Forgotten
by John Lauder
jlauder121@hotmail.com or
saturn9@mindspring.com

Rating: PG-13

July 2000

Notes: This is my first fanfic, so all comments will be welcomed.
Don't go easy on me...please!!!!

Um, anyway, this is a Sailormoon fanfic, and I use the original
Japanese names. It takes place during the Neherenia arc of Sailor Stars,
but I do make references to all five seasons, particularly S. The main
character is Souichi Tomoe, Hotaru's father. I also make use of some of
the other secondary characters from the previous seasons.

Text enclosed within asterisks (*) are for things like thoughts,
flashbacks, dream sequences, you know, things like that...

Finally, I don't own Sailor Moon or any of its characters, they belong to
Naoko Takeuchi, Toei Animation, Kodansha, along with some other companies.

---

For the first time since he could remember, which was only a few months
or so, Souichi Tomoe had felt happy. It had been a gorgeous spring
day--warm, sunny, and beautiful. A comfortable breeze stirred the air,
causing the leaves to create their own little pleasant symphony.

He had taken it all in appreciatively, relishing everything in this
moment he could--every sound, every smell, every color, every shape.

His daughter was lying nearby, and seemed to be taking in the scenery
just as eagerly as he had been. He could see the curiosity and
eagerness in her eyes, and the wonder. Everything was new to her, and
each new discovery of the huge world around her did nothing less but
amaze her. *I only hope you can still appreciate the beauty of all
this when you grow up*, he thought.

Baby Hotaru began to coo and reached out her small arms in excitement,
enough for her father to take note and go over to her side. He picked
her up and held her, and both father and daughter enjoyed the embrace.
He suddenly found himself having sympathy for anyone in the world who
had never had the privilege of holding a baby in their arms. *Well,
a quiet baby with a clean diaper, anyway.*

"My, aren't you excited today," he told her. "Have you been dreaming?
Maybe something I can never imagine." Then that feeling washed over
him, that feeling every parent felt as they held their children, pride,
hope, thinking that their child could be just about anything in the
world they wanted to. This joy had quickly dissipated, however, with
just one sentence.

"Hotaru, I have come to take you with me."

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From the front pages of a lesser known Tokyo news magazine, dated about
a week after the Senshi's defeat of the Death Busters/Pharaoh 90:

MUGEN GAUKEN DESTROYED, AUTHORITIES BAFFLED
The ever-mysterious and controversial Mugen Gauken met with a
destructive fate last Saturday in the early morning hours. The
building, a skyscraper residing in the Delta Harbour area, was
completely destroyed. No bodies have been found as of yet, and no
one has been reported missing.
The police now state that the building was rocked by two
separate explosions, though there were very few eyewitnesses to the
explosions. The first explosion occurred sometime during the night,
between the hours of 2 am and 3 am, and sheared off the top half of
the building. A few hours later, sometime after dawn, a second even
more powerful blast was felt, and had completely leveled the building.
The rubble is now being thoroughly inspected in an attempt to
explain the cause. Physical evidence has apparently been very scant;
none of the security cameras in the 60-story building were found.
No matter what the cause, the students and faculty of the school
find their lives turned upside down. Police are still in the process
of contacting all students and faculty of Mugen, to obtain any
information they can.
With the school destroyed, many students and faculty must go
through the difficult process of transferring to other local area
schools. Their association with Mugen may either help them or hinder
them. Mugen was one of the most prestigious institutions in the city,
but its strange reputation may very well cause some other schools to
shun them.
When asked about the cause, the authorities only had a couple of
theories, but no leads. First on the list of theories is the academy
being the victim of a horrible terrorist attack. No evidence exists
to support this, only unverified reports that a helicopter was seen
flying near the school sometime before the second explosion occurred.
Second on the list of explanations falls under the jurisdiction
of "unexplained phenomena" that perhaps only the Sailor Senshi could
explain. Additional unsubstantiated reports indicate that the Sailor
Senshi, a team of female teenage fighters equipped with strange powers,
were seen at Mugen at the time of the explosions. Their appearance
would only mean that the city has suffered yet another attack from some
otherworldly beings. Some find this theory laughable, and believe all
previous events involving the senshi were a hoax. On the other hand,
others are cautioning the skeptics, warning that these "supernatural
beings" are indeed real.
The Sailor Senshi have not been seen since their alleged
appearance at Mugen.
The last of the possible theories involves the reputation of
Mugen Gauken's owner, Professor Souichi Tomoe, who teaches classes
in the advanced sciences. He has an established history of engaging
in very controversial work, particularly in the area of genetics.
Enough to earn both envy and harsh criticism from his peers.
"It wouldn't surprise me if the explosion had been caused by
something like unstable substances, or hazardous equipment stored
inside of Mugen," said a professor of the Azabu Institute of Technology
who asked not to be identified.
"For three years I've heard of the strange happenings there--small
fires, students walking around like brainwashed amoebas, repeated
replacement of expensive equipment. I'm hoping this will be a wake-up
call for Tomoe. It's one thing to be original and innovative, quite
another to endanger the lives of students."
Tomoe was the only one inside the Mugen building at the time, and
is recovering from his injuries at Ohajara Hospital. What he was
doing inside Mugen Gauken alone may remain a mystery, as doctors have
reported that his numerous head injuries may have resulted in some
memory loss. The police have not finished questioning him; he has not
been charged with any crime yet.
Facing possible criminal prosecution, lawsuits from damage to the
surrounding areas, and physical rehabilitation, Tomoe will no doubt
have a difficult recovery ahead of him.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

The same time that the outer senshi were leaving the roof of the aquarium
building with a Hotaru that was no longer a baby, Souichi Tomoe was inside
his house, slouched in the living room. Six hours had passed since his
daughter was taken. In his right hand he clutched the bottle of scotch
tightly, his only companion now. In his other hand was his forehead, and
for the past half an hour he had been staring at the floor. He began to
wonder when the last time the floor was vacuumed.

Since it happened six hours ago, all Souichi could do was replay the scene
in his head over and over again. But it wouldn't change what was now done.
When it happened, he had just stood there, and let the woman take his baby
away without resistance. The woman had not laughed at the comical
dullard's expression on his face.

"She will be returned to you as soon as possible. The Sailor Senshi will
keep her safe. You must not tell anyone of this," she said, and simply
walked away. When he had finally snapped out of his stupor, there was no
sign of them. He hadn't been sure how much time had actually passed.
Either he had gone catatonic, or the two of them had disappeared in a
flash.

By the time he had gone back inside, he had decided it must have been
the former--he must have zoned out for a while. It had made more sense,
given his previous head injuries and loss of memory.

His first instinct had been to alert the police, but he shot down that
idea before reaching the phone, remembering the statement the woman had
made. She had said Hotaru would be safe, but he didn't want to risk any
harm coming to her nonetheless. Besides, the police probably would
laugh him out of there when he told them he just stood there while the
woman took Hotaru away.

"The Sailor Senshi," he recalled her saying. He had heard the term
several times before. There were frequent stories in the news about
these "senshi", those girls in short skirts who fought against these
monsters that would allegedly appear.

He thought it all was a hoax, until about a couple of weeks ago, when he
looked out the window of his home to see everything covered in spider
webs. And a pink-haired girl in the moon.

If Hotaru was now really with the Sailor Senshi, it meant she was likely
being exposed to some danger he didn't even begin to understand.

That was when the liquor cabinet had beckoned him, for the first time
since he lost his memory. When was the last time he had a drink? He
pondered this, and then the answer came, that same damn answer to a lot
of the questions asked of him in the last year or so, mostly questions he
had asked himself. *I don't remember.*

That had brought about memories (actual legitimate memories) of when he
had first woken up in that hospital about a year ago. He had broken
bones, a concussion, and a hideously sore throat (alas, unbeknownst to
Tomoe-san, the daimon that possessed his body had let loose one insane,
shrill, evil guffaw too many).

The only cure for the physical pain was to drown it with emotional pain:
he felt the helplessness of not being able to move about without
assistance, coupled with the anger and frustration of not remembering
anything. Not remembering who Souichi Tomoe was.

With Hotaru now gone, all of these feelings had come back. Instead of
pouring himself just one glass he opted for just drinking out of the
bottle. He would drink, and then he would eventually pass out and not
have to think about any of this. A quick escape.

That had been hours ago. The contents of the bottle were nearly gone,
and he was still wide awake. Only now there was a pain in his stomach,
every so often the room would move, and still he was left thinking about
his daughter.

"I am sorry, Hotaru," he moaned. "Please forgive me," he pleaded, and
then took one last swig of the bottle.

Still he suffered, even after moving to a new house and trying to begin
a new life. He had moved here for Hotaru's sake. His obsession with
trying to remember anything of the past was beginning to affect his
caring for Hotaru.

Souichi had also grown tired of receiving those looks from people who
remembered Mugen Gauken, like he was a murderer or something. *Please,
if you look at me like that, at least tell me what I did, because I sure
as hell don't know...*

He had chosen this place, with the gorgeous scenery all around him. It
was peaceful, and more importantly Hotaru adored it. He thought he was
finally putting the past behind him, that he could be happy again.
Souichi felt he had come so far, and within one day everything had come
crashing down again. *Why? Why me? Why Hotaru?*

He stared at the empty bottle for a while, and in a fit of rage threw it
across the room. It crashed into the wall, and exploded into many shards.
This had actually surprised Souichi, though his senses were now too numb
to really react.

He rose slowly and went over to the mess he had created. He picked up
one of the shards, and examined it closely. Although he was thoroughly
intoxicated, he had managed to avoid cutting himself as he kept turning
the piece of glass over. He brought the shard dangerously close to his
wrist.

Suicide? Yes, he was considering it. He had just lost the center of
his universe. It was Hotaru who had kept him focused--each time before
that he considered killing himself (and in the last year, he had thought
about it several times), all he had to was hear his daughter crying, and
the ridiculous thought would leave him.

This time she wasn't around to save him. He just might have gone through
with it, had he not heard a strange sound coming from outside. He
dropped the shard and went out onto the balcony. The sky was clear this
night, a pleasing midnight blue. But it was the falling stars that had
grabbed his attention. He had the same reaction as Ami Mizuno--there
were just too many of them!

The stars were coming from the direction of the city, perhaps very near
the house where he used to live. "A hallucination?" Souichi asked
himself, referring to the stars. He turned to face the direction of
where the shattered liquor bottle was. *That stuff is awfully powerful,
isn't it?* He turned back to continue witnessing the spectacle.
However strange it seemed, it was beautiful. Souichi wished he had
Hotaru there with him, so that both of them could enjoy it.

He watched for a while longer, unaware of the damage the falling stars
were causing some distance away. Then the realization hit him with a
blast. "BAKA!" he yelled at himself. *What are you doing just sitting
here? Hotaru's out there, you've got to find her!*

He couldn't wait for anyone else to return her, Sailor Senshi or no.
He wasn't about to just sit and worry over what was happening to his
daughter, what was being done to her.

"Baka," he repeated. For the last time that night, he glanced at the
stars. Again he noticed their direction, falling in the direction of
the city. That was where they said all the Sailor Senshi sightings were,
in fact very close where he used to live. His daughter was most likely
somewhere in the city now, and that's where he had to go.

Souichi turned to go back inside, and a sharp pain assaulted him in the
stomach. It only lasted a few seconds, and he continued inside. He
headed for the kitchen for some water, and stumbled three times, the
third time nearly falling into the pile of broken glass.

He sighed in resignation; he was in absolutely no condition to start
looking for her now. *I'm going to have one hell of a headache in the
morning.* He drank two glasses of water, and went off to bed. His
stomach began to throb slightly again, causing him to curl up into a
fetal position. He had passed out quite easily.

Back in the living room, a vague shape appeared in one of the shards of
glass, and emitted an evil chuckle. From one of the shards appeared a
black sphere. It floated towards the bedroom, hovering at the side of
the bed for a few seconds. Then it grew in size; eventually taking the
form of a woman whose beauty was cold, almost harsh.

