Oak Evolution

A Sailormoon Fanfiction by Dejana Talis

The night was silent. Absolutely silent.

Being that this was the middle of Tokyo, it was a dreadfully eerie silence.

The city was like a ghost town. Not a single car moved along the darkened roads. Not a single streetlamp shone. Here and there candlelight flickered in the windows of a dwelling, but the electricity had gone out days ago. Not a soul was about out of doors.

Save one.

Sailor Jupiter opened the door to Kino Makoto's apartment and stepped inside. She was utterly exhausted, and not merely from climbing flight after flight of stairs with the elevators out of service. It had been a long, hard battle.

Not a battle.

A war.

The worst, and best, experience the Sailor Senshi had ever had.

Now that it was over, the days of endless fighting were already beginning to fade in among the other memories of battle. Jupiter could almost forget the entire world had changed, if not for the silence.

Her hand was halfway to the light switch before she remembered there was no power. The survivors of Tokyo were spending yet another night in the darkness, but at least that problem would be solved relatively soon. Restoring electricity and technology was at the top of Usagi's priority list.

Not Usagi.

Neo-Queen Serenity.

Now here was a memory that would never fade. Jupiter closed her eyes against it but she could see the light still, that brilliant luminescence that surrounded Sailor Moon as she used the Ginzuishou against their final enemy. The scream of her princess as some unseen strike lent the strength of near-death desperation to her power. That flash, literally blinding, followed by a cooling, soothing, healing wave. The shock to her stomach as her sight was restored and she discovered Sailor Moon had ceased to exist. Those eyes, those clear blue eyes, the gaze and smile of the friend she knew and yet something utterly alien.

Shaking off the unsettling feeling that came with the memory, Sailor Jupiter felt her way to the bedroom and the scented candles that decorated her dresser. Her gloved hands sought out the book of matches that lay beside them, and soon a light flared in the darkness.

Orange and flickering, unsteady.

Not at all like Serenity's all-consuming pure white glow.

Yet it banished the darkness just the same.

She turned to face the full-length mirror that was hanging on her closet door. Her eyes swept the familiar white suit and its green collar and skirt. Never before had Sailor Jupiter stood in this room. She felt like an intruder.

She had been injured several times over the past week, but there was not a mark on her. Every scar and scratch had been wiped away by the wave of power at Neo-Queen Serenity's birth. Was Jupiter supposed to forget those hellish days of grueling struggle had happened?

Not this time. The world was forever changed. At dawn's first light, the Sailor Senshi were to meet at what remained of Tokyo Tower and begin building the utopia they had briefly visited with Chibi-Usa. It had been only a few years ago, but it seemed like an eternity now. Jupiter almost couldn't remember what it had felt like to be a normal girl. Starting tomorrow, she would never feel that way again.

Raising her hand to the bow on her chest, Sailor Jupiter transformed back into Kino Makoto, the young woman of twenty-one who worked at the Sunrise Cafe. These were the last few hours that Makoto would exist. Tomorrow morning, four girls would die, and four Sailor Soldiers would take their place. The other girls had family to spend those precious final moments with, but Makoto had only herself.

She blinked in the flickering candlelight, staring at her reflection. She found herself dressed in a pale green blouse and khaki cargo pants. Such normal, relaxed clothing looked alien and strange after days in the uniform of a Sailor Senshi. She had completely forgotten what she had been wearing before all of this began.

For that matter, what had she been doing? The past few days felt like years. Makoto picked up one of the candles and headed back to the living room of her apartment. Raising the light in her hand, her eyes fell on the coffee table. It was covered with papers and pencils, facts and figures, pictures and designs. All her plans for opening her own restaurant.

She had intended to apply for a loan next month.

Makoto's hand trembled, causing the candlelight to dance in eerie patterns across the walls. She moved closer and dropped to her knees beside the coffee table, setting the candle down safely as her eyes roamed page after page of carefully-laid plans to realize her dream.

