By: Ghost of the Dawn
Chapter Thirteen: The Lighter Side of Darkness
Tuxedo Mask looked up as blue lightning split the sky. The hulking blackness that had been swallowing the city around him had stopped and everything seemed to be suspended in time as different energies fell off balance.
"Look up there Darien," Luna called, pointing a paw towards the building's roof.
A dark figure was floating up in the sky. Then it started to fly away with five black energy balls tailing after it. White Blaze roared and then took off after the flying objects.
"What's going on?" Tuxedo Mask asked as he watched the tiger run away with matters of his own.
"Let's go to the roof, maybe the Scouts are up there," Artemis suggested.
The tall, caped man nodded. He picked up a cat in each arm and then proceeded to rebound up towards the top of the building.
"You can't be serious!" Sailor Jupiter called to Robyn. "You can't go out and fight that woman on your own!"
Robyn didn't reply. And she was about to do just what she had been told she couldn't when a caped man suddenly appeared in her face. He had a cat under each arm and Robyn screamed. She stumbled backwards, tripping on her new, black dress. Luckily, the changed young woman managed to catch herself before she fell on her rear.
"Jeeze! Quit doing that!" Robyn yelled at him. "Is this how you get your jollies; scaring unsuspecting young girls??"
Tuxedo Mask blinked at the unfamiliar figure. "Robyn?" he guessed.
Robyn bit her tongue. She had forgotten that she looked a bit different now. But before anyone could explain, a cry came from Sailor Moon.
"Sailor Mars! Sailor Mars!" the young blonde cried as she shook the girl in her arms. "Speak to me!"
The other scouts quickly ran over to their friend.
"She's gone into shock. Probably from the blood loss," Sailor Mercury surmised.
"Can't we take her to the hospital?" Sailor Venus worried.
"There's no one there," Sailor Jupiter growled back in return.
"There must be something we can do," Sailor Moon insisted with tears in her eyes. "I won't let her die!"
Robyn looked down at the scene. Rei needed help and fast. No, she needed a miracle to survive this one. Robyn looked skyward and then realized she just may know where to find one.
"Give her to me," she said quietly as she knelt next to them. Sailor Moon obediently did what she was told.
"Can you save her with your powers?" Venus asked.
Robyn shook her head. "No, I don't think I can with the kind of power I have. But I know someone who can."
Before anyone could ask who or how, Robyn had disappeared with Sailor Mars in her arms.
The Dark Mistress stopped on a building top partly engulfed by the darkness. One part of the roof was solid. The rest of it was a gaping maw as limitless and empty as space itself. Katana, also now stuck on Earth as the Out World had vanished, had trailed her mistress with her five new victims. The cat creature knew by now that her sister was dead. Killed by those horrid humans her mistress was now planning to drain. Not that she cared too much. Both of them were created by Lady Ebony for only her purposes. Once she got her full power back, she could no doubt easily remake Katara as she was before. So until then, she would continue to guard her mistress until she had sucked these warriors dry and gathered all her power once again.
Katana's pointed ears twitched as she felt a strange electricity in the air. Like a lightening bolt of power had just warped passed her. There was an energy to this feeling. One that felt so much like herself; yet unfamiliar.
Lady Ebony laughed out loud to herself as she raised her arms to the five floating balls and the power began to surge. Each of the ronins cried out as their armors began to radiate and spark. Energy was being sucked from them at a sudden and alarming rate. As if each was pouring out their sure kills in a never ending wave which would surely dip right into their souls and suck them from the insides out when the pool of energy ran dry.
Lady Ebony was ectatic. She couldn't believe the energy that was coming from these simple mystical talismans. Mere power orbs that were from where time began. Yet, they held stubbornness and spirit. An ever-lasting fighting energy that was meant to exist for all time. To gather it all at once might make her even more powerful than she had ever been even before Out World had been created.
"WHAT?!" Ebony cried as she felt a bolt of energy.
It shot like a black arrow through the scene and through two of the energy balls in its way. The crackling energy prisons instantly vanished and Sage and Cye both fell to the roof of the building they were over. Each warrior coughed and gasped as they were freed from the hideous torture while Lady Ebony cried out in anger. It was as if the cables draining their power to her had simply been cut. How could she loose her grasp on her victims so easily? This wasn't happening!
"What...What...?" Cye coughed, wondering how they had gotten free.
Just in time to answer his question, a female form appeared in front of them, holding another woman in her arms.
"Sage," she spoke to the still recovering Halo. "She needs help badly."
Sage looked down at the bleeding body of Sailor Mars and then up to the black eyed woman. Who was she? How did she know his name and his powers?
"Please Sage, tell me you still have enough power to do it," she continued.
It was the plea that got him. He knew that quiet, uncertain voice. The one full of power and confidence until it was directed his way.
"Robyn?" he asked dumbly as he took the wounded senshi from her.
"Robyn!" Cye sputtered as he, too recognized her. Since when did she start wearing such revealing clothes? He looked closer. Since when did she have anything she could reveal?
Robyn's mouth turned into a crooked smirk as Cye's cheeks took on a slightly pink hue. He had never looked at her THAT way before. She wondered what was going on in that confused little mind of his. But now was not the time to dwell on such things.
"Take care of Rei for me," she said as she stood. "Cye, help Sage."
The bearer of Torrent blinked. SHE was giving HIM orders?? Since when?
"And where do you think you're going?" he demanded.
Robyn smiled down at him as she floated up slowly. "This time, I'm going to deal with it." And with that, she vanished.
Lady Ebony's eyes went wide when Robyn appeared in front of her in the sky.
"You!" she hissed.
Robyn narrowed her eyes at her. "It stops here, Ebony," she said levelly. "I won't allow you to prey on the lives of others any more."
The Mistress of Darkness just smiled. "Do you really think you can--"
"Stop you?" Robyn cut her off and smiled herself. "We'll see."
She moved her hand in a horizontal cutting motion and Ebony's hold on the last three Ronins was instantly broken. Lady Ebony gasped as she once again lost her grasp on her power source. And the opposing force hadn't even tried and she had overpowered her. No, not over power. It wasn't a matter of this new opponent having more power than she did. It felt more like they both shared the same power and this little Earth girl had somehow gained more control over it. With that realization, Lady Ebony feared for the first time.