The apparition stood there for a long time, studying the man. The
anguish in the man was fairly obvious in his posture.

A voice that was not the woman's own spoke up. "Father of one of the
Sailor Senshi, of the White Moon Kingdom. They have abandoned him, left
him to suffer. These are the same ones that did this to you. They have
forgotten him, but you...you can use him to get back at them."

"Right," she agreed, her voice low and calm. Neherenia placed a hand on
his forehead, the same way Sailor Saturn would do to a younger Hotaru in
a few nights. She scanned over his mind. *Memory loss,* she discovered.
Her own mind became filled with evil delight as she saw the man's
tormented story play out.

Her primary goal would be to capture the other one, the beloved of the
White Moon Princess. But she would use any method she could to torment
all of them. Starting with this man here. She whispered something into
his ear, and Souichi began to dream.

"Pleasant dreams..." she said in a mockingly sad voice, and then faded
with a chuckle.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Unexpectedly, the next morning Souichi Tomoe had not woken up with a
severe headache. Quite the opposite. While he slept, he had had pleasant
dreams of his late wife Keiko, who like everyone else he had lost all
recollection of.

The dream was of happier times that he couldn't remember after the
accident. The dream had been unusually vivid, more vivid than the night
terrors that would often afflict him. From the dream, he had remembered
her scent as they embraced, and the way her long dark hair brushed against
his face. He found himself wishing there were some mental gadget one
could use to record and then re-experience such dreams.

But he didn't have time to dwell on that now. Quickly, he packed a few
things, including his laptop computer and some clothes. He didn't even
stop to clean up that mess he had made the previous night.

During the trip there, he had a little time to think about what he had
done. He mostly thought of the liquor cabinet. It was not that big a
collection, but thinking about it now made him wince. He thought of what
might have happened had he gotten into any of the bottles of more potent
variety...

Had he not had been distracted by those falling stars he may very well
be dead right now. In a way, Neherenia had saved his life.

When he had arrived in the city, he wasn't sure where to go first. He
couldn't just wander around the city looking for a green-haired woman.
She'd be fairly easy to spot, but not necessarily in a crowd of millions
of people. He needed to be more scientific, to gather some information
first.

So he had gone back to his old house, which he had not sold. It was as
it had always been; simply a place to sleep and take care of Hotaru in.
It was a place that frustrated him--he knew it was just full of memories
waiting to be recovered.

But no matter how hard he concentrated, nothing would ever come to him.
There really was no reason to keep this house, but he was not yet ready
to completely let go of the forgotten past. *I thought I was moving
forward, or was I just trying to escape from this?*

He flipped on the TV. The local news was on. A young newscaster
spoke of the previous day's events in a detached voice. "Though many
find it difficult to believe, it was not some fake pyrotechnic display
we saw last night, it was indeed an alarming amount of falling stars,
that have left the community both amazed and confused."

The scene switched from the newscaster to a scene of the sky the
previous night, and then to comments from local citizens.

"There were also more unconfirmed Sailor Senshi sightings last night,
in the aquarium building in Juuban. Whether or not this is related to
the wave of falling stars last night is unknown. Their appearance
usually is accompanied sooner or later by catastrophes that have defied
normal explanation. Nobody knows who they are, but they seem to be the
city's only defense against the very strange invasions in the last few
years."

While the reporter had said this, they had shown several drawings of
these Sailor Senshi. Even though they were only sketches, still Souichi
blushed. They were probably only in their mid-teens, and wore sailor
outfits with rather short skirts. There were six of them, and their
faces were obscured and vague, but they seemed to have a variety of
hairstyles and lengths.

None of the sketches of these sailor senshi, he noticed, had the long
hair with the bun, like the green-haired woman did. That would mean that
the one who took Hotaru was even more obscure than the other senshi, or
the woman had lied. Just fabricated the story to throw him off track
should he try to look for her. Or maybe she had just changed her hair;
he didn't know what the hell to think at this point. He switched off the
TV.

Over half of the house was empty, but there was just enough for him to
stay here for a while, long enough to figure out where Hotaru was, he
hoped. It seemed much more cold and haunting after having been
uninhabited for a few weeks.

He went into what might have been an office in what he now refers to as
his "previous life". The room was nearly empty, the only furniture in
here being a desk and a chair. When he had moved, he took the file
cabinets with him. Though he had not really sifted through them that
thoroughly, he knew most of the contents were financial statements, bill
receipts. He would have to go through all of that eventually; one of the
many things he had wondered about was where exactly he had gotten all
this money from...

The walls were decorated with various frames, each containing a various
award or other recognition he had earned, some containing pictures of
him smiling and shaking hands with some important looking official. He
had not taken those, since they were people he did not recognize now.

He set up the laptop computer on the desk. He booted it up, and
immediately connected to one of many web sites he knew of that contained
archives of old news stories.

ENTER SEARCH PHRASE: Mugen Gauken

Before he realized what he had typed, he had hit the enter key. It had
been a force of habit that he typed in that phrase; he had meant to type
in "Sailor Senshi". There was no surprise when it came back with a "NO
RESULTS FOUND".

Seeing those words Mugen Gauken on the screen once again got him thinking
about that horrible time. Then he came to a realization about the woman
who had taken Hotaru.

For the first few days after he came home from the hospital, the
destruction of Mugen Gauken was the top news story everywhere, and
anything else on TV just stopped. The press had maintained a constant
vigil outside the house for about a week, and the phone was ringing off
the hook. They were relentless.

*What caused the explosion? Was it a terrorist attack? Were you
performing illegal experiments again? Were you attempting to create
weapons of mass destruction? How were the Sailor Senshi involved? Did
you see them?*

Most often asked were questions regarding the Sailor Senshi, both by the
press and by the police. At the time, he had no idea who these "Sailor
Senshi" were.

The press had hounded him for about a week, even after the police had
questioned him and released his statement of complete lack of knowledge
and memory of the incident. Until one morning when it was all just
forgotten...almost magically.

That morning he had looked out the window and found the front gate of the
house free from the human occupants that had practically set up camp
there. The phone rang, and the caller--a woman--had refused to give
any identification. The woman had informed him that the property of Mugen
Gauken was no longer his problem to worry about, and the damage to
surrounding properties was already being repaired, with no cost to him.

He had felt simultaneously elated and unnerved. Before he was able to ask
who she was, she had firmly requested that he "take good care of Hotaru",
and promptly hung up. That had marked the end of the Mugen Gauken ordeal
for him, the legal portion of it anyway. He had not heard anything else
from the police, nor had he received any additional threatening phone
calls, and no legal action was taken against him. People still gave him
funny looks every now and then, but that was about it.

*Poof! That was it...and of course you had no time to realize how strange
it really was, with a baby in one arm and a cast on the other, not to mention
your leg.*

But now that he was thinking about it, he realized the woman on the phone
that day and the green-haired woman who had taken Hotaru were one and the
same. This woman, he was convinced, had been responsible for all of his
problems just going away.

It was more than that. It's almost like Mugen Gauken--and Professor
Souichi Tomoe--had never existed, from a historical standpoint, anyway.
After performing a heavy number of web searches, and visiting several
university libraries and searching every single periodical database he
could, he had only found two articles, both of which were vague and not
that revealing. Mugen Gauken did not have its own website, either.
*She couldn't get rid of it completely,* he reasoned. *Or did she not
want to?*

The entire history of what was one of the top quality schools in the
country could only be found in two articles? And with the exception of
the two articles, there was no mention of the name "Souichi Tomoe"
anywhere.

*Whoever this woman was, Sailor Senshi or not, she definitely had a large
sphere of influence, to make something that big practically disappear...*
This thought disturbed him. She had the resources to care for Hotaru,
but that also meant that she could do anything else to her...and probably
get away with it...

"Ah, baka," Souichi growled, not wanting to think that way. He looked
back at the computer screen and continued what he meant to do.

ENTER SEARCH PHRASE: Sailor Senshi.

The result screen came up, and he raised his eyebrows.

167 items found.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

"Welcome, a present for some special girl in your life? We have a
discount on emerald jewelry this week. How may I help you?"

The boy, about sixteen years of age, had an unusual request. "Um, well,
are you the owner of this store?" he asked nervously.

"Yes, I am."

"You live here with your daughter, right?"

The woman became suspicious. "Who wants to know?" she asked, still
smiling, but her foot ready to activate the alarm. Bars would surround
the boy within seconds.

"Oh, no, I, just wanted to ask her something. We go to the same school,"
he lied. "We have a...mutual friend...that I wanted to know something
about...I know this sounds weird, but could I please talk to her?" He
gulped, knowing he was blowing this.

She gave the security guard the special look that said to be wary, then
went and called for her daughter.

The daughter, a redhead who was around the same age as the boy, came down,
and was asked by her mother if she knew this person. He did look familiar,
but the name escaped her. The urgent and pleading expression on his face
got her attention. "Yes, I know him. Vaguely."

"He says he wants to talk to you."

She thought about it briefly. "Okay, but just for a little bit." *This
has to be good. He looks harmless.*

The boy looked only somewhat relieved. "It's, uh, kind of personal."

"We can go upstairs, then." A scowl darkened her mother's face. "It
will just be for a couple minutes. If he tries anything, I'll scream.
You know, the usual."

Her mother wasn't amused, but let them go anyway. The two went upstairs.
"Okay, let's get this over with," the girl began. "I already have a
boyfriend, and we love each other very much, so if you want to go out
with me, I'm afraid that's impossible."

His eyes went wide. "No, no, no, no, that's not why I'm here." He
agreed that he wanted to get this over with, and had to be direct as
possible. "It's about the Sailor Senshi."

Her response was automatic. She had to adopt her "Yes, I know they exist,
but that's all I know" posture. "Yes, what about them?"

"I know you know who they are."

"I don't know what you're talking abou--"

"Two years ago, you more or less tried to get your friend Usagi to tell
you that she's Sailor Moon," he began, expecting her resistance. "It
was when that black crystal appeared. When she wouldn't tell you, you
took her hand, and then told her you weren't going to press her about it."

The girl had tried to hide her shocked reaction. "That's a really
strange story...oh, I, uh, I know who you are, now. Ryo Urawa. Ami's
former rival, right?"

"Don't try to change the subject...Naru Osaka," he said.

The walls crumbled. It was useless trying to hide now, he knew too much.
"What do you want, then?" she said in a hushed voice.

"In a few days, terrible things are going to happen. Do you remember
the spider webs and circus tents that appeared a little time ago?" She
nodded. "The same evil that created those webs will appear again,
stronger than ever."

She looked slightly fearful, but not nearly as scared as in the previous
times. After years of being attacked by monsters, she was somewhat
desensitized to it. "The Sailor Senshi will take care of it, like they
always do. How do you know all of this, anyway?"

He looked away for a second, then back at her. He didn't like telling
this to that many people. Like Hotaru's healing power, it freaked people
out. "I have this...ability to see into the future. It doesn't reveal
everything, but I do see much more than I want to."

"So that's how you knew about me and what I told Usagi-chan?"

"Yes. That was a vision I had a couple years ago. Every time it
happens, I write down what I see."

Naru frowned. "And you don't act on these visions, you don't warn anyone
about them? Until now?"

"The nature of these visions I have...are usually something that the
Senshi can take care of. If it was something like a bank robbery, you
know, something mundane, I would do something about it. The visions
I've had lately are more of a gray area, but I think this time I want to
do something."

Naru was very curious now. "Explain."

"Well, like I said, there's going to be another invasion in a few days.
The Senshi will be away fighting the evil, but one of their loved ones
will become trapped in the evil back here. They won't be here to
rescue him, and there won't be time to wait for them. He could die,
unless we help him."

