EDIT ON 12/7/12 - I took this chapter down for a few days after I realized I had posted it prematurely. I haven't made any edits to this chapter. -Adins
Author's Note: I know this chapter has been a long time coming and I apologize for my absence, but as is often the case life intruded for a while and sapped away all time and enthusiasm. This was a particularly difficult chapter to write and hopefully it was worth the wait. I'll try to have a followup written in something less than six months this time. ;-)
Also, it's probably worth mentioning that this entire chapter is a flashback. Happy trails.
"My Four Kings"
Today's Episode: Don't Look Back in Anger
"NO!" Haruka shrieked and in brazen defiance turned her anger on Usagi, "He may be my King in a few thousand years, but right now he's just a sick man who isn't thinking clearly!"
"But Haruka, we've tried everything else!" a teary-eyed Usagi pleaded with her most outspoken soldier.
"We haven't tried waiting." Michiru stated and looked to Setsuna who gave a noncommittal twitch of her head in response.
"This won't fix itself." Mamoru spoke from his bed. His voice was hoarse and hollow and his lips barely parted enough to allow the words to pass through, "The Earth is… trembling."
As the last syllable left his lips Mamoru's body seized and shivered as a sudden tremor shook the apartment building. It wasn't strong enough to cause damage or even shift furniture, but it was enough to rattle the windows and give everyone in the room a start. All eyes, even Mamoru's whose head could barely leave the pillow, shifted to Ami where she sat at a desk in the corner of the room, vision fixed on Mamoru's computer screen.
"Still very minor." Ami noted the seismic readout on the computer screen, "But the frequency of the tremors has increased another eight percent."
"See? It's getting worse!" Usagi begged her soldiers, "If we don't do something soon the whole planet will shake itself apart!"
"Rei…" Haruka had a hand across her eyes, rubbing her temples with her thumb and forefinger, "Please talk some sense into her."
"Nothing I say will change her mind." Rei didn't exactly give up without a fight, but rather embraced the practical.
"You're not okay with this, are you?" The senshi of Uranus reached for aid.
"No." the priestess replied, "But that doesn't matter."
"I don't think any of us are completely on board with this plan." Minako added her opinion, "But Usagi is right. We have to do something soon." Normally she would have guarded her words for her Princess' sake, but the situation was already grim, "Mamoru isn't going to last much longer at this rate."
"She's right." Mamoru coughed feebly.
"They tried to destroy the planet and kill the Princess." Michiru reminded him harshly, "And you."
"And once in the past they succeeded!" Haruka reopened an ancient wound, "We're putting our lives and the safety of this planet in the hands of a group of backstabbing traitors!" she continued her tirade, "I won't stand by and watch the Silver Millennium repeat itself!"
"They have been touched by Chaos." Michiru stressed, "Who knows what might happen if they are allowed to carry the Golden Crystal?"
"We've all been touched by Chaos in some way." Ami interjected with a grimace.
"Then what about Helios?" Makoto offered, "He guarded the Golden Crystal for ages. Can't he do the same for us now?"
"Helios guarded the way to Elysion." Mamoru struggled, "But the Crystal was always within me."
"Explain to me again why one of the Senshi can't wield the Golden Crystal?" Haruka now began to shift back and forth where she stood.
"Because the Senshi already carry their own Sailor Crystals." Setsuna spoke softly, "No one can care for two souls at a time."
"Hold on to something!" Ami's voice slashed through the argument.
As the last syllable left her lips the world beneath them lurched and a powerful quake shook the building. A framed picture of Mamoru and the Senshi standing in a copse of sakura fell from the wall above his bed and smashed on the ground. The room groaned and the drywall fractured in several places spewing chalky dust into the air. Finally after almost a full minute the rumbling stopped and the room settled.
"That settles it for me." Makoto breathed an uneasy sigh of relief.
"You don't have to like it, Haruka." Mamoru mumbled, "But would you trade the whole Earth…" he paused and painfully forced his eyes open, "… and Hotaru… for a grudge against the Shitennou?"
Unhappy with having her one weakness exploited, Haruka threw an accusatory finger at the small glass box teetering precariously at the edge of Mamoru's night stand and bellowed, "There has to be someone besides them who can do this!"
"There isn't." he spoke with groaning finality.
Haruka looked to Setsuna for support who simply shook her head in a single, negative swing. She clenched her fist and stared down at the decaying man in front of her.
"If you want to do this then the consequences are on you." She demanded and stepped beside Michiru, "And we're going to watch them closely. One false move and we won't hesitate to destroy them."
