Lovehammer: The Scattering of Serenity

Shard the First

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My name is Mizuno Ami. My birthday is September Tenth, and I'm a Virgo. I'm blood Type A. I live with my mother in a big condo in Azabu Juuban. Every morning, I wake up early 40 minutes before class, just so I can read a book quietly to prepare for the day. My hobbies are reading and chess. And my favorite color is blue. My favorite food is sandwiches... mainly because I can read and eat at the same time. My favorite sport is swimming. My favorite subject in school is mathematics.

I break out in hives when I'm under too much stress. Yesterday I recieved a love letter. I'm terrible when I get these letters. My face is so itchy. This is the third time this has happened. The first thing that runs through my head when I get them is 'Oh gosh, I'm so embarassed!" The second thing I feel is total disbelief, I mean, I don't think I deserve to get love letters. And the third thing to run through my mind is, "I can't accept this. The timing isn't right." Since 9th grade is such a critical time for me, preparing to get into a good high school, it's proper to have passion -

- and in my dictionary, there is no other definition for passion than STUDY!

I do love studying. I love knowing new things. But recently, I've found a new passion, and it scares me. I love studying and knowing things with certainty. But this is what I enjoy, and it's not what life wants out of me. As a student, my only responsibility is to study and to get good grades. I've discovered that I have other responsibilities, as the reincarnation of the Princess of Mercury, a Senshi- a defender of the departed Moon Kingdom.

I helped save the world. I was tested in ways I've never imagined. My mind, my heart, my soul, I gave it my all... and with my friends, I surpassed what I thought were my limits. I still love studying, but now I know that there's a world that needs practical knowledge. I now know that sometimes you just have to feel, to act, and trust in your own instincts and the power of friendship.

It's so hot today. There's no school today. My mother's a doctor and she's already out to help people in the hospital. Times like this, I just want to soak in the bath and read. But there are responsibilities alongside the powers granted to me. I put my hands over my chest and feel my heart. I can feel my soul being warmed by a distant light.

Aah! It's so hot. I should hurry.

Juuban is a ward of Tokyo. I'm taking the train out to Minato. It's strange not to see the Tokyo Tower. It -was- the tallest free-standing steel structure in the world. Now it's nothing more than a lump of metal slag. I've seen the news. All around it are crumpled building and shapeless dark lumps that used to be vehicles. People... they were turned to dust, there aren't any traces there. When it happened, a lot of people thought that a nuke was somehow used right over downtown Tokyo. But that's impossible, because a nuke would actually have been much more deadly. There's this circle of ruin marking the face of Tokyo, and around it are pristine and proudly tall buildings. There's this clearly-defined border, and as long as you don't look inside, it's easy enough to pretend that a secret magical war hasn't just recently broke out into the open.

I can see tanks and soldiers of the JSDF guarding the edges of the border. It's strange, I know, but anti-militarism doesn't mean pacifism. The government is scared, since the youma of tthe Dark Kingdom could be made to look like anyone, and a lot of their energy-gathering comes from outright mind control. Metallia, devourer of the Moon Kingdom, would have been set free by all the energy released by fear of millions from a manufactured war between Japan and Russia. I can only think it's extremely lucky that the Dark Kingdom was only awakened this past ten years, instead of fifty years ago. Metallia would have been summoned in just days, if not hours, but the wars of those times were not manufactured and I don't like to think about them.

There are still rogue youma appearing now and then, but now unlike earlier encounters they're vulnerable to fire and bullets. The magic is gone from these feral youma, and no one has any explanation. I know why, but I can't explain it to anyone. Princess Serenity still blames herself for everything that happened. The Dark Kingdom awakened from their stasis only because her reincarnation was strongest in this time.

Aah! I should have brought a parasol. I'm walking down a dark alley with a bag of groceries. They're heavy, I have to carry them with both hands. I'm halfway down the alley before I see a bunch of young hoodlums crouching relaxing near the far end. They're squatting hunched over, laughing and smoking. But now they've stopped. They've noticed me! They're wearing unbuttoned black uniforms with the white under-shirt tucked out, some of them have hair bleached white, all of them are wearing bright armbands. I'm scared. They're what we call 'yanki', senior high delinquents.

There's no school today. They're just wearing their uniform improperly because they want to. This is illogical.

