Here's the third installment. Hope everyone enjoys it.
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon and other rights belong to Takeuchi Naoko and other incorporated companies.
"This is the first time we've seen each other in such a calm setting for a while, isn't it, Tsukino-san?"
"Yeah, life sucks lately."
The two, Aino Minako and Tsukino Usagi, sat across from each other drinking their preferred beverages in a small café. Two and a half weeks had passed since the two had last seen each other, due to the count of youma rising across the season and Usagi having been grounded for her dismal appearance. With being so busy, neither had been able to take the time to scout out the other senshi, but that would change soon enough. Usagi's parents had let up on her grounding sentence and she was now free to roam the city unrestrained, and as the wave of youma was slowing down, Minako was also free to do a little reconnaissance.
Usagi set down her glass softly on the table, and turned her head to look out the large glass window to her right. Sinking back into her booth, she flicked her gaze over at Minako again.
"We have two senshi we can go scout out right now," she said, reaching into her school bag and pulling out two photos.
Sliding them over so Minako could see, Usagi rested her chin gently on her upraised hands. Speaking in a much lower voice, "The one on the left is Sailor Mercury, and the one on the right would be Sailor Mars. The faster we get them on our side, the faster we can take care of our newest issue: Jadeite."
She and Luna had covered a few theories as to why the Dark Kingdom soldier had appeared in that first battle. One, they presumed, was that this dimension was one where the generals actively participated in their energy capturing schemes, and that it was only natural that he had been there. Another idea dealt with idea of the Dark Kingdom no longer underestimating the power of the Sailor Senshi, thus the participation of the generals and the high increase of youma. Yet another idea concerned the Dark Kingdom having far less energy to work with at the beginning, and so they were trying that much harder to look for both energy and the ginzuishou. The last idea was negotiable on both Usagi and Luna's parts, but that the Dark Kingdom wanted the Sailor Senshi out of the picture quickly. However, the Lunar couple was wary of this last thought because were that actually the case, the Dark Kingdom would have been actively hunting each senshi down, which was far from actuality.
Minako focused her sky-blue eyes heavily on the two photos, frowning ever so softly. "What's the possibility of us getting both of them right now?"
"Sailor Mars, for one, deals mostly with spiritual phenomena. She attends the T*A Private Girls Academy, and lives over at the Hikawa Shrine."
"She lives there?"
"She's a miko for the shrine, and helps out her grandfather who's the priest of the shrine. She's got a fiery personality and doesn't tolerate much stupidity, so watch your words in front of her. Since she has spiritual powers, she can also sense out the Dark Kingdom youma a lot easier than us as well."
Usagi watched as Minako switched her attention over to the other picture and picked it up for a closer inspection. The red-bowed blonde set the photo down and looked back up at Usagi.
"What about Sailor Mercury? How do we find her?"
"Sailor Mercury is a genius, in more ways than one. She'll have many gadgets in her arsenal that will help pinpoint out various youma. She can help us locate their weak points a lot easier, and there will be a lot less wear-and-tear with her on our team. As for how we find her, she just transferred into my school and I know for a fact she has cram school today. It will start pretty soon, so we should go for her first."
"All right then! I'm looking forward to getting a new member on our team!"
"Prepare yourself," Usagi warned as she stood up. "Their trust won't come easily."
Minako frowned slightly and walked behind Usagi as they went up to the cashier to pay for their drinks and then exit the café. Moving forward to walk beside the meatball-haired blonde, she maintained the same pace as they walked down the street, a question buzzing around in her head all the while. Turning to look over at Usagi, she asked,
"How do you know so much about these girls, Tsukino-san? It's almost as if you've met and spoken to them personally."
Usagi caught her stumble just in time and took in a deep breath. "Oh, well, no…to be a good senshi, you have to scout out possible additions to the team properly, you know."
"Oh that's true," the other blonde agreed with a smile on her face. "That's how you found me, isn't it? I'm sorry about asking so much, but your insight is really amazing, Tsukino-san. I hope to be as good as you in the future!"
"Uh…yeah. Sure," Usagi choked out, making sure not to make eye-contact with her companion.
Who on earth was she to talk so highly about the duties of a Sailor Senshi? The only reason she knew anything was because Luna had lectured her over and over about it. She had also forgotten how abnormally perceptive the Senshi of Venus was – she was a senshi for a good reason, after all. Working with the only other blonde over the past few weeks had been an enriching experience for Usagi, because she had never really had the chance to work one-on-one with the other girl. Usagi also found out that her relationship with Minako this time around was entirely different as opposed to the first time the two had met. As she recalled it, she had been the one to have adored Sailor Venus with a passion, and this time, Minako was the one adoring her. Not that Usagi hadn't been respected before, – she definitely had – but the respect Minako was paying her now was a bit much for her to take.