"Don't be too upset if they disappoint you." Mamoru warned and despite his haggard condition managed to crack a smile, "You might like them."
Haruka snorted her rebuke and turned away. Michiru just offered an uneasy smirk which, in her own way, was an affirmation of Mamoru's words. All eyes now turned to the imposing senshi of Pluto who returned their looks of anticipation and worry with quiet detachment.
"Ok Setsuna," Usagi's voice shook as she sought out one of Mamoru's bony, clammy hand with hers, "Tell us what we have to do."
"Leave us." Setsuna ordered Haruka and Michiru.
Their own business concluded, and startled at the chill in their ancient friend's voice, the senshi of Uranus and Neptune quietly exited the bedroom and made their way out of the apartment. When Setsuna sensed that they were safely beyond the bounds of the apartment she waved her right hand across her body and the Garnet Rod shimmered into being in her grasp. She deftly twirled the staff and a hazy distortion appeared beside her which coalesced into a vaguely human shape and finally solidified into the form of a young girl, only six years old, curled up in a ball fast asleep.
"Hotaru-chan?" Ami gasped seeing the young girl sound asleep.
"What's she doing here?" Makoto was confused.
"She is necessary." Setsuna spoke and her previously submerged emotions now rose to the surface in a tidal wave of anxiety, "She is the senshi of death, after all."
"Pluto, you told us you would perform this ceremony." Minako addressed her authoritatively.
"I have power over time, but that will not help to save my—the King." Setsuna explained and her voice wavered as an addict's might in the grip of withdrawal, "I wish to save this world as I know you all do, but to do that we need Sailor Saturn."
"Haruka and Michiru don't know she's here, do they?" Rei asked impassively.
"Heh." Makoto laughed ironically, "You think they'd let Hotaru be part of this? We'd be fighting about it even after the Earth was dust."
"To do what we are attempting, sacrifices must be made." Setsuna spoke morosely, "And Haruka and Michiru do not need to be among them."
"What sort of sacrifices are we talking about?" Minako asked cautiously.
"Raising the dead is not as simple a matter as conjuring lightning or fire, or even stopping the flow of time." Setsuna's words sent a chill down every spine, "We are dealing with primordial forces far beyond the Senshi's limited powers and our actions will upset the balance of the cosmos."
"Well we can fix the balance later." Usagi promised and closed her free hand around the brooch on her chest where the Ginzuishou sat dormant.
"It's not as simple as that, Princess." Setsuna's hand wrung tightly around the Garnet Rod, "The Shitennou's Star Seeds may have returned to the Galaxy Cauldron when they died, but part of their souls remained trapped within the four stones sitting in that box; that was Metalia's curse; the curse of Chaos." The senshi all turned to the box on Mamoru's table, "If we succeed in forcibly pulling the Shitennou's Star Seeds from the Cauldron, we will need to replace them with something else."
Something else. Even with their limited understanding of the complicated metaphysical workings of the universe, none of the Senshi needed any clarification as to the meaning of those words. If they wanted to save their planet they would have to give up their own lives in exchange for the lives of four murdering traitors.
"Hey…" Usagi began to panic in the silence, "Hey, no! Wait a minute!"
"It should be the four of us." Minako declared to Makoto, Ami, and Rei as she assumed the decisive mantle of the Senshi's leader.
"NO!" Usagi screeched, momentarily losing focus of Mamoru's struggle and leaving his side, "No, you can't even consider this! I won't let you!"
"What do we have to do, Setsuna?" Minako asked, putting Usagi's growing hysterics out of her mind.
"Don't ignore me, Minako!" Usagi's eyes were tearing as she shouted.
"Usagi-chan, calm down." Makoto tried to console her.
"No, stop it!" she shrugged her off and continued on, zeroing on Minako as her target, "What are you thinking?! You can't do this!"
"Usako…" Mamoru weakly moaned from his bed.
"This isn't right!" she cried and pleaded, "We… we're done fighting! Right? We beat Galaxia… we're supposed to be done now! We're supposed to be normal! You can't go off and just… and just…"
"Usagi!" Minako grabbed her hysterical friend by the wrists and looked her in the eye, "It's going to be okay, you know? It'll be alright!"
"How can you say that?" she sniffled back.
"Because you know how it works, don't you?" Minako smiled, "When Star Seeds go back to the Galaxy Cauldron they can choose to be reborn, remember? So we'll have a nice little trip across the galaxy and poof, we'll be back before you know it!"
