Chapter 6: Her Guardians
Yawning tiredly, Usagi stumbled into the kitchen. Her eyes were half closed as she wondered towards the smell of the alluring food. The scent of pancakes tickled Usagi's nose. Setsuna must have been cooking today because, frankly, Haruka couldn't cook if her life depended on it. Of course, she wasn't one to judge since her own cooking was that edible either. Luna gave a yelp of protest as the blonde haired woman nearly stepped on the cat.
"Usagi!" the black cat hissed. "Watch where you're going!"
The blonde idly waved Luna's protest aside, not hearing a word of it as she dropped ungracefully on to the kitchen chair. Laying her cheek on the smooth wooden surface of the table, Usagi tried to stuff in as much sneak in as she could before school started.
The blonde furrowed her brow upon hearing the latest news report drifting from the living room. Turning her head, Usagi watched Haruka as she leaned back on the leather couch, a remote control in her hand as she concentrated on what the news reporter had to say about last night's incident at the soccer field. Already knowing the story, Usagi turned her head back to the kitchen table. Usagi played nervously with her napkin, the events of the night before slowly returning to her fuzzy mind. At least this time, there weren't any citizens who had been injured by their new opponent. Even though Usagi had failed to defeat the three figures, the blond felt slightly reassured.
The new opponents… were strong. Usagi could not think of any other adjective to describe the three mysterious figures. If she really did want to help Hotaru, then she would have to work harder. She knew that it would not be easy. It never had been easy. Here she was thinking that she had finally finished battling opponents and saving the world, then something new shows up. Self-pity washed over Usagi for a moment but the blonde pushed the feeling aside. Her own problems were nothing when compared to the condition Hotaru and numerous other citizens were in. Usagi gazed down at her lap. She would visit Hotaru again today. Maybe some flowers would cheer the girl up.
"Eh… Setsuna, why is my phone book on the kitchen table?" Usagi questioned, blinking curiously as she picked up the small pink book. The blonde flipped through the pages, in confusion. "I thought I lost it."
Setsuna paused, her spatula resting on a pancake as she thought over her words. "Haruka… wanted to phone the inner scouts."
Usagi nearly bolted out of her chair, suddenly feeling very awake.
"Is that true?" Usagi cried indignantly, directing her words to the blonde lying on the couch. Haruka had promised her not to involve them. How could she do something like that? Usagi stamped her foot angrily as she stood up from the table, not understanding the taller woman. "You promised me not to tell them anything!"
The taller woman turned her head, cobalt blue eyes flashing dangerously.
"You said that you would be able to protect yourself without the inner scouts, but if we hadn't come when we did, I'm sure you would be dead right now!" Haruka growled as she stood up from the couch.
"I would have been fine!"
"Really? What would you have done? Just close your eyes and hope that whatever attacks aimed at you would just magically dissipate? Or were you hoping that it would transform into a giant bunny?"
Usagi felt her eyes begin to water at Haruka's seemingly cruel words. The older woman was being unfair. She'd managed to take care of herself many times before!
"N- no, but I would have—"
"If we hadn't come, you would have died," Haruka said fiercely, her voice shaking. "Or would you have preferred to end up like Hotaru? Perhaps you would like us to visit you every day, watching you just lay lifelessly on the hospital bed? Michiru just left to visit Hotaru a few minutes ago, maybe you should chase after her."
"Haruka, that's enough," Setsuna voiced firmly. Her ruby eyes shimmered with disapproval as she gazed down at Haruka. The blonde met her eyes squarely, challenging Setsuna to say that Usagi wouldn't have died if they didn't come. After a moment, Haruka turned away.
Tossing the remote control onto the living room table, Haruka grabbed her jacket and exited the living room, leaving behind a teary eyed Usagi. The walls shook as the front door was slammed angrily behind Haruka's back.
"Haruka didn't mean it," Setsuna said gently to the silent blonde as she set the pancakes down in front of Usagi. The Guardian of Time quietly took a seat across from Usagi. Her ruby eyes swept over the hunched figure of their princess. Her wine colored lips formed a sad smile as she watched Usagi. "Haruka was in fact really concerned about you yesterday. You were late coming home, and she was literally ripping her hair out as she paced around the living room."
