A Note to the Readers: All contents in this story is under an artistic
license. Fact and fiction will be clomped together into one huge blob. In
other words, don't bother me about debating whether some conversations in
this fanfic is truly based on fact... as Naoko Takeuchi has done many times.
Truth, after all, is an elusive thing! ^-~. Enjoy!

When All the Good Angels Sleep

"No te engano la primavera "Did spring never deceive you
con besos que no florecieron?" with kisses that didn't blossom?"

--Pablo Neruda
("The Book Of Questions")

"And I looked, and behold a pale horse:
and his name that sat on him was Death."

--Bible: New Testament
(Revelation 6:8)

The Ninth Sheep Named Death

"Crees que el luto te adelanta "Do you believe that ahead of you
la bandera de tu destino?" grief carries the flag of your destiny?"

--Pablo Neruda
("The Book of Questions")

"Death eats up all things, both the young lamb and old sheep"

--Miguel de Cervantes
("Don Quixote")

"Death has a way of making you see the light,
appreciate life, and contend with fear that
is now inescapable. Death is an end, a
beginning, and a mystery. Perhaps, that is
why we fear it. Because, of all things, Death
is the one thing we shall never be able to
grasp onto; a being that we can never tame
or overthrow; an entity that we must all bow
in defeat to, in the end. Death is a curse, a
confirmation of life and being alive, a waking
kiss from a wondering dream, an enigma, and
most of all... Death is what makes us human. Do
you fear that Serenity? Or do you fear, that
in cheating the great, inescapable claws of
Death you will become a being like no other, a
thing lonely in your origins, and alien to the
race of your birth? Is that why you welcome
him to your doorstep? Or is it because you
fear him, for he shall come hither and take you
away from life's embrace? Don't be frightened,
my Queen, for to fear Death is to fear humanity.
Or, is that what you are truly afraid of? For
the time when you will have the chance to look
Death in the face and laughed at his poor
attempts to win your heart and soul? Are you
afraid of him because you know, that in facing
him, you face the possibility that you no
longer fear him? That you're already alien to
the people of your birth, and that you are now
truly alone?"

--Sailor Senshi Pluto
("Letters To The Queen")

There was an insane light in the eyes of the woman far below her. The
shine was unnatural, that skin was too pale, and that smile... It was a
smile that spoke of finality, endings, and maniacal satisfaction. Why is
that woman smiling like that? That thing doesn't look like the girl that
she once knew and called a friend, instead, the woman looked insane. Not
like the calm, calculating look that had been on that same face years ago
when the other had been possessed. No, this was different, that was

Whispered words unheard because of the great distance between them was
still not great enough to mask those blank, unfeeling eyes and that cold,
cold smirk. For once, she wished that her eyesight were not heightened by
her senshi powers, combined with the pulsing presence of the crystal in her
hands. She shivered under the crimson sky. Somewhere, someone was
laughing, a despairing and defiant laughter that was carried by the wind to
her all too sensitive ears. The stars around her glittered, jewels
suspended all around her in the turmoil-filled atmosphere,
seemingly unmoved and untouched by the wind. She had not acknowledged their
existence, not since she saw that blank look on the face of the man beneath
her feet, not since she recognized that diabolical glitter in the strange
woman's eyes. And now there was that maniacal laughter...

Glancing around, past the shine of the lights, she found the
source. But she did not have time to contemplate the whys or the hows,
instead, a sparkle caught her attention from the corner of her eye and she
turned once more to the strange woman below.

The mantra, unheard, continued to fall from those silent lips like rain.
The air vibrated with power as the curved blade rose into the air, and the
white edge shone in a dull and bloody color -- a reflection of both the
Earth and the heavens. The silence smothered over lands and the
pounding chaos, and though she could sense the darkness before her, and
could hear the echoes of that laughter cut off abruptly by that
suddenly suffocating pressure, and though the stranger beneath her was
really no stranger at all, she could not take her eyes from the blade
beneath the crimson skies. The tension built and was shattered as gravity
pulled down the curving back of the strangely beautiful and deadly steel,
magick pulsated, sending ripples into the air and then... the world broke
like glass as the white blade, washed in blood of both life and death
smashed into the Earth.



Thump, thump.

Death is not the answer.

* * *

She had felt it. When that power rushed out of her body and a washed the
streets. In that moment she had felt it like a needle hitting her arm and
awakening her senses with pinpoint precision, only it was not on her arm but
deep within her belly that the sensation bloomed and came to life. That
feeling in the pit of her stomach was like a waking, as if something was
stirring within her, calling to her. Her hand moved over the flat surface,
not understanding how a moment changed so much and yet nothing at all.
Hiding her actions by tugging onto her shirt as a nervous action, she caught
Mamoru studying her from the corner of her eye before she turned to him and
gave him a reassuring smile, trying to break the sudden tension that had
settled. They had finally gotten away from everyone to spend some last
moments alone and she was determined that he would not ruin this as it
was possibly the last romantic moment they'd ever have a chance to share
with each other before the battle's end.

"What is it, Usako?" Oh, that man just had to be concerned, didn't he?
Usagi thought with more irritation than she was willing to show. Why when
they could die in about an hour from now -- the scheduled time to go out and
fight their new enemy -- and all he could think about was the stupid enemy!
What happened to saying goodbye? What happened to enjoying the peace while
it lasted? What happened to hugs and kisses and reassurances? But no! He
just had to open his worrywart of a mouth and shoot it off with concern!

So maybe she was being slightly unreasonable at this moment, but she was
so nervous that she felt that urge to grab the nearest edible thing and start
to nibble on it to soothe the pounding in her chest! Well, food might not
soothe her heart but it would be a quick remedy to the unease in her tummy!
Which reminded her why she was nervous in the first place and when she
remembered that she was in a panic, again.

In fact, Tsukino Usagi had never been so nervous about anything in her
whole life! She had been hoping earlier that she would have had time by now
to drag Ami aside into some small, dark corner and force the other to
personally scan her with the mini-computer to be sure before Usagi had to
face her boyfriend, but alas, an enemy appeared. Even after they had beaten
the bad guys off for just a little bit longer, the blue-haired woman had
obviously been in no condition now to worry about whether or not her
princess was... Oh, can't even process the thought! Usagi gulped. How will
I ever find the courage to tell him? Everything had been going wrong since
that stupid youma showed up at her school and ruined her life! She had been
so busy since that incident that she almost missed the feeling the first
time, the morning after her date with Mamo-chan... her thought trailed off
as she blushed at the memory of that night by the sea-side. Amazingly
enough, Minako had not yet picked up the vibes though Usagi was sure the
other had been slightly suspicious when she had announced her engagement, if
Minako did have a clue she had obviously been too preoccupied herself to
make a mention of it to anyone because discretion was certainly not a
quality that her blonde friend possessed!

Stupid youma! Usagi cursed the ugly, black beasts again in her mind. I
was so happy before you showed up, but no! Some idiot just had to go, and
try to take over the world again, didn't they? Some supposed "villain" just
had to go and try to ruin my and everyone else's happiness, didn't they?
Mou! This was getting really annoying! For a while she had actually
thought that the bad guys had finally learned their lesson not to mess with
the Sailor Senshi team, but now they were back and more a pain in the
you-know-where than ever before!

Mamoru, mean while, watched his girlfriend with an amused expression
while a variety of emotions fluttered across Usagi's face at that one
simple question. He was getting slightly worried, but the comical way she
was portraying her frustrations lightened his heart and he was glad they had
at last some time alone. Of course everyone seemed to have understood and
left them to their own devices. This was, after all, a suicide mission and
there are just some things that one needed to do and to say to a loved one
in private. What amazed him slightly was that Usagi had been silent and
slightly distant this whole time. She was sitting next to him but did not
cling to his arm, as she was accustomed to do.

Watching his girlfriend take a deep breath and closing her eyes as if to
calm herself, alarmed Mamoru more than anything else. Usagi was acting so
out of character today, so much more mature and responsible than before that
Mamoru wasn't sure what to make of it. Sure, he liked the change, but he
missed the girl who made him laugh like no one else could, the girl who
brought exuberance with her wherever she went, he missed that side of her
because that was the girl he fell in love with. He certainly hoped that she
would never lose that energy that he had been lacking in his own life for so
long, but it didn't really matter, Mamoru realized. His features softened
as he gently set a hand on her shoulder, silently communicating to her his
support. It didn't matter how she changed or how she would act, Usagi would
always remain Usagi to him because their love would remain as strong, if not
stronger with every passing mile of this seemingly, unending adventure.
Well, what else did he expect with the princess of the Sailor Senshi as
his girlfriend anyway? And it wasn't as if being a prince made it any easier
when it came to finding some real peace and quiet.

"Mamo-chan..." she trailed off as she looked at him with serious,
crystal-blue eyes. There was a hint of doubt in her voice and he felt as if
he needed to put her at ease because whatever she would tell him in these
next few moments, he had a feeling that it would be extremely important.

"Usako," he smiled, "do you know what was the first thing I thought when I
first saw you on the streets those years back?"

She looked wearily at him then, "Odango-atama?" She answered dryly, but
he could see the lines in her shoulders softening and feel her muscles become
more lax beneath his palm.

Laughing, he shook his head in denial at her unenthusiastic answer, "No,
that was the second thought in my head." She gave him a sarcastic look that
said something along the lines of "Oh joy!" before sighing and planting her
chin in her hand, giving him whatever time he needed to answer her unspoken
question as well as her full attention. "I thought this girl is going to be
something constant in my life for a long time."

"Hontou ni?" Usagi brightened and that old sparkle came into her eyes.

"Aa," he answered and looked out to the glass panel walls of the building
across the street from where they sat. The reflective surfaces were turning
red with the glow of the setting sun. "But then you threw that test paper
at me and right in my face, too! Of course, with that grade I immediately
thought of odango-atama. It was, I believed at the time, a very logical
conclusion." Usagi punched him on the arm for that, scowling. But she
smiled in the end because she couldn't help herself nonetheless, ruining the
image of her indignant anger. "I don't think I ever regretted that, no
matter how much we got on each other's nerves," he admitted when she settled
more comfortably next to him.

"Which do you mean, the odango-atama or meeting me?" He laughed but she
continued with a teasing light in her eye, "Minako-chan calls what we had
before, love-tension, and Haruka-san said something along the lines of us
not getting laid." Usagi replied with that same weariness as before but
there was laughter in her voice as she remembered those words coming out of
the arrogant blonde's mouth and Mamoru detected the pain underneath her
smile as well.

"Trust Haruka-san to be blunt, to-the-point, and unnecessarily graphic,"
Mamoru joked, trying to lighten her mood and for a long time they were both
silent, lost in their own thoughts and memories of the past both near and
distant. "I love you, Usako," he said at last, breaking the silence. It
was rarely he, who did this, to speak before her or confess his feelings so
openly, but like Mamoru had already said, no regrets. "I know we confessed
this to each other before, but I want you to know how much I mean it," he

Usagi smiled up at him before looking down at her hand, her eyes wandering
to the engagement ring on her ring finger. Rei had given her a quizzical
look when they had settled down, but Usagi was sure Minako would fill the
other in on the "big news" and whatever else Minako thought would be a great
story to exaggerate while Rei had been out of the loop. Of course, Usagi
had no doubt her friend would dramatize ever detail and blushed at what her
blonde friend might say about her relationship with Mamoru in her absence.
Well, if the other got out of line, Usagi always had trusty Rei to violently
bring Minako back into reality and besides, Makoto and Ami would be
there to correct whatever half-truth the leader of the Sailor Senshi team
would tell.

Her gaze once again focused on the promise wrapped around her finger. She
remembered in that moment all the times Mamoru was there for her, the good,
the bad, and even the ones that others might have considered mediocre and
mundane. She smiled at them all, even the ones that had once caused her
endless tears. "Mamo-chan," she began again and this time there was no
hesitation in her voice. "When this is all over, I think Chibiusa-chan
would love to hear about it."

The dark-haired prince blinked, surprised at her words and slowly, his
free hand began to shake before he reached out and steadied it as he covered
hers. "Y-you don't mean," he whispered in a gasp of disbelief.

"Yes, Mamo-chan," she looked up at him then with a smile so filled with
love and happiness that he was all but speechless, helpless but to hear her
answer to his unspoken question. "I'm pregnant."

* * *

It's got to be here! Frantic fingers flew over keys as the urgency
pressed into her head, pressing passed her skull and onto her brain. The
pressure began to build within, pounding bit by bit behind her searching eyes
and making her temples throb. It has to be here! Mizuno Ami hardly ever
panicked, at least, not in the sense of one of those mindless, breathless
ones that were filled with unease. Along with a blinding headache that she
knew was coming her way if she pushed herself any further, she could not
stop her heart from pounding as a million possibilities and scenarios
flashed inside her head, endlessly distracting her. But she couldn't help
it, she couldn't stop herself and she was certainly ready to explode if she
didn't push herself further.

Kino Makoto glanced down at her nails and thought to herself, that after
all her battles, this might be her last. Looking down at her jagged-edged
nails, she frowned. "I can't believe I'm going to die without one decent
manicure." Makoto muttered humorously, glancing over at the maniacal
expression on Ami's face and sighed when she realized that the other wasn't
listening. It had been five minutes since her last comment, and she had
definitely given up trying to get her blue-haired friend to pay attention to
her by calling the other's name. However, that didn't mean she couldn't
continue to try to make the other smile. Just one little smile and Makoto
would have accomplished her task so that she could go down to her grave
peaceful and happy. One little smile, was that too much to ask for? If the
other would just stop acting like the world would end if her fingers just
paused for a second, then Makoto would go on her merry way. She might
even indulge herself and enjoy the last hour of her life with maybe a piña
colada if she could locate a bar or some decent coffee if she could locate a
cafe, anything but stand here and be useless, even worse, totally ignored!

Alas, it was hopeless. Her duties to be a supportive friend overrode all
else. Anyway, Ami was making her worry. The girl hadn't looked normal
since that message, and even after Ami had let herself go for just a little
while during their merry chase around the block, the other had immediately
reverted back to this lunatic reclusion the moment she was able to slip off
unnoticed. And that was how Makoto found her. Here, in the middle of an
alleyway, sitting on a trashcan and typing as if she wasn't on planet Earth

"It has to be here!" Ami screeched out halfway through and threw her
mini-computer harshly at the blind wall opposite.
The little machine bounced off of the wall with a crack before
falling onto the cement walkway. Makoto watched all this after the
outburst had dragged her out of her own thoughts with a shocked expression
on her face. Her mouth gaped open at her friend who was currently
raking nervous fingers through short blue hair that was now, unusually


Azure eyes blinked as the other turned to see her, surprise written all
over those delicate, almost elven like features. Yup, Makoto thought to
herself, I was so definitely not alive in the last twenty so minutes that I
was breathing next to her. Ami sighed slowly, hopped off of the trashcan
and tiredly bent over to pick up her mini-computer that immediately came
back online at her touch. "I'm sorry you had to witness that," Ami said at
last, her voice calmer and quieter than usual. "Everything is fine."

One big, fat lie coming your way on a silver platter!

Makoto narrowed her eyes, concerned for once about someone else other than
herself in the past few days. How long has it been since she actually
worried about someone while not including her own self pity during the act?
How long since she cared enough to reach out to a friend without worrying
about how she might hurt them by being in their presence?

Must have been a while, Makoto mused dryly. Though, by the looks of
things, Ami hadn't noticed that either since she had been distracted
enough to probably walk straight into her fist if she were but to stick it
out while the other was pacing around. Admittedly, Makoto herself had been
selfish these past few weeks, but she had never lied so openly nor was she
ever that distracted! "If you've considered taking lying up as a new
profession, I seriously suggest you try to find another, or at the very
least, think of a better reply than that!" There was more edge to her voice
than she had intended but the brunette shrugged it off, too perturbed and
annoyed to care overly much. Whatever made Ami snap was not something that
was just "fine".

"It was nothing," the other waved away her unease much to Makoto's
vexation as Ami combed her free hand through her rumpled hair, another
unconvincing lie.

"Keep that up and I'll be royally pissed in five minutes," Makoto warned
her through clenched teeth. As if I'm not already, Makoto thought

"You wouldn't understand," Ami replied automatically.

Hell, that girl seems to be on automatic this whole day! Act normal,
click on computer, smile, and nod head. Everything about the usually warm and
gregarious blue-haired woman had become mechanical today. In fact, the
other had it down to a science! "Ami-chan," Makoto's voice was so deadly
quiet that even Ami looked at her sharply, "I'm not joking."


Mechanical reply.

"I know."

Makoto blinked. That wasn't what she was preparing herself to hear.
"Then why the hell are you doing this to yourself, Ami-chan? We can help! Why
didn't you tell us about this Core guy that you knew?" Makoto might have
continued but the look on Ami's face at the mention of the man's name made
her pause. "What is he to you, anyway?"

"My mentor," Ami replied. This time it was mechanical.

"Bullshit!" Makoto slammed her fist onto the wall next to her, making Ami
jump slightly and wince at the action. If she had been in her senshi form,
Makoto might just have created a new peephole; only it would not have been a
very effective peephole since it would be around the size of her fist.
"Tell the truth because telling me lies is only making this conversation
longer than it should be."

"Why are you here, Mako-chan?"

Mizuno Ami's tactics number two: change the subject.

Growling, Makoto could feel her patience slipping. "Why do you think I'm
here Ami-chan?" She began to yell and even though Makoto knew this wasn't
the best way to get through to her friend, she was getting desperate. With
every passing moment in the presence of Ami-the-machine, Makoto was getting
more and more uncomfortable. "I'm you friend and I'm worried about you!
We're going out there and we're probably not coming back, hell, we're
probably going to die Ami-chan! And instead of enjoying your last moments
on Earth, you're here! In an alleyway! On a trashcan! And being pissed
out of your mind while not telling a damn soul about what is wrong... and
damnit, this is getting fucking old!"

Makoto's voice echoed down the alleyway when she was done and Ami remained
silent for a long time. "Maybe you should go and enjoy your last moments on
Earth instead of being here with me, Mako-chan," Ami told her through a
forced smile. Yet there was a glitter on the corner of those eyes and
Makoto reached out then and pulled the smaller woman into her arms.

"Friends don't do that," Makoto answered her softly.