It's weird, we're just staring at each other. What do I do? There's ice cream in my bag, that's why I chose to take this shortcut. Which is more important, unmelted ice cream or my life? My v-virtue? I'm shaking. Then I remember who's waiting for me, and I take a deep breath. Courage, I say to myself, and with what I think is a brace face on I start walking again.

Their puzzled expressions turn into grins and leers, and like a snake uncoiling from its sleep they get up and quickly surround me. Oh Serenity, oh Serenity, this is scary. I'm stupid.

"Well, well, what do we have here?" I hear. I'm looking down, avoiding having to look at them in the eyes. That might be confrontational. I want to snort 'Can you be any more stereotypical?' "Are you lost, neechan?"

"P-please let me pass." I say firmly. It doesn't look like they heard, my mouth is so dry. Louder: "Please let me pass!"

"Oh, sure. Sure. You look like you're in a hurry." That voice is too close, my ears are burning. "Gone shopping eh? Hey, got food with ya neechan? Could ya be so kind as to help me out! I'm starvin' here!" one moans out dramatically.

"Don't be an ass, Saito. Let's be nice to the girlie." someone else is saying. All I know is that he's not wearing socks, scratching at his bare ankles under black pants and with black shoes. His voice doesn't have any kindness in it. I flinch as his finger approaches my chin. "Hey, don't be scared. Why don't we help you out? Wanna relax with us for a while?"

"Um." I want to cry now. I'm hugging my bag of groceries, trying to make myself look smaller. A single snowflake lingers at the tip of my left little finger, hidden inside the plastic. "Please stop... you... you do realize I'm just fourteen years old, right?"

Suddenly the young thug in front of me is pushed aside with an elbow to the side of the face. Someone yells out "I am Yuichi Furuya, age sixteen! And I have no evil intentions! Please go out with me!" Surprised, I look up. This one has a face slightly pudgy, and to my further surprise he's wearing eyeglasses. He looks a bit more intelligent than his pals, but his earnest expression... I'm frightened some more. I eep and stagger back, and bump into the delinquent behind me.

He gives out a fakely angry "Hey! What'd you do that for?"

"What the hell, Yokkun. You're that desperate now?" The injured teen begins pressing on both sides of his friend's head with the balls of his palm.

"S-shut up you stupid hypocrite!"

There's a growling noise. The third thuggish teen looks embarrassed. "I really -am- hungry. Look, if you've got some bread or chips in there, I'll pay you back."

Tears are in my eyes now. Please. Stop. Shabon Spray Freezing. Shabon Spray Freezing for everybody!

"KNOCK IT OFF YOU GUYS!"

Behind the group is a larger, and even more fierce-looking delinquent. His face is broad and tanned, and a burn scar goes down the left side of his chin. He blows out a smoke ring from his cigarette and crushes it in his palm. If the others are scary, this guy - he already looks like a gangster. "Hey, sister, don't take shortcuts like this anymore, okay? You don't know what you might find inside." he says without looking at me.

Is that a threat? I don't know? Wait, what's happening now?

He slaps his knees and got up, showing that he's at least two years older than the others. Big guy. "Look, it might not look good, but maybe we better keep you company until you get out back to the street. I got a little sister too, and it's sure as hell I won't be letting her go alone into someplace this dangerous."

"It's not really THAT dangerous, Dokku-sempai." says one of his group, the one still abusing his friend, the one who loudly proclaimed wanting to go out with me. "We hang around here all the time."

"Idiot! That's why it's dangerous!" He looks down on me. "Next time you might not meet guys like us. If you see someone with cleaner clothes here, sister, just turn around and run, okay? Lemme help you out at least until the exit by the old bakery."

Are they really being kind? This has to be a trick. "That... won't be necesary, sir."

"M'not a sir. Just call me Dokku-san if ya want. Hey, you can just turn around and go walk out at the streets. Better that way. Safer." He grunts at his posse. "Hey, make way, you morons."

He's right. I can just turn around. I'm shaking my head. Why am I such an idiot about these things? I look up. Their faces are scary, but their eyes... those aren't the eyes of someone who stood at the roof of the world and broke open the sky. They're still just teenagers, I realize now, looking for their own place in life. I rummage around in my bag of groceries and take out a pack of biscuits.

"I really need to get through here today though." I turn around slightly and offer it to the hungry one with a bow. "Please take it. It's okay."