That was another thing that bothered her, Usagi realized. The fact that Minako felt the need to call her by her last name and with a suffix was quite bothersome. It placed them almost in a senior and junior relationship, which they most definitely weren't. Well, truth be told, Usagi was senior to this particular Minako in experience and ability, but at this point, they were still the same age. The only real difference was the fact Usagi had already dealt with everything before. Usagi had asked her teammate to just call her by her first name, but that had ended up with Minako somewhat blatantly ignoring her pleas. This was just one of the peculiarities Usagi was going to have to deal with, she supposed.
I miss the close friendship I used to have with Minako…
The two were closing in on the cram school Usagi knew her friend was attending. Perhaps she couldn't remember the simplest details concerning what youma had been where and when they'd been there, but she could definitely remember how she had met all of her friends. When Usagi and Minako approached the school, they were happily surprised to see the two Lunar cats waiting loyally for them. Luna frowned up at Usagi, her tail flicking in irritation.
"What took you so long? The youma has already unveiled itself."
Usagi frowned slightly and glared over at the school. "I see. That would explain the radiating dark energy coming from the school."
"Sailor Mercury's in there, right?" Minako said, her expression serious. "Let's go take care of that youma, Tsukino-san, and help her out."
Usagi sighed softly at the use of her last name once more, but nodded slightly. "You're right – there's no time left."
The two blondes looked at one another, nodded curtly, and were about to run into the building when Luna shouted, "Wait, Usagi! The pen, you forgot the pen!"
Usagi turned to look at Luna, and gave a shaky smile. "Oh, yeah, I guess we'll be needing that, huh? Sorry about that Luna," she said, apologizing as she bent over to pick up the transformation pen for Sailor Mercury. "We'll take care of that youma in a jiffy."
Luna sighed softly as the two girls ran into the building and out of sight. Looking over at Artemis, she shook her head. "I honestly don't know what to do with that girl."
"At least she's more mentally there than Minako," Artemis stated with a grin on his face. "She's really mature for her age. I wish Minako could think ahead as far as Usagi seems able to. Has she always been this astute?"
"Astute?" Luna asked, her eyebrow twitching from her incredulousness. "Are we talking about the same girl here, Artemis?"
"Well, sure," he responded, slightly confused. "Her battle techniques are dead-on. Plus she always gives Minako inspiring advice, not to mention that she has very good self-control. Quite admirable."
Luna stared at him, mouth agape as he said everything, and slapped her paw to her face when he finished. "Well, I suppose all those years had to do something for her," she deadpanned, eyes narrowed as she stared at the school.
"Uh," Artemis started hesitantly, "did I miss something?"
Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus burst into a room at the top of the stairs, each one glancing around at all the students lying on the floor, their energy having already been stolen. Sailor Moon looked around the room, aghast at how many people had been hurt because of their tardiness. Sailor Venus on the other hand glared at the youma who held up a young girl with dark turquoise-blue hair. The youma appeared to be having trouble gathering energy from the girl.
"What is this!" the youma cried out indignantly. "But you have your disk! I should be able to take energy from you like taking candy from a baby!"
Sailor Moon gritted her teeth as she glared over at the youma as well. Spinning the transformation stick in her hands, she chuckled, gaining the youma's full attention.
"Something funny, ball-head?"
"It's Sailor Moon to you, freak," she retorted coldly, clenching her fist over the pen hard before handing it over to Sailor Venus. "And trust me, the only funny thing here is how stupid you must be. Obviously if you can't take her energy, there must be something wrong."
On her last word, she and Sailor Venus shifted into action, with Sailor Moon heading straight for the youma and Sailor Venus targeting the other senshi-to-be. Sailor Moon's foot connected strongly against the youma's shoulder, sending the monster skidding back a few feet. The youma snarled at the senshi of the moon, who in turn clenched her first tightly.
"You'll pay for your wrong deeds," Sailor Moon promised icily, her azure-blue eyes freezing.
The youma smirked, its hideous mouth curling up and around. "What, are you going to take care of me, fancy pants?"
"That's right," came the icy remark. "In the name of justice, I will cause you suffering like none other."
Sailor Moon jumped forward with a quick high kick, and slammed her foot into the side of the youma's face, sending it flying across the room and into the back wall. Reaching up to get her tiara, she stiffened when she sensed a rise in the amount of dark energy within the area. Turning around, Sailor Moon gasped slightly when she saw two more youma standing right next to the Dark Kingdom General Jadeite. Jadeite gave a chilling laugh, and Sailor Moon turned to face him fully, saving part of her attention on the slowly rising youma behind her.
"What are you doing here?" she grunted out, flicking her attention back and forth behind and in front of herself. "I don't remember calling for more of the Dumb Kroony Squad."
"Oh, you're a funny girl," Jadeite mocked. "You've been ruining my plans for weeks now. Queen Beryl is starting to think me unsightly."
"If it helps, I sure think you're unsightly."
