Chapter 12: When Dreaming Ends

Wretch, what thou art O might'st thou never know!

- Sophocles' Oedipus Rex

The wind howled through the trees, tearing at clothes and skin. Yami cried out, searching the dark for whatever could be causing the disturbance. Somehow, through the wind and blackness, she noticed Serena and the other scouts raise their henshin, each crying out those direly important words that could save them all.

It was then that she heard the evil laughter that made her blood run cold. It dominated over everything, clearly audible over even the wind. Yami saw out of the corner of her eye that Tuxedo Mask and the Sailor Scouts were looking around frantically for whoever was laughing, but Yami knew. She waited patiently for Hephaestus to show himself.

"Welcome, Princess," that familiar voice rapped out in a sickeningly joyous tone. It was then that Yami's head began throbbing. She heard Serena gasp over to her left and felt a sudden dread grip her heart. The laughter returned again. "You feel it, don't you? The power of the crystal is nothing against my creation."

"Who the hell are you?" Yami screamed, trying to push back the pain behind her forehead.

"Who am I? Dear child, I believe the question you really want answered is: who are you?"

The pain stabbed into her skull like a wedge driven deep by a sledgehammer, right between her eyes. She shrieked, but her cries were suddenly silenced when she heard Serena screaming nearby. "No… Leave her alone!"

All of a sudden, the pain stopped, and Yami heard Serena gasping for breath just meters away. Spinning around to make sure that her friend was all right, she saw Sailor Moon doubled over with a hand over her chest. Slowly, the warrior straightened, a determined look upon her face. Yami breathed a sigh of relief.

"Show yourself!" Raye said forcefully, anger etched clearly on her face.

"Yeah!" Lita took a step forward, her fist raised. "If you're so tough, come down here and fight us!"

"Be calm, daughter of Jove," came Hephaestus's response.

"That's Jupiter to you, punk!"

The laughter again. "I have no interest in you, Jupiter." The word was dripping with distain, which served well to make the green-clad warrior even angrier. "It is your beautiful moon princess I want."

"What do you want with her?" Yami screamed at the faceless voice.

"You should know." Suddenly, a man materialized standing on a thick tree branch high in the air, where he could be sure to look down on his foes. He was dressed in all black, matching his hair. At one side he carried a sheathed sword. On his forehead was the symbol of a crescent moon. "Don't play dumb with me, child. I know you are smarter than that. I would know, wouldn't I?"

"What are you talking about?" Though she struggled to keep her voice under control, the teen knew without a doubt that she was doing a terrible job of it.

"Do you not know yet? I am disappointed in you, Yami."

A chill ran down the teenager's spine. "How do you know my name?" Her voice was quiet, but she knew he could hear her.

"I know everything about you. Unfortunately, you remember nothing about me."

"I know you," she replied quickly. "You're in my dream."

"Dream, dear child? What dream?"

"The one I've been having my entire life! I thought you knew everything about me!"

"No, child. Your entire life has been the dream. I am your reality."

"Cut it out!" Serena shouted. "Why don't you just tell us what the hey you're talking about already, 'cause it's obvious we don't know!"

"Silence, girl!" Hephaestus snapped. "You have been the cause of enough wrongdoing already! Unless you want to drop dead where you are… which I can easily arrange… I suggest you simply exercise a bit of patience for a change."

"Where is the Anomaly Stone?" Amy called up to the figure standing in the tree. "We know that you forged it. How is it that you've been using it against Sailor Moon?"

"The stone has been in your presence all along," he replied carelessly. "You have just been too short-sighted to see it."

"What are you talking about?" Mina cried, getting frustrated along with everyone else. She was answered by a sudden shriek from Yami and a simultaneous cry from Serena. Then both went silent, gasping for breath.

"What the hell are you doing to us?" Yami yelled up at the man.

"Doing? All I'm doing right now is blocking the powers that you retain."

"What?"

"The stone works on its own, child. I do not make it work. Right now I am blocking its powers for your benefit, so that you may be acquitted of your ignorance."

"What do you mean 'that I retain'?"

Hephaestus disappeared from the tree, reappearing right in front of Yami. He placed one finger on her forehead, his dark eyes burning into hers. "Here, my child. The darkness was inside of you all along. You are your friends' enemy."

"No! You liar!"

