Till Our Lives Burn Out
A Sailor Moon Fan Story
By Phoenix 2772
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon is the creation and property of Naoko Takeuchi and Toei Animation Co.
Classic Arc: manga or anime, take your pick
Nemesis Arc: manga
Infinity Arc: manga, with some of the Chibiusa / Hotaru anime eps
Elysian Arc: manga, with anime Nehellenia 'coda'
Galaxia Arc: anime
… and one or two things from the musicals
Galaxia: Is Chaos Gone?
Sailor Moon: I think it went back to where it belongs.
Galaxia: Where it belongs?
Sailor Moon: Yes, back to peoples' minds.
Galaxia: Then, it will happen all over again … ?
Sailor Moon: Let's believe in them.
The people who love their world. Don't worry,
the Light of Hope is there too ... Let's do it again
from the beginning. It's not too late.
Anime Episode 200: Sailor Stars (with some paraphrasing)
Hotaru: "Oh, shooting stars!"
Setsuna: "For what did you wish?"
Hotaru: "Hee, it's a secret! How about you, Setsuna-san?"
Setsuna: "That too is secret."
Hotaru: "Oh, you're sly …"
Anime Episode 200: Sailor Stars
"P.S. Usagi in the 20th Century?
Studying while young really was important. Make sure you do it well."
- Neo-Queen Serenity
Chapter 1: Prologue - Right of Return
A lone guardian stood before the door of time. Short, blue-tinted hair wrapped itself around a beautiful and charming face with bright, blue, intelligent eyes. She had no weapon to hand, unless one considered as weapons the determined expression so familiar to the soft, otherwise invisible, creases of her face, and the small hyperquantum computer so familiar to the hands that manipulated it. Such an assumption would not be far off; her ways of fighting were never as flashy or impressive as others', but she was formidable in any case, and as indispensable to many victories as the eyes and brain to the body. The time door was open, and she was gathering data with a very intense expression on her face. As she watched the time stream, and tried to direct it to show her what she needed to see, her hope for a quick solution to the mystery that had been vexing them since Sailor Pluto's death began to fade.
She was Sailor Mercury, the Senshi of Wisdom. Since the death of the Sailor Pluto, the Senshi of Time, Mercury and the others shared the job of guarding this very important place. The first time she had watch, she realized immediately how strange and alien this little corner of the cosmos was. Of Sailor Pluto it was said "time was in her blood," and thus she must have been inured to this strange feeling of being along side time that permeated the very air of this place. It was the loneliest vigil she had ever stood, and she could not imagine anything lonelier. During her watches, she often had nothing to do but think, and very often, those thoughts turned to reminiscences about the previous possessor of this duty. In a time long past, she learned on one occasion that Setsuna Meioh, Sailor Pluto's civilian guise, thought about loneliness, but she wondered if, in her Senshi form, the Time Guardian had some defense against the isolation of the post that allowed her to get through it. It would be nice to know that trick, for very often Mercury contemplated her loneliness when on duty here. It didn't take long for the Inner Planet Senshi to discover between them they'd all had similar thoughts.
Now, however, there was a mystery to be solved and that made her shifts here less arduous, though no less unpleasant. She would often stay past her watch to conduct research on the time stream. The others benefited too, as it was nice to have her company, and, so Mercury learned, it was well that they shared the duty, for even the strongest of them did not think they could have handled the job alone.
A great pulsing sound came from within the gate, and it was time to call upon all her powers of reason and deduction. Her investigation had begun in earnest, and so she began with a mental review of the known facts:
'Sailor Pluto was killed when she stopped time in the battle with Death Phantom - then by the power of the Queen, she was reincarnated into the past as Setsuna Meioh to fight during the Infinity, Elysian and Galaxia crises. In the present, Death Phantom was defeated, and Pluto's body was immured in stasis crystal and placed in a special memorial hall. When Small Lady returned from her second visit to the past, she inquired as to when she could expect to see Hotaru in this age: a reasonable question, and thus began the mystery.