Jadeite's smirk quickly shifted into a frown as he glowered at Sailor Moon, who for the most part ignored him. He grew even more angry as he saw what she had turned her attention towards: a new sailor senshi alongside of the other brat, Sailor Venus.
"Another one!" he growled out, gritting his teeth. "Where do you things come from, the dirt?"
Sailor Moon shifted her attention back towards Jadeite, grinning. "Sounds like a personal problem to me!"
She noticed the youma behind her start to move and she quickly jumped out of the way and over towards her team. Sailor Moon slid over towards Sailor Venus and Sailor Mercury, commending Sailor Venus for her quick actions with a small nod and smile. Sailor Venus beamed when she was silently praised while Sailor Mercury looked on with a hint of confusion and bewilderment. Sailor Moon smiled at the latter as well.
"Don't worry, Sailor Mercury," she said, drawing the other girl's attention. "We're in this together. We'll talk more later but right now, we have to take care of these monsters. Do you mind using your Shabon Spray for us? Just call out the words."
Sailor Mercury slowly turned her attention back to look at the youma and Jadeite, and she nodded hesitantly. Gathering energy into her hands, she yelled out, "Shabon Spray!"
Sailor Venus looked around in wonder as the room grew more and more foggy, hiding both their presences and the youmas' as well. Sailor Moon, on the other hand, ignored the change in atmosphere and continued staring pointedly at where she knew Jadeite was standing. She flicked her hand out to grab her scepter and when nothing materialized in her hand, she blankly looked at her hand and then suddenly felt stupid when she realized where she was again.
I'll just have to do this the hard way, she thought to herself, feeling somewhat annoyed at her predicament. Quickly gesturing for Sailor Venus to guide Sailor Mercury and fight against the youma, she faced forward again, her eyes a piercing blue. Then without another moment's thought, Sailor Moon dashed forward towards Jadeite, or where she had assumed him to be. When she raced forward and threw her leg out to kick at him, Sailor Moon stumbled slightly as she slid through nothingness. A cackle from behind her alerted Sailor Moon to his new location, and she quickly crossed her arms over her chest before Jadeite's fist slammed into her. The power of the punch sent her down to the ground hard, the wind knocked out of her.
Damn it, was all she could think when she realized Mercury's Shabon Spray was hindering her just as much as the enemy. I can't see a damned thing!
A hard kick to her torso threw her across the room and crashing into a wall. Pain pulsed through Sailor Moon's head and body as clutched her arms around her stomach. Her azure-blue eyes widened imperceptively, and a series of coughs racked her body. By this time, the mist had finally dissipated and she could now see where the Dark Kingdom general was standing, as well as the three youma fighting the other two senshi across the room. She spared them the smallest of glances, and realized they needed a bit of her help. However, there was nothing she could to help them until she was rid of the nuisance right in front of her. Sailor Moon took in a gulp of air as she slowly stood up, glaring at Jadeite.
"Why are you here?" she heaved out, her voice a little hoarse. "What, no faith in your hired help?"
"None whatsoever, now that you guys are sticking your little noses into everything," Jadeite sneered. "Really, Sailor Moon, do you things just pop out of the dirt and say hi to the new world?"
"Your joke is a little stale now," Sailor Moon retorted, flicking her hand in front of her as she continued glaring, before realizing what she had done yet again.
She instead pointed her finger vehemently at Jadeite, eyes almost boring through him. "How about we make this quick, Jadeite? I kick your butt and you run home with your tail between your legs and leave the Earth alone. How's that?"
"I'm all for hastiness, Sailor Moon, but that will not be taking place anytime soon."
Just as he got the last word out of his mouth, Jadeite sped forwards towards her, fist wrenched back before he sent it flying at her face. She ducked and swirled around him, throwing up a high kick towards his own face. Jadeite ducked it and began throwing a series of punches and kicks at her. Using the experience in fighting she had received from sparring against Sailor Jupiter in her time period, Sailor Moon pushed herself back quickly to make room and slowly started maneuvering through all the blows. Her eyes flicked up and down and from side to side as her hands raced to block or guide away his attacks. It took her a while, but she was finally able to smoothly flow from block to block and it was only a few seconds later that she found an opening and with a burst of energy, slammed an open palm into Jadeite's chest before following up with tight spin and a powerful kick to the exact same place.
The blow sent Jadeite skidding back, and Sailor Moon rushed to close in the gap, jump up, and slam both of her heels into Jadeite's chest in an attack that sent him flying back into the wall. The added force from her kick sent her propelling back as well, and she arced her back to fall into a handstand and flip back up and around. Sailor Moon landed in a crouch, her pulse erratic as she tried to breathe again. Seeing Jadeite having trouble rising again, she quickly reached for her tiara, sped around to face towards one of the youma fighting Sailor Mercury and let the tiara fly like a discus.