Ami's small hands fisted and Makoto felt the other girl tense before
relaxing in her embrace. "I don't know if I can face him like this,
Mako-chan," she said at last. "Not when I don't know who he is or which
side he's on. I know I'm the logical one, the smart one, and I have been
doing everything in my power to make everyone happy. Minako-chan's right,
I don't know anything about this man and yet, I trusted him so much!" There
were tears soaking into Makoto's shirt as the brunette looked at the red,
sunset skies. "I trust him even now, and I just can't stop no matter how
logically my mind is working!" The small wailing sounds and the shaking
shoulders gave away how deeply this had hurt Ami, it gave away how much the
other hated it and how helpless Ami was against the feelings that ran
throughout her own body, clouding the mind they had all come to depend on so

I was here once too, Makoto thought. I was lost like this once and I
still am lost. Even after all that I have gone through, standing at the
crossroads that she is now standing at, I still don't know what to say.
After everything that had ever happened to me, every pain and every
heartache, I still don't know what it is that is the best thing to say right
now, Makoto realized. If Ittou Asanuma -- the man who believed in her --
were here, he would know what to say and what to do. In the rain when her
heart was broken, what had he said to her on that fateful day? Something
about how 'even the rain will stop falling, someday, Makoto-san.'

"Even the rain will stop falling... ka?" Makoto whispered to herself,
tasting the words on her tongue. It tasted bittersweet, melting away like
chocolate and morning mists.

"Wh-what did you say, Mako-chan?" Ami asked through a sniffle, but there
was genuine curiosity in the other's voice that had been hollow but moments

"Something someone said to me a long time ago," Makoto told her with a
smile and stepped back, but her hands were still on Ami's shoulders when she
looked into slightly reddened eyes, noting the pale skin that was now puffy
from the tears. "When this is over, Ami-chan, maybe you two should have
coffee or something, and talk it over. You've known each other for years
now, right?" Ami nodded stupidly, bewildered at the other's suggestion.
"So, it'll be like getting to know an old, lost friend, right?" Again the
nod, and Makoto smiled brightly at the other. She hadn't felt this good
since the youma at their school had shown up and ruined everything, even now
the thoughts of the past couldn't cloud her lightened spirits. "Maybe
you'll even find out that you two have a lot of things in common," Makoto
winked. "And who knows, you might just have won yourself a boyfriend." At
this Ami turned bright red and began to splutter protests through fumbling,
embarrassed words. "Baka," Makoto teased. "Now I know you like him for

If possible, Ami blushed harder than ever. "Ma-Mako-chan!"

This time it was laughter that echoed down the alleyway that became empty
when the silence settled over once more.

* * *

"I can't believe I'm stuck here with you," Fuma groaned as he slouched
onto the bar.

"It was the truth," Hiketsu shrugged, knowing exactly why Fuma didn't want
to be "stuck" with him. "She would've found out sooner or later. And might
I remind you, if you haven't noticed, your stunt with the claw going through
your chest didn't help."

"How did you know about that anyway? I thought you and your girlfriend
didn't arrive until later." Fuma snorted, unwilling to admit defeat.

"Her name is Rei, and Minako-san informed Rei-chan who informed me
earlier," Hiketsu shrugged to hid his own annoyance with the other man. Not
feeling obliged to explain anything else to Fuma, Hiketsu reached out for
the glass next to him and drank some of his water. The distinct, uneasy
feeling from the massive unrest and chaotic emotions that were radiating
from the city outside was making Hiketsu feel slightly nauseous.

Fuma still muttered under his breath but Hiketsu simply ignored the other
as he silently watched Rei and Minako swing between bickering and chatting
amicably. It wasn't like the two men had much to say to each other, and
anyway, there was enough noise as it was coming from the girls in front of
them. "Usagi-chan's engaged," Minako announced cheerfully all of a sudden
to her best friend who was sitting across the table from her.

"Really?" Rei asked, her narrowed eyes widening as the raven-haired miko
perked up at the news. That explains the ring, the dark-haired woman
thought to herself happily. "So, Mamoru-kun finally got up the nerve to pop
the question, huh?"

"Not just that, from the look on her face when she told us," Minako
trailed off with a furtive giggle. "I think he got up the nerve to do a lot
more than that. So that means they probably fogged the windows, if there had
been any since he did propose on a beach--"

Thus the argument began as Usagi had predicted earlier, though Minako
didn't get the chance to get really graphic before her best friend
interrupted her. Rei had annoyance written clearly on her face as she
frowned at her best friend's comment, "M-Minako-chan!" The dark-haired
woman exclaimed, "I really didn't need to know that!" She hissed, eyes
glaring at the blonde before her.

"Oh, you're such a proper-pooper, after all, you know what they say: in
love, there is always one who offers the ring with foggy windows and free
kisses!" Minako proclaimed proudly, her eyes already beginning to glaze
over. "I think it's absolutely romantic!" The blonde added with a dreamy

Rei sighed in exasperation before she glared down at her friend, "The
correct quote is, 'In love, there is always one who kisses and one who
offers the cheek'. And what do you mean by me being a proper-pooper, you
baka?" Rei demanded as she leaned over the small, cafe table at the other
woman causing the ice to rattle in their glass cups. "I, at least, have the
decency to know that talking about our friend's sex-life is a no-no."
Minako's pout turned into a grin as blue eyes peeked up at the other through
blond lashes. It was an expression that seemed to say, "Got you!" The
blonde flipped back the golden locks of her hair as she leaned her arm
against the back of her chair and studied the raven-haired miko, not at all
fazed. "Well?" Rei demanded again.

"You're the one who mentioned sex, Rei-chan." was Minako's smug reply.

Rei blinked in surprise at this, caught totally off guard, before she shot
a glare at her blonde friend. A flush of indignant anger flashed through those
purple eyes as Minako ruined her whole clever ploy by bursting into a
series of helpless giggles as Rei all but loomed over her with her with
annoyance, not appreciating how she was being made fun off. "Y-you, you
should see the look on you-your f-face!" Minako sputtered.

"B-Baka!" Rei growled out angrily, wanting to do Minako some serious,
bodily harm as her fingers curled into fists.

"I can't believe you're dating a high school girl," Fuma teased Hiketsu at
that exact moment, having nothing else better to do then. "Aren't we a
little bit of a closet ecchi, eh, eh, Kagemi-san?"

Hiketsu didn't even twitch at the question, "I'm still younger than you."

Fuma though, did twitch at the comment, "Ha ha ha," he barked off a fake
laugh, "What a snob." He muttered.

Hiketsu raised one brow of amused irritation as he rose smoothly from his
place at the bar and walked over to Rei, gently setting a hand over her.
The dark-haired miko immediately stopped flailing her arms around in
frustration at the giggling Minako. Well, Rei still wanted to mutilate her
friend a little but that could wait. "We need to talk," Hiketsu told her

Nodding as uncertainty and curiosity flashed in her eyes, she turned to
Minako who had stopped laughing only long enough to look from her to Hiketsu
in curiosity. Before the blonde woman could make another sly comment, Rei
aimed her finger at her warningly, "No spying or," pulling her finger back
as if she were pulling the trigger of a gun, the miko grinned at Minako with
an unnaturally threatening smile. "I'll make it burn, again." Rei warned
as she hitched her thumb over her shoulder casually.

Instinctively, Minako grabbed onto her golden locks and glared at her best
friend, all of her earlier humor disappearing completely from her face.
"You wouldn't!" Minako growled.

"Try me," Rei winked and then walked away with a slightly amused Hiketsu,
leaving behind a totally curious Fuma.

"What did she mean by that?" Fuma asked as he slid into the chair that
Rei had been occupying when she wasn't towering over the table.

"Oh, it was in the beginning, one of the few times back then when
Rei-chan and I were still competing." Minako explained absent-mindedly, her
chin in her hand and her face strangely nostalgic. "Well," she laughed
slightly, "it was more like I was competing with her." Fuma did not ask this
time why. "At the time, I was still getting used to the idea that Rei-chan
wasn't just a stuck-up, proper, and beautiful snob... everything I wasn't
then." Minako sighed sadly, "Everything I am not, now." Blue eyes looked
out into the open and Fuma felt her revealing a part of her heart to him,
the part of her that was insecure about her place in the world and with her
friends. "So one time, when Rei-chan and I were the only ones in the
vicinity of this rampaging youma, I was being really selfish and I was
reluctant to help. I thought, she can handle herself since she is just so
great, and anyway, there was this cute boy to save." Minako grin became
sheepish and had it been anyone else, they would not have detected the guilt
in her voice as she remembered the past. "By the time I put the guy at a
relatively safe distance and came back, Rei was sitting by a pile of ashes,
but she had broken her arm and twisted an ankle fighting. Not only that she
was protecting a passed-out, civilian girl that had stupidly gotten in the
way. I didn't realize how much I was putting at risk because I was
distracted during my duties then, and after that incident and a few others,
I realized, this hot-tempered priestess who would hide everything behind a
mask to everyone, even her friends, I want to like her and get to know her.
I want to be her friend, her best-friend, because no matter what or who
needed her help, she would protect them to the end if her duty and her sense
of honor called for it." Blond bangs fell over her eyes, and a weary smile
came over her lips, "She was everything I wasn't and I wanted to learn.
Needless to say, she took vengeance on me by burning off a good chunk of my
hair when she saw me and then purposefully ignored me over the weeks that
followed until her cast came off. I guess I deserved it, but
it took awhile to accept the fact that I was wrong, you know? That, and my
hair was a few inches shorter than I wanted it to be."

"Minako-chan," Fuma settled his hand over her own, giving her the comfort
that she needed when she looked up to him. "Everybody grows up someday,
some just had to do it faster than others, but that doesn't mean you have to
be like them and rush." Grey-violet eyes looked into her own as he smiled
at her with a seriousness that most people never witnessed before. "Growing
up is painful, and sometimes it is better to be a child for just a little

Minako smiled then at him with her blue, teary eyes. She tilted her head
to one side and studied him through her long lashes, "Thank you, Fuma." And
she meant it, glad to know that he would accept her sometimes silly and
outrageous antics with a smile and unspoken understanding.

"Now, how about some of that spying," Fuma inquired cheerfully. It
elicited a giggle out of the girl before him just as he had planned and
expected. "I'll give you some pointers," Fuma winked.

"And get my hair burned again?" Minako joked, "She'll be sure to make me
bald this time!"

"Never stopped you before, I'm sure." Fuma replied dryly.

Minako smiled and shook her head, "This time I think it's different."

"Dying of curiosity, aren't you?" He asked.

"Totally!" She exclaimed before a glint came over her eyes, "But I
thought you would want to spend some quality time with me now that we're...
alone." Stressing her last word, Minako leaned over the table and never broke
eye contact as she reached out.

Fuma gulped before a silly grin came over his face, "Well, now that you
pointed that out, I guess there are better things to do." He admitted,
lacing his fingers through with hers as he pulled them once again into his
world beyond the illusion.

* * *

"Do you think they're following us?" Rei asked, glancing furtively out
passed one corner.

Hiketsu laughed at her antics, "I don't sense Minako-san's presence."

"Minako-san?" Rei tested the sound on her lips and laughed, "Gosh, if she
ever becomes serious enough to be called that, I'd--"

"Be proud?" He was smiling when she turned to him, dark hair spilling
over one shoulder as she tilted her head to study him.

"I was going to say eat my shoes, but I guess yours is the less painful
option of the two." Rei grinned at him, glad to see that he hadn't
seriously changed over the years that they'd been apart. When Hiketsu
smiled, he looked so much younger, almost like the boy she once knew. Well,
maybe just a smidgen more handsome, but she wasn't about to admit that out

"Rei-chan," darkened eyes blinked up to him questioningly. "I wanted to
ask you this for a long time now, but I guess I never knew what to say then,
when we haven't seen each other in so long." He trailed off, and Rei
blinked, unsure if the tint of warmth in his cheeks was really a show of his

"Not that great at confessions are you, priest?" Rei joked, trying to
lighten the suddenly tense moment. "And I thought you had grown out of

"Do you love my brother?" Hiketsu asked, cutting her off. They both
blinked, surprised by his bluntness and now she was sure that he was blushing.

"I did once," she answered truthfully after a small pause when she
gathered both her thoughts and her courage, looking away nonetheless when she
answered because she was slightly embarrassed by this herself. "All the way
up to the point when I found out he was getting married."

"Will you ever stop?" His voice was deep and sad, too sad to have had the
question meant for her.

"No, I will never stop loving him." Rei admitted, "He was the first man I
ever trusted after Hino-san, and even after everything had happened, I
couldn't help but still love him. We had been kindred spirits for so long
that I couldn't stop thinking of him as one even when I denied him the title
for so long. When he had called again after Hino-san's... death... I guess,
I realized that it wasn't a feeling that I could make disappear simply
because I didn't want to admit that it was there." She did not need to look
over to Hiketsu to know how much her answer had hurt him, "But,
Hiketsu-kun," she turned her head then, looking bravely into his blue-gaze
too dark for day and too bright for night. "That doesn't mean I stopped
loving other people."

Her simple words caused Hiketsu to widen his eyes at her, and somehow she
felt like drowning in those eyes. Why hadn't she ever realized how
beautiful he was? She remembered the days spent under the summer sun and
autumn trees, remembered his boyish smiles and childish pranks. The
memories almost made her smile as she watched him standing before her. And
then she realized that yes, he resembled his brother but there were so many
other things that were so different between the two. "Rei-chan, are you
sure?" There was uncertainty in his voice now and he looked slightly taken
aback by what she told him.

"Have I ever been unsure?" She asked him, with a raise of her brow as if
to challenge.

Chuckling slightly at her reply, he set hesitant hands onto her shoulders;
still not quite sure himself about how comfortable she was with his
nearness. "I can wait if you're not sure, Rei-chan." Hiketsu told her with
his eyes in that deep and serious dark-azure shade.

She blinked up at him and felt her heartbeat increase, stepping forward
she held him in her embrace and it felt good to finally get this close to
somebody else, scary but good. It felt heavenly to have that feeling of
security that was so fleeting in her life. And if she ever admitted it to
herself, it felt especially good to know that it was someone she had always
trusted, though maybe, not always liked with all the rivalries they had
shared in their childhood. But Hiketsu had always been there when she had
no one else to turn to, he had always been there to lend a hand when she was
reaching out into the empty space, and she knew that if she let him, he
would always be there for her.

Warm arms wrapped around her tightly and she was submerged into him.

* * *

The first word that came into her mind to describe what she had seen was,
"Demon." Aqua blinked in surprise at her choice, startled but not

"Uranus?" Neptune inquired as they watched the silhouette of a man walking
from the flames. It was not a question seeking for answers about what she
had meant, but a question wanting to discover the source of her moods that
made the word slip so easily from between her own lips.

"I feel as if I'm in a dream," a soft voice uttered, interrupting their
silent communications as three pairs of surprised eyes fell onto Saturn.
She had been so quiet since Pluto's return that they didn't know what to
make of it and those were not the first words that anyone of them would have
imagined the raven-haired girl to utter.

"Is he an enemy?" The sandy-haired blonde asked, gloved fingers tapping
her chin in thought as they stood on the pile of rubble, waiting for the
other to reach them. Both helicopters were parked but a few meters away
from them.

"No," Neptune answered, glancing down at her mirror. "He is our new

Pluto looked grim as she watched the stranger approach and they saw that
in his arms he was cradling a body. "Oh, I hope that wasn't a victim he
killed," Uranus muttered. The Senshi of Wind was being distrustful of the
whole situation, not liking this vague, fortune-telling bit in the least.
She itched to return to Tokyo and fight alongside the others. Hell, she
wanted it so bad she'd even apologize for wanting to pound them the last
time they were together. Well, maybe not apologize, she thought with a
rueful grin. Maybe, punch Jupiter on the shoulder for the little incident
and make sure all of them, especially Neptune stay as far away from that
girl as possible. But what would she have to do to be in the same, damn
country with her princess, anyway? Was it too much to ask for? Because she
would do whatever it took, if given the chance, instead of going around in
circles in the outside world looking for some maniac she didn't even know!
Whatever it took except abandoning Neptune and Saturn to the fates of the
world, hell, she'd do it for Pluto too but she'd probably flat out refuse if
it were Pluto that asked her to leave Tokyo. "How the hell did he survive,
anyway?" Uranus demanded. "Are you sure we can trust him?"

All of this for one man! Uranus narrowed her eyes at his silhouette in
the distance. He was part of the cause of Saturn's change, or so she told
herself because if she thought hard on it, she might find that she was to be
faulted for it too. Her hime-chan was growing up and not into the woman
they had hoped, not into the woman with the glowing innocent eyes and big
dreams that once laughed and played with them. No, she was turning into a
soldier with a heart of stone, and those innocent eyes of a child had died,
swallowed by the black, death-like being inside her soul. And all of
this for the man in the distance, all of the sacrifices for the people of
Earth. Somehow, duty -- even the thought of it -- left a bitter taste in
her mouth, somehow she was not so enthusiastic about losing everything
because everything that had become important to her had changed and in turn,
changed who she was as well. Ten'ou Haruka, the alias of Sailor Senshi
Uranus, had taken a life of her own, and did not wish to put her adoptive
daughter's life on the sacrificial altar for mankind before that youma named
Fate. Instead, she selfishly wanted to protect those close to her, but she
was a Sailor Senshi, an Outer Senshi, and her pride made her stand tall
before the darkness while her heart broke within. And she stood tall, while
her fears grew and her concern for the dark-haired child stormed within her,
pulling at her honor and her belief in duty. It was only soothed by the
presence of her aqua-haired partner, who shared her burdens and her pain,
the woman who understood her shame and her love and her reluctance at all
that had occurred and all that would occur in the future.

"The mirror tells me that we're his ticket to Tokyo." Neptune's voice
broke through the sandy-blonde's thoughts and Uranus brightened at the
realization of what her companion was saying.

"Well, now that you mentioned... what are we waiting for?" Casting an
annoyed glance at the distant traveler, Uranus set a fist to her waist as
impatience was written all over her usually arrogant face. "Can't the
bastard move just a little faster? We're not going to stand here and wait
for him all day!"

Neptune sighed and Pluto smiled wearily at the two before her. Pluto's hip
still throbbed from the fall but she was glad that Alyssa's slap had not
left any noticeable bruising on her cheek, at least she would not have to
explain her disappearance to her already suspicious friends. It had been a
strange episode and she had a nagging feeling that Alyssa reacted
too calmly to her threats this time. Not that Alyssa was calm nor was that
alien-machine predictable, but there was something out of place about that
meeting that Pluto just couldn't quite put her finger on.

"They're here," Saturn's voice suddenly cut through them all in its eerie

"No, he's not! He's still a block away," Uranus complained, missing the
gist of the deadly warning.

