In the Darkest Forest
Title: In the Darkest Forest
Show: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon
Rating: M 15
Series: kinda part of CAS 5
Couples: Usagi/Mamoru, Haruka/Michiru, Urakaze/Masako, Asakaze/Rikuriko
Timeline: "The Last Sacrifice: The End of the Silver Millennium", "CAS 1: The Trouble with Love is the Lovers", "CAS 2: To Defy Destiny", "Every Cloud", "Crystal Shards", "CAS 3: Unwilling Accomplice", "Our Past 1: The Reason We Fight", "CAS 4: Princess of Light", "Our Past 2: The Reason We Still Fight", "Our Past 3: The Reason We Fought", "CAS 5: One Last Shining Star", "In the Darkest Forest", "Destiny or Duty", "Desperately Searching", "Kazeko", "Chronicles of the Star Senshi"
Time: Episode 196-200
Summary: Episode 196-200 from the other side
Light danced across the fields of Olympus as Zeus watched the Muses dance through his palace courtyard, music filling the air. It was a day of celebration for the gods, though their King hardly remembered what they were celebrating. Hera had suggested the party since the news from Earth was getting worse, hoping that she could raise her family's spirits with some celebration and ambrosia, but it wasn't working. Standing near Zeus's throne, Poseidon stared into a delicate glass filled with one of Dionysus's finest wines, twirling the glass contemplatively.
"What is it, brother?"
"Something feels off," Poseidon whispered, glancing up as Hermes, Ares, and Aphrodite joined them at the throne. "You all sense it, too, don't you?"
Aphrodite nodded and touched her heart, pale blue eyes distant. "I feel like something is going to happen. My Avatar . . . her heart is trembling. She's afraid of something, but without her full powers she can't defeat this threat she's facing. I want to help her."
"You can't," Ares murmured, running a hand through his dark hair. "The rules . . . the rules that Se wrote so long ago prevent us from interfering. She has locked away their memories to prevent the tragedies of the Silver Millennium from being repeated, but without their memories they aren't strong enough to defeat this darkness covering the Earth. I wish I could help my fiery Avatar."
Hermes nodded, placing a comforting hand on Ares's shoulder before doubling over in pain. His anguished grunt was echoed by Zeus, the King of the Gods falling to his knees beside his throne. Aphrodite screamed as she leaned against a pillar, her pained voice silencing the party and bringing the gods to the throne. They watched in silence, unable to help, as Aphrodite fell to her knees in a fluttering of pink silk, her golden hair hiding her tears. By her side, Ares grunted in pain, his dark eyes confused as he reached for the nearest monitor, tuning it to his Avatar. Shocked, he watched in silence as Rei faded out of existence, the other three Inner Senshi gone already. Eternal Sailor Moon screamed as her senshi vanished, a tattered trio of black-clad soldiers kneeling nearby.
"She's dead," Zeus whispered, one hand clenching the arm of his throne while the other one searched for Hera's supporting grip. "My Avatar is dead. How could she die?"
"Who is this enemy?" Hera helped Zeus back into his throne, unable to understand his pain, as she waved her free hand at the screen. The viewer focused on a golden-clad woman seating in a lone throne, her eyes full of evil insanity. "She killed your senshi with barely a thought."
Poseidon stared at the viewer, fear in his sapphire eyes. "What about my senshi? She's still alive and she isn't with Sailor Moon."
"I don't know," Hera whispered. "Poseidon, summon Uranus here."
In the depths of the darkest forest feared by humans, the creatures inside worshipped by them, stood a very old, very wise willow tree, her bark scored by centuries of storms and Jaguarets, a secret hollow above her largest branch. One of the Jaguarets lounged there, amber eyes half-closed, thinking. Without warning, the half-human, half-feline stood and stretched, walking out onto the limb, the claws on her human-like back feet digging into the thin bark, the fur across her belly shifting with her strong muscles. She twitched her pointed ears, pushing her long brown hair over her shoulders. There was something she was supposed to do, something very important, but she couldn't remember.