Kento let out a deep breath as the pain suddenly stopped and his energy no longer felt like it was draining away. Rowen's head turned from his to Ryo's direction. They all were freed! What happened? In front of him floated Lady Ebony and between them was a figure looking similar to her from behind.
"Hey, what's going on?" Strata demanded. "Who are you?"
The unnamed presence turned his way. When there was no look of recognition on the bearer of Strata's face she cocked her head and smiled at him in an amused fashion.
"Robyn?" he blurted at the familiar smirk.
The other two looked from him to her in total bafflement at the accusation. That was Robyn? It couldn't be! She looked so....so....
Before the thought could be finished, Robyn lifted her hand palm down as slowly lowered it. So, too, did the three Ronins gently descend to the roof top with the rest of their team. Still too confused to do much else.
"Now, it's just you and me, Lady," Robyn announced.
The six armed woman narrowed her serpentine eyes at the young girl.
"Yes, it is," she agreed. "Perhaps the way it should be. A battle of darkness against darkness. But who can possibly win when both are fighting on the same side?"
"I'm not like you!" Robyn insisted.
"Truly?" Ebony replied in an amused tone. "Do you really think we were born that different?"
Next to the floating pair was a taller building rising up into the sky. In the reflection of the glass windows next to them, Robyn could see them both floating there. Like unnatural dark clouds above the streets. She had to pause. In the reflections, they did not appear all that different.
Lady Ebony took this small opportunity of doubt to attack. Robyn just barely managed to dodge the large ball of black energy. It screamed past and hit into a nearby building, shattering the windows of several floors.
"Only one of us can wield these powers!" she screamed as she attacked again.
Robyn made herself disappear before the second energy ball could hit her. She reappeared inches from her opponent and let loose a blast of energy of her own right in Ebony's mid section. Thus sending the Mistress of Darkness reeling as she was wounded by the blow.
Down below, Sage was trying to ignore all this as he attempted to heal Sailor Mars. Half way through, the dark haired girl regained consciousness. And when she found out she was now in the arms of her thought to be enemy, she began to panic. Where were her friends? Why was she here alone? What had those monsters done to them? Was she to be next?
"Cye? Cye!" Sage growled, trying to get Torrent's attention.
The young man was caught up in the fight as were the rest of the Ronins. It took a bit for Sage to finally draw his attention to him.
"Cye, help me hold her! She's going to hurt herself more! Ah! Be still, won't you?" he then demanded of the struggling girl.
Cye instantly put himself to action and grabbed Mars' shoulders in attempts to hold her still.
"You bastards let go of me!" she cried. "What have you done to my friends? How dare--"
Sage growled at the lack of progress as Cye failed to calm her down.
"I said BE STILL!" he ordered, pressing two fingers to her forehead.
Sailor Mars was instantly silent and limp. Cye looked down in awe at her vacant eyes. She appeared to be in some sort of trance. He then looked to Sage for answers as to what he had done. But the bearer of Halo seemed to be in the same state as well.
Sailor Mars was once again lost in darkness. But this time, it felt cold and damp and foreign in this place. Like a dungeon.
"Well my Ronin Warriors, are you ready to submit to me and use your powers to help me take over this world?"
Mars spun around at the sound of such a deep, ominous voice. Before her stood, like a mountain, that figure that had haunted her thoughts whenever she remembered the young men in armors. The one that ruled them and led them through all the suffering and chaos they had caused to her world. Talpa.
"Not a chance Talpa," came a heavy British accent. "We'll never use our armors to help you!"
The fire senshi turned her head to see below the plat form Talpa was standing were three gargoyle heads with three bound young men hanging from their wrists in their mouths. It was three of the five warriors she had been fighting against. They looked two, maybe three years younger here. And instead of loyal subjects, they looked like prisoners. Why?
"Ah, you forget young ronin," Talpa replied. "The armors were mine to begin with. I'm only claiming what rightfully belongs to me. Make no mistake I WILL use them to conquer the Mortal Realm."
"Not while we're still wearing them!"
It was the blonde that was speaking now. Sailor Mars gasped at the sound of his voice. The bravery that was forced to show from this young man, still very much a child in many ways. She turned her head to see the older, present Sage standing next to her in his street clothes. He watched his younger self with a stone face.
"I swear to you Talpa, as long as we're alive, we will not let you have them and we will fight you to the end."
"We'll see about that, my little warriors."
Talpa laughed as the three young men were swallowed up in the tortures inflicted upon them by the nether world powers. Sailor Mars gasped as she tried to comprehend the pain they had to endure. But a stubborn part of her mind reasoned that this could all be a lie. Just another trick to get her to trust them enough to let them take over.
But, a voice in her head reasoned back. If this Talpa had indeed tried to take over their world three years ago.......who had stopped him?
Sailor Mars blinked as she was brought back to reality. She sat up, very aware of the two armored warriors surrounding her. In her side she felt no pain. She clutched her body where her uniform was torn and still stained by blood. But she was whole now and she looked up into those dark, stormy eyes of the blonde young man who had healed her. He didn't have to do it. He had saved her life despite her doubt and even open opposition against him. And as she felt the power that had helped her heal, she felt a warmth and goodness from it.
"I..." she fumbled for the right words. "I'm sorry that I--"
"Get down!" Cye landed on top of both of them and pushed them flat to the ground. Black energy shot right over their heads and was swallowed up by the gaping blackness that stubbornly continued to hold the rest of the world hostage.
Up above, the battle between the two dark powers was now going quite strong. Black blood seeped into Ebony's dress from the first shot Robyn had got. She had also managed to graze one of her arms with another blast. On the other hand, Robyn had remained unscathed. That disappearing trick of hers couldn't be replicated without the help of her Out World which was gone. Lady Ebony would have to resort to dirtier tricks if she was going to beat this little upstart.
Robyn tensed to dodge another blast as Ebony gathered energy into her many palms. Instead of attacking her, however, the large blast was suddenly directed to the roof top where her friends witnessed the battle.
Ryo, Kento, and Rowen all watched with wide eyes as the gigantic, black ball of lightning was suddenly sent hurtling in their direction. Before they could even move to dodge or block it, a smaller, female figure suddenly appeared in their way. Lady Ebony grinned to herself. Just as she had planned. She would take that attack if only to save her pitiful little friends and that ball had enough energy to be the end of her.
"ROBYN!" the three all cried at once as she jumped in the path.