The youma cried out as it burst into ashes, causing Sailor Mercury to also cry out in surprise. Sailor Moon then fell down to the ground to miss Jadeite's jump kick, spun around to lie on her back and pushed herself high up from the ground to land on her feet, only barely missing another of Jadeite's hard kicks to the floor where she had just been laying. A lightning strike of pain seared through her body, and the Senshi of the Moon winced slightly. Her current body wasn't used to so many acrobatics; she would have to remember that.
Jadeite went at Sailor Moon again, sending volley after volley of punches and kicks, only for her to evade the first few and be slammed by the rest when another burst of pain ran through her. The attacks threw her back against the window glass, forcing her to look back at it and realize what would happen were she to fall out. Jadeite rushed at her again, throwing forward a hard punch. Sailor Moon ducked under and flipped up and around, watching as Jadeite's fist slammed through the window glass, shattering it. He turned back slowly to growl at her and run for her again. He threw a kick at her again and she made sure to catch it this time, gripping his leg tightly.
"Let me go, you twit!"
"Everyone loves a whiner," she remarked sarcastically, pulling on his leg around as she spun in place.
Grunting slightly, Sailor Moon felt her body pull hard as she worked against his weight to spin him around in a circle. Jadeite flailed wildly as she suddenly stopped, letting the centrifugal force in his body send him flying out the window. Knowing he would definitely be back, Sailor Moon turned sharply, grabbing her renewed tiara and sending it flying at the very last youma. Her vision spun wildly as she slowly realized Sailor Venus must have taken care of one on her own. Her body trembled from lack of air and she sank to the ground as Sailor Venus and Sailor Mercury rushed up to her.
"Where's Jadeite?" asked Sailor Venus quickly, her sky-blue eyes darting back and forth. She looked back at a fallen Sailor Moon, the other leading senshi having completely passed out. Looking back over at Sailor Mercury, she then glanced back at the now untransformed Tsukino Usagi, realizing she was the one who would have to deliver orders now.
"Jadeite's gone," she began slowly, "and Tsukino-san's out of commission. We should get ourselves out of here while we have the chance. We're at a disadvantage if he comes back again."
"I agree," Sailor Mercury concurred, nodding her head slightly. "He could use Tsukino-san to get to us. My place isn't too far from here – let's take her and head there."
"Sounds good to me," Sailor Venus said while nodding. She squatted down to gather Usagi on her back, with Sailor Mercury helping the whole way. As soon as Usagi was mounted on Sailor Venus's back, both senshi jumped onto the window pane and leapt out of sight.
Approximately an hour later found Minako and the blue-haired girl resting in the latter's room, steadily watching Usagi for any changes in her status. Minako frowned and sat back in her chair, head tilted slightly to the side. She looked over at the other girl, realizing she really didn't know anything about the woman aside from her being a Sailor Senshi as well. Minako gave the other girl a small smile.
"Everything was so rushed, we never got a chance to really introduce ourselves. My name is Aino Minako – I'm a second-year at Shiba-Kouen Junior High. It's great to meet another senshi."
The other girl peered back at her softly, before showing a small smile of her own. "It's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Mizuno Ami, and I just transferred into Azabu-Juuban junior high. This is all a bit much for me."
"Hey, don't sweat it," Minako said joyfully. "I'm sure you'll be fine with Tsukino-san there to help you out."
Ami glanced back over at the sleeping figure in her bed, a troubled expression showing up on her face. The other blonde looked at her new companion with a tinge of worry. The former heaved out a slight sigh, turning her attention back once more to Minako.
"Tsukino-san…is she a good person?"
The question caught Minako off-guard, and she stared blankly back at the other girl. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I heard a few rumors at school…she doesn't seem to take many things seriously, it seems like. But it also seems like you pay her a lot of reverence…"
"I haven't known her for long," Minako started off slowly, choosing her words carefully, "but I don't think she's a bad person. On the contrary, she seems to be someone who really cares for others. I look up to her because she's always trying her hardest and really, really wants to set things right. Plus, she's just amazing."
"How so?" Ami asked, genuinely interested. "I heard she doesn't pay attention much in class, and that she doesn't seem to care much for her studies."
"No way!" Minako exclaimed in an outburst before clapping a hand over her own mouth. She gave the sleeping Usagi a quick glance before scooting closer to Ami, whispering,
"She's really, really smart! We've studied together, and she finishes her homework in like ten minutes like it's nothing! Math, history, geography, science…well, math and science take her a bit longer, but she does them with no problems whatsoever. It's like she doesn't have to apply any effort whatsoever! And get this," Minako continued, spewing out all her information in a rush, "she says she's not 'concerned' at all about what high school she's going to get into! She's amazing!"
Ami blinked a few times, her opinion of Usagi rising with each word. "She's practically a genius then. I wonder if she would be willing to help me out with a few things."
"I bet she would! She's really nice – don't listen to what those rumors say. I don't think she wants to show who she really is to her classmates."