We needed to find out if Pluto, somehow, could and should be replaced, or if Sailor Saturn could be summoned without her. We also needed to answer Small Lady's question about Hotaru, since the one person who could answer that question was now dead. In attempting to summon Sailor Saturn, with Sailors Uranus and Neptune using their talismans, and the Queen standing in for Pluto, we discovered that Saturn could not be summoned. Uranus seemed worried because it seemed not that the attempt had failed, but that it had never even gotten off the ground; Saturn simply wasn't "there" to be summoned. Neptune and the Queen concurred.
I was then sent to the time gate to begin research on an explanation. Small Lady quickly became aware that something was wrong. The King ordered us not to discuss it with her, and the Queen ordered that at least one of the Senshi must keep an eye on her at all times, or she might attempt to take matters into her own hands again. Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't the event that set all of this in motion.
I must solve this mystery …'
The computer in her hand chirruped.
'Good, I've isolated the relevant temporal threads.'
After watching for a bit, she frowned as her hope for a quick solution faded to nil. There was no way this was going to be resolved quickly. The mystery had just deepened.
'Sailor Saturn had always been something of a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, but nothing like what I am facing now. Where is she? We know that she was alive and well after Sailor Moon defeated Chaos. When we investigated her subsequent disappearance in that age, Setsuna, may she rest in blessed peace, had mentioned Hotaru's periods of catalepsy as she began to mature after the Galaxia Crisis. Despite a search lasting over six months, we could not find any trace of her. At the time, we reluctantly concluded that somehow she'd put herself into suspended animation, waiting for the next time she would be called. That explanation never satisfied me, but we all accepted it because the alternative was too terrible to contemplate.'
Now, she spoke tersely and dispassionately into her computer's voice recorder:
"Begin entry, enumerate and time stamp:
Using the time gate, I have tried to retrace Hotaru's steps from earliest beginnings of the Infinity Academy Crisis. I have found the relevant thread of time. I saw her there; I saw the construction fire, where her mother was killed – a terrible thing to have to watch! I saw her father try to rebuild her body, and place Mistress Nine's Daihmon egg within her, her interactions with Chibiusa, and her defeat of Mistress Nine and Pharaoh Ninety. Then the thread dissolves. From there I cannot find any trace of Hotaru Tomoe's energy signature. Even more puzzling: after that time, I cannot lock in on any specific threads concerning the Outer Senshi. Temporal threads that seem to have their energy signatures are too 'fuzzy.' I do not understand why at this time, but I will go so far as to say they may be in some kind of temporal limbo. Suggested course of action: interview Sailors Uranus and Neptune to see if they can recall anything that might be of help.
End entry, encode and send to main database."
'Pluto, I wish you were here. How is this possible? In that age, we saw her. She was there, with us. She matured rapidly. She was awakened as Sailor Saturn. She awakened the eternal forms of the Outer Senshi. She awakened Eternal Sailor Moon, fought with us against Nehellenia, died in the battle with Galaxia, and reappeared after Eternal Sailor Moon won that battle. Everyone remembers this. Yet, from this time, I cannot locate her or the Outer Senshi after the battle with Pharaoh Ninety. I've got to get to the bottom of …'
"Halt, or be attacked at once!" Sailor Mercury suddenly barked, as she whirled around quickly. The shape of something was clearly visible in the mists.
"May I approach, beautiful guardian?" a piping voice calmly asked. The figure raised something like hands to face level in a demonstration of harmlessness, though he was still hidden by the mists.
"Take one step further and I will attack! No one may trespass here. Unless you are of the Silver Millennium you should not even be able to come here."
"Yes, yes," said the figure. "It's a very critical place that must be well protected. I know of a few other such places similar to it in nomenclature if not in appearance."
The mists were clearing a little and the figure was clearly not very tall or, to appearances, threatening, though none of that mattered to Sailor Mercury. It wouldn't matter even if the creature had merely happened upon the Time Gate, and besides nothing outside the Silver Millennium ever just happened to find the Time Gate.
"Why are you here? It is my duty to destroy you for your mere presence here. Speak quickly, before I fulfill my duty!"
The figure knelt before her, placed facile paws on the ground and bowed low, as if offering his head to a chopping block.
"Do what you must then, beautiful warrior," said the figure. "I am unarmed, and at your mercy."