"Ah! Thanks neechan!" His fingers stop short of taking the pack, as he sees the glare on his leader's face. "No, wait. It's fine. There's no toll here..."

"Please take it." I put a desperate note into my voice. "I won't bear it if you're hungry. It's a gift. Please"

"Oookay. I'm not forcing you to do this. Right?" His attention was directed towards his senior, though.

Their boss grunts once more and takes out another pack of cigarretes. He puts on in his lips but doesn't light it. He turns around and begins to walk down the alley. After a dozen or so steps in, he stops and asks idly. "Hey. I'm not getting in your way, am I? I'm just goin' down the same alley by accident."

"Can I, Yuichi Furuya, carry your groceries for some entirely unrelated reason?"

My fear is gone. I feel like hugging these guys now.

"Um. Okay?" I let out the breath I've been holding and bow again, holding out her bag. My arms are wobbling from this disturbance in my center of balance, until the weight is taken off the end of my arms. "I'm Mizuno Ami, p-pleased to meet you."

I'm smiling more more honestly now. Every scary people can be good people. Usagi's blind faith in humanity's inherent goodness isn't so unrealistic after all. People can be kind if given the chance. People deserve to live and find happiness by their own terms. My friends and I, we have that sort of faith in our princess.

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I pause a certain a distance away from a certain warehouse. While it doesn't look any different from the other old, ignored buildings around it, in another way it shines with all the conspicuousness of a lighthouse at midnight. Here's the border, and the warmth in my soul goes from a comforting glow to this heavy pressure. This protective field would have been obvious elsewhere, but the ambient magic released from the battle over Tokyo Tower disguises it a little. So close to the portal, it's even supressing the energies still in flux neaby. It's not very strong protection. It's just fortunate the enemies we had that could take advantage of this, they're already either dead, allied, or just intimidated by our power.

Normal people have this unacknowledged instinct to stay away. My 'guards' left earlier. Here I'm safe. No matter if it was the worst of the yakuza, they're going to find some excuse to themselves to do things elsewhere. This invisible dome stretches out for a block all around, and it's not like anyone's been using these storage areas in the first place. We've been looting the surrounding buildings for what might be useful or sellable.

It's not nice. But we're just teenagers! All we have is our allowance, and some help from Endymion's new youma government. Serenity's Great Work needs to continue.

We need her. I don't even care anymore what anyone else may think about me. -I- need her more than good grades now.

As soon as I enter, I'm accosted by a feline to the face. "Look! Look! It's the coolest thing ever!" Usagi holds up Luna. "It's not a moon."

I try to smile. "Um... yes. That's Luna, your advisor. Luna is also what the moon is called. They have the same name." I'm nodding approvingly. Usagi is wearing long sleeveless white robes that we hope wouldn't restrict her movement while being light and sturdy. There are dark grease stains on her clothes. "Luna is a feline. A cat. Very good, Usagi."

"Now witness the might of this fully armed and operational Moon Cat!" Usagi cackles and turns to present Luna to a stack of crates. "Do it!"

Luna whimpered. "Do I have to? Usagiii, this is undignified."

Usagi's voice changes pitch. "Burninato familiaris."

Luna shivers. Even with her back turned, she knows that Usagi had shifted into her Serenity form. It' doesn't look much different from Usagi's current appearance, except for the wings of power out of her back. The warehouse is considerably brighter now. She can't really disobey the Princess of the Moon. The black cat sighs and closes her eyes. "LUNA FIYAAAH!" she yowls out and a pencil-thin beam of red light shoots out from the moon-shaped mark on her forehead.

A scorched line crawls up the stack of crates.

The glow fades off Usagi, and she turns beaming towards me. I try not to flinch as Luna's head turns my way. "Woo! I taught Luna how to set things on fire with her mind!"

"I should be surprised by this. Really, I should. Except that by freezing things I can already reverse entropy at will." That was a laser. A moon (cat) laser. I've already long decided not to seek any explanations for magic, just its useful rules. I peer down at Luna, wishing I had my ever-so-useful Senshi visor. "Have you... always been able to do that?"

Luna tries to shrug in Usagi's hold. "I don't know. My memories are still incomplete. Although... I certainly don't remember the Princess ever being this stupidly overpowered."

