WARNING: This is an AR. An alternative ending to the S-season, containing spoilers for the last battle between the daimon forces and the Sailor Senshi.
She found herself floating amongst the pieces of a dead planet, uncountable miles away from where she had expected to end up. The babe at her breast was crying. Blue eyes looked worriedly down at the child, murmuring reassurances. Who it was comforting was harder to say, since both the babe and the girl holding the child were distressed. On any other day, the odango-blonde who aliased herself as Sailormoon on the streets of Tokyo would have broken into a wail at the fear pounding in her chest. She would have wailed and wailed, but it was the babe in her arms that was wailing and she felt like she wasn't really herself at the moment. She had someone else to distract her, someone else she could be strong for, and someone else to think of and worry for other than the fear.
The door, that really was more
of an opening than a door, had closed behind her before she could
react. The being that had once been on this side of the portal had been
destroyed. She didn't know if it was entirely gone, but she prayed for
her friends' sakes that it was. The demon who called herself Mistress
Nine had called that being Master, had given the fear a name: Pharoh
Ninety. She had her first glimpse of it through the portal connecting
their two worlds. The sight had terrified her. She couldn't really say
why or what had made her feel such revulsion, but it had struck her
with a clarity she had not been prepared for.
Many youma had done so, but for a split second or two, she had been unable to move because of her fear. Not a whimper, not a sound, she wasn't even able to complain as she was wont to do when she encountered a situation not to her liking. This time it was different, if she had taken note of it, she might not have been in this situation. It was hard to tell, one could never really say what could have happened instead.
The babe's cry was different this time. It's whimpers forced her out of her dazed contemplations. "Are you hungry?" she asked worriedly. "Oh, Hotaru-chan, what are we going to do"
For all her strength, for once, Sailormoon wasn't sure she would be able to survive this one in-tact.
On the other side of the labyrinth
We discovered that the secrets we
were searching for, were no more
than the lies we were speaking of.
Little Girls, Lost
There are moments in everyone's life when, for a split second, you think to yourself: "I really wish I could turn back time..." Sailormoon was having one of those moments that very second. She didn't want to. She wanted to say she was noble enough, brave enough, to do it again even knowing the results, but she didn't know if that was the whole truth. All she knew was that she didn't want to be where she was now.
The debris of the system littered around her. Twin suns shone in the distance, their light burning her even where she stood, millions and millions of miles away. The very rocks she stood upon where broken chunks of a planet destroyed. She wiped her brow of the gathering sweat, noting the nervous shaking of her hands. She clamped her teeth against the trembling of fear from her lower lip and forced herself not to whimper. Where was the cheerful girl she was but hours ago? Where was the one who encouraged her friends on winning against all odds? What could have changed so much about her when all the influences were outside of herself?
She didn't have the answers anymore.
The first day was the hardest. She was injured, exhausted, and hungry. Fear made her unable to fall into a much needed sleep. The child in her arms cried whenever it woke, which was more often then she would have liked. She hated herself for thinking of her once friend as a burden, so she pushed away the thoughts and concentrated on finding food when the baby fell asleep. She used her long waist bow to tie Hotaru around her shoulders, thanking her fortunes, for once, on having had a younger brother. She remembered going to her Grandmother's place and having the old woman teach her how to tie a simple knot around her brother's young body to strap onto her small back. She had been seven when she was taught how to carry around her little brother before he could walk. "One day you might need it," though her Grandmother probably meant the usage for when Usagi had her own kids.
She hoped from rock to rock before going back to where she started off. There was no one around to be seen. The system seemed empty. She wondered where the species went. Surely Pharoh Ninety was not the only living being here. Surely, there must have been someone else! But for the first day, she could not move further. So she slept with Hotaru in her arms for the first time under a black sky and cold stars that she no longer found romantic. "Mamo-chan," she muttered before falling into an exhausted sleep. "Someone, please, come and save us."
On the third day, she began to speculate that she didn't need food when she was Sailormoon. She didn't know why it was so, and she didn't have Sailormercury there to explain it to her in convoluted and complicated Japanese-mixed-English scientific terms either. Her eyes were swollen because she had spent the second day crying when her search for food and water had turned out to be pointless. Her communicator also had only static in view, so there was no hope there. She soothed the hungry Hotaru somehow, but she was too emotional to remember how. All she knew was that after holding the child, she had felt exhausted and emotionally drained of everything. On the third day, when she woke, she realized that she was still alive. She didn't know if that was a good sign that she could still walk or that she knew she could even fight if she had to if it came down to it though she was not at all mentally or emotionally ready for an attack. She wished she knew how long a human could go without food to confirm if this was normal or abnormal. She wished whole-hearted for her mother's cooking to soothe her and comfort her with the reassurance of home.
