couldn't see, and Usagi demolished the meal with her customary gusto. She had just polished off the last of her toast when she turned her head toward the living room. "They're here."
"Who's here?" Haruka asked, just as the doorbell chimed.
"Mamo-chan and Ami," Usagi stated.
Haruka scowled at her as Michiru went to answer the door. "How couldyou know that Mamoru and Ami were here?"
Usagi shrugged. "I just do."
Haruka opened her mouth to demand more of an explanation, but thegentle touch of Usagi's fingers upon her arm stopped her.
"Haruka, Wind-rider, some things do not require an explanation, theysimply are." Usagi's voice had altered slightly to become more regal,older, and wiser.
The beautiful blue crystal eyes stared blindly at her, but Haruka feltthat Usagi was seeing her more clearly than anyone had before. Shefelt a rush of love envelope her and warm her in its embrace.
Usagi sat completely still as Haruka's emotions rushed over her. Theimage of a tall blonde woman with laughing eyes appeared before herand she could feel the wind gently blowing around her. She couldsense the bond between the wind and the water and she smiled. As thewind began to fade, Usagi briefly saw many silvery threads linkingher to her Senshi and a thicker cord, mixed with gold, that was herbond with Mamoru. She was startled out of her contemplation of what itall meant when Setsuna called her name.
"Usagi! Haruka! Can you hear me?" Setsuna demanded, concern sharpening her voice beyond normal.
Usagi and Haruka both jumped and Usagi removed her hand from Haruka'sarm.
"What?" Haruka asked, as she shook her head to clear it.
Setsuna was about to reply when Michiru walked into the dining roomfollowed by Mamoru and Ami. Haruka scowled at Ami, but after areproving look from Michiru, managed to school her expression into aless overt look of hostility.
"Haruka, why don't you help me with the dishes while they run somescans on Usagi," Michiru said, trying to separate the still angryHaruka and the downcast Senshi of Ice. Ami had followed meekly behindMamoru and had not yet raised her eyes from the ground. Her lower liptrembled a bit and she was fighting to retain her control. Guilt,shame, and fear warred within her as she waited for Usagi to denounceher.
Usagi felt like someone had punched her in the stomach. Ami'sremorse and negative feelings all battered at her soul and her eyesteared with the strength of them. With a strangled sob, she threwherself at Ami and embraced her. "It's okay, Ami. Please don't feelthis way. I forgive you. Please stop this," she said as she held theblue-haired girl tightly, tears falling freely from her eyes. Theother girl shuddered and then hugged Usagi back, finally giving intothe emotional storm she had been trying to contain.
"I'm so sorry, Usagi. We all are. When we realized you had beeninjured, we felt terrible. We tried to come after you, but you justdisappeared! If anything had happened to you, it would have been ourfault. We're supposed to protect you," Ami managed to get outbetween sobs.
"Shhh, everything's going to be alright now," Usagi soothed her,stroking her hair. Usagi closed her eyes and held Ami tighter untilthe other girl's cries had diminished. Feeling a warm hand upon hershoulder, Usagi drew back from Ami, but didn't release her. "Can youtake us back to the bedroom, Mamo-chan?" she asked him quietly.
"Of course. Ami, please follow me," Mamoru said as he started downthe hall. Ami nodded and proceeded after him, with Usagi stillholding one of her hands. By the time they reached the bedroom, Ami had regained her equilibrium.
"I'll leave you two alone, but I'll be in the living room if you needme," Mamoru said as he left, closing the door behind him.
Ami breathed a small sigh of relief; she needed to transform intoSailor Mercury in order to access her computer and she feltuncomfortable doing so in front of Mamoru. A faint blush stainedher cheeks at the thought. Raising her transformation pen, she criedout, "Mercury Power!"
Usagi sat quietly during the transformation. She felt the rush ofpower emanating from Ami and shivered a bit at the cold feeling ofice. She'd seen Ami transform before, but she'd never experienced itin this way--as though she were a part of it. It was similar to herown transformation, but the source of power was different--colder,smoother, bluer...and then it was over. Where before Ami had been a calm, steady blue, Mercury now emitted a stronger, more vibrant hue. Usagi started to reach her hand toward the shimmering blue light that she could see with her mind rather than her eyes.
Mercury noticed Usagi reaching for her. "Usagi, can you see me?" sheasked, surprised.
"Not exactly," Usagi answered, dropping her hand.
Mercury paused for a moment as a thought struck her. "You came straightto me in the dining room. I hadn't even said anything. Did you getyour sight back?" she asked, her voice rising in excitement.
Usagi dropped her head dejectedly. "No," she whispered.
Mercury frowned in confusion. "Then how do you know where I am?"
Usagi shrugged. "I just know. I can 'feel' you--a bright blue light,smooth and pure as ice."
Mercury blinked in shock. "Feel me? What do you mean?" She activatedher visor as she spoke. "I'm going to scan you now, and maybe thatwill help explain what you're talking about." Mercury studied thereadouts as they came. All of Usagi's injuries appeared to havehealed completely, except for the damage to her eyes. Her brainpatterns had altered considerably, though, and her energy level wasstill dangerously low. Mercury modified the scan for more detailedinformation about the brain activity. Keeping the scan running, shespoke, "Usagi-chan, can you 'feel' anyone else?"
Usagi reached out, following the threads she had noticed before. Almost immediately, she located the others in the house. "Yes,Mamo-chan is in the living room with Setsuna. Michiru and Haruka arein the kitchen."
Mercury's eyes widened in amazement. The activity in Usagi's brain hadramped upin a part of the brain that scientists theorized telepathy might be located. This was incredible! "Can you find the other Senshi?"
Usagi closed her eyes and reached further. At first, she thought thedistance might be too great, but then she could feel them--red,orange, and green clustered together with misery radiating from theirauras. Usagi's eyes filled with tears as she felt their pain and criedout, "No!" She could feel herself falling into unconsciousness, butjust before she blacked out completely, she felt another, a faintlight of violet that touched her gently, and then she knew no more.
Mercury rushed to Usagi's side when she heard her cry out and lowered her gently to the bed when she fainted. There immediately came a pounding on the door.
"Usako! Are you alright?" she could hear Mamoru's voice. Mercurydeactivated her visor and opened the door. Mamoru stood in thedoorway with the Outer Senshi behind him. He immediately went toUsagi's side while the other three glared at her.
Mercury backed away from the anger she saw and hurriedly started to explain, "She'll be okay. Her energy levels are just too low and she fainted."
Mamoru was gently stroking Usagi's cheek and she began to stir.
"Mamo-chan?" she asked weakly.
"I'm here. What happened?" he asked her as he helped her sit up. "Iheard you cry out and then nothing."
Usagi leaned against him and sighed. "They're hurting, Mamo-chan. Ineed to go to them. It hurts too much." Usagi's lips trembled a bitas tears threatened again.
"Who is hurting?" he asked, although he had a niggling suspicion thathe already knew the answer.
"The Inner Senshi," she confirmed.
"Will someone please explain what is going on?" Haruka finally askedin exasperation.
"I have to go to them, Mamo-chan," Usagi insisted, struggling to situp.
Mamoru gently eased her back down. "You need to rest, Usako. I'llspeak with the others and see if I can bring them to you. Will thatdo?" he asked in a soothing voice.
Usagi nodded as her eyes fluttered shut. She'd been having a hardtime keeping them open, anyway. She felt the warm pressure ofMamoru's lips against her forehead and she smiled in pleasure as awelcoming warmth washed over her as she drifted off.
Mamoru brushed her bangs out of her eyes and reluctantly stood. Helooked at the Senshi who were all staring at him. "Out," he said in atone of voice that would brook no argument. Even Haruka, for once,kept her mouth shut and they all quietly exited the bedroom.
Once they all reached the living room, Haruka rounded on Mercury. "Whathappened in there? You're here for twenty minutes and Usagicollapses. What did you do to her?" she demanded.
Ami detransformed before answering. "All I did was scan her. Youwon't believe what I discovered!" Ami told them, her eyes shining inexcitement. "First, let me assure you that her wounds are completelyhealed and the fever has dissipated. My biggest concern at this pointare her energy levels. They are still dangerously low and that is thereason she fainted. However, I did learn something interesting whenMamoru entered the room." Ami nodded her head toward the Prince. "Itseems that when Usagi comes into contact with him, her energyincreases at twice its normal rate. Not only that, but all of us,Mamoru included, all receive significant energy boosts when we are inclose proximity to Usagi. This explains why it always seems mucheasier to defeat a youma or droid when Sailor Moon is present. Notonly is her attack stronger than ours, but she also boosts ourattacks!"
"Ami, what about her blindness? Will she get her sight back?" Mamoruasked worriedly.
Ami sighed and looked down. She shook her head slowly before lookingback up at Mamoru. "I'm sorry, I just don't know. The damage seemsto have been caused by some combination of an energy and light attack.It could be temporary or it could be permanent. There's just no wayto tell."
Mamoru clenched his fists in frustration. Again he had failed toprotect her!
"However," Ami continued, "the loss of her sight seems to haveawakened a different part of Usagi's brain--another sense."
This got everyone's attention.
"What do you mean, another 'sense?'" Michiru asked.
"Usagi seems to have a latent psychic ability. Although, now that Ithink about it, I'm not all that surprised. She has always had atalent for making friends quickly. She always knows when someone isunhappy and has often managed to bring people out of a mood. The lossof her sight just seems to have allowed this gift to grow much, muchstronger."
"You mean she can read our minds?" Haruka asked, aghast.
"No, I don't think so. Our thoughts are our own, but she can senseour emotions," Ami corrected.
"And share hers with you," Michiru whispered wonderingly as shethought back to the warm embrace she had shared with Usagi.
"But what does this have to do with the other Senshi?" Mamoru asked."Can she actually sense them from here?"
Ami nodded. "Yes. It seems to require more concentration withdistance, but she could still sense their emotions. Also, she knewwhere each of you were. Isn't that amazing? When she's morerested, I want to run some more scans to see how far she can reach andhow it affects her."
"You're not turning the Princess into a guinea pig!" Haruka protestedangrily.
"No, I don't intend to. But I want to be sure that using this talentdoesn't harm her in any way."
Mamoru nodded in agreement. "Already, it's causing her distress. Itseems that when we suffer, she suffers as well. Speaking of which, itseems that we need to resolve the problems with the other Senshi."
Haruka scowled. "After the way they treated her, they deserve tosuffer."
Ami flushed in shame and looked down at the floor. She knew she wasincluded in that remark. Her princess had forgiven her, but she had not quite forgiven herself. And neither, it seemed, had the Outer Senshi.
Mamoru gave Ami a reassuring squeeze on the arm before directing his attentions to the tall blonde. "That is not for you to decide. Usagi wishes to see them, so we will bring them to her." It was a royal command.
Setsuna nodded agreement. "It shall be as Usagi wishes."=====
Princess Serenity was floating in a soft silver light. It waspeaceful and quiet and she stretched languidly.
"Daughter," a much-loved voice spoke softly and Serenity looked up tosee a figure in white floating next to her.
"Mother!" she exclaimed happily and embraced the other woman.
"I haven't much time, but there are things I must tell you, dear one."Queen Serenity said.
"What is it, Mother? What is wrong?" Princess Serenity asked.
"You will need to be strong, Serenity. The past and the future areconspiring to destroy the present. You must fight the evil, butfollow your heart in all things. Do you understand, daughter? Youare the only one who can save him. I failed, but you can do it."Queen Serenity began to fade away.
"Save who? Mother! Who am I supposed to save?" Serenity cried out, but there was no answer and Usagi woke up.
It was completely dark and Usagi felt a quick spike of fear before sheremembered. 'I'm blind. It's always dark.' She stifled a small soband turned her face into her pillow to muffle the sounds. It wasn'tlong before a warm golden glow surrounded her and she felt strong armslifting her up and placing her against a warm, solid body. The faintscent of roses tickled her nose and she took several deep breaths,ceasing the sobs and just reveling in his nearness. For weeks,she'd dreamt of being in his arms and she was half afraid that she wasstill dreaming. Her hands found his shirt and she clenched her fingers around thefabric and held on for dear life. At this moment, he wasthe only real thing in her world, the only light in the oppressivedarkness, and she didn't want to lose him again. Gradually, herbreathing slowed and she relaxed against him.
Mamoru had felt the fear that had quickly changed to despair and quietlyexcused himself from the Outer Senshi. They had sent Ami to bring theother Senshi to the mansion. As it was Friday, it had been decidedthat they would all stay at the mansion for the weekend. He quietly picked her up and settled himself under her slight frame, justholding her until the crying had stopped and she seemed to simply meltagainst him. After a few minutes of simply enjoying the peacefulfeelings, he finally spoke.
"Usako? Do you want to talk about it?" he asked her quietly.
Only silence answered him and he thought she wasn't going to sayanything until she sighed softly.
"I'm such a coward," she whispered. "I'm afraid of the darkness, I'mafraid of being alone, and I'm afraid I'm going to let everyone down.I don't want anyone to be hurt because of me. How can I protect youwhen I can't see the enemy?"
Mamoru rested his chin on her head as he thought about what she'dsaid. "Do you fear the darkness now?" he finally asked.
"No." Usagi smiled. "There's a brilliant golden glow keeping it atbay."
Mamoru smiled and leaned his head back against the wall. "So, doesthis mean you don't feel alone any longer, either?"
Usagi's smile widened and Mamoru could feel her happiness tingling uphis arms and wrapping around his heart like a soft, warm blanket. "No,I'm not alone now, either," she said.
"Ah, then we only have one more concern to deal with, yes?"
Usagi's smile faltered as she nodded her head mutely.
"Usako, we're supposed to protect you, not the other way around."Mamoru said.
She shook her head vigorously. "No, Mamo-chan. That isn't right.We're supposed to protect each other. You're going to need me in thecoming battles. The future and the past are going to tryto destroy the present and you'll need me and the Ginzuishou to stopthem."
Mamoru was about to ask her what she meant by the 'future and thepast' but he was interrupted by a soft rapping on the door. "Comein," he called out.
Michiru poked her head in. "Excuse me, but I just wanted to let youknow that dinner will be ready in about ten minutes."
Usagi's head popped up at the word 'dinner' and she immediately beganscrambling off the bed. "Come on, Mamo-chan! It's time to eat!" shesaid happily as she began tugging him off the bed.====
After dinner, Michiru gave Usagi the promised tour of the mansion.This took longer than expected, as Usagi wanted a detailed descriptionof each room as she carefully investigated it by touch.
"Oh Michiru, it all sounds so beautiful. I wish I could see it," Usagi said wistfully as they toured the music room.
"Perhaps you will. The blindness may only be temporary," Michirusaid.
Usagi brightened a bit at that. "Really? Oh, I do hope so." Usagiclasped her hands together in delight.
Michiru bit her lip, wondering if she shouldn't be getting Usagi'shopes up, but then shrugged in resignation. She had only told herwhat Ami had told them. Deciding a change of subject was in order,she led Usagi over to a chair. "Why don't you sit here and I'll playfor you. Would you like that?"
"That would be wonderful! Thank you, Michiru!" Usagi said eagerly,leaning forward in anticipation.
Michiru settled the violin under her chin and closed her eyes. Shewanted her first performance for her princess to be special, so shesimply let the music flow from her heart.
As the hauntingly beautiful music began to play, Usagi closed her eyesand leaned back in her chair, allowing the music to carry her with itinto another world...
The ballroom was full of bright dresses and elegant tuxedos. Ayounger Michiru of about eight or nine was playing, and Serenity washiding behind some drapes to watch the dancing. She was supposed tobe in bed, but she loved to watch the people at the fancy balls.Serenity craned her neck around the curtain, searching for her mamaand papa. They were always the best dancers, and Serenity loved towatch them waltz. Someday, she thought, she would find a prince whowould dance with her the way Papa danced with Mama. Finally, shespotted them in the center of the ballroom. Her mother's silver hairwas up in its customary style with small threads of actual silverentwined within it that sparkled when they caught the light. Herwhite dress was long and full and also accented with silver. Papa'sgolden hair and uniform complimented her mother perfectly. Silver andgold, each made for the other. Serenity watched them happily untilshe noticed a dark shadow looming over her. Looking up apprehensively,Serenity was afraid Nanny Luna had discovered she was missing from her bed. Instead of Nanny Luna, however, it was her beloved Puu who looked down at her with an indulgent smile. "Puu!" she exclaimed happily and held her arms up for a hug. Puu quickly bent down and picked up thefour-year-old princess.
"Aren't you supposed to be in bed, Princess?" she asked with aknowing grin.
Serenity nodded solemnly, but then grinned with joy and hugged Puutightly before whispering in her ear, "You won't tell, will you? Ilike to watch Mama and Papa dance."
"I won't tell, but I think I should take you back to bed before Lunanotices you're gone. You don't want Nanny Luna to worry, do you?" Setsuna asked.
"Nooo." Serenity shook her head. She wrapped her arms back aroundPuu's neck as Setsuna carried her out of the ballroom. Just beforethey reached the exit, Serenity saw her parents look at her and smile.She waved and then rested her head against Puu's shoulder and wasasleep before they reached her bedroom.
Usagi sighed in contentment as the memory began to fade, the samesmile on her face as had gracedher younger self's. The musiccame to an end soon after, the last note lingering tantalizingly inthe air. "Thank you, Michiru, that was beautiful," she said. Usagiwas suddenly overwhelmed with a myriad of feelings--guilt, shame,sorrow, anger and hope. She reeled at the intensity of the emotionsand gripped the arms of the chair tightly.
"Princess! Usagi, are you alright?" Michiru knelt down in front ofthe chair and took one of Usagi's hands in her own. Her soft,aquamarine eyes were concerned as she noticed the crescent moon flashbrightly a few times before fading again into the faint birthmark.
"I'm fine." Usagi finally answered after taking a couple of deepbreaths. "I really need to learn how to control this," she mutteredto herself. In a louder voice she said, "The Inner Senshi havearrived. I'd like to see them alone, first, if you don't mind. Wehave a few things to discuss."
"Alright. I'll take you to the parlor and then send them in. I don'tthink Haruka is going to like it, though." Michiru said.
