You did not tell us because you believe that whoever is controlling these Youma is stronger than the Shitennou
Kunzite, as the leader of the Shitennou, had always prided himself in knowing the best course of action to take and how to thwart the enemy's plans. Even during the final battle at the time of the Silver Millennium his leadership had not faltered or fell into question. He had never hesitated over his decisions or been fearful that the Shitennou could fail in their mission. Now, however, he was not as certain as he would have liked to be.
Jadeite and Nephrite were looking to Kunzite to explain whilst Zoisite's expression was almost unreadable. The second oldest of them had to have guessed that his assumption had been correct, which it was. They deserved to know what they were up against, but in truth, Kunzite didn't entirely know. He knew of the origin of the Youma but not who was controlling them. His first thought was that it was Beryl; this, however, was impossible. Beryl had not possessed the strength within her. The Youma would have corrupted her and forced her to bow to their will rather than the other way around.
"Kunzite, enough games," Nephrite finally broke the silence. His tone was angry but there was concern within it also. "Tell us the truth."
"I'm sure you've already realised that the Youma who attacked Jadeite was different from those we have faced in the past. Youma are conjured from the power of Metallia, usually found in corrupting those with natural magics as we were in the last awakening. Youma born in that way are strong but are not unbeatable. In a sense they are as powerful as the one who created them. This Youma is different. It is a child of Metallia, born when the Earth began. Master Endymion's forefathers fought the Youma army with the aid of their guardians. It was a terrible battle with many casualties. Eventually they triumphed and imprisoned the surviving Youma deep down inside the Earth. The seal was made with blood and only the blood of the birth-line could break it."
"We've heard that tale before," Nephrite interjected impatiently. True, it was a story that had been told throughout the Earth Kingdom's history and Kunzite would never have believed it himself had he not been alive for the last uprising.
"The seal has been broken before, when Master Endymion's father was alive. We were too young to fight and an entire army was sent to the North Pole, which was the crux of Metallia's powers. As you know Metallia feeds off of the negative energy of humans and her powers breed discontent and darken the hearts of the weak. During the King's reign, it was a time of peace and prosperity and so his army were able to imprison the Youma once again. This time they were lost behind a seal of darkness and ice where no one could free them. There they stayed, even when Metallia awoke once more. Beryl was not strong enough to command them and so the seal remained unbroken."
"Until now," Nephrite commented, some scepticism still in his tone.
"How did the seal come to be broken?" Zoisite questioned, as always focusing on the most important detail. "You said that the blood of the birth-line was the only way to break it."
"I don't know," Kunzite admitted. "How they escaped in the past remained a mystery too."
"Then how do you know that the Youma who attacked me was the same one?" Jadeite enquired, furthering Kunzite's frustration. This was, in part, why he had refrained from telling them. He had doubts that his words would be taken seriously.
"You should be able to answer that question for yourself," the oldest Tennou replied, allowing some hint of frustration into his voice. "Did the Youma aura feel like that of one you've faced before?"
"No," Zoisite answered immediately even as the blonde guardian shook his head. "It was stronger."
"And that's all you know?" Nephrite enquired suspiciously. "You have no idea who is controlling that Youma?"
"I don't," Kunzite regarded the younger Tennou coldly, "but what I do know is that there are more of them."
"How many more?" Jadeite asked quietly, a flicker of fear in his eyes.
"At least twenty, perhaps more. During their second awakening they were impossible to kill and so the King was forced to imprison them. I know if destroying them were possible then he would have ordered it done."
"You said that you saw one in the past life," Zoisite said, his expression was thoughtful as he considered the oldest man's words. "Where did you see it?"
"In the palace," Kunzite had to glance away. It was not a memory that he liked to recall. He had only been a child at the time and no child, even one who was destined to become Endymion's guardian, should have had to witness the slaughter that he'd seen. Yet it had been worse for him. It had been the day Queen Kalyke had died. Even though he had been too young to protect her, it was Kunzite's greatest shame. "One broke through the defences. There was a battle and the King's guard were able to restrain it. It was imprisoned with the rest of them."
"Can they be killed?" Nephrite asked, choosing, thankfully, to focus on the present rather than the past.
"We need to find the one who has broken the seal," Kunzite answered. "If we can stop them then the Youma will be imprisoned once more."
"How can we do that?"