Neptune's grip on the handle of her mirror tightened as aqua eyes closed in
concentration. "Submarine Reflection!"

A rumble from underground as light cast over the area around them and
soon agitated shadows rose from the rubble and the cement, emerging from
the cracks and the pores of the Earth and the city. "Oh, them." Uranus
nodded with a feral smile dancing upon her lips, acknowledging her earlier

"We should take care of them before our guest arrives," Neptune suggested
as she lowered her mirror, her own stance relaxing lazily as they surveyed
their new enemies. Every muscle leaked out the tension that had been felt
in the past few hours, the aqua-haired woman's body was now ready for combat
and the fluidity required for her attacks.

"Of course, I wouldn't want to come off as a disagreeable hostess right
away." Uranus replied dryly as she pushed back the sandy-blonde bangs,
raising her nose imperiously as a twinkle came over her eyes. "I promise to
take out the garbage and try not to leave too much of a mess, dear." Clear
blue eyes flirtatiously looked over to her aqua-haired partner.

"I know you wouldn't," Neptune replied with equal playfulness, a small
smile coming to her lips.

Surveying the youma that were appearing more and more, Pluto set a
concerned hand onto Saturn's shoulder, ignoring Uranus and Neptune's
cheerful banter. "Are you ready for this, Hotaru-chan?"

For a long while, the girl did not reply. White gloved fingers stretched
out one hand just as their opponents leapt at them and the two senshi before
them sprung into action so fast that several black bodies collapsed
immediately into ash before their enemies could even land. Pluto was frozen
in place as the Glaive materialized before her and Saturn pulled back her
arm, holding the weapon horizontally next to her body. The grim weapon was
taller than Pluto remembered, towering over the short girl while
those empty, cold eyes turned to her. "Death is always ready."

In that moment the little girl she had raised for the past few years was
gone and so was the soldier's shoulder from beneath her palm. Before she
could even blink, the other had already plunged into the heart of the enemy.
Uranus and Neptune jumped back startled, looking at each other
questioningly before turning to the wide-eyed Pluto. "What happened to
her?" the aqua-haired woman asked worriedly, fidgeting as her body hovered
between motherly anxiety and the need to protect Saturn from harm. Neptune
was obviously fighting every instinct to just jump into the fray and help
her little girl without listening to what Pluto had to say, but the senshi
in her stayed, wanting an explanation to appease her intellect.

"She definitely did not act like that, even when she was possessed by
Mistress Nine." Uranus muttered in agreement with her partner as Saturn
moved with unnatural speed. For once, the blonde was showing her own
growing concerns for the child they all helped raise together, the child
that had made them into the family that they lacked and found again in
each other. And right now, that same child they all loved was becoming more
and more lost to them right before their eyes. There was nothing they could
do, nothing if they were to remain true to their cause. Arches of
silver light cut through the air and wherever Saturn went, Death seemed
to be beckoning to the darkness of her enemies at her purple-booted heels,
taking all those that had fallen.

"It's too late," Pluto said regretfully at last. Her hand was still
hovering where Saturn had been before she had moved away, "She has chosen
her own destiny."

"I won't let her fight her demons alone!" Uranus growled and leapt after
her daughter, refusing to let Saturn fight alone and shoving aside her own
unease to think upon later, doing what Neptune forced herself not to do.

"We can do nothing?" Neptune asked as Pluto raised her own staff and
tensed her muscles, ready to leap away at a moments notice.

The aqua-haired senshi's voice made her pause in her motion and apologetic
eyes saw the side profile of Neptune's face, whose eyes were only for Saturn
now. "I'm sorry, Michiru, but it is still her choice."

A bitter smile curved over those poetic lips but Neptune's eyes could not
be seen from where Pluto stood. "I never told her how proud I was of the
woman she was becoming," before Pluto could answer Neptune had gone after
her love and the child she had already lost to the winds of fate, wielding
her "Deep Submerging," as she went, cleaving a path of light in the

Pluto sighed again and shook her head, this was not the future she had
hoped for but there was nothing else she could do, the wheels that she had
set in motion would not stop because of her own hesitation, it was too late
for that now. Clutching her staff, she dove into the fight, slamming the
butt of the garnet rod down into the ground as she uttered the words of
power. Dead Scream radiated outwards as Pluto exercised control over the
power she so rarely wielded unless in dire need, and though she would be
ashamed to admit it to herself, she was using the battle as an outlet for her
own frustration, letting the adrenaline of the hunt and the kill overtake her
senses. She was at heart, after all, a Senshi and would always be a senshi
in her twisted, old soul that would not and could not rest till that day in
the future when her duties were finally fulfilled.

There was no other way out of the one path she picked from the thousands of
possibilities for the building of Crystal Tokyo. At the time, the decision
had been so simple. At the time, when Lady Charolet had first made her
appearance with her wayward clone of a brother from space, when the residues
of Serenity's magick had ebbed from the Solar System and Earth was getting
back on her feet again, at that time, the sacrifices did not seem so
difficult as now. But the twists and turns that had taken her here
had left her somewhat unready for the choices that she had to make. Now, no
longer so young as those centuries ago and a lot wiser, she had seen many of
the mistakes she had made along the way. Not just that, the repercussions
of those actions and how they could turn everything upside-down was making
it totally wrong.

Fighting became automatic as she twisted and turned wearily from the
sharpened claws and teeth. Blurry motions that her senshi speed allowed her
had made it easier for her, but it tired her also having not
used the magick required for it for so long. "Rusty," she muttered as the
garnet rod came up just in time to parry an attack that she could have
easily avoided without having to make contact years ago.

There were still many things she had to make sure went right, but the
countless little mistakes she had made along the way were snow-balling into
one error too great to avoid. This will be the death of me! Pluto thought
to herself darkly as she twisted away from another swipe aimed at her heart
before retaliating with a powerful attack of her own. Funny how the
seemingly easy tasks of sacrificing a few lives for the future had seemed so
much simpler in the past, that is until she had to start raising the knife
to plunge it down.

Too many unknown anomalies that had gotten in her way, she admitted. Some,
she had not even foreseen. It was, still, part of the job at least and
Pluto was sure she could handle it.

It was in that moment that Uranus' "Demon" arrived and upon looking at him,
Pluto's stomach sank lower as she raised her staff again to block an attack
from another youma that had gotten closer than it should have.

Damn it, I should've known! Pluto swore silently as she saw the throb of
red in the wires that marred the right eye of Core, I should've known that
Charolet was acting too damn smug and letting the whole matter drop too
easily. Pluto's eyes widened in surprise at whom Core was holding in
his arms. It was the body of Kalic, the man who had agreed to Pluto's
request of a favor those years ago when he had first became a potentially
brilliant scientist. The man had been Core's only barrier to his true self
and now, Pluto could see that the other was quite dead. Charolet's mark on
him was clear, for on his chest she had tattooed her signature circuit that
probably controlled him till his last breath, broadcasting an unending
stream of messages out in search of Core's location. It was probably that
same signature that kept the man from turning into the youma that they were
now fighting.

Pluto admitted her gravest error then as she watched Core lash out at the
armies of darkness without so much as a blink of an eye or the lift of a
finger. Brother and sister were both powerful beings, intelligent and
filled with a brute strength that their human-like stature belied. Ruthless
and cunning, when the two had first arrived on Earth, she had considered
eliminating them on sight, as well as the group they traveled with. She had
almost succeeded had their hive-like nature not overcome her powers. For
the group, as a whole, had outsmarted her even though at the time they were
too weak to defend themselves from her. Rebuilding their leader and the
second-prototype that was to become known as Core, they had made brother and
sister independent of the hive and died protecting them, making sure that
Pluto was too late in her coming to stop the two from surviving on their

She had tried and as a last desperate act, she had taken the "egg" out of
Charolet's reproductive coding and hidden it into the corridors of time. A
mistake in that when she had stopped Time those years ago to save Neptune
and Uranus from the helicopter explosion, the "egg" had fallen out into the
Time Stream and grew into a man. She could not retrieve him for it would
have been impossible to do so without killing him and unleashing the
information he carried into a universally-wide broadcast that Charolet would
have heard for sure! So she could only hope to locate him and make sure
that Charolet, now going by the name of Alyssa Smith, would not find him.
Only he disappeared a while back during the turmoil of the epidemic.

Pluto grimaced when she realized that when she had been unable to decide
who to protect from Charolet, the woman had gone and slowly but surely,
found her way to both. If Pluto was lucky, Alyssa's "egg" died with the
rest of the human population before Alyssa could have found him, if Pluto
was very lucky that is. If the first key was lost than Alyssa would be
unable to obtain her ultimate goals. Then, the dangerous game that she and
the alien woman played would at last be over and she would come out

If that were the case then Pluto would have one less thing to worry about.
Yet she acknowledged, while she watched Core walk towards them without so
much as a blink of his mechanical eyes, while the youma beings were unable
to even get near enough to scratch him, that she had seriously
underestimated Charolet's abilities, hers and her brother's, both.

The other had woken Core -- brother and clone -- the second key to Alyssa
Smith's ultimate Utopia.

* * *

"Do you think anyone noticed that Mamoru-kun had changed into Endymion a
while back during the battle?" Luna asked her companion out of the blue.

Artemis blinked, "He did?"

"I guess no one else noticed but me before he detransformed. If anyone
else did, no one had time to comment with so many things going on," the dark
cat was thoughtful about this. "I'm going to mention it at our next meeting
if I can."

Artemis nodded sagely and kept quiet. A comfortable silence settled around
them and the white cat was halfway to dreamland before Luna interrupted.
The dark cat lazily tapped her tail against the cement ground, feline ears
twitching every once and again as she studied her charge and the girl's
fiancé from afar. "Do you think that she ever notices that I'm not there
anymore, Artemisu?"

The white cat glanced at her through sleepy blue eyes before he yawned,
waking from his nap. He had hoped that the earlier scene with his Sailor
Senshi had been nothing but a nightmare but now he knew everything was back
to the old days of battles and monsters, much to his disappointment. He
raised a brow at Luna's fretting but then again, he understood since he had
been wondering about the same thing with Minako. The girl seemed to have
found herself a boyfriend, much to Artemis' disapproval. At the thought of
Kuragari Fuma, Artemis' frown deepened.

"I guess she had to grow up someday, ne?" Luna sniffled at the fond
memories of the past, missing Artemis' worried frown. She sounded like she
was trying to comfort her own doubts.

"You're beginning to sound like a mother who has sent away her kittens,"
Artemis grumbled uncomfortably, not really sure how to deal with an
emotional Luna once he dragged himself away from the thoughts of the man
dating Minako. Hell, he was starting to sound like a possessive dad
himself! Artemis glanced over at his companion, more used to her whacking
him with her claws, beating him up with them or even yelling at him. He
certainly was not used to this vulnerable side to her usually strong and
domineering presence. The past few weeks showed him that Luna kept a lot of
her worries to herself and though she did not complain, it strained her to keep
everything to herself.

The dark cat turned to him, slightly embarrassed by that same streak of
sadness still shining through her eyes. "Gomen ne, Artemisu," she looked
down at her paws as she pushed herself into a sitting position while
attempting to be cheerful. "I mean I should be proud how she turned out,
ne?" There were tears misting her eyes and she looked away, trying to hide
it from him, "After all, I don't need to instruct her on how to use her
powers anymore and what need does she have for a useless cat that can't even
protect herself, ne?"

Artemis might have missed the tears but he would never have missed the
sob that caught in her throat, choking her slightly as she rambled. He
stretched and leaned over, butting his head gently against her side to catch
her attention and she looked down at him surprised, streaks of tears matting
her fur. "Don't," he commanded her. More tears fell as she blinked at him in
surprise. Artemis rarely used that tone of voice with anyone when it was
clear that it had never been his forte to even think about commanding anyone.

"Artemisu?" He ignored her question as he used his tongue to clean away
her tears.

"You look prettier without them, neko-chan," he blushed at the endearment
and looked away as those words slipped from his tongue. Luna gaped at him
though he could not see her astounded expression. Now she knew he was
trying but he must have really been worried to have said that much because
the Artemis she knew was timid and very, very shy.

She smiled and shook away her gloom, looking over to the happy couple that
was Mamoru and Usagi. She had to accept that one day those two were going
to grow up and not need her as much, though that didn't mean they didn't
need her at all. It still hurt but she could get used to the ache with this
baka Artemis beside her through all of their days. She leaned over and set
her head against his shoulder, purring in contentment and gratitude.
"Arigatou Artemisu," she glanced up, amused when she felt him become
flustered under his fur.

"D-don't worry about it," he laughed nervously. She smiled and pulled
away, now that was the Artemis she knew!

"Luna, Artemis," both cats looked up to see Ami emerging from the buildings
as the blue-haired woman glanced once over to see Mamoru and Usagi before
looking away in embarrassment to have walked in on such intimate moments.
"Can I speak to you about something?" Ami paused to see the expectant look
on both cats before she realized that the two weren't going anywhere,
"Elsewhere." She added pointedly as she quickly glanced over to Mamoru and
Usagi before glancing away, unwilling to intrude any longer on their private
moment together.

Luna blinked, as did Artemis. The two cats looked at each other before
realizing that the distance between Ami and the couple behind them and the
distance between the cats and the couple behind them were estimated in two
completely different ways. "Oh, sorry Ami-chan," Luna apologized with a
sheepish grin. "Let's go somewhere private, ne?" Artemis groaned as his
female companion shot him a deadly glare, "You too, lazy bones," Luna

"And I thought we were on good terms but a moment ago," he muttered and
Luna's feline ears caught what Ami's human ones did not.

A loud whack could be heard as well as a yelp of pain as Luna began
berating Artemis as Ami sighed in exasperation at the two. What did Minako
call this again? The blue-haired woman wondered, something about
love-tension was it? The preposterous idea made Ami red in the face as she
quietly endured this "love-tension" between Luna and Artemis. Good thing
Ami didn't know what Haruka had to say about things like this, it would have
made her blush to her toes!

* * *

They found her picking up her soda at the vending machine, auburn hair
falling in waves from the ponytail that she had discarded earlier. It gave
her face a much more feminine touch and she looked older now as she
straightened and faced both of them with surprise shining in her eyes.
"Rei-chan," emerald eyes welcomed before sliding over to the dark-haired
woman's companion and an awkward silence fell between them as Kino Makoto
tried very hard not to frown at Hiketsu.

Rei smiled at her with an ease that surprised her friend for she had never
seen the miko so relaxed before in anyone's presence, or so cheerful for
that matter. "Hey, Mako-chan," the dark-haired woman chirped and
practically floated over to her and blinked at the vending machine before
she looked over at her with pleading eyes, "think you could buy me a drink?"
Makoto sighed.

Relationship-highs seemed to have diminished Rei's aloofness and she could
see that being serious was the last thing on Rei's mind. "You're turning
out to be just like Minako-chan and Usagi-chan," Makoto complained as she
reached into her jeans pocket and produced the little extra yen she had left.

"No," Rei shook her head with a grin, "I'll pay you back, unlike those two
baka atamas." To that, Makoto had to reluctantly agree but the sunny expression
on Rei's face gave Makoto a prickling sensation that she couldn't quite identify.

Plop, the can rolled out and Rei picked it up while Makoto opened her own
with a click and a slight fizzling sound soon followed. "Ahh!" Makoto
squeaked and nearly dropped her drink when Rei stood on tiptoes and touched
the cold can to her forehead, "Dammit Rei-chan, what was that for?" The
brunette glared at her friend as she loomed over the other who smiled at her

"Just checking the temperature, Mako-chan," Rei replied before those
dark-eyes grew serious and glanced over her shoulder at Hiketsu. "Ne,

The three had settled on the side of the empty street as Rei sat on the
ledge of the sidewalk, her long legs stretched in front of her and Hiketsu
leaning against the light poll behind the miko, quietly letting her do the
talking for now. Makoto took a sip of her soda as she sat on the ramp next
to the street and peeked side-ways at her friend through her lashes, "What?"

"Why are you mad at Hiketsu?" Click. Fizzle.

Trust Rei to be blunt and to the point, Makoto thought wearily. Love
certainly didn't get rid of that part of her personality. The question
though, took her slightly off guard and she was uncomfortable confessing her
feelings when the object of her enmity was standing but a few short yards
away from her. "Hiketsu-san?" Makoto took another sip of her drink, trying
to drag out more time for her to think.

"You just seemed so much more easily angered in his presence," Rei said

"What do you mean?" Makoto demanded immediately, unable to help the sudden
need to be on the defensive.

"That's what I mean," Rei wiggled her index finger at her friend who
covered her slightly gaping mouth. "You know, Mako-chan," Rei turned her
head to her friend then. "The negative energy increases every time you get

Emerald eyes blinked, "You mean..." Makoto knew she was shaking her head,
refusing to believe what the other was saying to her.

"When Setsuna-san and Ami-chan destroyed the inner demon that possessed
you, not all of the darkness was destroyed in your system." Rei explained.

Makoto was silent as she tried, with difficulty to absorb the information.
"Are you saying that I am still slightly possessed?" The brunette asked

"What Rei-chan is trying to say," Hiketsu cut in gently, "Is that while
others may think you are just losing your temper unnaturally more than
usual, in truth, it is just another show of your inner struggles with the
darkness within yourself."

Makoto blinked at this, "Mako-chan," Rei smiled at her kindly. "It isn't
your fault, that's what Hiketsu is trying to say."

"Are you just saying this to make me feel better?" Makoto asked angrily
and then caught herself again. Why am I so angry all the time? I never
used to be like this. I never lost control like that time when I lashed out
at Hiketsu. Could it be that the demon inside is afraid of him since he was
the one who subdued it last? That makes sense. Makoto reasoned with
herself and felt the energy inside of her build slowly upon her confused

"No, it's because you should know the truth." Rei looked at her then, "We
all have the virus, you know?" Onyx eyes met emerald and then Rei smiled at
her again, "We all have these demons inside of us, trying to take control of
our thinking, our fighting, and our way of life. It's just that since you
were the carrier, you have more of it."

"Lucky me," Makoto muttered but she nodded reluctantly. "Is there...
a way for me to fight it?"

It was then that from the shadows, another stepped out. "There are
actually two options that you can take."

All three people turned to see Ami walk up to them with an apologetic smile
on her face for startling everyone. "What do you mean, Ami-chan?" Makoto
asked, being the first to recover.

"Rei-chan can either give you an anti-evil scroll to put onto your body as
a temporary solution, or, we could try another exorcism -- the permanent
solution." Ami said as she sat on the ramp that Makoto was resting on, her
back to the streets as she studied the shadows of the trees splayed out on
the sidewalk.