Usagi gazed up at Setsuna, her baby blue eyes wide with surprise.
Setsuna smiled softly. "She finally decided to go out and look for you herself, muttering about how it wasn't safe for any young women to be walking around Tokyo in a time like this. It was a lucky thing she did too, or else we wouldn't have arrived like we did."
"I'm sorry… I- I didn't mean to worry any of you."
"We know," Setsuna replied with a smile. The Guardian of Time gazed at the bunnies scribbled on to the surface of Usagi's phone book. They all loved Usagi so much --her innocence, her smiles, and her warmth. If they lost her, they wouldn't know what to do. "Haruka didn't actually call any of your friends yet, though she was seriously was considering to do so."
Usagi bit her lip.
"Do you know why? It's because she truly cares for you," Setsuna said, her ruby eyes holding on to Usagi's baby blue orbs. "You had told her that you didn't want to involve the inner scouts and she didn't want to break the trust you had."
Usagi received the message Setsuna was trying to convey: that everyone --Setsuna, Michiru and Haruka—would be devastated if something were to happen to her. The blonde closed her eyes, smiling softly to herself. She was thankful to have such friends. Haruka had kept her end of the promise of not telling the outers scout, so Usagi intended to keep hers as well. She would put greater effort in trying to defend herself.
"Thank you Setsuna," Usagi whispered, tears seeping from her eyes. The blonde raised her head and gave her friend a watery smile. Having Setsuna available for her to go to for help was one of the luckiest things that had ever happened to Usagi. She wasn't sure how she would have lasted without the inners if Setsuna weren't there by her side. Living with Haruka and Michiru was great but Usagi felt that she could relate better to Setsuna. "How is Hotaru?"
The ruby-eyed woman smiled sadly from across the table.
"She hasn't gotten worse," Setsuna admitted, gazing imploringly up at the ceiling. "But her condition hasn't improved either…"
Usagi felt her heart sink. Gathering up her determination, Usagi promised herself that she would work harder to find a way to help her friend.
"Do you think she will get better?" Usagi questioned. Setsuna must know something. She was the Guardian of Time. Surely, she had some clue with what was going on. The Time Guardian remained silent for a moment. "Setsuna?"
Setsuna picked up her cup of tea, turning the creamy-white mug slowly in her hands. The older woman furrowed her brow as she slowly thought over her words.
"The future is always in motion," Setsuna replied quietly. "There are many possibilities… even the smallest action could change the outcome."
"That doesn't answer my question though," Usagi pointed out.
"Don't worry too much about it. I'll figure it out," Setsuna answered. Taking a sip of tea, Setsuna gazed thoughtfully at Usagi. "You should think about your end of the deal. Haruka is right in some aspects. It wouldn't be good if you were to die."
Usagi fidgeted in her seat, feeling guilty once again, over how she had worried her friends. Still staring at her lap, Usagi decided that she'd apologize to Haruka personally when she had the time. The blonde bit her lip, peeking at Setsuna from behind her long bangs. Setsuna looked worried. Though the older woman tried to hide it, her unusual actions betrayed her thoughts. Her eyes weren't as serene as Usagi remembered them to be, nor her tone as light. Was the enemy really that strong?
"Yes… I know. But… but I'm trying really hard to improve," Usagi said. "Please, there is no need to worry about me."
The blonde paused as her eyes skimmed over the kitchen clock.
"Waaa! I'm going to be late for school!" Usagi shouted. The blonde quickly grabbed a pancake, skidding down the hall as she searched for her school bag. An indignant Luna yelped as Usagi tripped over the cat. "Sorry Luna! See you later Setsuna!"
Setsuna raised an eyebrow as she watched Usagi slam the door behind her. Maybe she should have told the blonde that it was Saturday.
Usagi groaned, clutching her growling stomach as she wondered aimlessly through the mall. After running all the way to school, and pulling frantically at the doors, she had realized that it was a Saturday. Not that she minded, but it seemed unfair that she had sprint all the way to school for nothing. Plus, she didn't even have a proper breakfast. The blonde winced as her stomach grumbled hungrily again. She had checked her wallet and found that she couldn't afford any of the food sold in the mall.