Makoto jumped to the ground, slipping through the forest on four legs, tiny pink nose twitching, whiskers trembling. There was someone she should be looking for, someone she needed to protect, but she couldn't remember what. Hissing, she stopped by the side of the water and began to clean her russet-spotted fur. Pausing, she watched as an amphibious creature slipped onto the opposite bank, long, rudder-like tail shaking, eyes two deep orbs taking up most of her face. She was covered in shining skin, gills on her neck fluttering, staring at Makoto. "Who . . . Mako-chan?"
"Ami-chan? What are we doing here? Where are we?"
The former Water Senshi swam back to Makoto's bank, glancing at her webbed hands. "I don't know. I can't call my computer. What's the last thing you remember?"
"It wasn't being a cat! Let me think." Makoto closed her emerald eyes, trying to let her memories return to the last thing she did before waking up in that tree. "We were . . . the Starlights were fighting Galaxia and we rushed in to save those ungrateful women. But our powers were not strong enough . . . she killed us, Ami!" Makoto shot to her feet, spinning wildly, frantically searching for her princess. "We left Usagi all alone! We have to go back, we have to save her!"
"We can't, Mako-chan," Ami whispered. "She took our Star Seeds; we're dead. We can't do anything for Usagi. If she's still alive, it's up to her and the Outer Senshi to save the world."
"Don't forget the Starlights. Seiya-kun at least will help Usagi; he likes her." Ami slipped out of the water and stood up, water cascading off her smooth skin. "But maybe we can find the others."
"As half-animals? You must be joking. Ami-chan . . . I don't think you can walk that far. Maybe if we follow the river out of the forest, you can stay in the water."
Ami leaned over the water and held her palm over the still surface, watching as it changed, an image forming. Usagi was kneeling in front of Galaxia's throne, little Chibi Chibi in her arms, the Starlights behind her. Makoto found her eyes drawn to the Star Seeds floating in front of the evil queen, instantly knowing which one was hers. She looked away from the four new crystals, staring at the brilliant golden stone glowing in the center. The look on Usagi's face . . . Galaxia's evil laugh filling the room . . .
"Kami-sama," Makoto whispered, scattering the image with an angry slap of her long tail. "That bitch killed him."
"Killed whom?" For once, the young genius was at a loss.
"Mamoru-kun. The golden one . . . that was his Star Seed."
"Poor Usagi . . . no wonder he never called her, never wrote back. He must have . . . she must have killed him not long after he left. Poor Usagi."
"We have to find him, Ami-chan. He's been here the longest; maybe he knows how to get back to her."
Ami shook her head as she slipped back into the water, heading downstream and out of the forest. If Mamoru knew how to get back to Usagi, he would have left already.
They emerged on an empty plain, the river dumping into a shallow lake. Ami and Makoto hid in the shadows of the trees as a woman, half gazelle, slipped into the grass, pale blue eyes searching for danger. With more grace than Minako had possessed as a human, the woman slipped into the grasses, tiny black horns poking out of her long golden hair, long, pointed ears pricked, listening for any danger.
A rustling in the grass warned the three women of company as a long, sinuous, reptile slithered through the grass, rearing up just in front of the gazelle, Rei's red-tinted black hair hanging down her back, red scales glistening in the light. Minako stared, shocked, the sight of the miko bringing back her memories of life. Rei pulled back, both spinning to stare at Ami and Makoto. Then all four of them leapt into motion, crying and hugging each other, knowing without question that they were dead, that they had failed Usagi.
They sat in a small circle in the center of the field, silently reflecting on their deaths, wondering where they were, wondering how to save their princess. A humming sound caught their attention, and a very familiar girl approached the group, covered in tiny purple-black scales, long insect wings folded along her spine. Little Hotaru was crying, her sobs quieting as she let Rei embrace her. "They betrayed us," she whispered. "Haruka-papa and Michiru-mama killed Setsuna-mama and me." A soft sound in the trees announced the arrival of Setsuna, her human features delicately merged with that of a great horned owl, tufts of feathers peeking out from where her ears should be. She watched with soulful red eyes as the Inner Senshi surrounded Hotaru, embracing her, careful that their claws and hooves didn't injure the girl.