"Soul Flight," Zoisite answered for Kunzite although the oldest of them had already considered along those lines. "If I can focus my magics on the aura then I am certain I can find them."
"Sailor Mars tried to locate them," Nephrite said doubtfully, "and she was blinded. Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"My powers are much stronger than that of a Senshi," it was clear by his tone that Zoisite did not appreciate Nephrite's concern; although Kunzite had to admit he had a point. Who knew what this new enemy was capable of? But they did need to learn more about them and Soul Flight was the least risky method of doing this. However, Kunzite was loath to put Zoisite in harms way unless he had no other choice.
The oldest Tennou wanted time to consider their next move rather than be forced into something. There was also the matter of the Master… a line of thought that was swiftly interrupted by the appearance of the man himself. The others had also sensed his aura and glanced up even before there was the knock at the door.
"I thought I saw Zoisite."
"You can't have. The Shitennou died, Minako-san."
"The last time I spoke to them they were my guardians again. If they had been reborn then they would have made themselves known to me."
"Why didn't you let me know you'd been reborn?" was Mamoru's first question as they stepped out into the garden. The sweet smell of roses had hit him as he'd opened the back door. He was slightly surprised to see the garden so well tended too.
A part of him couldn't quite believe that they were here. He had wished dearly for them to have a rebirth but he'd also thought that when he'd spoken to them previously it was for the last time. He had said his goodbyes and their deaths had continued to pain him even after that.
Mamoru had also felt some apprehension about coming to see them. He had failed them before and Mamoru was surprised that not even Kunzite appeared angry with this.
His sneakers crunched loudly on the gravel as he continued keeping pace with the two Tennou flanking him. Nephrite had remained inside with Jadeite, although from the expression on his face he had wanted to challenge this direction from their leader. Kunzite was to brief their Master on the situation, as he had done so in the past life. Zoisite, as second in command, was permitted to be present. Mamoru had wanted to tell them that the old protocols no longer applied but he held his tongue. There would be plenty of time for that.
"We wanted to keep you safe, Master. We were reborn to protect you and to fight this new evil. It would have been safer for you if you had continued to be unaware of our presence."
"I missed you," Mamoru answered sadly to this and this caused a flicker of emotion to pass over the older man's features before he forced it away. It was obvious that they had missed him too. "And I want to help you. I can still fight."
"You are not as strong in your Tuxedo Kamen form, Master," Kunzite replied immediately. "It would be too dangerous for you."
He had expected them to say that and, a part of him, did agree. He had not become Endymion again and Mamoru no longer felt the power of that transformation within him. It was, like the girls' henshins, lost to him.
"Perhaps but I'm not going to sit by whilst you all risk your lives."
Zoisite smiled, albeit a little sadly, at this. "That's the Shitennou's mission, Master. To protect you and defend the Earth. It has always been this way."
"Things can change," Mamoru countered.
"Not this," Kunzite shook his head. "This enemy is stronger than the Dark Kingdom. We will not allow you to risk your life."
Mamoru knew that he would get nowhere with this argument. He recalled having such a one with Kunzite before, in the past when Metallia had awakened and attacked. Kunzite had forced him to retreat to the Moon with Serenity and her Senshi whilst they… Mamoru bit his lower lip at the recollection. Death, he was sure, would have been almost preferable to them than Beryl's corruption.
"What happened to Jadeite?" He asked instead, changing the subject.
"He was attacked by the Youma you fought in the restaurant," Zoisite answered.
This had them worried, Mamoru could tell instantly. Not just for Jadeite but the fact that a Youma had been able to inflict that much damage on one of them, even the youngest. It was not an ordinary Youma.
"You were there that night," he said, glancing at the white haired Tennou. "Minako-san was right."
Zoisite smirked somewhat at this statement. "We've been watching you since your rebirth, Master. You've always been an easy man to hide from."
Mamoru smiled and shook his head. "I don't want any of you hiding anything from me again. You don't wish me to fight, which I don't agree with but will concede to this request for now, but I do want to help."
"Of course," Kunzite agreed somewhat reluctantly, which irked Mamoru slightly. After all the Shitennou had got most things their way for now. He had not mentioned Usagi and the others' involvement. There was a limit to what the former Senshi could do but Minako, Mamoru was certain, would want to fight as Sailor V.
"Good," Mamoru always felt reluctant in taking the lead and ordering the Shitennou to do anything but if it was the only way to get them to cooperate… "If I'm going to help then I need to know everything."