Usagi smiled at her reassuringly. "Don't worry, I'll speak to Harukalater. This is something I need to handle myself."=====
Usagi sighed and leaned her head back against the chair. Michiru wasinforming the Senshi of what she wanted and, as expected, Haruka wasunhappy. Usagi smiled wryly at the thought of needing protection fromher protectors. Haruka always was the most overprotective one of thebunch. She relaxed her control and let the emotions simply wash overher, rather than overwhelm her. She needed to remain calm for thecoming audience. That thought gave her a start, as she realized thelast few thoughts were uncharacteristic of her. 'Since when did Istart using words like audience?' she wondered. The crescent moon onher forehead warmed slightly in response and Usagi realized that shewas no longer just Usagi anymore. Serenity's memories and mannerismswere gradually coming back to her and she was integrating themnaturally. 'I guess that means I can't pretend to be a ditzy teenageranymore. By the Moon, I feel like I've aged ten years in the past fewdays.' She sat up straight in her chair as she felt the Inner Senshiapproach the room almost hesitantly. She couldn't stay upset withthem when she could feel how miserable they were. She hadn't exactlyhandled things well that night, either, she admitted with a smallsigh. She adjusted her skirt and clasped her hands in her lap beforecalling out to the rainbow cluster of misery that was hovering justoutside the door. "You can come in. I don't bite, you know."
The blazing red of the aura that entered the room first could only beRei. Having her best friend be so uncharacteristically quiet andsubdued was too much for Usagi and she jumped to her feet to embracethe other girl. "Oh, Rei, I'm so sorry," she cried as she hugged theother girl tightly.
Rei hugged her back, surprised at the greeting. "I'm sorry, too," shewhispered.
As the other girls came in, Usagi hugged each one in turn and thenstood quietly as she wiped the tears from her eyes. "I've missed youall!"
"Usagi, we've talked about this a lot over the past few days and wejust want you to know how sorry we are for the things we said thatnight." Mina was the first to speak.
"We were way out of line," Makoto interjected.
"We were so worried when you disappeared. Please don't do that again,Usagi," Rei said quietly.
"It's all right. I admit I haven't always been the most responsibleof leaders, so I probably deserved it--just not on that particularnight," Usagi said, wincing inwardly at the memory of that awfulevening.
The Senshi stared at their leader in shock. No wailing? Nocomplaining that they had been mean?
Rei eyed her suspiciously, "Who are you and what have you done withUsagi?" she asked.
Usagi scowled at her and stuck out her tongue which prompted gigglesfrom the other girls.
"Now that's the Usagi we know and love!" Mina exclaimed and they allfell upon her for a group hug that degenerated into a tickling war.After much giggling, squealing, and tumbling around on the floor, theyfinally just lay there breathing heavily.
Usagi smiled in satisfaction. The dark cloud that had been shadowingtheir auras was gone and the colors were bright and clear. She closedher eyes and again reached out along all the silver cords. Setsunawas with Mamo-chan, both seemed somewhat concerned, but not seriouslyso. Michiru and Haruka were relaxing in the living room, and again shefelt the presence of another, not in the house, but somewhere not toofar away. She thought for a moment. 'Another Senshi? But who?' Aface flashed in her mind. A pale young girl with shoulder-lengthblack hair and the sigil of Saturn flared on her forehead. 'SailorSaturn!'
Usagi was jolted out of her revery when Rei poked her in the side.
"Hey, you're not going to sleep on us are you?" she asked in mockanger.
"Leave her be, Rei, she's still pretty weak," Ami said. She frownedas she noticed that Usagi had paled considerably in the last fewminutes. "Usagi, are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine," Usagi said quickly, plastering a smile on her face asshe remembered that Saturn was the Senshi of Destruction. Sheshivered involuntarily.
Makoto looked her over critically. She hadn't missed the shiver. "Ithink you should get some rest," she said as she stood up and thenscooped the smaller girl into her arms.
"Mako-chan! I can walk. I'm blind, not paralyzed," Usagi protested.
The other girls looked at each other solemnly as they walked down thehall. They had all managed to forget about her disability in the joyof having Usagi back. She had known each of them immediately, so ithad been easy to overlook.
Usagi huffed in frustration and folded her arms across her chest asMakoto completely ignored her. "Aren't you guys supposed to do what Itell you?" she asked plaintively.
"Only when it's in your best interests for us to do so," Rei replied.
Usagi grumbled quietly for a few seconds and then just smiled andclosed her eyes. She was rather tired...
All four of them helped change her into her nightgown and tuck her in.Amazingly, she slept through it all. Rei was the last one to leaveand she bent down and gently pulled the blanket up to Usagi's chin. Usagi smiled in her sleep and Rei smiled in return before quietly leaving the room, shutting the door behind her.=====
When Rei reached the living room, she noticed all of theothers, including the Outer Senshi and Mamoru, were already presentand talking quietly. Haruka scowled at her as she entered, but Reiignored her. It seemed that Haruka frequently scowled. Michiruplaced a hand on Haruka's arm and Haruka appeared to relax a bit.
Setsuna looked up from her conversation with Mamoru when Rei sat downon the loveseat next to Ami.
"Good. We're all here. There are some things we need to discuss,"Setsuna stated. This captured everyone's attention and all eyesfocused on the green-haired woman. "First off, I believe someintroductions are in order. My name is Setsuna Meiu, also knownas Sailor Pluto. I am the Guardian of the Time Gate. The scowlingblonde over there is Haruka Tenou, Sailor Uranus, the Senshi of theWind. Her partner, Michiru Keioh, is Sailor Neptune, Senshi of the Sea. We are the Outer Senshi. It is our duty to protect the princess fromthreats that originate from outside the solar system. However, as theonly habitable planet at this time is Earth, we now need to protecther from threats that are already here."
"But it's our job to protect the princess!" Rei protested.
"And such a fine job you've done so far," Haruka growled.
Rei flushed angrily, but for once controlled her fierce temper, for inher heart, she agreed with the other girl's sentiments.
"Haruka, this is not the time," Setsuna admonished the blonde woman.
"No, Setsuna, Haruka is right. We need to get this out in the opennow so it doesn't continue to simmer below the surface and then blowup in our faces sometime in the future." Michiru stated.
Ami nodded in agreement. "Since we're going to be working together,we really need to resolve this now. Otherwise, how will we be able totrust each other?"
"Alright. I really didn't want to do this right now, but if youinsist, I'll start by telling you that I'm very disappointed in yourrecent behavior towards the princess. And that includes you,Mamoru-san," Setsuna stated, glaring around her at the Inner Senshi and Mamoru. "Each of you were sworn to protect her, so please explain to me how screaming at her, berating her, and turning your back on hercan be considered protecting her?" The image of her princess in acrumpled heap in the park, bleeding and defenseless flashed throughSetsuna's mind. "In fact, if she hadn't managed to escape on her own,she would be dead right now and then the world would be doomed. Weare all expendable. She is not. If she dies, this world will diewith her," Setsuna finished, her eyes flashing as she surveyed themuch subdued group. All of the Inner Senshi had paled at her words,but Mamoru simply looked grimly determined.
Rei was the first to speak up. "It's just that she's always late andshe never wants to fight. She has improved in battle, but she justisn't very good at it. We're always having to save her butt and it'sextremely frustrating. The rest of us all seem to have retained ourfighting instincts, if not our memories, from the Moon Kingdom, so whyis she so lacking?"
"She is lacking, as you call it, because she was never trained as awarrior. She doesn't possess any fighting instincts. As theprincess, she was trained in diplomacy, not war. You should be amazedat how well she's done with no formal training or experience. Shedefeated Beryl and Metallia, those that destroyed the SilverMillennium--what else does she need to do to prove herself to you?"Setsuna replied. "Do you know how she died in the Silver Millennium?It wasn't Beryl, Metallia, or any of the Dark Kingdom forces whokilled her. She..."
"Setsuna!" Usagi's harsh voice interrupted the Senshi of Time'stirade. The golden crescent moon was flashing angrily and contrastedgreatly with Usagi's too pale face. Even sightless, her blue eyesappeared dark and haunted. "They do not need to know," she continuedin a quieter, but still firm voice. The note of command wasunmistakable.
Setsuna bowed her head in defeat. She would not cross her princess.
Usagi then addressed the rest of the room. "This bickering ispointless. I have already resolved the issues with the Inner Senshiand Mamo-chan. What happened in the past is over and cannot bechanged. What matters now is the present." Usagi worked her waycarefully into the room, using the wall as a guide before Mamoru gotup and carefully guided her to a seat next to him on the couch. Shesmiled at him gratefully and allowed herself to relax against him.
"You should be resting, Usagi," Ami chided her gently.
Usagi shook her head. "Who could sleep with all the turmoil going onout here? You guys are giving me a major headache," she rubbed hertemples to emphasize her point and sighed softly when Mamoru took overthe job. She closed her eyes for a moment and just enjoyed thefeeling of his warm hands gently rubbing her temples in slow circularmotions. The throbbing that had been paining her started to subside ashis warmth and presence cocooned her in a soft golden glow. Had shebeen a cat, Usagi would have purred with contentment.
"Wait just a minute," Rei said. "What do you mean Beryl didn't killher?" Rei wasn't willing to let this go. Was there another enemythat they didn't know about? She'd always assumed that Beryl had beenresponsible for the deaths of the prince and princess.
Usagi's bubble of contentment burst with an almost audible pop and shereluctantly opened her eyes and sat up a bit straighter. She did not,however, move from the comforting embrace of Mamoru. "I really don'tunderstand why you're bringing this up now," she said a littledesperately. "It happened over a thousand years ago."
"Is there another enemy? Did the Dark Kingdom have an ally?" Makotoasked.
Usagi could feel tears threatening and quickly dropped her head beforeslowly shaking it in the negative. "No," she whispered brokenly, "Itwasn't another enemy."
"Princess... Usagi, you need to tell them. It's the only way they willunderstand," Setsuna said gently, her own eyes misting as sheregarded the young woman she had been unable to save a millennia ago.
"Usako, you can tell us. We need to know so we can better protectyou," Mamoru urged. He needed to know, but a strange sense offoreboding was growing within him, as if her answer would turn hisworld upside down. 'That's ridiculous,' he thought to himself. 'Ithappened a thousand years ago, how could it affect us now?' Ofcourse, Beryl and the Dark Kingdom had been from the past, as well, andthey had certainly had an effect. 'We all died again,' he thoughtgrimly.
They weren't going to let this go. Usagi could feel theirdetermination and her shoulders slumped in defeat. She had hoped thatthis day would never come. She had never intended them to know, butof course Setsuna had seen her. Sailor Pluto had witnessed the fallof the Moon Kingdom first hand and had had to live with thatknowledge. She had not even had the years of not knowing that therest of them had been granted. Usagi took a deep breath and allowedthe memories to rush over her once more. Usually, her memories ofthat final terrible day only visited her in her nightmares, but nowshe called them to her...
The sounds of battle were all around her, but Serenity didn't hearthem. The world had gone silent the moment Endymion breathed his lastbreath. She had felt her guardians fall, one by one, until Beryl hadattacked her. Her valiant Prince had jumped in front of her, takingthe fatal blow Beryl had meant for her. How she wished he hadn't. Shecould not bear to live without him. She felt as though her soul hadbeen ripped to shreds and she was just a broken shell waiting for hermisery to end. Slowly reaching for the crystal sword, Serenity grippedthe hilt tightly with both hands. "I'll be with you soon, my love,"Serenity whispered. She felt a small tug from the last of the silverythreads that connected her to her Senshi and realized that SailorPluto still lived. She closed her eyes as the tears once more beganto fall. 'Forgive me, dear Puu. I'm not strong enough without them,'she thought silently. She placed a final kiss against Endymion's lipsand then thrust the sword into her heart. She felt a shock of painand then warm blood flowed down her body, staining her white gown abright, crimson red. With the last of her strength, she took one ofEndymion's lifeless hands in her own and then collapsed beside him. "Wait for me, my love," she whispered with her dying breath.
Tears were running freely down Usagi's cheeks as she sat theresilently, her whole body trembling with the remembered grief. TheSenshi and Mamoru waited patiently for her to speak, sensing that thememory was very painful for her and not to be rushed.
"I'm so sorry, Puu," she said at last.
"It's alright, Princess. I understood then and I understand now."Setsuna replied.
"Understand what?" Minako finally burst out. She couldn't containherself any longer.
Usagi sighed again and tightened her grip on Mamoru's hand. Shereally didn't want them know, but for some reason Setsuna felt it wasnecessary. Trusting that Setsuna had good reason, and still feelingguilty about leaving her alone all those years ago, Usagi began tospeak. "I felt each of you die that day--my guardians and my bestfriends. With each death, a piece of me died as well, and then..."Usagi had to swallow back a sob and take a few quick breaths. "Andthen," she continued, "when Endymion took the blow meant for meand... and died in my arms... He took my soul with him. I could notlive without my love, my very reason for being..." she paused again,wiping the tears from her eyes. "So, I picked up the crystal swordand I plunged it into my heart." Usagi's last words were little morethan a whisper as all but Setsuna stared at her in shocked horror,absorbing what she had said.
Mamoru gripped her tightly, as if he was afraid she might disappear ifhe relaxed at all.
Usagi finally gave into the sobs that had been building since she hadsummoned the memory of that fateful day. She buried her head in herhands until Mamoru gently turned her so her face was in his chest ashe held her tightly to him. He had never thought about how Serenityhad died. He had simply assumed, as the Senshi had, that Beryl hadkilled her. He only vaguely recalled his own death. Mostly, heremembered his princess crying and begging him not to leave her. Heknew that she loved him, but he'd never considered that her feelingswere such that she would kill herself rather than live without him. Helooked up and noticed Setsuna was looking at him pointedly. As hegazed into her dark crimson eyes, he suddenly understood why she hadpressured Usagi into telling them. He had left his princess againand, even though he had not died, he had cut himself off completely. If the separation had continued... he couldn't even bear to follow thatchain of thought. Setsuna gave him a slow nod as the understandingdawned in his eyes. He would never again make the mistake that hecould protect her by pushing her away.
Minako crinkled her nose in confusion as she finally came out her hershock. "But why did she apologize to you, Setsuna?" The other Senshiall turned to look at Setsuna expectantly. They had almost forgottenthe apology at the beginning of Usagi's explanation.
"Because I did not die that day. I watched her end her life and shefeels guilty about leaving me alone," Setsuna replied calmly. "Butshe shouldn't. I knew, even then, that my, our princess died withEndymion and the rest of you. Even if her body had lived, her soulwas already dead. It would have been worse to see her live as a shellof herself."
Usagi, who had finally calmed her crying and had been quietlylistening to Setsuna's response, smiled faintly. "Thank you, Puu. Youdo understand."
Setsuna crossed the room to kneel in front of Usagi and took one ofher hands. "I'm only sorry I wasn't with you when you destroyed Beryland Metallia once and for all." She squeezed Usagi's handreassuringly before turning her attention to Mamoru. "Why don't youtake Usagi back to bed and sit with her awhile. The other Senshi andI still have a few things to discuss."
Mamoru nodded in agreement and carried the gently weeping Usagi from the room.
"She killed herself?" Makoto said in disbelief. "That doesn't seemlike Usagi at all."
Minako looked thoughtful. "Actually, it does. Remember, we were alldead, as well. Usagi, even now, is unwilling to lose us. Without herfriends and love, she doesn't have anything to live for. We, andespecially Mamoru, are the most important things in her life. I thinkthat's how we were all brought back after Usagi defeated Beryl."
"Yeah, and remember how she completely fell apart when Mamoru wastaken by the Dark Kingdom? And again when he broke up with her lastmonth?" Makoto interjected.
"We should have been more supportive these past few weeks," Ami statedquietly.
The other Inner Senshi all nodded silently in agreement as Michiru andHaruka simply sat and stared at them in stunned silence.
"What do you mean 'brought back?'" Haruka asked incredulously. TheInner Senshi just looked at her sadly and Setsuna was the one whoanswered her question.
"The Princess, Prince, and Inner Senshi all died in the final battlewith Beryl. However, with her dying breath, the princess used theGinzuishou to bring them all back," she explained.
Michiru paled even more at the explanation. "I don't know about therest of you, but I've had all the shocks my system can handle for oneday. I think we should all retire for the night and talk more in themorning." She stood, and Haruka hastily got to her feet, as well. Theother Senshi watched as they left the room and then turned theirattention to Setsuna.
Setsuna sighed softly. The meeting hadn't exactly gone as she hadplanned, but at least everything was out in the open now. Well,almost everything, she amended. She noticed the Inner Senshi allwatching her expectantly and pulled herself out of her revery. "I'llshow you to your rooms," she said, rising gracefully to her feet, andthe Senshi dutifully followed her.=====
Mamoru watched Usagi while she slept. He studied her intently,noticing for the first time how much she had changed in the past fewweeks. She seemed a bit older now. Her face had lost the little bitof roundness it had had and her skin was paler, almost translucentwhen her crescent moon was blazing. The golden tresses of sunlight had started to change to silvery moonlight during the time that she had been missing. He gently traced the side of her cheek with his finger before getting up to leave. He had just turned toward the door when he felt a cool hand on his wrist. He looked down to see her brilliant blue eyes open and staring sightlessly at where she knew he was.
"Please, Mamo-chan, don't go," she said softly, gently tugging on hiswrist.
He allowed himself to be pulled back onto the bed and carefullysettled himself next to her. She seemed so delicate and fragile now,as if she might shatter if he moved wrong.
"I'm not going to break, you know," she said wryly.
He looked at her quickly, "How did you know..." he started.
"You've been acting like I was made of fine china since we discoveredI was blind. I'm still Usagi, you know. Still your Usako." She put her fingers up to the pale crescent moon mark that she could still feel, almost like a brand, and grimaced, "Despite some obvious changes."
"It's not just the physical changes, Usako. Even before Setsunaforced you into telling us how you... Serenity... killed herself, youweren't acting quite the same. I'm afraid you've been hurt too muchrecently--emotionally and physically--so I don't want to accidentallyhurt you even more," he explained.
Usagi crawled forward so she could wrap her arms around him. "As longas you are with me, you can't hurt me," she assured him. She nuzzledhis shoulder with her head. "I still don't think it was necessary foryou guys to know. I'm not sure why Puu insisted upon it." Usagiscowled. "What difference does it make now?"
Mamoru turned and pulled her into his arms, placing a soft kiss on herforehead. "I understand why she did it, and she was right. We, theInner Senshi and I, needed to know so that we would view our recentactions in the proper perspective. I thought I was protecting you bypushing you away, but instead it turns out I was hurting you worsethan any enemy ever could. I won't make that mistake again. Whateverhappens, whatever evil threatens us, we'll face it together."
A brilliant smile lit up Usagi's features as she beamed up at him."That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me, Mamo-chan. I loveyou so much!" She reached up and pulled his head down for a kiss.
As his lips came in contact with hers, Mamoru felt a stab of desirestronger than he had ever felt before and he deepened the kiss. Usagifelt a flutter in her stomach and a small moan escaped from her asheat rose through her body. Mamoru suddenly broke the kiss, breathinghard. He had always desired his Usako, but tonight the passion wasstronger, and she seemed to feel it as well.