This was it. The last. The final act. The only thing she could do for them. And if there was any way she had to die, she would rather it be this way. The only way she could ever truly pay them back. Robyn closed her eyes and crossed her arms in front of her as she waited for the powerful death blow.
The energy attack connected. And was consumed. Robyn blinked in surprise as the whole attack was absorbed into her own body; not leaving a scratch on her. How was that possible? It didn't even hurt or feel like anything at all.
"WHAT?!" Lady Ebony screeched when she saw this. How could the same energy harm her but not this pathetic little girl?
"Robyn?" Rowen asked as he took an unsure step forward.
He reached out his hand to touch her shoulder. But before he could make contact, energy exploded from Robyn's fingertips. Twice as strong as what has been shot at her. The new energy blast hit the dark mistress straight on in her surprise and she was sent flying up over the skyscraper towering above them all.
"She's not getting away," Robyn growled and disappeared once again before any of the ronins could stop her.
She reappeared on top of the skyscraper and looked around with narrowed eyes on the emptied roof. Unseen to her, a wounded and panting Lady Ebony was crouched behind a large metal fixture, trying to figure out where to go from there. How could she defeat this girl if her energy didn't hurt her?
"My Mistress," Katana said as she appeared in the shadows next to her. "Are you injured badly?"
Ebony's eyes widened as she saw her chance for a come back. "Come Katana, we'll work together to defeat this horrid creation."
Robyn paused as a burst of energy exploded from behind one of the metal fixtures on the roof. Then, out from behind it, stepped a different kind of dark mistress. It was obvious at first sight she had merged with her cat creature creation. Her whole appearance now looked less serpentine and more feline. Her dark hair was bushier and her eyes glowed yellow like that of a predator's. Long, dangerous claws sprouted from her fingertips and itched to cut into human flesh.
"Now," she growled with a feral sneer. "We shall see who is stronger."
With the scream of a wild cat, she attacked. Robyn instantly disappeared and then reappeared in the sky. But Ebony's super sharp feline senses picked up her movements and Robyn was viciously pounced upon the second she reappeared and was sent plummeting downward.
"What are we going to do Ryo?" Rowen demanded impatiently. "We have to go up there and help her fight!"
"And how do you suppose we get up there?" Ryo replied, a bit irritated at the situation.
"I can get up there!"
"Uh, guys," Kento interrupted. "It looks as though they're coming back to us."
Everyone looked skyward and sure enough, two figures were now plummeting from the skyscraper back towards them.
Robyn cried out as the beast's claws tore through the flesh of her arms, holding her fast as they continued to fall. She was on bottom as they plummeted back towards the other roof top. Taking the brunt of the fall was not her idea of fun and she could not have that. She managed to partly rip herself free before making herself disappear again. The creature was left to land on the roof top on her own. As cat-like as ever, Ebony landed on her beastish claws, leaving a good sized crater in the ground where she had hit.
"Try this on for size!" Kento called as he ran to attack.
He was instantly thrown aside by the dark creature. Ryo's swords couldn't touch it, nor could Sage or Cye. Rowen's arrows missed by a mile and all were sent close to plummeting off the building themselves. But Ebony was not concerned with doing away with these petty annoyances just yet. Her main opponent still had to be dealt with.
Robyn re-materialized in the air. She was caught for a moment off guard when she saw her friends all vanquished. Never one to waste an opportunity, Ebony landed on top of her from above when she appeared. Robyn cried out as the creature grabbed her arm while landing a savage kick of the small of her back. She flew from the impact, but was jerked back with Ebony's hold still on her arm and was then sent flying with skull cracking speed into the side of the sky scraper.
Robyn wasn't lucky enough to go through the broken windows, but hit solidly into the concrete side of the building. Her body even hit with enough force to create an indention in the man made stone. If it weren't for her powers giving her such strength, Robyn's body would have exploded upon impact. And before she could recover from the collision, Lady Ebony was right on top of her with her claws wrapped around the young girls neck.
"I have you now," Ebony sneered as she dug her claws deeper into Robyn's throat.
Only a sickening gaging noise came out of the young girl's mouth. She clenched her teeth as she tried to fight free, but the hold on her was too strong. Droplets of blood ran from the punctures in her neck as well from the corner of her mouth. Lady Ebony found herself staring at the liquid. It ran black, just like those from her wound.
She couldn't help but stare into Robyn's face as she recalled a vague memory from long ago.
This was how I was, she thought. This was me before I claimed the power for myself. I was the chosen one then. Is this girl meant to be the new chosen? Was she meant to take my place as I stole this place from another?
"It will not happen!" Lady Ebony screamed aloud as she raised her free hand for the final blow. "Fate will not claim me a successor! I will not let anyone replace me!"
Robyn saw the attack coming and summoned all her energy for the defense. She readied an attack of her own and with a mighty scream, shoved her palms in Lady Ebony's abdomen and let loose all her power. The creature howled in rage as the blast shot right through her body and sent her jetting back to the rooftop where the Ronins were stationed. Each warrior scrambled to get out of the way as she collided again.
Everything was quiet for a moment as Robyn slowly descended towards her friends. As she landed, she looked like she were about to faint with her wounds.
"Robyn, are you okay?" Kento asked as he ran to her. Words could not describe how scared he had been, helplessly watching those last few seconds of the fight. How scared all of them had been. Robyn would probably never be aware of that fear that had run through them.
"Don't touch me!" Robyn snapped before he could. She clutched herself as she felt the powers inside her. She didn't want any of this darkness affecting them if they got too close. And right before the warrior's eyes, her wounds patched themselves back together.
"Robyn," Ryo said. "What--"
"Hold that thought," Robyn cut him off by raising a finger. "I still have something more to do."
She pushed past the group of ronins before they could argue further. There was a look of distaste on Robyn's face as she slowly approached the smoking form. Ebony was still alive, though the cat in her was now obviously dead; and she looked up at her with black eyes as her body lay in a pool of black blood.
"It was you," Robyn said lowly. "Your creatures were sent to impersonate my dead father."
Lady Ebony smiled a serpentine grin as black blood ran down the corner of her mouth. "Yes, I was behind that. In order to harvest the maximum amount of energy from you, we needed you to be full of negativity and dark thoughts. I could read your mind and I knew just what could get to you the most."