She didn't want to be a Sailor Senshi anymore.
This blessing of not needing the necessities did not mean she did not feel hunger or thirst. She felt them, though she had a feeling that if Sailormars was around, she would promptly be lectured about how it has more to do with her expectations of hunger and thirst than actually being hungry or thirsty. Mars did that to her once when they were going to fight Queen Beryl that first time. "It's all in how you think about it," the dark-haired soldier explained to her princess with an arrogant flip of her hair. "If you don't dwell on it, you won't feel it." At the time, Sailormoon wasn't in any mood to agree as she was feeling like a frozen Popsicle and it didn't matter to her why she was feeling like she was sitting in a freezer. However, after three days in the deserted system, she realized she didn't need air or heat, her Senshi form could take it and it was healing the wounds from her previous battles as well. She didn't know for how long the magick of this form would last, she didn't even know if she was alive or not, but she clung to the hope that her friends would come for her.
"Oh, Hotaru-chan," she whispered when the baby began to whimper upon waking. "How are we to get home again"
The baby looked at her in silence for a moment, as if it understood. Sailormoon sighed and gave the child a weak smile. For some reason, Hotaru began crying violently again. "Is there something on my face?" Sailormoon grumbled at the unhappy baby. But it didn't even pause to look at her this time and just cried more loudly.
"Sorry, sorry!" she amended as she began to rock it back and forth in an awkward manner. She didn't know how to do how to soothe a child in such a manner. Grandmother had tried to teach her once, but when she nearly dropped Shingo on his head, he was promptly removed from her small arms then. "Don't worry Hotaru-chan. I won't drop you on your head!" Sailormoon reassured the child. "I like you"
The baby gurgled at her, and for a moment Sailormoon thought she could make through this trial, so long as Hotaru was there with her. She was so very grateful for the other girl. However, that relief did not last long as Hotaru began to cry again, all the tears Sailormoon no longer had the strength to shed.
On the seventh day, Sailormoon was sure she didn't need food or liquid at least not for awhile. She didn't even feel faint or too weak to walk around. She thought she knew the terrain pretty well by now, at least the ones around her. She stopped crying on the fourth day when the headache from the crying forced her stop and she ran out of liquid to spare for tears. The environment was harsh, bare, and broken. The twin suns looked somewhat odd in her eyes because she was so used to having just one. They made a strange contrast, but it could not be helped and she feared that she was getting used to it.
She walked around aimlessly with a growing Hotaru on her back. For some reason, Hotaru seemed to be growing at an alarming rate. Already, in seven days even without food the child was looking less like a new born and more like someone at least one or two years old. Hotaru was also glowing, even though there was a slightly emancipated look to her. The child had started glowing a purplish haze on the first night and hadn't stopped glowing since. The symbol that had briefly graced Sailormoon's forehead whenever she was in Princess mode, pulsed under her tiara. Hotaru was no different, the sigil of Saturn blazed on her small forehead. Looking at the sight, Sailormoon questioned her and her fellow senshi's humanity as she had never done before, not since becoming one.
Could humans really endure what she was going through now?
It was during such a pondering that her foot knocked against a rock with her old clumsiness. She paused with a wince and looked down. What she saw made her jump far and away. The shell was crusted with dust and if Sailormoon didn't know better, she would have sworn that it was the same seeds she had seen the daimon revert back to upon defeat. Sailormercury had once retrieved the remaining fragments of such a thing, and had pieced the fragments together. They had stored away the evidence in a lock-box, one that had been opened specifically for the purpose of keeping the remains of their previously fought enemies.
'If Rei-chan sees me now, she'd scold me mightily for being such a coward.' Sailormoon thought nostalgically. Yet the egg just laid there, seemingly harmless. She grumbled to herself before taking out her scepter and setting aside Hotaru, giving herself enough space to do battle should it turn out to be a battle.