Usagi placed her hands on her burning cheeks in an attempt to coolthem. Her breathing was also labored, he noticed. "Um, wow,"shebreathed. An intense longing to be able to look into his eyes sweptthrough her and she clutched his shoulders tighter. "I wish I couldsee you," she whispered.
Mamoru closed his eyes at the heartbreak he could hear in her voice.He felt so powerless--his Usako was in distress and there wasnothing he could do to make it better. He laid down on the bed andgathered her into his arms. Kissing her gently on the forehead oncemore, he settled her against his chest. "Rest now, Usako. We'll dealwith everything tomorrow."
Usagi snuggled into his arms and closed her eyes. His comfortingwarmth began to spread through her body and she sighed in contentment,feeling all her muscles relax in the safe, loving cocoon of his arms.
Mamoru held her close as she slept. Her soft, even breaths were warmagainst his neck. His thoughts turned to the confession she had madeearlier in the evening. Serenity had killed herself after his, orrather, Endymion's, death. Each time he visualized the scene, a coldchill would wrap around his heart. He recalled the shattered look inher eyes when he denied his love for her. If she had not beencaptured, would she have done something similar? He didn't want tothink of his Usako taking her life because of his actions. He neverwould have thought her capable of such a thing. Usako was always sojoyful and full of life. 'But not recently,' he reluctantly admittedto himself. Since he had left her, she'd become a mere shadow of herformer, bubbly self. Chibi-Usa and the Inner Senshi certainly hadn'tbeen helping any, but he had been the one to kill the light in hereyes. Usagi shivered in her sleep, interrupting his dark thoughts. He stroked her back soothingly and then closed his eyes. She wassafely in his arms, and he vowed to be a better protector from now on.=====
"Serenity! Little Bunny, where are you hiding? Your mother will bedispleased with the both of us if I don't have you ready for dinner ontime. Don't you want to meet the girls?"
Serenity heard her father calling for her from her hiding place underthe hedge and she giggled softly. At the mention of the girls,though, she perked up. She'd finally have someone her own age to playwith! She crept quietly out of her hiding place and walked on tip toesbehind her father. Suddenly, he turned around and grabbed her.
"Ah ha! Got you!" he exclaimed, his bright blue eyes dancing inmerriment.
Serenity shrieked in delight as he lifted her high in the air andswung her around. Her childish giggles rang through the air and hedeftly placed her on his shoulders for a piggy-back ride. Serenitywrapped her small arms around his neck and cheerily cried out, "I loveyou, Papa!"
He chuckled softly, "I love you, too, Little Bunny."
Usagi woke up with his laughter still ringing in her ears. She openedher eyes. Darkness. She was never going to get used to that. Mamoruwas gone. She felt around the bed to be sure, but his golden warmthwas missing. On the plus side, she felt great! Usagi grinned widelyas she felt her usual energy. The fatigue that had been plaguing herwas gone. Instinctively, she knew it had something to do with theproximity of her prince and Senshi. A soft, silver glow beckoned herand Usagi reached for it. The Ginzuishou was warm to the touch and itflared briefly as she picked it up. The crescent moon on her foreheadgave an answering flare, but Usagi didn't notice. She thought back tothe dream she had just had. 'Another memory of my father on the MoonKingdom.' Blue eyes, full of laughter, and then black, filled withhate, flashed in her mind. Shaking her head in confusion, Usagi gotout of bed and felt her way to the door. She was just about to stepinto the hall when Michiru's calming presence washed over her.
"Usagi! You are up! Mamoru said you were, but Rei insisted that youcouldn't possibly be out of bed before noon." Michiru exclaimed.
Usagi grinned. "Ha! Shows how much she knows."
"I'll lay your clothes out on the bed and once you're dressed you canjoin us in the dining room for lunch. Makoto kicked Setsuna out of the kitchen and the aromas are already making everyone drool."
"Okay, I'll be out in a bit."=====
Once the table had been cleared and the dishes washed, everyone satquietly around the dining room table. It was time to discuss the newenemy that had appeared. Setsuna cleared her throat. "Alright, thefirst thing we need to do is identify the new enemy. Usagi, what canyou tell us about the person who abducted you?"
Usagi bit her lip. She had wanted to discuss this with Setsunaprivately before divulging her suspicions to all of the Senshi. Shedidn't really want to mention it in front of Mamoru, either, as it wassure to bring some bad memories back for him.
"Usako?" Mamoru questioned softly, when she didn't respond.
Usagi dropped her head and fiddled with her fingers. The others allexchanged glances, puzzled and concerned over her silence. Finally,she sighed softly and raised her head. "I believe I know who it is,"she said quietly.
Everyone sat in stunned silence, staring at her in disbelief at thebombshell she had just dropped. Usagi winced a bit as everyone'semotions sky-rocketed. Not surprisingly, Setsuna was the first torecover.
"Why did you not tell us this before?" she asked with a deceptivecalm.
"I didn't know before! But for the last few days, I keep having these dreams, or memories, actually, of the Silver Millennium. That's where he comes from." Usagi tried to explain.
"Where who comes from, Usako?" Mamoru asked quietly. He didn't likethe fact the she had been holding out on him, but he could sense thattalking about this was distressful for her.
"Princess Serenity's father," Usagi whispered.
Setsuna paled at her words. She had thought that he might be the newenemy, but she had truly wanted to believe that it was someone else.The first time she and Queen Serenity had had to face him it was badenough. This time, Usagi would need to use the Ginzuishou to destroyhim, not merely banish him. Even as she thought this, however, Usagiwas continuing with something else entirely in mind.
"It's not what you think! He's not evil. He's been brainwashed byMetallia, just as Mamoru was."
"Usagi, Metallia is dead. She could not have done this," Setsunareminded her gently.
"No, no, you don't understand. Metallia brainwashed him in the SilverMillennium. That's what I'm trying to explain. Somehow, he has comefrom that time."
"But, how is that possible?" asked Rei,"Setsuna, didn't you say you were the Guardian of the Time Gate? Wouldn't you know if someone had travelled through time?"
Setsuna hesitated before responding. "There have been disturbances inthe time stream lately. Someone has been travelling through timewithout using the time gate. I thought that the access had only beenbetween now and the future, but it is possible that whoever is doingthis could have travelled into the past, as well..." she paused as hermind began working through all the possible ramifications of thatthought. "We need to put a stop to these time jumps before they causelasting harm to the fabric of reality."
"OK, I agree that the time travelling needs to stop, but what aboutSerenity's father? If he really has been brainwashed, we need to savehim," Makoto interjected with a worried glance at Usagi.
"I don't know. If he had been brainwashed, wouldn't Queen Serenityhave known it? She could have used the Ginzuishou to heal him." Minako protested.
Usagi shook her head. "I don't think so. My memories are a littlefragmented, but I think everything happened too quickly for her todiscover what had happened to him. Remember, when Mamoru was taken,we didn't know at first that he had been brainwashed. It was his eyesthat finally gave it away."
Usagi felt Mamoru tense as she mentioned the painful incident in thepast, but he relaxed again when she gave his hand a firm squeeze.
"His eyes?" Michiru wrinkled her forehead in confusion. "How did hiseyes give it away?"
"While under Beryl's control, his eyes were black, not blue. In mymemories, when I see my father's eyes, they are a bright blue--exceptfor that final night when he came for me. That night, they wereobsidian black and filled with hate--just as Mamoru's were when Berylordered him to kill me," Usagi explained.
"I don't understand. What do you mean when he 'came for you?'" Makoto asked.
"Puu, could you tell them? My memories aren't very clear. It's moreof a nightmare than a memory..." Usagi pleaded.
"It was a nightmare," Setsuna agreed. "There was a terriblethunderstorm that night and the Queen summoned me from the Time Gate. I had had a strange sense of foreboding all day, but when the Queensummoned me, she was terrified. The Princess and the King were bothmissing and the Queen was positive that her daughter was in mortaldanger. Using the Ginzuishou, she was able to locate her daughter andI teleported us both there. The King had taken the Princess to thecaves on the dark side of the Moon. When we arrived, he was justabout to thrust his dagger into her heart. Queen Serenity actedwithout thinking. She used the Ginzuishou to imprison him in crystaland ordered me to banish him from her realm. He was dead to her andthe rest of the kingdom from that moment on. The Princess was severelytraumatized by the event. For months, she would wake up screaming forher papa and thunderstorms terrified her. To stop the nightmares, theQueen put a block in the Princess' memory to prevent her fromremembering the father who had tried to murder her, and it wasforbidden in the court for anyone to mention his name."
Mamoru hugged Usagi close to him as he felt her shiver slightly asSetsuna finished her tale. No wonder she hated thunderstorms. Herown father had tried to kill her during one. 'Just like I did,' he thought bitterly to himself. It was amazing that she trusted men at all, as the two who were supposed to love and protect her had both attemptedto destroy her.
"You mean, no one ever tried to find out why he had done it?" Rei asked in disbelief.
"We planned to, but by the time things had calmed down enough for usto think rationally again, he was gone," Setsuna said.
"Gone?" Haruka frowned. "Gone where?"
"I don't know. I went to where I had banished him, but he wasn'tthere. The Queen was inconsolable. Only the Princess was able tobring her out of her depression. Much of her vitality disappearedwith her king."
"Maybe Usagi is correct. If someone brought the King from the past,then that would explain why you couldn't find him. He was in thefuture--our present," Ami stated.
Michiru nodded slowly. "That makes sense. If he was removed fromthat time, even the Ginzuishou would be unable to track him. Also, ifit is someone from the future who has brought him here, that personmay have the technology to cloak themselves from us."
"The question is, how did anyone know where and when he was?" Mamoruinterjected.
Setsuna looked startled. "I hadn't thought of that. Queen Serenityand I were the only ones who were there when I banished him."
Usagi had a sudden flash of a cloaked figure in the darkness of thecave glaring malevolently at her from glowing pits within a skull's head. She shivered at the image and clutched Mamoru's arm fearfully. "No, there was something else there, too. Something evil..." shewhispered.
Mamoru looked down at her in concern. Her face had paled and she wastrembling in his arms. "It's alright, Usako, we're here with younow," he murmured softly into her ear.
His words calmed her and Usagi took a deep breath, determined not tolet this phantom from the past unnerve her completely.
"There was another in the cave?" Setsuna said in disbelief. Sheclosed her eyes and tried to recall that terrible night so long ago. The evil emanating from the cave was overwhelming, and Queen Serenityhad blanched as they approached. The sounds of her daughter's sobbinghad stiffened her resolve, however, and the two of them had enteredthe cave. She would never forget the look of total devastation on herQueen's face when she saw her husband about to plunge a dagger intotheir daughter's heart. He had looked up at her cry of distress andsomething... regret?... had flashed upon his face before he returned hisattention to the Princess. "I do this for you, my love," he had criedeven as the knife plunged down. Queen Serenity cried out with thepower of the Ginzuishou and he was frozen in place, the knife justpricking the princess' chest. A small droplet of blood seeped throughher nightgown as the child whimpered in her father's frozen grip. Inher mind's eye, though, Setsuna noticed for the first time that thechild's wide blue eyes were focused on something farther back insidethe cave, not on her father. Setsuna shook her head to clear theimages from her mind and looked up to find the other Senshi watchingher anxiously.
"Did you remember something?" Minako asked.
"It is possible that we were not alone in the cave. I, myself, didn'tsee anything, but the Princess seemed to be staring at something deepwithin the cave."
Haruka's eyes turned hard. "I think we need to go on the assumptionthat our enemy knows a lot more about us than we do about him. Thisis not a good state of affairs."
Everyone nodded in agreement. A soft beeping noise invaded the quietthat had fallen upon the group and everyone looked at Ami, who wasscrambling to access her computer.
"There's a droid attack downtown. There's no sign of Chibi-Usa'senergy signature, though, so it must be a poison crystal attack ratherthan an abduction attempt."
"Thank goodness for small favors," Makoto muttered.
"We have to go, but someone needs to stay with Usagi," Mina stated.
"No, you'll need everyone's help since I can't use the sceptre todestroy it," Usagi protested.
"Haruka, Michiru, you two accompany the Inner Senshi. The Prince andI will stay with Usagi," Setsuna instructed.
Haruka looked like she wanted to protest, but a slight head shake fromMichiru caused her to nod her head in reluctant agreement. She wouldrather have made certain herself that the Princess remained safe, butat least now she was guaranteed some action. The fighting would allowher to let off some steam.=====
After the Senshi had left to deal with the droid attack, Usagi chewedon her lip worriedly, "Do you think they'll be alright?" she asked.
"I'm sure they'll be fine. Neptune and Uranus have strongerattacks, so with all of them working together, they should have noproblem dealing with whatever the droid throws at them," Setsunareplied smoothly.
"It's the working together part that worries me," Usagi muttered."There is still a lot of resentment and hostility on both sides.Especially between Rei and Haruka. I hope they can work it out beforesomeone gets hurt," she continued.
Setsuna and Mamoru exchanged worried glances. Bad feelings within theteam was one thing that they really didn't need right now.
Usagi sighed in frustration. "I hate just sitting here while they areout fighting. I want to help!" she cried out plaintively.
"Usako, how can you fight what you can't see? If you were there,everyone would be distracted with keeping an eye on you," Mamoru triedto reason with her.
Usagi shook her head in denial. "No, I have to fight this enemy. I'mthe only one who can save my father..." she trailed off as her whole body stiffened the blood drained from her face.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Mamoru asked anxiously.
"They're in trouble. We have to help them!" Usagi cried.
Setsuna activated her communicator. "Neptune, what's happening? Doyou require assistance?" All three waited in tense silence as theseconds ticked by with no response. Finally, when Usagi was about toinsist that they go the site of the battle immediately, Neptune's softvoice came through the communicator, even more subdued than normal.
"The battle is over. We defeated the droid, but the Inner Senshi werecaptured by Rubeus. It was a trap. Uranus and I are on our way backnow. We'll give you the details when we arrive."
"Understood." Setsuna deactivated the device and turned back to faceher princess and prince.
"No..." Usagi whispered, shaking her head in denial as tears feelsilently from her eyes.
"We'll get them back, Usako." Mamoru reassured her, though his eyeswere grim.
"I should have been there. I should have made the two of you go.Maybe the trap could have been avoided if we were at full power,"Usagi said brokenly.
Setsuna crossed the room to kneel down and take Usagi's hands in herown. "It is not your fault. If you had been there, you might havebeen captured, as well, and then we would have lost any advantage wehave over this enemy. When Haruka and Michiru return, we'll devise aplan to rescue the Inner Senshi. Please try not to worry too much. I've a feeling we're going to need you at full strength before this isover."
Usagi sniffed a few times as she made a visible effort to get heremotions under control. So much had happened in the past few days,that she felt as though she might shatter at any moment. But thatwouldn't help her friends, so she ruthlessly stamped down on heremotions and managed to give Setsuna a shaky smile. "You're right. I can't fall apart now--they need me. I won't flake out on them now,"she stated determinedly.
Setsuna met Mamoru's eyes. Usagi had been handling her blindnessfairly well, but with the Inner Senshi captured they were going to need her to fight. Mamoru nodded slightly to indicate his understanding, but Setsuna had no illusions about his feelings about it. She didn't care for the idea, either.
"They're here," Usagi said quietly, breaking the heavy silence thathad fallen.
When the two weary Senshi entered the room, Usagi leapt up andengulfed them in a comforting hug. "I'm so glad you two are okay!" she cried.
At her warm embrace, Haruka immediately felt some of her tension andanger drain away. She had been unsure of their reception since theyhad allowed the Inner Senshi to be captured. She should have knownthat her princess would not fault them.
"What happened?" Setsuna asked when Usagi finally allowed the two oldergirls to draw away from her embrace. They still looked unhappy,but some of the despair had lifted from their expressions.
Michiru guided Usagi back to Mamoru's side on the sofa while Harukaflopped down in a chair with a heavy sigh. "We screwed up. That'swhat happened. The droids were programmed with counter attacksspecific to each of the Inners. If we had realized this sooner, wecould have taken them out before they accomplished their mission," Haruka said, slamming her fist down on the arm of the chair in frustration.
"As it was, as soon as one of the Inner Senshi attacked a droid, itturned the attack back on the sender and then immediately teleportedaway with the stunned Senshi," Michiru added grimly.
"Rubeus kept Michiru and I occupied until it was too late for us tohelp the Inners. He played us like suckers," Haruka spat out, heranger returning as she ran through the battle again.
"Why did he target the Inner Senshi? What does he mean to accomplishby capturing them?" Setsuna wondered aloud.
Mamoru nodded in agreement. "Yes, usually he tries to kill theSenshi, not capture them."
"He wants the Ginzuishou and Chibi Usa. Sailor Moon has two hours tobring them to the park, or he will start killing the Inner Senshi, onean hour, until she appears," Michiru said flatly, her eyes castdownward.
Usagi sucked in her breath and her hands tightened into fists. Sheclosed her eyes and reached for the Inner Senshi with her new ability.Following the slender threads, she finally came to their source."They're alive," she whispered as the auras brightened as she neared,"but very far away." She squeezed her eyes shut as she forced herselffurther out. Cold, fear, anger, all assaulted her as the emotions ofthe Inner Senshi bombarded her. Usagi concentrated on sendingfeelings of reassurance and comfort to them and was gratified whentheir auras brightened at her touch. She continued to send her energyto them until she felt Mamoru calling for her. Regretfully, sheslowly withdrew her contact from the Senshi and allowed herconsciousness to return to her body.
"Usako! Snap out of it!" Mamoru's voice was starting to crack a bitas he gently shook her, trying to get her out of the strange tranceshe had fallen into after saying the Senshi were alive. Assuming shewas trying to contact them, he hadn't become concerned until thecrescent moon had begun blazing on her forehead and her body hadstarted shivering.
Usagi slowly opened her eyes. She was so cold and tired. She smiledin gratitude as Mamoru enfolded her in a blanket and rubbed her armsvigorously in an attempt to warm her up.
"Well, did you learn anything with your little jaunt that nearlyscared us to death?" Setsuna asked wryly, her mouth set in a grimline.
Usagi shook her head sadly. "Not much, I'm afraid. Wherever theyare, it's cold. They weren't seriously injured, but they were veryweak. I think I was able to help them, though." She tried to suppressa yawn, but failed.
"I think you need to rest. You pushed yourself too far and sharedyour energy, as well," Setsuna stated. She indicated to Mamoru totake Usagi to the bedroom.