From the battle in the South Pole, we now know that Serenity can grant new powers to her Senshi at will. We would have died there in just the first few seconds, our Senshi forms reduced to nothing more than cheerleader get-up right in the middle of Antarctica. I'm the Senshi of water and ice, but that cold... it's still in my nightmares. Our enemy could steal our power straight off our souls.

But Usagi... Serenity... sustained us by the warmth of her own life-force.

I'm nodding, and I shift my gaze slightly higher to where Usagi still beams, child-like, waiting for approval. I smile widely in response. "That's very impressive, Usagi. Good work!"

"Do I get cake?"

"Um, yes." I rummage around my groceries and take out a red box with a slice of Black Forest cake inside. "You've been good today, right? You haven't been overworking yourself? You've been taking your medicine?"

Usagi nodded eagerly. "Um."

"Then please put down Luna so you can have your cake."

"Yay!" Usagi carefully put down Luna and her advisor scampered around to hide behind Ami's legs as fast as her feline legs could allow. Usagi took the cake. "Cake! So you weren't a lie!"

Usagi's long twin pigtails hair are floating about in the air without any perceptible wind. I gulp nervously. "You... would be more comfortable if you ate at a table, right?"

"Oh, that's right. Thanks, Ami! I almost forgot about that. Hee." Usagi smiles brilliantly and goes over to a metal plate over two crates. Actual long tables are strewn with machinery and reams of paper with strange sketches. This was defined as the 'workshop area', where Usagi released her manic fits. At the back of the warehouse is a strange, incomplete standing ring. A standing blackboard was crisscrossed with chalk figures, and a '= ASTRONOMICON' crossed out several times. The generator we once used to power this place is silent, eventually the things Serenity was working on required too much juice. There's this strange humming crystal device that serves instead.

I'll leave the ice cream later as incentive. There's this freezer inside the warehouse, and we set up a corner like a wall-less home, with dining tables and everything. I'm putting away the groceries, trying to make this mere chore calm myself.

There are people who call me a genius. In mock exams I get perfect scores in all categories. But I know I'm no genius. I don't have a mind like Einstein, Fumihiro or Feynman. I just like to know things. There are puzzles I can't rest without figuring them out, and I know how to put my accumulated knowledge to useful conclusion. But to a be genius! That's different. That's go beyond. It's to burn from the inside from the inspiration. To reach for greatness beyond life itself. It's a hunger that knows no boundaries. It's to be always incomplete no matter what prizes are offered.

I'm no genius. I'm sorry to admit that I do think I'm much smarter than my team-mates. Does that make me better than them? I try not to take pride from it. I'm now extremely sorry that I ever considered Usagi stupid. I pitied her lack of focus in her schoolwork back then.

I pity her a lot more now.

When we got back... when we were brought back... we found an Usagi that would cry for hours, and then inexplicably laugh. She was so weak, so fragile. We thought it was just a side-effect of using so much power, of seeing everyone and everything she ever loved die in front of her eyes and then suddenly by her side again. We thought she but needed enough rest to be able to accept again the division between the past and the present.

'Father shouldn't have died...' she cried. It was her father who slew her mother and brought an end to the Moon Kingdom. The corruption was deep. We didn't know that Beryl was just keeping an even worse monster at bay. In the end, as Usagi drove a sword into Beryl's heart, she was killing a friend.

She was nearly catatonic. 'I can bring them back...' she was whispering repeatedly. 'The ouroboros is broken...' We had to dress and feed her through this. She did bring us back. We were dead. And then... we weren't. It's a year back in time. It's as if all that we've gone through had never happened, that all the sacrifices we've done... it was for nothing? But we have the memories. We have the knowledge of each other's depth of trust.

Usagi couldn't bring back Beryl. She couldn't bring back anyone else from the Moon Kingdom. It was her mother, Selene, who decided whose souls were sent out towards reincarnation. That was a predestined event. Mamoru.. or is it Endymion, now? Out from the shadow of his Queen-in-waiting, he's King of the Dark Kingdom now. Beryl was seeking an heir to the throne. In our ignorance, we sought out the reincarnated Princess of the Moon to destroy the Dark Kingdom, not knowing that what we sought was genocide of an enslaved people. Almost too late we realized how much our past selves influenced our need for revenge.

'I can bring them ALL back!' Usagi shouted, amazed. Then she entered the second, build-crazy phase.