"Why me?" Usagi cried, tempted to throw her school bag onto the floor. The blonde leaned against the wall, envying the people passing by, enjoying themselves on their day off. Maybe she should try to find a way out of the mall and go home. There was food at home.
"Usagi? What are you doing here?"
The blonde blinked as she turned to see a certain raven-haired man. He elegantly pulled off his sunglasses, as he focused his midnight blue eyes on Usagi. Rose petals danced around the young man as he directed his gaze at the blonde girl. Smiling mischievously, Seiya slid his arm over the blonde haired student's shoulders.
"Do you happen to have any money on you?"
Seiya nearly face vaulted onto the floor. Here he was trying to seduce Usagi, and she asks him if he had any money with him. Well, he supposed he could improvise. Coughing in to his hand, the male student nodded.
"Yeah, why?" he asked, facing Usagi. The raven-haired man nearly fell over again, upon seeing the mischievous smirk on Usagi's face. Her baby blue eyes peered up at him pleadingly as sparkles exploded in the air by the blonde while her cherry petal lips formed a cute pout.
"Seiya," she whispered, her puppy dog eyes watering. "You know what would make me really happy?"
"See, I'm really hungry right now and…"
Seiya had no idea what Usagi had said next but he somehow ended up in the food court paying for an enormous amount of food. Honestly, when he had first spotted Usagi in the mall, he hadn't expected this to happen. The raven-haired man chuckled weakly as he watched Usagi continue to gobble up item after item on her food tray.
"Are you sure you could eat all of that?" he questioned, leaning back in his chair. He blew softly at his bangs, while trying to think of a way to ask Usagi to see a movie with him afterwards. His eyes shifted to examine the blonde's giddy expression as she answered his question.
"Of course!" Usagi cried gleefully as she clasped her hands together. The blonde picked up a fry, wiggling it in front of Seiya. "I missed breakfast after all."
"I hope you know I'm not made out of money," Seiya laughed as he straightened in his chair. The raven-haired man propped his chin on the palm of his hand as he watched Usagi devour the fries. "I'm not going to buy you food again next time you get lost in the mall without any food."
"It's not like it happens everyday," Usagi argued, a pout unconsciously forming on her lips. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, suddenly feeling guilty for making Seiya buy her all this food. "I'll pay you back when I see you again."
The raven-haired man grinned. "Or you could go see a movie with me tonight."
Usagi blinked curiously, considering his offer. Before she had the chance to decide, Seiya had shoved the tickets in her hand.
"It's a deal then."
"What?" Usagi exclaimed indignantly. "I didn't say yes to anything!"
Once again, it seemed that Seiya had forced her into a deal that she didn't agree upon. Crossing her arms across her chest, Usagi glared at the raven-haired man. She wasn't particularly upset with seeing a movie. The blond usually loved wasting time at the arcade and theatres but currently she had to keep her promise to both Hotaru and Haruka. She couldn't afford to spend the evening at the movies. Each moment wasted could mean another innocent victim's life.
Usagi resisted the urge to bury her head in her hands. If only things were simpler. If only Sailor Moon had a method to revive the victims; if only they could sense the enemies when they strike; if only… her friends were here. Usagi gazed down at the tickets in her hand and felt her eyes become watery.
Forcing the tears away, Usagi raised her head and glared angrily at Seiya.
"You better stop forcing m –ah!"
The blonde nearly toppled over the edge of her chair as a very loud smashing noise sliced through the thick chatter of the food court. Silence lingered in the air for the moment that followed. Usagi furrowed her brow, gazing worriedly at Seiya. Other shoppers in the food court mirrored Usagi's actions, worriedly searching for the source of the noise.
"Run!" a man screamed, pointing at something crawling along the neat tiled floors of the mall.
Following the direction the man's finger was pointing at, Usagi spotted creeping, black tendrils crawling their way to the food court. The thorny vines spread slowly but steadily similar to an oozing liquid.
"We have to leave," Seiya said, grabbing onto Usagi's arm.
The people nearest to the vines were already scrambling for the exit. Chaos quickly spread to the rest of the mall. Customers from all around the busy food court scrambled for the exit, not bothering to retrieve their belongings as they fought to escape from the vines. Tables and chairs were pushed over as many tripped over the objects in their rush to leave.