"Don't worry. We'll find them. I know how important they are to you,but you won't do them any good if you collapse from exhaustion. Please, Usako, try to rest. The Outers and I will work on freeing theInner Senshi." Mamoru soothed her as he pulled the blankets up to herchin.
Usagi grabbed his hand as it was smoothing the blanket. "Promise youwon't leave without telling me," she begged him, fearing that if shefell asleep, she would awaken to an empty house. "Please, Mamo-chan,promise me."
Mamoru used his free hand to brush her bangs out of her eyes. Although sightless, her eyes were still as clear and beautiful asever. "I promise I won't leave without letting you know." He droppeda soft kiss against her lips and Usagi sighed with relief andpleasure. Reassured that her prince wouldn't disappear while she wassleeping, Usagi let her eyes drift shut and succumbed to the slumberthat had beckoned ever since she had sought contact with her missingSenshi.
After a last, longing look at his resting princess, Mamoru quietlyshut the door and went back to join the Outer Senshi.
"How is she?" Michiru asked with quiet concern. The present frailtyof her princess frightened her.
Mamoru rubbed the bridge of his nose before answering. "I convincedher to rest, but the stress is taking its toll. I'm not sure shecould handle another crisis right now. We need to find the Senshi orthere's no telling what she might do. All of my instincts arescreaming at me to hold and protect her, but the best thing I can dofor her now is find her friends." He blew out a frustrated breath andretook his seat on the sofa. "Do we have anything to go on at all?"he asked, looking to Haruka and Michiru.
"Usagi gave us the only clues we have--somewhere cold and very faraway. Those droids could have teleported anywhere," Haruka said indisgust.
"I almost don't want to mention this, but it may be our only option. If we can't find the Inner Senshi ourselves, I believe the princesscould use the Ginzuishou to locate them. That is how the Queen locatedher and the King that terrible night," Setsuna offered.
Haruka and Mamoru both scowled at her, but Michiru looked thoughtful."If it wouldn't drain her overly much, that might be the best thing wecan do. Right now, Usagi is feeling useless, but if we need her tolocate the others, then she will discover that she can still help us."
Setsuna nodded slowly, "I think you may have something, Michiru.Actually, with as little as we have to go on, I believe Usagi is ouronly hope of locating the Senshi before the deadline. We'll let herrest for awhile, and then we'll tell her our plan."
"What is our plan, exactly?" Haruka asked. "Are we going to take herwith us, or is someone going to stay here with her? We can't leave her unprotected."
"You three should go, and I'll stay here with Usagi. If, as she said,they are unharmed and she has strengthened them, the other Senshishould be able to aid in their escape," Mamoru said. The three girlsall nodded their agreement and settled back to wait for Usagi togather her strength.=====
"Serenity, stop staring at the Earth and pay attention! Some day youwill need to wield the Ginzuishou. It can do much more than simplychannel power. If you focus, you can use it for many otherthings--healing, teleporting, locating a missing person, movingobjects, just to name a few. What would you like to see first?" Queen Serenity looked down at her daughter and sighed. The girl hadthe most powerful fascination with the planet below.
The young girl blinked and forcefully brought her attention back toher mother. "I am sorry, Mother. What would I like to see first?" The princess thought for a minute before responding, "I want to knowwhere Luna is right now."
"Very well. Now, watch closely. Once I've demonstrated the technique,you can try it. Ready?"
Serenity nodded eagerly. It wasn't often that she was allowed topractice with the powerful crystal, but now that she was maturing,her mother had started training her in the handling of the Ginzuishou.
The Queen held out the Ginzuishou and closed her eyes. "The firstthing you must do is visualize the person you are seeking...then,project that image into the Ginzuishou." The Ginzuishou began to pulse with the a soft glow at the Queen's words. "Luna is in the library."
"But, how do you know?" Serenity wrinkled her nose in confusion. "How can you be sure that what the Ginzuishou shows you is true?"
"You must have faith. The Ginzuishou is not sentient. It is merely atool that allows us to focus or amplify our own powers. You wouldn'tlie to yourself, would you?" The Queen moved the Ginzuishou in frontof Serenity. "Now, you locate Artemis."
Serenity obediently held out her hand, palm up, and called theGinzuishou to her. Once it was hovering just above her hand, shethought of Artemis--sleek, white fur, large blue eyes with a hint ofmischief in them...'Artemis,' she projected to the Ginzuishou. TheGinzuishou blazed with light. Serenity had a quick impression of thelibrary, then everything went dark.
Luna and Artemis both started with fright when the princess suddenlyappeared in front of them and collapsed.
When Serenity awoke, she was in her bed. Her head was aching dullyand she groaned softly when she tried to sit up. Immediately, hermother's cool hand touched her forehead and the pain receded. "Whathappened?" Serenity asked, blinking groggily.
"You used too much power and the feedback zapped you pretty hard. Youneeded to focus more on what you wanted to happen. You must haveblasted the Ginzuishou with the thought of Artemis so hard that youwere teleported to him. I must say, you gave him and Luna quite ashock when you appeared out of nowhere and fainted in front of them. All of your Senshi came running in a panic, and I had a difficult timeconvincing them that you were fine. You'll have to go out andreassure them soon, or I'm afraid they'll break the door down."
Serenity smiled sheepishly. "They're a bit overprotective, aren'tthey?"
The Queen smiled in return and nodded. "We'll take up your trainingagain tomorrow. Just remember, you need to control the amount ofpower you send through the Ginzuishou. If you send too much, you riskdraining yourself completely."
"Focus and control." Serenity repeated as her mother rose and left theroom.====
"Usako. Usako, you need to wake up now."
Usagi jumped as she came back to herself. For a moment, she wasdisoriented by the darkness. She had expected to find the soothingwhite and silver of her room in the Moon Kingdom. The comfortingsound of Mamoru's voice calmed her a bit and then everything came backin a rush. The attack, her blindness, the capture of the InnerSenshi... Usagi sat straight up in bed. What was she doing nappingwhen her friends were in trouble?
"What is it? Have you found them?" she asked anxiously.
"No, that's why I came to wake you. We need you to find them with theGinzuishou. Setsuna says that it's possible. Do you think you're upto it?" Mamoru asked as he looked at her with concern. She was stillmuch too pale and he didn't care for the dark circles that had formedunder her eyes.
Usagi nodded. "Yes, I can do it. Have the Outers come in here." When Mamoru left the room, Usagi concentrated on the dream she hadjust had, or was it a memory? "You're helping me still, aren't youMother? Focus and control," she whispered to herself as she reachedfor the Ginzuishou. When he returned with the Senshi, the Ginzuishou was floating just above Usagi's open palm.
Pluto nodded approvingly as she entered. It seemed that the Princesshad remembered some of her training. She and the other Senshi hadalready transformed and they were ready for action. "Princess, onceyou have located the Inners, Michiru, Haruka, and I will go after them. The Prince shall remain here with you." When it looked like Usagi was about to argue, Setsuna stepped forward and grasped her free hand. "If we need to worry about you, we will be distracted from rescuing the others. If the two of you are here, we will be able to concentrate on the matter at hand."
Usagi swallowed the protest that had sprung to her lips. Puu wascorrect, as usual. "Alright, but I will do more than simply locatethem. I will send you there, as well. Then you will not need toexpend any energy in simply arriving and you'll be at full strength."
"I don't want you to drain yourself, Usako," Mamoru warned.
"I'll be fine. I'll have you to sustain me. The Inners have neverteleported without me before, so they'll need all the power they canget." Without waiting for an agreement, Usagi closed her eyes andbegan to concentrate on her four missing friends. Silently, Mamorutook the hand Setsuna had relinquished and sat on the bed next toUsagi. Immediately, she felt his calm and strength flowing into her. Some of the tension eased from her shoulders and an image of theSenshi solidified in her mind. "They are encased on some sort ofcrystal crosses. They appear to be unharmed, but they're allunconscious."
"Is anyone guarding them? What can you tell us of theirsurroundings?" Haruka asked.
Usagi frowned in concentration. "I don't think anyone is around them, but they could be monitoring remotely. The whole place is constructed of crystal," she paused as she tried to make out more details that couldhelp. As she examined the scene in her mind, she noticed certaincrystal shards that were coming out of the floor and pulsing withdifferent colors. Usagi felt her heart jump--that was it! "I thinkthe crosses are controlled by the crystals on the other side of theroom. Each cross has a crystal that pulses with the same color oflight and tempo. I think if you destroy the shards, the Senshi will bereleased from the crystals."
Setsuna nodded. "All right. We'll aim for the shards first. Do you think you can place us in front of them?"
"I'll try." Usagi gathered herself and visualized the Outer Senshistanding within the image in her mind. The crescent moon blazed tolife upon her forehead and the Ginzuishou answered with a brilliantflash. When the light faded, the Outer Senshi were gone and Usagi andthe Ginzuishou both collapsed on the bed.
Once he had assured himself that she was merely asleep, Mamoruretrieved the Ginzuishou and replaced it on her bedstand. Pulling theblankets up to her chin, Mamoru placed a soft kiss upon her foreheadand then sat on the bed next to her to wait.=====
Setsuna gazed around her quickly. Usagi had given them a veryaccurate description of the room or cavern in which they foundthemselves. The Inner Senshi were suspended behind her and thepulsing crystals were just where she had said. A larger crystalglowed softly in a corner to her left, but it was unclear what itspurpose might be. "Uranus, take care of these crystals. Neptune andI will try to revive the Senshi."
Uranus nodded in agreement and called out her attack as the other twowomen hurried across the room. "World Shaking!" The globe of pulsingenergy obliterated the two crystal shards in front of her andMars and Jupiter were released from their crystal bonds. Plutogrunted as Jupiter's weight landed on her, and then eased the girl tothe floor. She looked up to see that Neptune had caught Mars similarlyand called out to Uranus, "Okay, take out the next two."
Uranus grinned and cracked her knuckles. "With pleasure... WorldShaking!"
Once again, with the destruction of the shards, the remaining Senshiwere released. Neptune caught the Senshi of Ice and then glared atUranus. "Next time, I get to destroy things and you have to catchfalling Senshi."
"I second that," Pluto huffed as she knelt next to Sailor Venus.
"Well, well, what do we have here? A rescue attempt? I don't thinkso." Rubeus smirked as he floated into the chamber.
"If you know what's good for you, you'll just let us leave," Uranussnarled.
"That's not a very friendly attitude, now is it? Where, praytell, is Sailor Moon? I'm fairly certain that my invitation was forher and the Rabbit." Rubeus pouted petulantly before shrugging. "Ahwell, now I have more bait." He waved his arm dramatically and theSenshi found themselves pinned to the floor by their own weight.
"Deep Submerge!" Neptune cried out as she used all of her strength tolaunch her attack.
Rubeus simply raised his hand and a force shield appeared before him.Neptune's attack hit the shield and dissipated. By this time, theInner Senshi were starting to come around and peer about themuncomprehendingly.
"You know, I don't believe I need all of you. Perhaps if I kill oneor two of you, Sailor Moon will take my threat seriously." He raised a hand and a ball of orange-red energy streaked toward the fallen Senshi of Water.
"No!" Uranus cried out in helpless horror as she tried to move herdisobedient body. There was no way she could reach Neptune in time.Fury consumed her and she called her attack. "World Shaking!" Theresulting explosion was much larger and louder than those that haddestroyed the shards, but when the light died down, Rubeus still stoodunscathed. Bitter tears burned in Uranus' eyes as she glared at himwith undisguised hatred. She looked over to where Neptune had beenand collapsed to her knees. Sailor Jupiter was just getting to herfeet after pushing Neptune out of harm's way. Weak with relief,Uranus closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"You're stronger than I thought," Rubeus muttered as he fired offanother attack at Jupiter.
Mercury, meanwhile, had been scanning the area as the fighting wasgoing on around her. "Pluto, distract him," she whispered as shecontinued scanning.
"Dead Scream," Pluto whispered and a wave of energy hurtled towardRubeus.
As his shield pulsed, Mercury nodded in satisfaction."Jupiter, the crystal!" she yelled as she pointed at the pulsingcrystal Pluto had noticed when she arrived.
"No!" Rubeus cried. He started to prepare another attack when Marsand Venus struck at the same time.
"Mars Fire Soul!"
"Venus Love Me Chain!"
With Rubeus distracted, Jupiter rose to her feet and centeredherself. "Jupiter Supreme Thunder!" Lightning streaked from theantenna on her tiara and the crystal shattered. The effect wasimmediate. The force holding them so securely released them and thereclining Senshi surged to their feet.
"It doesn't matter!" Rubeus screamed frantically. "You'll all diewith me. The whole ship is self-destructing now!"
"He's right!" Mercury yelled after checking on her computer. "We'vegot to get out of here!"
"Form a circle! We're teleporting out of here." Pluto had to shoutto be heard over the sounds of falling crystals and cracking floors.
The other Senshi hurried to do as she directed, but Mars gave aworried glance around as she clasped hands with Venus and Mercury. "We've never done this without Sailor Moon. Will we have enoughenergy?"
The other Inner Senshi all turned worried eyes toward Pluto.
"Don't worry, we'll make it. Just concentrate." As she spoke, Plutoclosed her eyes and a garnet glow began to emanate from her. Theother Senshi followed her lead and, in a rainbow of color, they weregone.
Rubeus looked around wildly. It just wasn't possible. How could theyhave escaped? More importantly, how was he going to escape? An evillaugh behind him caused him to spin around. "Emerald! We've got toescape now. The ship is going to explode any minute!" he criedexcitedly as he stumbled to reach her.
"So sorry, Rubeus. I'm afraid you're stuck here. The Wiseman has nouse for failures like you. Bye!" Emerald grinned slyly and then she,too, was gone.
"I'll see you in hell, wi..." Rubeus' proclamation was clipped short as the ship thunderously exploded in an impressive pyrotechnic display.=====
A relieved smile spread across Mamoru's face as he came out of Usagi'sroom to the sight of all the Senshi filing in. "Glad to see you allmade it back in one piece. Usagi will be glad to see you when shewakes up."
"She's asleep!?" Rei asked, disbelief heavy in her voice. "We'rebattling some crazy weirdo in space and she's taking a nap?"
"You wouldn't be here now if it weren't for her." Haruka startedangrily.
"Rei, have you learned nothing from this past week?" Ami stated as sheglared at the fiery priestess, the shame of their behavior towardtheir princess still burning in her mind.
Rei flushed a bright red. "I was just surprised, that's all," shemuttered as she looked at the floor. She was just so used tocriticizing Usagi that she hadn't thought before opening her mouth.
Ignoring the others, Setsuna approached Mamoru. "Is she alright? Shedidn't drain herself too much did she?"
Mamoru shook his head. "She's fine, just exhausted. She hasn't movedsince she sent you off. She'll probably sleep through the night."
Setsuna smiled. "That's not a bad idea for the rest of us, either."
Mamoru took in their disheveled condition. "I take it you had tofight your way out? Is anyone injured?" he asked as he looked aroundat the Senshi, attempting to see if anyone needed medical attention.
"No, just a bit bruised," Minako reassured him.
"Thanks to Jupiter," Michiru said with a grateful glance at thebrunette.
Makoto blushed at the praise, but shook her head in denial. "I was justthe closest. I'm glad I made it in time."
Haruka wrapped her arms over Michiru's shoulders. "We're glad, too."
Ami frowned as she thought back on Setsuna's words. "What happened toUsagi?"
The other Inners all looked up at her question and fixed their gazeson Mamoru.
"Did something happen while we were gone?" Minako asked, anxietyrising in her eyes.
"No, no, she's fine. Really. Using the Ginzuishou to find you andteleport the Outer Senshi there just wore her out," Mamoru hastilyexplained, raising his hands, as if to ward off an attack.
"She used the Ginzuishou?" Rei breathed, the color draining from herface. "Do you know how dangerous that is? She could die if she usesit. She has died from using it." Rei's voice had risen as she'd beenspeaking and she took a threatening step toward Mamoru.
"Rei, she knew what she was doing. She's fine," Setsuna said softly,placing a hand on the younger girl's arm.
"But she could have died and we weren't here for her..." Reiprotested weakly, fighting back tears.
Setsuna wrapped the priestess in a comforting hug. "She didn't die and she did it for you. All of you. We could not have stopped her if we had wanted to."
Makoto nodded solemnly. "Usagi is fearless when it comes to protecting her friends and loved ones."
Michiru spoke up. "Setsuna is right. We should try to get somerest. Tomorrow, we'll all feel much better and Usagi will be able tofuss over us to her heart's content."=====
"She lives. The cursed daughter who killed your wife and destroyedyour kingdom is still alive," the cloaked figure rasped as he glaredinto his glowing purple orb. "How can you tolerate this? Do you notwish to see her pay? She must die for her sins," he continued in ahypnotic monotone.
The tall blonde man standing before him nodded in agreement. His eyesblazed with rage and his hands clenched and unclenched repeatedly. "The demon child must die," he stated. With a swirl of his goldencape, he was gone.
The cloaked figure cackled with satisfaction and resumed watching theevents in his orb. Soon, very soon, the Ginzuishou would be his, andthe Earth would be no more.=====
The weekend was spent with the Senshi and Mamoru all getting to knoweach other and Usagi better. The Outer Senshi were losing theirhostility for the Inners. Makoto's actions on Rubeus' ship had gone along way in thawing the ice. Everyone was impressed with how wellUsagi was dealing with her blindness, although some of the changes inher character were a bit disconcerting for those who knew her best. With many of her memories of her life on the Moon returning, Usagi hadbegun to naturally fall into some of the mannerisms of PrincessSerenity. She was quieter and moved with a cautious grace. She wasstill bubbly and cheerful, but she would sometimes get a pensive lookupon her face that worried her friends. On Sunday night, the InnerSenshi and Mamoru departed for their own homes as they all had schoolthe next day. Mamoru was reluctant to leave, but Usagi pushed himgently out the door, explaining that she didn't want to be responsiblefor his grades slipping. What she didn't tell him was that she had afeeling of unease and wanted everyone as far away from her as possiblewhen the danger came.
Usagi sighed as she pressed her forehead against the door that Mamoruhad just exited through. Already, she felt colder and the darknesspressed against her without the comforting presence of Mamoru and theInner Senshi. She shivered slightly and the hairs on the back of herneck stood on end. She didn't have much time. He was coming for heragain soon. She could feel the evil approaching like a giant tidalwave of inky cold. She had to leave so he wouldn't get theOuters! Listening carefully, Usagi couldn't detect the three women.Tentatively, she did a gentle probe, careful not to be noticed. Asmall smile escaped her as she found Haruka and Michiru 'occupied.' Afaint blush stained her cheeks and she quickly retreated, not wantingto intrude. Her scan moved on, seeking Setsuna. Of all the Senshi,Pluto would be the hardest one to remain hidden from. Usagi waspretty sure she could use the Ginzuishou to hide her whereabouts, butit wasn't a sure thing. Setsuna was in the kitchen, but she seemed abit agitated. 'Okay, it's now or never,' Usagi thought to herself. She brought out the Ginzuishou and concentrated. She needed a remotelocation where no one else would be caught in the crossfire...