"Well, that is amazing then," Ami agreed with a slight smile. "I never would have guessed. Is there anything else I should know, or perhaps I should ask her myself?"
Minako nodded gently. "Well, I don't know. Like I said, I've only known her for a few weeks or so, but I don't think she's a bad person. I really look up to her because of her ability and the silent strength she has. Her abilities as both a person and a senshi are unbelievable, and she's a great leader, or so I'd like to believe."
"A leader…so, are there more of these 'senshi' out there? What is a senshi exactly? What are we fighting against?"
The blonde let out a soft sigh, her eyes narrowed as she looked down at the floor. "Senshi are warriors who fight for justice and the good of all creatures on Earth. We fight for the sole purpose of having a future to look forward to and to rid the Earth and universe of the horrible evil known as the Dark Kingdom. I don't know much myself – Tsukino-san knows far more, I think. That's part of the reason I follow behind her. There are other reasons," Minako said remorsefully, "but I am too ashamed to say them out loud. To me, she's my leader, and that's all there is to it."
"Well," Ami started off softly, "I'll save my impression of her for a later time until I get a better understanding of who she is."
"Sounds like a good plan," responded Minako with a slight nod.
"It seems like I may have to ask her about our enemy for greater details, but…I have one more question."
Ami peered back behind them at the two cats laying down on the floor, her expression uneasy. Minako looked back curiously as well, not seeing anything particularly of interest. Pointing down at the two cats, Ami asked,
"Are those two cats really listening to us? It's like they understand everything we say. And I'm not supposed to have cats in here since it's a high-rise apartment…"
Minako blinked once, twice, and then let out a few small giggles. "Yeah, those two cats are the smartest you'll ever, ever meet! The black one on the right is Luna, and she looks after Tsukino-san especially, and the white one's my cat, who's named Artemis. Don't worry if they talk too much – you'll learn to ignore them after a while."
"Well, I'm not really used to cats talking at all, actually…"
"You're not the only one!" Minako jubilantly stated. "I remember when Artemis came up to me – I was totally freaked! But anyway, you'll get used to them, don't worry."
Artemis frowned slightly, turning his annoyed gaze over to Luna. "It's not like we're zoo animals."
"Well, I'm not sure I would take to talking cats immediately either, Artemis," Luna chastised. "Get over it."
"Yeah, but she doesn't have to make us seem so foreign!"
"We talk and have crescent moons on our foreheads. How much more foreign do you think we can get?"
Ami continued to stare at them, a thoughtful frown on her face. She turned to look back at Usagi, her expression slightly troubled. The other three turned their gaze back to Usagi as well.
"When do you think she'll wake up?" Ami murmured aloud, shifting in her seat slightly.
She peered down at the floor curiously when she heard Luna pad across the floor, and watched the black cat jump up onto the bed. Luna looked down at her charge, tail flicking back and forth to show her uneasiness about the situation.
"It's hard to say," Luna began softly, training her eyes on Usagi face. "She's been run fairly ragged over the past couple of weeks. The youma attacks have been taking their toll on her."
Minako and Artemis gave Luna their full attention when she said this. Minako's eyes narrowed slightly, and she looked back down at Usagi.
"How can that be?" Minako asked softly, and almost in an accusatory fashion. "I'm perfectly fine, so why is she suffering so much more than I am?"
"Emergencies happen, Minako," Luna explained, heaving out a heavy sigh. "We can't always notify you when there's a youma present, and since you haven't developed your powers enough yet to sense youma at any given notice, Usagi has to fight them on her own."
"What?" Minako exclaimed, her eyes wide with disbelief. "She's been fighting the Dark Kingdom without calling me? She could've sent you over or called my house or…!"
Luna frowned at the blonde. "Are you listening to yourself, or you just blabbing out of some certain need? There, was, no, time. For every second she would have taken to call you or for me to run over and get you, another person would have lost an ample amount of energy. By the time you would have arrived, there would not have been any battle to actually fight, and the Dark Kingdom would've gained an undue amount of energy to further their evil goals."
Minako gaped at the cat, trying to work her mouth but unable to force any words out. As she processed this information, her expression darkened more and more, and she rose up from her seat to start pacing. Ami watched her pace, trying to grasp an understanding of what was currently going on.
"So, to summarize everything up," she began, looking instead at Luna. "Tsukino-san has been fighting battles on her own without assistance because it would take too long for Aino-san to arrive at the scene, right?"
Luna frowned over at Ami. "Yes, that about sums it up."
"Perhaps there's a device we could make to inform each other of an attack that will save time," Ami said, thinking rapidly. "A type of communicator, maybe. At least then, we could inform the others while we're on our way to the scene of the crime."
"That's fine," replied Luna, "and I will supply all of you with one. But that won't help when we're in a situation where there are several youma across the city. With only three senshi, you'll have to spread yourselves thin, and then we'll be back at square one."
"Is there any way to regroup for each battle instead of fighting one-on-one?"