When the Earth was young and just learning how to create humans, Uranus had been born as the spirit of the sky, mated to Gaia, the spirit of the Earth. He grew powerful and arrogant, creating monstrous children alongside the beautiful Titans. His own son rose up against him at Gaia's behest, driving him from his high throne and castrating him, removing his power and his pride. For thousand of years he hid in shame while the kingdoms of the humans flourished under the protective gaze of the Olympian Gods, ignoring the planet that shared his name and the people that worshipped him even in his damaged state.
More than eight thousand years before the end of the Silver Millennium, Se and her friends had stumbled across the exiled primordial god, healing his pain and convincing him to return to his planet. Knowing that he could never be a complete man again, Uranus had gone to Olympus and asked Zeus to grant him a new, undamaged form. A female form. Uranus shed her masculine self and fully embraced her newly found femininity, letting herself be born as the mortal heir of the Queen of Uranus so she could teach her people the concept of sa'usikha or double-self. Having lived life as both a man and a woman, she had the unique perspective to teach her daughters to balance sajink, masculine strength, and saliis, feminine beauty, creating the powerful and mildly androgynous warrior race that conquered the wild seventh planet of the Solar System. During one of her rare visits to Olympus, Uranus had mentioned that Haruka was her perfect avatar, the strongest Sailor Uranus of all time and the only one who could understand the need for sacrifice in war.
She appeared beside Poseidon in a flash of gold, wind whipping through the crowd as an echo of her unease. The tall goddess with short, dark blonde hair stared at the viewer, her stormy blue eyes changing into intense emerald as she shook with a silent fury. "Do you see? Do you see what they are planning to do?"
Poseidon furrowed his brow, glancing over his shoulder at Aphrodite still weeping in Ares's arms, Hermes silent at the foot of Zeus's throne. "I don't understand, Ran. What are they going to do?" Poseidon and Uranus knew that their senshi were destined partners, always working in sync, but the god of the seas had no idea what the goddess of the winds was seeing.
"They're going to betray the princess!"
"There!" Uranus pointed at the screen, tears in her eyes as Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune accepted Galaxia's power, turning on Sailor Pluto and Sailor Saturn. "Don't do it, Haruka, please." She watched in silent fury as Uranus and Neptune turned their bracelets toward Pluto and Saturn, taking their star seeds in a flash of golden light.
Saturn had no patron god. Zeus had killed his father, Cronus, before any of the younger gods were born, but Pluto did have a patron god, and a very powerful one at that. Zeus stood from his throne, staring across the plains of Olympus as a black chariot led by flaming war horses thundered across the ground. His brother, banished from Olympus a thousand years earlier, pulled his horses to a halt and leapt from his seat, his wife crying as she followed him into Zeus's hall. Aphrodite looked up from her grief, holding on to Ares's arm as Se's dark father came to a halt at the base of the throne.
"You were banished, Hades." The King of the Gods reached for a thunderbolt, his children and subjects backing away from the inevitable confrontation. Despite the tears in his eyes and the pain in his heart, Zeus had to enforce the rules of his court. Ares and Athena flanked their father, prepared to defend his edict if necessary, but Aphrodite reached out and placed a hand on Zeus's arm before he could throw his lightning bolt.
"He's crying," she whispered, her soft voice filled with grief. "Let him speak."
"She is dead." The God of the Underworld could barely contain his rage, fists clenched at his side as Demeter ran forward to comfort her daughter.
Ares shook his head slowly and stepped forward, fear in his dark eyes. "No. Hades, she can't really die. Her mortal form might be lost but she will just return to us."