Setsuna straightened abruptly. "Serenity," she breathed, eyes widewith apprehension. She ran out of the kitchen to the living room, butthere was no sign of the Princess. A sense of impending disaster hadbeen growing within her all day, but she had not expected Usagi tosimply disappear. Trying to remain calm, she looked in Usagi's roomwith a slim hope that she had simply gone to bed. After searching thehouse with no sign of the diminutive princess, Setsuna reluctantlyknocked on Michiru and Haruka's door.
Haruka answered the door, raising one inquiring eyebrow. Setsunararely disturbed them in the evenings.
"The Princess is gone," Setsuna stated quietly, the panic she feltfirmly squashed beneath her iron control.
Haruka merely nodded. She knew things had been going too well for thelast couple of days. "We'll be right out," she said and then shut thedoor.
Michiru looked up apprehensively as the blonde returned. "What'swrong?" she inquired, concerned by the expression on Haruka's face.
"Usagi is missing and Setsuna is spooked. I could see it in her eyes.Even when we were going after the Princess in the park last week, shewasn't this scared. Angry, yes, but not scared. This is bad," Harukaexplained as she dressed.
"What? How could Usagi be missing? She's blind, how far could shego?" Michiru protested as she jumped out of bed. Her brow wrinkled asshe grabbed a blouse. "Why would she want to leave? She was so happythat we were all together..."
"I don't know. I guess we'll just have to ask her when we find her."
"You don't think someone took her, do you?" Michiru asked.
Haruka shook her head. "No, we would have known. Setsuna would haveknown, at the very least."
Setsuna looked up from her cup of tea as the other two women enteredthe dining room. "I've notified the other Senshi and Mamoru. They'reon their way." The three sat in silence and waited, each trying tofigure out why Usagi had left and where she had gone.=====
The silence was eerie. In her memories, the Moon was full oflife--fountains burbled, courtiers laughed and chatted,and music floated on the breeze. Now, the fountains were rubble, thepeople were dead, and the air was eerily still.Serenity kneltdown onto her knees. Her eyes gave her no information, but her mindpainted the scene around her vividly. This was where her life hadended with Endymion's last breath. Tears streamed down her cheekssilently as she relived the event that had eternally scarred her soul.She had had to watch him die twice--once here on the moon and thenagain in Beryl's cave in the Arctic. She was determined that it wouldnot happen again. She would face the enemy alone before anyone elsecould be hurt. The time with her Prince and Senshi had strengthenedher considerably, and she felt more powerful than she ever had before. Now, all she had to do was wait. She knew he was coming. A suddenblast of heat in front of her warned her that the wait was over.
"So, you decided to leave your protectors, did you? Not that theycould have stopped me. I would simply have killed them." The voice ofher father sounded unnaturally loud in the silence she had becomeaccustomed to.
"I know," Serenity whispered. She raised her head and stared in thedirection from which his voice had come. "That's why I camehere... Papa."
"Never call me that!" the King of the Moon shouted at her. "Irenounce you! A child that would kill her own mother is no daughterof mine!"
Serenity flinched from the pain and hatred that were assaulting her inwaves. "No, Papa, that is not what happened. The Ginzuishou drainedher life when she fought the Dark Kingdom. You're not yourself. Queen Metallia put some kind of spell on you!" Serenity cried, trying to reach the spark of her father that she knew was still there. Sheraised the Ginzuishou in front of her and called her power. "MoonHealing Escalation!" Bright silver light streaked toward the blondeman, but was deflected by a purple force field that sprung around him. Serenity sucked in her breath as a cold chill ran down her spine. Someone else was here! The slippery, evil presence that she now feltbeside her father was familiar somehow... Serenity recoiled in shockas the memory came to her. "You! It was you in the cave that night! You are the reason my father wants me dead," she cried as sheremembered the malevolent eyes that had haunted her dreams until hermother blocked the memories so long ago.
"How perceptive of you, not that it makes any difference. Your words will have no effect on him now. Metallia may have sown the seeds ofmadness in him, but it is I who have nurtured them into anall-consuming hatred for his only child." The figure cackledinsanely. "Say good-bye, Princess Serenity, or should I say Neo-QueenSerenity?" Turning to the glowering man next to him, he rasped,"Whatare you waiting for? Kill her!"
Shaking off the confusion that had gripped him when the girl hadstarted speaking about the Dark Kingdom, King Hyperion gathered hispower. "No more lies! Now you will suffer for the blood on yourhands... For Serenity!" he screamed as blazing energy streaked towardthe stricken girl.
Calming her mind, Serenity visualized a bubble of light surroundingand protecting her. The Ginzuishou and the crescent moon on herforehead pulsed in concert as the force field surrounded her.
"You are stronger than I thought, but how long do you think you canwithstand the combined forces of the Sun and the Nemesis planet?" thecloaked figure rasped as purple lightning bolts shot from his handsand joined with the flames licking hungrily at her sphere of power.
Serenity's breath came in quick little gasps as she felt herselfweakening under the onslaught. Had she only one opponent, she wassure she could have defeated him. But with two, she was strugglingjust to keep her shield up. Something about the cloaked one's powerdrained her quicker than any attack she had ever encountered before. It was as if it simply extinguished her light or poisoned it somehowwith darkness. Poison! That was it. This was the creature behind the Black Moon attacks! The black poison crystals must have been created by him. If he could be defeated, the threat of the Black Moon would be gone. Serenity redoubled her efforts, determined to stop the creature that had been poisoning the Earth, but she just didn't have the strength. The dark energy was increasingly engulfing the light. 'I don't think I even have the energy to teleport way,' she thought wearily as she began to hear a loud roaring in her ears. From a long distance away, she thought she heard someone cry out, and then she knew no more.
Sailor Saturn glared at the two who dared to threaten her princess. She had been awakened by an overpowering need to protect the Princessto whom she had pledged her life and loyalty a millenia ago. Oncebefore, she had started to awaken, but a soft silvery-white light hadsoothed her and sent her back into a state of dormancy. This time,however, the summons had been urgent, and she realized that she hadbarely arrived in time. She wanted to attack, but if she dropped herSilence Wall, the Princess would be vulnerable.
"Dead Scream," came from behind her and Saturn turned her head to seethat the other Senshi had arrived. The others followed with theirattacks while the Prince knelt down next to the Princess, who haddetransformed back to Usagi.
Faced with the wrath of all the Senshi, and considerably weakened bythe battle with Serenity, the Wiseman decided a retreat was in order. Not even bothering to consult with the former Moon King, he teleportedthem both away. "This isn't over, Serenity!" he snarled as hispresence faded out.
"Usako!" Tuxedo Kamen cried out frantically to a non-responding Usagi.Her breathing was shallow and the thready pulse he found was less thanreassuring.
The Inner Senshi crowded around their fallen princess, anxious for herto wake up. Mercury scanned her and let out a sigh of relief. "She's lost a lot of energy, but her levels are already starting to rise. If we can get her to bed and keep her there, she should be finein a few days."
The Outer Senshi approached Saturn, who had allowed her wall to fallonce the enemy had departed. Uranus glared at the new Senshi. "Whatare you doing here?" she hissed.
Saturn gazed at her calmly. "The Princess was in danger. I wassummoned."
Pluto's eyes widened. "You were summoned?" she whispered.
Saturn turned her attention to the Guardian of Time. "Yes," she affirmed. She and the Outer Senshi simply continued to stare at each other until Mars brought them back to the problem at hand.
"You four can have your little stare down later. Right now, we need toget Usagi someplace warm." Mars couldn't believe the Outers werestanding there threatening the Senshi who had most likely savedUsagi's life. She shook her head in disbelief. 'Don't they get alongwith anyone?'
Tuxedo Kamen had wrapped Usagi in his cape and was impatiently waitingfor the Senshi to form the circle for the Sailor Teleport around him.Usagi was beginning to shiver, and he didn't like the blue tinge thathad appeared on her lips. He studied the new Senshi as sheapproached. She was young, certainly no older than twelve, andappeared rather frail despite the power he could feel emanating fromher. Why were the Outer Senshi so distrustful of her? Her dark eyesfell upon him as she approached.
"Prince," she acknowledged simply and inclined her head.
He nodded in return, his own stormy blue eyes troubled by the newdynamic to the group. Mars and Venus quickly grabbed Saturn's handswhen Uranus and Neptune purposely walked by her. Pluto's expressionwas contemplative as she took the hands of Jupiter and Venus tocomplete the circle.
Once the exhausted Senshi arrived on Setsuna's lawn, the Inners allheaded home to get some much needed rest. Before she left, however,Rei told Mamoru that there would be a meeting after school, and Usagiwas going to have to explain just what she was doing--going off to theMoon alone to face the enemy.
Mamoru nodded in understanding and promised to relay the message.Looking down at the unconscious girl in his arms, his lips thinned. Hewasn't going to wait that long to find out. Once she woke up, Usagiwould have some serious explaining to do. A soft touch to his armdiverted his attention from his wayward princess and he found himselflooking into the dark eyes of Sailor Saturn.
"Is she alright? I was afraid I hadn't made it in time when she wasso still."
Mamoru smiled reassuringly at the young girl. "She'll be just fine.All she needs is some rest and she'll be as good as new."
A huge smile spread across Saturn's face and she looked as though atremendous burden had been lifted from her shoulders. "I protectedthe Princess," she whispered with wonder. Her dark eyes sparkledwith joy as she clasped one of Usagi's limp hands with her own. At her touch, Usagi's eyes fluttered open and a soft moan escaped from her.
"Did you get the license number of the truck that hit me?" shewhispered, wincing from the throbbing in her head.
Mamoru's arms around her tightened, and he started forward once more,intent on ensconcing her in her bed. "You're lucky to have gotten offwith just a headache," he told her grimly.
Usagi winced again, this time from the emotions rolling off herbeloved. She had hurt him. "You're angry," she stated quietly.
"I'm much more than angry," he replied, just as quietly.
Saturn had to jog a bit to keep up. The Princess had grasped her handand seemed to have forgotten to let go. She listened to the Princeand Princess with wonder and anxiety. Were they fighting?
Usagi felt a quick shaft of fear and turned her attention from Mamoru. Where? She finally realized she was holding someone's hand. Saturn! She projected warmth, gratitude, and love towards the young Senshi and was relieved when the girl's fear and anxiety ebbed.
"Sailor Saturn," Usagi said with wonder in her voice. It was hard tobelieve that the frightened and unsure girl who clung to her hand asif it were a lifeline was the Soldier of Destruction.
Tuxedo Kamen finally reached the bedroom and gently settled Usagiagainst the pillows before detransforming. As if that were a signal,Sailor Saturn's transformation also faded away and the young girl thatremained promptly collapsed. Mamoru caught her before she hit thefloor and placed her next to Usagi.
"It's a good thing I have quick reflexes. She just dropped," heremarked as he tucked the young girl in.
"Is she alright?" Usagi asked worriedly as she gently skimmed herfingers across the girl's delicate features.
"Just drained, I think. The both of you are too pale. I have more tosay to you, but I can see that it wouldn't do me a bit of good to sayit now," Mamoru finished in exasperation as Usagi's eyes closed againand her breathing evened out. Shaking his head in resignation, heleft the room.
The three Outer Senshi were deep in a quiet conversation that ended abruptly when they noticed him entering the room. Suppressing the urge to sigh, Mamoru continued calmly into the room.
"Where is Sailor Saturn?" Haruka asked, peering behind him as if sheexpected the Senshi to appear behind him with her glaive at the ready.
"Sleeping next to Usagi. They both look totally wiped out. I don'tthink we need to worry about Usagi wandering off again tonight." Heglanced at his watch. "Speaking of wandering off, I'm going to headhome to catch a couple hours of sleep before class. I'll be back withthe other Senshi after school. I wouldn't be surprised if Usagi sleptuntil then."
Setsuna nodded in agreement. "You're probably right. We'll keep herin bed until then whether she wakes up earlier or not."
Once Mamoru had left, Haruka turned to Setsuna. "Is it a good idea toleave Sailor Saturn in such proximity to the Princess? She's dangerous!"
"The Princess is in no danger from Saturn," Setsuna assured her,"the Senshi of Destruction is bound to the Princess just as we are. It is the rest of the world we need to worry about."=====
Serenity found herself in a soft haze. It wasn't dark, but she feltas though she was trapped within a cloud. "Hello! Is anyone here?"she called out softly. "Mother?" There was no reply, but she thoughtshe heard the soft sounds of someone crying. Following the sound, sheexited the fog and found herself in a dark cave. She shiveredslightly and was tempted to return to the haze until she spotted thesource of the sobs. In the farthest corner of the cave, a young girlwas huddled, crying. At the sight, all thoughts of leaving werebanished from Serenity's mind, and she hurried to reach the child. Slowing her pace as she neared, Serenity slowly knelt down next to thegirl. "Hey there, it's all right," she said softly. The girl lookedup quickly and, at the sight of the princess, promptly buried her facein her arms.
"No, don't look. I'm a monster!" she wailed as she pressed herselfagainst the cave wall.
"You're not a monster!" Serenity protested. Gently smoothing thegirl's glossy black hair, she eased herself next to the girl.
"No, no, you have to leave! She'll hurt you!" The girl cried, evenas she leaned closer to Serenity, as if basking in her light andwarmth.
Encouraged by the girl's response to her closeness, Serenity drew herinto a comforting hug, allowing comfort and love to flow through herin soothing waves. After a few moments, the girl's shivering and crying ceased and she relaxed. Opening wide violet eyes, she gazed at Serenity in wonder.
"You're not afraid of me," she whispered.
Serenity smiled down at her. "No, I'm not."
"But, but I could kill you!"
Serenity shook her head. "You will not." She brushed the girl'sbangs from her forehead and her smile widened as the symbol of Saturnappeared at her touch. "You saved me, Sailor Saturn. Do you notremember?"
The girl nodded slowly and a small, shy smile appeared on her paleface. "I'm glad," she whispered.
Serenity laughed softly and hugged her. "I am glad, as well. Now, whydon't you tell me what you are doing in this dark cave? This is not afitting place for the savior of a princess!" she declared.
Hotaru's smile immediately vanished and she turned troubled eyes awayfrom the princess' gaze. "I was hiding from her. If she finds us,she'll hurt you."
Serenity drew her eyebrows together. "Who will hurt me?"
"Mistress Nine," came the girl's enigmatic reply.
"Mistress Nine? Who is she? Is she part of the Dark Kingdom?"
"She is me. At least, a part of me. She is worse than the DarkKingdom," Hotaru answered quietly, her trembling increasing as shespoke of the demon who dwelt within her.
"Inside of you?" Serenity repeated, confused by this revelation.Closing her eyes, she reached out with her mind, carefully probingHotaru's aura. The deep violet pulsed vibrantly, but she could sensesmall mottlings of black, trying to darken the light with its ownevil. Gasping in horror at the foul entity that dared invade one ofher Senshi, Serenity's eyes snapped open and she stared at the tinyform in front of her.
"See? I'm a monster," Hotaru whispered as she hung her head and triedto slip from the Princess' arms. She was surprised when the armstightened and she looked up at Serenity in confusion.
"You are not a monster," Serenity repeated firmly. "You are SailorSaturn, the Senshi of Destruction and a Princess of the Lunar Court.You are noble and loyal and shall not be sullied by this evilspirit!" Serenity's voice had gained strength as she spoke and hercrescent moon blazed upon her forehead. She held out her right handand summoned the Ginzuishou. Hotaru's eyes widened at the sight of the powerful, glowing crystal. "Do you trust me, Hotaru, Senshi ofSaturn?" Serenity asked as a bright, silver light began emanating fromher form.
Hotaru nodded slowly. "Yes, Princess."
"I am sorry, but this may be painful. I shall try to shield you asmuch as possible." Drawing all of her power, Serenity focused herwill into the Ginzuishou. 'Sacred crystal of the Silver Millennium,cleanse this warrior of light of the evil spirit within,' she prayedsilently and then released the power into the small girl standingbravely before her. "Cosmic Moon Power!"
Brilliant white light blazed from the Ginzuishou and enveloped Hotarucompletely. She screamed as the purifying blaze burned away the evilthat had been lurking within her.=====
The sound of someone screaming woke Setsuna and she quickly leapt fromher bed and raced to Usagi's room. Michiru and Haruka came runningfrom the other direction and Haruka flung open the door. The threeSenshi all froze at the scene before them. The Ginzuishou hovereddirectly over Usagi and Hotaru, completely encasing them in its light,so bright that the Senshi had to squint in order to make anything out.Shading their eyes, they could barely see Hotaru screaming as Usagiheld her protectively.
"What the hell is going on?" Haruka yelled at no one in particular.
"I don't know. I believe the Princess has activated the Ginzuishou inher sleep," Setsuna answered as she peered at the two forms on thebed. "The crescent moon mark is glowing, as well."
"But, she was so weak from the battle. She shouldn't be expendingsuch power now!" Michiru protested.
Setsuna shrugged. "Whether she should or not is irrelevant at thispoint. She has already done it." As she spoke, Hotaru's screams dieddown along with the bright light. The Ginzuishou dropped to the bednext to Usagi's head. As if a spell had been broken, the Senshirushed into the room, anxious to reassure themselves that Usagi wasall right. The crescent moon mark had faded and Usagi seemed to besleeping peacefully with a pleased smile upon her face. Turning theirattention to the young girl who had been screaming in agony justminutes before, they were surprised to find that she looked muchbetter than she had earlier. Her cheeks had a healthy glow and herbreathing was deep and steady. She, too, was smiling. Shaking theirheads in consternation, the three silently agreed to let them sleepand return to bed. In the morning, they would get some answers out oftheir reckless princess.=====
Serenity dismissed the Ginzuishou and collapsed to her knees inweariness. The cleansing had taken quite a bit out of her, but shefelt the drain was well worth the effort. Hotaru's aura now blazedwith a vibrant violet fire untainted by any hint of the evil that hadmarred it before.
"Princess! She's gone. The monster is gone! And I'm whole again, aswell!" Hotaru exclaimed in delight as she examined herself. Rollingup her sleeves, she studied the firm, healthy flesh and muscle of herarms. "I'm healed!" she cried in delight as she turned towards the wearyprincess and wrapped her arms around her in an embrace. "Thank you!"