Cye, who could hear them, bit his lip. She had known her father was dead all along and never said anything. No wonder the encounters hit her so hard. She must have been so frightened when she saw the hated personage--the one she thought she was finally ridden of forever--suddenly back from the dead. He wished she would have told him. But then again, Robyn was never one to admit such things and opted to take on as much as she could by herself first before troubling her friends. She was always so strong that way and in that, he almost envied her for that little bit of independence.
Robyn for her part, remained stone faced at the goading. She would not be ruffled so easily now. Everyone had suffered too long at the hands of this creature. She would not stand for it any longer.
"I hate people like you," Robyn told her evenly. "You think just because you have power, that gives you the right to do whatever you want. It gives you the right to kill and destroy. To prey off people's pain and to spread darkness over everything. I say, when you abuse that power, you loose your right to live." And she pointed an open palm to destroy her.
"You can never beat me, truly," Lady Ebony rasped with a weak sneer. "We are part of the same power. Even if you destroy this body, I will live on in you. That's the way it was meant to be."
Robyn narrowed her black eyes at the pitiful, dying creature.
"I will not be a part of you!" she vowed.
In that instant, the dark mistress surprised them all as she jumped out with her last bit of energy and pounced on Robyn, sinking her fangs into her neck. Robyn screamed; and as her friends ran to help her, lightning exploded all around the two figures of darkness. The five ronins and one scout were sent hurling towards the edge of building. A few of them almost falling completely off.
Cye and Rowen were both pulling Kento back up onto the roof--again. Hardrock was about to complain once more when he looked up and his jaw fell open in response to what he witnessed.
"What the hell is that?" he exclaimed instead.
At the edge of the darkness spun a black hole where the two figures had once stood. It swirled like a horizontal whirl wind and grew and grew until it swallowed the whole sky. The winds whipped around it and screamed in pain as the world itself felt like it was being torn asunder.
"It feels like.....a void of complete despair...." Sage breathed. He clung to the edge of the building to hold him up. He could barely take a breath as he felt the massive wave of negative emotions threatening to overwhelm him.
"And Robyn's probably in the middle of that," Rowen growled, clutching his golden bow in frustration. Not even his trusty arrows were any help in this one.
Ryo looked at his friends and the expression of helplessness on their faces. Because of him. This all started because of him. Because he couldn't stop Robyn from being captured despite the fact that she was standing a mere arm's length from him. If he couldn't even protect one girl, then what good was he as a hero? Sheathing his swords, Ryo suddenly took off for the dead center of the swirling blackness.
"Ryo!" Rowen called a split second too late. He was already swallowed up inside.
"Ryo, wait!" Cye yelled, fully intent on following after him, but Kento held him back.
"It's no use, buddy," the larger warrior said. "There's nothing we can do. We can't fight this."
Sailor Mars watched the pure emotion and frustration sweep through all of them and she was beside herself. Such devotion. Just like her and her friends. She wondered where they were. Hopefully, far away from this awful scene. The end of this world truly felt nearer than it ever had before.
Ryo found himself floating in blackness. Or was it more like falling? He felt himself descending beyond his control, but can one really be falling if they have nothing solid to fall towards? It was a little of the same feeling when he had been absorbed by Talpa. That had almost felt like another life time ago. But then, strangely enough, he had felt a moment of peace when he was floating there. In here, in this black void, he felt the evils of the world surrounding him. Anything of light and good would not be found here and it felt as though the darkness would win and that light had already been vanquished from existence forever.
Sage had been right. This truly was a void of complete despair and Ryo found himself being swallowed up in it. The sins of the world were overwhelming. No matter how long he fought, no matter how long he stayed pure, he could never beat them all. No amount of right or goodness could be strong enough to lift this heavy burden on mankind. The only thing he could do was let the darkness take him and swallow up his existence so he would never feel again.
A light voice ascended from the darkness. He hardly even heard it through his own depression.
There it was again. How could something so soft break through this thick blackness so easily?
Two slender arms wrapped lovingly around him from the back. Ryo looked behind him.
She rested her cheek on his bare shoulder. The two seemed to be touching skin to skin. Yet, were they really without clothes here? It felt almost like they were without bodies and just their presences were touching each other.
"Ryo, what's the matter?" her soft, patient voice cut through the loneliness of this hideous void. "Why are you so troubled?"
Ryo closed his eyes to the darkness. "There is so much evil in this world. So much hatred and pain and sadness. Is it really worth saving? Is it worth working so hard to bring it all back? You, who have experienced so much of it yourself, do you really want to go back to it?"
"Yes," came a reply with no hesitance. "It's always worth it to live one more day. Even with the bad. We need our pain, Ryo; it makes us strong. And we need evil, so we can know what is good. How can we know when we're happy, if we don't know what it's like to be sad? Yes, it is worth it."
In that moment, Ryo realized where Robyn's true power lied. What her true strength was. It was her ability to exist in darkness and remain unhindered by it. He looked over his shoulder at the soft, red hair billowing behind him. He could feel her presence around him; cradling him, protecting him from the greedy darkness. In this one moment, he felt at peace. Despite all the hurt in the world; all the fear and hate. If he could just go on living one more day to remember the feeling of this moment, then he would fight. And it would be worth it.
"We can't just sit here staring at it!" Sailor Mars demanded of the four remaining ronins. "We have to do SOMETHING! What if it tears the whole world apart!"
"I can sit here, staring at it," Kento offered with a raise of his armored hand.
"Well, we're definitely open to suggestions," Rowen huffed. "Remember, two of our friends are in there. Not that YOU care."
The fire senshi was rendered speechless for a moment at that accusation.
"Sailor Mars!" a voice carried above the wind.
She looked to see who was calling her name and found her whole team coming to her aid.
"Mars, you're alive! You're okay," Sailor Moon cried as she hugged her friend.
"Yes, I'm fine," she nodded.
"What's going on?" Sailor Jupiter said.
"Guys, it looks like this is it," Mars called out. "Get ready everyone. We have to stop that thing before it destroys us all."
"Right!" The scouts agreed in unison as they got ready for the fight.
"You can't!" Cye argued, surprising the group. "Robyn and Ryo are both in there. None of you are doing anything until we can get them out."
"You need to start thinking of something other than yourselves!" Sailor Uranus shot back. "Are you really willing to sacrifice the whole world for two people?"
Cye stumbled back. "I..." he was willing to do anything in his power for both Ryo and Robyn. When it all came down to it, could he really stand sacrificing them for the good of the world?