It took a while for her to process all of this. "First of all, let me
ask this. Am I," she emphasized that last word, "going to be attacked
by a monster?"

He chuckled. "No, you won't. But as a warning, until the evil is
gone, don't use any mirrors. In fact, just refrain from staring into
any reflective surface. That might be hard to do in a jewelry store, but
the evil curse involves just that."

"Okay. Avoid reflections. Got it," she responded. She had believed him
easily. He could be lying, but there was no reason for him to do so.
"But why don't you just warn the man about the danger now?"

"I could. But no matter how much we try to create our own future,
sometimes fate is unavoidable. From what I've seen, I believe there is
some information he needs to find out, before he becomes trapped. But we
can't just leave him there to die."

Naru sighed. "We? I haven't agreed to anything."

"You're right. I can do this myself, but it will be easier and faster
if I had help. I promise I won't let anything happen to you."

Naru was still squeamish. "Why me? Was I in your vision of all this?"

"I'm afraid so. You, and another woman who knows who the senshi are.
The three of us will be able to handle it. Please believe me," he said
urgently.

She appeared to be uneasy, and shook her head. "I really don't know about
this."

There was only one thing he had left to convince her. "Then let me tell
you this. In this place where this man will be trapped is some revealing
information about the Sailor Senshi. Information that could lead to the
exposure of their identities. This could generate worldwide headlines.
Do you think your friend Usagi could handle that? Trying to protect the
planet while being questioned and stalked by the press and photographers
all the time?"

She gripped the chair she was sitting in. Although she and Usagi had
not spent as much time together in the last couple years as they did when
they were younger, they were still close friends. She couldn't let this
happen to Usagi. Not the girl with such innocence and love, and not
after she saved her life so many times. "Okay, okay. Dirty pool, using
my friend like that."

"I'm concerned for them too, you know, especially--uh, well, that's not
important."

"Ami?" Naru teased.

He blushed. "Never mind that. Let me tell you about this man now."
Naru smiled at his embarrassment. "His name is Souichi Tomoe, you may
have heard of him already..."

----------------------------------------------------------------------

The sound of his stomach growling snapped Souichi out of the semi-trance
he had been in. He looked at the clock, and, like a lot of other web
surfers, thought, *Where the hell did the time go?*

Almost five hours had passed since he had hit the Enter key on his
"Sailor Senshi" web search. When he got up, he paid the price for
sitting down for too long as the feeling came back into his posterior.

Souichi groaned as the needles assaulted him. He went to the kitchen
and made himself something to eat. His stomach was rumbling fairly
loud, so he opted for one of the instant meals.

He sighed as he found himself missing having a maid around. One of the
first things he had done after he was released from the hospital was hire
a temporary housekeeper. Having broken bones didn't exactly make raising
a child or keeping up with a huge house easy.

Mariko had been a godsend, and he hated having to let her go. It was
only a few weeks after he had hired Mariko when he had fully recovered
from his injuries, at least physically. He had wanted to be totally
involved in Hotaru's life, not push her away to someone else. She had
been completely understanding about it.

He started to review everything he had found as he began eating. Most
of the articles reported that the Sailor Senshi had first appeared around
four years ago. As he reviewed the stories and the dates, he found that
they seemed to follow a pattern.

There would be a series of attacks, usually on an individual, by some
monster, which had been identified as several different terms--daimon,
legume, youma, cardian, droid, according to whatever the eyewitnesses or
victims heard. The Sailor Senshi would arrive and save them, and the
leader, Sailor Moon, would vanquish this monster.

This would happen numerous times, until some unexplainable catastrophic
event would occur, threatening the lives of everyone. Then magically,
the Sailor Senshi would intervene, and set things peaceful again. There
were exceptions, where things would happen with very little notice, as
was the strange case of those snow women. But for the most part, it
followed the pattern.

It couldn't be officially confirmed, he knew, but one of these
catastrophes involving the Sailor Senshi, he had guessed, was the
destruction of Mugen Gauken. All he was going by was one of the two
articles about Mugen he had read, which only mentioned that the Senshi
had been allegedly seen near Mugen when the explosions happened.

That, and he had done a bit of speculation with the dates. The three
events he had found with the most frequency and magnitude were: the
situation that occurred three years ago, in which worldwide natural
disasters were happening, and the city suddenly went dark; the black
alien crystal structure appearing; and when the city was engulfed in
spider webs.

Again, he was only guessing, but if each major catastrophe was separated
roughly by a year, then that would make the Mugen Gauken disaster one of
them.

It was starting to happen again. He began to wonder about the past,
specifically what truly happened that day at Mugen. The more he would
think about it, the more angry and violated he would feel. Whatever
happened there had robbed him of his life, and now it had taken his
daughter away from him as well. *Don't start doing this to yourself
again,* he thought. He calmed himself down by taking a few deep breaths.

Had this been a few months ago, this would have been horrible anxiety
attack. One thing that had been drilled into his head after the
explosion was the vast amount of destruction. The police had told him
repeatedly he was very lucky to have survived, and very lucky no one else
had been injured, especially in the surrounding buildings, some of which
suffered minor damage. And how he was very, very lucky there were no
students in the building. So, feelings of guilt about the damage, piled
on top of memory loss, piled on top of injuries to recover from and a
baby to care for...it was too much to bear.

It made him all the more determined to find Hotaru. When he finished
eating, he went back to the computer to try to find anything possibly
linking the Sailor Senshi to him, or his daughter. Or a green-haired
woman. It would take a long time to get through even half of it, but
he would get through it.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

"How horrible," a woman said.

"Yes," Ryo Urawa agreed. A few days had passed, and the visions of Souichi
Tomoe were getting increasingly intense, to the point where he had felt
physical pain a couple times.

"I really would like to help," she continued, "but if there's going to
be danger, I can't leave my sisters here."

"They'll be safe as long as they are inside."

She wasn't at all suspicious of the boy. At least, not anymore. Like
with Naru, he had described in detail an experience she had with the
Sailor Senshi. An experience involving a dark stick and an
interdimensional hole that had turned her life around. *But still...*
"We don't even know this man..."

Urawa tried to think of a response, and then knew what would work. "The
Sailor Senshi didn't really know you either. But they gave you a chance,
and saved you." He was about to mention about how the Senshi gave the
same chance to a certain dark blue-haired love of hers, but prudently
decided against it.

The woman looked at him, defeated. "You're right. But if anything
happens to my sisters..." Her expression changed from defeated to quite
menacing.

"As long as they stay away from reflective surfaces," he repeated,
"they'll be fine."

"Fine, then. So where should we meet?" Petz Ayakashi asked.

"The streets will be jammed with traffic, so we'll have to walk. I will
go to Naru first, and then we'll come here, and then go to the Tomoe
house."

She looked concerned, but then she thought about that loving girl's
kindness, and the way it spread to everyone she came into contact with.
She couldn't let that kind of goodness be destroyed. She nodded, and
they said their good-byes as he left the cosmetics shop.

He felt relieved, if only a little. The preparations were complete, but
the execution was a different matter completely. Already he could see
the signs of what was to come. Several people had that blank stare, and
more than once he had seen an eye flash with a golden light.
Including Petz's youngest sister.

Urawa sighed, knowing he should have told Petz about Cooan. At least Petz
had not been affected, and knew what to avoid.

A slight pain bore into his head as another vision assaulted him.
"Damn!" he cursed, rubbing his temples. He saw a little girl embracing
Tomoe. It was only a minor one this time, and he was relieved.

"His daughter," he muttered. The story had been played out inside his mind
repeatedly for the last few days. The loss, the struggle, the loneliness.

Once again, Urawa was getting apprehensive. Maybe it was wrong to interfere
like this. Who was he to just to play God with this man's life?

Or was Urawa himself just a puppet being used in all of this? Maybe it was
wrong that he didn't interfere enough. Maybe he should just run to Tomoe
now and hold him prisoner in that house, so he doesn't discover those
horrible things.

Maybe.

Despite whatever happened to Tomoe, Urawa had to go down to the place Tomoe
would become trapped in, no matter what. The evidence about the Senshi
in there would have to be eliminated. Of that he had not felt the least
bit indecisive.

After some more contemplation, Urawa decided to continue what he had
started. Tomoe-san would suffer, yes, but in the end he will have
something he's searched and struggled for. The smile on the man's face,
after knowing so much loss, so much pain, would be worth it. Urawa
wouldn't be there to see it, but just knowing he created it made all this
seem not as bad.

This ability Urawa had was a huge burden to him most of the time, but
on occasion, it felt like a gift. All he had to do now was make it
happen that way...

----------------------------------------------------------------------

That night, Souichi Tomoe still had no inkling of where his daughter was.
Things had become fairly quiet, and no further (known) incidents involving
the senshi had occurred (he had considered the news story about
girls losing energy to be of no consequence).

He had exhausted himself in the last few days, wandering aimlessly about
the city, looking for his daughter. Or a green-haired woman, or the Sailor
Senshi. He felt relieved that nothing had happened yet, but at the same
time he was distraught. Souichi had quickly grown tired of the not knowing,
and having leg cramps and foot blisters did nothing to help. He had
hardly ate or slept, either.

Yet he was not willing to return home until this was resolved. Things had
been stirred up inside him again as he studied these Sailor Senshi. He
felt as if he was very close to a revelation about his past. Souichi
hoped it wouldn't end in a crashing disappointment yet again.

But now it was time to sleep, and as he had done almost every other
night, Souichi stared into a picture of his wife. Hotaru's mother. His
dead wife and Hotaru's dead mother that he didn't remember. *Why was
there only this one picture of her, a portrait of her by herself, and
none with me? Was I that unsentimental back then?* Souichi grit his
teeth, fighting back the tears again.

Even after he moved from this house, he had always kept the picture of
his lost wife by his bedside, hoping it would bring about some memories,
but it didn't. He couldn't remember anything about her--their courtship,
their wedding, her giving birth to their daughter. Not a single embrace,
smile, kiss, tear--just nothing. The dream he had the previous night
was the only thing he remembered of her.

The people at the hospital had not given him any information as to the
cause of Keiko's death. He was too busy looking after Hotaru to pursue
the matter. Since Hotaru was so young, he concluded that his wife had
died in childbirth.

Unable to help it, his mind conjured an image of his wife lying in a
hospital bed, the sheets heavily stained with her blood, her eyes still
half open. Souichi shuddered at his masochistic imagination.

He put the picture down, and thought about all that he had read about the
Sailor Senshi in the last few days. They certainly had become a huge
phenomenon. The news stories had led him to a plethora of web sites
about the senshi. They had a huge, huge fan following. Hundreds of
sites were dedicated to them. Although some of it got repetitive, he had
to admire their enthusiasm. It took a while, but he had found a few
sites with a lot of useful information in the form of pictures.

The same pictures of the Senshi dominated most of the fan sites, which were
usually copies from the stories in newspapers or magazines. He
immediately copied as many as he could, and found that he recognized two
of the nine senshi.

Sailor Chibi-moon had been the one he had seen recently, speaking from
inside the moon. Around that time Hotaru had been gotten noticeably
upset, crying more than usual.

But Sailor Pluto--she was the one who took Hotaru. It had taken a few
minutes of staring at the one picture of her he found, and trying to
remember what that woman looked like.

It was the same hairstyle, and the same hair color, there was no mistake
about that. There was something different about her, a few subtle
differences, but the hair and the basic features were essentially the
same. Unfortunately, there was hardly any information known about her,
since she rarely appeared.

There was really nothing too personal known about any of them--Sailor
Moon was the clumsy but compassionate leader, Sailor Neptune the elegant
one with the powerful water attack, Sailor Mercury the "smart one".
Unfortunately for him, he needed to know their true identities, which no
one else seemed to know.

Souichi could only take a limited amount of comfort in all the adoration
and gratitude they received. His daughter was now in the company of
these girls who swore to protect the planet from invaders. But at the
same time, he couldn't help but think that these same invaders would go
straight after the senshi first. And straight to Hotaru.