All her delicate planning was for nothing now. Starting tomorrow, her life was no longer her own. Her dreams were no longer her right to pursue. She was a Sailor Soldier, bound to spend the rest of her days serving the woman she had once known as Tsukino Usagi. Makoto would make way for Sailor Jupiter, and dedicate the rest of eternity to making another woman's dreams come true.

Quite suddenly, she shuddered all over and burst into tears.

They had all known this day would come, that this was their entire reason for existence. Still, in the years of peace following the defeat of Sailor Galaxia, it had been so easy to forget. Crystal Tokyo had always been a distant fantasy, the "someday," not the "now." Just days ago Makoto had had every intention of building her own restaurant. She had even daydreamed of meeting her future husband there.

Now, her bowed head buried in her arms, her tears blurring the writing on price estimates and tentative budgets, Makoto had to face the fact that it would never be. Her destiny had been written for her ages ago on another world, and she was its prisoner.

She felt vaguely ashamed of these feelings. She loved Usagi. Her princess had come through for Makoto time and time again, through thick and thin, a loving presence when there was no one else. She had suffered more in a few short years than anyone should in a lifetime. Usagi deserved happiness.

But at the expense of the lives of four other girls? Was this their reward for everything they'd already sacrificed? For years they'd fought ceaselessly, fueled by the hope that one day all the struggle would be over, that they were preserving the normal lives they could someday go back to. Being a soldier was supposed to be temporary, a role to be filled when needed, not a lifestyle. They had been shown Crystal Tokyo, but in their ignorance they had seen it only as a respite from the war against evil.

They had ignored what it really was.

Irreversible change.

Crystal Tokyo was not a reward. It was a sacrifice.

Makoto knew now that the Sailor Senshi had never fought for themselves. It was the normal lives of others they had battled to preserve, not their own. The right of other people to live peacefully. To pursue their dreams. To have families.

This thought brought a fresh stab of pain to Makoto's heart. As a child she had never really had a family of her own. Was she to accept that she was forbidden to have one in the future as well? The other girls were surely finding it painful to say goodbye to their anonymous lives in the embrace of their families, but at least they had happy memories to take with them.Had any of them considered that Makoto might also have a life she didn't want to leave behind?

No. They all assumed that for Makoto it was no big deal. That all she had was her identity as a Sailor Soldier. That nothing else mattered to her. That even if everyone else gave up, she would still be standing, ready to fulfill her destiny without regret. Jupiter was their rock, their foundation to stand on whenever they needed her.

That was her in a nutshell. Good old Mako-chan. Always reliable, always there. Strong and steadfast as a tree.

Until someone cut down the tree and made it into floorboards.

It wasn't fair. Makoto didn't have family, but she still had dreams! She still had a normal life that would have to be left behind, just like the rest of them! She'd never asked to be a soldier. She'd never asked to be the reincarnation of some ancient warrior. Why did she have to be controlled by a past life from thousands of years ago? She'd already lost half her school years to the lonely mission of fighting and dying for a world that barely knew she existed. Did she have to lose the rest of her life as well?

A thousand years was a long time to spend as servant to a queen that had once been her best friend. And if their visit to Crystal Tokyo had been any indication, that first thousand years was only the beginning.

Suddenly a utopian future seemed a most dreadful fate.

Before she knew what was happening Makoto was tearing up her bedroom, seizing whatever clothing was nearest to hand and shoving it into a backpack. The paperwork on the coffee table was gathered into a hasty pile and pushed into the bag as well.

No. No. She couldn't accept this.

In moments she was running down the stairs, her rapid footsteps echoing from the top of the staircase to the bottom, her frantic breath harsh and raspy in her ears, her heart pounding in her chest.

She wasn't some goddess, some all-powerful ruler. She was a human woman with wants and needs like everyone else.

The basement garage was pitch black, but Makoto found the way to her assigned space easily, habit fueled by desperation. Also out of habit she picked up her helmet and rammed it on her head before swinging one leg over the seat of her motorcycle. She shoved the key into the ignition and twisted it, and the engine roared to life, the sudden sound in the silence nearly deafening.

There were three other soldiers. They could take care of the queen.