The mists had cleared away sufficiently to reveal a humanoid but definitely alien form. He was dressed in a plain robe of rough cloth that draped over and trailed after his furry black body. He looked like a large, humanoid rabbit, a bit bigger than a German shepherd, with fur like an ebony seal and big liquid eyes that bespoke great wisdom, intelligence and, perhaps, age.
"But," he continued, "I bear a message and if I do not return, others will, regrettably, come to trouble you until the message is delivered though you slay them all in turn. Perhaps someone at such a lonely post could do with the company even of intruders, and the change of pace might be refreshing as well, but it would offend against hospitality. Perhaps I could spare you this rudeness? I assure you I am no threat to anyone of good will."
Mercury wasn't sure how to take this, but found herself smiling inwardly as the being appeared completely harmless, and rather cute. Still, surprises were never welcome here, and her duty was crystal clear in any case.
"I bear a message for your king and queen."
"Tell it to me, then depart and never return."
"Regrettably, beautiful guardian, it is rather lengthy, requires a bit of explication and, in fact, a decision from them. But I assure you, I have lawful cause to come before them, and since where I come from this was the best way to approach, I have had to risk your wrath."
Mercury continued to eye the visitor warily, watching for any sign of treachery.
"As you are unwilling to let me pass to see them, perhaps they could come here?" the Visitor offered helpfully.
She was about to call for back up, and then freeze the intruder to immobilize him, but a voice echoed in her head. It was King Endymion ordering her to stand down, and await Sailor Venus who would arrive shortly to guard the gate while she escorted the visitor to the throne room. This was, to say the least, unusual, and at first she wondered if she'd heard right. "Mercury, see to his passage through the new barriers, and bring him to us," Neo-Queen Serenity's voice echoed the command a few minutes later as a blond headed figure in an orange skirted sailor suit appeared in the distance. Perhaps this visit was not unexpected, or was at least permissible for some reason of which she didn't know.
"Sailor Mercury, you are relieved," said Sailor Venus.
"Do you have any idea what this is about, Sailor Venus?" asked Sailor Mercury, as the visitor appreciatively eyed the beautiful blond approaching them.
Sailor Venus shook her head.
As they walked through tiled hallways, Sailor Mercury's boots made a rhythmic sound that was constantly at odds with the visitor's loping gait. The claws on his feet clattered unevenly, and the sound was periodically punctuated by a walking staff hitting the floor. Mercury began to realize her companion might be very, very old. Then the dissonant rhythm suddenly stopped, and Mercury turned. The visitor was staring into an alcove off to one side of the hall. In this room, the crystal floor of the hall gave way to a floor inlayed with black marble. Modest archways of reddish stone met at the top of the alcove. White marble tiles lined with thin strips of black and red stone made up the room itself. All were polished to a mirror shine. At the center was a black granite pedestal on which sat the body of someone encased in crystal. The inverse of the image sank into the reflective floor. Light coming through a stained glass window cast different delicate hues over the whole room.
But the visitor's attention was fixed on the body in the crystal. It was a human woman - fairly tall he guessed though it was hard to tell from the way she lay in state. She was rolled slightly to her left side, her right leg was drawn up, crossing the left, and her right arm lay across her lap. She had long dark hair, with an emerald tint, that spread out around her almost like a blanket. Her skin was darker, and her face, so the visitor thought, was exquisite. Her eyes were closed in a way that suggested not death, but a satisfied if mildly troubled sleep.
"I beg your pardon, beautiful guardian," said the visitor politely, "may I ask who she was?"
"She was the guardian of the Time Gate where you came in," Mercury replied.
"May I take a closer look?"
"Very well, but quickly please."
'Could this be why …?' he thought, upon nearing the crystal. "How did she die?"
"We lost her in a terrible battle several months ago."
"She was … she is glorious," he said reverently, "even in death. She lays as she fell, does she not?"
'Yes,' Sailor Mercury could only nod, sadness creasing her eyes.
"How sad to see her like this," said the visitor with utmost sincerity.
"We miss her very much. In fact, just now, I would give my own life to have her back."
"Very touching, beautiful guardian. Did she die well?" he asked sadly.