Serenity returned the embrace. "You are most welcome."=====
Hotaru woke slowly and stretched. When it didn't cause any pain, shestopped and her eyes snapped open. She couldn't remember a time whenshe hadn't ached in the morning. She sat up hurriedly and examinedherself. 'It wasn't a dream!' she thought in wonder. The darknessthat had flitted at the edges of her mind was vanquished and Hotarugiggled in delight. She looked down at the pale, silver-haired girlwho was still sleeping peacefully next to her She was startled at howyoung the princess looked. 'She can't be more than a few years olderthan I am!' she thought in surprise. At a sound from the doorway, shewhirled around, placing herself between the sleeping princess and anydanger that might be approaching.
"Saturn," Setsuna said in greeting as she studied the young girl whowas giving her such a fierce glare from the bed. The dark-eyed girllooked much better than she had the night before. Her eyes werebrighter and color had returned to her cheeks.
Hotaru relaxed as she recognized the green-haired woman in thedoorway. "Pluto," she replied. She glanced down behind her to see ifthe Princess had awakened and was both relieved and disappointed thatshe hadn't. Relieved because she knew how exhausted Serenity hadbeen, but disappointed because she wasn't sure she wanted to face theother Senshi just yet without the Princess by her side.
Setsuna noticed the apprehension in the other girl and suppressed asmall sigh. The chilly reception from the other Outer Senshi hadunderstandably put the youngest Senshi on guard. She would have tohave a talk with them later. The Senshi would all need to learn towork together as a team if the threat to the Princess and the Earthwas to be dealt with. Moving quietly, she sat down on the bed andreached around Saturn to check Usagi's pulse. She smiled as she feltit, strong and steady beneath her figure. At Saturn's questioninglook, she spoke, "She's fine. She'll most likely sleep all day,though. She used a lot of energy last night."
Saturn dropped her gaze again at the last comment. "I'm sorry," shewhispered. "I didn't mean for it to happen." She was completelyunprepared for the embrace she suddenly found herself in.
"Do not apologize," Setsuna said fiercely as she hugged the youngergirl. "Were it not for you, we would have lost her and the world would be doomed. I'm not sure what happened between the two of you after that, but whatever it was, I'm sure it was for the best." Setsuna released the girl and looked into her eyes. "You are a Senshi and the Princess loves you. Do not worry about the others. Usagi will set themstraight."
Saturn gave her a tremulous smile and impulsively hugged the womanback. "You're not afraid of me?"
"Of course not! Yes, you are very powerful, but so am I. ThePrincess wields more power than any of us, yet she does not instillfear, does she?"
Saturn shook her head emphatically and grinned at the older woman. "Icannot imagine anyone being afraid of our Princess. She makeseveryone happy!"
Setsuna smiled back at her, nodding her head in agreement. "Indeedshe does, at least, most of the time..." her voice trailed off as shethought of the fear they had all felt when Usagi had disappeared.'I'lllet Mamoru deal with the Princess when he arrives,' she thoughtbriefly and then turned her attention back to the girl in front ofher. "What say we leave Usagi to sleep and you and I find some lunch,hmmm?"=====
Mamoru was the first to arrive, as his last class ended in the earlyafternoon. He was somewhat surprised to discover that Usagi was still sleeping. Once he had checked in on her, he followed Setsuna to her study for a conference. She had mentioned an incident in the early morning that she needed to discuss with him. 'Incident? I wonder just what she means by that...' he thought to himself. It seemed unlikely that Usagi could have done anything else, as drained as she had been. He suppressed a shudder as he remembered how close he had come to once again losing his love. 'Had Saturn not arrived when she did...' The sound of a throat clearing jarred him from his dark thoughts and he looked up to see Setsuna motioning him to a chair. "Sorry, I was lost in thought there for a moment."
"I understand. I'm sure you have a lot on your mind. We all do."Setsuna sank gracefully into her own chair before continuing. "Idon't want to worry you, but the Princess activated the Ginzuishouagain after we returned from the Moon."
Mamoru felt all the blood drain from his face before it rushed backwith a vengeance. "What?!" he exclaimed, coming to his feet. "Howcould she do that? She knows how dangerous... She couldn't even stayawake..." he protested as he started heading for the door, determinedto wake Usagi and lecture her within an inch of her life.
"Wait! Hear me out. I don't think she did it consciously. In fact,I believe she was asleep at the time." Setsuna's words stopped himbefore he could leave the room. Setsuna waited until Mamoru hadretaken his seat before continuing. "From what I can tell, she usedthe Ginzuishou to heal Saturn. Michiru, Haruka, and I were allawakened by Saturn's screams. When we reached Usagi's room, theGinzuishou was floating above Saturn and the Princess, the light almostblinding. After a few minutes, the light dimmed and the Ginzuishoufell to the bed. We checked them out, but neither girl seemed theworse for it. In fact, Saturn looked much better."
"Have you spoken to Saturn about this?" Mamoru asked.
Setsuna shook her head. "No, she was a bit distraught that thePrincess had used the Ginzuishou. I thought it best to wait untilUsagi wakes and then discuss it with her. Hotaru is quite young and, I think, emotionally fragile. The other Outer Senshi didn't help herself-confidence last night, but I'm sure Usagi will put everything torights once she wakes up." She sighed at the last.
Mamoru looked at her sharply. "That's the problem, isn't it? We haveno idea when she will wake up, do we?"
"No. However, now that you're here, and once the Inners arrive, she'llregain energy much quicker. Perhaps you could sit with her forawhile..." Setsuna trailed off with a grin as the Earth prince wasalready out the door.
Mamoru smiled as he looked down at the slumbering Usagi. 'My ownsleeping beauty,' he mused. 'Well, sometimes the traditional ways arethe best.' Leaning down, he brushed his lips softly across Usagi'spale pink ones. He was rewarded with a soft sigh of pleasure and thefluttering of her eyelids.
"Mamo-chan," Usagi breathed as she struggled to open her eyes.
"Time to wake up, Sleepyhead. You've slept the whole day away," hechided her lightly, even as he noted with concern how pale she stillwas.
"Really? What time is it?" Usagi asked, astonished that it was solate. It felt like she'd just closed her eyes a few hours ago.
"Nearly supper time. The other girls should be arriving shortly. Doyou want to shower before we eat?"
Usagi nodded absently. There was something she was forgetting,something important that had happened..."Hotaru-chan!" she exclaimedsuddenly, sitting up hurriedly. She felt around the bed anxiously."Where is Hotaru-chan? Is she all right?"
Mamoru grabbed one of her searching hands and sat down next to her."Hotaru is in the living room. She's just fine. In fact, she looksmuch better than she did last night. Do you want to tell me whathappened?"
Usagi sighed in relief. She'd thought that the healing had went well,but the pain the small Senshi had endured still haunted her. Usagishivered at the memory of the young girl's agonized screams. "She'sall right now? You're sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. What has you so worried about her?"
Usagi bit her lip. She wasn't exactly sure herself what had happenedto her Senshi, but she decided to try to explain it. "I think she waspossessed. There was some sort of evil entity, a demon or something,that had invaded her mind and body. She had been trying to fight itherself, but she was afraid that it was growing stronger as she grewever weaker." Usagi paused, trying to find the words to describe whatshe experienced. "There was such hate polluting her spirit. I couldnot bear to see her light sullied by that darkness. I called on theGinzuishou to heal... It hurt her, Mamo-chan! Her screams went straight to my heart. I tried to protect her as much as I could, but I still hurt her. Do you think she'll ever forgive me for causing her such pain?" she finished tearfully.
"Shh, Usako, there is nothing to forgive. You healed her. She ismuch happier and healthier now than she was last night." Mamoruhugged Usagi to him. She seemed so fragile right now, as if theslightest thing could break her body or spirit. "Better?" hewhispered into her hair as the sobs quieted.
"Mmmm," she mumbled into his chest as she nodded her head. Shecouldn't quite contain the yawn that crept upon her. He was so warm,she could bask in his presence forever.
"Usako? Don't go back to sleep! Don't you want to eat supper?" Hepoked her playfully as she had burrowed his head into his chest.
At the mention of supper, Usagi's head lifted up. "Food?! What areyou waiting for, Mamo-chan? I need to wash up so we can eat!" sheexclaimed.=====
For once, Usagi's hair was not up in its traditional buns. Instead,Michiru had french-braided the silvery strands in a long plait thatfell down her back and brushed against her ankles as she walked. Thepale pink dress she wore gave her some color. The longish skirtflowed about her as she walked carefully and gracefully toward thetable. Hotaru led her by the hand to ensure she wasn't troubled byany obstacles. The crescent moon upon her forehead no longer blazed,but she was still every inch the princess. Mamoru sucked in hisbreath at the sight of her. This was no longer the slightly klutzybut loveable Usagi, this girl, no, young woman, was also Serenity.
Once she was seated at the table, Usagi took a deep breath and spoke."Everyone, before we eat, I have something I need to say to you." Shepaused briefly, as she waited for everyone to focus their attentionupon her. "I realize that you are upset by my actions last night. Iwish to apologize for worrying you; however, I cannot say that I amsorry about what I did. You are all very dear to me and I couldn'tbear it if you were harmed while protecting me... again. I could feelhim coming. Had I remained here, he would have killed, or at leastseriously injured, Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna in order to get to me."
"But Usagi, it is our duty to protect you!" Makoto protested.
Usagi smiled sadly. "And it is my duty to protect you."
A chorus of protests came from around the table as the Senshi allstarted trying to argue with her at once. Finally, Mamoru had hadenough. "Alright!" he shouted in order to be heard above the din."It's obvious that this needs to be discussed in more depth, but Isuggest that we wait until after supper. The food is getting cold."
There were a few grumblings from around the table, but Makoto andSetsuna both got up to retrieve the meal from the kitchen. Usagisqueezed Mamoru's hand in gratitude.
"Oh no," he whispered to her. "I'm with them. I just think youshould eat before we lecture you. It wouldn't do for you to pass outfrom hunger in the middle of our discussion. It ruins the impact."
After supper, the Senshi all gathered around Usagi and Mamoru in theliving room. They were determined to straighten their princess outabout a few things. Mainly, whose job it was to protect whom. It wasclearly their job to protect her, no matter how much she protested tothe contrary.
"Usagi, please, you must understand how it is with us. We havepledged our lives to your well-being." Rei began.
"No, that's not true. You all swore an oath to Princess Serenity ofthe Moon Kingdom. She has been dead for over a thousand years and theMoon Kingdom no longer exists! You upheld your oaths to her and diedin her defense--there is no need for you to do so again on my account! I'm just klutzy, harebrained Usagi! You would be better off if I weredead." Usagi's face was flushed as she spoke, but the brightly glowingsigil upon her forehead gave the lie to her words. Princess Serenitywas very much alive.
"But, you are our princess. Whatever name you happen to go by, youare still the Princess that we have in our hearts. Without you, welose our way," Michiru argued.
"We may not always show it, but we love you, Usagi-chan! You are the one thing that keeps us together!" Minako added.
"Please, Princess, do not speak this way. Without your light, thedarkness would have overtaken my soul. Never say we would be betteroff without you. I am certain I would be dead soon had you not healedme," Hotaru said quietly, as she walked over to where Usagi sat andplaced her head in the princess' lap.
Usagi touched the other girl's delicate features with her fingers andslumped her shoulders in defeat. It was obvious that they were notgoing to change their minds. She could feel the resolve within each ofthem. Mamoru had yet to speak, but she could feel the hurt and angerfrom him easily enough. She held out her hand to him and was relievedwhen he accepted it. She truly did regret the hurt that she hadcaused him, both with her actions and her words. She had thought shehad put the feelings of unworthiness behind her when she and theInners had made up, but there were obviously some unresolved feelingsthat she needed to deal with. She would speak with Mamoru later andtry to make it up to him. He might be able to help her deal with herlingering feelings of hurt, as well. Sighing inwardly, she straightened her spine and spoke again. "All right. Let us just agree to protect one another. We truly do not have time for this right now. If we cannot defeat the enemy soon, I fear it will be too late. At least last night's little excursion was not for naught."
"What do you mean?" Ami asked. She was still a bit surprised at themarked change in Usagi's demeanor. Usagi might claim that Serenitywas dead, but all could see that the girl was gaining more and more ofthe Princess' mannerisms each day.
"The creature that was with my father, he is the one behind theBlack Moon attacks. His power is the same as the poison crystals. Ifwe can defeat him, the threat to the Earth will be removed. He's alsothe one who brought my father here--he was in the cave that night." Usagi spoke calmly, no trace of the mixture of anger and sorrow shewas feeling was evident in either her voice or expression. OnlyMamoru, who was still holding her hand, could feel the anguish she wassuppressing. "If we can separate him from my father, I'm sure wecould defeat one of them. Their combined power is just too great. Hementioned something called Nemesis. I think it's where he gets hispower."
Setsuna gave a start as the alarm bells went off in her mind. Sheknew that name... but from where?
"But, how do you know he was the one in the cave?" Makoto asked,confused.
"I...It's hard to explain. He just felt the same--dark, evil, full ofhatred." Usagi shivered as she heard his raspy voice in her memory,promising her death. She frowned as she remembered something else. He had not only called her "Princess Serenity," but he also addressedher as "Neo-Queen Serenity." "I'm not sure if this is important, buthe called me Neo-Queen Serenity. What do you suppose he meant bythat?"
Setsuna paled as the significance of Nemesis finally came to her. "He's from the future! In the future, those with darkness in theirhearts who refused the healing of the Ginzuishou were banished byNeo-Queen Serenity to the planet Nemesis," she explained.
"The future?!" Minako exclaimed. "First we have villains from thepast, now from the future? Don't we ever get to fight bad guys thatare from this time?"
"Neo-Queen Serenity? That's what he called me. Does this mean thatI'm responsible for the Black Moon attacks?" Usagi asked, apprehensively.
"No! The only ones responsible for the attacks are those who areinstigating them. You, I mean, the Queen did not wish to use theGinzuishou upon people who refused its cleansing power, but she couldnot allow them to stay on Earth, either. I cannot give you anydetails, but in the future, something happens and, as a result, themajority of the Earth's population is wiped out. The Queen revives asmany as she can, but there is a limit to what even the Ginzuishou cando. Given the circumstances, there simply aren't the resources todeal with a criminal element, for lack of a better description."
Everyone simply stared at her in shock. Most of the Earth'spopulation killed? Usagi a Queen? What was going on?
"I would not be telling you any of this, but you need to be preparedfor the changes in Earth when we get there. In order to defeat thisenemy, we must travel to the future and face him," Setsuna explained. "And, you must remember that the future is constantly changing. Whatis the future now, may not be the future at a later date."
"Travel to the future? How can we do that?" Rei asked, as shestruggled to get over the shock of what she had just heard.
"I will take us. I am the Senshi of Time, after all," Setsuna stated.
"Chibi-Usa," Usagi breathed. "She's from the future, as well, isn'tshe?"
"Yes, she is. It was too dangerous for her there, so I sent her back to this time. Unfortunately, the Black Moon followed her back." Setsuna sighed in frustration. "I was hoping that it wouldn't come to this, but since you've confirmed that the enemy is from Nemesis, we have no choice."
"Hold on just a minute, before we go charging into the future, we needsome sort of plan of attack," Haruka protested.
"If you could distract the Wiseman long enough for me to heal myfa... I mean, Princess Serenity's father, then I believe he would helpus in defeating the Black Moon. Wiseman definitely did not want me to attempt the healing, so that may mean he is afraid it will work. I'm certain that if Wiseman had not interfered, I would have been able to break the hold he has over King Hyperion," Usagi stated.
"But, what if he attacks you before you can heal him? He almostkilled you the last time!" Makoto protested. The idea of herprincess facing such a dangerous adversary alone, especially in herpresent condition, scared her more than she wanted to admit.
"I did not know who he was the last time. Besides, I was alreadywounded when he attacked. If I had had the Ginzuishou, it could have deflected the attack or, at the very least, lessened the damage," Usagi said.
"I'll stay with you. At the very least, you should have someone to beyour eyes," Mamoru said in a voice that would brook no argument.
Usagi smiled and squeezed his hand before responding, "I would nothave it any other way."
"Shouldn't some of us stay with you, as well?" Michiru asked.
"No," Usagi shook her head. "Wiseman is the more dangerous adversary. Also, he may have more allies than we have seen so far."
"I have a suggestion," Mamoru interjected and the Senshi turned theirattention to the Prince. "When you engage Wiseman, throw him offbalance by sending combined attacks at him. With all of you attackinghim in different combinations, he shouldn't have time to take theoffensive. Hopefully, that will buy Sailor Moon enough time to healKing Hyperion."
Setsuna nodded slowly as her respect for the Earth prince grew,"That's an excellent idea. If we mix the attacks of the Outer andInner Senshi, it will keep him occupied for at least a few minutes. You must realize, however, that he will be more powerful in the futurebecause he will have better access to Nemesis."
"More powerful?" Minako looked apprehensively at the other Senshi.They had barely held him off long enough to rescue Usagi the last timethey met. How could they hope to withstand him if he grew evenstronger?
Haruka threw the Senshi of Love a scornful look. "When do we leave?It's time someone took that Wiseman down a peg or two."
"I will leave that up to Puu. She is the one who will be taking us."Usagi nodded toward the Senshi of Time and everyone followed her gazeexpectantly.
Setsuna paused before answering. She looked over Usagi with acritical eye and then slowly examined everyone in the room. Everyonewas showing extreme signs of exhaustion, with dark circles under theireyes. Usagi, especially, looked pale and too thin. "We leave onMonday. It would be a good idea if all of you could spend the weekendhere so we can build up our energy and do some training. Does thatwork for everyone?"
All of the Senshi nodded in agreement. Minako glanced at her watchand let out a squeal.
"Oh no! I've got to get home or my parents are going to kill me!" She hurriedly took her leave, stopping to give Usagi a quick hug. "I'll see you tomorrow."
The other Inner Senshi took their leave soon after, each giving Usagia hug, and Rei parted with the admonishment to Usagi to "Stay out oftrouble."
Mamoru stood up to leave, as well, but was stopped by the soft tug onhis hand.
"Mamo-chan, please, don't go. Stay," Usagi asked softly.
Looking down at her sweet face infused with hope and apprehension,Mamoru felt his heart turn over. She still wanted and needed him. Hewould not let her down again.
"Of course, Usako. I'll just run home and pack a few things and thenI'll be right back. Is that all right?" he asked.