"Certainly, but then it comes back to the matter of not having enough time to work around everything. By the time everyone regroups to fight another monster and then regroups yet again to fight a different monster, most of the monsters will be gone, having already taken all the energy they needed."
Minako clenched her fist tightly, her knuckles cracking softly as she did. She turned around to look at Usagi, her mouth turned into a deep frown. Ami, Artemis, and Luna looked over at her, frowning when they saw her expression.
"That just means," Minako said, closing her eyes as took in a breath, "we'll have to find the next sailor senshi, now."
"The next one?" Ami echoed, eyes wide. "How many of us are there?"
"I don't know for sure," Minako answered, her voice deeper than usual. "But we should go try to find Sailor Mars soon. Tsukino-san said she was at the Hikawa Shrine, so we should look there first. The faster we can get her, the better."
Artemis looked up at Luna, unsure of how to interject. He glanced back at Minako.
"Sure, that's a good idea, but what are you going to do? March up to her on her home territory and announce that she's a sailor senshi? Firstly, I doubt she'd believe you anyway, and secondly, you run the risk of making her a target. Even if she doesn't initially believe you, she may take some stupid measures to see if the story is true."
"Well, what are we supposed to do then, Artemis?" Minako shot back, fire in her eyes. "We can't let Tsukino-san keep doing this to herself! She'll kill herself if we keep this up!"
Artemis and Luna looked at one another, each wondering what the best action to take was. Luna turned her head to peer at the sleeping Usagi once again, her mind troubled. The only thing we can do is wait for Usagi-chan to wake up. She'll know how to deal with Rei, and then I can talk to her about setting up some kind of group training session. It's early, but that's the best we can do at the moment.
"Well, she's not going to wake up anytime soon," Luna started off, facing the group once again. "So we had better make good use of this time. You two have homework to do, don't you?"
Minako stared at Luna, her mouth agape, and even Ami couldn't help but look a little taken aback. For the second time that night, Minako was made speechless.
"H-homework?" she barely managed to muster out. "She's lying over there half-dead and you want us to work on homework?"
"She's been in worse situations before. She just needs rest," Luna assured the now near-hyperventilating blonde. "And the fact stands that you still have school to attend tomorrow."
"Homework?" came the bewildered question once again. "Luna, are you out of your mind?"
"Look," the black cat snapped, her patience finally dwindling. "You can either stand here and gawk all night, worrying up a storm, or you can do something useful that may actually prove to help you in the future! Do you think you're the only one worried about Usagi? We're all worried about her, but there is nothing that can be done right now!"
Minako glared at Luna, her teeth grinding together. "I can't work on homework when she's like that! It would be better if I just went out and took down some youma!"
"You do that, and you'll be the next one down, and then only Ami will be left to fight!" Luna forced out tightly. "She only became a senshi today, so she has no experience working in the field at all! Usagi is far more advanced than you are, and look how she ended up! If you really, really want to do any good, you will go work on your homework and quit worrying about this!"
"End of discussion!" the black cat barked out. "I won't hear any more of your nonsense!"
Minako, miffed at Luna's sudden adamancy, ground her teeth together and stalked out of the room, her hair billowing behind her. Ami watched her go, took one look at Luna, and decided it would be best for her to leave the room as well. As soon as the two teenagers left the room, Artemis frowned over at Luna, who had fallen down on the bed, her energy spent.
"Luna, weren't you a little too hard on her? She's just worried about Usagi."
"Artemis, don't you think I know that?" Luna sighed out softly. "But Usagi can sense things even while she's sleeping. It wouldn't do her any good to feel their constant worry for her."
The white cat, surprised at this turn of events, said, "She's that advanced? Luna, just how long has she been a senshi?"
"She's just a special case, Artemis. But come on. We should go out there to make sure neither of them do anything stupid."
"If you say so, Luna…"
With one last glance back at her charge, Luna padded out of the room with Artemis in tow.
Usagi walked across a barren land in the clothes she had been wearing before the time-travel, broken marble pillars lying every which way and dust sweeping across the ground with a undetectable wind. Everywhere she looked, there was desolation and destruction. What may have been a city or land filled with bustling life before was nothing more than ruin and bleakness. For some reason, it tore at her heart strings to see such emptiness and utter lifelessness. Glancing down at the ground, she picked up a small glittering orb, turning it over in her hand. It was a piece of jewelry from someone who had lived there long before, perhaps there to show there had indeed been people living there at one point. Then, as soon as she was about to set it back down, the orb piled into dust, flowing away with the breeze. The young blonde looked up as the dust flew away, her emotions running wild just from seeing that little piece of jewelry disappear like it had never existed.