Setsuna's grim silence was enough for Minako to question her own words and turn to the Plutonian, "Right?"
"I don't know." She replied honestly and without emotion.
"You don't know?" Makoto echoed her, "I thought you were an authority on this stuff."
"This has never been attempted before." Setsuna shot the accusation down, "All I know for certain is that balance is the only true constant in the universe. It's a mathematical equation. Take one thing away and you must give something back."
"So if we do this…" Minako gulped, "You're saying it's a one way trip?"
"I don't know." Setsuna repeated, this time with an almost apologetic shrug.
"That doesn't change anything." Rei spoke up, "We're all going to die anyway if we just stand here arguing about it." She shot her glance at Minako, "We have a duty to protect this planet, even at the cost of our lives."
"Well, I'm sorry, I just didn't know I was going to be living my last day on Earth when I woke up this morning." Minako shot back and threw her arms in a defiant cross in front of her.
"Guys, stop it!" Usagi put her fists to the sides of her head, "Stop talking like that!"
"Well, I'm in." Makoto attempted to ease the tension and called across the room, "Ami, how about you?" Ami didn't answer. She was hunched over in her chair with her back to the group. Makoto cocked her head and called again, "Ami, what are you doing?"
The aqua Senshi turned around, her eyes red with the strain of tears that she was holding in. She set her cell phone down on the desk and shakily answered, "Texting a goodbye message to my Mother."
That was when Minako's brazen leadership failed, when Makoto's courage went slack, and when Rei's fiery valor dissipated. That was when the truth hit home and the Senshi with their many lives and supernatural powers suddenly realized that this was the battle they might not be coming back from.
"No." Usagi could barely form words in her sorrow, "I'm not going to let you do this!"
Minako turned to face her. Instead of continuing the argument she simply gathered her sobbing Princess in her arms and wrapped her in a bear hug. Usagi, pinned as she was, could nonetheless feel three more sets of arms slowly encircle her as their inseparable group came together to offer the only goodbye that would suffice. Nothing had ever hurt her this much, but from some unknown depth of her soul the Moon Princess embraced that strength that only the other Senshi could draw out of her and forced her tears to stop.
"I'll find a way." She squeaked out, barely able to speak from the strength of the arms around her body and the overpowering love in her heart.
"We know you will." She heard them reply without even speaking.
After what felt like an hour the Senshi finally released their Princess and wordlessly turned to Setsuna who nodded in recognition and knelt down at the side of the young Hotaru who still lay sleeping in an obviously magical trance. She brushed her hand over the girl's pale forehead and the sign of Saturn flashed brightly. Her eyes flew open immediately.
"Hotaru-chan." Setsuna spoke gently.
"Setsuna-mama?" her sleepy voice asked in a yawn, "I'm still sleepy."
"I know." Her surrogate mother smiled, "You can go back to sleep, but first I want to ask you if we can talk to your special friend?"
"Hmm…" Hotaru yawned again, "She's sleepy, too."
"I know she is." Setsuna agreed, "She can sleep for years and years." Hotaru gave a little laugh and Setsuna pressed, "But we just need to ask her something. Can she talk to us for just a minute?"
"One minute…" the young girl yawned again and her bright violet eyes fluttered closed.
A moment later her eyes snapped open, slate black, and she stood as her body contorted and grew to the proportions of a young teenage girl. Her moon-and-star pajamas were instantly replaced by the uniform of a Senshi, purple and brown, with boots laced to her knees and star-shaped brooch clasped over the bow on her chest. A crackle of electricity arced between her hands as a glaive twice her height with a yawning crescent blade sparked into being.
"Sailor Pluto." The senshi who was and was not Hotaru spoke in a chilling, emotionless voice.
"Sailor Saturn." The senshi of time replied with a nod of recognition.
"You know I should not be summoned." The mysterious dark senshi chastised her plutonian counterpart, "Hotaru-chan is not yet of an age to fully accept what she is and I will not see her dreams haunted by the specter of my power."
"I would not call upon you unless it was in the direst of circumstance." Pluto assured her, "The Earth is in peril; Prince Endymion's life hangs by a thread and unless we act, all will come to ruin. Hotaru included."
"Seismic tremors have been increasing in power and frequency for the last thirty six hours." Ami informed her, "At this rate the tectonic plates will begin to shear and produce cataclysmic tsunamis in the next few hours."