"And yet she has died! She lost too much of her godhood and she has died as a common mortal, unable to prevent her own demise! My only child, Zeus!"
"Se? She can't . . . Brother, what did you do?"
"I trapped her soul where I trapped the Earth Prince and the other Avatars, but I cannot hold them forever." Hades glanced at the gods whose avatars had died, shaking his head as he glanced at the mirror to the mortal realm. "I can hold the mortals' souls for a long time, but Se cannot stay there. Her power will destroy that place and send them all on to the next life."
Ares grabbed Zeus's arm, frantic eyes watching Uranus clench her fists, knowing what her senshi was planning. The certainty in her emerald eyes as they darkened to black frightened the God of War. "Father, bring them back."
In the mirror, Uranus and Neptune used their enhanced powers to attack Galaxia, failing as the powerful dark senshi killed them, as well. In their last moments, they reached for each other, determined to be together in betrayal and death as they had been in love and life. Poseidon grunted and raised a hand to his chest, the death of his avatar agony to him. The gods and goddesses of the planets gathered around Zeus, demanding the rebirth of their avatars, but the desperation in Hades's garnet eyes screamed louder than all of the voices put together.
"What do you expect me to do?" Zeus barely spoke above a whisper, his children and siblings letting silence fill the hall as he stared at Hades from his throne. "If you do not have the power to release her from death, there is little I can do."
"You must let her come back. She is not fighting to stay because she believes that she has nothing left. With Serenity lost, her beloved Queen Serenity dead, and Tranquility no longer her friend, Se has nothing in this world that she wants. If Usagi dies, my daughter will not care about anything in that world, either."
Zeus descended from his high throne, Hera at his side as the younger gods scattered. Holding out one hand, he clasped Hades's forearm and smiled at his brother. "You and your daughter are no longer banished from Olympus. Welcome back to the home of the Gods, my brother."
"If the Moon Princess's senshi are fighting among themselves, then all is lost." A beautiful red butterfly landed on the plain, the dead princess calm despite the crisis. The Senshi of Sol reigned in their emotions as the foreign princess landed, folding her wings. "We never found the Light of Hope, and now your princess has no protectors save my last three Senshi. But they are weary, afraid to fight Galaxia, all feeling that they failed me in some way. I can only hope that Uranus and Neptune see the error of their ways before the end."
"They did not betray us," Setsuna whispered, her voice reaching the Senshi as she landed beside them, hanging her head. Nudging the Inners away, the dead Senshi of Time brushed clear a patch of dirt with her long feathers, watching as it turned into a mirror back to the living world, all of the Senshi and the princess leaning forward to watch as Uranus and Neptune attacked Usagi and the Starlights again and again, no soul in their eyes, Galaxia's bracelets on their wrists. Rei clenched her fists, fury in her purple eyes, as a huge explosion colored the mirror red, the Starlights gathering in a protective circle around Usagi and little Chibi Chibi before they were thrown into the sky.
They couldn't hear what the senshi said as Usagi stood, staring at the pair that had once been her allies. As one, obeying Galaxia's command without question, Uranus and Neptune raised their arms, prepared to kill their princess, Eternal Sailor Moon. The Inners leaned forward, staring at their mutated hands, wishing they could do something to keep Usagi from joining them. "Please," Minako whispered, blue eyes closing, "please wake up, Haruka-san and Michiru-san. She is your princess, and I know you love her. She is not your enemy; Galaxia is."
Shocked, the Inners watched, breathless, as light entered Haruka and Michiru's eyes, as they regained control of their own bodies, as if they had heard Minako's plea. Knowing each other's thought as only such close lovers could, they turned and sent their attack at Galaxia, sacrificing their future in one last attempt to kill their enemy. But it didn't work. Galaxia had no star seed, and she laughed as she took her bracelets from the last two senshi's wrists. They fell together, whispering something to Eternal Sailor Moon and the Starlights, reaching for each other as they began to fade. Their fingers touched as they completely faded, together in death as they had tried to be in life.