"Minako," Shoichi greeted her cheerfully. "Sorry to disturb you so late in the evening but I was wondering if we could see each other tomorrow?"
"I don't know…" Minako started to hesitate but Shoichi cut her off before she could finish her excuses.
"Please. It is important. I have a surprise for you."
Minako sat uncomfortably on the cushioned chair, watching in silence as Shoichi carefully poured the soup that he'd prepared into two separate bowls. He grinned as he then approached and set one down in front of her, although his expression was slightly more strained than usual. Against her better judgement, Minako had agreed to meet him for lunch at his apartment. She had been up half of the night trying to decide what to do but the events of the last twenty-four hours had ultimately shaped her decision for her. She could not continue with this relationship. She did not have time for romance and, more importantly, she did not love Shoichi. Minako could not be with someone whom she did not love.
"How is it?" the young man in question prompted as she dipped the silver spoon into the tomato soup and tasted it.
"Good," she forced a smile and had another mouthful. The effort that Shoichi had gone to had wrong-footed her for she hadn't intended on staying this long. Minako knew what she wanted to say but this situation was not one that she had planned for.
"I made it myself," Shoichi continued unnecessarily. "My first attempt actually."
"It's nice," Minako hated every second of this. She just wanted to be honest and let him down as gently as possible. This way would be worse for the both of them.
The young man remained oblivious to her upset and chatted about work and various other topics that Minako could not follow for her mind was still back in the events of yesterday.
We do not know how long we are here for. It might be that we are only here to fight this enemy
Time… there just didn't seem to be enough of it in this lifetime.
"Are you sure you liked it?" Shoichi enquired, jolting her from her thoughts as he started to clear the bowls away.
"I did… I'm not very hungry, that's all. Shoichi, I need to-"
"Sorry, I forgot you don't like to eat much at lunchtime. I was just so anxious to see you."
"I wanted to see you too," Minako tried again as he came to her side once more. "I have to-"
"I love you," again he cut in and his words caused her guilt to deepen. No one deserved this kind of pain. "I love you very much, Minako-chan," Shoichi continued as he slipped a velvet jewellery bag from his pocket and held it out to her. Numbly she took it and felt inside. Taking out the contents, Minako exhaled sharply. Within it was a beautiful silver ring hanging on a silver chain. There was a sapphire in the centre of the ring and a row of four smaller cut diamonds on each side of it.
"Shoichi-kun, this is-"
"A promise," he said with a smile. "There is a tradition within my family that a man gives this ring to his intended before she comes of age to be wed. I love you, Minako and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"I can't!" Minako blurted out these words before she could stop herself. Tears stung at her eyes as she bolted up from her chair, knocking the piece of furniture over onto the carpet as she did so.
Slowly the smile faded from Shoichi's face at these words. "Why?" His question was strained and Minako hated herself more for it.
"I don't feel the same way about you. I'm sorry, Shoichi-kun."
He bowed his head at her words and his hands clenched into fists at his sides. "You led me on?"
"No… I enjoyed spending time with you," she answered gently. "Things have changed for me. I never wanted to hurt you."
"Is there someone else?"
Minako's silence on the matter said more than words could to both of them. In that moment she accepted the truth; as much as she didn't wish too.
Some time past, a few minutes at the most but it seemed like a lifetime to both of them. However, when Shoichi finally raised his head, Minako felt the beginnings of fear stirring inside of her. Once warm brown eyes were cold and unfeeling, lips drawn back into a grimace telling of pain and fury.
"Get out," he spoke softly but his voice was devoid of emotion.
"GET OUT!" his furious cry caused her to flinch backwards as he surged forwards and hurled the round table over onto its side, spilling the contents onto the floor.
Judging by the wild look in his eyes, in that moment Minako realised that she'd never really known Shoichi at all.
Fighting back tears, she turned and fled the apartment, feeling some relief that he merely watched her flight. She was breathing heavily by the time she reached the street.
"Minako!" Artemis cried out in horror when he observed her distressed state. "What happened in there?"
"I-I'm fine, Artemis," she forced her voice to stop quavering and the back of her hand wiped away the few shed tears. "Let's go home."
"What's that?" the cat plushie enquired softly. Minako glanced down and winced when she saw the silver chain clutched tightly in her palm.