"She did all things well," said Mercury, her eyes tearing just a bit from both her own memories and the obvious sincerity of the visitor's kind words.
"Well, let us continue," he said, after taking one last look at the tomb of Sailor Pluto.
"This way, please."
Upon reaching the throne room, it appeared that the visit had been permitted for entirely frivolous reasons. "So cute!" exclaimed Serenity, who apparently knew anytime someone arrived at the gate, and could even see them. The creature's smile brightened considerably at this praise. She sensed no ill will or deceit in him, nor required that he be searched, but permitted him to approach. Mercury went to the place where she usually stood during such visits. Pleasantries were exchanged, and sincere flattery was offered by the visitor to the "beautiful queen of legend" and the "wise king and great protector." Then Sailor Mercury and the rest of the nearby Sailor Senshi tensed up as he reached under his robes to pull two objects out. Sailors Mars and Jupiter went so far as to position themselves between the Royal Couple and the Ambassador. Seeing this, the ambassador placed the objects on the floor.
"This one is for your majesty," he said, indicating Neo-Queen Serenity, "and this one is for your majesty." He bowed toward the King, and then with a flourish, backed away from them and knelt. Mars and Jupiter came down and examined them. These turned out to be gifts, which the two Senshi picked up and delivered to the King and Queen. Though Sailor Mercury could not make out their exact nature, given the deeply appreciative looks on their highness' faces, they must have been exquisite offerings.
Then, loud enough for Mercury to hear, the visitor said, "As well, I have a tale to offer and a request to make, and I pray these gifts will dispose you to hear me out."
"Thank you," said Serenity, "they are beautiful, though we would hear you in any case. Please proceed."
"I hope you can forgive my rudeness, but if it pleases your highnesses, this is a matter requiring greatest discretion. My words are for you alone, so as to give your highnesses maximum leeway in deciding to whom you should and should not reveal them."
He began his tale. As the story progressed, mild interest and then deepening concern and great surprise came over the faces of the king and queen. Mercury, like the rest of the Senshi present, could not help but strain to try and hear what was being said. Occasionally, the very live acoustics of the crystal hall did allow her to catch a word or two: "… new dispensation … human, all too human … only one … seventh generation … so many of them, breed like bunnies … took us a while to locate … a specific time has been chosen … only the very best … we promise to … we certainly … well-trained … minimize unintended consequences …"
It was mildly frustrating as there was little Mercury could make of this. Endymion began asking quiet but forceful sounding questions of the visitor, while Serenity looked at her and motioned for her to come over. As she got closer, she could hear a little bit of the conversation.
"As you can surely see," the ambassador was saying, "the request is within every right, but we will not lean on those rights. We will abide by whatever decision you make."
"By what right was this undertaken to begin with?" asked the king.
"By right of creatorship, oh great king. Besides, your old kingdom had passed, and the new was not yet begun."
"I see; and what if our answer is no?" asked Endymion, sounding more rude than he had perhaps intended.
"Then the matter ends here," said the visitor diplomatically, but then after a well timed rhetorical pause, he added plainly and with no malice, "for now. But – and I do beg pardon - we reserve to ourselves the right to come at a future time and plead the matter again, for we do have lawful cause …"
Sailor Mercury was so intent on the visitor's words, Serenity's touch on her hand came as a shock.
"What have you discovered so far?" Serenity asked with some anxiousness in her voice.
"The situation is, perhaps, worse than we feared. I cannot see Hotaru Tomoe through the door of time after the battle with Pharaoh Ninety, nor can I lock in on threads containing the energy signatures of the Outer Senshi."
"This is very disturbing," said the queen. "Perhaps the need for the Outer Senshi has passed. Pluto gone; Saturn missing; will we lose them all?'
"I would hate to think so," Mercury said, looking at proud Uranus and elegant Neptune, as they stood straight-backed and watchful at the main door of the throne room.
"So would I. How I miss them. Small Lady is starting to realize something is very wrong. She's becoming very anxious and despondent. She feels it was her fault we lost Pluto, and if she realizes by that, we may have lost Saturn as well … I don't know what she'll do. Her memories of both from the visits to the past before we began our investigations have only made things worse, it seems. Would it do any good to attempt going back into that time and trying to make better sense of Hotaru's disappearance?"
