THE NIGHTMARE REALM,

Chapter 1: "The Blow-Up"

A Neo-Sailor Moon fanfic

By Bill K.

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Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2003 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is (c)2003 by Bill Kropfhauser.

As always, for those only familiar with the English dub:

Usagi/Serenity=Serena

Ami=Amy

Rei=Raye

Makoto=Lita

Minako=Mina

Haruka=Amara

Michiru=Michelle

Setsuna=Trista

Mamoru/Endymion=Darien

Chibi-Usa/Usa=Rini

Finally, Haruka and Michiru are NOT cousins.

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Sailor Moon, in reality Usagi Chiba, the princess of Crystal Tokyo, felt the vertigo as she tumbled through the air. It was disorienting. She reached out for something to steady herself and found it was the mat on the floor. With a last second lunge she was able to turn her shoulders just enough to land on the mat without doing any permanent damage. When her eyes stopped rattling in her head, the princess looked up.

Standing over her, a smile of satisfaction on her face and a sadistic twinkle in her eye, was Sailor Vesta. Her hands rested with haughty disposition on her hips.

"You're enjoying this too much," snarled Sailor Moon.

"You mean getting the chance to beat the snot out of a big-shot, spoon-fed honest to god princess?" Sailor Vesta almost laughed in reply. "Gotta give you points for perceptiveness."

"STOP GLOATING!" roared Sailor Venus, who was instructing the self-defense class Usa and the Asteroid Senshi were attending. "Pat yourself on the back AFTER you've beaten your opponent!"

"Matter of time," Sailor Vesta shrugged.

But during that time, Usa was easing her hand up to her head while trying to shield it from Vesta. Delicately she eased the tiara from her forehead. Then with the speed of a cobra, the girl whipped the tiara at Vesta's ankle. She didn't shout her power phrase - - this was practice, after all - - as she let go. Still the tiara sailed with uncanny accuracy and impacted on target. Thrown off balance, Vesta tumbled to the floor. Instantly Sailor Moon was on top of her.

"NO FAIR USING WEAPONS!" Vesta howled.

"WHEN YOU'RE FIGHTING FOR YOUR LIFE THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS 'FAIR'!" Venus bellowed back. "Deal with it!"

Sailor Moon had her wrists and was trying to pin Vesta down. Emitting a snarl, Vesta shoved off the mat and threw Sailor Moon off of her. When Sailor Moon rolled to a stop, she saw Vesta was already in a crouch.

"Fauna Assimilation - - leopard!" snarled Vesta.

Instantly she morphed into a fully-grown leopard. Teeth bared, she hunched her shoulders to leap at Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon responded by summoning the Crescent Moon Wand.

"Venus Love Me Chain!" Venus called out.

The golden heart-shaped links of the chain shot out and wrapped around Vesta before she could leap at Sailor Moon. Vesta tugged and pulled, but found herself anchored.

"Stand down, both of you!" Venus said in a tone that expected to be obeyed. Sailor Moon complied, but Vesta remained in animal form. "I said stand down!" Venus glared.

With sullen reluctance, Vesta returned to human form.

"Above all else, the one thing you need to keep in a fight is your head," Venus lectured. "Otherwise somebody will hand it to you. Got it?"

"Yes, Venus-san," Sailor Moon panted.

"Uh huh," murmured Vesta, not looking at anybody.

"Vesta, have you lost your mind?" demanded Sailor Ceres. "That's the Princess!"

"Hey, if she can't take it, she can always run back to mommy!" Vesta snapped back.

"Vesta," Juno began.

"Look, you want to kiss her ass? Kiss her ass!" Vesta said, angrily storming out. "I don't kiss ass!"

"Sailor Moon, we're sorry about that," Ceres offered. Sailor Moon nodded.

"You OK?" Venus asked.

"Yeah," she nodded.

"Look, she may have the tact of a punch in the mouth, but she's right about one thing: if you're going to do this, you're going to have to deal with a lot worse than that. And you can't hold back."

"You want me to hurt her?" Sailor Moon asked.

"Not in practice," Venus grinned. "But don't just go through the motions just because it's practice. Don't be afraid of getting hurt or of hurting someone else. Someday your life may depend on it."

Sailor Moon nodded.