The motorcycle's headlamp brought light to the cave-like basement, and Makoto swung the bike around and headed for the garage doors. With barely a thought she flung out an arm. A tiny tendril of electricity leapt from her fingertips and grounded itself in the motor that powered the doors. With a harsh rattle, the mechanism burst into life and the doors rolled open. Makoto revved the engine and rocketed through.

She wouldn't allow the ghosts of the past to dictate her future.

Once again she was the only motion in the quiet, dark city that had once been alive with activity and light. After the chaos of the past few days there should have been riots, looting, panic in the streets. The world should have been coming apart at the seams. But Serenity had told the survivors to go home, and they had obeyed to the letter. Utter silence and peace reigned, solely on the say-so of one woman in a white dress.

It was unnatural.

Makoto raced through the streets of Tokyo at top speed. There were no other cars on the road to impede her flight. No police to catch her going double the speed limit. She was free. For the first time in her life, she was truly free.

The other girls were all at home with their families, making the most of their last few hours as normal human women. No one would be expecting this. No one would be looking for her. No one would miss her, until dawn the following morning. And by then, she would be long gone.

As she passed the borders of Tokyo and sped off into the surrounding countryside, a triumphant cry burst from Makoto's throat.

The streetlights were all out but it didn't matter; the stars were shining brightly and a full moon was hanging in the sky. For the first time in over a century, there was no artifical glow over Tokyo blotting out the natural lights of the night. The moonlight had transformed the dark pavement of the road into a river of quicksilver, and Makoto sailed its waters at breakneck speed, the sound of the bike's engine roaring in her ears.

There was nowhere to go, of course. As far as the Sailor Senshi knew, all that remained of humanity was within the boundaries of Tokyo. At the moment, however, Makoto didn't care if she rode until she ran out of gas and was stranded in the wilderness. The wind on her face sang of freedom and she never wanted it to end. Maybe there were still people alive out there, somewhere in the world. Maybe there were entire cities that had withstood the onslaught of evil, places where people still went about their normal lives. She'd never know unless she looked for them.

As the landscape flew by and the city shrank behind her, rational thoughts began invading Makoto's mind. What was she doing, running away like this? How could she abandon her best friends, the only real friends she had ever had? Could she really leave them to shoulder a burden she would run away from? Was it fair for her alone to choose the selfish path? When the girls found out, they'd be furious.

And Usagi...

The thought of Usagi's distraught face was physically painful, and Makoto shuddered so violently that she nearly lost control of the bike. Usagi was so full of love and trust. The disappearance of one of her friends would be a more devastating blow than any she had suffered during the war. Could Makoto really hurt her that way?

But she wasn't Usagi anymore, was she? The eyes of Neo-Queen Serenity had been filled with love and tenderness, but they were not Usagi's eyes. Usagi would be crushed by the loss of just one friend, but would Neo-Queen Serenity miss just one soldier? Even if Makoto returned to Tokyo, nothing would be the same, not even her best friend.

The hints of tears began to prickle at the corners of her eyes. Makoto responded by shifting gears and speeding up even more.

Neo-Queen Serenity would get her just reward. She would be queen of the world, and a wife, and a mother. The rest of them were expected to be satisfied with the privilege of simply being in Serenity's presence. Was that the love and justice they had fought for? Would the sacrifices never end? Why couldn't Makoto be selfish for once? When was it her turn to be happy?

The pavement flew away beneath the wheels of the bike, the distance between it and Tokyo growing by leaps and bounds every second.

Not this time. She wasn't going to give in to duty this time. Not yet. She bent low over the handles of her motorcycle as she plunged deeper into the inky night.

There were lights ahead, dim at first, but growing brighter as Makoto drew closer. Red lights, and ahead of it a white glow against the pavement. Moving lights. Another motorcycle. Someone else was out here, against Neo-Queen Serenity's orders, headed away from Tokyo just like Makoto was. The runaway soldier grinned as she shot past the other rider within seconds. At least one person in this strange new world was still exercizing his or her freedom.