"But the exorcism will not only diminish your powers greatly but it will
leave you weak," Rei provided helpfully. "So the best way to deal with

"...Is to give you an anti-evil scroll." Hiketsu finished.

When the shock of it wore off, Makoto grinned at her friends slyly, "You
two sound like a married couple," the brunette teased and to her delight,
Rei blushed crimson while Hiketsu looked away, trying to hide his smile of

"What the hell are you saying?" Rei demanded in such a way that Makoto
could almost see the steam coming out of her ears.

Ami cut in before the fighting could get out of hand, "Maybe you should
give Mako-chan the anti-evil scroll, now."

Rei sniffed haughtily before rising from her perch on the sidewalk and
stomping over to Makoto. "Where would you like it to be?" Rei asked her
impatiently. Makoto blinked at this uncertainly, "You know, where on your
body would you like it to be?" Rei was still angry with her, that much
Makoto could tell.

"Certainly not my forehead," Makoto joked and received another glare from
her dark-haired friend, "Somewhere under my uniform so that after I
transform, the scroll would still be there, protected by my fuku." The
brunette relented.

Rei nodded in acknowledgement at this, "How about the heart?" Ami
suggested with a thoughtful look on her face.

"Very symbolic," Hiketsu smiled warmly with a nod of approval.

"Good old heart it is," Makoto agreed as Rei sent her a questioning look.

"We'll be a ways down," Hiketsu indicated the direction he was leaving in
as Makoto began to unbutton her shirt. His back already turned, the blond
man was walking away before he called over his shoulder, "Call me if you
need anything!" Ami smiled at her friends before excusing herself and
running to catch up with the departing Hiketsu, leaving the two women alone.

Makoto flipped back her curling hair in annoyance before she decided to
deftly put it back up into her usual ponytail. Rei studied her friend as
the other returned to unbuttoning her shirt, "You ready for this?"

"It's not like it's going to hurt, is it?" Makoto asked with a quirk of
her brow as she paused at the last button.

Rei shrugged, "It depends on the spirit, but usually no."

Obviously the dark-haired girl was trying to be honest and reassuring at
the same time. She wasn't very successful at it but Makoto couldn't
complain too much, after all, Rei was trying to help. "Alright doctor,
stick one on me!" She joked.

Rei quirked a brow, before coughing a bit lightly behind her hand, "Bra."
Looking at the piece of cotton material that Makoto wore.

"Oh!" Makoto blinked before reaching to unclasp the front, "What
a waste," she sighed dramatically. Rei walked before her with a questioning
gaze, though slightly weary of the answer she would get. "I bet Haruka-san
would have appreciated the view much more than you ever will!" Makoto
finished with a wicked grin.

"Yare yare," Rei answered wearily though she couldn't keep the amused grin
off of her face. "Maybe you should be thankful for that, ne?" Rei gave her
friend a pointed look as her smile became as weary as her voice.

The smile on Makoto's face remained constant as Rei brought out a scroll,
the other's gaze suddenly focusing on the small piece of paper. Onyx eyes
closed in concentration, missing the sudden rapt expression on the
brunette's face before Rei snapped them open to focus on the area of where
Makoto's heart laid beating beneath her flesh, "Aku Ryo--"

"I don't think this is going to work," the smiling Makoto said suddenly,
cutting off Rei's chant.

Blinking in surprise, onyx eyes looked up to meet Makoto's blank, emerald
gaze. Rei did not like what she saw there in the least, "Why not?" Rei
asked cautiously, slightly annoyed as she felt her hackles rise as the
dark-haired woman gathered her miko powers in anticipation for the worst.

"Ah ah ah," Makoto said cheerfully as she wiggled her index finger at the
dark-haired priestess playfully. "Temper, temper, little miko." Makoto
teased, "It isn't good for you, you know? After all, look where all that
passion got her?" Her, strange that Makoto would refer to herself so.

"Mako-" Rei gasped in shocked surprise as the same realization struck.
Makoto's hand came forth in a fast grip just as Rei took a startled step
back. It caught the front of Rei's red shirt instead of the other's
throat, which the brunette was obviously aiming for before the miko had
moved out of her grasp.

"Shhh," Makoto put her chastising finger to her lips. "We wouldn't want to
share our secret now, would we?"

The brunette yanked harshly on the red material in her fist and the
dark-haired woman felt the bite of the collar tighten around the back of her
neck but refused to fall forward. Rei heard the tear in her clothing as she
stepped back, fighting the forward momentum that threatened to make her
loose her balance. "Dammit, that was one of my favorite shirts!" Rei
snarled as she leapt back from Makoto's arching kick, sliding to a crouching
stop in the middle of the empty road as Rei tried to put enough distance
between them before she could strategize a way to finish the task she was
handed to do.

Makoto was no longer responding, and Rei saw the other getting ready to
charge at her. Long strands of chestnut hair flew by her face as Rei slid
her body sideways, onyx eyes narrowed in concentration as she saw the
blankness in the other's dark-green depth. Makoto stumbled and then righted
herself with a smirk, "Almost," the possessed woman said when both came to a
stop and faced each other again. "But I'll get you next time. Maybe with a
lightening bolt or two--" the arrogance seeped out of Makoto's mocking voice
as the other suddenly stumbled. The brunette clutched onto her head with a
low moan coming from deep within her throat, "Fucking get out of my body!"
She growled out abruptly before the blankness returned to her eyes and
Makoto lifted her head with an ugly leer stretching over her lips at the
fast approaching Rei.

The dark-haired miko took the opportunity opened to her as her friend
battled with the darkness within. Chanting under her breath while Makoto
swore and watching cautiously as the other's strong hands clamped over her
head, Rei finished the words needed to dispel the evil spirit that rested
within her friend. "Aku Ryo Tai San!"

Green eyes looked up in a snarl as Rei lunged towards her, pale arm and
fingers extended. Onyx eyes widened as the dark-haired girl came to a
halting stop, inches from Makoto's throat. "Your aim's a bit off for the
heart," Makoto sneered as her fist buried itself deeper into Rei's gut and
eliciting a groan of pain from the other's lips. "Should have aimed for the
head, little girl."

The miko's lips curved into an ironic smile as her free hand clamped itself
onto Makoto's arm, "That's what you think," Rei answered through her bared
teeth, fighting the pain and the bile rising in her throat. Makoto raised a
brow of surprised amusement but before she could speak, the dark-haired
woman's hand fell with the pull of gravity -- though with a far more
calculated precision -- and attached the small ofuda to the brunette's

Emerald eyes widened as the brunette's fist fell away and Rei landed in a
heap at Makoto's feet. Once again clutching her head, Makoto shook it
fiercely as if to shake something out of her system before she straightened
again and looked around with confusion marring her face. "What... happened,
Rei-chan?" Makoto asked the empty street before a groan brought her eyes to
the dark-haired woman who lay slumped at her feet. Astonished at what
she saw, Makoto collapsed onto her knees next to the crumbled form of the
miko. Reaching out to her flinching friend, "You
alright?" Makoto demanded as she helped Rei into a sitting position.

Bruised and aching, Rei looked at her friend through slanted eyes that
showed more humor than annoyance. "You sure throw one nasty punch,
Mako-chan." Rei quipped sarcastically before she winced at her own attempts
of straightening her body.

Makoto smiled down at the other with a slight hint of amusement. "Nothing
could keep you down, huh, Rei-chan?" The brunette raised a brow
to see Rei shrug away her helping hand.

Grumbling, the dark-haired woman glared at her through her bangs, "You owe
me a shirt."

Makoto blinked and looked at the torn, red shirt of Rei before a sheepish
smile came over her face. "Did I do that?" She asked innocently.

"Yes, Mako-chan." Rei answered wearily before a wicked grin came over
Rei's usually stern features. "Too bad the view's wasted on you and not
Haruka-san, ne?"

Green eyes widened before an easy smile came over her lips, and knew she
was forgiven of whatever it was that had happened. "You sure? Because I
know a certain man named Hiketsu-san who will probably be a lot more
grateful for the view than Haruka-san will ever be." Makoto teased.

Rei laid a tentative hand over her stomach where a bruise was already
beginning to show before raising a brow at her friend. "Are you talking
about my Hiketsu, or do you mean Minako-chan's Fuma-san?"

Makoto's grin widened at this, "My Hiketsu?" The brunette enjoyed watching
the red that came over Rei's face at this slight slip as she helped her
friend rise onto the other's unsteady feet. "My, aren't we getting

"Shut up, Mako-chan," Rei grumbled. "Because you're really tempting me to
give you that black eye."

Makoto shrugged but the triumphant smile did not leave her lips. "You want
to call them back now?"

"When I look like this?" Rei asked in startled surprise. "When you look
like that?" Pointing at Makoto's exposed flesh.

Makoto was reaching to clasp the loose ends of her bra to close it and was
about to answer when her eyes paused at something that caught her eye, "Ne,

The dark-haired woman looked at her suspiciously, as Rei put her hands on
her hips in annoyance. "What is it now, Mako-chan?"

"Is that a scroll I see under your bra?" Makoto pointed at the small white
piece of paper under the cotton cloth that Rei wore.

Rei blinked before a blush spread across her cheeks, "Well, I needed a
quick fix to come and save you guys from the big, bad demons and all." Rei
laughed sheepishly.

"And who put that "quick fix" on you?" Makoto looked pointedly at her
friend as a sly and knowing smile came over her lips.

Rei's face was getting redder and redder by the minute, "It's not what you
think," the dark-haired woman began as she desperately waved her hand in
front of her, as if she could physically fend of her friend's teasing

A low, wolf-whistle interrupted the two women right then. Before long
cries of indignation could be heard down the street. Loudest and clearest
of them all was "Perverted bastard!" with each syllable stressed as two
heads looked up startled.

"You think those two are alright?" Ami asked with wide and worried blue
eyes. Ami nodded slowly before glancing wearily over her shoulder where the
sounds of an ensuing fight were still audible. "They sounded like they
needed help a few moments ago? You sure we shouldn't go help them?"

Hiketsu laughed, "Do I look blind enough to go near a half-dressed woman
right now? And with Rei-chan there, as well?" He asked in a light,
incredulous tone while the corners of his mouth lifted into a lopsided,
boyish grin, "I'd be called a pervert first, a cheater second, get the life
slapped out of me third, and then, I shudder at the thought of the place
where I would probably end up!"

"She is, technically, still your girlfriend," Ami tried hopefully. "What
if she's in danger?"

"And I am still a gentleman. I'm sure Rei-chan can handle whatever it is
she is facing right now," Hiketsu replied with a confident smile. There was
a gleam of contentment in his eyes at the mention of Rei being his
girlfriend that did not go unnoticed, "If you want, you can always ask
Mamoru-kun. Maybe he's gallant enough to try to foolishly tread where no
sane man would dare to go, but I doubt that. Especially considering how
Usagi-chan would take it if she ever caught wind of this. Fuma-san
though, just might attempt this, knowing him." The last part was spoken
wearily but the smile did not leave Hiketsu's face.

"Did you mean it?" Ami asked after a silence came over them, one that
strangers who had nothing to say to each other usually shared. "When you
and Rei-chan said that we are all possessed by the darkness of this demon
virus in some way, did you mean it?" Ami explained her question more
thoroughly when she saw Hiketsu's raised brow of inquiry.

The man looked thoughtful as he pondered out the right answer to Ami's
question before a knowing smile came over his face, "Ah, the scientist of
the group." Ami blushed at this, "Yes, I meant it." Hiketsu nodded and
then glanced over to where Rei and Makoto were probably still arguing at
this point in time. "There is something out there, you know, Ami-chan?
Something the logical mind cannot explain," Ami began to protest but the
look Hiketsu shot her silenced all of her arguments, "It is something the
soul has trouble comprehending as well," she wasn't sure if he was trying to
make her feel better by admitting his own inability to understand it. "It
is Chaos."

She blinked, at this, "The virus CHAOS?"

"No, not the term you came up with for it," Hiketsu shook his head and that
same ominous feeling came into Ami, washing over her with dread. "Chaos, the
entity with no purpose and all purposes." Blue met blue as he studied her
carefully, "The entity that cannot be understood and yet
perfectly understandable, the darkest and brightest one of them all.

His words confounded her mind but in her heart, a shudder came and she
could not shake off the cold feeling that weighed down her limbs under the
setting rays of the sunlight evening. "I don't understand what you mean by
that, Hiketsu-san," she murmured in confusion, her mind muddled but her
heart beating strong and clear.

"The world is ending as we speak, Ami-chan." And those words echoed in
perfect sync with her terribly emotional heart as her mind grasped the
terrible simplicity of it all.

* * *

They stood, two opposite sides facing each other, she watched him with
those dead eyes while he watched her with his mechanical ones. "Why are you
here?" Sailor Senshi Saturn asked, though she sounded neither intrigued or
confused or even interested.

"On my road to destiny," he replied.

Ashes all around them, somewhere, she knew Uranus, Neptune and Pluto
watched them with anticipation and interest. "Destiny leads only to Death,"
she replied calmly.

"Don't be stupid," he answered with equal calmness, "destiny leads to
rebirth as well."

An ironic smile came upon her lips, "There is no difference between the
two." The darkness in her eyes flared up but he seemed unaffected by the
change of powers in the atmosphere around them.

"There is quite a difference," he looked into her eyes, wanting the truth.
"What are you?"

"Don't be rude," she answered coyly, "shouldn't that be a who?"

"Don't play your silly games with me," his words were harsh but his tone of
voice never changed.

"Humans are such ugly beasts, wouldn't you agree?" she inquired in that
innocent voice edging on destruction. There were gasps coming from her
comrades, but she did not care. There was a long moment of silence though
her eyes never left his, never looked down at the man he held in his arms.
"They are filthy and have dirtied this Earth long enough. I had thought,
for a long time, that there was hope for them because the Princess believed
but I can see now that in the end, they are just what they have always been:

From the corner of his eyes, Core could see Neptune and Uranus freeze at
this but the woman who had long ago tried to destroy him and his sister, the
Guardian Pluto, seemed to be not at all disturbed by
this revelation, as if it had been expected. The girl-like figure before him
had claimed Death and Rebirth in one breath and had he not gone back to his
original form, he might have been unnerved about meeting a being such as

"That is why there is destiny, to create beautiful and ugly things." He
answered at last as he turned his attention to the man in his arms, "To
create balance where there may be nothing but emptiness."

She laughed at his philosophy, yet it was not from contempt but real
amusement, "Balance creates emptiness," she said. "Destiny creates more
than just beauty and ugliness, destiny brings betrayal and anger, hatred and
greed, love and sacrifices; destiny brings in all things as does life.
There is still, one true destiny for Man and that is death and destruction."

"Funny how you are the self-proclaimed avatar, sworn to save them." He
mused out loud, the irony not missing in his voice. Had she not been what
she was, she might have been insulted by such a tone. But the Senshi Saturn
did not care for what this alien before her felt nor was she burned by his
scorn, it did not jar her any more than her mirth at his philosophy.

She tilted her head at this, as if interested at what he had brought up, as
if the thought had never even occurred to her. Blinking slowly, she seemed
to have processed the idea in her head before a slow smile came over her
lips when she had found the answer she was looking for, "No one is sworn to
protect this place. Just because the Princess loves her Prince does not
mean her guardians must protect what is not hers to claim. A man is a man,
free from all things, born alone and dies alone. The Prince is a man and he
is free. My duty to this place is no more than your duty to this place,
it just happens that our path to destiny crosses here but our dreams are
different, our hopes are different, and thus, so are our goals."

"Pity I will have to kill you someday," Core was smiling when those words
rolled out smoothly from his lips. Uranus rose at this angrily, wanting to
defend the woman who wore the face of her daughter, the woman who laughed
with the voice of her daughter and the woman who was a comrade at arms.
Pluto gripped Uranus' arm and shook her head slowly when the other turned to
glare at her. Neptune sat, shocked into silence by what Saturn was saying
in that beguiling voice, filled with innocence and darkness all at once.

"Pity? I cannot say the feeling is mutual." Saturn leaned against her
staff, almost seductive yet not, almost a child and almost a woman, she was
almost so many things but at the same time none of them, as well. Dark eyes
peered out into the world, cold and calculating. "Why should we dally here
any longer? You seem so eager to meet your own end." Saturn smile widened
at this in almost a ferocious grin, baring her teeth in a savage flash of
white like the shine of her deadly blade.

"I am not Man," he answered but turned to the twin helicopters resting in
the clearing, hidden by rubble. "I do not have a care for Death as long as
my race survives. Individuals are nothing without a cause, wouldn't you
agree, stranger?"

Pallid skin and long lashes fluttered before Saturn opened her eyes again
and tilted her head ever so slowly to regard her companion.
"Individuals, races, and lives, they are all nothing and everything. We are
all a part of Chaos and not. What you seek, you will not find here, Core

He met her gaze steadily, "Perhaps the same goes for both of us hmm, Sailor
Senshi Saturn?"

To his challenge she only smiled, the smile that one gives to someone
already dead. It was a smile between compassion and cruelty, the smile of
child with the powers of a god.

* * *

*I was born in a place Man's tongue will never be able to pronounce. In a
galaxy several decades beyond the reach of a human hand, even if he were to
travel at the speed of light in an attempt to reach it. It was once a
beautiful place of steel and liquid, golden skies and three revolving

Around them the spires rose and technology that man had never even dreamt
of came and went in the blink of an eye as he stood silently next to her,
trying to absorb all that she had lived through and all that she was
introducing to him. *It was my home for seven hundred,
twenty-six years, fifty days, four hours, ten minutes and thirty-three
seconds, by human time. I remembered the way I felt when they sent me on
the exiled ship, framed for a crime I had never committed. I had watched
helplessly as my supporters and I stood on deck, knowing that the tyrant who
had rid himself of my presence would now make his move and when we made the
third orbit around the planet before hyper-jump, war began below us. It was
the last time I saw the place of my birth. In fact, we almost didn't make
it. Core 980, my second pure son, sacrificed himself so that the weapon
sent to track us down would kill him instead. It was the worst century
of my life as we drifted aimlessly in space during those harsh years,
homeless, and severed completely from my people; I experienced despair for
the first time in my existence. I had to learn to deal with the treachery
wrought onto me, a treachery that the silent estrangement of exile seemed to

Yet, I was unharmed and many of my children and many of those who shared my
components and thoughts had joined me -- most willingly and some forcefully
-- as we journeyed across the universe. Drifting farther and farther from
home, we learned to live on our own, correcting our own components to deal
with the harshness of space life, to deal with the loss of information
gathering as we learned new methods to gather raw data from the passing
stars and galaxies. My eldest son gave himself up first to me, so that I
could be the most independent unit in the family and as Vastra 75, an old
prototype with wiser fingers than anyone I have ever known, installed Core
0002 into myself, I wept for the first time in my long life. We, of the
new-prototype did not fall into such emotional displays so easily, but I
could not help but feel the added emotion of losing my second son, of losing
my home, and then losing my eldest, my longest and most loyal of all my

Through it all, Vastra 75 stayed by me. Maybe my tears fascinated him, for
old prototypes like himself still had trouble expressing such depth of
emotion that were caused by real pain and not imitation of what pain should
be like. You could say that our place and our people had been, once, like
Earth. But we evolved and changed. The home we came to know was now
populated with a new species created by our ancestors' very hands, a species
that Man has never known and hopefully, will never know.*

The stars passed by them, galaxy-by-galaxy, planet-by-planet,
asteroid-by-asteroid, and dust-by-dust. Mapped out in perfect memory,
recorded, logged and safely kept away for future inspection if needed.