"I wish I knew what Vesta's problem was," Ceres muttered, "besides the fact that she's a moron. I mean, you're the Princess! To act that way . . .!"

"I didn't mind it that much," Sailor Moon said. "Well, I did mind getting beat up - - but so many people are always so cautious and deferential to me because 'I'm the Princess' - - Vesta may not like me, but at least I know where I stand with her." She wiped the sweat from her brow. "Are we done for today, Venus-san?"

"What, are you getting lazy on me?" Venus asked, cocking an eyebrow. "Now we do a 'two-on-one' drill. Ladies, feel free to attack her."

* * * *

Class was still in session in the wing that held the ESP classroom. Off in a corner, Hotaru Tomoe was staring at a crystalline ruler, trying to lift it with her mind. The strain was quite evident on her face. The ruler itself was only a few ounces, but refused to budge for the longest time. Finally heaving in frustration, Hotaru flopped back on her chair.

"Don't feel bad, Miss Hotaru Ma'am," Palla-Palla offered, leaning over Hotaru's shoulder. "You'll do it."

"I'm beginning to wonder," Hotaru grimaced. "I can feel the power inside of me, but it won't do what I want. It was all I could do not to shove the ruler across the table."

"Sensei says not to give up. Sensei says everything takes time to learn."

"I bet you could do it," Hotaru whispered.

"If Sailor Pallas were here, yes," Palla-Palla told her. "Palla-Palla can't lift things with her thoughts." Then Palla-Palla smiled joyfully. "But Palla-Palla is getting so good at not accidentally hearing people's thoughts or peeking in on what they're doing. And it took the longest time, too, but she finally did it."

A tickle in the back of the brains of both girls caused them to turn around. There they found their teacher, Sun Jhong-Ju, standing over them. The wizened old Chinese man smiled kindly at them.

"You do not progress at the rate you had hoped?" Jhong commented.

"I didn't realize you were telepathic, too, Sensei," Hotaru said glumly.

"I don't have to be telepathic to read the frustration in your face, Hotaru."

"Why can't I do it? Hotaru asked. "I've been at this for months and it only comes when I don't want it to come!"

"Lift the ruler for me," Jhong told her.

Hotaru sighed in resignation and turned to the ruler. Her face pinched as she strained to lift it.

"A question, child," Jhong asked. "If you were to lift it with your hand, would you tense and strain as if the ruler weighed a billion kilos?"

"No," Hotaru said quietly.

"Then why do you do so when you lift with your mind?"

Hotaru couldn't answer.

"You are blocking your flow of mental energy by straining so hard," he advised her. "You are also making your mind believe you will fail by straining so against so small an object."

He gently touched her chest right over her heart.

"You must be calm. Clear your mind of everything except the object you wish to move - - everything, even yourself. There is no you, just your mind. There is no room, just the ruler."

His fingers lightly pressed to her temples. Hotaru closed her eyes.

"Breathe in," he told her, "and out. Your body is gone. There is only your mind. Breathe in. The room is gone. There is only the ruler. Breathe out. Breathe in. Your mind has a hand. Slowly, gently, reach out and grasp the ruler. Breathe out. Lift the ruler up - - slowly. Breathe in. Now slowly open your eyes."

Hotaru did as she was told. Before her floated the ruler, hovering in wobbly flight eight inches from her nose.

"MISS HOTARU MA'AM, YOU DID IT!" squealed Palla-Palla.

The ruler promptly fell into Hotaru's lap.

"Oopsie," whispered Palla-Palla. "Palla-Palla's sorry."

"No, it's my fault for not keeping concentration," Hotaru said, her mouth pulling into a smile. "Thank you for your help, Sensei."

"You're welcomed," Jhong smiled back. "As you practice . . ."

A soft, frightened squeal from Palla-Palla interrupted them. Turning, they saw the girl looked distressed.

"You are having a thought or vision from elsewhere?" Jhong asked her.

"Someone cried out," Palla-Palla said faintly, still rattled by the sudden sensation. "Palla-Palla heard her cry out in her mind. She was in a lot of pain."

"Did you recognize who it was?" Jhong inquired.

"No, Sensei. Palla-Palla isn't even sure it was human. She's never heard thoughts like that before."

"Perhaps it was not of this earth. Perhaps you heard a cry from a spirit in despair or from another world. Your potential is quite vast."