Fortunately for him, that decision would not have to be made--not at this point in time at least. The skies began to settle and the wind slowed on its own. The great twisting void of darkness turned in on itself and left nothing behind as if it had not existed. The blackness that was once swallowing the city started to slowly retreat back to where it came from. Things were finally returning to normal.
Where the storm had been in the sky now descended two figures slowly towards the waiting warriors. Robyn, still in her dark, transformed state, had her arms around Ryo's shoulders while he, in turn, had his arms around her waist. He didn't seem to be conscious as they got closer to the roof top. His eyes were closed as his head rested limply on her shoulder.
The other ronins ran over to their friends as they landed on the roof.
"Ryo!" Sage called as he looked at the lifeless body.
"Is he okay?" Rowen asked.
Robyn was on her knees now with Ryo's head resting in her lap. "He's fine," he said with a smile. She put a hand under his neck and lifted his head a little. "Come on warrior, wake up."
She snapped her fingers in his face and Ryo's eyes popped open. He immediately sat up and looked around.
"What happened?" he wondered, eyes full of surprise. "Is everyone okay? Where's Lady Ebony?"
Robyn's face sobered at the last question. "She's gone. Swallowed up by the same powers she let consume her for so many years."
Ryo turned and looked her in the face with those large, emotional eyes of his. For a moment their gazes locked. What was written in those big, blue eyes spoke volumes. But Robyn didn't allow him to voice it. She quickly rose to her feet and the ronins moved to stand with her.
"So then......is it over?" Kento wondered.
Robyn smiled and nodded. "Yes Kento, I believe it is." She then laughed and then put an arm behind her head in a similar fashion to the way Hardrock sometimes acted. "Not a bad day's work if I do say so. You guy's ready to go home now?"
"Boy, I sure am," Rowen replied as he yawned. "It's been a long day for all of us."
"Wait," Cye called as the group moved to leave.
"What is it Cye," Ryo asked as they stopped to turn his way.
The rusty haired youth stood there for a moment as if trying to communicate into words what was bothering him.
"We--we can't just leave like this," he finally blurted.
"Huh, why not?" Kento demanded.
"Yeah, what's there to stay for?" Rowen added as he counted off on his fingers. "We saved the city, beat the villain, and restored existence as we know it back to the way it was. What did we miss?"
"What about.....Robyn?" Cye pressed.
"Well yeah, she helped us do that, too."
"Helped a LOT, thank you!"
"No!" Cye insisted.
"Well then what?" Robyn demanded. She placed her hands on her hips as she started to get flustered. "Just spit it out Cye!"
"Robyn, look at you!" he suddenly retorted.
Everyone stopped and stared. Robyn blinked and looked down at herself then at all the ronins eye balling her.
"Hey, no worries buddy," Kento jumped in. "So she looks a bit different. But Robyn's got some cool, kick-ass powers now, so it's all good."
"No, it's not," Cye said lowly as he approached his childhood friend. "Robyn, you got these powers from a creature of pure evil. You can't keep them. It won't be good for you."
"Cye, knock it off," Robyn instantly spat back, shrugging away from him. "It doesn't matter where I got them; I can control it. Don't you get it? I can help you guys fight now."
"I agree with Cye," Sage spoke up. "What you have isn't the same as our armors. It could end up destroying you just like it did Ebony."
Robyn couldn't believe what she was hearing! She was finally able to fight back. Able to take care of herself so her friends wouldn't have to waste their time baby-sitting her any more. She finally had a way to be free of all the fear she had lived with. And now they wanted her to give it all up? Didn't they care about her? Or were they just jealous that someone had more power than them?
She looked to the other three for their decisions. Rowen and Kento looked at each other. They weren't sure what to think.
"Ryo?" Robyn asked.
He looked at her as a million different emotions morphed through his body. He had seen her natural tolerance to the darkness. But would it really be worth it to have a permanent darkness festering inside her for all time?
"Robyn," he said helplessly. "I just don't want to see you get hurt."
Robyn gave a loud cry of frustration. "Oh! You guys are impossible!" she yelled at them. "Can't you see what this means to me? You won't need to risk your lives for me any more."
Cye stepped forward. "I--I don't mind risking my life....for you."
Robyn bit her lip. Clenching her fists until they shook, she backed away from them a few more steps.
"Oh no, it's going to start all over again," Sailor Uranus breathed from where she and the others were watching. "It's that power that controls the host. That's what we're really fighting. We may have to stop her as well."
"I'm ready," Neptune said quietly behind her.
"Wait," Sailor Moon ordered, raising an outstretched arm in their path.
The two looked at the smaller, younger blonde as if she were crazy. Sailor Moon met their incredulous gaze with a gentle, trusting one.
"Just give them a chance," she smiled.
"Do you know what you're asking?" Robyn practically screamed at him. "If I loose these powers, I'll be back to the way I was!"
Cye took a step forward. He cocked his head to the side and smiled at her as if that had been his plan all along. "Would that really be so bad?"
But that response seemed to only enrage the redhead even more. Her breathing came out in heavy breathes as her anger flared. What if she thought it was so bad? Didn't they realize how much she hated herself and her weakness? How she despised her sickly looks and pale complection? Who could ever care for something like that? Who could be attracted to anything like that? Why couldn't they understand? Why were they trying so hard to drag her down? Didn't they want her to be happy? No one did in this messed up world.
Robyn glanced down at the broken glass strewn around her feet. She saw her reflection winking back at her. She looked so exotic and mysterious and magical. Hell, she was gorgeous! A great leap from that skinny little underdeveloped, pitiful vestige she used to be.
"You--you don't like me this way?" she asked, her voice faltering. She gazed around at the five of them. Each one held a different look of surprise or confusion. "But I--I thought.....but I look so....."
She trailed off as her frustration cut her voice. No, they didn't understand at all. Her anger flared again. Robyn narrowed her black eyes at them and a shadow fell over her face. Sage could instantly feel the darkness stirring again. The rest of them felt the panic in their hearts as the tides changed and Robyn turned her back on them all.
Not a word was uttered as all present helplessly watched the confused, young girl teeter on the brink. Robyn looked down at her reflection again and in it, saw what was really there. She saw the image of the thing she had thought she destroyed. The essence she said she hated and would never be a part of. But there it was, staring back at her with all its power in tact.