*Life was hard and we survived by sometimes pirating of other species
in the universe, raiding and the like. It seemed hopeless that we would
ever find a new base, or a place primitive enough to accept us so that we
could start anew, build a new home. Yet, everywhere we went, we were
considered hostile invaders or easy victims, and for another two decades we
hunted and were hunted in return. At last, we came here, this little
rural place on the edge of the universe, following the distinct line of
residue of power that lingered at the destruction of many things and beings.
We had hoped that this was no more than a graveyard, for the power we
caught wind of reeked of death. But we found humans, weak but alive,
surviving day by day like us only they were so primitive that we could not
fathom living with the likes of them. They could not even detect our
presence much less chase us away, and so we stayed and for thirteen years I
was truly happy.*

The planet he had always called home seemed so foreign to him now. The old
Earth, lush and green, filled with rivers, valleys and very little
civilization. At least not the civilization that he had come to know, one
that bustled and hurried on in its lonesome way, those types of men and
women were not here, anyway. He was unaccustomed to the lazy air all around
them and wary of the strong smell of earth and forest and sky. She,
though, seemed to be like a traveler who had returned to a small bit
of paradise lost, her hair blowing in the winds of memory, her eyes
caressing the long lost hills and mountains in the distance.

*But happiness eluded me again when she came,* and the face of a warrior
appeared before him, cold and merciless. *She killed every one of us,
working from the outside of what she called "the hive", our home, and
steadily burrowed her way into the heart of where we lived, eradicating
all in her wake. Vastra 75 did everything in his powers first to
outsmart her, then to stop her, and finally to prevent her from slaughtering
us all, all at the cost of his own life and the lives of my children. He
was my oldest friend, loyal to the very core of his being. He was a good
advisor, maybe even what humans might have considered a father, and he gave
me his precious, unattainable hands before he died.*

Dale turned to her as she looked down at her own hands. A lab sprung up
around them with three tubes in the center of the metallic room. The clear
glass-like walls of the tubes revealed the foggy liquid, two held the
distorted images of human figures, one in each container. The forms
of a man and a woman, both seemingly asleep and unaware. There was a third
container, seemingly empty of contents while a metallic being worked around
the tubes in the room, coming back and forth as it busily went about on some
unknown but pressing duty. Somewhere, in the distance, he heard the
clashing of powers coming from behind the door to his right.

Having studied his new surroundings, Dale turned to the woman who brought
him here, wanting to know what was the purpose of her showing all of this to
him. Did she wish for him to understand her better? Perhaps she wanted him
to realize her true goals, and what he was, and had been fighting for. Or
maybe, she wanted him to know, to show him the humanity that he had always
assumed she lacked because she was made of metal and not flesh and
bones. Black curls obstructed his view of her face when he glanced over to
her, but he blinked in surprise when he saw a single tear fall onto the palm
of her opened hands.

"You could cry," he spoke and the wonder in his voice made her laugh almost

"Did you not believe me when I told you?" She asked. "I am your creator,
what humans would call a mother. I am the original prototype, and if you
could cry did you think that I could not?"

He blinked.


A woman with dark-emerald hair, dressed in a white body suit and short,
pleated skirt burst through the door in that moment, barging into the room
as she skillfully wielded a magnificent staff. The intruder's eyes glowed
eerily red as she stared at the metallic being that the woman next to him
called Vastra 75. It was then he saw that the metallic being had no hands.
There were just wires hooked up to the machine and then a voice, old and new
rang over the room of the past.

*You will never win, Guardian Pluto.*

The room was washed in purple light as the powerful attack disintegrated
everything, shattering the tubes and turning the machine called Vastra 75
into nothing but ashes. The woman he now know as Alyssa rose naked from the
broken contents of her tube, black curls damp with the liquid she was
submerged in before as she looked up first confused and then realization
came as she faced her enemy bravely, an enemy she had never seen before or
even known the existence of, an enemy that she was retaliating against for
her very survival.

In a way he felt her anger and her shame, felt and knew the realization
that here was someone beside him who was used to such treachery; someone who
had faced destruction simply for being and not for anything else.

*"Intruder of Earth, you shall die." The Guardian Pluto uttered, her eyes
blazing in that color crimson, utterly cold and frighteningly menacing.

"I will not die now!" Alyssa pushed herself unsteadily onto her feet,
awkwardly looking down at her hands as realization struck her fully. "You
killed them all!" Wide-eyed accusations and undisguised hatred was apparent
as she faced down her enemy's disapproving frown.

"You do not belong here, I shall not allow you to ruin the future that I
have planned." Pluto replied, her eyes never wavering from the
determination set upon her face.

"You killed my people!" Alyssa's powers roared through her, startling her
in their intensity and she realized then that this was what Vastra 75 had
promised her before he died. This power of survival was what he had given
to her as his parting gift.

"You have no right to be here," Pluto growled, immediately on the

They fought, and it was clear that Alyssa did not have the upper hand since
she was not yet close to her true strength having only just been awakened.
Somehow she kept herself from being destroyed by the Guardian Pluto. While
defending herself from the other without any armor or even clothing to
protect herself, she happened to stumble over more rubble, no it was not
rubble but another body. Alyssa gaped, "Core!"

Her brother woke and hands reached for each other and in that moment, she
faced the woman who hunted them. "We will not lose!" Core spoke for her.

Alyssa's eyes riveted to the shattered remains of the third tube and
reached, her mind commanding forth what was her own. "Child." She smiled
but the smile disappeared as the Guardian Pluto realized what she had meant
and raced, snatching up the circuit like board that was racing towards its
creator's calling.*

The woman Dale knew as Alyssa was screaming in her past.

Her child...

"Yes, Dale, you are my child."

She touched her hand to his and her footing shifted as she laid her head on
his shoulder, a contented sigh escaping her lips. A connection was
uncovered in that moment, a connection he had never known the existence of
came back to haunt him in that moment and he looked down at the woman who
was his creator.

"What do we do now?" He asked.

"Core is coming home," she answered, her eyes closed in a peaceful
expression. It was a new discovery for him, every moment in her presence
made him realize exactly how alive this machine was, and how much she had felt
in her centuries of existence.


She smiled, "Yes, our new home. Our paradise."

Dale was silent as he looked at the rubble of the bitter past. Looked at
his own beginnings and remembered the people that populated his life, coming
and going. People he had called parents, people that he had called friends
and colleagues. In that moment he wondered if he had ever loved them, if he
would have done all that this woman next to him had done for him and all
those who had cared for her had done for her, just to see her happy and

"How do you know that the paradise we seek won't just become another's
hell?" He asked at last, remembering Michaels. Michaels he did love,
Michaels who believed this woman next to him so much, Michaels who had died
protecting this land and his people.

"You want to know if I loved him, don't you?" Alyssa pulled away from him,
yet their new connection did not lessen, but strengthened with each passing
moment. He was having difficulty dealing with this sudden need to comply to
her every whim and fulfill her every desire.

"In the pursuit for happiness, human beings came to believe that love would
bring to them all that they desire in life's joys. They seek to gain this
happiness they so crave," Dale looked intently at her. "Did you ever feel
this joy?"

"No," she answered as she looked at him. "Love is human's way of appeasing
their intellect while they try to give meaning to mating and reproducing,
trying to find something deeper than the simple façade of survival and life.
They use it and abuse it to explain away their own guilt when they break
someone else's heart in search of a stronger mate, when they feel jealous or
possessive when they revert back to the primitive." Her eyes narrowed
angrily as she raised her head to that invisible sky of a time forgotten.
"There is no such thing as love."

"Michaels died for love," Dale said slowly. "He died for his love for you
and for me, and for this planet you so hate."

"I don't hate this planet," she looked to him with her eyes now filled with
sadness, an emotion that Man would never have thought a machine could feel.
Imitation or not, Dale realized, pain was pain. When felt it is, in
essence, the same basic emotion. "Perhaps you are right, perhaps there is
an emotion that is like love, but the majority of human beings are too weak
and too selfish to handle such responsibilities."

"Alyssa," she turned to him and knew his reluctance to call her mother.
The sensations and realizations were still new to him and for some reason,
it hurt to know this. Was this what humans called love, this pain?

"There is only pain in life," she said. "And triumph. Those things are
real, love is just a hypothesis that has never been clearly proven."

"Pain," he smiled, "Love is pain because love is reality." Alyssa looked
at him wide-eyed, surprise written on her features. Another expression he
would never have thought he would ever bear witness to,
"Michaels liked to say that a lot." He admitted sheepishly.

There was a smile on her face as she tilted her head in thought, "Oh?" She
reached out her hand to him again, like she had done so before when she
wanted to show him the truth of herself and her past.

"He made me want to believe in this love," he said as his hand touched her

"Open your eyes," she instructed as she studied him intently through her
long, dark lashes. And in the whisper of his mind just before waking, he
heard the echo of her voice in his mind, reluctantly admitting to how much
Michaels, the man, had changed her as well.

Every moment with her was making him more aware of the truth that his
partner spoke in those days lost forever to time. The truth that Alyssa --
his mother and his creator -- was all too human on the inside.

*He made me want to believe in this love as well.*

It was those words that awoke him.

* * *

Neptune was having a bad day. Too many surprises occurred that even with
her mirror, there had been nothing that could have
prepared her for what was awaiting her at the end of the long road they
had taken. Seeing it and living it had been two different things, not that
she had seen much to begin with.

At first she had thought that they would wonder so that they could discover
the true face of their enemy, it was the impression that the mirror gave
when she had stared at it in the darkness of her room so long ago. How many
days had passed? How many weeks? It had felt like years since she had
received the wounds that a possessed Sailor Jupiter inflicted upon her,
years since she last had seen the accepting smile on her princess's face, and
years since she had seen the innocent eyes of Hotaru. Those shining eyes of
a curious and intelligent child turning to her for guidance, calling her
Michiru-mama with that voice so similar and yet, so utterly different now.
How long had it been since Hotaru had grown too tall and heavy to pick up?
How long had it been since she went to shop for tiny, girlish dresses and
giggled over Haruka's total bewilderment at the tiny boys who would tease
and poke at her adopted daughter, too shy to be nice and too arrogant to
admit they thought she was adorable? It had been too long, Michiru admitted
now. So long that she wondered if she would ever be able to go back to
those days of peace and quiet joy. What happened to those long summer
nights spent, sitting on the swings in the park and watching the sunset
while Hotaru played in the sandbox with her new friends? Those lost days of

"Let's get out of here," Uranus' weary voice snapped her out of her trance
and she nodded reluctantly, rising to her feet.

Saturn had skipped ahead of them, her actions filled with that fighting
grace that Neptune wasn't sure if she should be proud of or horrified by. Pluto
lagged behind as they neared the choppers, looking wearily over her shoulder
to check to see if Core was following them.

Neptune's hand grasped onto Uranus' arm and she called out to Saturn who
paused but did not head back to them. "This place," Neptune whispered
hoarsely, "this place is filled with youma energy."

Sailor Pluto stepped up to her and looked worriedly at her pale face as
Uranus scanned their surroundings. "I don't see anything," the sandy-blond
growled anxiously.

Beneath one of the choppers a black whirl of darkness came and Saturn
turned to it in that moment with her dark eyes indifferent. White and
purple whirled as Neptune froze, as did Uranus and Pluto, watching the girl
bound over onto the helicopter that still rested safely a few meters away
from its sister, untouched and unharmed. The engine started and Saturn
maneuvered the air-bound vehicle towards them. Pluto leapt up climbed in
and it took some adjusting as Saturn and she switched places.

Saturn looked over and beckoned Core 26085 to join her and he walked the
last few feet to stand next to Neptune and Uranus before he leapt up as
well. Saturn pulled him in as soon as he was in arms reach and looked down
at the two women below them. "Come," she said to them as Uranus threw an
arm over Neptune's shoulder and nudged her partner with a wink.

"Think we should join them?" The sandy-blonde asked with a grin.

"Fuel first, extra passengers later." Neptune replied with equal

"I think they have just enough to carry the cargo home," Uranus indicated
Core in the back with a toss of her hair and a grin that could not hide the
sadness in her eyes.

Neptune returned the smile before looking up and waving. "We'll catch the
express way home," she called out.

For a moment Pluto looked down at them, but Uranus shook her
head. "Even if I didn't know the future, Setsuna," she mouthed as she
tapped her temple with one gloved hand, "I know that when I came I wouldn't
be going back."

"Not even for the princess?" Pluto widened her eyes as the air was filled
with the sound of the chopper's engine and the black mass that ate away at
Neptune and Uranus' transportation, grew. Darkness fell over the city
as Pluto looked down with eyes, pleading for her friends to

"We'll teleport back," Uranus lied smoothly. "Anyway, who would want to
miss out on this much fun, ne?" The sandy-blonde turned her face away to
Neptune who nestled into her arms, hiding the sadness in her eyes.

Saturn was silent as she studied the people that the girl she once was,
loved. "Let's go," she finally said. "This is the grave they have chosen,
this is the consequences you must all face for the decisions you have made
in your search for destiny."

Pluto shook her head with tears in her eyes as she pulled the chopper away,
directing the craft higher and higher into the air. Halfway through she was
tempted to turn back as Neptune blew them a kiss and Uranus slyly waved them
away, as if the two were not concerned for what was to come. Pluto saw
Neptune reaching for her lover tentatively, words moving on those coral
lips, eyes trained still on the helicopter that flew further and further
away. They never touched because Uranus replied something in return and
Neptune pulled her hand away at the last minute. "Sacrifices must be made,"
Core mocked in the back. "Isn't that what you told me those years ago when
you directed me from my sister's grasp?"

"Shut up," Pluto muttered as she stalwartly continued onwards, widening the
gap between herself and the two people she had come to regard as her closest
friends. "Just, shut the fuck up." Years of repressed guilt, sorrow, pain
and loneliness came over the woman. For a moment she contemplated crashing
the damn thing and ending every single one of their miserable lives.

"Don't even think about it," Saturn told her, her face composed without
sorrow and without regret. In that moment, Pluto almost hated her and a
small part of herself was afraid for and of Saturn, as well. She hated that
part of herself all the more for the feelings coursing throughout her.
Hated how things had turned out, how it had made Saturn into such a cold and
unfeeling doll. And hated how she was losing the control she was so used to
having over herself and the situation.

She was the infamous Sailor Senshi Pluto, she should have been impervious
to these feelings by now. As Core 26085 had pointed out, sacrifices must be
made. It had been her favorite motto for some time now, hadn't it? When
did that change? Had the princess and her friends affect her this much? In
that moment she almost regretted that she had a heart, regretted that she
couldn't turn her emotions on and off like Saturn seemed to do so easily

Below them the darkness gathered and drowned out the city. Somewhere,
Neptune and Uranus were fighting a losing battle and dying for the future.
Somewhere, inside of Pluto, someone that she had forgotten long ago was
crying at the loss of her comrades, her sisters.

Somewhere destiny was waiting for them to arrive.

Pluto looked on with dry eyes, not even a touch of moisture on her cheeks
as the chopper headed back to Japan. And in that moment she realized how
much she really hated her day job.

* * *

Minako really wanted, more than anything at the time, for her boyfriend to
be a real, solid man. Hopefully, as an added bonus, a man with a lot of
nerve-endings! Not because she wished that they could have a real, physical
relationship -- though she had wished that not too long ago -- but at this
particular moment, she really, truly, desperately wanted to beat him up.
And she wasn't alone in her wish to cause the blond-haired man next to her
some serious, grievous pain, either.

Both Sailor Mars and Sailor Jupiter were glaring daggers at the grinning
Fuma as Hiketsu wearily stood next to the dark-haired senshi. Not that
Hiketsu approved of what had happened, but it would not help if he had
stated that he had suspected the inevitable since neither Mars nor Jupiter
were very receptive to logical reasoning at the time, or even now.

As Mars should have realized, no matter how much Minako was infatuated with
her new boyfriend and no matter how much he returned her infatuation, the
two were sneaky and noisy little spies, filled with enough curiosity to kill
all the cats in the world. What she did not anticipate, nor did Jupiter
even suspect at the time, was that they would show up to spy -- or as they
put it mildly "walking by" -- at the exact moment she and Jupiter had just
finished their fight and were then less than adequately clothed.

The wolf-whistle from Fuma had been the high point of the two girls' weary
ending to a literally, hands on battle for purification and the low point
was when he encouraged the two fuming senshi to rip off more of their
clothes when they paused to look at him in embarrassed amazement. The
"kinky" comment did not go overly well with either, nor did it go very well
with Minako, who had been laughing at her friends up to the point when Fuma
opened his big mouth.

Had Fuma been a real man, as in a three-dimensional male with a solid form,
he would have been beaten, fried, and roasted in five seconds flat, not to
mention, probably whipped into shape. And after that, he would have had to
endure Minako's torturous nursing skills as she mourned over her "mistake",
an act that would have killed him had he not already been dead. Luckily,
Fuma was not a three-dimensional, solidly formed and feeling man, he was
also, unfortunately for the girls, not a very moral gentleman like Hiketsu
nor was he a prudent man like Mamoru. Instead, Fuma was somewhat of a
lecher. Only his boy-crazy girlfriend whose favorite magical weapon was,
ironically, a whip, reined in his nature.

Fuma was pouting. And it was not because Minako wanted to pound him to the
ground but because, "There just wasn't enough of a show of skin!"