She walked further into the ruins, not seeing anything that might have shown where she was. Whatever had happened to the area had happened long, long before as even the strong pillars were starting to break down. Usagi kicked a stone across the clearing, wrapping her arms around her as a shiver ran down her spine. Hearing a soft sound from behind her, she quickly turned her head to see what had happened when a strong wind blew past her, sending her golden tresses of hair flying. Closing her eyes because of how strong it gusted, she gritted her teeth. When the wind began to blow more and more violently, Usagi ground her heels into the dusty dirt as she slid back inch by inch. Then, almost as quickly as it had begun, the wind stopped.
When she opened her eyes again a few seconds later, she was standing in the middle of garden lush with vegetation and fountains of water galore. Usagi let out a soft gasp as she stepped back away from the now very much alive environment. She looked from side to side, trying to figure out what had happened to the barren land from before. Had she taken yet another time travel trip into the past? How far in the past was she? Where was she? Usagi slowly turned around to gape up from afar at a city leading up to a giant palace, with activity galore everywhere.
"What?" she whispered. "Are you kidding me? This cannot be the Moon Kingdom…there's no way! What's going on here?"
Usagi stared up for a little while longer, unable to believe what she was seeing. She looked down at herself to see she was still wearing her same Earthen clothes, which confused her even more. If she was in the Moon Kingdom, then why wasn't she dressed as Princess Serenity?
"This doesn't make sense," she breathed out, looking back up at the palace. "But, I have a feeling I'll get all the answers I need up there."
Her mind made up, Usagi pushed forward from where she stood, up into the large city that resided behind the palace itself. She took note of the multitudes of villagers running about, each merrily walking and chatting as fireworks boomed high in the sky. Several of them stared at her and her clothing as she passed by, though she couldn't exactly blame them. Her time period was a thousand years in the future – she no longer belonged in this one. She had to admit though, after being stared at for another full twenty minutes as she was still making her way through the city, that the staring was kind of annoying.
"It's like when a foreigner comes to Japan, all we ever do is stare," she muttered. "Maybe I should stop doing that if this is what it feels like for them."
Usagi finally reached the perimeter of the city, coming up to meet two large, iron gates, open to the public. Looking high up towards the top of the gates, she couldn't help but let out a small whistle of appreciation. "Why didn't Queen Serenity show me the scenic route before? What a view."
Honestly, she hadn't thought it would be so easy to infiltrate the palace, but perhaps Queen Beryl hadn't taken over the Earth just yet. If so, then there was reason for the Moon Kingdom to be jubilant, she supposed. Well, it wasn't as if Usagi was going to spoil the news – she wasn't even sure if it was possible to do so.
She climbed some steps leading from the gates up towards the main palace, and looked back for one last peek at the village, only to notice the giant gates were now closed. Astonishment flew through her mind as she stared at the locked iron gates that looked as if they had not been opened for a long while. Usagi took a step back, and another, and then one more after another until she had backed up all the way into a main hall within the palace.
While she was certainly a little freaked out about the gate thing, Usagi had a task to accomplish. She looked down the main corridor leading down to the grand entrance and staircase, she supposed. As she walked, Usagi looked at each detail of the corridor, taking in everything that she could. This was her past after all.
After about five minutes more of walking down the long corridor past expensive paintings, potted plants, and other miscellaneous, rich details, Usagi finally reached a set of large, oak wood doors, that seemed to extend up and up towards the heavens themselves – they were so large. Placing her small, right hand against the door's surface, she closed her eyes, reaching deep within herself for the strength to face whatever was behind the door. What would she see? A group of happily partying people? Her mother? Luna?
Usagi slowly pushed open the door, somewhat surprised that it slid open so effortlessly. She pushed it open wider, quickly shutting her eyes to shield them from a piercing bright, white light. She raised her arms to cover her face as the light cascaded over her, like rays from the brightest sun ever thought possible. The young blonde gritted her teeth against the brightness of the light, finding herself almost blinded even with all the precautions she'd taken to protect herself. As soon as the light faded away, she slowly opened her azure-blue eyes – it was those same eyes that widened as soon they took in the view around her.
Again, she stood in the middle of a barren wasteland, though this time, something was a bit different. Usagi's eyes roamed back and forth for the beautiful palace and city she had just made her way through, but all she could see was destruction around her. She could tell this wasn't exactly like the first wasteland she had been in though, as all the destruction this time seemed almost…recent. She was stunned – all the fountains, the lush vegetation, the beauty that could not even be spoken of without gasping in awe, all of it was gone, replaced with the ruins of a collapsed, ancient city. Usagi looked all around her once again, and looked up high into the sky, but she couldn't even see anything but darkness – not even the Earth nor the sun shone up in the sky; it was just complete nothingness.
Her eyes roaming all around, she noticed a solitary figure in the distance. Usagi took one step forward, and then another, and another, until she was running over towards the only other person alive in those barren ruins. As her footsteps clamored against the cold stone she ran across, Usagi saw the figure turn around and gaze back at her, eyes glinting with a touch of mysteriousness. She slowed down her approach, her own azure-blue eyes widening as she made eye-contact with none other than…
Tsukino Usagi looked into the face of her own counterpart, Princess Serenity, Princess of the Moon. Her eyes wide in shock, Usagi could do nothing but stare at the princess, mouth slightly agape. Princess Serenity turned around to face the other blonde fully, her eyes wise and her countenance showing off a great maturity.