Makoto had only traveled a short distance further when the sound of another engine reached her ears. Glancing into her mirrors, she saw the other bike accelerating behind her and catching up fast. For a moment the chill nausea of worry hit her stomach, but she shook the feeling off. In her helmet and plain clothes nobody would recognize her as Sailor Jupiter. The other rider was simply curious, most likely.

As she turned her head, expecting the other motorcycle to pull even with her, the mysterious rider sped past without pausing. A broad smile spread across Makoto's face.

A challenge. Exactly what she needed.

Makoto bent low and revved her engine, issuing a challenge of her own, and then shot off in hot pursuit of the other bike. In the dark she couldn't see the colors of the vehicle or its rider, but it didn't matter. She was ready for any distraction. Her legs hugged the sides of her motorcycle as she tucked her arms in, cutting through the air to quickly close the distance.

For a moment they rode side by side. Makoto jerked her head to indicate a line of trees looming in the darkness far off down the road, and the other rider nodded in acceptance.

The race was on.

Both of them kicked their bikes into high gear, tearing down the street as fast as they could coax their rides to go. The motorcycles seemed evenly matched. First they were neck and neck, then Makoto pulled ahead, then the other biker caught her up, then they were even again. Makoto was having more fun than she felt she'd had in years. All worry fled her mind. There was only the smooth, empty road, the trembling bike underneath her, and the enthusiastic chuckling and cheering of her challenger. Soon she was whooping and shouting with the pure thrill of breathtaking speed and unbridled freedom.

They roared past the line of trees dead even.

A tie.

Just beyond the finish line was a wayside rest along a curve in the road, overlooking the ocean. Both riders made for it instinctively, gradually slowing the speed of their bikes until they coasted gently to a stop beside the curb.Laughing, Makoto climbed off her bike and pulled off her helmet. Her fellow rider did the same, shaking out a mass of short black hair.

There was a long moment of silence as they stared at each other, the carefree elation melting from their faces to be replaced by disbelief. Finally, Makoto found her voice.


The older man blinked, then chuckled and shook his head, his blue eyes twinkling.

"After all we've been through together, Mako-chan, I would think you'd feel entitled to address me with more familiarity."

Makoto smiled bitterly.

"I'm honored, Mamoru-kun, but there's not much point now, is there? It'll be 'sama' before long."

For a moment she thought she saw a flash of discomfort flicker across the man's face, but it was probably just a trick of the light. In an instant it was gone.

"Well, just for tonight, then," he suggested. "For old times' sake."

They both nodded thoughtfully and turned in unison to look out over the sea. Out here the oppressive silence was erased by the crash of the rolling waves, the ebb and flow of the waters moving as ceaselessly as they had for millions of years. The rhythmic pattern was somehow soothing to Makoto's heart. Civilizations could rise and fall, but the global clockwork of the oceans would continue no matter what happened on land. Whatever came next, there would always be this.

"What are you doing out here?" she asked. "I thought everyone was occupied tonight."

"Not me," Mamoru replied. "What did you expect me to be doing?"

"Well...I..." Makoto stopped. She realized with a jolt that she hadn't considered Mamoru all evening. Like herself, he had no one to go home to, no confused relatives needing to hear the full explanation of his past life and his destiny. No one to miss him when he never came home again.

"Keeping Usagi company?" she finally suggested.

Mamoru shook his head.

"This is going to be harder for the Tsukinos than anyone." He sighed and leaned against the fence that bordered the lookout. "They're losing their daughter to the world, and she's already not the person she was. The last thing she needs is another distraction while she tries to strike a balance between Usagi and Serenity." He smiled faintly. "Besides, we have the rest of our lives to be together. Her family deserves one private night."

He turned his head toward Makoto.

"And what are you doing out here?"

Makoto froze as her heart filled with dread. What should she say? How would he react?

"I just needed to get away for a while," she muttered. "Away from the city, away from everything, just to feel normal for a little while longer." It wasn't a lie, not exactly.

Mamoru eyed the full backpack Makoto was carrying.

"Just for a little while?" he asked skeptically. His expression was far too knowing. Makoto cursed herself for not tying the bag to her motorcycle, or better yet, leaving it at home. There was nothing for it now. He knew the truth. She took a deep breath.