"Kami-sama," Rei whispered, looking away. "They . . . they always fought like that. They never put their lives or their happiness above our princess and the survival of our world. But this time the enemy was too strong for them. They'll be here soon."
"Michiru-san will be half-fish," Ami whispered. "I'll go back to the lake and wait for her. Keep your eyes on the sky for Haruka-san." She slithered off back into the water, leaving the other Inners in silence.
Makoto twitched her ears, glancing into the clouds, green eyes shrunk to slits. "She's here," the half-jaguar hissed, tail swishing. All eyes turned toward the sky as a huge eagle broke through the clouds, landing only a few feet away, emerald eyes glaring at them as she folded her wings. Recognition dawned in the depths of those raptor eyes, and Haruka gasped, falling backwards as she attempted to fly away. "Haruka, wait!"
The eagle froze as Makoto sauntered up to her, embracing the taller woman. "What? Where am I? I thought I died."
"You did," Minako whispered, tears in her blue eyes as she embraced the wind senshi. "We saw what you did for our princess, and we're proud of you."
"Proud? It didn't work! We wasted everything, killed Setsuna and Hotaru, attacked our princess, and Galaxia killed us."
"She hasn't won yet," Kakyuu pointed out. "As long as Sailor Moon lives, there is some hope for your world."
"Not enough," a bitter voice growled from the edge of the dark forest. Rei, Setsuna, and Hotaru were at the water's edge, the adults helping Ami lift the mermaid as Hotaru hugged her mother and assured her that she was forgiven. All activity ceased at the voice, eyes turning to its source. Haruka flapped her wings twice and landed by Ami's side, pulling Michiru into her arms as the other Senshi gathered around them. "She is strong, and she has gotten stronger with her new powers, but she is not powerful enough to defeat Galaxia," the voice continued, two dark blue eyes glowing from the forest. "She does not see it, of course. She was always so naïve, so innocent, so pure, and she will never believe that she can't win. She will fight until her last breath fades, then she will fall to Galaxia's hand. When Usako dies, the Earth is doomed."
"Mamoru-kun," Minako whispered as a half-wolf emerged from the grasses. "You . . . how long have you been here?"
"A very long time. She killed me long ago, and I have explored this place forever, but I always come back here. And I was hoping that none of you would ever come, but now you all failed her, now you are here, dead, with me."
"She was too strong," Haruka whispered, shaking her head. "There was nothing we could do. All we can do is watch her die."
Mamoru growled, slamming his fists into the grass. "I can't believe that! After all these years, after all the enemies we fought, this one, the one that none of us saw coming, is the one that kills my beautiful Usako."
"There is one thing you can do." A bright light appeared in the center of the field, fading to reveal three forms that Haruka and Michiru recognized immediately.
"Release the ban on the Cupids, Zeus. Let them interfere."
"What? Hades . . . the Cupids cannot help here."
The God of the Underworld spun to face Aphrodite, glaring at the blonde goddess. "I know what powers Tranquility asked you to give them. If they help . . ."
Aphrodite nodded slowly, Eros and Psyche joining her beside the throne. "Princess Serenity's power is love. If she has enough of it, perhaps she can cleanse Galaxia of her evil. The woman used to be a Sailor Senshi, so she must have good in her somewhere. You have to release the Cupids."
"The last time they had the freedom to use their powers, they destroyed everything. I cannot risk that again."
"If you don't, then Princess Serenity will die and everything will be lost again," Uranus whispered, her eyes focused on the battle between Serenity and Galaxia. "She almost has enough strength on her own, but she needs a little more. Just give it to her."
The King of the Gods sighed and nodded, raising his hand to the sky.
"Urakaze-kun," Michiru breathed. "Asakaze-san, Rikuriko-san! I . . . we never thought we would see you again."