"How can this be?" Usagi whispered, desperately trying to figure out what was going on. "The ruins, then the lively palace…then you…"
Princess Serenity frowned slightly, her eyes downcast. "Things are not as they should be."
Gee, you think? Usagi wanted to remark sarcastically, but she held her tongue. "How can we be in the same place at the same time? Aren't we the same person?"
"Well, yes," Princess Serenity murmured, "and no. The proof lies in this."
She grasped the moon wand in her fist, and held it up for Usagi to see. The ginzuishou twinkled brightly in Princess Serenity's hand as she held it. Princess Serenity looked up at Usagi, gesturing gently for the other woman to take the stick. Usagi stared at the moon wand blankly, but reached out to take it from the princess's hand. The ginzuishou glittered brightly, sending out bright, white rays of light in waves. Usagi frowned, not understanding what she was holding the moon wand for. She looked back over at Princess Serenity, who shook her head and merely kept gazing at the crystal. Very confused now, Usagi looked back at the crystal again, and frowned when she noticed the pulsing starting to increase. The ginzuishou's pulsing fluctuated slightly, its waves of light ebbing away before it let out a monstrous wave of light, exploded with a multitude of small crystal shards flying in every which direction.
Usagi and Princess Serenity covered their faces quickly to protect themselves against the explosion, each one letting out a small cry of surprise. Trembling slightly from what she had just witnessed, Usagi could only watch as Princess Serenity silently reached down to pick up the wand. About to ask what had just happened, Usagi's words died at her lips as she saw all the shards of the crystal slowly start to float back and begin reforming the ginzuishou. Within half a minute, the ginzuishou was back to its original form, and Princess Serenity was regarding it with a unfathomable expression.
"What…" Usagi started, her voice shaking slightly.
Princess Serenity fastened upon Usagi an expression of utter seriousness. "This," she said slowly, "is the answer to the question you desired. You, while being a part of this world in all and complete reality, are only theoretically here. Technically, you do not belong. You are but an entity that neither exists nor is fully recognized."
"An entity…? But–"
"You are Tsukino Usagi," Princess Serenity forced out in a clear voice, "but yet, you are not. You are a soul without a place. You were sent here for a reason, but what reason, I know not. Do not ask me."
Usagi swallowed, feeling as if her world was shifting slightly with this new information. Princess Serenity placed a hand on the other young woman's shoulder, making a small, troubled smile.
"Do not allow yourself to be led astray. The ginzuishou recognizes you as its master, but also understands you no longer have any right to hold it…at least not in this dimension. I cannot help you any further. You must figure out the rest on your own. I'm sorry."
Usagi slowly opened her eyes and took in a deep breath as she walked down the street with Minako and Ami in tow. She had woken up about an hour earlier after experiencing a dream that left her in a somewhat sour mood. Feeling restless, she had decided to go try to recruit Sailor Mars onto their team, feeling that a meeting with the fiery priestess might do her some good. The others, having grown bored with doing their homework, decided to accompany her to the shrine, and Luna and Artemis in addition.
The three senshi plus two cats walked down the sidewalk, only slowing down when Usagi reached the entrance of the Game Center Crown. She gave the arcade a slow once-over, realizing she hadn't been to the place in years – not since she had started university, actually. What with everything that had happened to her lately, what was the harm in having a little break to relax some? Hikawa Shrine wasn't going anywhere in the next twenty minutes – they could afford to get a quick bite to eat. Minako and Ami glanced at her, wondering why she had stopped, and Usagi looked back at them with a quick smile.
"How about a fast sundae before we head over to the shrine? My treat."
While Minako's eyes glittered with happiness at the suggestion, Ami frowned slightly, along with Artemis. Luna simply shook her head, but said nothing otherwise.
"Shouldn't we be going to the shrine instead? We need to hurry and recruit the new senshi, don't we?" Ami questioned seriously.
Usagi chuckled, turning back towards the automatic doors. "Even superheroes need some downtime, Ami. If you spend your entire life doing what you should do instead of what you want to do sometimes, life will flash by with you having done nothing to change it at all."
When Ami said nothing in return, Usagi smiled softly and walked towards the entrance, already imagining what kind of large sundae she would get to calm her nerves. However, she wasn't looking at where she was going, and slammed straight into someone trying to walk out of the café. Usagi rubbed her nose from where she had hit the other person, and was about to bend down to apologize for her clumsiness when she heard Luna let out a soft gasp that was barely detectable for even Usagi.
She looked up at the person who stared back at her, a frown on his face. "Oh…"
Usagi looked straight up at him, her apology dying at her lips.