"It's not right!" she burst out. "I never got a choice! Luna just tossed me that damn pen without a word of explanation, and as soon as I touched it it was too late! I was fourteen! How could I know I was throwing my life away? I had no idea what I was getting into! And after all that, all the fighting and dying and sacrifice, the world says 'Thanks a bunch, now live in this crystal prison and be our soldier for the rest of your life'? Well, to hell with that!"

She stopped, trembling, breathing hard in the wake of her unexpected tirade. Fury and frustration boiled off her body in nearly tangible steam. She hadn't meant to say all this to anyone, least of all Mamoru, but, well, he had asked. And she was ready to fight, ready to handle any argument he threw at her, ready to defend herself if he tried to drag her back to Tokyo.

But he just sat there silently watching her, never once looking surprised or looking away. It was a long moment before he finally spoke.

"Is that really it?"

Mamoru was so calm as he said this that Makoto just wanted to punch him. Anger she could handle, or even the bitterness of disappointment, but not this quiet understanding. Not this gentle patience. He just looked at her and waited for her to continue, as if it were obvious she had more to say.

It was also plain as day that he didn't believe her, not completely.

"Of course that's it! What else could it be?" she demanded. "It's not right, it's not fair! I don't want to do this anymore! I want my own life! I'm my own person! I'm...I'm..."

He just kept watching her calmly, patiently waiting for the truth. The whole truth. But there wasn't anything else beyond what she had already said.

Or was there?


Was her frustration just covering something deeper?

"I'm...I'm afraid, Mamoru-san."

The words were like stone in her mouth as she finally faced the truth, a blush of shame rising in her cheeks.

"I'm afraid of what's happening to us," Makoto admitted heavily, hanging her head. "I'm afraid of what we're going to become. I'm afraid of what else is out there. Most of all... I'm afraid of the responsibility. I'm afraid that we're going to get it wrong, that we're going to fail."

Mamoru sighed.

"So am I."

Makoto turned to look at him, and it was as if a glow she had never realized existed had faded away. He had always been older than the girls, and always Tuxedo Kamen, the saving grace, their deus ex machina, the guardian angel and superhero who always showed up in the nick of time. But he wasn't Prince Charming any more than the Sailor Senshi were fairy godmothers. He was a man of flesh and blood, caught up in Usagi's fairytale just like the rest of them.

"She's different," he muttered, staring out over the ocean at the bright white face of the full moon. "This last battle wasn't like the others. My planet...this time she couldn't heal it. She couldn't put everything back the way it was. And she'll never be the same either, she'll never be healed. My Usako's still in there, somewhere, but what if I can't reach her? When I become Endymion, will the same thing happen to me? Will we still be Usagi and Mamoru, or will our past lives take over?"

He fell silent. For a long moment Makoto didn't know what to say. None of the Sailor Senshi had ever heard Mamoru speak like this before. A question burned in her throat. It would be wrong, shameful, to ask, but she had to know.

"Are you...running away, too?"

She expected indignant anger; everyone knew Mamoru was eternally devoted to his princess, just like they all were. The adoration Usagi commanded was stronger than any of them could resist. But there was no offended glare, no flashing eyes. Just a solemn shake of the head.

"I could never leave her. I am afraid, but I'll still be there for her, always."

"Because you love her," Makoto finished flatly.

"No. Because she loves me. Because no matter how much power she has, it means nothing to her without the presence of her loved ones. Because she needs me more than she needs the Ginzuishou. Because her presence fills everything that was missing in my life, and more. Because she appreciates me more than anyone else ever has or ever will."

He looked away.

"Because she doesn't want this any more than we do, and she can't run away."

Makoto's cheeks reddened even deeper, now from guilt, and she averted her eyes.


For some reason, it had never occurred to her that Crystal Tokyo might not be Usagi's dream after all, but suddenly it seemed so obvious. Usagi was just a girl, like all the rest of them. She didn't want to be queen. All she had ever wanted was an ordinary life...and for the sake of the world, she couldn't have one. As of now she was responsible for the safety and happiness of every living creature on the planet.

