Disclaimer: I don't own Sailor Moon.
A/N: Happy new year, I'm back! It's been a while and I wanted to thank everyone who has reviewed/faved/followed this story! If you're curious as to why I take forever in updating then please check out my profile. I usually update it every month or two so readers can track my progress. I also started a spinoff called Clockwork Oneshots so feel free to check that out.
Now to answer the two main questions that everyone has been asking me about.
Q: Is Suna-chan real?
A: Yes, Suna-chan is real. I've mentioned her several times in previous chapters since she's Setsuna and Usagi calls her Suna-chan as a nickname.
Q: Who is Ninth? Is she Luna?
A: I can't tell you who Ninth is without revealing too much, but all I can say right now is no. Ninth is not Luna. If everything goes according to plan then Luna will be making her debut quite soon.
If you have anymore questions go ahead and ask and I'll answer them to the best of my ability. Please enjoy this installment and remember to review!
Stepping into the front entrance and shutting the door, Usagi slipped out of her black mary janes while calling out, "I'm home! Suna-chan are you here?" Receiving no reply, Usagi called out once more. When there was still no response, she suspected Suna-chan had gone out.
Walking into the kitchen she glanced up at the wall clock and noticed that it read a quarter to seven. Shocked that it was already this late, Usagi hurried around the kitchen to prepare dinner. As she approached the fridge she noted that there was a message addressed to her being held up by a bunny magnet. Taking it down the blonde read it over.
I know this is sudden, but I'll be away for a few days on business. Dinner is made and in the fridge. All you have to do is heat it up. I've left some money on the counter for groceries. Take care and don't neglect your studies while I'm gone! I'll see you in a few.
Placing the note down next to the small wad of bills, Usagi counted that there was about $100 for food. Next she opened the fridge and sure enough there was a bowl of pasta waiting for her. Taking the bowl out and lifting the saran wrap covering off, she scooped out half of the bowl's contents and put the leftovers back into the fridge.
Too lazy to heat it up, Usagi decided that the pasta tasted just as good whether it was warm or cold. She meandered into the living room and plopped herself down in front of the coffee table while turning on the television. She flipped through the channels until she found a comedy she was satisfied with. Letting the sounds of the comedy drown out the silence of the vast house, Usagi released a deep sigh. The house always seemed bigger, colder, and much lonelier when Suna-chan had to leave for business, but Usagi understood. After all Suna-chan was a freelance designer who owned her own website called Millennium Designs. Sometimes she would design her own pieces and then sell or donate them to charity, but more often than not potential employers would look through her website and if they liked Suna-chan's designs then a contract would be formed for a short period of time. It's a small website, but still quite successful.
Barely paying attention to the show that was on, Usagi took another bite of her dinner as her thoughts ran free. 'Mmm, Suna-chan is really getting better at cooking. If only my cooking could taste this good.' It wasn't like Usagi was a terrible cook per se. It was only during times when she tried cooking alone that her dishes turned into something from a horror show, but if she had someone with her guiding her along then at least it would turn out semi-decent. It would still look like a shapeless something but still edible.
Usagi's eyes glazed over as her mind traveled back to the day Suna-chan tried cooking for her for the very first time. It was the day after she had been brought home from the orphanage.
Suna-chan had wanted to celebrate Usagi's first day at home by making her a home cooked dinner. Sadly because of Setsuna's limited cooking skills she was only able to make a simple dish of fried rice. When it came time to chow down, the first bite they took of the carefully made dinner nearly made them spit it back out and brush off their tongues. That was how bad it had tasted.
After Setsuna apologized profusely for the terrible tasting meal, she had admitted that she didn't know how to cook and that was the first time she had ever attempted to make a meal for someone. Usagi had forgiven her with a laugh and insisted that they finish their dinner because it was something Setsuna had worked so hard on just for her.