"Wait!" Usagi cried as she stuffed Seiya's tickets into a pocket. Digging in her heels, Usagi pulled back, stumbling slightly as a few people pushed past her.
"Usagi, what are you doing?" Seiya shouted, turning his head to search for the blonde. However, all he was able to see was panicked people rushing for the exit. "Usagi!"
Seiya spun around, searching for the blonde. Where did Usagi go? He called her name again, fighting to stay in the same spot. She didn't go back did she? No, she wouldn't do a stupid think like that would she?
Realizing that it was Usagi that he was talking about, Seiya began to worry. The man started back, trying to create a path through the thick crowd but to no avail.
Finding herself sprawled on the ground with many people trampling past –and sometimes over—her, Usagi whimpered, bringing her arms around her head to protect herself.
A shrill scream from behind her caused Usagi to raise her head. No, she couldn't stay curled up in a ball on the ground like this. She needed to transform and help the people trapped that weren't able to escape from the vines. Biting back a whimper, Usagi forced herself to crawl past the people and into an empty store.
Once inside the store, Usagi quickly hid behind a clothes rack. The blonde shuffled uncomfortably from beneath the clothes as she tried to find her transformation brooch. Screams continued to filter in through the walls and the opening of the door. Usagi clenched her jaw. Memories of her last encounter with her newest opponents flashed before her eyes. Taking deep calming breaths, the blonde took out her transformation brooch. She wouldn't fail like last time. Usagi didn't know what she planned on doing to succeed but she couldn't worry about it that much now. The blonde clenched tightly onto the small object in her hand. She had to save these people.
"Moon Eternal, make up!"
For the second time in a long time, Usagi felt her body surge with familiar energy. Bathing in the warmth of Sailor Moon's energy, Usagi felt her worries recede to the back of her mind. As the light caused by the transformation slowly receded, Usagi headed for the direction the vines were coming from.
Skidding to a stop in front of the tumbling vines, Sailor Moon tried to find a way through the monstrously tall layer of vegetation.
"The entire hallway is blocked," Sailor Moon whispered in awe as she tried to find a gap to pass through. The blond reached for her tiara but hesitated when she heard screams from citizens emitting from beneath the vines. She couldn't use her tiara to cut through the vines without the risk of accidentally injuring a shopper.
Biting her lip, Sailor Moon danced impatiently on the spot. She needed to do something to save these shoppers. A dull, annoying pain suddenly brought her attention back to her surroundings. Gazing down, the blond found a thick stream of vines wrapping themselves around her boot like a hungry snake, some of the thorns piercing through the material.
"Oh no, no, no!" the warrior whimpered as she pulled back, the thorns digging into her flesh. Another tug caused Sailor Moon to trip over and fall heavily on her side, leaving the blonde slightly dazed. Like a caught fish, the vines immediately started drawing the blonde mercilessly into the jungle of vines. Gritting her teeth, Sailor Moon twisted her body so that she was lying on her stomach and clung hopelessly to the smooth tiled floor with one hand while her other hand reached for her tiara.
"Wait a minute," Sailor Moon murmured. If the vine pulled her into the center, she would be able to destroy the plant. Her right hand dropped to the ground and the warrior closed her eyes tightly, bracing herself, as the plant pulled her into the jungle of vines.
Darkness swept over Sailor Moon, the thick vines blocking out a great about of the light from above. The heavy scent of earth and moist air hung heavily over the surroundings. The vines shifted to allow Sailor Moon to be dragged past though they weren't putting any effort to move more than necessary. As she was slowly dragged towards the center of the plant, thorns from the vines around her pressed into her flesh, creating scratches on her skin and tiny tears in her outfit.
Wincing, Sailor Moon tried to reposition herself. The blonde couldn't help but whimper slightly as she gazed around at the terrifying vines and thorns that surrounded her. Immediately, a dozen more vines grabbed onto her arms and legs. Not expecting the attack, Sailor Moon started to panic and struggle. She had to keep at least one arm free in order to be able to destroy the plant!
However the more she fought, the harder the vines fought against her. Forcing herself to stop struggling, the blonde tried to keep her head clear. Her wide eyes darted around her surroundings as the blonde mentally ran through her list of options while trying to keep her panic to a minimum. The situation was getting worse by the second with more vines creeping towards her.