Suddenly the tranquil night seemed terribly cold.

Suddenly her own sacrifice seemed trivial.

Could she really abandon Usagi to that fate?

"What if we all ran away together?" she said after a moment.

"The earth would fall into ruin, and humanity as we know it would cease to exist," Mamoru said simply. "The time to change fate was before the world was destroyed in the wake of our battle. It's too late to turn back now." With a bitter smile, Mamoru turned back to his motorcycle and picked up his helmet.

"I'm going back," he said, putting on the helmet and fastening it securely under his chin, "but I can't make you do the same. What you do from here is your choice." The reflection of the moonlight on the helmet's visor hid Mamoru's eyes.

"Choose wisely. This may be the last decision you make freely, or it may be the first of many. Destiny only goes so far. From here on, you need to do it of your own free will. Because you want to, not because you have to."

As he settled himself astride the bike and gripped its handles, the gold wedding band on his left hand sparkled in the moonlight.

"I know I did."

Mamoru kicked the bike into gear and roared past Makoto, turning in a wide circle and heading back in the direction of Tokyo. In moments he was out of sight, his taillights lost to the darkness, although the growl of his engine cut through the night for a long while afterwards.

Makoto stared after him until the bike's roar blended with the crashing waves of the ocean and finally vanished. She turned to gaze out over the water again. The stars were fading, and a haze of midnight blue was visible on the horizon.

Dawn was approaching.

Some time later, the morning sunlight was rolling across what remained of Tokyo. The cloak of darkness was swept aside, exposing a city in ruins. Broken streets and crushed buildings bore witness to the greatest war the earth had ever seen. In the middle of it all, four women and one man surveyed the destruction from the cracked foundations of what had been Tokyo Tower. Rusted, twisted shards of broken metal loomed over them. From these ashes of the old world, they would build the new one.

Dry eyes roamed the fractured wasteland. There had been a time when the sight of such devastation would have moved even the strongest of them to weep, but after their recent ordeal, their hearts were hardened by necessity. They had no choice but to forget the past and move on into the future. All they had to hold on to now was each other.

But they were only five.

Neo-Queen Serenity stood forward of the others, her long white dress blowing in the wind, her clear blue eyes probing the empty streets, searching. Just behind her the three Sailor Senshi stood in silence. From time to time they would glance at one another, anxiety painted on every face, but they said nothing.

The sun was visible over the broken buildings now. It was well past dawn. King Endymion, his eyes solemn behind his white mask, finally stepped past the soldiers and touched his wife's arm gently.

"She'll be here," Serenity said. She did not turn to even glance at her husband, her gaze ceaselessly focused on the distant shadows from which their missing soldier might emerge at any moment.

There was another long period of silence. No green-suited brunette appeared.

Sailor Mercury opened her computer.

"No." This time Serenity turned around and looked at the others. Her gaze was sad, but steady. "I won't force her to do this. I won't force anyone."

For a few seconds Mercury stared at the queen as if uncertain, her fingers hovering over the keys of the palmtop. She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it. She lowered her eyes. She shut the cover of her computer. Serenity returned to her vigil.

Another long moment passed. Mars clenched her fists at her sides, and they trembled, but she didn't say a word. Venus stood quietly, just watching and waiting. The sun was rising higher in the sky. They couldn't wait forever. The survivors of Tokyo were still secure in their homes, but soon they would wake and come looking for the new civilization their saviors had promised them. To secure the faith and trust of her people, Serenity could not disappoint them.

At last the queen turned away and faced the three soldiers, taking Endymion's hand in hers.

"All right, then."

She couldn't quite prevent her voice from cracking.

"Shall w-"

Serenity was interrupted by the roar of an engine, drawing closer. She whirled around to see a motorcycle round a corner and speed down the road toward her. As the bike drew closer Makoto pulled off her helmet and let her long hair fly free in the wind. These were her last moments to do so, after all.

All too soon she reached the end of the street. She killed the engine and jumped off the bike without bothering to put down the kickstand, letting the vehicle crash to the pavement. There was no reason to care what happened to the motorcycle now. She didn't need it anymore.