As he turned the light off, another disturbed thought came to him.
There had been no mention of a Sailor Saturn, yet there seemed to be a
senshi for every other planet in the system. And the fact that Hotaru
had been taken...

He had refused to even think about the matter any further; there was no
way Hotaru could be a senshi.

*She's too young. What, is she going to crawl around with the sailor
outfit and short skirt over her diaper, fighting evil? No. Absolutely
not.*

*But what if--what IF--*

He shook his head. "No."

Souichi fell asleep. An hour passed.

Again the apparition of Neherenia appeared. She floated over to his side,
looking at the picture of his wife, the earthly mother of the one called
Sailor Saturn.

There was little time for this. Soon they would try to come after her
to rescue their weak prince and princess. Whether they succeeded or not,
she was determined to do plenty of damage to exact her revenge. She
touched his forehead, and this time she would be a little more direct.
She would not show him the truth...only lead him to it, so he would
discover it for himself.

"What agony you will soon face, Souichi Tomoe." She laughed, and it was
not a mere chuckle this time, but a hearty guffaw that Professor Tomoe
once might have made.

She disappeared, and Souichi began to dream again.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

...a lonely little girl, with dark hair...just like Keiko...*who is
she?*...*could it be...*...

...an explosion...

...*Hotaru!!! No!!!!!!!!*...a futile scream...

...*I can save your daughter's life.*...

...a loss of control...*someone is controlling my body*...

...a hidden bunker...inside the house...

Souichi came awake, pulse racing wildly. He took a moment to catch his
breath, and then immediately reached for the pad and pencil he kept by
the bed, next to Keiko's picture. Frantically, he scribbled down
everything he could remember from the dream.

It had been neither more vivid nor disturbing than any of his other
dreams, but the content this time had been very different. Usually in
the more intense dreams he was in the hospital, or trapped inside a
building, and Hotaru was usually still a baby.

She looked so sad in the dream. He thought it was a premonition of
things to come, having no idea it was a remnant of the past.

The last part about the hidden bunker he remembered the most. He could
still see someone that looked like him, but wasn't him, pressing a button
on a wall near what used to be the nursery. This led to a very dimly lit
room that appeared to be a laboratory of some sort.

He stretched for a few seconds, got dressed, and then, uncertainly, he
decided to go see if this hidden room did indeed exist. He wouldn't be
surprised if it had; he had the impression that his work had been an
obsession in the past. He might need to use it, in the future, should
he decide to start working again.

The end of that hall past Hotaru's old room looked as normal as any other
part of the house. The wall was dominated by a landscape painting. He
looked under the painting, and sure enough found a small button near the
left edge after feeling around a little bit. He pressed it.

He expected the wall to move to the side, or something like that, but
what happened was a complete surprise (the first of many for Souichi).
The wall, including the picture, simply disappeared, and the hallway
continued for a short distance, ending in a door.

His brow furrowed, now more curious than surprised. He reached forward
and felt around where the door had been, making certain what he had just
seen was real. Carefully, he made his way to the door, and opened it.

The room was larger than he expected, and had very little lighting. He
stood on a walkway that overlooked what was without question a scientist's
laboratory. *All this time, I didn't know it was here?*

He could see several long tables with an endless number of empty test
tubes strewn about. There was strange piping that seemed to snake around
the entire room.

Beyond that, there wasn't that much equipment out in the open, besides
some beakers, centrifuges and hot plates. Off to the sides he could see
the storage lockers, which probably contained some more equipment.

After looking around the room from the door, he felt something familiar.
It was the scientist in him, that part of himself he hadn't realized was
still there despite the accident. All that knowledge of genetics and
physics that was inside of him, that he had abandoned. Wanting to create
wonderful new innovations by manipulating strands of DNA, and wanting to
share this knowledge with others. It was strange, how that knowledge was
still inside of him, yet most everything else was lost. He had felt a
little more like Professor Tomoe again.

His curiosity now fully awakened, he eagerly made his way down to see
what the old Professor Tomoe had worked on. Within a couple minutes he
had found something unusual. There were no written notes lying around
anywhere, nor any written directions, procedures. Either the old
Professor didn't want to leave any evidence around, or had an extremely
good memory of what he was working on.

Tomoe opened one of the storage lockers. Inside there was some standard
lab equipment--goggles, white lab coats, pipettes, again no notebooks or
paper or anything like that. In another locker there was some very
foreign equipment he couldn't recognize--a long white tube that looked
like a fluorescent light, a metallic case full of egg-shaped holes, and
a silver ring about three inches in diameter.

He picked up the ring and examined it. A tiny inscription on it stated
it was the property of some odd-sounding company called the Death Busters.
There was a switch on it, which he turned on without thinking about the
consequences. The ring began to vibrate.

"What the--" He dropped the ring, and watched in awe as it floated in
the air. After several seconds, it stretched itself into an elliptical
shape, becoming a portal large enough for a person to step through. The
center began to give off a deathly white glow, which lit up the entire
room, and then disappeared quickly. In its place came a strange cloud,
black on the edges, but on the inside was the image of a room that looked
similar to the one he was standing in.

Souichi stared at the portal, eyes wide with wonder. There was likely
danger on the other side, but he just had to see where it led. Before
he did, though, he took one of the long metallic rods (another strange
item) from the storage cabinet. His heart was pounding as he stepped
through.

When he got to the other side, he immediately took a defensive stance,
holding the metal rod like a sword (as much as he could, since he had no
fighting skills or training). He turned in a circle, eyes darting, to
get his bearings.

The portal slowly closed, and reduced in size until it was nothing but a
small silver ring again. It dropped to the floor, making a noise that
seemed like a loud boom in this place that was way too quiet. He picked
the ring up and stuck it in his pocket.

The room he stood in now was very similar to the one he just came from.
A rather dimly lit room, although this looked more like a classroom than
a laboratory. There were several desks and a chalkboard, which was
currently erased.

Souichi walked around the desks, which were bereft of any contents. He
cursed as he nearly tripped over a stray pen. When he picked it up, he
found the words "Mugen Gauken" engraved on it.

"Impossible," he said. He couldn't be in Mugen, it was completely
destroyed! *No, it's just a pen, it doesn't mean anything...What then,
some hideout? For who? For what? Am I underground? How could any
underground structure remain intact after those explosions?*

His mind couldn't stop itself from the deluge of thoughts. Wherever this
place was, the authorities had obviously not discovered it, since nothing
looked like it had been searched through.

At the front of the classroom was a large desk with a scattered mess of
papers on it. The name tag on it was his own. He sat down and began to
read. Most of it looked to be brief reports, which used some strange
vocabulary--pure heart crystals, talismans, Holy Grail; these were things
that apparently were being searched for, with very little success. None
of the reports were particularly lengthy, so they gave no useful
information to anyone who wasn't already intimate with whatever this
project was.

He also found the same names listed again and again: Viluy, Eudial,
Mimete, Tellu, Cyprine, Kaolinite. Just who these people were, again
was not obvious. The most he could guess were that they either were
students or some kind of assistants.

Tomoe continued to read, and found that he didn't like where this was
going. The Sailor Senshi were mentioned several times, and not in a
positive light. They had been referred to as roadblocks, obstacles,
enemies. And if the Senshi were supposed to be agents of justice, the
good guys, then whatever had happened here, whatever he had created here
was not exactly a charity organization...

He would have to worry about that later. After more skimming, he decided
there was nothing of worth here, and was more confused than anything. All
he had really found were more strange terms--dark messiah, daimon, words
that had nothing to do with physics or genetics. This sounded more like
a religious cult.

There were two doors that led from the place. Through the back right
door was a corridor with doors on the right side, the first one with a
curious sign on it. The left half of the sign definitely said "Witches",
but the right side of it looked as if it had been torn down. On the
floor he found several smaller signs with numbers on them.

The Witches room was fairly large, and divided into several sections.
In front of him was an open space where there were several chairs and a
curious looking mat with several colored dots on it. To his right was
a small lab area, which was nowhere near the complexity of the one back
at the house. The back part of the room appeared to be an office area.

That's where he was headed. There were five small sections, and only
two of the five desks contained a computer. He opted for the larger,
more sophisticated-looking one, and switched it on. Just where exactly
the power was coming from was beyond him.

After a minute or so, a logon screen appeared.

"Welcome to the Death Busters organization. Authorized Personnel only.
Place palm in scanner to verify identification..."

"Scanner? Where?" He looked around the machine for it, and it was oddly
placed behind the monitor. He pressed his hand down on the large hand
shape, and waited.

"Scanning...Access Authorized...
Welcome, Professor Tomoe. "

He did a quick survey of the peculiar operating system, and the first
thing he found were several online journals, with the same names attached
to them as he found on the desk in the other room. The only one missing
was that one name that began with a "K", he had forgotten it already.

If the memory sizes of these journals were proportional to the amount of
work these "Witches" actually did, then Eudial had accomplished the most,
and Mimete the least.

He opened up Eudial's file, and found the most recent entry. It indicated
that two "talisman holders" had been found, and soon a plan to capture
them would be executed. Below the text were pictures of them with their
names. On the left was a boy with sandy blonde hair, who almost looked
female. On the right was a green-haired girl by the name of Michiru
Kaioh. *More green hair, so unusual. But she is beautiful,* he thought.

There had been no entry on whether or not the mission had been successful.
He read the entry before that, which seemed to scream out at him.

FOUR OF THE SAILOR SENSHI IDENTITIES FOUND.

"Sailor Senshi?" The line had been in a 16-point font. There were more
pictures, of two blonde girls, younger than Haruka Tenoh and Michiru
Kaioh. They had been identified as Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus, Sailor
Uranus, and Sailor Neptune. There was no printer, so he tried to memorize
all their names and faces as much as he could. *Usagi Tsukino...Sailor
Moon...Usagi Tsukino...Minako Aino...Sailor Venus...*

The section had gone on to indicate that she had also found the probable
identities of three of the other Senshi, but still nothing on Tuxedo
Kamen.

A dark thought then occurred to him. Maybe it was this weird place
having an effect on him. The Sailor Senshi had been all about obscurity
and mystery. Perhaps if he threatened to expose them, they would give
Hotaru back...

"No, don't be stupid," he chided himself. There was nothing else of note
in Eudial's file. He searched through the other's journals, but all they
seemed to be doing was plotting against each other.

After doing more searching, he finally found something else interesting:
a hidden file called "Mission Statement". There were a lot of legal
terms in it, but he had gotten the gist of it, much to his horror.

The Witches 5 was an organization of women that worked with Professor
Tomoe, although it wasn't clear who had hired who. Together they were
known as the Death Busters. Their mission was to search for the Holy
Grail, which was created by bringing 3 talismans together. The
talismans were inside the pure heart crystals of selected individuals.
When the crystals were extracted from them, the person would...

"What?!!!" The words used were a bit more sophisticated, but it still
meant the same thing...die. And he was the leader of all this? He
began perspiring, and covered his face with his hand. *People murdered,
because of me? If anyone ever finds this place...*

He read on, not knowing that the only ones killed during the whole thing
were the Death Busters themselves. Once the Holy Grail was found, the
one who claimed it would have an unending source of power. But the right
person to handle the Grail had to be found, and none had been available
at the time, according to the statement. Professor Tomoe was responsible
for finding this "dark messiah".

When the dark messiah wielded the Holy Grail, then their true master,
Pharaoh 90, would be brought to the world to conquer it.

"This can't be true...this is all...a lie..." he tried to convince
himself. Then he remembered the articles he had read. Daimons
extracting crystals from victims. It was mentioned several times. Yes,
it definitely did happen. *But why...why would I take part in this?*

He found it was becoming difficult to operate the mouse, as his hand was
shaking so hard it was practically vibrating. But he kept at it, trying
to find anything else.