"And you wouldn't have," the leader of the three admitted, crossing his arms over his chest. He no longer wore the blue sash of the Omicron Cupids, instead wearing gold and red that identified him as a minor God, watching over the entire world with his father, grandfather, and great-grandmother. "However, the loss of Star Seeds throughout the galaxy has worried the gods." He gestured toward Asakaze and Rikuriko, smiling despite the current crisis. "Every Cupid, active and retired, is in Galaxia's warped realm, waiting for our signal to send all of the power that they possess into Eternal Sailor Moon, giving her enough love to free the tyrant from the chaos consuming her and save the world. However, we need your help."
"Our help? Urakaze-kun, you're a god. What do you need from us?"
"Your love. Your love for each other and for your princess. You have to give it all to us, to her, but you have to relinquish your guilt for that." Urakaze pointed at the animal features all of the senshi wore, waving his hand to create a mirror to the living world in the air, watching as Sailor Moon fought Galaxia/Chaos with a silver sword.
"Yes, Mamoru," Asakaze smiled. "You and Usagi are my charges, you know. I brought you together, so long ago. I know that you feel guilty that you let her down. All I can tell you is that there was nothing more you could do. Usagi needs you now, free of doubt. As for the rest of you, I'm not your Cupid, but I do know that you love her and you want to save her from everything. Try to remember that she will be a queen one day and save this world from countless threats. She is strong, but she does not like to fight alone. Don't make her face Galaxia without you."
Urakaze wrapped one wing around Haruka's shoulders as the other senshi gathered in a circle near Asakaze and Rikuriko. "Look, I know what you're thinking. Sure, the others have nothing to be ashamed of, but you two actually betrayed Usagi, turned on her, killed your daughter and your best friend, and failed to destroy the monster." He placed a hand on Michiru's cheek, forcing the mermaid to look up at him. "You had already seen the Inners fall; you knew that Galaxia could destroy you with a thought, so you devised a better plan. You had to try everything, even if it meant betraying your princess."
"We should have learned from last time that betraying her never works," Haruka whispered, fanning her feathered tail in agitation. "Usagi is always right."
"Maybe, but your plan would have worked if Galaxia had a Star Seed. We are proud of you for trying, for sacrificing yourselves to save Usagi. Now she needs you again, and all you have to do is embrace the love you feel for each other, embrace the love you give her so freely, and she will succeed. You can only save the world by trusting in the power of your princess."
Haruka glanced at Michiru. "What do you think, Michi?"
"I think she can do it, Ruka. Let's try." Urakaze nodded and led the pair to the small group of Senshi, glancing at the mirror.
"She's ready. All of you, clear your minds and think of nothing but your princess and the love you have for her, for each other, for this planet. Let go of your guilt, your anger, your frustration, your fear, your despair . . . the Cupids only need your love."
Haruka closed her eyes, letting her thoughts rest on that one moment when she first knew that Usagi was the princess, when she first bowed to Sailor Moon, and she felt an itching cover her body. Ignoring it, she focused on that image of Usagi, glowing, slipping free of Michiru's grasp. A golden glow covered her body as her feathers began to fade, her fuku returning as the symbol of Uranus glowed from her forehead. Michiru's single fin split in a burst of aqua blue, the symbol of Neptune on her forehead. One-by-one, the other Senshi also returned to their human forms, the symbol of their planet on their forehead, Princess Kakyuu the last woman to send her love to the blonde princess. Mamoru closed his eyes, searched, but found nothing, no love, only dark despair. He failed her, he left her alone, and he had nothing left to give.
"You do," Asakaze whispered. "I want you to remember when you went away, the day you left, when you gave Usagi that ring. Do you remember the joy in her eyes?"
"Yes. I love her, but I can't . . ."
"Remember her face, remember that kiss, the love she gave you. She'll love you forever, Mamoru, and if you never came back, she didn't care. She'd love you anyway. And the last thing you said before you died, Mamoru, what was it?"
"Usako . . ."
Masako shook her head, the young Cupid too tired to fight anymore, the last of her arrows spent. "We have nothing left to fight with. Chaos has won, Urakaze."