"I see." Saturn answered and as she turned towards the other gathered senshi her eyes closed and her lashes fluttered as she called upon her psychic sense, "I feel the Earth writhing in torment, sick and dying like its guardian." She opened her eyes to gaze at the weakened Mamoru, gaunt and pale on the bed, "They suffer as one."
"We can explain how it happened." Rei assured her.
"I already understand completely." Sailor Saturn shook her head with an aggravated sigh and spoke: "This is what happens when a man is touched by Chaos over and over again and is not purified. His soul is sick with the lingering presence of Metalia, the Death Phantom and every other form the demon ever took. The Golden Crystal itself is tainted with the darkness and over time it poisoned him; as Mamoru passes away, so passes the Earth."
Saturn turned to Pluto and gave a curious shrug of her shoulders, "Death is coming of its own accord. Why do you call upon me?"
"Not for death." Pluto promised her, "But for Rebirth."
"I cannot do anything to save him." Saturn's finality was chilling.
"Not him." Pluto explained, "We wish to call upon four creatures who once served as Endymion's guardians who, in their own limited way, may be able to halt this crisis by taking shared possession of the tainted Golden Crystal."
"Are you serious?" Saturn was completely taken aback, "Four creatures, no matter how powerful they may be, cannot wield the kinzuishou in any way that Mamoru is capable of. At best you would only forestall the Earth's inevitable deterioration."
"Possibly, but at least we can use that time to find a long-term solution." Setsuna pleaded her case, "The senshi cannot take possession of the Golden Crystal, neither can the Priest of Elysion. The Shitennou are the only creatures with a strong enough connection to the Earth who can take on this burden."
"You realize that to bring the Shitennou back from death will upset the balance of the cosmos." Saturn warned.
Sailor Venus announced, "We're aware of that. And we are prepared to…" she choked slightly, calling their actual preparedness into question, "We are prepared to correct the unbalance."
"Imbalance." Ami corrected in reflex, studious even when staring Armageddon in the face.
Sailor Saturn smiled at the exchange despite the gravity of their situation and almost immediately their small group was put at ease. She turned to address a peculiarly silent soldier, "Sailor Moon?"
"Y-yes?" Usagi answered shakily, still in moderate shock from the rapidity of events.
"My limited existence does not allow me to grieve for what you may lose today, but while I cannot share in your sorrow, I can hope to spare you some measure." Her gaze softened considerably, "You do not need to witness this."
"I'm not leaving Mamoru's side." Usagi defensively clutched the ailing Prince's hand and then glanced to her left, "Or theirs." She offered a courageous smile to her senshi which they returned in kind.
"So be it." Saturn accepted and she drew her glaive across the air in front of her in a wide arc, "Sailor Senshi, please stand to one side." Saturn took the glaive in both hands and pointed the shining tip towards Mamoru's bed, "Sailor Moon, if you would please stand away."
Usagi could barely summon the will to release Mamoru's hand from her own let alone stand up and move away from his bed, but the steady, stoic gaze of the dying man in the bed told her that no matter what, he wouldn't be far away. She would not bend down to kiss him. Not for the last time. She released his hand, stood, and stepped away clutching the brooch on her chest like a life raft in a turbulent ocean.
Sailor Saturn removed a hand from her glaive and gestured towards the glass box that sat on Mamoru's bedside table. The box lifted itself into the air and floated towards the center of the room, coming to rest on the floor between the bed where Mamoru lay off to the left side of the room and where the Senshi gathered on the right. The lid opened itself and the four gemstones within glittered furiously when a bolt of lightning flashed outside the apartment window.
"First I will attempt to call the Star Seeds of the Shitennou from within the Galaxy Cauldron and unite them with the fragments of their souls contained within these stones." Saturn explained quickly, "If successful, they should manifest in this room in whatever forms they held at the time of their death."
"Will they remember…" Mamoru croaked, "Remember who they are? Remember what happened?"
"I cannot guarantee how much of their memory they will retain." Saturn told him, "They are unlikely to remain conscious for long after their rebirth and they almost certainly will not remember the process."
"How will they know what to do with the Golden Crystal then?" Makoto inquired.
"I will handle that." Pluto promised.
"Then second I shall draw the Golden Crystal from Mamoru's body and transfer it to the care of the Shitennou, under your guard, Sailor Pluto." Saturn turned to address the four Guardian Senshi huddled on the right side of the room, "And finally, to restore the cosmic balance, I must send your star seeds to the Galaxy Cauldron in recompense for removing the Shitennou's."
"If that's what it takes." Minako remained firm in her decision.