After even more searching, he found a strangely named file he had
overlooked. When he tried to open it, the system asked for a password.
When his third attempt failed, a message box popped up.

"Password authentication failure. You're getting forgetful, Tomoe. To
override, place palm on scanner to verify identification."

He glared at the nasty operating system, but obeyed its instructions. A
final box came up. "Loading DARK MESSIAH..."

A text file came up--a report entitled "Dark Messiah", with his name
attached to it in several places. There were several pictures included
in the report.

"The awakening of the dark messiah draws very near, even with the Holy
Grail in the hands of the Sailor Senshi. The only remaining key is to
obtain enough energy from pure heart crystals to empower her. The leader
of the Sailor Senshi, Sailor Moon, was not able to fully utilize the
power of the Holy Grail. Once our messiah awakens, we will take rightful
possession of the Holy Grail, and summon our true leader Pharaoh 90 here.

"Which will at come at no small cost. Kaolinite has been recently
revived, but will not be able to use her powers for a time. The eldest
of the Witches 5, Eudial, has been reported as missing, and presumed dead.
I have requested that Mimete take over her duties. Her motivation is
questionable, but her power and deviousness cannot be denied.

"The vessel for the dark messiah, the professor's daughter, Hotaru Tomoe,
is becoming a bit of a problem, however. A twelve-year-old human girl
is not the ideal container for our messiah, but she is the only possible
candidate. We are closer to discovering the source of the girl's strange
hidden power.

"She is becoming more and more resistant, wanting to spend more time in
the outside world. But as the messiah gains more power, Hotaru will
continue to suffer from fits of weakness, and become more and more
isolated. It is very fortunate for us that the inhabitants of this
planet choose to fear, persecute and ostracize those who are different.
Soon she will be unable to function on her own.

"Also, Professor Tomoe himself is becoming a problem. Even though I
possess complete control of his vessel, he is completely aware of our
activities, and repeatedly attempts to retake control. He needs constant
reminders that it was us who saved his daughter's life after that foolish
experiment he performed killed her. This thing humans refer to as guilt
is a very effective weapon."

He stopped, and for about a minute he simply sat there, frozen. The same
words kept sounding off inside his head:

*suffer from fits of weakness...*

*isolated...different...persecuted...*

*foolish experiment killed her...isolated...persecuted...killed her...
killed her...killed her...killed her...killed her...*

Inside the file were the pictures of Hotaru, the same image of her as
in his dream. There were two of them; one as herself, the other more
dimly lit with her eyes hidden. Only the eyes, that look of utter misery
and loneliness written clearly in her was enough to push him over the edge.

*Papa, why did you do this to me?* the picture seemed to say.

Souichi sunk into the chair, hyperventilating. With the full realization,
the full impact of what he had done, the scream came. A scream very
primal, very feral, erupted from him. It was a scream that would drive
Ryo Urawa to tears. Souichi buried his face inside his hands and wept
uncontrollably.

It had gone on for quite some time, and then he began pulling at his hair.
The computer's screen saver had come on, a simple black screen with a
small Witches 5 logo on it. He could see his horrified reflection in the
monitor, which soon distorted itself into the image of a strangely
beautiful woman. Evil laughter echoed all around him.

"Who are you?" he asked pleadingly.

"How miserable you must feel, Souichi-san," the woman taunted in a low
voice. "Your daughter, killed because of you."

"No, I could not--"

"She has had to endure many sacrifices because of your actions," she said,
not wanting to reveal anything further. "You do not deserve to get her
back."

Souichi's response was to just hide his face from his tormentor.

"Oh, you poor, poor man, I'm afraid I can't leave you like this. I can
relieve you of your suffering."

He looked hopeful for only a brief moment, then shook his head. "No.
I deserve all this, after what I did. Now leave me alone."

Another laugh assaulted his ears. "You don't have any choice in the
matter. Your existence is just like everyone else's. Insignificant.
You will all be trapped in my world...including your daughter..."

"What? No, don't go near Hotaru!!"

"Too late. You will be trapped down here forever."

At that, the monitor shattered outward, and from it emerged a woman's
hand. The hand grabbed the silver ring from the man's pocket, and took
it back inside the monitor. One of the shards went flying into Souichi's
eye. He cried out at the momentary pain, until the possession took over.
His broken soul was too weak to resist.

The expression on his face was like everyone else's, (well, almost everyone
else's) blank and hollow. The familiar golden glow flashed in his eye.
The monitor seemed to repair itself, and he stared into it.
"Beautiful..."

Gone now was the torment he felt. Gone now was the father in him, the
anguish he felt for Hotaru, the horror at making her suffer. Gone now
was the amnesiac, the one longing to get his life back, the craving for
his lost memories. Gone was the curiosity, the need for discovery, the
scientist in him.

Nothing else mattered but the reflection of that beautiful woman. He
wished to stay down here forever. He would not leave.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

In another place no stranger than Souichi was now lying in, two girls
carefully wandered down a corridor.

After the Sailor Teleport ring had been broken, Sailor Chibi-Moon and
Sailor Saturn had found themselves trapped inside an unending corridor.
They were now scouring the strange spider-webbed walls, looking for any
kind of secret door out of this place.

They were now exchanging stories, each telling the other about how much
their lives changed; Chibi-Moon with her experience with the Dead Moon
Circus and Pegasus, Saturn with her newfound family in the other Outer
Senshi.

It was a welcome distraction from the tension they were feeling. Also,
though the thought remained unspoken between the two, this might be the
last time they might be able to really spend time together, as Chibi-Moon's
uncertain fate loomed over her, and the dangerous consequences
of Saturn's powers.

Chibi-Moon hesitated before she asked her next question. "Hotaru, how
much does your father know? He lost his memory, didn't he?" A sad
expression darkened Sailor Saturn's face. Chibi-Moon saw a glimpse of
the old, lonely Hotaru in those eyes, and immediately regretted asking.
"Sorry, you don't have to answer that."

"No, it's okay. It's something I'm going to have to face sooner or
later, once the prince and princess are safe. Papa doesn't know anything.
Pluto took me away when she found the distortion, and only told him I would
be safe with the Sailor Senshi."

"Why would Puu do that?" the pink-haired senshi blurted out. Then she
looked at her surroundings, and thought of the events of the past few
days, and knew. "You will go back to him, won't you?"

Saturn looked uncertain. "I don't know what's going to happen. How will
I explain how I've grown this much in only a few days? How do I tell him
that I am the senshi of destruction, who can destroy a world by just
saying three words?"

Chibi-Moon took Saturn's hand, seeing how this was tearing her friend
apart. "I'm sorry, I didn't think of that."

"And there's the whole thing with his past life," Saturn continued,
although now she definitely sounded more like Hotaru. "The less we tell
him, the more he's going to ask about it. I don't want to see him hurt
again. He's been through enough as it is."

Saturn felt her eyes begin to water, and she fought against it. Then,
Chibi-Moon began to fade again. "But I can't think about that right now,"
she said, shaking her head. "We have to find your parents first. It is
our duty as Sailor Senshi, remember."

"Right," Chibi-Moon agreed. She felt guilty for the pain her friend was
going through, and it was all being done to protect her and her family.
She hoped things would work out for them...not just Hotaru and her father,
but the other Outer Senshi as well. She noticed the joyful expression on
Hotaru's face as she spoke of them. It would not be easy for either one
of them to give Hotaru up.

"Here, I think I found it," Saturn said excitedly. There was a hidden
lever on the impenetrable wall. She pulled the lever, which opened up
a small section of wall just large enough for them to slip through.
They found themselves in the rear part of a grand throne room. A huge
spider web design dominated the wall behind them.

Neherenia was standing there now with her back to them, gloating over
her possession of the helpless prince.

They could see the image of Usagi climbing through the thorns in
Neherenia's mirror. Even having faced this evil before, Chibi-Moon found
that she was not afraid, but angry. The two youngest senshi looked at
each other, and nodded. They made their way to Neherenia as she
continued to torment the princess.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Within seconds of Sailor Saturn's discovery of the lever, Naru Osaka had
made her own discovery. "In here!" she called to the others. When they
arrived at the Witches 5 hideout, they had to split up to find Tomoe as
quickly as possible. Urawa had seen this place, but didn't exactly have a
detailed map inside his head.

It had definitely been him inside the monitor, although she had only
glanced at it for an instant. The "don't look inside mirrors" concept
had been drilled into her head.

It had been quite a nightmarish walk to Tomoe's house. The sky had gone
from daylight to a solar-eclipse-like darkness within seconds. Streets
were jammed with crashed cars, their drivers now caught within the windows,
or shards of windows in some cases. Everywhere they turned, they saw more
trapped people inside just about anything--bottles, glasses, rear view
mirrors; the streets were littered with them.

But most of all, they noticed the silence. When millions of people
suddenly just disappear like that, the difference it made...everything
just stopped. Petz appeared to be the least nervous, but still was not
very comfortable. The black moon had been like this place is now, cold
and deathly quiet.

Naru saw the two flashlights rapidly coming at her. The electricity had
been out all over the city for some time, and Urawa had planned for it.

Urawa looked at the computer very rapidly to make sure, and verified it
as he saw Tomoe's horror-stricken face inside the monitor. "Yes, this
is the one. Petz, open the portal. Now."

His voice was very urgent, and she complied, taking out the silver
ring they found in the laboratory back at Tomoe's house. Whether it
had been a spare or the same one Neherenia stole was not known. The
entire room was now illuminated as the portal opened. "We can't leave
with this evidence lying around here. There were incriminating papers
all over the other rooms, and at least two computers here. And who
knows what else?"

"Quickly. Help me unhook the monitor," was Urawa's only response.

Petz and Naru looked at each other, wondering why he was in such a hurry.
Petz remembered what he said before, about having to get the man out of
here before something happened that could kill him. She tried to think
of what exactly was down here that could do that...

Her question was answered when they heard a small explosion come from one
of the other rooms. Naru was surprised, but Petz could sense that the
explosion had come from the section where Urawa had been searching. She
was immediately suspicious. "Did you do that?" Petz asked Urawa as they
picked the monitor up.

"Never mind that. This whole place will be up in flames any second.
Come on!!!"

They rushed back through the portal with the monitor. The portal
seemed to take forever to close, and they heard the beginnings of a
bigger explosion as it was sealed completely and reverted back to the
silver ring.

"You lied to us," Petz said, trying to catch her breath. "There was
no danger, only the one you created. We could've been killed down there!"

"But we weren't. I'm sorry I didn't mention it before, but each time
I saw us doing this, I could see us getting back here in enough time."
His voice was low and detached.

"Consider yourself lucky, then." Naru was just as miffed as Petz.

"Again, I apologize," though he didn't seem very remorseful at all.
"Now let's get him to the bedroom." Naru led the way with her flashlight
as Urawa and Petz carried the monitor up the stairs. It was still dark
outside, they noticed. They all were thinking the same thing, hoping
the Sailor Senshi would finish soon...

After setting the monitor on the bed, they went back downstairs and
practically collapsed in the living room. It had been a long walk to
Tomoe's house, and their recent exertions had cost them quite a bit of
energy.

"Finished," Urawa sighed.

Petz let out a groan as she stretched, and looked at Urawa, still quite
angry. "I still want to know why you set that fire. We could've just
brought any evidence back here and disposed of it. That would've been
much safer."

Urawa fervently shook his head. "There was too much of it...as you noted.
It would take too long to get rid of it all." He looked away from her,
and ran a hand through his hair. "Anyway, it was a horrible place, where
evil things were created, and where an innocent girl was put through hell,
while her father was forced to watch himself do these things to her,
helpless to stop it. Believe me, no one will miss that place."

The way he spoke, with such unexpected bitterness and passion, was a
little too much. He had been paying the price for having his special
ability. It had affected him more deeply than they realized.

"You better hope it doesn't spread out of control," Naru warned.