Palla-Palla nodded. "Palla-Palla's sorry she wasn't concentrating either, Sensei."

"You do better every day," he smiled, his hand caressing her head. "I don't expect perfection yet. And you must remember that particularly sharp, violent thoughts may still pierce your mental barrier." He turned to his other student. "Now, Hotaru-chan, to your problem."

Hotaru looked up eagerly.

"As you practice, your need to clear your mind and focus your thoughts will become less and less necessary. As you practice, you will be able to lift heavier objects and for longer periods." Jhong grew serious and pointed a warning finger at her. "What you must not lose is your calm center. As you practice, your power will come no matter what your emotions are. But during periods of fear or anger, you will not have control. Control will only come from your calm center. Remember this."

"I will, Sensei," Hotaru nodded.

"Good. Now pick the ruler up again with your mind and place it back on the table."

* * * *

Ves-Ves was in her room. Though the four Amazons shared a single quarters, each girl had her own personal room. Serenity thought it best for them to ease their transition into the palace and the Amazons heartily agreed. Being orphans and runaways, the four girls had come to depend upon each other for emotional support and surrogate family security.

Being fifteen, though, meant an increased need for privacy and personal space.

The bed in the room remained untouched since the housekeeping robots had made it that morning. The chair in front of her desk sat empty. Ves-Ves was curled up in the darkest corner of the room. Her knees were pulled to her chest and her arms were wrapped around the lower limbs. The girl stared at the dark, not really seeing, for she was lost in her own brooding thoughts. Her brow was knit and her pretty mouth was pulled down into a frown. The world passed unnoticed as she sat in the safety of the dark.

"Minako Aino desires entry," chimed the computer control on the door lock.

Ves-Ves sighed in frustration. She really didn't want to talk to anybody right now. She didn't want to hear Sensei Aino-sama's lecture. She knew her temper had gotten away from her and made a mess of things. Why couldn't everybody just let it fade into history - - pretend it never happened?

If it were anybody else, she would have told them to go away, even ignore the page. Why did it have to be her?

"Let her in," Ves-Ves whispered.

Minako entered just far enough to allow the door to close, then leaned back against it. Her arms were crossed over her chest, but her face was neutral.

Ves-Ves was in trouble.

"You want to explain what happened back there?" Minako asked. Her toneless voice was both a challenge to Ves-Ves and a warning.

"I lost my head," Ves-Ves extracted with some difficulty, "just like you warned me not to."

"I think you did a little more than that," Minako responded with a critical eye. "You were ready to gut Usa in there."

"I lost my head," Ves-Ves offered again, looking away in humiliation.

"We've established that," Minako told her. "Why?"

"She wasn't fighting fair!"

"We've gone over this. There's no 'fair' in fighting an enemy. There's only winning."

"Then using that logic, I didn't do anything wrong!"

"In the real world, no," Minako said. "If that's what you have to do to keep your opponent from hurting what you're supposed to be guarding, that's what you do. But this was practice - - and she's not an enemy - - isn't she?"

"Oh, so it's fair for her to nearly break my ankle with her tiara, huh? Is that because she's the Princess?"

"It's because you left yourself open to it," Minako told her. "You were too busy enjoying having taken royalty down a peg." She let Ves-Ves think that over for a moment. "Every pleasure in life comes with a cost. Sucks, but that's the way it is. Was it worth it?"

Ves-Ves glared at nothing.

"Would it help if I said I'm sorry?" muttered Ves-Ves.

"If you meant it."

"What makes you think I don't mean it?"

"Your history."

Ves-Ves glared into the dark.

"You still can't seem to get over the fact that the princess is Usa. Usa's a nice kid - - I even think you're beginning to like her - - but she's still the princess and that means on a certain level she's the enemy and not to be trusted." Minako stared at Ves-Ves for a moment. "You know, just because she didn't have as rough a childhood as you did doesn't mean she didn't have a rough childhood."

A rude snort erupted from Ves-Ves.

"Sure she's had privilege - - but she's also had crazy space aliens trying to hunt her down and kill her when she was only five years old. She had her best friend rip her heart crystal out of her chest and use it to try to destroy the world." Minako wandered toward Ves-Ves as she spoke. "And she's always had to deal with people hating her or being afraid of her because of what she is instead of who she is."