The familiar words of magick poured out of her, and for a split second she felt as if she really wasn't alone in some foreign galaxy. Instead, she was back home with her friends again, fighting evil to save Earth from destruction before going home. Yet, even though once she had felt resentment for having to shoulder such responsibilities as Sailormoon, she never felt such a weary distress. She had never really hated the fact she was who she was. When the light of her destructive powers disappeared, Sailormoon found herself standing on barren grounds, and utterly alone. The egg was smashed by her powers, shuddering and cracking open as she was used to seeing it react. Only this time, instead of revealing black shadowed smoke and emptiness, something sparkled beneath the ashes and the rays of the twin suns.
Carefully Sailormoon approached it, nudging it with her foot to see if it would jump at her. If asked later what drew her to investigate it, Sailormoon would have answered that it was fear. She would come to forget the curiosity that urged her on. She would not remember that her hands had been steady because she thought they had trembled slightly when she had reached for it. She would not remember that she had turned uncertainly once to ask for Hotaru's opinion of the matter, even though the child was too young to remember how to speak. All Sailormoon could remember clearly and truthfully, was the fact that she knew with a bone deep certainty that this might be her last hope home. So she picked up the rock with her gloved hand, and the world fell away.
Tsukino Usagi was someone who was used to sleeping through her history lesson. Osaka Naru would verify that when Usagi stayed awake for a history lesson, that would be when the world ended. It was, however, a bit difficult to fall asleep to one when it was like a reel playing in your head. Sailormoon did fall asleep once to it, after over-taxing herself with the rocks, but she discovered that it gave her such vivid and lively nightmares that repeating it was not something she would do if she could help it. Sailormoon would come to call the rock, Story Rock though had Sailormercury been there, it might have received a more dignified name. The first time Sailormoon was in contact with it, she wasn't quite sure what she did. It took her awhile to even get the hang of suddenly losing ground in the world she lived in.
It was obviously not built for a mind like her own to operate, at least not a mind that saw things linearly. Then again, beings like Pharoh 90, she was soon discovering, was far different than she had previously thought. Though the Story Rocks was just retelling parts of the planet's history, it made these beings frighteningly real. She was beginning to see them as more than daimon, and that scared her.
She wasn't sure how long she was gone or when she returned to the reality she left behind so suddenly. All she knew for certain was that she just had one of the most out-of-body experiences of her life, next to that time she died, that is. It was with that first stone, that spoke of a time of the prosperity of a planet called Redbud Blossom, when Sailormoon first began learning a bit more about her enemies on this side of the galaxy. She didn't know how the thing survived Sailorsaturn's destructive powers, but it did. The sun light made it glow a shade of red that gave the illusion that the black stone burned with an unseen fire. Sailormoon stared at it in fascination for quite awhile before she set it down. There was a lot to think over.
The Story Rock she found was one of many, scattered in the ashes of a dead planet. It was waiting. Sailormoon would later come to think that it was waiting for her to find it. The history in those rocks were waiting for her, so that they to tell their tale one last time.
One last tale for a race that was now extinct.
The beings that lived on the planet Redbud Blossom discovered millennia ago the power to manipulate time. It was not like Sailorpluto's powers, one limited by rules because of its power to change the past. Those of Redbud Blossom were governed by none of these rules, nor by sacrifices, because they did not possess the power to change what was done in the past. Instead, they ruled over the way time was ran. Time, to them, was something that one controlled, like the speed of one's car or the pace of one's walk. They couldn't go backwards, but they could slow the process of it or increase the speed by will. Some citizens of Redbud Blossom lived longer than even Sailormoon had thought possible, longer than she would have imagined empires had the power to live, or planets for that matter. Some lived in the blink of an eye and did things as she could only have dreamt of doing, even in that blink.
Things on Redbud Blossom were good, until the very trees that the planet was named after the source of such powers began to die. It was not because of anything really catastrophic. No aliens from outer space came to attack them. The people did not fight each other and were at peace. It was just the planet's time. The speeding and slowing by those that lived upon it might have aided in its gradual decline, but not by much. And so, new solutions were brought to the table on how to survive the death of their planet, and this time there was a need for sacrifices to be made.
It was a ritual of power. Those who were born with it, and who did not have the specified backings ordained by destiny, were doomed to die for the planet by the time they were old enough to control their gift. Mistress Nine was such a being. By the age of what Sailormoon would describe as one, the bein that possessed Tomoe Hotaru was able to speed her growth process in a way that others had to grow into at a later age. Mistress Nine was gifted amongst those with gifts. She had charisma, power, and so much more, but she was doomed to die.