Kino Makoto ran toward the group gathered at the base of the tower, the only living people who had ever cared about her. She knew now that the place where she belonged was in the company of these women in short skirts, with their prince and princess who loved them, and in this moment she didn't want to be anywhere else. There was only one last sacrifice to be made, one final surrender to the role that destiny had given her, and this time she did it willingly.

She didn't need the words. Not anymore. The change happened because she wanted it to, not because she had to do it.

She ran through the transformation, pounding feet propelling her forward out of the past and into the future, blinking away the tears that pricked in her eyes as her normal clothes were torn away by the cloud of lightning that surrounded her. Electricity cloaked her body, filling her with ancient energy as familiar as an old friend, clothing her in the uniform of a soldier. There was no knowing if she would ever remove this uniform again.

She faced a millennium in boots with heels, tall heels that clicked on the pavement as she rushed up to the five people gathered beneath the broken tower. But it didn't matter now. She was in this story for good, from history to destiny, for better or for worse. The short skirt around her waist was a comfortable embrace, the white gloves on her forearms strength and security, the tiara on her forehead a warrior's crown.

And she wore it because she chose to.

She was still afraid, but she was here, and she was whole.

The Sailor Senshi were whole.

When she reached the others no one said anything, but they all stood a little taller and breathed a little easier. And for the first time since the hour of her creation, Serenity smiled.

"Well," said Sailor Jupiter, once she had collected herself, "here we are." As soon as the words passed her lips she cringed. At a time like this, she couldn't come up with anything better to say?

But the other girls just smiled softly.

"Here we are," Mercury agreed.

There was a moment of silence while they all gazed over the ruins of the city that had been their home. Seven years ago, could any of them have imagined this moment, even in their wildest nightmares?

"It's been a long, strange road," Mars commented, "but we all survived."

Jupiter looked around at the silent landscape that had so recently been a vibrant metropolis teeming with life. Soon these streets would once again be filled with people, but from the youngest child to the oldest man they would all be depending on Jupiter and her friends for their very existence. The Sailor Senshi could never again blend in with the crowd.

"We're really alone, aren't we?" she said quietly. "We all are."

"No." Sailor Venus looked at the faces of the small group surrounding her. "Listen here, everyone. We're not alone, okay? None of us are alone. We have each other. We're all in this together. Never forget that. Promise."

Six heads nodded.

Six voices promised.

Neo-Queen Serenity reached out and hugged each of her soldiers in turn. They needed no words. Jupiter closed her eyes as her queen embraced her and felt Usagi's warmth, the love that had always been there, the very same soul that drew her closer with every smile. Reliable and ceaseless as the ocean, no matter what changed on land.

Then Serenity passed through the circle and headed into the ruins of Tokyo Tower, King Endymion by her side. Mercury and Mars followed, and Sailor Jupiter took a deep breath and forced her legs to do the same. Venus hung back, falling into step beside the green-suited soldier. Jupiter glanced over, but the blonde's eyes were focused on the ground.

"I got as far as Odaiba before I turned back," Venus said quietly.

Jupiter's eyes widened.

"Mars and Mercury ran into each other in the forest outside of town," the orange-suited soldier continued.

Jupiter was too startled to speak. She gaped for a long moment until Venus turned her head, and the most understanding look Jupiter had ever seen was focused on her shocked expression. Blue eyes grew soft with empathy as she smiled.

"You're not alone."

A deep breath filled Jupiter's lungs and she sighed deeply, the weight of the world redistributing itself on her shoulders. This was indeed a heavy burden, but it was a shared one. Her steps lightened, her back straightened, and she grinned brokenly.

"The world's expecting goddesses, and it's going to get five average girls," she said.

"We'll just have to handle things like average girls do, then," Venus replied.

She reached out and squeezed Jupiter's hand.

"We'll just have to do the best we can."

"Oak Evolution" fanfiction copyright 2005 by Dejana Talis. Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon and its associated characters and canon belong to Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha. The text of this creative work was created by Dejana Talis and is her exclusive property. Not to be used without permission. Sailor Moon Says: Don't steal! .