Ves-Ves squinted in frustration and anger.

"Now I know it's hard for you to trust a lot of people," Minako began.

"I trust people," Ves-Ves spat out.

"Besides your 'sisters'?"

Ves-Ves stared off into the dark.

"I trust you."

A lump formed in Minako's throat. "See, you've obviously got brains," she quipped. "Which is why I can't understand why you can't figure out that not every authority figure is automatically the enemy. You set out to show Usa up today."

Ves-Ves ground her teeth.

"It blew up in your face and you threw a hissy fit. I expected more than that from someone with your brains."

"Then maybe I shouldn't be a senshi," her anger said.

"Hey, it's your call, kid. Serenity's not into forcing people to do anything they don't want to do. If you don't want to do it, say the word." She paused for dramatic effect. "I think it'd be a waste."

"I can't quit," Ves-Ves scowled. "That'd be a one-way ticket back to Brasilia!"

Minako sighed. "Gods, sometimes you can be so thick. You've been here how long and you still haven't figured out that Serenity doesn't work like that?" Minako headed for the door. "If you're going to quit, at least have the common decency to let me know before you leave. Otherwise I expect you to be in class tomorrow morning at eight." Minako turned back to the girl and smiled wickedly. "AND with a ten page essay on why it's essential to keep your cool in a fight and trust your teammates."

"Ten pages!" howled Ves-Ves.

"You're right," Minako smirked. "Better make it fifteen - - single spaced and with proper margins."

As Minako exited, she heard the girl's head thud against the wall. Her amusement was short-lived, though. Out in the hall Minako found Ami waiting for her.

"I heard about what happened," Ami said.

"I think I've got it handled," Minako replied. They walked down the corridor.

"You really don't think this is acceptable behavior, do you?"

"Not unless Usa asked for it," Minako smiled. "And I was there. She didn't ask for it."

"Given Ves-Ves's psychological profile . . ." Ami began.

"Hold on, Ami. Yeah, the kid's had a rough life. She's got a lot of anger in her and it doesn't always find a good outlet. But I'm not ready to stamp 'psycho' on her head and toss her into the trash can."

Ami sighed. "Your thinking process has never left the twenty-first century. State of the art psychological therapy can do a great deal of good to those in need of it."

"She doesn't need your fancy head-shrinking computers. What she needs is a support group she can trust to always be there for her," Minako countered, "and some discipline. In a way, she's not much different than Usa. She needs guidance. She needs someone to prop her up when she's feeling low and smack her down when she gets too full of herself."

"I hope you're right," Ami said, "for her sake."

"Of course I'm right. Who was Sailor V here?"

Ami groaned and walked off.

* * * *

The king was nestled in his favorite chair, apparently doing one of his least favorite things: reviewing energy transmission reports for Crystal Tokyo and all of Japan. One hand massaged his temple as his head bent forward to look at the computer screen.

The queen was poised impishly at the door. With a devilish smirk on her pretty face, she crept silently along the floor, stalking him as a tiger stalked prey. Nearer she inched, scarcely breathing, the hem of her gown mentally held aloft an inch from the floor so as not to drag across it. Her prey showed no sign that he noticed her. Closer she crept - - closer - - until finally she struck.

"I love you, I love you, I love you!" Serenity squealed, wrapping her arms around Endymion's neck from behind and pressing her cheek to his. "You're mine and I'm never going to let you go!"

It was as that moment that she sensed his distress.

"Endymion!" Serenity gasped, pulling back so she could better see him. "What's wrong?"

"I think it's just a headache," Endymion grimaced, rubbing his temple. "I'll be all right."

"Are you sure? I'll call Ami!"

"No, don't bother her with this. I'll be fine."

"Or we can try this," Serenity suggested. She leaned in and kissed him on his throbbing temple.

"Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to try that," Endymion smirked. Seizing Serenity, he pulled the squealing queen down onto his lap and leaned in to kiss her. But just as suddenly he pulled back, grasping at his temple again.

"That does it! I'm calling Ami!" Serenity declared.

"Calling Ami won't help," Endymion replied. Serenity was lifted back up and deposited on her feet so he could rise. "I have to call someplace else."

"Where?" Serenity asked as she watched her husband head for the roof of the palace.

"Elysian," he responded.

Continued in Chapter 2