"She hasn't, my love. Here is the power of the Senshi and Usagi's prince. Send it to her, give her the power to break Chaos's spell."
Masako watched as a brilliant white light filled her hands, and she rose higher, tired wings finding just a little more strength. "CUPIDS! Everything you have, send it into Galaxia. We must break Chaos's hold! Now!" With that, hundreds of thousands of invisible Cupid arrows assaulting the bat-winged woman, Masako threw all of the power she held at Usagi, watching as the princess's Star Seed glowed silver, the light becoming a white too brilliant to look at. As the light reached its brightest, Usagi's hand touched Galaxia's outstretched fingers, and the dark power holding the legendary strongest senshi shattered.
Galaxia flew away, the star seeds following her, and Usagi watched them leave. She sighed and looked away, alone in the sky, the four Cupids hovering near her in the air invisible to her sad blue eyes. "Everyone, I hung in there," she whispered, "but I'm lonely. I'm not that strong! I'm alone, min'na!"
"Not for long," Urakaze whispered, waving his hand. Ten Star Seeds surrounded the floating princess, and Rei's loving voice filled the sky.
"You're not alone!"
"You're not alone, Usagi!" Eight of the Star Seeds resolved themselves into Senshi, gathered in front of and beside the princess as Mars repeated her assurance.
"Everyone is around you!"
"We believed . . ."
". . . that you could do it, Usagi-chan!"
"Minako-chan! Mako-chan! Is this a dream?"
"It's not a dream," Uranus smiled. "You saved this world . . ."
". . . with your belief!"
"Thank you, Usagi," Saturn grinned, glad to be free of that place.
"You did really well," Pluto added, amazed that Serenity could be so powerful.
"Hotaru-san! Setsuna-san! Min'na! I'm so happy!"
Urakaze waved his hand, releasing the last two Star Seeds as the Cupids leaned back and watched the scene unfold. "Usako."
Usagi froze, blue eyes wide, and she spun around, staring as her boyfriend and the little girl she had cared for so long materialized, Mamoru dressed in the suit of Prince Endymion. He continued, smiling. "This little girl guided me to you, Usagi."
"Mamo-chan . . ." Her voice was barely louder than a whisper.
"You did great, Usako!"
"Mamo-chan!" She flew into his arms, and the watching Cupids cheered, raising glasses of wine to toast the pair.
"Well, that went better than I expected."
Masako laughed. "Urakaze! I'm ashamed! To pretend like you planned all of this! We're lucky they were able to release their love to her."
"It wasn't luck, Masako," Eros's grandson whispered, eyes returning to the scene as Kakyuu rejoined her senshi. "The bond of love that joins them to her is beyond our comprehension. Perhaps Aphrodite might be able to predict the power of those hearts, but I never could. As long as they have each other, this world will be forever safe."
"I'll drink to that."
On Olympus, the gods cheered for the blonde princess and their avatars, Hades standing beside his brother on the high throne. "Thank you, Zeus," the dark god whispered, suddenly finding a glass of wine in one hand. "I don't know what I would do if I lost my daughter."
Zeus nodded, blue eyes watching the mirror as the senshi returned to the ground. "I acted rashly that day when I banished Se. What she did was . . . it was an act of desperation. Her soul mate died and she lashed out, but my punishment was too severe. She is still one of us, Hades, and I want you to make sure that she visits us again."
"She can't undo what she did," Hades reminded his brother. "It will right itself in time, but we cannot speed it up."
"I know. I think Serenity knew, too, when she scattered herself to the winds of time over eight thousand years ago. But even Eros and Psyche forgive her, so I have no excuse."
"For now, all of our avatars are safe. As long as they live, the future is bright." Uranus smiled at she made her announcement, her own heart light as she felt her avatar's utter contentment for the first time in years. The battles were over, she had her Michiru, and Haruka was finally happy. "They have quite a future ahead of them."