"Small Lady alone has mastered such things," said Mercury. "There may come a time for that, but without Sailor Pluto here to make sure things go smoothly, we shouldn't risk that until we at least have a better idea of what has happened."
"What do you recommend?"
"The only thing I can think of is to interview Uranus and Neptune in light of this new information, and see if they can offer any leads. Otherwise, I can only redouble my efforts to gain more data."
"Yes, talk to them, but later," said the queen. "I have every confidence in you. I know you'll figure it out. I'm sorry to add to your workload, but have you had any success in seeing very deeply into the currents of time after the fall of the Silver Millennium?"
"Depending on how deeply, some," Mercury replied.
"Down to the level of specific lives? That of any individual human?"
"You wish to see a single, but unremarkable, unknown person?"
"Yes," said the Queen, matter-of-factly.
"It's possible," said Sailor Mercury, "but only if I know a great deal about whom we're looking for to begin with. If it's a cold start, hit or miss attempt, no one could manage such a thing except by an impossible amount of luck. We can, of course, see the great currents in time, and those who were great in them. Yet we can't make much sense of it, because we lose the inner context of that time, until our reappearance as Senshi at the turn of the 21st century. Somehow, it seems that only by our presence in a time, can we enable the contextualization of temporal threads through the time gate from this age."
"That's a shame," Serenity said, her eyes beginning to glaze over at Mercury's technical explanation. "Considering what our visitor has told us, knowledge of that time would be … useful."
"I'm sorry, your highness. What did he say?"
"I'll tell you of that later," she said, smiling at Mercury's insatiable inquisitiveness. "I'll simply have to find out what I need to know by … other means."
'Other means' usually meant by intuition and guesswork.
"I'll return to the time gate and …"
Serenity cut her off with a smile.
"Yes, concentrate on that, and talk to Uranus and Neptune later. Don't worry about this. For now, though, return to your station."
'Saturn, where are you?' thought Serenity. As she pondered the mystery, something strange happened. She realized the gift in her hand was noticeably warmer than the warmth of her hand should have made it. It was reacting to her in some way. She looked more closely at it, and saw it was a figurine executed in white gold, embedded within a beautiful crystal sunburst pattern. Because of its uniform color, and her focus upon the visitor, she had not taken much note of the details in it. Now she did, and found herself surprised.
In the meantime, Mercury noticed that Endymion had eased up on the visitor and they seemed to be talking amicably. Often when the King did this, he was actually sizing up the person with whom he was talking, and it appeared that he was generally satisfied that the visitor was no threat. Endymion also appeared genuinely moved by whatever the visitor was saying. There was still the sense permeating the room that what he was asking for was, in some way, quite problematic. One thing she did overhear: "… a pure heart's dying wish." Something very interesting was being discussed and it was mildly troubling that she could not hear more of it. Serenity was in a pose of deepest thought –almost a trance- as she regarded the gift. Then suddenly it looked as though something had occurred to her, and as she looked at the ambassador and then back to the figurine, there was a dawning comprehension in her smile.
"We will give you our answer," proclaimed Serenity at the conclusion of this audience, "this evening. I must make consultations first. Ambassador, you have the leave of the city. Mercury, please take the ambassador on a tour and make it a thorough one. Show him every hospitality we have to offer."
"Yes, highness," she said, bowing slightly, and walking over to the ambassador.
"I thank you both for your hospitality, your patience in hearing me out, and your willingness to give an answer to my request," said the ambassador very sincerely. "It is more than we really had a right to expect. Please take all the time you need. I am in no hurry, and I am quite content to be in such a charming place with such charming company. Your answer will be the final word - for now."
Sailor Mercury got on famously with the ambassador now that they were both at ease with each other. He beamed as she guided him around the city, taking in everything and enjoying himself immensely. He smiled as the citizens of Crystal Tokyo took note of the strange creature among them. He seemed to take delight in them most of all. "Ah," he said, talking far more than the intelligent guardian who was supposedly informing him about the sights, "you can show me advanced technology, great architecture, or the highest of art forms, and I'll nod and say 'yes, yes, very nice' – and mean it. But show me a happy people among whom love and justice reigns supreme? That is a true glory."