Ami snapped shut her compact mirror as the bus came to a halt at her stop. Blushing somewhat, she smoothed out the wrinkles in her blue sundress before getting up and leaving the vehicle. Thanking the driver, she began a swift walk towards the Shitennou's home. Before leaving her house that morning she had carefully packed some clean bandages and more painkillers into a wicker basket. She had also made lunch for the day and covered it all over with a red and white checked blanket. Usagi had called her before she left to update her on Rei's condition. It hadn't changed and Ami had been unable to do anything for her last night. Makoto had suggested taking her to see a doctor but this would only raise unnecessary suspicions. Thankfully it was the school summer holidays but if Rei's sight was not restored to her within a few weeks then they'd have to think of something. Her friend had adapted quite well although last night she had been tearful. The hope that she was holding onto was that it was a magical infliction and so could be reversed.
Usagi had also said that Mamoru had visited the Shitennou last night. The pigtailed girl had relayed to Ami what Mamoru had told her of this new enemy. There had been much frustration in Usagi's voice as her friend, like all of them, desperately wanted to help. They only had limited knowledge of this new enemy and Ami was secretly wondering if it was stronger than any of them.
Forcing away such gloomy thoughts as she reached the house she knocked lightly on the door. Much to her delight, Nephrite answered it. His face lit up when he saw her, although he then became aware of his elation and tried to hide it as he led her inside. Jadeite was sitting on the sofa watching the television. Ami had to bite back a smile of amusement at seeing the blonde clad in his uniform trousers and blue under shirt being fully absorbed in what was happening on the screen. He started slightly when he noticed her presence and shut the set off. As soon as it did so Ami could then hear the piano melody coming from a room upstairs and she smiled.
"How are you feeling?" Ami asked quietly, feeling somewhat nervous as she took a seat beside him.
"Better, thank you," he seemed equally unsure and kept his gaze averted.
The awkwardness between the three continued as Jadeite took his shirt off so she could redress his wounds. They were always beginning to heal and showed no sign of infection, which was good news. Ami offered him a painkiller but Jadeite declined. She had also brought some in pill form and left them on the coffee table with instructions of how many to take and when.
"Thanks," Jadeite mumbled as he pulled his shirt back on. He did smile appreciatively at her but it was clear that he was still mistrustful.
"I also made some lunch for you," Ami continued as she dug in the basket again and pulled out three bento boxes.
Again Jadeite thanked her before taking his leave and disappearing into the kitchen.
"Don't mind him," Nephrite said as he sat down on the sofa in the space that Jadeite had vacated. "He's been in a funny mood since the Master was here last night."
Ami wasn't sure what to think of this and so she said nothing. "Is Kunzite here?" She asked as she glanced down at the two bento boxes remaining.
"No," the red haired man shook his head. "He's with the Master. He insisted that one of us should stay with him at all times. The Master didn't want to agree to it though."
"I'll put his away for later then. What about Zoisite?"
"He'll be playing the piano for hours. Better just leave him be."
Ami nodded and set both boxes down on the table. "Do you have to work today?"
Nephrite frowned unhappily at this. "I quit."
"Kunzite's gone all military since the Master showed up last night. He doesn't want us to have any distractions from our duties as Tennou. I swear the man enjoys all this. He's never happy unless there's a war."
Ami giggled a little at this. "I'm sorry," she corrected herself quickly. "I know you enjoyed that job."
"It doesn't matter. When this is all over I'll get another one… unless we lose that is. Then it won't matter anyway."
Ami shuddered somewhat at these words. If Nephrite believed this enemy to be stronger then they had a need more than ever so get their henshins back and fight.
"I packed us a picnic," she said nervously, "as it's a nice day I thought we could go to the park for a while, unless you have other plans that is?"
"No," that slight blush was back adorning his cheeks and Nephrite glanced away. Clearing his throat he finished the sentence by adding, "I'd like that, Ami."
As it was a warm day, Ueno Park was packed with families and workers spending their lunchtime enjoying the sun and outdoors. They found a quiet spot under some cherry blossom trees and Ami timidly spread the blanket out before beginning to unpack the food. Nephrite hadn't been to the park before and was staring at the various attractions and features in amazement. In a bid to start conversation, Ami awkwardly began to explain some of the history of the park to him.
"The Park was founded in 1873 on land in the demon's gate. The demon's gate means the northeast direction and it was considered an unlucky direction and that evil spirits past through that way. Today it is Japan's most popular park, especially during hanami – the cherry blossom viewing."