We thought she was getting better. She could see us now. She could communicate in lucid sentences. We were talking to Princess Serenity, but she'd assured us that her dominance would fade quickly. Usagi was still the core of her being. In the meantime, there were things she had to set down before she forgot about them again.

I'm not a genius. But Serenity...!

I didn't understand until then what it meant, that our Moon Kingdom selves were functionally immortal. What sort of brain can hold thousands, tens of thousands of years of experience without going insane? I know, in some vague way, that Sailor Mercury was very intelligent and that the living planet of Mercury was a center of learning. Luna turned Usagi into Sailor Moon, when there was -never- a Sailor Moon in the Moon Kingdom. Serenity's soul, she built that persona on an understanding of magic that... just thinking about it makes my head hurt.

We are the Senshi, Sailor-Suited Soldiers of Love and Justice! But none of us breathed magic and power and combat and the will to rule like Serenity did. We couldn't dare refuse her slightest whim. Sure, she wanted us to treat her like Usagi, she didn't want anyone bowing to the heir of a monarchy that doesn't even exist, but in the end as power rolled off her like solar wind, we were just too -scared- to do anything that might displease the Princess.

We wanted our friend back. Serenity was a soul given form. Usagi... when she returned in the flesh her mind just broke some more. Days of near-catatonia, mindlessly starving slowly, were replaced by furious activity. She forgot the need to eat or sleep. 'Dance with me in the seas of starfire, fly with me on wings of night!' she would shout with joy, and deliver advice to beings that might not be there. What's it like to know everything? To see the future or the past as easily as the hand in front of your face? I'm reminded that pain is the body's way of reminding itself that it's alive.

None of us could stop her. We could overpower her now, but to make her stop would involve putting her in a straightjacket and doping her up with sedatives just so she could sleep. We couldn't do that. She trusted us! We could only just watch, helpless, reminding her of the weaknesses of her physical body, until finally she exhausted herself and she sank into sleep. What woke up as a new metastable persona.

Usagi has been like this for weeks now. Everyone has to take turns tending to her, just to keep ourselves from breaking too, under deep emotional stress.

"Oh by the way, Ami-chan, could you get me some palladium next time?" Usagi asks cheerily while very slowly, very carefully pulling off the ribbon knots to extend the rush of anticipation.

I suck in my breath. "That would be... difficult, Usagi."

"You are the Keeper." she says in sudden eerie serenity. "I trust that you will find a way."

I'm shivering. I'm nodding. She's not even looking at me. Already I'm thinking of how to acquire that. It would be difficult, but maybe not for certain youma? If she needs it, then I don't care what has to be done. I just know her Work will help humanity. That doesn't matter to me either. Maybe when it's complete, she'll let go. I don't know what hurts more, seeing my friend acting as if she's back in her childhood.

Or something much further back in time. I'm wondering, if my past self ever speaks to me again, if I should try to kill her as a horror that doesn't belong among the living.

"That's... that's not her." I whisper, and the words send pain flashing through my heart. "We can use powers because we have the same souls, but we're not them. That's not Usagi anymore."

"She will heal, we need to have patience." Luna say firmly. "She's still in there somewhere." I seriously want to kick the cat at my feet, but I know Luna's just as lost and stricken as I am.

The Tsukino family thought their daughter was dead. Oh. It hurts. It hurts so much. I was there at the funeral! The Senshi were willing to give up the secret to our parents, we wanted to speak out! If it would have helped bring Usagi out of her madness place. But our friend is dangerous now. This dusty old warehouse is maintained off our own meager funds and resources, but at least it's safe from prying eyes. The government sees us as an opportunity. It has unseen magical protection, designed by Usagi herself when she was in a lucid state, and the only one that she could harm while in it is herself.

"It's not fair. She was just a girl. And we turned her into... this." We fought as warriors of Love and Justice, but we didn't realize... we're all so young and it's life of violence and loss. We chose this. We had the chance to back out, and we pushed on to the end. It could be seen as heroic, I'm sure, but for me it was just a lack of anything else to do. To do nothing would have been disastrous. At first were were all hoping that finding the Princess would solve our problems, she was the only one that could defeat the Dark Kingdom- that was Luna's insistent hope.

The cruel thing was that the Mau with the memory problems proved to be totally, horribly correct.

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Sorry, nothing more substantial than this for a while. One has to pity the Black Moon Family deciding to attack at this point.