Sailormoon saw that the being did not even mind it. Had thought it necessary because that was what it had been taught. Had been willing because it knew if it did not help pool its power into the planet, the people would die anyway. She was born in a desperate time, Mistress Nine, for unlike her ancestors who had died to preserve just the Redbud Blossom, one of the suns was beginning to fail. Mistress Nine was one of the many who were chosen, for the first time, to support both the dying sun and the dying planet.
It might have worked, had Professor Tomoe Souichi broke open the door between their two worlds the moment Mistress Nine gave up her physical form. The rest was history, really. Tomoe Hotaru was the one who was possessed by this being who no longer had a physical body, and Pharoh Ninety began his bid for Earth, a system lush with possibilities that their old planet was no longer able to maintain.
They needed to wipe out those inhabiting Earth to begin a new garden for their Redbud Blossom trees. They needed to reconstruct the time system upon Earth. They needed to survive. And so they called the new coming era the Era of Silence, in reverence of those who had been sacrificed before them to reach this point in time. It was then that the wars between daimon and the Sailor Senshi first began to take root. It was a race to see who was stronger, because the winner was the one who took home the prize of life.
Sailormoon found more and more of these rocks as the days passed by. She took to marking the rock Hotaru and her inhabited, marking what she thought were days by etching marks upon the brittle surface. Sixty-six marks later, one of the twin suns faded out. Sailormoon watched with alarm as the light of one sun snuffed out of existence in a two day period. She wasn't sure what went on or how stars died, but this was not a sight she expected.
Urgency and doom nipped at her heels as she stood rooted and watching the star fade. And then, it was like a black planet in the distance, hanging in the darkness. She wouldn't have known it was there had there not been another sun to shine upon the charred surface. Had there not been rivers of orange laced across the once bright star. And then, not long after that, even the embers died and cooled, and then there was one sun.
Hotaru had grown to the age of eight in seventy-one days. Sailormoon didn't know what to say to her when Hotaru asked her. "Is this home?" Though there was a light in those eyes that was more feverish than child-like and innocent. Still, Sailormoon had no answer for that question.
She clung to the hope of her friends coming for them. Day by day she would rise and see if they had gotten there, yet all she was greeted was the emptiness of space and the coldness of white, distant stars. She discovered that Hotaru had an obsession with the rocks. For hours, the child would sit there, holding the rocks and looking dazed and distant, her mind living the memories of another place, of another race. The numbers of the rocks diminished though. Pop, one by one they disappeared, sporadically.
When Sailormoon first discovered it, she thought they were being robbed. She was elated. Someone else was here! The blonde ran through the debris, calling at the top of her lungs. "Come back! Come back! Take all the Story Rocks you want! Come back!" She did it until she could no longer run, until her throat was hoarse and raw. Nobody came at her calling and when she went back to camp, she saw Hotaru holding onto fine ashes.
"What's that you got there, Hotaru-chan?" Sailormoon asked.
"Ashes," Hotaru answered. "The rocks are falling apart." In that moment, one of the rocks exploded before Sailormoon's eyes and made the exact popping sound she had heard. There was no one else but them. And their only link to getting home was getting destroyed, one by one.
On the eighty-sixth day, the last sun began to dim and Sailormoon decided it was time to explore once more. When she brought this up to the ten year-old Hotaru, the girl had simply looked at her with a blank-eyed stare. "You go," the girl had said. "I want to stay here and watch."
Sailormoon wanted to protest, but she didn't know what to say or how to convince this Hotaru to go with her. Once, Tsukino Usagi would have proclaimed that she trusted Hotaru very much, and once that person would have died for that Hotaru. Things weren't like that anymore though, things were different now. Even though she had raised this child, and watched her grow, Sailormoon could never really relate to the things she had heard her own mother say. "I know you best because I'm your mother," Tsukino Ikuko would proclaim in exasperation at her daughter's arguments. "When you lie to me, I know. When you're not well, I know. It's a sixth sense that mothers have. One day, Usagi-chan, you'll understand."
But she didn't. She didn't feel like a mother, even though she somewhat raised Hotaru from a babe. She didn't feel like she knew the girl better, instead she felt more estranged from the happy, smiling child that Chibiusa had loved so much. This was not the same girl as that time, nor was she.
She left with a backward glance at Hotaru
before departing. Already the girl had her eyes turned to the shadows,
white fingers clutching a rock. For what had felt like days, Sailormoon
walked from debris to debris, searching and finding nothing, not even
another Story Rock. She turned back after the eighth scratch and when
she returned, Hotaru was in the same position Sailormoon left her in.