"It won't, trust me, I've--"

"We know, you saw it in a vision." There was a momentary silence as they
all relaxed. Petz looked upwards. "I hope he'll be okay. The Senshi will
be here soon..."

When Petz mentioned that, Naru looked worried. "Urawa-kun, have you...
seen...what the Senshi...what they are..."

"I don't what her name is," Urawa answered. "But I do know that the battle
is taking place inside a palace somewhere in space. That's all I know."
It was a lie. He had seen Usagi let loose a strangled, gasping sob as
the little pink-haired girl she was holding had faded from her arms. He
didn't want to share that with them. "They will be...fine..."

The three were now recovered, and Petz stood again as a thought came to
her. "Urawa-kun, does anyone else know who the senshi are? I know
Minako-chan once confided in me about a couple of friends of hers who
lived in London who know."

"There's a friend of Mamoru-san who knows, but she's associated with the
police, so I couldn't get her involved." The others nodded, agreeing
wholeheartedly. "Besides her, and your sisters, there's another friend
of Sailor Venus's that knows. That's all I've seen." He softened his
expression a bit. "I'm sorry I seemed irrational before, but if you
had only seen this man, the stuff he's been through."

Petz shook her head. "We've both been through our own losses," she said,
looking in Naru's direction, "I'm not saying I agree with what you did
now...but I think I can understand."

Naru was saddened as she was reminded of her own loss, and tried to
concentrate on newfound happiness with Umino. "How do you deal with it,
being able to see into the future, having that kind of knowledge?"

Urawa looked at her and smiled sardonically. "I start fires."

Naru and Petz glared at him. "That's not funny."

The smile disappeared. "I don't know how I deal with it." He looked
directly at Petz. "I've seen people get killed, and there's nothing can
I do to stop it, since I have no powers like the senshi."

Petz noted the look. "You knew about Saffir, then." It wasn't a
question.

He gazed at the floor. "Even if I had warned you, it still would have
happened. What could I have said? 'Someone you love is going to die,
don't let him leave the house, don't let him do anything?' How would
you have felt?"

She was still a little angry about the fire, but she understood. She
might have done the same if she were in his place. After her own
personal experiences, she knew that having those special kind of powers
came at a price.

Urawa continued. "Someone once told me that the future is something you
make yourself. I try not to let it control my life, but I have to admit
this time it really had gotten to me. You know, this is the first time
in a few years that I acted on one of my visions," he informed them, but
after all this he was thinking it might be the last time he would. "Only
two times before did I do anything about it. Or tried to, at least.

"But then, sometimes, I can see things that aren't so bad. "That
unbreakable love between Usagi and Mamoru, a child's laughter and
innocence, the beautiful smile of Sailor Mer--" He saw the two looking
at him in anticipation. "Uh, er, we should go now. Tomoe-san will
awaken soon, and we shouldn't be here for that."

They laughed at him. "Smooth," Petz remarked. She looked at Naru.
"We really should get those two together. What was it, one date, and
that's it? Come on!!" Naru laughed, and Urawa blushed so hard he began
perspiring. "But you're right, we should leave. I think I can see the
sun coming out again."

The three of them headed for the door. "I just wanted to thank you both
again," Urawa said gratefully. "You didn't have to help, but you did."

Naru smiled sincerely. "It was for the Sailor Senshi." Relief had swept
over her as the door opened, and the sun's rays hit her.

Petz agreed. "Yes. Oh, wait a minute, I think I'm having a vision,"
she announced, an obvious sarcasm in her voice. She pressed her fingers
against her temples. "I see Urawa-kun being so grateful, that he buys
us both dinner."

Urawa's eyes went wide. "Huh...uh...um...well...uh, okay. I guess," he
acquiesced. "To make up for causing that fire. But it will have
to be tonight. I'll be leaving the city after tomorrow." He wished he
could have stayed longer, he wanted to see Ami so much. But she had
been occupied with the dangers, and he could not risk distracting her
from that.

"Well, that sounds nice," Naru said. *Geez, Umino gets so insecure,
what's he going to think?* "But I have to go see if my family's okay."
Her mother and Umino were still in the vault back at the jewelry store.
Poor Umino had been trapped inside his own glasses, while her mother was
inside an emerald brooch.

"Me too," Petz added. She had left Beruche to watch over Karaberas and
Cooan, who were both stuck in mirrors. It had been unavoidable, running
a cosmetics shop without looking into a mirror.

Urawa nodded, and silently thought about how he was going to get enough
money before tonight. He and his parents had been in town visiting
relatives, and his father hadn't minded his being out so much; he had
believed he was seeing some old friends. "Okay, then, I'll be at the
jewelry shop around 7, then. Things should be about semi-normal by then."

When they walked outside, the sky was restored to its proper state again.
They could hear the sounds of traffic moving once more. Everywhere
people awakened, confused, but relieved. The people had been saved again,
as they always would be. It was in the afternoon, but a new day had begun.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Souichi woke up, and felt overwhelmed and disoriented. He sat
upright, wondering why he had been sleeping in the middle of the day.
And why there was a computer monitor in bed with him.

Then, the information that had been learned had come back to him in a
flood. Almost in reflex, he grabbed the pad from the nightstand again,
and then realized it wasn't a dream.

Automatically, the tears came, though not as violently as before. He
knew he was descending into an abysmal depression, and knew nothing
would get him out it. He was helpless. There was nothing he could do
to change what he had done to Hotaru.

There was noise coming from downstairs. He heard the sound of several
different voices, but just apathetically lay back and tried to go back
to sleep. Whoever it was, he didn't care.

The bedroom door opened. A girl with medium-length black hair walked
in, dressed in a yellow sweater and purple skirt. She looked to be about
eight or nine years of age. Souichi hadn't turned to look at her yet.

"Papa." The voice sounded very worried.

No answer.

She went to the side of the bed, sitting in front of him. The tears
were still going. "Papa," she said more urgently.

He finally looked at her in the eyes. It was very slow, but when the
recognition finally came, when at last it sunk in that this was his
daughter, this girl who had been no more than a babe a few days ago,
a look of utter horror crossed his face. The same girl he had caused so
much pain, it was unbearable. "HOTARU!!!" he cried, wrapping his arms
around the girl tightly.

Hotaru accepted the almost violent embrace. She had expected her father
would not react well to this, but not to this terrible degree. *Michiru-
mama and Setsuna-mama were right, it's something besides the sudden
growth. He did find out something. Something horrible.*

The girl grimaced, but tried to calm herself. This would take
a lot out of both of them. "Papa, I'm so sorry you were left alone like
that. How much do you know?" she asked gently.

He let go of her, and sat up. "I know that I don't deserve you. I know
that because of me, many awful things were done to you. You lived
miserably, and it was all my fault." He broke down again. "Please, go
back to whoever it was that took you, before I end up killing you again!!"

The child put her arm around the distraught man, leaning on his shoulder.
"You don't know everything, then. Sailor Pluto had wanted to spare you
all of this. But you have to know everything now."

Souichi wiped his eyes. "Everything?" he asked. He put his hands on her
shoulders. "Look at you. You've grown so...fast. What did they do, what
did the senshi do to you? You..you..."

"I will tell you everything, Papa...please," she said, loosening herself
from his grip and taking out a strange looking stick from her sleeve. She
stood up straight, and held the stick aloft. "SATURN PLANET POWER, MAKE
UP!"

He watched in awe as his daughter floated in the air, and became
translucent and nude, surrounded by light streams of every possible shade
of violet. There was a brilliant flash of light, and she now appeared
in the outfit of a Sailor Senshi. Not only that, she seemed to look
several years older. There was a pause, and she closed her eyes as her
lips changed color. She spun around in the air, and struck a pose with
the dangerous looking weapon she now wielded.

Souichi was no longer crying, entranced by the display. "It's true
then...you are a Sailor Senshi."

"My guardian is the planet of silence. The soldier of death and
rebirth...Sailor Saturn."

He stared at his daughter. She was completely different now. "Death and
rebirth," he said miserably. Whatever that meant, it sounded like a
horrible thing.

"Yes. But don't think about that." She raised her hand in the air, and
it began to glow. She touched her father's forehead. "Now. Close your
eyes. And remember. Remember all you've accomplished," she said,
placing an emphasis on the word all. "Remember all that has happened..."

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Downstairs, the rest of the senshi, Mamoru, and the three cats waited.
All of them had detransformed. By the grim looks on their faces, it
was like they were in a hospital awaiting the fate of a loved one in
the operating room.

Makoto, Ami, Minako, and Artemis sat on the same couch that Usagi and
Chibi-usa had waited in when they first visited the house. In the couch
across from them were Luna, and Mamoru, who had his arms comfortingly
around Usagi, who looked remarkably calm and composed despite having
just gone through having her love stolen from her, walking through a
snowstorm, climbing through thorns, and seeing her future daughter
disappear.

Rei, along with Haruka and Michiru, had chosen to stand. The couple was
watching the stairs pensively, Haruka's hands not leaving Michiru's
shoulders. Setsuna had taken the seat between the two couches.

Sitting on the floor was Chibi-usa, who didn't seem to take her eyes off
the floor. Diana cuddled up next to her, trying to comfort her.

They were there to lend their support to Hotaru, if she needed it.
Worry and concern pervaded most of the group; most of them couldn't
believe it had been Hotaru who would be the first one to have to reveal
to a family member about being a senshi.

It was something most of them would have to face one day.

With this realization, they all felt an unspoken concern for Usagi, who
had probably the most to lose. Out of all of the senshi, she was the
one who had the closest thing to a normal family. Mother, father,
daughter, son. Once she became Neo-Queen Serenity, she would have to
give all that up...

Setsuna, while concerned for Usagi, had other things on her mind. The
distortion in the timeline had not completely been resolved, she could
sense. Though she was aware of some events that would occur, some of it
was still potentially left wide open. She hated this feeling of
uncertainty. All that work she put into Tomoe and his daughter leaving a
peaceful, normal life, gone with one distortion.

But the family she had become a part of, with Haruka, Michiru, and of
course Hotaru, was an unexpected gift, something she had not foreseen.
Indeed, in her long life, she felt it was the best thing that ever
happened to her. She still melted whenever she remembered the first
time Hotaru ever called her "Setsuna-mama".

She knew she couldn't have a child of her own; Haruka and Michiru had
other options, but Setsuna, Sailor Pluto, the guardian of time, had a
duty that ruled over everything else. Caring for Hotaru had been the
closest thing to motherhood she had ever experienced.

She looked upstairs, feeling a little guilty at her selfishness, but
unable to help it. It would not be easy giving up Hotaru.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

When it was done, Sailor Saturn had nearly depleted her energy.
Performing this feat on a child, with no more than twelve years worth of
memories, had not been difficult. Her father, on the other hand, had
three times that much which had to be restored.

She removed her hand from his forehead, and was forced to detransform.
She staggered, and her father immediately caught her. "Hotaru!" He
picked her up and placed her on the bed.

"You remember now," she said weakly.

"Yes," he acknowledged. The doctors had told him his memory would most
likely never be recovered. Even so, he had always imagined himself in
this moment, when it all came back. He would picture himself laughing,
picking up Hotaru and hearing her laugh. Being something he had wished
for, had longed for, he did not imagine the bad parts of it.

What he felt now, it was far from the fictional laughter he imagined.
Had he not discovered the worst thing he had done before, he might have
had a more vocal, outburst of a reaction. It was a bit anticlimactic.

He was still confused, it had not all been processed yet. Everything
was so jumbled up--moments of joy, hurt, love, horror, fear,
disappointment, anger, wonder, curiosity were all mixed around in his
head. Souichi didn't know which he was to feel now.

"Then you know it wasn't your fault," Hotaru told him. He was so
internally occupied he had almost not heard her.

"No," her father disagreed. "I shouldn't have brought you there that day
to that demonstration. I had taken every single precaution with that
experiment, but it was no excuse. That's where it all started, when I
ruined your life." His voice was barely above a whisper.