"I agree," Mercury nodded.
Children were especially interested in the visitor and found him very cute. He was clearly touched by this for among his own kind - so he told Mercury, it had been very long time since anyone had found him "cute." He in turn produced gifts of sweets from under his robes.
"If I may ask," said Sailor Mercury, "what is your age?"
The creature got an impish look on his face, as if he was deciding whether to say something. "Old enough to know better," he said, "which is my usual response to that question. You are of considerable age yourself now, are you not, beautiful warrior? Sadly, I did not remain so beautiful, though in my day I was quite the lovable rogue."
"I think you're very cute as well," Mercury laughed. She had been around him enough now to see what might be signs of old age in his kind: the streaks of fading black in the fur of his head, a body more stooped than the physiognomy would require at a younger age, a bit of sagging under the eyes, the steady gait belying fading agility at any other speed, and the slightly unkempt whiskers around his snout.
"If you're wondering how I knew," he said apologetically, "well, everything has an effect if one knows what to look for. I know something of what you guard, and something of what you must be to guard it. You are strong, especially in mind, and have a heart that is as pure as any I have ever encountered. Watching timelines does have its effects on one, no matter how pure of course. I have seen much. You have seen much, as well. And yet it's always the same things, isn't it?"
Mercury was not disposed to reveal any more about her own age; she was a woman after all, but the discussion with the learned and aged creature was very stimulating.
"Yes, I am amazed at how quickly peoples can forget the things that make civilizations possible, and how they fall into despair as if on cue."
"Yes, tragic destiny. How hard it is to break out of the cycles. It's almost as if the journey is more important than the goal …"
"… Oh? You think so? I wasn't finished. The journey is the goal, yes, but the goal is real enough. To be manifested, it requires that the journey end. Imperfections must be flushed out. The circles of creation are closed by death. I have to wonder something. When you lost that glorious guardian of time, were there any … repercussions?"
Mercury suddenly became very guarded, and that was enough for the Ambassador to know his question had hit the mark.
"Is that why you wish she were here, instead of you?"
Mercury said nothing.
"My apologies. I shall ask nothing further. Ah, may we try this place for a meal?"
Mercury nodded and they went inside.
Neo Queen Serenity had left the throne room to think about the Ambassador's request. She asked Endymion to remain with the others while she took a moment alone to think about all that her Senshi had said, arguing against granting the request. Even Endymion had disagreed until she looked at him with the look that only she could give and only he could receive.
Now she walked silently down the halls and was, in fact, retracing the steps the ambassador had taken to get to their throne room. Like him, she turned down a corridor and turned aside when she got to the alcove where Sailor Pluto lay in state. With great sadness, she stared at the perfectly preserved face and figure of the Time Gate Guardian.
'Meioh Setsuna,' she mused. 'In nearly every way we were opposites. You are dark and I am fair. You are wise, and I have struggled much to learn. You were disciplined, and I was not. I cannot bear to be alone for very long. You have borne loneliness such as I cannot fathom. I have been 'too sweet', weak even, and you have had, or have learned, strength such as I could never have. It is almost as if, somehow, you were the sacrifice that made me possible.'
In her hand was the Ambassador's gift. It was still warmer than it should be. She stared deeply at it, rehearsing every reason raised in opposition to granting the request. Among all her advisors, only one had kept her council: Luna. When Serenity looked at her, she could see the worry etched in Luna's face, but yet she thought Luna may actually have approved.
"Luna," she suddenly called out, "I know you're there. Come on out."
"I am sorry, my Queen," said the black cat, emerging from behind a column.
"About what? You always follow me whether I wish it or not. I knew you would and today I was counting on that. Hop up here, or show your human form, if you wish. I want you to look at something."
"I prefer to remain in feline form, but –as I suspect you realize- sitting on someone's tomb simply is not done," she said, as she transformed into her human form.
"Look at her," said the queen. "How is it that all this wasn't enough to include her?"
"Neo Queen Serenity," Luna responded, staring down at the face of Sailor Pluto, "Every night since her death, I have left you with the sadness of it -that you thought well hidden, on your face."