"I am many things that the world would consider evil. A liar is one thing I am not."

"Who am I?" Yami sobbed. "Just tell me!"

Hephaestus pushed the girl's forehead with his forefinger — just a nudge, but it sent her hurtling backward. She crashed into Lita and Raye, sending all three of them crashing to the ground. "Dammit, tell me who I am!"

"You were created to bring about the downfall of the royal family. You will be the death of your precious Sailor Moon."

"No! That's not true!" Yami screamed, rising defiantly to her feet.

"I already told you I am not a liar. You know I speak only the truth. Why do you refuse to accept it?" An agonized sob escaped Yami's lips. Hephaestus ignored it. "The Anomaly Stone has been inside you all along." She raised a hand to lightly touch her forehead. "Yes. Very good, child."

"But what am I?" Her voice was soft, quite a contrast from moments before.

"As said in Genesis, 'the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.' You are my creation."

"What? No! That's impossible! I know where I come from."

"Where are your parents?" Yami hesitated, and Hephaestus smiled in triumph. "Your past is a lie. Everything you remember is merely an image I created to make you believe you are a normal human being."

Tears began to snake down the girl's face as she felt her world crashing around her. "Then the dreams…"

"The dreams are real. Because I could not entirely erase your real memories, I had you believe they were childhood dreams. You are not of this world, Yami." She felt herself shiver merely contemplating his words, though she knew they were true. They explained everything that had happened to her. They also explained her feelings of isolation as well as her dreams and headaches. Everything he said was indeed the truth.

"Why?" The word was whispered, utterly inaudible over the wind, but Hephaestus heard it clearly.

The man laughed. It was strange — one would expect such a villain's laugh to be a maniacal cackle, but his was not. It was evil nonetheless… with more power to send chills down one's spine than any such cackle. "Why? You already know why. You were the best way to get to the princess. By placing you in this world, you were bound to encounter the warrior Sailor Moon sooner or later. The power of the stone works anywhere in the vicinity of the Silver Imperium Crystal. But I never expected you to befriend the girl. Well done."

Yami could not stop the sobs wracking her body or the tears that poured freely down her face. All this time, she'd been anticipating some sort of danger that she was fated to bring down upon her friends. And all this time, she was the danger she feared. She truly was the enemy, fated to bring about the death of the one person she held most dear. She had become a slave to fate — no, she was born one. No other purpose existed for her. The evil she dreaded was in her own mind.

Lita stepped forward, her eyes burning with hatred. "If you want a fight, then come on and fight us! You won't get to Sailor Moon unless you go through me!"

"That goes for all of us!" Raye piped in, stepping up beside Lita. Amy and Mina quickly joined them, and Darien stood protectively in front of Serena. But Yami knew it was no use.

Hephaestus laughed again. "I do not need to go through you to get to the princess." In emphasis of his words, Yami and Serena both cried out simultaneously. The others gasped, a feeling of utter helplessness washing over them like an icy wave.

The cries stopped again. It was then that Amy realized that they still had time before Hephaestus allowed the power of his evil invention to truly take hold. Taking advantage of the situation, she decided to gather as much information about their enemy as possible. "You're one of the people of the moon?" was her first inquiry. An easy place to start from and work her way forward.

"I am the last of my kind, now that Serenity is a mere human."

"Then you served the royal family in the Silver Millennium?"

"I gave them my service, the likes of which they could find in no other, and in turn they betrayed me. I am here to exact my revenge."

"But Sailor Moon didn't do that," Mina said quickly. "Like you said, she's just a human being. The princess was her past life."

"Sailor Moon, Serenity — they are both the same. I came to avenge the wrongs done me. When I was banished from the moon kingdom, I lost practically all my powers. But I have spent the years drawing dark forces around myself, and now I am more powerful than any of you. My Anomaly Stone will be sufficient to do away with your princess."

"But the Anomaly Stone doesn't kill Sailor Moon," Amy countered.

"It weakens her so that the task of killing her could be fulfilled by a toddler. Given enough time and power, it could kill her, but that should be unnecessary. You cannot hope for your measly powers to compete with my black magics. Princess Serenity will die at my hands, and no act on your part can prevent that. You have your new friend to thank for that." Yami cried out at his words, falling to her knees. "No use wailing, child. Crying is for infants, and you are far too mature for such a thing."