"You told me it was going to be a very important day in your life, Papa.
You wanted me to be there to share it with you. You always made sure you
were with me in some way, especially after...Mama..." she couldn't
finish the sentence.

"Mama," Souichi said. The memories were easy to access now. He
remembered a building on fire. The cold, detached, voice of a doctor.
*We're sorry, but she suffered too many internal injuries. We weren't
able to...* He bit his lip, not wanting to cry now. Hotaru didn't need
to see that. *Is that going to be the only response, tears? There were
good times, too...*

"I remember where she is buried now, Hotaru. I--we can visit her
anytime. There's...so much to remember with her..."

*It's a girl...oh, Souichi, she's so beautiful! We must name her
Hotaru...*

Some women loved butterflies. Others liked hummingbirds. Keiko, she
had loved fireflies. Souichi had laughed at her when she revealed that
to him. But then, she had taken him to a place where there were an
endless amount of them. The air had been uncomfortably hot and humid.
The mosquitoes were making a meal out of him. But it was there he had
discovered he was in love with her, with this woman who was chasing these
fireflies around, like a carefree child.

"Papa, you're smiling," Hotaru noticed. It was infectious, and Hotaru
couldn't help but do the same. This was the scene Urawa had pictured,
and indeed, he would have enjoyed it.

"I guess I am. It's weird; I have all these different things running
around in my head. It is wonderful, remembering your mother, remembering
you, but I can't help but think about the bad things. Six women--no,
seven women lost their lives because I had corrupted them with promises
of power. I caused the Sailor Senshi much pain and suffering. I put
the lives of many innocent students, the whole planet, in danger." He
let out of awful sounding sigh. "And you...because of me, you were
killed twice." He was unable to look her in the eye.

"Papa, please don't feel bad. It wasn't you. Once that monster let go
of you, you wanted to save me. You came right to me, even though you
were hurt badly."

Souichi smiled uneasily, remaining unconvinced. "It was during that time
that I met Chibi-usa-chan," she continued, although she was now feeling
her eyes grow heavy. "And the princess. Usagi-chan. Because of them,
and because of you, Papa, I knew I was loved. It was the only way to
fight Mistress 9."

His smile disappeared when she said that. It was a reminder of who she
was, of the life ahead of her. *The soldier of death and rebirth.*
Another crucial memory stirred inside of him. From a pile of rubble he
had watched Hotaru--no, Sailor Saturn. The world was about to be
destroyed, and she had been so strikingly calm.

This was what he didn't want to face. "It was Sailor Saturn that fought
Pharaoh 90," he remembered. A worrisome expression came over him. "Is
that your life will be like?" he asked. "To always have to face danger,
facing death?"

"Papa, it is my duty," she said coldly, not at all sounding like a child.
"There was a danger to this planet, and that made the spirit of Sailor
Saturn reappear and make me grow so fast." She paused, trying to soften
her expression. "None of us asked to be Sailor Senshi, but no matter how
hard it gets, we still do it. We protect this planet."

"But I don't want this for you, Hotaru," he pleaded. "After all you've
been through, I want you to have a normal life, to be happy."

"I am happy. The Sailor Senshi have been wonderful to me. Chibi-usa-chan,
Usagi-chan, they're both Sailor Senshi, remember? You knew how they
refused to let me die. And the other Senshi--Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.
They took good care of me in the last few days."

Souichi looked a little less upset, but was still ill at ease. "Papa,
it's all worth it. It is worth being a Sailor Senshi, to protect this
planet. And to protect the princess. She's our light of hope."

He put his hand over hers. "Hotaru, you should rest," her father told
her.

"Not until you promise to stop blaming yourself," she urged, now
fighting her exhaustion. "The others are downstairs, with the
princess. She's the one I dreamed of, that day when I was taken from
you. Oh, Papa, you have to talk to her. She embraces everything, and
she is what we fight to protect. If you still feel bad, speak to her.
I know...she...can..."

He pulled the covers over her after she went out. All he could do now
was to heed Hotaru's advice. It would be difficult, not being so hard
on himself, but he would try. There were some very terrible things that
had happened. But there were also a lot of good memories too. He
thought of them, and clung to them, wrapping them around him like a
blanket.

However, this whole Sailor Saturn thing would be something he didn't know
if he could ever accept. Inside his mind he had heard the words of the
soldier of death on that fateful day. *The reason I'm called
the sacrificing soldier is because I received the power to destroy. But,
when the time comes, I myself...*

----------------------------------------------------------------------

"Tomoe-san! Is Hotaru--"

"She is sleeping. Restoring my memory made her exhausted," he answered
Usagi.

Most of them gasped in surprise, except for the outer senshi. What
they all noticed, was the very grim look on his face.

He looked around at them all, and paused when he saw Setsuna. "Thank
you for bringing her back to me...Sailor Pluto." She had not flinched
when he called her that.

"You know who we all are, then," Rei concluded.

Souichi nodded. "I remember everything," he said. "First, I must
apologize for all the damage I caused to--"

Usagi interrupted him. "No, Tomoe-san, please don't. We should thank
you, for help bringing Hotaru into this world."

"You...you're the one that Hotaru called the princess. She spoke so
wonderfully of you...yes, it was you. You saved my daughter back in
Mugen. You believed in her, you refused to give up on her. And you,"
he said, looking at Chibi-usa, "Chibi-usa-chan. You befriended her when
she most needed it."

Haruka and Michiru tried their best to not appear uneasy. Usagi had
believed in Hotaru, but they...they had come very close to murdering the
girl.

They still stood behind their actions, but that didn't mean they were
incapable of feeling guilt. Those first few days they spent with her
recently, when she had her first rapid growth spurt, had been especially
difficult. She was so innocent, so bright with spirit, and so accepting
of them all, of her Michiru-mama, Setsuna-mama, and Haruka-papa. It was
not easy looking into those little violet eyes and knowing they had tried
to kill her.

Souichi turned to them, noticing their discomfort. "Please don't feel
guilty, Haruka-san, Michiru-san. I'm in no place to judge, after what
I did. I have no idea what being a Sailor Senshi is about, but I may
very well have done the same thing."

They nodded. "Your daughter is an absolute joy," Michiru said. "The
last few days with her have been a wonderful dream."

"The three of us," Setsuna explained, indicating herself, Michiru and
Haruka, "have taken care of Hotaru. I'm sorry I just took her away so
suddenly and with no real explanation. But there were dire circumstances."

"I realize that. But just know that this is going to take a while for me
to accept," Souichi remarked, sitting down. "I know it's difficult for
all of you, but Hotaru, she's worse off. Sailor Saturn's powers are
quite different from yours. She has the power to destroy, but she will be
killed if she uses it. Is that her fate, to repeatedly have to sacrifice
herself and be reborn? And then grow rapidly again? She will never grow
normally, will she?"

None of the senshi could answer his question. Usagi, the princess,
seeing the pained look in his eyes, went to Souichi's side,
sympathetically placing a hand on his arm. "Tomoe-san, you're right,
it is a lot to accept. But Hotaru, she accepts it. I spoke with her
about it not too long ago. She says she doesn't see her power as
something hopeless, not an ending, but a chance for rebirth, renewal.
And hope."

Souichi had remained silent for what seemed forever. He watched this
girl, this one that everyone called the princess. Hotaru was right,
her eyes were so compassionate, so unwilling to see anyone unhappy.
"She sees things very brightly, doesn't she?" he said, referring to his
daughter. "I...will try to see things like that as well, then. I have
to."

"I promise I won't let any harm come to her. I won't let anyone of my
friends suffer. You have my word," Usagi assured him. The other Senshi
were again amazed at her benevolence, and her vows. It was their duty to
protect her, but they had little doubt she could carry out her promise.

Souichi nodded. It might have been acceptance, but part of Souichi
couldn't help but believe he was sealing his daughter's fate. He looked
around, noticing how young they all were. "I will try to accept this.
But tell me, do any of your parents know about you being Sailor Senshi?"

It was a question whose answer none of them seemed to like. "I didn't
believe so," Souichi observed. "Then you all know this is not an easy
thing to deal with for a parent." He paused, letting the magnitude of
what he said sink in for them. "Tell me, how did you know to come here?
How did you know I found out?"

All eyes in the room slowly turned to Setsuna. "I knew you would be
anxious to see your daughter again. But Neptune's mirror also revealed
something about you, something very grim by the looks of it. So we all
teleported here."

"Yes. It was that woman. With the long dark hair, and moon symbols
on her forehead. She appeared in the computer monitor and laughed at me.
That was the last thing I remembered before I woke up. She was who you
were fighting, right?" The senshi affirmed Souichi's conclusion with nods.
"I have to thank you for bringing me back up here from that place."

The senshi were confused. "You...were upstairs in bed when we arrived,"
Minako informed him.

"What is this place you're referring to?" Mamoru asked.

Souichi explained the whole thing, the dream about the hidden laboratory
in the house, the silver ring, the Witches 5 hideout, and the information
he found there. He was trembling when he told them of his discovery,
and the taunting woman with the long hair and moons on her forehead.

"Neherenia did that to you," Luna said sorrowfully.

Their confusion turned to concern. "You must show us this place," Artemis
urged.

The urgency in their voices made Souichi not think about the fact that
they were talking cats. He explained about how Neherenia had taken the
ring, but Setsuna asked him to check again.

The outer senshi transformed, and Sailor Pluto asked Ami to do so as
well. The four of them went with Souichi to the lab, where they found
the ring, and the other strange equipment. Souichi turned over all the
remaining Death Busters equipment over to the Outer Senshi. Whether
they would destroy it or not was their decision.

When the portal was opened, they were greeted with waves of heat. It had
taken a while for Neptune and Mercury to completely put out the fires.
With the help of Luna and Artemis, they had checked out the entire
complex, and they discovered that the place was totally destroyed.

"Where exactly are we?" Uranus asked.

"I'm not sure," Souichi admitted. "We're either somewhere below the
rubble of Mugen Gauken, or in some underground complex beneath my house."
He concentrated hard, trying to remember the details of the construction.
Those initial few months he was under the daimon's possession were still
quite vague.

"Please don't push yourself," Neptune cautioned him. "It is not
important, now that this place is destroyed."

"Who did this?" Mercury wondered.

"Someone we should thank," Neptune answered. "If the wrong person had
found this place..."

Uranus was still worried. "But the wrong person may have come anyway
and taken any information from here and--"

"No," Pluto corrected. Their expressions begged for an explanation.
"We are not in any danger of exposure," she said vaguely but assuredly.

Uranus looked at Neptune, for confirmation. Neptune took out her Deep
Aqua Mirror, and gazed into it. Nothing happened. "Whoever did this,
then, was not of any evil origin," she concluded. The Mirror would have
seen it if that was the case. The other senshi accepted it, knowing
they wouldn't get any more information from Pluto.

Souichi, on the other hand, still wanted to know more. "This Neherenia
woman took the ring. I would've been trapped down here. Whoever did
this saved my life. I have to know..."

Sailor Pluto considered him for a moment, then looked at Sailor Mercury.
"Perhaps Neptune and I are not the only ones who can see into the future,"
she said strangely. She opened up the portal and went back to the house.

Neptune and Uranus looked at Mercury curiously. "What did she mean by
that?" Neptune asked, eyeing the younger blue-haired senshi almost
suspiciously.

Surprisingly, the answer didn't come immediately for the "brilliant"
senshi. That had seemed many worlds away. It took a while for it to
finally dawn on her. "No, it can't be," she remarked.

They were still curious, especially Souichi. But much to his
disappointment, Mercury didn't say anything else; so they
returned through the portal. She did the same, thinking of a certain
prophetic boy she would have to send a rather interrogative email to.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

By the time they had returned to the house, Hotaru had reawakened, and
she and Chibi-usa were taking turns playing with a string with Diana.