Minako whacked him on the shoulder only to have her hand go right through
his arm. "Kuso," the blonde swore again in agitation since having
discovered that whenever she tried to physically harm him, Fuma's
holographic form became like that of a ghost, nothing solid to help vent her
anger out on. Instead, a poor and hapless soda can that just happened to be
in the middle of the sidewalk received Minako's anger-filled kick, sending
the object to smack right into Usagi's unsuspecting face.

Their blonde princess didn't even have time to wail before she went down
like a sack of potatoes and instead, it was their leader who squeaked in
shock as she raced to Usagi's side, apologizing repeatedly to her
unconscious friend and ward while clumsily attempting to shake the
odango-blonde back to life. "Minako-chan," Ami sighed wearily as Mamoru
tried his best to restrain the frantic blonde in an attempt to save his
girlfriend's remaining grey matter that still resided in that unconscious
odango head of hers. "You might give Usagi-chan brain damage if you
continue to shake her like that." The blue-haired woman commented dryly.

Minako gaped and dropped Usagi as if the other were on fire with a
sheepish smile, sending the boneless, heap of a girl to fall with a thud
onto the cement sidewalk, again. Mamoru grimaced, picked Usagi up into his
arms and well out of Minako's reach before he began to carefully check to
see if she was alright and what new bruises and aches the poor girl would
find herself having once she did wake up.

Forgetting their earlier anger at Fuma for the moment, Mars and Jupiter
rushed to Minako's side to check on their unfortunate princess and friend.
Sailor Mars rested a weary hand on the guilty looking blonde's shoulder as
both women, in their senshi fuku, sighed in exasperation at the sight.
"Should have known," Sailor Jupiter muttered.

"Didn't even need a vision for that one," Mars agreed.

Hiketsu stood beside the grinning Fuma who was practically leering at Mars
and Jupiter, "You could at least try to act like you didn't see anything,"
Hiketsu rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly before reaching into his
pocket and producing a pair of small, tinted lenses.

"Give me a break will you?" Fuma laughed, "Just because I saw more than
you have of what your girlfriend has to offer -- and might I say that she
has a lot to offer -- doesn't mean I have to be considerate about your
feelings and not--"

"Gloat about it?" Hiketsu asked wearily. If Fuma had been a solid man, he
would have had at least one of his arms broken by now, but Hiketsu was a
patient man who did not express his annoyance as much as Rei was prone to
do. Instead he would wait for the day that Fuma regained his body again,
which Hiketsu was sure fate had in store for the idiot, and break the guy's
arms then. After all, Hiketsu had a long memory. He would not forgt this day.
And when the time came he would exact his vengeance regardless
of the fact that this was Rei's best-friend's boyfriend, and mayhap somewhat
more in the future. He was sure, if reminded, Aino Minako would
encourage the act once the other did regain his body. In fact, as the day
wore on, Hiketsu was seriously hoping to the gods that Fuma still had a body
to go back to and was, in fact, looking forward to that coming day with
great anticipation.

"You are such a Spartan," Fuma rolled his eyes and waved his hand in front
of Hiketsu's face, much to the younger man's annoyance.

"No," Hiketsu replied slowly, "I am a living, breathing man and I would
like to remain so. Anyway, I would not look elsewhere since I
already have someone I care for. Minako-san may not be able to hurt you
physically, but that will not mean she won't stop trying to punish you,
period. A woman is a dangerous being to anger."

Wise words that fell onto deaf ears, for Fuma huffed at this. "She can't
do anything to me," the blond denied and Hiketsu cocluded that the
other was also in the denial stage of the relationship. Shrugging and not
really caring about Fuma's welfare, Hiketsu headed for Mars and gently
pulled her away from her friends and into his arms. The action caught the
woman warrior off guard, and she blushed as Jupiter cast her a sly glance
and Minako began to open her mouth to tease.

"I've thought it through," Ami suddenly cut in before anyone could speak.
Usagi groaned and was coming back into consciousness by then, and Mamoru
quickly hushed her before she could even begin to wail.
"Whoever our enemies are, we best assume the worst." All of the women
became serious at this and nodded intently at what Ami had to suggest,
thinking over her words so they could come up with their own conclusions on
how to best deal with the situation.

Minako got everyone's attention into gearing for a way to solve whatever
problems the enemy might throw at them. Her command was obvious and Fuma
noticed that when the girl wasn't acting silly, she exuded an aura of power
that was certainly to be contended with. "Wow," Fuma sighed as he sat
cross-legged in the air, levitating off of the ground as he watched his
girlfriend in awe. "That is some woman I'm dating!"

If Minako had heard, the meeting might have had a temporary interruption of
squeals and giggles, but luckily for them all, the blonde, as did the rest
of her friends, did not catch Fuma's admiring words. There was a
seriousness that came over his face as he analyzed the plan Mizuno Ami --
the girl he was instructed to watch -- came up with as she went over every
detail of her battle arrangement, which had been discussed earlier with the

Once in awhile, Minako would interrupt or one of the others would add in
suggestions but in the end, it was ironed out that they would have to split
up into teams. If they had to take on the city and reach their destination
in time, they would have to fight first as a whole and then rely on the few
they were instructed to stay with. Ami had analyzed each of their
powers, trying to figure out the best combination of both the defensive and
offensive, as well as whose powers were better amplified by whose.

"Fuma-san," Ami looked at him inquiringly. "You are our greatest advantage
because our enemies cannot touch you."

He nodded at this in understanding, "You want me to scout out the
territory, figure out what's going on and then inform you of missed
anomalies, correct?"

"Y-yes," Ami blinked surprise at his observations.

"What?" Fuma looked insulted as everyone also looked at him in supise.
"So I'm not a gentleman," he admitted but the grin came back even as Mars
and Jupiter glared at him again. "That doesn't mean I'm stupid!"

"Oh, if only he was a solid man!" Mars muttered as Hiketsu chuckled into
her hair next to her. Jupiter cracked her knuckles, not needing to voice
her blatant agreement. Minako grinned at this, ideas obviously running
through her mind as new plans on what to do with her boyfriend, since she
couldn't beat him up, began to present itself on many different levels and
degrees of painfulness.

Ami cleared her throat and they went back to strategizing, giving everyone
their roles in the last play that could determine their lives and the future
of Earth as a whole. Storing the information as they conversed back and
forth, Ami unconsciously tugged at her earrings where a single bit of
pressure would allow her visor to come across her eyes and hide her mind
from her friends in her analysis of their situation. The security it
provided tempted her shy and insecure mind but she stopped tugging once they
settled into an agreement. "It's not a full-proof plan," she admitted
halfway through their discussion. "But with the little that we know, it is
the best I can do."

Everybody seemed satisfied with the little that they could come up with,
but it did not escape Minako's notice how Ami had pulled at her ear nor
did she miss the guilty frown as the blue-haired woman studied her
mini-computer when the attention was directed away from her. "It doesn't
matter how ready we are for this," Minako cut in as she focused on Ami even
when all eyes turned to her. It was time she resumed her duties as the
leader, Minako thought as she commanded the attention of her genius friend,
"We would never be ready for this."

Hiketsu smiled sadly in acknowledgment of the bitter truth in those words,
as his grip tightened around Rei and the woman in his arms looked
equally resigned as she remembered her lessons during her youth. They had
long been taught about parting the veils of the future to see the images of
things that could and could not be changed. Even if Man were able to see
all of his battles he would still have little choice in the matter, he could
not know what results each action, intended or not, could bring and how
it would tie up with his ultimate destiny in the end.

However, Ami bowed her head. Confused and wondering
what her friend had meant by those words, she processed the information and
tried to make sense of it to her current situation. "Ami-chan," Usagi
smiled as she rubbed her head while she rose unsteadily onto her feet and
threw a clumsy arm around Ami's shoulder. "What you are giving us is good
enough," the princess assuerd as Minako and everyone else smiled
encouragingly at the blue-haired woman.

"I hope your right, Usagi-chan." Ami consented, her voice uncertain as she
admitted defeat. It was enough for now, Minako amended, though slightly
disappointed that it was not the success that she was aiming for. It was
just enough for now.

Ami looked at the sky as she gave her earring that one final tug, signaling
her choice in the matter. The blue-haired woman had no problem
comprehending what Minako was implying but she had always believed in a
certain type of control in her work. Most things, she believed, one could
prepare for like one prepares for a test. After all, isn't life one giant
test with problems and obstacles to be puzzled out, proven and then solved?
Her eyes scanned the skies for she did not want to face her friends, the
little beeping at her ear made her frown at the red clouds of the setting

Wait, what time is it anyway? She saw the time pop up on her screen. It
was 7:46:53 PM the computer reported and she froze. This was winter, the
weather had been unnaturally warmer than most Tokyo winters but what worried
her was not that. Sure, sometimes the weather could be really unpredictable
but the Earth still turned the same way and that meant that it should have
been dark by now. How long had the sky been this color?

"Is it just me or has the sun been setting for an awfully long time?"
Fuma mused as he levitated in the air, a quizzical expression on his face.
"It should be dark by now, shouldn't it?"

"Ami-chan?" Minako had turned to her immediately for more information but
the blue-haired woman was way beyond that by now. Ami had already started a
full analysis before the question had even left Fuma's lips.

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Jupiter muttered as her gloved fingers
rubbed against her temple.

"I definitely did not need any psychic mystic to tell me that," Mars
muttered and Hiketsu smiled as he held her closer to him.

"You're tired," he whispered into her hair.

"I know," she replied, her head lying against his shoulder.

"You should have been resting instead of fighting," he scolded her lightly.

"It was worth it," she smiled as she turned her head and rested her cheek
against his temple, letting his scent encircle her senses so that she
could ignore the sickening feeling at the pit of her stomach.

"The cleansing is wearing off," the way he said it was almost casual.

"That's what I'm afraid of," she closed her eyes before opening them again
to see the red sky overhead. "It's almost like its dyed in blood." Her
voice was so soft that he almost didn't hear her say such an ominous thing.

"Aa," he let her lean against him to give her as much last minute
relaxation as he could possibly provide. "But crimson could be just what we
need for luck."

Her lips curved at this, "Let's just hope it's luck for us."

Hiketsu raised his head as Rei leaned back against him, sharing this moment
as they both looked to the eerie sky overhead. He frowned at the view
overhead, for who could say that it wasn't blood that dyed the sky in such a
shade of foreboding, as if warning them of a most unexpected end.

"Min'na," Ami's voice came in that moment, grim and serious. "I've got
some very bad news."

* * *

The structure shook as the wind grew. Metal bent and twisted under a new
found pressure. The four crystal coffins flashed in a reflective, rouge
sheen as it mirrored the sky -- red against black, blood and sacrifice
against the abyss of death. It was quite fitting Doko grinned as he
released his hand and with a push of his legs flew and was suspended in the
air as the elements of air ripped at his jacket and loosened tie. His hair
flew and had he not been a youma, his eyes would have been squinting in that
dull, brightness. He was pulling out and the moment he was out of range,
the coffins were once again linked by lightening, dark and sinister. The
tower groaned, creaking as it was slowly pulled apart.

Somewhere, there were screams below him and terror, panic, along with death
filled the air.

He laughed, not knowing why for it was a human reaction. It gave him
perverse pleasure to watch this man-made structure, magnificent in its
ugliness crumble at the power of his master, falling apart at his touch.
Ah, the sheer exhilaration of such control and such wildness drove him into

The metal broke and was ripped apart like paper and an explosion of
darkness, infinite of agony, voices ringing over the land as a
spiraling pillar of pure chaos broke through and below him the darkness a
washed over all things like a flood over the lands, darkening the world.
The soundless scream pierced his own ears and he flinched, covering the
human organs with his crystalline hands, swearing under his breath as the
pressure built within his skull as that piercing sound came and then there
was silence.

Doko looked up surprised to come face to face with a mass of darkness,
faceless, voiceless, and shapeless. It looked at him and began to mimic his
basic shape as tendrils came and went over its form. Claws came, eyes of the
darkest abyss followed and then, many other human qualities appeared, making
the being easier to identify, categorize and relate to. But it was still,
in essence, much like a newborn youma in its primitive curiosity.

"Master, I've finally found you!" Doko smiled as the being watched him and
then twisted its head all the way around till it was upside-down.

*th-- toy-- --ster g-- -r--* gibberish but then one thought came through
clear before it shook its head as if to clear it. *what is master*

Doko blinked surprised, unsure of whether that had been a statement, a
question, or a part of a statement. He sighed, communication would be hard
with this great being, but then who said talking to a god would be easy?

"You, who shall rule over this land," he answered wearily.

More gibberish before the voice became one and he grimaced, huddling into a
ball at the full force of the thought. *where is the one who sealed chaos*

When Doko recovered, he was once again a washed with a million
conversations and nonsense in his own head as his eyes gleamed with
anticipation. "The Sailor Senshi," he smiled at the monster he had
unleashed, "they sealed you."

*sailor senshi choas want*

"Whatever the Master desires," Doko murmured, as he looked towards the one
area clear from the sweep of chaos, located not very far away. "Whatever
you desire."

That was when his master first discovered the emotion called satisfaction.
It was the second emotion it had come to experience, the first being
hatred. It liked the feeling very much and wished to continue. Tendrils of
darkness came and went as Death woke into the world of the living.

* * *

Hiketsu felt sick. Sure, he had been sick before in his life as all humans
have. But he felt really, really sick and not because his body was unwell
but the darkness emitting from the Earth and from all living things
outside of the area cleansed, bombarded him in such a way that he felt
disgusted and dirty down to the very core of his being. Mars looked at him
worriedly, supporting him as he heaved.

"If he throws up, it's not going to be on me," Sailor Venus sniffed having
transformed and gotten more than a few interesting comments from Fuma
because she unwittingly did it in front of him.

"Well thanks for your unending support, Minako-chan." Mars bit back
harshly, her face a slightly interesting shade of green as well. "I am so
glad that you are my best friend in the whole world!"

"I never felt this bad before," Tuxedo Kamen groaned as Eternal Sailor Moon
tried her best to make him feel better by lightly tapping her hand on his
arm and restraining herself from showing further worried affections. It was
at the advice of Mercury and the strength of Jupiter that had made sure the
odango-princess didn't try to shake her prince into better health -- as
Minako had tried to do with her earlier -- at first. However, it was Mars
who bluntly pointed out that if Sailor Moon didn't want her hero to throw up
all over her nice, white fuku, she best not do more than pet the guy's arm.
That made the odango-blond first go pale and then look nervously over to
her Tuxedo Kamen as he gave her his best green-faced,
I'm-sick-don't-hurt-or-touch-me look that made sure she did no more than
what she had been instructed.

"This is just great!" Jupiter muttered as she paced back and forth before
the group.

"Please, Mako-chan," Mars groaned as she buried her face into Hiketsu's
neck. "Stop going around and around, it's making me dizzy and even more
nauseated than before."

Jupiter paused with a resigned sigh, "So, our resident psychics are both
sick and Tuxedo Kamen-sama is just as green in the face as the skirt I'm
wearing, and you tell me to stop worrying?" a few protests ended when those
emerald eyes glared at them, shutting everyone up to endure Jupiter's rant.
"So what the hell are we going to do when we get out of this field of
cleansing? Anyone got any bright ideas?"

"I didn't say stop worrying," Mars grouchily muttered, "You can worry but
can you just stand still while you're doing it?"

"I think I just need to throw up once," Hiketsu muttered. "I'm not asking
for the world's best pill here."

Mercury was thinking about the whole situation as she carefully scanned all
of them but focusing more on the three sickest people in the group, "You
are all sensitive to the different forces working here, right?" the
blue-haired woman paused as they all nodded. "Mars has her senses
heightened but being a Senshi makes it more likely that she can resist being
physically sick, at least much better than Hiketsu. And Tuxedo Kamen is
sick because his bond with the Earth increases once he has transformed, also
held in check by his transformation though. Well, the best solution I can
think to this is that we can cast something along the lines of a magick
dampener that can block out the effects of this but it'll definitely blanket
your senses as well." Hiketsu looked perplexed and Mars looked worriedly to
him as well. Tuxedo Kamen continued to stare at the sky overhead as he
tried to make sure that his breathing was slow and steady. "It's not the
best solution, I know, but once we reach the Tokyo Tower, the negative
energy my computer's picking up from there is going to increase by many
folds. It's going to be a tow on your bodies if you don't numb those senses
a little."

"You need us," the prince finally said after absorbing the information.
"You need our senses to pick out the main force of this."

"But you can't damn well fight if you're puking your guts out in an open
battle field!" Jupiter cut in angrily, her eyes flashing with concern as
she looked at her green-faced friends.

"Thanks for the mental image," Mars commented dryly but nobody laughed
because the truth of it made them all slightly nervous and on edge. "I
don't think it would be best that we blanket our senses with magick," Mars
finally cut into the anxious silence as she looked to Mercury with
determination in her eyes. "Hiketsu's best weapon is what he has naturally,
his natural instincts. If we let magick he can't control and don't know
much about into the mix, a whole bunch of things can go wrong. It's the
same with Tuxedo Kamen-sama and me, we need that part of us because it is a
part of us. So, you'll just have to give us some time to adjust to this,
throw up in a bush somewhere, and we'll all come back less "green" and
having already "puked our guts out", as Jupiter so kindly put it."

Mercury shrugged at this, "It was only a hypothesis," she amended

"Now, if you'll excuse me," Mars began to drag Hiketsu away towards the
restaurant she was sure had a bathroom inside, somewhere.

"Sailor Moon, I really need to follow them," Tuxedo Kamen patted at his
girlfriend's worried hands to still her motion. "I'll be gone for just a
few minutes."

"You want me to watch over your hat or something?" Sailor Moon suggested,
having nothing else better to do. It sounded silly, but if it made her feel
better who was he to complain? Smiling Tuxedo Kamen nodded and left it to
the fretting Sailor Moon as he got up.

"Usagi-chan, it's not like someone would, or even could, come and steal
that from him," Luna chided her ward kindly when Tuxedo Kamen was gone,
trying to ease the other's anxieties while she nonchalantly smoothed her

Sticking her tongue out at her cat, Sailor Moon opened her mouth to retort
in indignation but Fuma's laugh cut her off. "That is the first time I've
seen a cat do that!" He waltzed over to the surprised Luna and the
odango-blonde while a weary Artemis peeked at him next to the dark, female
cat beside him. "Hey, kitty, think you could say my name too?"

"I can make fun of Usagi-chan, don't you think I can pronounce your name
correctly, Kuragari-san?" Luna asked frostily, getting annoyed with the
other man. Artemis felt sorry for the stupid boy who was provoking her,
well, sort of. He still didn't approve his Minako dating such a baka.