"Prepare yourselves." Sailor Saturn ordered and she thrust her glaive out in front of her to cast the shadow of the blade over the glass box on the floor.
An electric charge ignited the air as blue wisps of energy seeped off the crescent blade of the Silence Glaive. A crack of ethereal power lit up the room and the glass box containing the Shitennou's stones shattered. Mamoru would have jumped in alarm if his body was capable. The four stones within floated just above the floor as the wisps of energy from the blade began to spiral into a cloudy mist which gathered in a large circle around the stones. Sailor Saturn tilted the glaive backward and to one side as she deftly twirled the deadly instrument like a cheerleader's baton.
Without any sort of warning she raised the glaive high above her head and with a loud cry slammed the blunt end of the shaft down on the floor which erupted in a flash of binding light. The circle of mist now became a yawning chasm ringed in blue fire and frozen blackness as a warbling, deafening screech filled the apartment. Usagi covered her ears and focused her gaze on Mamoru, transfixed even in his sickly state. As the gathered crowd watched, the four gemstones rose higher and higher into the air as out of the void appeared four identical talismans, star-shaped and gleaming with silver and the rainbow hues of the Shitennou's stones; their star seeds. It was these mystical objects that Chaos had sought in its many guises; the tangible essence of a soul and the source of the mystical energy of life that proved such a tantalizing prize for the Senshi's enemies.
Each pair of talismans sat hovering in midair above the void for several moments; stone and seed seemed to be waiting, possibly for an order, possibly for cosmic guidance, possibly for the universe itself to tell them that yes, it was alright, and that life was once again within their reach.
"What's wrong?" Usagi was worried, "Why isn't anything happening?"
"Patience, princess." Sailor Saturn urged, "The birth of a newborn child is not an instant process; neither is the rebirth of a dormant spirit."
Usagi blinked several times and silently complied, but her tension was evident. She shuffled in place, unsure of what to do or how to help, and nervously began biting the corner of every finger on her left hand in turn. Her gaze darted back and forth between the levitating talismans and the bed where Mamoru lay. His breathing had become even more labored in the last few minutes since Sailor Saturn's arrival and his eyes were now closed despite the surreal sight before him.
It was then that the unthinkable happened. Mamoru's eyes opened as he exhaled a painful, gravelly breath and did not draw another. Sailor Pluto noticed first as Usagi, too rapt by her anxiety did not even process what it meant. The Senshi all turned to the bed where the man who was supposed to lead them as King passed away, eyes wide open, his spirit departing as the spirits of his Shitennou returned, passing each other in opposite directions in a cosmic journey.
When his utter silence finally registered, Usagi could only utter a quiet gasp before the death throes of the Planet Earth drowned out all sound completely. The ground beneath Mamoru's apartment disappeared as the epicenter of the apocalypse formed. The building began to fall down and to one side as the Senshi within uselessly tried to brace themselves against crumbling walls. All but one. Sailor Pluto stood firm and grim. Her knuckles were white gripping the Garnet Rod which now began to glow with its unearthly light.
"Setsuna-mama, don't!" Sailor Saturn cried, the dormant Hotaru's emotions dominating even the powerful presence of her Senshi alter-ego in that moment of despair.
Pluto ignored the plea and raised her staff over her head with both hands and cried, "TEMPUS MORA!"
Immediately the building halted in its fall. The roiling storm clouds in the sky above went still. All sound ceased save for the heavy, painful breaths of the Senshi of Time who now felt in full the consequence of using her most forbidden power. Her gift of foresight vanished immediately and for each second that she held time at bay it exacted a heavy toll, aging her body by years in a matter of moments.
"Hurry!" she demanded as the barest hints of gray began to tease the tips of her jade tresses.
Sailor Saturn wasted no time with affirmations. She quickly strode across the room to Mamoru's bed where Usagi, still shocked and silent, watched as the enigmatic Senshi reached towards Mamoru's chest. A tarnished golden light shone from beneath the sheets that covered his body as well as in the clawed palm of Sailor Saturn. With a grunt of effort and a flash of that unhealthy pale yellow the kinzuishou, Mamoru's star seed, the Golden Crystal of Elysion appeared in her hand. Sailor Saturn turned away from Mamoru's body and did not object when Usagi, finally overcome by grief, grabbed his limp hand and collapsed sobbing at the side of the bed.
"This must now be accomplished in one fell swoop." Sailor Saturn warned the guardian Senshi as she came back to the center of the room, the kinzuishou glowing sickly in her hand, "I am sorry, but there is no time."