Cye held his breath as Robyn turned around to face them. The Ronins collectively felt a chill run through them as she stared them down. A tingling in their armor's senses told them what they might have to do next and each one was beginning to falter at the mere thought of it.
But then, Robyn smiled at them and raised a hand towards the sky. Untold measures of power suddenly shot from her body and was tossed heavenward. The scouts all shielded their faces as their skirts fluttered in the wind created by such a movement of energy. The ronins held their places steadfastly until the last of the dark energy pillar was sucked up into the heavens never to be heard from again.
When the powers resided, all that was left in their place was a young girl in plain clothes and thin red hair. She stood there for a second while everyone gaped, head hanging down. But her body soon proved it could no longer support her measly weight and it began to give way.
Kento was the one able to regain his senses fast enough to rush over to the falling form. He ran and slid like he was stealing home plate; just barely managing to slide under her before Robyn's body hit the ground. After catching her, Kento couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief now that he had her firmly in his arms. She was safe with them now; everything was okay.
"I'm sorry," came a weak voice from the limp body. Robyn didn't even have the strength to lift her head and it lolled over to rest on Kento's upper arm. "I'm sorry I made you worry. You are the only thing good in my life. Sometimes you are the only things keeping me on the right track. I'm just sorry you have to endure all this pain and trouble for me."
Though he had always tried to play the tough guy, even the bearer of Hardrock was having a hard time controlling his emotions at that point. He hugged the body close to him, moving his mouth to her ear so he could whisper back.
"For me, you pay us back a hundred fold every time you believe in us."
A tired, but satisfied smile crossed Robyn's weary face and she finally closed her eyes to enjoy a much deserved rest.
Kento picked her up in his arms and stood as the other ronins ran over to see for themselves if she was okay.
"Now, I think it's definitely time to go home," Cye announced.
Sage nodded his agreement. The group of armored warriors hardly paid further heed to the second group as they passed by. Not until Sailor Mars ran out to them.
"Thank you for saving my life," she called out to Sage. "And I'm sorry. We all misjudged you."
Sage gave a small smile and nodded. The others did the same before leaving with their friend.
"Well, I guess they didn't really need our help," Jupiter blinked as she realized the situation.
"But it was fun anyway," Venus grinned.
"Fun?" Luna huffed to herself. "Well I certainly don't want to go through that again."
"Well guys," Sailor Moon announced. "I think it's time we went home ourselves. How about you--"
She turned to address the two outer senshi, but they were already long gone. Sailor Moon just smiled and shook her head.
"Come on guys, let's go. And maybe we can pick up some food along the way? I'm starving!"
The rest of the group quickly voiced their agreements.
"Oh," Luna once again sighed. "They never change."
It was late at night and the small apartment was deathly quiet. The only sound made was the rhythmic ticking of the wall clock in the kitchen. This was the Hashiba residence. Though only two people lived there, various male bodies were sprawled out in the living room fast asleep. Rowen's mother wasn't home, as usual, which made it the favored place to return to. Before partaking of their well deserved rest, each ronin had taken their turn in calling their legal guardians to let them know where they were. Most were forced to make up a small story of a sleep over study session for finals or something similar. For Cye, it was obvious by his tone and the length of the conversation with his mother, that he had told her a bit more. But to what extent, no one bothered to pry.
In a dark room, Robyn awoke. Her eyes had snapped open automatically as if she had been called to rise by some unseen source. She sat up to find she had been slumbering in someone's bed. It wasn't hers, that was for sure. Looking around, it took a while for her eyes to adjust to the darkness as she hung her bare feet over the side. The floor was hard wood with a dark blue rug in the middle. Blue sheets on the bed and several book shelves along the walls. Glow in the dark star stickers on the ceiling......Rowen's room?
Robyn got to her feet and stood there for a moment, wondering what to do next. She looked around her and noticed her reflection in the mirror hanging above Rowen's dresser. She walked over it and gazed at the pathetic looking urchin staring back at her in the darkness. Rueful green eyes reflected back as she reached out to touch her scraggly hair and she remembered how she used to look. Robyn sighed as she looked down at her old self.
"Hello again, flat chest," she said dryly. "I'm back again being plain, old me."
Something soft, yet heavy bumped against her leg and Robyn looked down as White Blaze pushed his mussel into her hand. She smiled and knelt down to reach his eye level.
"Hey pretty boy, I'm glad to see you made it through this mess okay," Robyn said quietly as she scratched the tiger between the eyes.
White Blaze rumbled a purr in reply and rubbed his face against her fingers so he could be scratched all over. Sage had healed his previous wound on returning before he had sacked out.
"You really are just a big kitty," Robyn smiled.
White Blaze rubbed his head against her, almost knocking her over. Robyn laughed and hugged him. What a wonderful beast. With claws and teeth that could rip her apart in seconds, his mere presence made her feel calm and safe in an instant.
Robyn made her way out of the bedroom into the rest of the apartment. She came upon the living room to see three mighty warriors snoozing mightily away. Robyn smiled at the sight of them. It was good to be back with them again. After such a night she could truly appreciate the serenity of this moment.
Cye was curled up on the floor with a blanket and an open text book at his side. Robyn reached over and pulled the blanket over his shoulders before taking a moment to remove a few stray strands from his face. He might have thought she was mad at him for making her give up her powers. But he had been right and Robyn understood that now. She was so grateful that she had him to help keep her on the right path when she was unable to make the best descisions on her own.
Kento was sawing logs in the recliner as deep as you please. He was hunched forward in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. Robyn gently pulled his shoulders back and reclined the chair to provide her friend with a more comfortable sleep. She owed him that much. He had done so much for her during this very difficult week. She may not have made it without him. As Robyn looked down at his snoozing frame she recalled the few times he had embraced her and how safe she had felt in his arms. His gentle strength was a haven to her and part of her still just wanted to crawl up there with him and remain in the sanctity of his presence. But she knew that action would earn her more than a few questions and some odd looks so she moved on.
Stretched out on the couch was Sage and Robyn approached his sleeping form next. An open book was folded over his chest, about to fall from his fingers as his glasses barely hung off his nose. Robyn slowly eased the book from his hand, careful to save the place, and slipped the glasses from his face. She placed both items next to the reading lamp before flipping it off. There, in the darkness she took one last look as the warrior of light. Yes, darkness did not become him. Even at night, he didn't look a part of it. Like it was just something he was forced to tolerate until the sun came to greet him again. So, so different from her and her adaption to the darkness. At that moment he seemed even more untouchable, even more surreal than on the first day Robyn had met him.