"What to do? What to do?" the warrior cried in an almost hysteric manner.
If the situation weren't so serious, Sailor Moon would have laughed at her newly developed habit of talking to herself.
Seeing that she didn't have a lot of time left, Sailor Moon desperately decided to call forward one of her only weapons. Closing her eyes, the blonde hurriedly conjured her Moon Kaleidoscope. Though the weapon was currently ineffective, she could at least use it to fight back against the vines. Said object flickered slightly above her palm but didn't manage to materialize.
Breathing in deeply, Sailor Moon tried to forget her surroundings and the fact that there were hundreds of slithering vines around her that were able to kill her at a single command. What was she thinking when she got herself into this? What was she thinking? Tears threatened to overcome the young woman but Sailor Moon forced the tears aside. Crying wasn't going to help. No matter how hard she wished, crying wasn't going to do anything for her. She had to try again.
Breathing in deeply again and again, Sailor Moon concentrated on the weapon and only the weapon. For a moment, the nightmare around her disappeared. The weapon landed with a light thud in her palms.
Forcing the weapon between her left arm and the vines wrapped around it, Sailor Moon started prying the tendrils away. The blond gasped as the razor-sharp thorns tore through her flesh but continued to force the vines away from her. Sweat trickled down Sailor Moon's forehead. It seemed that her efforts were not in vain as the vine finally tore apart.
Shifting to a more comfortable position, Sailor Moon managed to remove the insistent vines that had wrapped themselves around her body. The vines wrapped around her legs retreated, suddenly deciding that it was not worth the fight. It was then that she realized that the receding vines were also taking her plan away with them.
Now ready to burst into tears, the blonde was presented with a brand new situation. Here she was, lying on her back, with vines surrounding her in every direction with not enough room for her to even sit up. The darkness was frightful and the slithering vines around her added greatly to the nightmare.
Despair slowly filled Sailor Moon. No one was going to help her. No one was going to save her this time. Tears trickled down her face as Usagi closed her eyes.
"I'm sorry everyone…"
Sailor Moon whimpered, wanting to curl up into a ball and wait for this nightmare to end. She really wasn't strong. No matter how hard she tried, she didn't think she would be able to live up to Haruka's expectations. She was just Usagi –a crybaby, irresponsible, weak, unreliable… a failure.
All along, she had been relying on her friends. Was it only because of them that she had gotten as far as she had? What was she without them? Doubt and self-pity engulfed the young woman once again. The question, "Who was Sailor Moon without her friends?" repeated in her mind over and over again. Who was she? What could she do when faced with an opponent so strong? Always, she had her friends and Mamoru by her side when defeating even the most difficult of enemies. From the very start of her adventure it was always because of her friends that she continued on this difficult journey.
She knew that it sounded selfish that her main reason for fighting wasn't to protect the citizens of this planet. In actuality, Usagi was a selfish person. At the beginning, she disliked the burden placed on her shoulders and disliked being Sailor Moon. It was only because of the inspiration from her friends and lover that kept her going. However as she continued being Sailor Moon, helping others became something she enjoyed as well.
Helping others and protecting the beautiful planet she lived on was a wonderful goal but something that was really hard to keep up with –especially without support from others. Why couldn't she leave the responsibility on someone else's shoulders? Why couldn't she live a peaceful life like everyone else? What was preventing her from quitting now?
The voice sliced through the darkness. Usagi's baby-blue eyes snapped open.
"Seiya?" she whispered.
"Don't worry," Seiya called out, his comforting voice carrying across the mall. "I'll get you out of there!"
Hearing this, Sailor Moon began to panic again though for an entirely different reason.
"Don't!" she cried, ignoring the rustling vines around her. "You'll get yourself caught too! You can't defeat these vines!"
"As long as I am able to move and fight, I could defeat those vines and rescue you."
Closing her eyes once again, Sailor Moon wondered how Seiya had such strength. Her friends had strength similar to Seiya as well. No matter what happened they would always stand up to face even the most difficult of challenges. Even when faced with death, they stayed strong and stood by Sailor Moon.