Usagi nodded as she sighed in relief. She could feel the darknesspressing upon her once more, and his golden light was the only thingthat could keep it at bay. Having the Senshi by her side helped, ofcourse, but it wasn't the same. Mamoru banished the shadows as hecompleted her soul.=====
After Mamoru had gone to collect his things, Haruka and Michiruexcused themselves and Setsuna set Hotaru up with a movie in thefamily room. When she returned, Usagi was still sitting in the sameplace in the living room, lost in thought.
"So, when are you going to tell them?" she asked, after a few minutes.
Usagi gave a slight start as she came back to herself. "What do youmean?" she asked, turning her face away, but not quite quick enough tohide the slight pink flush that stained it.
Setsuna walked over to where the younger girl was sitting and took herhands. "You don't have to hide from me, Princess. I remember thepast, as well. You will need to tell them sometime."
"How? Why?" Usagi turned a tear-streaked face back to the oldestSenshi. "What good could possibly come from them knowing that theDark Kingdom Generals were actually their loves from the SilverMillennium? They were Endymion's guards and closest friends, and nowthey are dead because of me! How can I tell them? Any of them?" Usagi choked out, before dissolving into tears.
Setsuna gathered the weeping princess close and murmured soothingsounds into her hair as she rubbed her back in slow, circular motions."That's why you went alone last night, isn't it? How much do youremember?"
"Just bits and pieces, but more all the time. They were so happy! Ifeel so guilty that I have Mamoru now while they have no one. Oh Puu,what have I done?" Usagi cried.
"What you had to. When you were fighting the Dark Kingdom, you had nomemory of the Generals. It is not your fault. The girls willunderstand. It will hurt, of course, but they will not blame you. How could they? They were fighting with you. Now, promise me youwon't risk yourself unnecessarily again. That would hurt them morethan anything else. Princess, promise me." Setsuna held Usagi'sshoulders so she could look at her face.
Usagi slowly nodded her head. "I promise, no unnecessary risks." Shesuddenly gripped the other woman's arms tightly. "Puu, what is wrongwith me? Why can I not live up to their expectations? Why am I sucha failure in this life? Princess Serenity is this perfect image intheir minds--someone who could do no wrong and was grace personified. This is not who I am. It is not even who I was! I cannot live up tosomeone who never existed."
"Shh, Princess, I know. Of course you weren't perfect. If they had all of their memories, they would realize that you have not changed much atall. Yes, you were a bit more graceful and had impeccable manners,but that is only because you were trained from a young age to behavelike a princess. In this life, you have had no such training and,until recently, no memories of your previous studies. I think, if youwere to discuss these fears with Mamoru, that he would tell you thathe loves you for who you are, not some fantasy princess. Now, whydon't you go wash your face before he returns and worries about whyyou've been crying."
"Alright. Thank you, Puu. You always know just how to make me feelbetter. I am so grateful that you are here." Usagi gave thegreen-haired woman a heartfelt hug and then got up to carefully makeher way to the bathroom.
Setsuna's crimson eyes were sad as she watched Usagi leave the room.Her princess was usually filled with such joy and happiness; it hurtto see her in so much pain. Everything had happened so quickly--onecrisis after another. It was a wonder that the girl could function atall. Setsuna felt a small smile tug at her mouth. Yet, function shedid. Usagi, no, Princess Serenity, was much stronger than anyone,including herself, gave her credit for. 'How long will it take forher to admit that she is Serenity? The Senshi can sense it, but theywill not contradict her now, not after what has happened between them. I hope Mamoru can convince her that she has value. Even in herformer life, she felt inadequate...' Setsuna frowned at the thought. She had not remembered that before. It was no wonder Usagi felt sooverwhelmed, she was dealing with two lives' worth of insecurities. 'But in the past, she felt guilty because she did not know how tofight. She was protected, but not a protector. In this life, she isboth. If only Endymion had not died while protecting her... things could have turned out so differently.' Setsuna shook herself mentally. Now was not the time for might have beens. She needed to start preparing for what could be.=====
When Mamoru quietly opened the door to Usagi's bedroom, he wassurprised to find her still awake. She looked so adorable sitting upin the bed against the pillows with her long, silver hair loose about her shoulders. A smile graced her features as she sensed hisapproach. "I expected you to be sound asleep," he stated with a grinof his own.
"I was waiting for you," Usagi replied matter-of-factly.
Mamoru raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment. She didn't seem overlyupset, just a bit cautious or perhaps anxious. 'I wonder what couldhave happened now. Maybe she'll finally explain just exactly why shefelt the need to sneak out of here alone to face the Black Moon.' Placing his duffel bag on the floor next to the bed, he leaned down to place a chaste kiss upon her cheek. He was surprised and delighted when she turned so that he kissed her full on the mouth, instead. Warmth immediately rushed through him and he broke off the kiss to stare at Usagi in wonder. The crescent moon started to glow faintly once more and a becoming shade of pink was rising up her neck to stain her cheeks. He had always enjoyed their kisses, but now, there was more--it was as if she infused him with her love at the same time. He knew she was capable of sharing her emotions, but this was incredible. Even as he enjoyed the feeling, however, he became aware of a small hint of desperation or apprehension mixed in with the love.
"Please don't leave me again," Usagi whispered.
"I won't," Mamoru promised, embracing her tightly. "Never again." Slowly, he felt her relax in his arms, some of the anxiety seeping out of her.
"I... I've been regaining memories of our past. We were so happy..." Usagi trailed off, taking a deep breath. "Until the war came. Mamoru, there's something I need to tell you. Something that I haveremembered," Usagi began, her hands twisting the blankets nervously.
Mamoru looked at her in concern. "It's all right, Usako, just tellme." He sat down beside her on the bed and took one of her hands inhis own, caressing it softly.
Usagi took a deep breath and let it slowly. "Do you remember theGenerals we fought from the Dark Kingdom? The four directly underBeryl who coordinated the youma attacks?"
Mamoru nodded, feeling a slightprick of pain at the memory. Then,remembering that she could not see him, he answered. "Yes."
"They were more than just Beryl's lackeys. In the Silver Millennium,before that terrible final battle, they were... they were..." Usagistopped, unable to continue.
"They were my guardians and closest friends," Mamoru finished quietly,his eyes dark with sorrow.
Usagi's sightless eyes widened. "You knew!" she gasped in shock. Her hand tightening around his as she shared his anguish.
"Yes, ever since that last battle with Beryl in the Arctic. Theysaved me from the Moon sword." Mamoru spoke quietly.
"I am so sorry. I didn't know, not until recently. If I had known...Oh, Mamo-chan, maybe I could have healed them!" Against her will,Usagi felt the tears threatening to spill once more and she swiped atthem angrily. "How can you bear to look at me knowing that I causedtheir destruction? How will the Senshi be able to forgive me?"
"You did not destroy them, Usako. That was Beryl and Metallia'sdoing," he contradicted her. Then he replayed in his mind the last thing she had said, about the Senshi. "Why would the Senshi need to forgive you?" he asked, perplexed. They were his friends, what did the Senshi have to do with it.
Usagi turned away before answering. "They were lovers... my guardiansand yours... just as we were," she whispered.
Mamoru stared at her in stunned amazement. He hadn't remembered that.He only remembered fragments of his previous life and most of it hadto do with Serenity. He had felt a sense of loss when the Generals died, but did not have the memories to accompany the feeling. "The Senshi and my Generals?" he repeated. As he said it, however, it felt right somehow. He had known this at one time, and it had pleased him.
Usagi nodded miserably and leaned into him gratefully when he pulledher against him. "We were all so happy. And now, how are they evergoing to be happy again? I hate this. They deserve to love and behappy, just as much as I do."
Mamoru hugged her reassuringly. "We will just have to take it one dayat a time. They will have to know, eventually, but I don't think thisis the time. They have enough on their minds at the moment. We willbe going to the future shortly, and that is worrisome enough."
"Very well," she conceded, "I shall wait."=====
"Princess, we need to go now. The Timestream is fairly stable at themoment, but I don't know for how much longer."
Usagi took a deep breath. She was nervous about going into battle blind, but another part of her was relieved. She needed to do something. The constant feeling of being on edge was exhausting. "All right, Puu. I'll meet you outside in just a minute."
Grasping her broach with the Ginzuishou firmly, Usagi raised itabove her head and called out her transformation phrase, "Moon CrystalPower!"
The familiar rush of magic gave her some much needed confidence and aboost of energy, as well. Straightening her shoulders, Sailor Moonstrode toward the door. Unfortunately, confidence and energy weren'tmuch help for the coffee table that she banged her shin into beforefalling in a rather ungraceful heap on the floor. 'I knew it couldn'tbe this easy,' she thought ruefully to herself as she rubbed her soreleg. Doing a quick scan around, she was thankful that no one wasaround to see her klutz attack. 'If any of the Senshi had seen thatspectacular performance, there's no way they'd let me go with them.Pull it together, Usagi. If you concentrate, you can avoid theselittle mishaps.'
Standing up, Sailor Moon proceeded a bit more cautiously this time. She was still blind, but by moving slowly and using her senses totheir fullest, she could navigate through the mansion. Inanimateobjects were more difficult for her to detect than living things,however, so if she moved too quickly she was upon them before sherealized it. Mamoru and the Senshi were the easiest for her to pickup on, but other living things had a slight aura that she could detect, as well.
"All right, everyone," Pluto instructed,"form a circle and join hands. Do not let loose of the people next to you. I don't want to lose anyone in the time stream, understood?" Pluto looked around at the Senshi who had gathered around her. Once she was satisfied that everyone had done as told, she nodded to herself in satisfaction and raised her Time Staff. She thumped it once on the ground. The garnet orb in the Time Staff glinted once and then the stones in each of the Senshi's tiaras flashed in response. Light from each stone shot out in beams to coalesce in the Time Staff, which then shot a beam of light into the sky. Within moments, a wind began blowing around the Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen, and with another flash of light from the Time Staff, everyone was immediately transported.
Arriving in the familiar corridor of the Hall of Time, Pluto looked around again to reassure herself that everyone had transported successfully. She didn't relish the prospect of having to go hunting for someone lost in the ever present Time Storms. "Everyone all right?" she inquired, her gaze going instinctively to Sailor Moon. Muttered affirmations answered her.
"Good. Now, through that door we will enter the 24th century." She gestured to a large, imposing wood door inlaid with an intricate pattern that seemed to be made out of gold. "Please try not to learn too much and remember that this is only a possible future. The future is always in flux, so the things you see here may or may not come to pass."
Walking forward, Pluto opened the door and gestured for the Senshi to enter. The Inner Senshi went through first, followed by Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen, and the Outer Senshi brought up the rear.
The first thing Usagi noticed as she and Mamoru stepped through the door was how quiet it was, and her brow furrowed as she cocked her head, listening for any sounds that were not made by her group. "Mamo-chan, what does it look like?" she whispered.
"It's beautiful, Usako, but so... empty..."
Usagi nodded in understanding. It felt empty to her, as well. Giving a gentle tug to Mamoru's hand, she moved among the Inner Senshi, who had all paused and were unmoving. Once she'd moved out of the fiery blaze of their auras, she gasped at the beacon that called to her with the silver fire of the Ginzuishou. Pointing, she asked, "What is over there?"
"A castle made of crystal," Venus breathed.
"Welcome to Crystal Tokyo," Pluto said.
"Tokyo?" Jupiter said in surprise. "But, the only thing there is the castle!" She looked about wildly. "There aren't any other structures, or roads, or anything!"
Pluto smiled sadly. "That is correct. Come, we need to reach the castle before the Black Moon attacks again." So saying, she started forward, following some trail that only she could see. The other Senshi fell in line, sure to keep Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen in the middle where they could best be protected.
It was a mostly silent trek, as all but Pluto were stunned by how changed Tokyo appeared--no more was it a thriving metropolis filled with people; now, it was a strangely beautiful, barren stretch of land, marred in places by evidence of the Black Moon's attacks.
They had nearly reached the entrance of the castle when Usagi felt Mamoru stop, and he held her still with a soft squeeze. She was about to ask why they had stopped when a familiar voice spoke.
"Welcome to Crystal Tokyo," the voice echoed the words of Sailor Pluto.
"King Endymion," Pluto greeted the man who had appeared in front of her.
"Sailor Pluto," he returned. He looked at the assembled Senshi and the younger version of himself, but what he thought of them was not evident, as he kept his expression carefully blank. "Please, enter. It is quiet at the moment, but the Black Moon strikes periodically."
The Senshi started moving forward once more, but Usagi stayed in place, frowning slightly. "Mamoru, there's no one there. It sounds like you, but there is no one there," she said quietly.
"You are correct, Sailor Moon. I am a holographic representation of King Endymion. My body was damaged during an attack, so I must rely on the technology of the castle in order to interact with you," King Endymion explained.
"I'm sorry," Usagi said, hating the thought that her Mamo-chan had been hurt, even if it was a future Mamoru.
It was Mamoru, however, who voiced the question that the Senshi had on their minds. "But what of Usagi? The Usagi of your time?" he clarified.
There was a moment of silence, and then King Endymion spoke reluctantly, "I regret to say that Neo-Queen Serenity was also injured during the attack. The Ginzuishou protected her, but she currently lies in a coma within the crystal."
This news was met with soft gasps of dismay from the Senshi, but Usagi only nodded in understanding and continued forward. Had Serenity not been incapacitated, Endymion would now be standing before them in the flesh--as Usagi knew she would never leave her Mamoru in such a state if it were within her power to heal him. "Take us to her," she said.
As they walked through the crystal halls of the castle, Usagi couldn't help but notice yet again how empty it seemed--just like Tokyo itself. Their footsteps echoed loudly in the halls and there weren't any sounds of other people going about their business in the palace. "Where is everyone?" she finally asked.
"Sailor Moon, you can't ask questions like that. We have to be very careful not to change the time line," Pluto warned her.
Usagi bit her lip. She wasn't so sure this time line should be preserved--it was too sad. But she remained silent. Finally, they came to a room that literally blazed with the light of the Ginzuishou, and Usagi walked hesitantly forward with her hand held out in front of her until she actually touched the crystal. It pulsed, comforting and warm, against her hand. She heard soft sounds of shock and grief come from the Senshi, but she ignored them. Mamoru was squeezing her hand tightly, and she knew that he was upset by the sight of the queen encased in crystal. But she knew that her future self was all right. She could feel it in the Ginzuishou. "Don't worry. The Ginzuishou is healing her. She'll awaken soon," Usagi reassured everyone.
An explosion made the castle tremble and the Senshi dropped into fighting positions. "It's the Black Moon," King Endymion said. "With each attack, they get closer to the palace. So far, the shield generated by the power of the Senshi is preventing them from attacking us directly, but with each day that passes, the Senshi become weaker and the shield shrinks a bit more."
Taking a deep breath, Usagi dropped her hand and turned around to face the Senshi. "Then we need to take the battle outside. If the shield falls before the queen awakens and the castle is breached, then all will be lost. Neo-Queen Serenity would never recover from the loss of her Senshi and King," she stated.
No one could argue with that pronouncement, but the knowledge that Sailor Moon needed to fight weighed heavily upon the Senshi and Mamoru.
"Maybe we can handle it without you," Sailor Jupiter offered, but even she didn't sound convinced.
"No, Jupiter. This is my fight. Remember the plan--you keep Wiseman occupied while I deal with my father," Sailor Moon said.
Jupiter scowled, but didn't argue. She knew that Sailor Moon was right, but she hated seeing her friend put herself in such danger--especially now.
Another explosion shook the foundations of the castle and Sailor Moon shivered. At the very edges of her perception, she could feel the cold of poison crystals beginning to contaminate the area close to the castle. "We have to go now," she said.
The hologram of King Endymion flickered and his face was grim. "She's right. The poison is beginning to seep through the castle's defenses. It will weaken the Senshi that much quicker, as well as drain the remaining energy that keeps the technology of the castle running. I'm afraid I'll have to return to my body now in order to conserve energy."
Pluto nodded. "Yes, my king. If all goes well, the war will end this night."
"Good luck," he said, and then the hologram simply vanished.=====
"So, how do we draw them out? We're sitting ducks out here at the moment," Sailor Uranus said.
"I think this will do it," Sailor Moon said, closing her eyes and summoning the Ginzuishou. The bright, silver glow surrounded her and the power of the Ginzuishou pulsed out in palpable waves that enveloped the Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen with their warmth.
"Yeah, that'll probably do it," Jupiter muttered under her breath, even as she scanned the area for enemies.
"Spread out. King Hyperion will most likely be the first to appear, and we don't want Wiseman sneaking up on us," Tuxedo Kamen said.
With Sailor Moon in the center, Tuxedo Kamen remaining closer than the others, the Senshi formed a circle of defense. Even still, when King Hyperion appeared, it was a surprise, as he teleported right next to Sailor Moon.
Unconsciously, when she detected the aura of her father, Sailor Moon transformed once more into the princess she had once been. The crescent moon on her forehead pulsed in concert with the Ginzuishou. "Father," she said in greeting.
"You're no daughter of mine!" King Hyperion growled, bringing his hands up to blast her.
"Papa, try to remember," Princess Serenity pleaded. "We were so happy on the Moon, before Metallia came, before Wiseman twisted your memories. Mother wouldn't want this."
"You dare speak of your mother?" King Hyperion sent a powerful blast of sunfire at Princess Serenity, but the glow of the Ginzuishou deflected it easily.
Taking a deep breath, Serenity called upon the power of the Moon, sending a silent prayer to her mother, as well, "Moon Healing Escalation!" Silver light met golden as the energy of the moon slammed into the next oncoming stream of sunfire that King Hyperion had sent toward Serenity. For a moment, the energies seemed evenly matched, but then slowly, very slowly, the silver began to overtake the gold.
Prince Endymion, his own transformation triggered by that of the princess, watched, clenching his fists in frustration that he couldn't do more. Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpsed a flash of purple and he whirled to face the new threat. "Senshi! Wiseman is here. Don't let him reach the princess!" he shouted.
The jewels within each of the Inner Senshi's tiara began to glow with power as the Senshi concentrated on keeping Wiseman outside their perimeter. As soon as the shield of energy was in place, the Outer Senshi began their attack upon the cloaked figure hovering in the air above them. Battle cries rang out as they followed the plan--"World Shaking!" "Dead Scream!" "Silence Wall!" "Deep Submerge!"
Within the perimeter, however, Princess Serenity's world had narrowed down to one thing--healing the darkness that had overtaken her father's soul. She could feel him weakening, but was afraid she would run out of energy before the poison could be cleansed from him. The warm strength of her beloved, however, surged into her as Prince Endymion placed his hands upon her shoulders, lending her his power, as well.