The only light left on now seemed to be in the kitchen. After being next to something so much her opposite, Robyn felt a need to seek other company. Rowen looked up from his studies when he heard White Blaze pad onto the linoleum. He was a bit surprised to see Robyn there, but then smiled.
"Hey," he said quietly. His clear blue eyes looked hazed and tired. Perhaps it was now past even his bed time.
Ryo was sitting across from him at the table with his head resting on his folded arms. His notes and text books were scattered about him. He, too, was sound asleep. White Blaze laid down next to the humming refrigerator and closed his eyes.
"What time is it?" Robyn whispered.
"You don't want to know," Rowen replied, motioning to the remaining chair at the table which was situated next to the sleeping Ryo.
Robyn sat down and sighed heavily as she slumped in her chair.
"How are you feeling?" Rowen then asked.
"Well, strangely enough, I'm not tired. You'd think I'd still be sleeping after not getting any last night, but I--"
"No," Rowen shushed her gently as he placed his hand on hers. "What I meant was, will you be okay?"
Robyn looked down at the touching hands and then up at his face. It was clear by his expression that he wasn't referring to her fatigue or even physical well-being. Something else. A sudden emotion swelled in her chest, but she forced herself to hold it back.
"I'm fine," she smiled.
"Are you sure?" There was emotion burning in his eyes now. "All that they made you go through. I just can't--" He cut himself off before his emotions and his own fatigue made him say something stupid. He squeezed her hand tighter when the words failed him. Were his cheeks starting to get hot?
"Rowen, I'll be just fine. I can deal with it," she insisted. "You don't have to worry about me."
Rowen was still looking dubious with her replies. He had witnessed for himself a mere fraction of what she had to suffer through that night and HE was still having problems getting past it.
"It's okay," Robyn repeated. "A lot of it was from stuff long ago and I had made myself move past all that. The worst part of it was just a lie. It was when they made me think I had lost you guys. That moment when I thought you all had died--I didn't know if I could go on after that."
She paused to look at the sleeping Ryo next to her. He looked so peaceful and angelic. Robyn reached over and fingered a few thick strands from his face. Ryo didn't stir.
"But when I saw you alive and well, it took the pain away and I could go on again. Having you five there-- that was all that mattered to me."
A silence passed as Rowen meditated on those words. They were all that mattered to her. He had never been 'all that mattered' to anyone; not even his parents. Rowen looked up to see that Robyn was still petting Ryo's head like it was a cat or something and he had to smile. She, it seemed, had always been fascinated with Wildfire's hair. She was always trying to find an excuse to play with the thick, raven locks. Ryo, for the most part, just tolerated it. And Robyn was now taking advantage of the youth's slumbering to molest his head again. It was a good feeling to know that despite what she had just gone through, Robyn hadn't changed.
Rowen let himself get lost in his own thoughts for a while before looking up. The lateness of the hour always made it easier for one's mind to drift off. That was what Robyn seemed to be doing at the moment. Her gaze was far from the here and now as she continued to comb her fingers through Ryo's hair without realizing it. A small smile was on her face as she continued to caress the raven locks. His presence was comforting. Even if he couldn't see her or hear her. Even if he didn't even acknowledge her presence right next to him. It was still comforting to touch him and to have him beside her.
"What's on your mind?" Rowen wondered, cocking his head at her.
Robyn's attention turned to him before her face held a thoughtful look.
"I think.....I think I was wise today," she confided in him. "At least, compared to most days," she added with a giggle.
"You're smart enough," Rowen insisted. "You'll see. You're smart enough to take care of yourself no matter where you go from here."
"Perhaps," Robyn agreed, getting that far of look again. "But it doesn't hurt to have good friends to help you along the way."
As she said the last part, she gently put her arms around the sleeping Ryo and gave him a hug--since he was merely the closest ronin to her. As Rowen watched, he knew that it wouldn't have mattered to her who was in that chair. It could have been any of them and she still would have acted the same. Perhaps that was where this lost misfit's appeal came from. From the fact that she cared for them all indiscriminately and treated them all the same. Though Rowen still would have liked to know Ryo's reaction if he ever found out what he had just slept through.
"I think it's about time I hit the sack now," Rowen announced quietly as he got up.
Not a word was said after that. In the stillness of the late night, there was a clatter as Robyn's chair was tipped over. In a heart beat her face was buried in Rowen's chest with her arms circling his torso tightly. Rowen blinked at the top of her head for a moment before lightly putting his arms around her shoulders. She was hugging him so tight. That in itself spoke volumes to him.
"Oh Rowen," she choked into his shirt. It was obvious in her voice that she was fighting back her sobs. "I'm so glad you're alive! That all of you are alive! I don't know what I would have done without you."
Rowen could hardly hold himself back as he held her tighter. Of all the things she had to endure in her life. All the trials and heartaches and abuse--her worse agony of all was losing them. He had hardly known this wayward soul less than a year and she already cared for them that much. The thought alone almost overwhelmed the lonely young man. Never had he experienced such fierce loyalty and faith outside of his own armor linked comrades. It was almost to the point where he didn't believe it existed any more.
Rowen's eyes traveled to the thought-to-be sleeping Ryo. He was still hunched over in the same position, but his eyes were half way open and watching them. Ryo's gaze drifted off as his mouth pulled into a thoughtful smile. Just how long had he been awake and how much had he heard? Perhaps it didn't matter. But Rowen was almost sure he saw tears pooling there for one reason or another. Ryo closed his eyes again with that same smile on his face. Rowen lightly stroked the hair of the girl still clinging to him. Whatever happened in the past and whatever would come in the future, for now, everyone was safe and here with him. For that moment alone, life was worth living.
Robyn nervously paced outside the door of her Ancient Japanese History class. Cye and Kento were there with her. The two ronins were far more casual than their female friend. They simply stood around and watched her wring her hands impatiently.
"Robyn, why don't you calm down?" Kento offered. "Pacing around isn't going to change your score any."
The redhead whirled around and was about to give him what for when the class room door opened. Mr. Kuroda, looking as crusty as ever, eyed the three waiting for him.