"They were strong… because they wanted to protect me and the citizens of this planet."
Furrowing her brow, the blonde scrambled to find further meaning in her realization. She could feel an answer just floating in front of her.
Sailor Neptune drifted in the sky, held by Neherenia's hair. Below them, Mars was dodging attacks being thrown at her by the evil Queen. The raven-haired senshi appeared torn between attacking and risk injuring Neptune, who was being used like a shield, or risk losing time in finding Usagi.
"Fire! Have you forgotten our duty? We promised to protect the Princess!" Neptune yelled. The teal-haired senshi cried as the Queen started strangling her.
Climbing her feet, a fiery bow and arrow appears in front of Mars. Her face is determined and her eyes burn with fire.
Sailor Venus and Pluto scrambled across rocky terrain, panting for breath as their pursuers continued to run after them. The two warriors skid to a stop as another group of monsters appear in front of them. They step back as their opponents draw slowly closer to them.
Sailor Pluto looks at the bridge behind them that is suspended over a large, dark chasm. Her eyes are grim but her decision final.
"I'll hold them off. You go. When you get to the other side, cut the bridge. You're the only one who can become the leader. If we both die, who's going to save the princess? Hurry up!"
Jupiter skids across the ground on her side while Neherenia floats over her, gloating. The brunette slows to a stop beside Usagi, who was trapped in an enchantment. Taking hold of the opportunity, Neherenia strikes with her dark lightning once again, this time aiming for Usagi.
Jupiter scrambles up and shields Usagi from the attack, crying out as the lightning hits her. Glancing back at Usagi, Jupiter's eyes soften.
"She's the kind of person who will sacrifice herself for others. We all love Usagi! Did you have any friends like that?"
Sailor Saturn is facing Neherenia in a dark room. Chibi-Moon is fading while Neherenia gloats. Saturn gazes sadly at Chibi-Moon before returning her focus on the dark Queen.
"Then I'll have to release my power of destruction to end everything."
"If you use that power, you will be destroyed too. Do it if you can," Neherenia challenges unbelievingly.
"That is my destiny," replies Saturn calmly, her grip on her glaive tightening.
"What good is that?"
"I believe in the princess," Saturn replies with confidence.
Sailor Moon hugs Chibi-Moon's slowly fading body, her baby-blue eyes filled with tears.
The youngest senshi gazes up at Sailor Moon, her ruby eyes warm and trusting.
"Usagi, I couldn't save Mamo-chan… but I believe in you."
No, she couldn't die. Her friends had spent too much time protecting her and ensuring her survival for her to just give up like this! They believed in her so she should believe in herself as well. Even though they were not there by her side, their spirits and love would always be with her.
Light exploded around Sailor Moon, causing the vines around her to retreat. As the warrior stood onto her feet, a long, elegant sword materialized in front of her, emitting a beautiful shower of light.
As if in a trance, Sailor Moon wrapped her fingers around the hilt of the sword. The instant her hand touched the sword, the air around her swirled fiercely, stirred by an invisible wind. Such power! Catching her breath, Sailor Moon managed to tear her gaze away from the beautiful weapon in her hands.
Gazing up in determination, Sailor Moon set forward with her friend's spirits and the love of the people around her in her heart.
"Everyone… thank you."
The golden light still surrounding her, Sailor Moon stepped forward. The vines in her way instantly dissolved the moment they touched her golden barrier. However, with each step she took, the slower and clumsier her moments became. By the time that Sailor Moon had reached the odd, potted plant in the middle of the jungle of vines, the blonde felt completely drained.
The golden wind around her became more violent, clawing at the vines that were further away. Gathering her concentration and strength, Sailor Moon drew back the tremendous energy.
"Just a little more," she whispered softly as she took another step forward.
Falling to her knees in from of the plant, Usagi awkwardly lifted the sword with both her hands. Gravity took care of the rest as the blade of the sword buried itself inside the plant.
As if she had set a bomb off, the plant exploded, dissolving into thin air. The vines closest to her shuddered, then slowly melted away into the air. The last of her energy drawn away by the sword, both her outfit and her weapon disappeared.
On her hand and knees and gasping for breath, Usagi managed a small smile before falling onto the floor in an unconscious heap.