"Well, one never knows! What other tricks can you do?" Venus was hitting
her head against her palm while muttering about how stupid her boyfriend
could be -- in agreement with her guardian cat's silent observations -- as
Jupiter openly gaped at Fuma's audaciousness. Mercury blinked once before
bowing her head in shame as Fuma continued to make absurd demands. And
sitting next to Luna, Sailor Moon had her mouth hanging wide open at the man
who spoke so rudely to her council and guardian, unable to get her jaw to
work as she stared at the other in shock. "Oh, oh! Can you do a square
dance too since you are a talking cat, after all, and no one ever imagined
that to be possible!"

Luna hissed under her breath, for the last comment became the straw that
broke the camel's back. "I am a royal, Lunarian cat and I demand that you
show at least one damn ounce of respect! Because right now, I am seriously
considering going out there to find your body before you do and make it my
personal scratching post right up to the next century you got that
hologram-boy?" Amused, Fuma only smirked much to the further irritation of

"So, you can't do the jig?" Luna flexed her claws before looking darkly
over at Fuma as images of ripping him to shreds came to mind. The blue eyes
of Luna narrowed as Fuma grinned, leaning over to pet her on the head. She
made a swipe at him in annoyance, her claws going through him just as she
had suspected before. "Ah, ah, ah, you naughty little kitty!"

Luna twitched at this and Artemis sighed silently to himself. Why did he
have a bad feeling about this? That somehow he was going to be the one
facing the violent treatment? "You-you--" Luna sputtered, too angry to come
up with words to describe the incredibly annoying hologram before her.

Fuma grinned, looked over and took notice of an exasperated Artemis before
his grin widened. Oh, yeah, Artemis thought to himself, I am so going to
get it simply because I am me. "Is she your girlfriend there, buddy?" Fuma
inquired, "Feisty little kitty, isn't she? You must have you paws full, eh,
you lucky alley cat!" With a wicked wink, Fuma sauntered away as Artemis
gaped in shock at his retreating back.

Him? An alley cat? The thought was repulsive... but interesting.

A low hissing noise next to him warned him of his eminent doom as he slowly
swiveled his head in Luna's direction, fearful of what he would come to
face. "I am so going to kill him," Luna turned to find Artemis staring at
her with the same expression frozen on his face after what Fuma had so
blatantly suggested. The white cat was definitely blushing under his fur at
the implications stated. Artemis' white jaw was slack as he gaped at her
in total shock, his imagination taking him where no man, or cat, should dare
to tread in the presence of an annoyed female. Red crept up her face
underneath her dark fur as well when she realized what it was that he was
probably thinking about at that exact moment, "Hentai!"


Yup! Did he mention doomed yet?

By the time the others came back, they all looked better except for a
beaten Artemis while everybody else ignored a pouting Fuma. "It's getting
stronger," Mars warned them when the three of them neared. "We have to

Tuxedo Kamen looked better and he seemed to be thinking better too, "Usako,
maybe you shouldn't go."

Sailor Moon gasped at this, "Why not?" She demanded, irritated that Tuxedo
Kamen could even suggest something so irrational. "It's the epic battle,
you'd think that I would come in handy, somehow!"

"But the ba--"

Blue eyes narrowed at him, "Don't even think about saying it, my family is
just as in the line of danger as the rest of us and they are out there
without any magick. Everybody here is taking the same risks and if we don't
win, nobody's going to survive!"

"But what about the--"

"No! I refuse to talk about it." Sailor Moon cut in again.

"You just don't want the others to know!" Tuxedo Kamen angrily retorted.

"Know what, exactly?" Artemis inquired hesitantly.

"You see what you've done--?" Sailor Moon began, pointing at the
bewildered white cat.

"I just thought that it would be better if--" Tuxedo Kamen began to reply
as well.

"Oh, don't tell me you don't know!" Venus exclaimed surprised, her voice
overriding both the prince's and the princess's ongoing argument.

The couple froze as they looked at Sailor Venus and then at everyone else's
grinning face. "What? You can't mean that it wasn't obvious?" Fuma
demanded incredulously.

"Hiketsu and I can read ki, you'd think we'd sense an extra, little
someone!" Mars added.

"I've been scanning you since the battle's beginning, Usagi-chan, and my
computer wouldn't miss that!" Mercury agreed.

Jupiter blinked as Sailor Moon's gaze fell on her, "What? It's expected
since you guys are having sex!" The group went into deadly silence at that
as Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen both turned deep red. "Oops, was I not
suppose to say that outloud?" Jupiter asked sheepishly as she scratched her
head innocently.

"Too late now," Mars muttered.

"You all know?" Sailor Moon asked mortified when the truth settled.

"Well, we thought we'd be polite about it and wait until you got around to
telling us before we let you know that we knew," Jupiter admitted when
nobody else would answer.

"It definitely would not have been appropriate if you didn't tell us
first," Mercury quickly agreed.

Mars shrugged, "Hey, I wasn't about to spill the beans about your personal

Venus didn't even try to explain, "It's so romantic that you two are having
a baby together and out of wedlock too!"

Of course Fuma ruined the moment by opening his mouth, "Kinky!"

Of all the wishes to the gods at that moment, the wish that Kuragari Fuma
would one day regain his body was prayed for most fervently by the little
group standing in their little corner in Tokyo, Japan before they prepared
to go fight for the preservation of life on their world.

* * *

The hospital was white and once it had smelled sterile with too much
cleanliness. He never realized how much he would miss that smell once he
got a waft of death. It was better to smell squeaky cleanliness than
rotting flesh any day.

His back was to the wall as he stared up at the ceiling, the blue-white of
the fluorescent lights hypnotizing him. He didn't want to think, to
remember, to sense, to smell, nor did he want his hearing either. A cough
racked his body as pain raced through him, blood seeping past his lips in a
thin line that was drawn down to his chin, dripping onto his already stained
shirt. If mother saw him she would scold him for being in such a mess, and
he sputtered a sound between laughter and despair as he lowered his head
into his hands.

One tear, two.

Hell, he had thought he could stop crying by now. He was a man after all,
and men didn't cry. Strong men could, and would, bear this pain. What was
that saying again? Wasn't it something like: "The eyelids of a Samurai know
not moisture"? But then again, he wasn't strong, was he? At least, he had
not been strong enough to save her and he had not been strong enough to save
Father either.


He glanced over to the other side of the hospital room. It was white, dim
and dreary. He hated this room so much! Turning his gaze to the window, he
saw the red creeping into the skies. A sunset, another something he was
missing by being here, but where would he go if he left?

A shuffling came into the room and his eyes shifted towards the sound,
regarding the bent back of the man, lying against a white bundle beneath the
covers of the sheets. "You hungry?" He asked casually having long given up
requesting the other to leave. He had tried everything after all, first
through his tears, than anger, he had even begged the last person who was
still here, left for him, but nothing worked. "We're just one, damn, happy
family aren't we?" He grumbled under his breath bitterly.

There was no hope, or life, and no tomorrow by the looks of things.

No answer to his questions either.

He should have known, "You hungry, dad?" He asked a little louder this

No answer.

He could hear the rasp still in his voice from his earlier frustrations. He
had been stupid then, screaming himself hoarse at the man before him, the
man who might as well be dead. "Go home, Shingo." Blue eyes widened at the
response that finally came, "Your mother and I will be back soon, she's
getting better you know?"

Tsukino Shingo blinked slowly, as if absorbing those words. What had he
said before? Everything he said had fallen on deaf ears but father seemed to
be listening to him at last. "No, dad," he shook his head. Standing on
shaky legs he began to walk over, "Dad wake up, come back with me."

"Your mother needs me, son," his father smiled down at the corpse. "She
looks better than yesterday, doesn't she?" No, she's rotting in bed and you
won't leave her side, Shingo thought. He wrinkled his nose as the smell of
decaying flesh became stronger as he neared his father. "You know, Shingo,
the day you were born she was so happy. And when your sister came into the
hospital room and looked at you, oh, I knew then those two would adore you
to death. Did you know what Usagi-chan gave you that day? Roses. She was
so convinced that they were your flowers that she used to ask for them
everyday after you were born." Shingo froze in his place behind his father
as he looked down at the broken man in disbelief. The man he had looked up
to all his life did not acknowledge his presence even as his shadow hovered
over his father. "Your mother told her that Kami-sama gave you to us as a
gift and Usagi was so little then. Your sister took one look at you that day
and said to us that Kami-sama must have want her to take special care of you,
so she was going to be the best, big, little sister in the world."

Father's laugh had no despair in it, but joy. And the joy was so foreign a
feeling to him at the moment that it sounded wrong in his ears, grating and
strange. No, it was wrong, it was wrong to laugh about anything at this
moment when there was nothing to laugh at, when there was no future.

"I love you all so much," his father said. "We're just one big, happy
family aren't we, Shingo-chan?"

How long has it been since father called him that?

Blue eyes narrowed in worry as his hands grasped the man's shoulders, "Dad,
wake up, dammit! Mother's not getting better anymore! She's dead, dead..."
Tears fell in splashes of dew-like drops, even though he had thought that he
had cried all of his tears already. But the emptiness and the pain were
there to stay in an unending wave that would not and could not be dispersed.
His back stooped as if a great weight was pressing down on him, weighing
down his limbs as he rested his forehead against his father's back. "Can't
you hear me? She's not coming back and neither is Usagi-chan! They're both
not coming back--"

"Shut up!" Shingo felt himself being shoved away, shocked as his father
turned to him then, "Who the hell do you think you are?" Tsukino Kenji
looked up to him. "You think you can just waltz in here and talk about my
family like that?"

"D-dad?" Shingo gasped.

"I'm not your father! My son would never speak to his family like that
and he would never say the blasphemous things that you have uttered! What
right do you have to come here and speak to us like that?" That anger and
that madness in Kenji's eyes, as if he never seen Shingo before, scared him,
shaking him to the core.

"You're crazy!" Shingo swore, "Dammit dad, I know you're in there
somewhere. Face me, dammit! At least have the decency to face me--"

The ringing in his ears and the throb of his cheek stopped his words and
any other thoughts in his head in a single moment. The shocked silence as
accusing blue eyes turned to the man by the bed. Shingo found nothing there
except a shell of memories. Kenji had already turned back and grasped the
rotting hands of his dead wife, leaving Shingo to stand there in the
aftermath of the slap, uncertain of the emotion that made those silent tears
fall from his eyes.

Was this feeling anger? Sadness? Disappointment? Or betrayal?

Maybe he was experiencing all of these things.

Lost and alone, he stood behind the man he had looked up to all his life,
watching the other crumble.


He had never hated anyone so much as he did then and he hated himself more
than anything else in the world in that moment of despair. He turned on his
heels and exited the room quickly, unsure of where he was headed but he was
sick of the death and the helplessness he felt.

Another cough, stronger this time than the last, assailed him. Shingo
gasped as he collapsed against the white wall next to him. A foreboding
feeling overwhelmed his senses, making every single hair on his body stand
on ends. The young man glanced over to see the red sky overhead from the
window of an unoccupied hospital room, saw the darkness sweeping over the
lands in an unstoppable wave, and then the walls around him turned black as
he took a defensive step back before him and everything else around him was
drowned in the darkness.

If Tsukino Shingo had screamed, he never heard the sound that fell from his
own lips.

In that darkness he found the truth that he never knew he was
searching for. Red eyes opened in that same darkness, one blinked and then

There were no more tears.

The youma leered as one image came into its mind, the bleeding image of a
fuku dressed female, hanging lifelessly in its claws. The being began to
smile. Mother. Mother will come back to life in that river of blood

With that the window of the hospital was smashed as a black beast broke
through the glass, landing onto the ground far below. It left a large dent
on the black cement sidewalk before it moved on, searching for the cure to
those it cared for the most in that dying world, relying solely on its
distorted memories of the past.

It had to find those female warriors, the beast thought as it was fueled by
the turmoil of emotions still raging through its tainted blood. The being
previously known as Tsukino Shingo raised its head and roared at the
bloodied skies. A short time ago, its old self would not even have
considered the option of killing another to ensure its own survival. But
now it knew, it knew that they were the ones who could cure him and everyone
he knew from this eternal agony by only with a drop of their immortal

It must possess the blood of those eternal soldiers, that or die trying!

* * *

They landed a few miles away, and surprisingly no one protested. Pluto
knew she couldn't go back, but she wanted to see, she needed to pause for a
moment on this roller coaster ride to the end of the world and gather
herself. And that was when it happened.

The communicator beeped and slowly, cautiously, Pluto opened hers before
she caught sight of a battered Neptune smiling at her on the small, circular
screen. In the corner of her eye, she saw Saturn opening her communicator
too, "Are you alright?" Those words escaped her lips before she could stop
herself. Pluto knew she shouldn't have cared, that being a Sailor Senshi
meant risks and that meant it wouldn't matter if they could make it or not,
what mattered was that they could accomplish what they were here to do. But
she cared. All the centuries of loneliness had caught up with her in that
single moment and she didn't want them to die! She wanted them to live and
be happy and not have to deal with this.

Hell, Haruka would definitely reject that idea. The sandy-haired blonde
loved the action and the powers too much to just give it up because of the
risks -- after all, that was why she loved it so much -- but then again the
other had always been the restless type. Looking at Neptune, Pluto had a
feeling that even if Haruka had never became a Sailor Senshi she would still
have spent her life searching for someone like Michiru. Michiru calmed
Haruka's wildness, and though many might have considered the aqua-haired
woman manipulative, Michiru was far from cruel.

It was always "do what you have to do" for those two.

The philosophy had seemed so simple on the surface, even when those words
left one's tongue in a final, short and sweet sort of way. But when the end
came, Pluto had to admire both for the way they carried those words out to
the last letter. Maybe that's why she had come to love these people who had
shown her their dedication, their heart and their soul. The couple had
given her a reason to respect them and then, finally, to love them.

"I thought I told you to get out of here!" Neptune scolded, a teasing
light in her eyes. That smile eased whatever discomfort her tone might have
brought. She was also skillfully avoiding the question.

"I thought you said you were taking the express way back to Japan too,"
Pluto answered with equal playfulness, her voice just as kind.

Uranus popped up beside her partner and lover, eyes furtively looking to
one side before coming to the screen with a mischievous grin that hid
whatever those two were really thinking, or worrying about at the time.
"Ah, hey there hime-chan! Did you come to tell your old man that you like
your freedom so far? Better not find a boyfriend without me giving you my
approval first!"

"You're not going to make it," Saturn told them calmly and though her words
were harsh, her voice was warmer than it had been for a long time,
warmer and sadder.

Neptune blinked a moment in surprise but was the first to recover, "Well,
we were just ringing in to see how all of you were faring without us.
Obviously Setsuna is not giving you enough of a cheer! Setsuna dear, you do
get hung up over some things. Don't be such a worry-wart, you'll be giving
Hotaru-chan nightmares!"

"See, Michiru! I knew those two would miss us while we beat them in the
race to be back home," Uranus cut in looking at Neptune before tuning back
to an amused Pluto. "I'm going to tell Usagi-chan all about how you two
slow-pokes are still eating my dust once I get back!"

Saturn closed her communicator and went back to the chopper where Core
lounged against the side. "Take care of Hotaru-chan for us, ne, Setsuna?"
Neptune smiled at her over the comm-link once Saturn had left.

"Yeah, take care of the munchkin while we're apart, ne? And don't spoil
her too much, I don't want our little girl to be too serious and picky after
this whole ordeal is over and all!" Uranus winked. "We'll be watching you
from afar! And now, if you'll excuse me, business calls though I would much
prefer the company of you two lovely women!" The screen wavered as Uranus
turned hers off, and before long an explosion in the background sent
concrete flying in all directions. Pluto lifted her head to see a sparkle
of light in the distance before looking down at the communicator screen
again just as Neptune came up from ducking a particularly large chunk of

"Setsuna," Neptune was a little breathless when the screen refocused.

"Hai, Michiru?"

"I wanted you to know," another bout of static cut the aqua-haired senshi
off before the same beautiful face came back on, "...it's not your fault,
you know?" Pluto blinked not quite sure where the other was coming from.

"What? What was that, Michiru? There was too much static." Pluto looked
puzzled by her friend's words, breathlessly waiting for an explanation. Her
heart pounded, full of hope and fear all at once to what the other had

Neptune continued to smile at her sadly, "The future has already been
decided. It's not your fault how it turns out in the end." Aqua eyes
searched her own, "I wanted you to know that, my dear, old friend." Another
explosion in the background and the image shook, "Sayonara, Set--"

"Neptune, you're needed here--!" Pluto could hear the slight panic in
Uranus' voice as the other called for her partner. The link was
disconnected in another instant and Pluto was left with nothing but a blank

Somewhere in the distance a brilliant explosion went off, and she watched
with a heavy heart and dry eyes. Sometimes it hurts to cry and sometimes it
just isn't right for tears. Pluto whispered a soundless goodbye to the
distance as the powerful light winked out, "See you soon, dear, old
friends." Slowly she closed the small communicator in her hand, unwilling
to look away from where she had departed but moments ago.

*We'll be watching you from afar!* A small, sad smile came over her lips.
*Ah, I hope heaven's what it turns out to be, Michiru! Kami-sama knows we
need the vacation and best of all, it's free!* Haruka's voice came back to
her again, remembering that conversation during their helicopter ride awhile
back. It had sounded humorous then, a little dark and a bit dry, almost silly
but now it was so sad. What had Michiru said that time? Something about privacy,
those two were always goading each other on.

Pluto blinked. No, no tears today. There wasn't time to cry. Instead she
turned her back to happier times of the past to face the looming future.
"What the hell are you doing?" Core's enraged voice reached Pluto's ears as
she turned to see the sight that greeted her. A calm Saturn was violently
shoving the body of Hector Kalic out of the chopper's side door. Hector had
been a good man, men like him were hard to come by. Pluto regretted that
loss too, it was not a death she had forseen, but he had always suspected
the risks when she had gone to him those years ago, offering him the
underground project that later became a part of his life.

"You are carrying waste, it is a hazard to all of us." Saturn explained
evenly as the girl dusted her hands.

Pluto took a deep breath before walking towards the two. A part of her was
thinking, pretending that Uranus and Neptune were still alive that they had
teleported out in time. Those two would probably be drinking tea at their
local hangout in Tokyo soon, laughing at her and Saturn for being
"slow-pokes" as Haruka put it. Somewhere, they are watching and waiting
for us to come home, Pluto assured herself. And one can never be too sure
about those two. They had the luck of cats when it came to staying alive.
After all, Michiru and Haruka were just alive a moment ago. They couldn't
be dead, right? And she couldn't afford to show weakness to either of the
two companions before her, not now, not when she needed as much control over
the situation as she could possibly muster.