"Papa, you're back," she said happily, jumping into his arms.

He grunted as he caught her. "You've gotten...so big..." he smiled, and
for the first time let out a laugh. The others laughed along with him.

Souichi had then asked about their history, not expecting to get many
answers, but instead ended up learning a huge, grand story that spanned
over thousands of years.

He learned quite a bit about these young people, and took comfort in the
fact that he was not the only one that had endured pain. Mamoru and
Makoto had both lost their parents early, Rei really had only her
grandfather, Ami a child of divorce, Minako had sacrificed herself for
two friends of hers...they all had suffered pain, they all knew loneliness.
He didn't enjoy the fact that they had known loss, but he no longer felt
like he was alone. And most of them were all so young, yet they still
endured; he found himself feeling lucky for having had a privileged,
relatively normal upbringing.

They had told him just about everything, from the Silver Millenium to
Crystal Tokyo, ending with the recent attack with Neherenia. He had
learned of an ancient kingdom on the moon. Of the love between a prince
and a princess that would last for millennia. Of a tragic fall of a
civilization, and a mother's sacrifice. Of a rebirth, of both good
and evil, and a girl who saw her friends and her true love die for her.
Of a future kingdom, and the pink-haired girl from that time, of a solitary
soldier who guarded the gate of time. Of--well, okay, you get the idea.

Haruka and Michiru tried to hide it, but the story of their battle with
Queen Beryl had been very moving. They had not known the princess had
watched as her friends gave their lives over for her, as her prince tried
to kill her. She had gone through all of that, and still maintained such
innocence, and a belief in everyone, a love for all...

That was what Souichi had noticed as well, and admired the most. Usagi's
strength of spirit. How could anyone face such adversity, to struggle so
much, and still be capable of such love? This girl, who refused to
entertain any thought of any person being unhappy. Even him, who had
done so much against her. When she looked at him, at anybody, her serene
expression always said the same thing. *I believe in you.*

She was worth fighting for, and it made him feel better about his own
daughter being a senshi. They fought to protect, to preserve that
innocence, that love. He still had a lot of adjusting to do, but
eventually he would accept the idea of having the senshi of destruction
as a daughter.

Unfortunately, there was another thing he noticed, something that would
change the lives of five people forever. But for the better.

He had listened intently as the senshi had told him their story, but he
couldn't help the way Hotaru was with the Outer Senshi, her caretakers
of the last few days.

There was such a camaraderie with those four. There was a spiritedness
in Hotaru he knew he couldn't bring about himself. With them she was the
daughter he had always dreamed of seeing, a younger version of Keiko, with
a little of that curiosity that was him mixed in there.

He was really thinking about it now, and knew where this was leading.
She had everything with these three--a tireless playmate in Haruka-papa,
a wise educator in Setsuna-mama, and a mother figure in Michiru-mama
(Souichi felt she bore the most resemblance to Hotaru's own mother).

Souichi thought about the sacrifice Queen Serenity made so that her child
could live happily. What he would do now would not even compare to that,
although without question he would go that far if necessary. Just as
Sailor Saturn, or any of the Senshi would give their lives for the
princess.

The next words would be the most difficult thing he would ever say. He
went to Hotaru, kneeled in front of her, so he could look her in the eye.
His warm hands found her small shoulders. "Hotaru, I want you to live
with them. With Setsuna-mama and the others."

The facial expressions around the room were variations of shock and
sadness. "Papa?"

"You are a Sailor Senshi. You belong with them."

Her eyes watered, and she began trembling. "But you're my father. I
don't want to leave you!"

"You won't be leaving me. You can see me anytime you want. But I want
them to take care of you."

"Papa, please. Soon Chibi-usa-chan will return to the future. I don't
want to lose you too!!"

"Hotaru, you won't lose me. But if you stay with me, you will feel
isolated again, because you are a senshi. They will understand you
better. I've seen the way they are with you, and how you are with them.
You will be very happy living with them. You have four parents now, and
the other senshi as friends. You have all these people who love you..."

It wasn't just Hotaru that was sad. "Are you sure this is what you want,
Tomoe-san?" Usagi, always hating seeing anyone else sad, looked like
she was about to cry.

"You're very kind to be concerned, Usagi, but what I want is what is
best for Hotaru. As Sailor Senshi, they can provide protection for
Hotaru that I can't."

Hotaru's tears had fallen to below her cheek. "Papa, I don't want you
to be alone!" She threw herself into him, burying her head in his chest.

Souichi held her, using every effort to keep from weeping himself.
"I won't be," he said, his voice not faltering at all. "This isn't a
goodbye, an ending, this is just a beginning, a chance for hope, renewal.
Usagi-chan told me you said something like that, and I believe it now.
It's not that far from here to Setsuna-mama's house, right? We can
visit each other anytime."

Hotaru continued to cry. It was beginning to affect the others;
Chibi-usa, Makoto and Usagi were already tearing up. Considerately,
they all left the room, so the father and daughter could be alone.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Later, Hotaru, Chibi-usa, Usagi and the cats were playing and running about
the front gate of the Tomoe house. The other inner senshi watched with
amusement each time Usagi tripped and fell.

Mamoru and the outer senshi were speaking with Tomoe. Souichi was
surprised to learn that Mamoru had taken an interest in a similar field
as him. He wished him luck in his studies abroad.

"You haven't told her yet," Michiru said, looking at Usagi.

"No," Mamoru answered. "But she knows I love her more than anything, and
will return."

"She has gotten a little more mature," Haruka observed. "I think she
will--"

"Maaamo-chaaaan!!!" Usagi wailed as she tripped yet again.

Haruka, Michiru, Mamoru, Souichi, and Setsuna all sighed in resignation.
"Not again," Mamoru groaned as he went over to her.

"That is our future queen," Souichi observed amusingly. His smile
indicated he wasn't concerned about her not being so graceful.

"Don't worry. She's not...always...like that," Haruka commented, seeing
the odango get right back up and resume chasing that butterfly with
the others. "So what will you do?" Haruka asked of Tomoe.

Souichi shrugged his shoulders. "There's plenty of things I can pursue,
although I'm in no need of income. There's always teaching; I'm sure
there's at least one school somewhere that will take me. I could also go
back into lab work, but nothing too radical. Maybe I can even start
writing. Or I could just enjoy a nice retirement. I would like to see
at least one car race, and one violinist concert," he added with a wink.

Haruka thought he was kidding, but Michiru smiled. "I'll look forward to
seeing you," she said.

Souichi nodded, looking back at Hotaru. *So much like her mother,* he
noticed as he saw her running around. "Eventually, I'd like for her to
go to school, where she can meet friends her own age. I want her to
have some normalcy, I don't want her feel different."

"We all want that for her," Michiru agreed.

"The public records state that Hotaru is still only an infant," Setsuna
said. I'll have to have that changed." *Again,* she thought, but didn't
speak of it. "In the meantime, we'll still teach her at home. Oh, by the
way, at my house, I have a box full of pictures I think I should return
to you soon. I'm sorry I took them, but..."

"You did it for mine and Hotaru's sake, you don't have to apologize.
Setsuna-san, I never did thank you for all that you did after what
happened at Mugen Gauken. I appreciate it," he said gratefully. "But,
as for my own identity, I don't think that I'm listed in--"

"I will take care of that as well. It is actually less difficult than
you would believe," she commented.

Michiru chuckled, and Haruka rolled her eyes. "She's just bragging.
She's been at this for what, over a thousand years?"

"Speaking of that, I do have a question for you. Or a question for
Sailor Pluto, anyway," Souichi said, and continued when Setsuna nodded.
"If you're here, who's watching the time gate?"

Setsuna's expression was stoic. "I am."

The look of confusion on Souichi's face was expected. "O...kay," he said,
furrowing his brow. "Well, at least tell me this. You called me about a
week after Pharaoh 90 appeared in Mugen. But from what I've heard, you
no longer were here at the time, because you used the time stop. How is
that?" Setsuna just looked at him blankly, and didn't answer.

Souichi looked like he was going to ask more, but Haruka and Michiru
stopped him. "One thing we've learned in the last few days, it's that
she will be as vague as possible about her duties as the Guardian of Time."

"It's just best to live in the present, and enjoy whatever comes your way,
right Setsuna?" Michiru put in. "That's what she's drilled into our
heads, anyway..."

Setsuna cleared her throat. "The point is, Tomoe-san, we will take good
care of your daughter. That I can answer clearly."

"I have no doubts of that." He sincerely believed that. He would most
likely get some odd looks when trying to explaining this to others, how
his daughter lived with three women, two of which were in love. *But
I guess that's the point. Love.* It felt a bit awkward for him since he
wasn't used to seeing it. But it would work out, he knew.

They all looked back at the others, enjoying the sights of Hotaru's and
Chibi-usa's last time playing together. *Okay, just one more question.*
"Will she ever see Chibi-usa again?" Souichi dared to ask.

He expected another cold answer, but instead heard something different.
Next to Hotaru now, she had been the second closest person in her life.
"I hope so," she answered warmly, a rare smile manifesting itself on her
face.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

There had been no good-byes between Hotaru and Souichi; there was no need.
She promised to call every day, and had already planned to come over in
the next week. She would need him soon, as it was the very next day when
Chibi-usa-chan and Diana would take their leave.

On the way back to his home in the country, he had finally brought forth
the tears he had been holding back. The tears were for several things--of
sadness and loss in having to let Hotaru go, of relief for his finally
getting his life back, of sympathy at learning the eternal struggle of
the Sailor Senshi.

When he finished crying himself out, he knew he would be okay. Like
with Neherenia, this was not an ending, but a new beginning. Both had
suffered greatly, but both were given another chance, thanks to the
Sailor Senshi.

He could begin a whole new life now, he could do anything. He wondered
about where he should live, in the city house or the countryside house;
it really wasn't important now.

A rush of excitement bubbled up in him, and it felt so good after such a
long absence. He wanted to do so much, to work, to discover, to fall in
love again, to see Hotaru grow, maybe even have another child.

So how did his life turn out? Well, unfortunately, he died a horrible
hideous tragic death.

But then, so did everyone else on the planet when a certain legendary
Sailor Senshi named Galaxia arrived.

After that, though, he was fine. There were his good days, and there were
days he wanted to hide from the world. He would experience the entire
gamut of emotions, just like most people.

He would laugh as his daughter would show him some tumbling tricks with
Haruka-papa, while Setsuna-mama looked like she was having a heart
attack.

He would know terror as the city became dark and violent once more, as
he witnessed his own star seed being stolen from him.

He would feel pride as he watched his daughter hold her own playing a
violin duet with Michiru-mama.

He would cry, as he and Hotaru would visit Keiko Tomoe's grave.

He would feel sympathy and a shared concern, as he comforted the parents
of the princess, when the time came to reveal herself.

He would know triumph each time the Sailor Senshi would save him and the
rest of the world.

But most of all, he would know joy from having Hotaru Tomoe be a part
of his life.

---

End notes:

Yeah, I know, it got WAFF-y at the end. Guess this schizo's just a
softie at heart. ^_^

Although the story was based on the anime, I did use a couple of
background things from the manga (like Hotaru's mother). I hope that
wasn't confusing.

Ah, yes, Hotaru's age. She looks around 8-9 to me in Stars, after Saturn
appears and causes her final growth spurt. Definitely younger than S,
after re-watching episodes of her in both S and Stars about fifty
gazillion times. But as Sailor Saturn, she looks a bit older...confused?
I am...

Okay, if you got this far, you either finished this story (thanks!!!)
or you read through some of it, and puked your intestines out. Sorry...
Seriously, this being my first fanfic, I will welcome any comments,
criticisms. Anything that was hard to understand, or any noticeable
mistakes as far as grammar, content, characters/events go, etc. You
can send them to: jlauder121@hotmail.com or saturn9@mindspring.com.

Again, thanks for taking the time to read...

John