"It was my fault, Luna. I tried to fix it by reincarnating her in the past. But I fear I have not understood how time really works, and now, not only can Sailor Mercury not find Hotaru in the time stream, she can't find any of the other Outer Planet Senshi either."
"But Uranus and Neptune are still with us."
"Yes, but I wonder if we will lose them somehow. Luna, how can I settle for a 'utopia' that doesn't include them? They are hard nosed and stubborn, yes, but they have been faithful and stood watch over posts so lonely that we cannot imagine it. And …"
"Yes, my queen?"
"… I love them."
"Of course, my queen," Luna smiled. "I think I know why you are thinking of granting this request. You feel you owe it to her, them, everyone, to find a way, right?""
"Then you, too, think this has a chance of …"
"Forgive me, my queen," she interrupted, "I might say yes, except I'm not sure what 'working' means here. Things will change, that much is sure. Some things might get better: others worse. There are no answers here, only trade-offs. But this is obviously one of those times where the reasons against something are at odds with your heart. Only you and your heart can judge whether the trade-off is worth it. It has been given to you to make such judgements."
"You're only partially right, Luna. It doesn't matter whether it is worth it or not. I do owe it to them. And to Small Lady. As well, I think this means something," she said, and handed the ambassador's gift to her.
Luna took it, felt its warmth, and looked closely at it.
"You see it, too, don't you?"
"Yes," Luna said, eyeing it closely.
"A sign perhaps, eh?"
Luna sighed with that same smiling sigh of acquiescence to whatever it was in "Usagi's" heart to do.
"I want you to witness something," said Serenity, taking Luna's hands in her own.
"Yes, my queen."
Sailor Mercury returned the ambassador to the palace as gorged on the sights as on the best cuisine the city had to offer. The second audience was brief. The request had been granted, and the ambassador looked at Serenity almost teary eyed with amazed gratitude and relief, as though somehow this decision was bringing to an end some important and arduous task. Sailor Mercury was certain that there had been considerable discussion, for neither Endymion nor the Sailor Warriors who now flanked her – even Small Lady had been summoned!- looked comfortable with the decision. There must have been quite a few objections raised, and Serenity must have overridden them all. Sailor Mercury hoped that someone would bring her up to speed and soon. The Ambassador left with Mercury, but the tension in the room did not leave with him.
"It will happen when he disappears," Neo Queen Serenity said, concern and hope mixed evenly in her voice.
"I hope you've made the right decision," said Sailor Uranus.
"I am – almost – certain of it," she said, as she fingered the figurine in her hands.
Having returned with Mercury to the door of time, the ambassador walked away into the mists, but not before turning back and saying, "Farewell, beautiful guardian. Thank you. I now go to something better." Then he added cryptically, "Don't worry. Everything will be just fine."
"What happened back there?" asked Venus before heading back to the throne room.
"I do not know," she said. Venus looked mildly concerned, but that was quickly overwhelmed by a determined, gossipy look as she turned to leave. Mercury called to her, "Please come tell me, when you find out." Then she got out her computer and prepared to do as she had promised. First, Time Gate protocol required that she watch the retreating figure of the Ambassador until he was gone. With one last swish of the trailing robe, he disappeared.
And it happened.
Sailor Mercury found herself in her laboratory, frustrated at the thought that she was forgetting something important. Then it hit her: "It's my shift at the time gate. I was just there! How did I get here?" She ran quickly through the palace to the forbidden corridor, her footfalls creating a clattering cacophony that echoed for a few seconds even after her boots dug squeaking into the floor, bringing her to a screeching halt. She was stunned by what she saw. Standing before the Door of Time was Sailor Pluto: alive, holding something that looked like a letter in her hand and looking a bit confused herself.
"Pluto!" Mercury yelled, and then rushed to her and hugged her.
"What is this about?" Pluto asked, momentarily distracted from the curious letter by Mercury's embrace.
"You're alive! How can this be?"
"I am as I have …," she said, but then stopped, as though she realized what Mercury said was true, but that the truth had changed only moments ago. "I … do not know. What has happened? What is … this?"
She handed the letter to Sailor Mercury. It was signed by the queen, and written …
"… in Kanji?"