"Hey, you can't just pick on Sailor Moon like this!" Lita vented, pointing an accusing finger at the man's face. "You're just a bully with a few magic tricks!"

"And you're just a child with too much power. Your time will come, Jupiter, but I care nothing for what happens to you. I am here only for Sailor Moon."

"Will everyone stop talking about me like I'm not here?" Serena shouted, startling everyone. "You want me? Come get me! I'm ready to fight you!"

"Do you still not understand, girl? I do not need to fight you."

A subtle throbbing arose in Yami's head, and she immediately pushed it back with all her will. "No! This is about me. I can't let Sailor Moon die for my fault."

"Foolish child." Hephaestus shook his head as if disappointed in her. "This is not about you. It never was. You are merely a tool. You are not of this world or any other. Your one purpose is to serve my will. You are a slave to the power inside of you. Nothing more. Once Sailor Moon is dead, you are quite dispensable. Live out your life as if you were human if that is your wish. Once your purpose is fulfilled, I do not care what happens to you. So long as you do fulfill this one purpose."

Yami shook her head violently. "Iie!"

"You have no choice." With these words, the pain returned. Yami shrieked, pressing her hands against her head. With only one conscious thought, the set determination that her fate was not that which her… creator… described, she turned and ran. Stumbling over her feet, she ran blindly as fast and as far as she could. With a grateful sob, she felt the pain gradually subsiding the farther she got, which meant that Serena would be recovering too. As the pain grew less and less, she began once again to grasp the world around her, allowing her to stumble less and actually maintain a direction.

Eventually, the headache disappeared completely, and Yami collapsed, sobbing — despite the fact that she could barely breathe after her exertion — until she finally passed out.

* * * * *

"Here I will leave you, Princess Serenity," the hissing voice still echoed in the ears of Darien and all the scouts. "Know this — your end draws near, as unstoppable as the winds of a storm." Just moments after the sorcerer had disappeared, his artificial night and the violent wind vanished also. Immediately the sky was once again a joyful blue, the sun shining brightly in the sky.

Frozen in fear, Serena could barely breathe for several long moments before she finally broke down in tears. Darien moved to embrace her as the others attempted to recover from their stunned states. "What are we going to do?" Serena cried. "He's going to kill me and Yami with that thing, and we can't stop him!"

"Get a grip, Sailor Moon!" No one was surprised that it was Raye who was reprimanding her. "There's always a way to victory. We just need to figure this out."

"Guys, we've gotta find Yami," Lita said, concern evident in her features. "She doesn't need to be out there by herself right now." The others nodded their agreement, transforming back into their normal selves before setting off in search of their friend.

* * * * *

Yami could feel every joint and muscle in her body aching. She awoke with a groan, attempting to put together some coherent thought through the pounding in her head. There was a strange, coppery smell in her nostrils. She recognized the smell — blood. Reaching up, she found a stream of drying blood that had run down from her nose.

"Yami!" The teen shook her head to clear her vision and looked up at her friends, who were all gathering above her.

Rocketing to her feet, Yami felt a sudden wave of dizziness and immediately fell back to her knees. "Wha… what are you doing here? Get away from me!" She jumped up again and tried to run, but instead she fell again with a cry, feeling the impact of pavement against her hands as they broke her fall.

"No, wait!" Serena rushed to her side, reaching out to put a hand on her friend's shoulder. "We can help you. Please, together we can work everything out…."

"Iie!" Yami shook her head, pulling away. "You don't understand…. I…" She raised a hand to touch her forehead, and immediately her shaky composition broke down into wracking sobs.

"Look, her nose was bleeding." Amy knelt down in front of the sandy-haired teen. "It has to be from whatever the Anomaly Stone was doing inside her head. Yami… your hands, knees, and feet are all cut up, too. That must have been quite a run you had."

"So the Anomaly Stone was in your head the entire time?" Mina shook her head, trying to comprehend the idea.

"The dreams…" Raye said solemnly. "I knew there was something wrong about the dreams. And they weren't dreams at all."

"That's enough, you guys!" Lita rapped firmly. "This isn't the time or place. Come on, Yami. Let's get home. We'll work through all this shit later." Slowly, Yami nodded her head and allowed Serena and Lita to support her as she stood and began walking unsteadily in the direction of Lita's apartment.