"Still at it?" Sailormoon asked surprised. "That's unhealthy
Hotaru-chan. You should try something else"
Hotaru turned to her with a tilt of her head. "I didn't know you left," Hotaru answered. "It hasn't even been a day since you've been gone."
Sailormoon froze and a thought that Sailormercury would have suggested the thought in her head one-hundred and one scratches ago. "How long would you say I've been gone, Hotaru?" Sailormoon finally asked, clasping her hands together to keep them from trembling.
"No more than a second," Hotaru answered calmly.
"No more than a second?" Sailormoon echoed. "Oh no," she muttered to herself, clutching her head in disbelief. "Oh! Oh no!" Hotaru only watched her with a placid, eerie-eyed stare. "I think we're in a time-bubble, Hotaru-chan." Sailormoon finally declared once she was able to regain her composure.
Hotaru turned her eyes to the dimming sun, dark eyes glowing unnaturally in the light. "I know."
The blonde princess froze. "What?" she whispered.
"I know." Hotaru repeated in the same tone she had used the first time she said those words.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Sailormoon demanded in hysterics. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Hotaru looked at her with that same blank-eyed expression. "You didn't ask."
There was a long silence before Sailormoon could speak again without feeling like striking the child before her. "Are you in a time bubble too, Hotaru-chan?"
"Yes," the child answered.
"Are the rocks?"
"Why did you not tell me?" she asked again. This time the odango-blonde tried to sound more reasonable. "Our friends could come and try to save us and we wouldn't have..."
"But they didn't." Hotaru answered. "Do you realize how long we have been here, Sailormoon? If we have not waited in this time bubble, the wait would only have been longer. The people we used to know are probably long dead."
"How long?" Sailormoon demanded. 'How long have I been here? How long had it been?' but Sailormoon couldn't bring the rest of the words out of the pit of dread brewing within her.
"A sun has died," Hotaru answered. "Another is dying. Long enough." the dark-haired child said with a shrug of her shoulders.
"How can you act so care-free?" Sailormoon bit her lower lip in anger. "How can you?"
"They envied us," Hotaru said instead. "There was so much contempt and envy. They were dying, all of them. If it had been any other planet, if they had known about Mars or Venus or Jupiter, they wouldn't have had to die." Hotaru clutched the rock and in that moment, it turned to ash. "It's all disappearing, the story of this place. The uncountable lives are turning to dust and forgotten. Do you think we are forgotten too?"
"No! Not Rei-chan or Ami-chan. Not Mina-chan or Mako-chan. I want to see Chibiusa-chan and Mamo-chan again. I want to make sure Haruka-san and Michiru-san are no longer so sad. I want to say thank you to Setsuna-san, because she's always looking out for us even when we didn't realize it." Sailormoon fell to her knees and cried for the first time in a long time. "I want to say goodbye, at the very least. I wanted to say goodbye!"
"The sun's dimming," Hotaru observed. "There won't be light in a few more weeks."
"We were heroes, weren't we, Hotaru-chan?" Sailormoon asked as she grasped the child's shoulder. Hotaru was still outlined in a purple light, but the eyes of the child's were dull of it. Hotaru was like a doll again, a doll housing Mistress Nine so long ago. "We were heroes!"
Hotaru said nothing as she turned back to the dying sun. But Sailormoon wasn't looking at her anymore. There was no company to be kept, no understanding shoulder to cry on when it came to Hotaru, not anymore. "We are heroes," Sailormoon said. "We saved the world!"
Around them the debris of Redbud Blossom floated, and the dying sun star continued its descent into darkness.
Information dealing with what is known to most as the Tau System is from SweetUsagi, a faqs sheet of mistranslations gave me more ideas to build this story upon. The time bubble idea is based off of Orson Scott Card's book called A Planet Called Treason (a.k.a. Treason). I incorporated these idea together because I liked how SweetUsagi pointed out that Pharoh Ninety was from the fourth dimension, and her speculations gave fruit to some important points in the tale (like Hotaru's accelerated growth). When the story said that the people could not change the past, it did not mean they couldn't change you back to being a baby, they just can't undo the acts you have done in the past (like Pluto could do).
This is the second version of the tale. It is, in my opinion, not as good as the first. But, it can't be helped as my computer completely eradicated the first version. It was an interesting idea. Hoped it made the points I wanted to make and then some.