"You can do it, Serenity. I have faith in you," Endymion whispered into her ear.
The words bolstered her just as much as the energy he had given her, and the silver energy of the Ginzuishou leapt forward to engulf King Hyperion. He screamed in pain as the poison of the Dark Crystal was forced from his body and his mind finally cleared of the lies that he had been fed by Metallia and Wiseman.
Serenity slumped wearily back against Endymion as fatigue caught up with her. Forcing herself to stand straight once again, she moved to approach her father.
"Papa?" she whispered, as she neared the sobbing man.
The bowed man slowly raised his head and, for the first time in centuries, the blue eyes that met hers were filled with love and not hate. "My little Serenity... You're all grown up. And you look so much like your mother," he said, smiling sadly.
"Oh, Papa," Serenity said, her eyes filling with tears as she took the final steps forward to embrace her father.
"What have I done, my darling one? How could I attack my only child? It was so dark and cold," he said brokenly, holding her tightly.
"It wasn't your fault. The enemy can poison your mind and your very soul. You're not the only one this has happened to," Serenity assured him. "The important thing is that you are yourself now. You are in control--not Metallia and not Wiseman."
As if in response to her saying the madman's name, there was a sharp crack and then Venus was shouting to her, "Princess! We've lost the shield!"
Serenity became suddenly aware of the sounds of battle around her. The auras of her Senshi were fluctuating wildly as they fought, and the ground trembled with the attacks of both her Senshi and the Black Moon. Pulling back from her father, Serenity turned toward the black hole she could feel sucking at her will and strength--Wiseman.
A hand on her arm gave her pause.
"No, Serenity," King Hyperion stated firmly. "This fight is mine."
"No, sir," Endymion protested. "The fight is all of ours. We all have too much to lose if Wiseman succeeds in his plans." He gave a significant look to King Hyperion, indicating Serenity, and the older man nodded in understanding. The powers of the Earth, Moon, and Sun would work together, as they should have so long ago, and would have had Metallia and Wiseman not managed to gain control of King Hyperion. The two men moved to stand at Serenity's side, keeping the young princess between them. And they were just in time, as a purple bolt of light came straight for them. Reacting instinctively, Endymion and Hyperion formed a glowing golden shield that encompassed the three of them.
Serenity once more called forth the Ginzuishou, but this time, she concentrated on weaving its power with that of Endymion and her father. As the Senshi realized what was happening, they added their own energy to that of the Princess. Feeling the power that surged around and through her and the Ginzuishou, Serenity raised the Ginzuishou high and called out her attack: "Moon Crystal Healing Activation!"
A multicolored beam of pure energy streaked out and encapsulated Wiseman. For just a moment, he was caught, frozen in place, a dark purple aura protecting him, and then the light flared brighter and the purple aura simply collapsed. The glow grew so bright that all were forced to turn away, save Serenity, who remained fixated on where the aura had been until nothing remained of the darkness. Only then did she allow the energy to taper off. With a soft sigh, she sank wearily to the ground, completely spent. The Senshi were similarly drained, and even Endymion was having trouble remaining on his feet.
When a flash of green light streaked out of nowhere headed straight for the princess, only King Hyperion was in a position to do anything about it. Covering his daughter with his own body, he took the attack intended for her. Immediately, the Outer Senshi were on the offensive, and the last member of the Black Moon family, Emerald, was dispatched with a combination of "World Shaking" and "Dead Scream" from Uranus and Pluto.
Endymion gingerly shifted King Hyperion off of Serenity. The older man was still alive, but only barely, his breath coming in soft panting gasps as he fought the pain and the darkness he could feel hovering just at the edges of his vision.
"Papa! Papa!" Serenity cried as she struggled up to kneel at his side. "No, it can't end this way. I only just got you back."
"Shhh, it's all right. It's enough that I am free and that I got to see you one final time as myself. My beautiful Serenity..." He smiled at her warmly, seeing not his daughter, but his wife of so long ago. And then he blinked, for standing behind the princess was Queen Serenity, the only woman he had ever loved. "Serenity," he breathed and then his eyes dimmed as his spirit gently left his body.
"Nooo!" Serenity cried as the bright aura that had been her father suddenly compressed into a small flare of golden light and floated slowly upwards. Sobbing, she collapsed onto his body.
His own eyes brimming with unshed tears, Endymion could only stroke her hair as she cried for the loss of her father once more. A warm breeze caressing his cheek caused him to glance behind him and he gasped in surprise. Standing there, side by side, holding hands and smiling, were the King and Queen of the Moon. They were not corporeal, but their spirits were plainly visible for him to see. "Princess," he whispered softly. "Turn around."
Soft gasps came from the Senshi as they all hastily knelt and bowed their heads. Some things were so ingrained that they did not require full memories of the Moon Kingdom, and paying fealty and respect to the Lunar Monarchy was one of them.
Rubbing her eyes, Serenity sniffed and then did as he requested. "What is it?" she asked, and then her breath caught. Next to the glowing form she recognized as her father's spirit, was another, brighter form."Mother?" Serenity breathed, hardly daring to hope that it could be true.
"Oh, Serenity, you have accomplished what I could not. You have returned your father to his rightful place at my side and defeated the evil of not only Metallia, but of Wiseman, as well. Now, I, and your father, can truly move on. But first, we have one final gift to impart to you," Queen Serenity said, as she and the King glided forward. Raising their joined hands, they placed them atop Serenity's head and a silver and gold glow surrounded the princess.
Serenity closed her eyes as she felt the love of her parents surround her. It was as if she were a child again, held safe and warm within their arms. Her exhaustion fell away as the power of their love rejuvenated her.
"Keep safe and happy, my darling," Queen Serenity whispered.
"Remember us and our love for you," King Hyperion added.
Then, together, they said, "Farewell." The two souls became pure light once more and streaked up into the sky.
"Good bye," Serenity whispered, but she was smiling even with tears still running down her cheeks. Finally, her parents were together and at peace. Opening her eyes, she blinked in shock, and quickly closed them again. It was so bright!
"Serenity?" Endymion asked, concerned.
Shaking her head, Serenity sighed and opened her eyes again, this time slowly. When she looked up into the worried eyes of Endymion, however, she smiled softly. "Never have I looked upon a more welcome sight," she whispered.
At her words, Endymion's eyes widened, and then he crushed her to him. "You can see again!" he exclaimed. Pulling back, he studied her, feeling a great weight lift from his soul.She met his gaze steadily and he twirled her around in the air as she clutched his shoulders, laughing happily.
What?! The Senshi looked at each other in delight and amazement. Before they could rush their exuberant princess and her prince, however, they were distracted by a bright flash of light from the palace.
Placing Serenity back on her feet, they both turned towards the palace. Before their very eyes, the ugly scars left upon the earth surrounding the palace grounds began to heal; the ground closed up as soft, green grass interspersed with pretty pastel flowers emerged. The palace itself sparkled in the sunlight, and they were forced to shield their eyes as they watched the transformation all around them.
"It's the Ginzuishou," Serenity observed, staring in awe at the physical proof of the crystal's power. So often, she was forced to use it to destroy--youmas, droids, demons--it was much rarer that she could tap into its power for the sole purpose of creating something. The Ginzuishou within her resonated with sympathetic power and she shivered at the feeling. Still staring at the crystal palace, she felt the shift within that heralded her return to her Sailor Moon form. Next to her, Mamoru was once more dressed in the formal attire of Tuxedo Kamen.
Figures were emerging from the castle, coming towards them.
"Neo-Queen Serenity has awakened," Pluto said as she spotted the queen's graceful form next to that of Neo-King Endymion. "And Small Lady is with them."
Narrowing her eyes, Sailor Moon could just make out the familiar pink haired figure bobbing along between the queen and king. Behind the royal family, the Inner Senshi were also approaching and Sailor Moon frowned. Where were the Outer Senshi?
Watching the approaching procession, Sailor Mercury moved up to speak to Sailor Moon. "I'm not sure it's such a good idea for all of us to meet. Who knows what we could be changing by interacting with our future selves," she said. "Time travel is dangerous."
Sailor Moon nodded in understanding, but she really wanted to meet Neo-Queen Serenity. This was the mother of Chibi-Usa, the wife of Endymion, a woman who wielded the Ginzuishou with confidence and poise.
"Sailor Moon," Neo-Queen Serenity greeted her younger self.
Sailor Moon bowed her head and knelt, just as her Senshi were doing, but she was halted by Neo-Queen Serenity's hand on her arm.
"No, you do not bow to me," Neo-Queen Serenity said. "Come, walk with me." She released Chibi-Usa's hand, leaving the young girl with her husband, and began walking a little away from the large group that was watching them both intently.
With a swift glance at Tuxedo Kamen, Sailor Moon followed. "Your Majesty?" she asked quietly, uncertain what the queen wanted to discuss with her.
"Tell me, as you look across Crystal Tokyo, what strikes you most about my kingdom?" Neo-Queen Serenity asked, and then she turned to look into Sailor Moon's eyes.
"I..." Sailor Moon paused, her first impulse was to say the beauty, but that wasn't what had truly touched her about the Tokyo of the future. Hesitantly, she offered her honest feelings--"The emptiness," she said softly. As she looked back into eyes identical to her own, for the first time she noticed that sadness that lurked in their blue depths.
"Yes," Neo-Queen Serenity agreed. "It is empty. And that is why I wished to speak with you. This future, for all its peace and beauty, is also barren. You have the power to change this."
"But... wouldn't that mean that this future would cease to be?" Sailor Moon protested. "What about Chibi-Usa? Crystal Tokyo? What happened to the earth?"
Neo-Queen Serenity closed her eyes. "Sailor Moon, I cannot give you the answers to your questions. You will need to search your heart for the answers. What I can tell you is that the past has already been changed. You are different from the Sailor Moon I remember being, and only time will tell if that difference will prove to be for the detriment or the salvation of the world." Opening her eyes, she smiled. "I believe it shall be the salvation. You know how to travel through time now. Use this knowledge wisely." And without another word, she turned and walked back to her husband and daughter.
Sailor Moon stood motionless and speechless, staring after her in shock, then ran to catch up. Sailor Pluto interposed before she could reach the queen, however. "Sailor Moon, you need to return to your own time now. Two sets of the same individuals must not co-exist within the same time stream. It disrupts the balance."
Sailor Moon didn't voice the protest that sprang to her lips. She could feel what Sailor Pluto was talking about. A wrongness that made her dizzy. She offered her Senshi a shaky smile. "All right. Just give me a minute. I need to say good-bye to someone."
Following Sailor Moon's gaze to the small, pink-haired form staring at them longingly, Pluto nodded and stepped back. "Please be quick."
As Pluto retreated, Chibi-Usa approached Sailor Moon shyly. "Sailor Moon... Usagi..."
"Chibi-Usa." Sailor Moon crouched and opened her arms and Chibi-Usa fell into them, crying.
"I'm sorry I was so mean to you. I didn't know... I mean, I didn't realize who you really were. You're... you're my mama. My mama was Sailor Moon all along," Chibi-Usa cried.
"Shh, it's all right. I didn't know at first, either. I just knew that I had to protect you. But now, your mother is awake and you can be with her again. The Black Moon family is gone," Sailor Moon soothed her.
Chibi-Usa nodded. "Yes, because you defeated them. Daddy always told me that Sailor Moon was invincible, and he was right."
Smiling sadly, Sailor Moon shook her head. "I wouldn't say that, but I'm happy that you were reunited with your family." She pulled back from Chibi-Usa slowly and stood up. "I need to go now, Small Lady, and you should return to your parents."
Sniffling still, Chibi-Usa rubbed her eyes. "I'll never forget you, Sailor Moon. I love you," she said.
"And I love you. You be good, all right? Good bye, Chibi-Usa."
"Good bye," Chibi Usa echoed, and then she turned and ran back to her waiting parents.
Sailor Moon watched, tears falling unheeded from her eyes. She didn't even turn when Tuxedo Kamen came up beside her.
"It's time," he said, raising a hand to gently wipe away her tears.
"I know." With one last glance at the the palace of Crystal Tokyo and its royal family, she resolutely turned to Sailor Pluto. "I'm ready," she stated, her head held high.=====
Usagi looked around her room as though it were the room of a stranger. So much had changed in such a short time. Chibi-Usa was gone, returned to her proper place and time.Usagi's parents had no memory of the "cousin" that had stayed with them for so long. Usagi, herself, had also returned to her proper place and time, but it sure didn't feel like it. Half the time, she kept expecting to awaken back in her bedroom on the moon, with the pale marble floors and subtle glow even in the darkest of nights. She still loved her parents dearly, but it was tempered by the memory of other parents, just as loving, who she had lost much too soon. Sighing softly, she sat down on the bed, hugging the pillow to her chest. Luna jumped up on the bed and curled up next to her, purring softly. Usagi petted her automatically. She didn't like the melancholy that refused to be banished and wondered if she'd ever be the happy, carefree girl she had once been. She was interrupted in her musings by a knock at her door.
"Usagi? You have a visitor," her mother's muffled voice came through the door.
"Just a minute!" Replacing the pillow, Usagi wiped her eyes, took a deep breath, and pasted a determined smile on her face. She stood up and opened the door and was surprised to find Setsuna standing the hall. "Puu... I mean... Setsuna-san," she greeted the woman awkwardly.
"There is no need for formality between us, Usagi-chan. We have been friends too long for that,"Setsuna chided softly.
This time, Usagi's smile was genuine. "Yes, that is true. Please, come in." She stood back to allow the woman entrance into her room. Shutting the door behind her, she looked at Setsuna apprehensively. "Is something wrong? Has something happened to one of the Senshi? Hotaru?" she asked, her voice sharpening with concern.
"No, Princess, all of the Senshi are fine. In fact, they sent me to check up on you," Setsuna stated as she seated herself on the bed.
"Me? But... I'm fine," Usagi protested weakly.
"Are you?" Setsuna studied the younger girl critically. Usagi was pale, and the skin under her eyes was dark, as if she hadn't been getting enough sleep. "The evidence indicates otherwise. According to Makoto, you've barely touched your lunch at school, and Ami and Minako have expressed concern that you've isolated yourself during classes. Rei is worried because you have not stopped by the temple at all since you've returned home. They fear that you are still angry with them about what happened before you were taken by King Hyperion."
"What?! No, why would they think that?" Usagi asked, genuinely astonished. Truthfully, she hadn't thought about that at all. She had been too wrapped up in her own feelings of guilt and sorrow to consider how the Senshi might be perceiving her behavior. She groaned as she flopped down on the bed next to Setsuna. "I've just been... I don't know... confused, I guess. I'm not sure who I am anymore," she admitted.
"You are who you have always been--Usagi, Sailor Moon, Princess Serenity--it doesn't matter, they are all the same person. They are all you," Setsuna said firmly. "Even though you have regained your memories of the Silver Millennium, that doesn't make you any less the Usagi of this time. Don't let the tragedy of the past impact your future."
"But that's just it," Usagi protested. "It's not the past that is bothering me... at least, not completely. It's the future," she whispered. She raised her head to look at Setsuna. "Did you look into her eyes, Puu? They hold such sorrow..."
Setsuna blinked. That wasn't what she had been expecting, but she shouldn't have been surprised. She had, after all, noticed it herself on many occasions, but usually, the Neo-Queen hid her sadness well. But Usagi, of course, would have seen it. Setsuna sighed. "Yes, I know."
"And, I think... I think she hopes I will change her future. And I want to. Is that wrong?" Usagi asked, hope and fear warring in her eyes as she asked the Senshi of Time directly the question that had been tormenting her since their return from Crystal Tokyo.
"I... I cannot tell you that, Princess. That is something that you will need to decide for yourself. I am the Guardian of Time, true, but you are my liege. I'm sorry, but this is something that I cannot help you with. However, there is someone downstairs who is anxious to see you. Perhaps he will be better able to help you," Setsuna said, standing up.
Usagi's eyes brightened. "Mamo-chan is here?" For the first time in days, she felt some of the heaviness in her spirit begin to lift. She should have gone to him before, but she wished to give him time to himself. He had been forced to set everything else aside in order to help her when she had been ill and with the battles against the Black Moon family. Usagi had feared that it would be asking too much to go to him with what, to her, seemed to be a personal problem.
"He's waiting for you outside. Come," Setsuna said, reaching a hand out to Usagi.
Usagi took it immediately, beaming. She should have gone to Mamoru much earlier, she could see that now. Just the thought of seeing him made her heart glad.
At the radical switch in Usagi's demeanor, Setsuna smiled. It had always been so with her princess. The mere mention of the prince's name would bring a smile to her face and a warm glow to her entire being, and Setsuna wouldn't change it for the world.
When they got to the door and Usagi saw Mamoru leaning against his car waiting, she dropped Setsuna's hand and raced to throw herself into his arms. "Mamo-chan!" she cried. As soon as she felt his warm arms surrounding her, it was as if something within her just cracked and her emotions flooded out and she burst into tears.
Mamoru tightened his arms as Usagi's confusion and distress washed over him, but inwardly he was relieved. If she was sharing her emotions with him, then he knew that they could handle whatever crisis came upon them. He had learned that it was when they tried to deal with things separately that everything fell apart. "Usako," he murmured into her hair. "What's wrong?"
Shaking her head, Usagi continued to cry into his shirt, but the sobs were beginning to diminish as Mamoru rubbed her back soothingly. But having him hold her, being there for her, crystallized the decision she had made. Finally raising her head, she smiled at him, her eyes full of love. "I know what we need to do now," she said. "I think I understand what she was getting at now."
Frowning, Mamoru waited. He wasn't sure to whom Usagi was referring, but he had a suspicion. While Sailor Moon and Neo-Queen Serenity had talked away from the group, Neo-King Endymion had spoken to him, as well, in a typically cryptic manner.
"Crystal Tokyo was... will be beautiful, but it's empty, almost soulless. There were no people. I think... I think we need your Guardians to keep that from happening. Whatever caused the catastrophe to the earth that wiped everything out, we'll have a better chance of preventing it if we have the Guardians here, as well. Love is the most powerful force of all, so if we can reunite the Inner Senshi with the Generals of Earth, not only will we be helping our friends, but I believe we will be saving the Earth, as well," Usagi said earnestly.
Occasionally, Usagi could make sudden leaps in logic that simply astonished him, and this was one of those times. Of course, there was no guarantee that she was right, but seeing the conviction glowing in her eyes, he did not doubt her. "All right. Then we'll just have to get them back," he agreed, and was rewarded when Usagi's smile grew even brighter. "Together," he added.
"Together," she echoed.
Staring into each other's eyes for a long moment, they moved as one toward each other and sealed the vow with a kiss.