Sailor Venus could only hazard a momentary glance at her grieving princess who just lost the man she loved more than life itself and was about to lose the rest of the people who were closest to her, "Do it."
Sailor Saturn nodded and released the Golden Crystal from her gasp. Even in its tarnished state it floated gracefully to the ground between the Senshi and the talismans of the Shitennou. She turned, raising the Silence Glaive above her head in a fluid motion and then began to swing it in a downward-slicing arc in the direction of the Senshi.
"Death…" She cried.
Though time had stopped for world outside, it had not for those in that room, but now it seemed to slow to an interminable crawl, for what occurred then happened in an instant, even thought it was decades –possibly centuries or millennia in the making. Usagi opened her eyes, red, and full of tears when she heard Sailor Saturn utter the words, but when her gaze fell upon Mamoru's lifeless face she saw fire blazing in eyes that should have been empty, fangs where his teeth should have been, and a smile so wide and so wicked that the corners of his lips tore apart to accommodate it.
The hideous specter lurched out of the bed and grasped Usagi with hands of frozen fire. Immediately she felt the presence of a creature she was too well acquainted with. The dead body of her great love took to its feet, propelled by the malevolent power of Chaos itself. The lingering, pervasive presence of the demon which had sickened the planet, sullied the Golden Crystal, and ultimately led to Mamoru's death now seized his body as a perverted puppet.
"Reborn…" Saturn continued, barely a second later.
Usagi could not fight the creature; she couldn't find the breath to call out the words that would transform her into Sailor Moon. She felt her feet leave the ground. For a moment she thought that time had begun moving again, but she found that it was her body that was moving. With unholy strength the Chaos-driven husk of Mamoru threw her like a ragdoll towards the other Senshi, directly in the path of Sailor Saturn's deadly spell. In one fell swoop Chaos would destroy the Guardian Senshi that had for so long defeated its machinations and claim dominion over the Earth. A piercing laugh like a frozen wind shook the room, howling in triumph.
But it was not to be. Even as she collided headlong into her companions Usagi's presence of mind was strong. Her hands flailed and caught on to the arm of Sailor Mars whose eyes were wide in shock and managed to meet Usagi's as she shoved with all her might. Sailor Mars lost her balance, stumbled, and fell away from the rest of the group.
The Guardian Senshi disappeared in a flash, save one. Sailor Mars, stunned and startled, pulled herself to her feet to see the look of utter astonishment on the faces of Sailor Saturn, Sailor Pluto, and four young men who stood naked, shivering, and terrified in the center of a ruined apartment skewed at an odd angle, halted in mid-collapse.
"YOU WILL NOT THWART ME AGAIN!" all eyes turned to the emaciated figure of Mamoru's body whose face was twisted into a perverse caricature of the departed prince.
"Master?" Kunzite was the first and only Shitennou to speak, "… Endymion?"
Chaos turned to him and threw out an open palm, "YOU WERE MINE. YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MINE."
His confusion at the scene was replaced by urgent, unwilling movement of his body. Kunzite bent down and picked up the Golden Crystal from where it still lay in the middle of the room. He grit his teeth and struggled against the intrusion in his mind; a mind that he had only moments ago regained in the living world. His body whirled around to face the three remaining Senshi.
The Golden Crystal radiated power as its still-diseased glow began to fill the room. Sailor Pluto, weakened beyond her limits finally dropped the Garnet Rod from the exertion of muscles that now felt decades older. The apartment building immediately resumed its plummet towards the earth. The glow of the Golden Crystal intensified as the sickening laughter of Chaos drowned out the roar of the building's collapse.
"Akuryo Taisan!" A shrill voice cut through the calamity. Sailor Mars had managed to steady herself just long enough to draw one of her charms. In her eyes blazed an anger unequalled throughout the cosmos: two lifetimes worth of painful memories all the result of Chaos' schemes, the rage at the loss of Mamoru, the despair at the loss of her friends, the inconsolable fury at the loss of her princess, "BURN!"
The charm struck Mamoru's possessed body square in the chest. Chaos, a shapeless, primordial force of nature, felt pain for the first time in its eternal existence. Sailor Mars' fire seared the creature within Mamoru and forced it to flee. His body fell, the building fell, and Sailor Mars fell. The ugly, rusty aura of the tainted kinzuishou was suddenly gone, replaced by a color more befitting such a sacred talisman: its natural golden glow. And then there was white. Warm, blinding, and enveloping everything it touched. It was the last thing any of them would remember for quite some time.