*I wanted you to know... it's not your fault.* What Michiru gave her was
enough to keep her strong for now, that and Haruka's sarcastic jokes.

"What you think means nothing to me," Core argued back though seemingly
calmer now as he walked over to pick Kalic's body up where Saturn had so
carelessly discarded it.

"The mark this man wears that has protected him thus far from a complete
take-over by the youma entity he carries, is gone." Saturn replied with
equal calmness, "Any minute now, he will take on the true form of his
corrupted soul! I couldn't care less if you carried that rotting corpse with
you till the end of your days but I see no logic in keeping one that will
turn into a monster and attack us at any time the disease within him so

"He will not--" Core was cut off as the man in his arms shuddered and
blackness consumed him. Core looked down at this event in annoyance but
before he could retort, Pluto's voice rang out.

"Dead scream!" The ball engulfed the black mass in Core's arms, forcing
the man to step back in surprise as the attack pushed Core back a little
more. Pluto made no effort to hide her enjoyment of unleashing her attack.
It felt good to focus on something else, it felt good to get back to her
duties, it felt good to let out her frustrations and anger and grief out on
something. And she was so close to killing Core, Charolet's clone... That
felt damn good too!

"Fuck," Core swore under his breath before regaining his composure, "You
kill so easily for someone who claims to protect life."

Why was she always guilty for the human inside of her? It seemed to get in
her way a lot these days. "He was already dead," Pluto shrugged, slipping
into the familiar role that she was so used to playing. "I can't kill
someone who's already dead."

"And I thought he was your comrade, Pluto." Core said coldly.

"A reliable ally, he was," she glared at him coldly, emphasizing her last
word. "And now he can rest in peace and not be some youma puppet for some
stupid mission to take over the world." Rouge eyes clashed with blue ones,
he reminded her so much of Alyssa and at the same time, Core showed a lot
more emotion than his sister clone ever did. "Get in the chopper. We're
leaving." She commanded snappishly. She watched the thin, mocking smile
come over his lips, telling her that he enjoyed hitting a nerve of hers.

*Setsuna, thank you.* Hector's words came back to her in that moment.
Hector Kalic was smiling then, so young and full of dreams. She remembered
how he had looked as an older man, lying so helplessly in Core's arms. *I
know it won't be easy, but I think I can do this.*

*You always love a challenge, don't you?* She had asked him that the day
he had said yes to her offer. He was blushing and she found that as amusing
as the admiration in his eyes. Puppy love, wasn't that what she had always
called it? It had been a silly crush, but it made the man endearing.
Hector had always been a kind man, helped others whenever he could. He was also
very brilliant, and had a good heart and brains, qualities so very rare to
come by in life. Smart people sometimes had trouble distinguishing success
and doing good for others. If she thought on it, she could almost admit to
herself that she had liked him a little too. But her duties would not have
allowed those feelings to get any further than curiosity at the time.
Goodness, she never more than shared a coffee break with him every few years
when they met up and discussed Core.

He was always smiling when she saw him though and there was a light in his
eyes that made her respect him. *Life is full of challenges, made for it, I
think.* It was strange seeing someone smile at such a serious topic, but
Hector always had Haruka's strange humor and Usagi's vibrancy when it came
to life. It was refreshing to finally meet someone like that who was no
cynic but had faced the truth and came out smiling. *My hardest one was
failing and then learning to live with that. It must be difficult this
thing that they call rebirth,* He knew she was watching him intently then
but that smile never wavered, *When I was young I always thought death was
somewhat like one big failure,* he laughed at himself then, perhaps
remembering those days of innocence gone. *But when I experienced my first
true defeat,* he sighed as he glanced at the bitter and dark liquid in his
cup. *Somehow it tasted like a triumph as well. I think that life is like
a cup of coffee, it's bitter but it wakes you up.* He glanced at her then,
shy and tentative. The man made it so easy for others to fall in love with
him, to trust him and respect him, he had always been a natural leader. His
charm was so inborn that she had problems resisting it herself.
*Sounds silly, doesn't it?*

*Of much philosophical worth I'm sure,* she had smiled back at him kindly.

He had been so full of life and determination, always, but Hector Kalic was
dead. Funny, how she had destroyed the last of him. Still, she honestly
hoped that Hector was free now, and maybe he could find true happiness in
this little failure that she had caused for him. I hope that you have
tasted your greatest triumph, Pluto silently prayed as she went to the other
side of the chopper.

Core shrugged, looking out in search of the ashes that had already been
blown away by the wind. "Be at peace, friend." The murmur went unheard as
Pluto swung into the pilot's seat and started the engines. Core closed his
eyes for a moment and let the centuries of his life flash before him in that
instant before turning back to the path he had chosen for himself. "May I
find the cure you so desired, my last gift."

Saturn glanced back at him as expressionless as ever. He could not tell if
the girl-monster heard him or not but deemed it not worth his time to find
out, he had other things on his mind after all. He hoped that Sailor
Mercury did not turn into something like the two, cold-hearted women before
him when she donned her fuku. He doubted that she was anything like them
since Ami was such a kind and gentle soul. With her on his mind, he slid
into his seat and looked at the rooftop they were departing from. He looked
sideways to study the profile of the woman-senshi who had changed his life
forever when she came charging into that little cell his people had created
so long ago, destroying his only family. Then, she offered him another,
taking him away from the only woman he had ever loved, his creator.

Now, this demoness of a warrior was losing people most important to her as
well and though, some part of him knew he should feel better knowing that
she was suffering as she had made him suffer, the humans she had exposed him
to had changed him from what he was before. There was a corner of his heart
that understood her pain and her reluctance to reveal it, making him
experience sympathy for another being for the first time in his life.
Still, he was becoming more and more indifferent to the whole situation and
whatever it was that was to come. Whether or not Pluto understood, in a
symbolic way, she had just destroyed his last physical link to the humanity
she had chained him to when she turned Kalic to dust in his arms and right
now, he really couldn't have cared less.

Somehow a single tear clung to his eyelashes before falling onto the
material of his pants when he blinked. Core stared down at the small,
spreading wet spot for a confused moment, not knowing why he was shedding a
tear for the second time in his long, long life.

* * *

The darkness that covered the city, surrendering it to the inky shadow of
night drew back like a wave slithering back into the depth of a black ocean.
Revealing nothing in the light, hiding its shadows as the bleeding skies
looked on with indifference to the dying world below.

A youma lifted its head and retreated, clambering up the side of a building
as a group of men and women rounded the corner along with two cats leading
the way. "It's so strange," one of the young women was saying at that
moment, dark hair shimmering with hues of red that was being reflected from
the heavens overhead. "There was great negative energy all around us just a
moment ago and it seemed to have just..."

"Disappeared?" A blue-haired woman suggested as she tapped at a small
computer in her hand.

"No, I wouldn't say that," the dark-haired woman shook her head, her face
thoughtful as she tried to find the words to describe what she had felt.
"More like, gone into hiding."

"Hiding?" A brunette looked distrustfully at the former, "It sounds to me
like you're saying that they're expecting us."

"That's what I'm afraid of," the dark-haired woman grumbled grimly.

A blond-haired man was walking with the cats in front of the group and
paused in the middle of the street. The cats beside him stopped as well and
looked back to watch the group approach, "This is it," he said when they got
close enough to hear him.

"It is?" A woman with strange, odango-like buns on the side of her head and
long braids of hair falling over her shoulders looked at the man in

"Hiketsu meant that this is where the barrier ends," the dark cat, Luna,

The blue-haired woman nodded with a satisfied glimmer in her eyes as the
white cat looked back at her, "Your calculations were correct after all,
Mercury," seeing her blue eyes surveyed the area before them.

"So, why have we stopped?" The brunette inquired, "I don't think we have
much time left before the enemy gets out of hand."

"Venus," the dark-haired women looked worriedly at their surroundings as
another blond-haired woman turned to the former in question. "Is it just me
or is this place a little too empty and quiet?"

"No one's here," the brunette shook her head slowly as she looked out in
the open, sadness in her eyes. "Isn't that reason enough?"

"I don't mean that, Jupiter," the dark-haired woman narrowed her eyes at
their surroundings. "I sense negative energy here but there's nothing to
show why there's negative energy being emitted here to begin with."

"Mercury, are you picking up anything?" The one named Venus inquired.

"The whole city is blanketed by this dark force, my computer can't pick up
anything specific but there's definitely something out there waiting for

The dark cat looked worriedly over to the men who had been strangely silent
throughout the whole conversation, "Can you tell us anything, Tuxedo

"Other than that this is making me sick to my stomach?" A dark-haired man
sighed, "No, my senses are too overwhelmed by the magnitude of this evil to
distinguish anything from it. It's like we're walking in darkness and
looking for shadows."

Emerald eyes never leaving the city awaiting them, blinked before the
brunette spoke. "But now we know that something is definitely waiting for
us out there, hmm?"

"Fuma, I think it's time for you to get to work," Venus frowned at the city
that was her home.

"Just because I can't get ripped to shreds," Fuma sighed, ignoring the
glares turned his way as he strutted easily down the street and passed the
barrier. "I bet there's nothing here at all but some pesky insects." The
blond walked a little way down before he turned to them, "See, I'm telling
you guys, nothing!"

Venus sighed in relief as she took a step forward to follow, "Min'na," the
brunette took a step back instead as her eyes were glued to one of the
buildings on their left instead of their companion in the streets. "We've
got company."

Heads turned in her direction before following her eyes and there, little
by little, forms of darkness rippled from the reflective glass, seemingly
emerging from thin air as their enemies shed their camouflage. "Well,
fuck." Fuma brushed his hand through his hair as he glared at their new

"Just bugs, huh?" Artemis inquired sarcastically as he glanced towards the
frustrated Fuma.

"This reminds me of a game of cat and mouse and I don't like being in
anyway related to a mouse," Luna quipped dryly beside her feline companion.

The black beings shifted along the walls as the group froze, not quite sure
whether to go forward or back, whether to attack or retreat. "They have
certainly been waiting for us," Tuxedo Kamen growled as he readied his
slender, black cane.

"And waiting for the barrier to recede as well," Hiketsu glanced over to
Mars who stood closer to him then, as if to protect him. He smiled at her
concern for his welfare, not at all miffed by her assumption that she was
the stronger one of the two of them.

"I'd be careful, min'na," Venus warned as she narrowed her eyes, crouching
and readying herself for attack. "They are definitely not here to steal our

"Why does that thought not comfort me?" The odango-blonde complained as
the dark-haired prince instinctively shielded her. "Oh, and why do they
always have to be so ugly?" There was a hitch in her voice.

Somewhere in the distance, a beeping sound came and the gasp of Mercury was
almost drowned by the silent, tension filled atmosphere. "Min'na," the
hoarse voice of the blue-haired woman made everyone turn their attention to
her in concern.

"Mercury?" The odango-blonde looked worriedly to her friend.

"You're not going to like this," azure eyes looked up to survey their new
enemies, "But from what my computer picked up, those things are still partially

"What?" the brunette swore, "Those creepy crawlies that look like something
out of a horror movie, are partially human? When did they stop being a whole
human?" Jupiter half-joked.

"Don't tell me, it gets worse, right?" Mars groaned.

Mercury's mouth thinned before she spoke again, "I think we have just met
the other end of the evolutionary scale; what we might have been had circumstances
been a bit... different."

"What do you mean different? Like Queen-Beryl-different because you can't
mean that we'd turn out like that without some unholy help!" there was shock
and bewilderment in the brunette's voice as she waved one frantic finger at
the beings moving along the walls. Hiketsu suddenly staggered backwards into a
wide-eyed Saiolr Mars before both crumbled, just as Tuxedo Kamen himself fell onto
his knees, his hat tumbling, his mask crumpled in his fist. "Tuxedo Kamen-sama!"
Sailor Moon gasped as she rushed to his side while Venus gave an equal cry of
alarm as Mars shuddered in Hiketsu's tight embrace. "Alright, what the hell is
going wrong now?" Sailor Jupiter demanded tiredly as Mercury typed frantically at
her keybord, her face becoming paler by the second.

"Ah, guys, those things look like they're getting ready to kill us,"
Artemis pointed out to the distracted group, his paw pointing to the black
beasts that were suddenly restless.

Fuma put on a pair of sunglasses from his jacket as he cracked his
knuckles. "Can we have these wonderfully, fascinating, scientific
conversations after we get rid of the bad guys?" The blond inquired with
sarcastic cheer though he looked with concern at his fallen comrades.

"But they're half human," Mercurey began to argue in return, suddenly
looking up from her small screen. We can't just fight them as if they were
monsters! The problem here is not what they are but who they were!"

Venus looked around with a fierceness in her eyes and worry clouding her
mind, "Yes, but they're going to kill us and I refuse to let anyone die before
we find out what exactly is going on here. Morally, we might be killing humans
but damnit Mercury they're half-youma too. And if they're working to kill
every last living thing on the Earth, then it's our duty to protect this

"What if we--" Luna began, trying to end the fighting by suggesting
another course of action. Obviously the strategy they had planned earlier did
not apply to the situation anymore. Hiketsu looked up at that moment, cutting
the black cat off before she could speak further. "They're coming," he spoke
as the ground shook and the youma swarmed upon the barrier, pushing it back to
the horror of those within. Blue eyes dotted with black smears stared unseen
into the blackness merging with the invisible dome of protection, as onyx
eyes lifted. Raven hair shifted as Sailor Mars tightened her hand around his.
"They're coming," she echoed just as Tuxedo Kamen screamed an inhuman scream
clutching his middle while Sailor Moon looked close to tears and hysteria
with worry for her beloved. "Chikuso!" Jupiter swore as she pounded her fist
against her open palm, unable to voice her own confusion as the attack from
the outside increased and they could hear Fuma swear as blck cables twisted
and fought against disinterested youma who swarmed forcefully upon the
barrier. Tuxedo Kamen gasped as his transformation shattered, revealing
the guise of the Earth Prince, and the scream that sent a shiver through
everyone stopped as he clutched his stomach, rocking in Sailor Moon's
bewildered arms. "They're coming," Hiketsu and Mars warned them again, looking
into the blackness with blank stares.

And in that moment, the bounds of the barrier of purification were swept
back a bit more, leaving them out in the open and away from protection, under
threat of being engulfed into the heart of darkness.

"Well, fuck." Venus growled as she aimed her index finger out into the
darkness, ready to call upon her powers. "No!" Mercury clasped the blonde,
"You musn't! They could be children and mothers and fathers, they could be
someone we know and love--"

"Damn it, Mercury, we don't want to do this but it must be done!" Venus
frowned and blue eyes flashed in regret as a white arm shoved the blue-haired
senshi away. "There are no more choices, Mercury, we must fight for Earth and
our survival." Golden streams of light lashed into the darkness followed by a
scream of denial from the senshi. The barrier shattered just as the gold
connected with black bodies pressing against it while darkness descended upon
them en masse. Sailor Venus unleashed another attack to save the lives of her
friends and loved ones. With no time to dwell on her thoughts, all she could
do was keep herself alive long enough to find out exactly what had happened to
cause this whole mess. "We can't go back, Mercury! No matter what happens,"
Venus commanded, "we're going to win against this and we're going to uncover the
truth!" Golden beams of power sang through the air as fire and lightning raced
through the streets destroying everything in their path.

No matter how much this will dirty our hands with blood, we have no more
choices now, Mercury. This is war. If only the truth were not so hard, if only I
could protect our innocence as we struggle in this fight to survive. Nothing is
so simple anymore, and we are no longer just fighting for love and justice. Still,
no matter what happens, I will make you one last promise. If whatever is to come
is as bad as I think it is...

Venus ground her teeth, "I'm going to make sure I take it down with me, if it's
the last thing I do!"

This is War!


* Arigatou - Thank you
* Atama - head
* Baka - idiot, stupid
* Ecchi - similar to hentai, it sort of means pervert too
* Fuku - Armor (Yes, that's right, not JUST scandalously short frilly skirts
for otaku-fanboys!)
* Gomen/Gomen ne/Gomen nasai - I'm sorry
* Hai - Yes
* Hentai - Pervert
* Hontou ni? - "Really?" or "Truly?"
* Ka - is similar to "huh?" It makes a phrase or statement into a question.
* Kami-sama - God
* Kuso - Shit/bullshit
* Min'na - Everyone
* Mou - An exclamation, think along the lines of "Goodness!"
* Ne? - "Right?" or "Don't you agree?"
* Neko - cat
* Odango - dumpling (Thus, "odango-atama", or "dumpling head"!)
* Ofadu - Small, paper scrolls used to weave spells. In Rei's case, it's an
anti-evil scroll. ( More will be explained on why Hiketsu said what Rei was
asking him to do as dangerous. But to give you an idea of the differences
I'm talking about here, let's just say that what Hiketsu did for Rei is
different than what Rei did for Makoto. Level wise, Hiketsu had better
control and more experience, he has a much better grasp on magick and spells
against the spirits than Rei does since she relies, mostly on her Senshi
powers. Not only that, Rei and Makoto's situations were different. Where
Makoto is possessed by the darkness within, Rei has channeling problems and
backlashes from a magick possession that is different than actual, physical,
virus possession. There are, of course, reasons why Hiketsu had survived up
to this point, ne? ^_- You'll get to see his REAL powers in the coming
chapters as well as why his name is Kagemi and why even Fuma acknowledged
him immediately by name and thought him a powerful ally/enemy ^_^v )
* Sayonara - Goodbye (Neptune was trying to say this before her
communication with Pluto was cut off)
* Senshi - soldier (Yup, they are soldiers not "scouts" -_-;; That's what
they were supposed to be but I guess DiC and the rest of the dubbers just
couldn't handle our kick-ass female warrior SOLDIERS! Bah humbug! What a
bunch of wimps!)
* Yare yare - Think along the lines of "Oh well"
* Youma - demon

*The quote that Shingo used "The eyelids of a Samurai know not moisture" is
from the book "Daughter of the Samurai" by Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto. This is
thanks to my friend Steven who bought me the book for my birthday. It's an
amazing story and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese
culture, or just a very good read!

A tribute to...
A. L. a Campo (my editor)
Lord Chaos,
Ken Wolfe, &
Angus MacSpon.

For Don, who was one of the first to
believe in me and this project that
took a life of its own.

And everyone who had helped & encouraged
me during my trials and my errors ^-^;;

Thank you for every dream and every

Thank you for everything.