"Here you go, Ms. McCarthy, your test," he said as he handed her the paper.
Robyn's heart jumped in her throat. She needed this grade to graduate and she had studied so hard for this class. She looked at the score and her whole face lit up. Not only did she pass, but her grade was actually a pretty good one!
"Yes!" she cried in the empty hall. "I passed! I passed!" Then, to everyone's surprise, she turned around and hugged the bane of her existence for the entire school year. "Thanks Mr. Kuroda, you're the best teacher in the entire world!"
She laughed and then took off down the hall for the front doors. The history teacher took a moment to clear his throat and restraighten his tie. He handed Kento and Cye their test scores as well, since they happened to be there. The two teens looked at him strangely. For a moment, he didn't seem so...crusty.
"A--And tell that girl no running in the halls," he said as they left, though the edge was gone from his voice.
Cye and Kento just nodded and backed away slowly. They decided to get while the getting was good.
Robyn never felt so light as she ran through the grass to the tree where the group sometimes hung out. Sage was making his way there himself as Robyn ran towards him. She jumped on him from behind and actually GLOMPED the startled teen.
"Sagie, you're so cool! I love you!" she exclaimed before letting go and running off.
The blonde's eyes could not have been bigger as he paused in mid stride and watched her continue on.
The bearer of Strata had been laying in the grass with an open book resting over his face when Robyn plopped herself down on his stomach. It almost knocked the breath out of him as he made an "Oof!" sound.
"Check this out!" Robyn said as she proudly flashed her test in his face. "Seventy-eight percent bay-be on my hardest subject. I am the smartest person alive!!"
Rowen gave a throaty chuckle, or at least the best he could do with another person sitting on top of him.
"Hey, where's my greeting?" Ryo, who was sitting next to them, demanded. He had witnessed her reaction to both Sage and Rowen and was now getting a little jealous.
Robyn was in the best mood of her life and was pulling out all the stops. The second Ryo opened his mouth she attacked him. It was kind of funny to watch as she threw herself off Rowen and onto him. From a distance, it looked like she was attacking him and then putting him into a lip lock. In reality, she had her hand over Ryo's mouth and was smooching the back of her own hand, simulating a big, sloppy kiss from afar.
Even with that, Ryo was still left a bit stunned as Robyn flopped over onto the grass and laughed. She looked up at the sky, her heart soaring with the clouds. In the back of her mind she knew there was a hard truth she would soon have to face. But for this moment in time, everything felt perfect.
"Fighting evil by moonlight," Robyn sang lightly to herself. "Winning love by daylight. Never running from a real fight; she is the one named Sailor Moon. She will never turn her back on a friend. She is always there to defend. She is the one on whom we can depend. She is the one named Sailor---"
"Robyn," Rowen warned. "If you sing that song one more time, I swear...."
"What? I love it! I wrote it myself."
"Why don't you come up with a theme song for us," Kento suggested. "Something that tells how much we kick ass!"
"Pff, what's there to sing about?" Robyn retorted playfully. "A bunch of guys with magic armors. Geeze, maybe someone should just make an anime out of it. I'm sure it would be soooo interesting."
"Oh, good lord," Sage muttered to Cye. "Can you imagine?"
The bearer of Torrent just chuckled.
"I would be the star," Ryo announced out of the blue.
Everyone stopped and looked at him.
"Well, I would," he insisted.
"Riiiight," Rowen said, unconvinced. "Like anyone would want to watch a show about you."
That was pretty much how the conversation went as the group of friends, dressed in their caps and gowns, entered their high school as students for the very last time.
Graduation went as graduations typically go. Diplomas were handed out and caps were thrown. Everyone's parents were there. Even Rowen's mother managed to show her face for a second or two. After all, it's not every day her only son graduates from high school. But at the time, her only son was making a nuisance of himself as he kept flipping Robyn's cap off her head. She playfully hit him back before she and Kami both ganged up on him. Kento lifted his graduation robe while the families were trying to take pictures, showing that he was wearing nothing but neon pink boxers under it. He laughed while others groaned. He also boasted he had persuaded Cye to do it with him, but the water warrior refused to show anyone. They all had invested in plastic flower leis to wear to the occasion as well. (Rowen wanted them all to get "leied" for graduation. Typical Rowen.)
As the class began to dwindle off and prepare for the all night graduation party, Robyn's attention was caught by a group of girls standing off in the distance. Everyone else was still goofing around and laughing and didn't notice when Robyn left. The five girls smiled at her as she approached.
"Happy graduation, Robyn," Mina was the first to greet her.
"Hi," Robyn replied. "What are you guys still doing here? I thought you would have gone back to Tokyo by now."
"We just thought we'd stop by one last time to see you before we left," Ami explained.
"And we wanted to make sure you were doing okay," Lita added.
Robyn smiled. "I'm fine. I've got more than enough people to take care of me as it is." She glanced in the warrior's direction--who still didn't seem to notice she was missing.
"So...." Robyn then ventured. "How's Darien? Is he anywhere around?"
"Humph, you wish!" Serena shot back.
"I do wish," Robyn replied wistfully. "Tell that hottie I said hi. And, if you two ever break up......"
"We're not going to. Ever," Serena insisted and Robyn laughed right out at the unamused expression on her face.
"Well we really had fun when you came over that night," Lita popped in. "I hope we can do it again sometime."
"Yes. And if you're ever in Tokyo, look us up," Ami agreed.
A shrill whistle interrupted the girls' conversation.
"Yo Robyn, let's go," Kento called. "We've still got a party to go to, you know!"
Robyn waved his way.
"Well, that's my ride leaving me. I'd better go."
But before she could, Rei stepped forward and put a hand on her shoulder.
"You really saved us all that night," she said. "Thank you. And I was wrong about your friends." She looked at Robyn with a certain awe in her face. "You really have a lot of faith in them, don't you?"
Robyn smiled as she turned to go. "Yeah. They--They're my heros." And with that, she ran to join them in celebration of the end of one part of life and the beginning of a bright new future for them all.
The five girls watched the warriors leave. Their graduation would be the next week and none of them could wait.
"Well guys," Serena announced. "Are we ready to go home now?"
Everyone seemed to agree.
"We still need to finish finals and attend our own graduation," Rei reminded her friends. "So that means, right back to studying for you."
Serena groaned. "Can we at least stop and get something to eat first?I'm starving!"