"We used to celebrate hanami in the past life too," Nephrite answered somewhat wistfully. "There was always a festival within the palace grounds. People would come from miles away to join in the celebrations."
"Do you miss it?" Ami asked softly.
"Not really," the Tennou shrugged. "I don't remember as much as some of the others. Kunzite thinks it's a bad thing but I don't. He and Zoisite especially are chained to the past. I do wonder what they'll do when this is over. I can't see them wanting to begin a human life."
"Why did you?" Ami asked, recalling that day in Crown when she had walked in and he had been there. The happiness she had felt inside after a night of mourning his 'death'. She sometimes still relived that moment over in her mind and how utterly helpless she had been to prevent it.
"Because of you actually," he answered quietly, his relaxed expression becoming somewhat tense.
Ami cast her blushing gaze to the checked blanket as she tried to formulate a reply. She had always been hesitant when it came to expressing her feelings even though her first reaction to this was a want to wrap her arms around him and kiss him. Yet she was too reserved and inwardly she winced when he changed the subject and yet another moment was lost.
She had prepared two bento boxes for them but had also made some cookies as she recalled how much he'd enjoyed the ones she had made before. This time they'd gone better and weren't as burned as the last batch. She said as much as Nephrite took a bite of one.
"I actually preferred them that way," he said lightly, the moment before seemingly forgotten. "I don't understand why Motoki-baka didn't."
"They're meant to taste like this," Ami smiled as she bit into her own cookie.
"Either way is fine by me," he'd already finished his and opened the bento box next. "Did you make all this yourself? It's amazing!"
"Yes. It's not that big of a deal really," she blushed at the praise he was giving her when it had, in fact, taken very little time to prepare. "It's probably no different to what you have for lunch already."
"It is. We can use our magics to conjure up most artificial items but not food and none of us have had to cook for ourselves before," he shrugged, "Kunzite thought he remembered something about cooking from his time as Shin but he didn't. He nearly poisoned us all! We've stuck to using the microwave since then."
Ami laughed out loud at this. It was difficult to imagine the Shitennou attempting carrying out any kind of day-to-day task but she could imagine it going wrong if they did. However, even she had trouble picturing Kunzite trying to do the cooking.
"I can bring food over for you sometimes if you like?" She offered. "And maybe show you how to cook properly."
"Thanks. I think-" he broke off suddenly, a frown crossing his features. Ami followed his gaze and saw that a crowd had gathered by the water fountain a little distance away from where they were sitting.
"What is it?" She asked as Nephrite got to his feet. He was about to reply when a scream cut through the noise of the park. Ami also leapt up as the crowd began to scatter. She inhaled sharply when the gathering dispersed enough for her to see the reason behind the panic. Standing in front of the fountain was a Youma almost exactly as Minako and Mamoru had described. It had a young woman in its grasp and as they watched it discarded her coldly and grabbed a man who was trying to flee. The woman hit the grass and rolled, her neck at an impossible angle.
It was stealing their energy and then killing them.
"Ami, you've got to get out of here," Nephrite's hand on her arm drew her attention back to him. He had already allowed his glamour to disperse; an indicator of what he intended to do.
"You… you can't," Ami gasped, tears stinging at her eyes as Jadeite's wounds flashed before her eyes. "You'll be killed."
"Maybe but I can't just watch this. You should run. I don't want to risk losing you."
"And I don't want to risk losing you!" her fear of before was gone as Ami surged forwards, wrapping her arms tightly around him as her tears spilled onto her cheeks. Nephrite returned her embrace, his lips meeting hers even as the magics took hold of them both. When they finally parted to draw breath, Ami found that she was no longer standing in the park but outside of her apartment block.
"Nephrite…" Ami sobbed as the aura around him began to shimmer with red energy, indicating the teleport that would put him back in terrible danger. "I love you."
"I love you, too," then he was gone and it was all Ami could do to keep herself from falling down. The pain of losing him in the past and the reality that she might again was overwhelming. Not since her release from the Dark Kingdom's control had she felt herself become so emotionally undone and it was minutes before she could get a hold of herself enough to think somewhat clearly.
Her fear and pain aided her flight as she took off racing as fast as she could down Tokyo's busy streets. She had only one destination in mind and as she ran she prayed to Kami that she would get there in time.