Unable to refuse, the two females choked down the fried rice, every swallow brought forth a gag or cringe. By the end of the night, she and her guardian were nursing a sour stomach that lasted well into the next morning. Thankfully this had prompted Suna-chan to learn how to cook and had gradually improved, even still during the beginning when her dishes would fail they would laugh and still eat it; bearing through it with smiles on their faces together.
Even though the fried rice wasn't the most appetizing meal Usagi had ever eaten, she wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world because it had made her first night at home all the more memorable.
Delving even further into her mind, the drone of the TV faded into the distance as another memory floated to the surface.
"Pwease?" Toddler Usagi begged. Fistfuls of a cream colored skirt were in her tiny grasp as she stared up at the woman before her with the most pitiful expression. Somehow Usagi had managed to make her cerulean eyes look twice as large and her bottom lip jutted out in a pout.
The woman stared down at the little blonde that was giving her the most adorable puppy dog look. In all the child-parenting books she had read, she knew that she had to remain firm and not cave into the demands of the child, no matter how cute she looked with those big blue eyes gazing up at her that were slowly filling with tears. Wait; tears?
'Oh no. This is not good. Not good at all.' The woman thought. She could handle the regular puppy dog look of wide eyes and small pout, but once the tears formed it made her eyes glisten like sparkly sapphires and doubled the cuteness factor.
'Where, oh where, did this little girl learn such a darling face?!' She wailed in her mind. She could feel the wall of her resolve slowly crumble around her. Thirty seconds went by with neither person moving. Woman and child were caught in a battle of wills and it was only a matter of time before one of them would be declared victorious. When she caught sight of the tears threatening to fall, Usagi released a quiet whimper at the same time that resembled a young animal seeking for love. At that moment the woman felt the rest of her resolve shatter into thousands of tiny pieces and knew she had lost.
Her shoulders slumped and heaving a sigh of defeat, the woman reached behind her to grab the object the child had been relentlessly begging for. "Alright, Usagi, but just this one, okay?" Even though she had given in, the woman did her best to remain stern.
The tears magically disappeared and joy lit up the young girl's face as she reached for the shortbread cookie and held it with both hands like a prized possession.
"Wah!" looking back up at the woman, Usagi replied, "'Uv's you, mama!"
The cuteness meter having reached its max, Ikuko bent down to Usagi's level, wrapped her arms around her baby girl, and placed a kiss on her chubby cheek as Usagi giggled in delight.
Usagi slowly came out of the pleasant memory as it faded from her mind. She couldn't remember much of the childhood she had before meeting Suna-chan; only bits and pieces and even then they were never clear. All she could remember from that memory was a woman with wavy blue hair and hugs and kisses. Those memories always brought forth a surge of warmth, but at the same time a painful reminder of what was lost.
Smacking her cheeks with both of her hands, Usagi shook her head from side to side to rid her mind of those depressing thoughts.
"Snap out of it, Usagi. You shouldn't think like that. I have Suna-chan with me so I'm not alone anymore." After giving herself a pep talk to lift up her mood, she quietly went back to eating dinner.
Usagi had just finished putting away the clean dishes when a distinctive beeping caught her attention. Knowing exactly what that sound meant, she dove towards her school bag to fish out the pink communicator. Flipping it open, Usagi pressed on the flashing button to answer the call. The mirror was soon replaced by a screen showing a shadowed outline of a woman.
"There's a Youma attack at the park. Get here as soon as you can." Came the whispered response of Ninth.
"Got it." The screen disappeared signifying the end of the communication and had turned back to being a mirror. Usagi snapped the compact closed and wasted no time in transforming then heading towards another battle.
Sailor Moon arrived at Juuban Park. She hid behind a bush that was a distance away from the Youma and observed the scene before her. There were unconscious bodies littering the ground from having their energy stolen by wearing wristbands from the Dark Kingdom. She had heard about these wristbands from a few classmates. Apparently they were the new 'must haves' since not only are they fashionable, but it also measures your calorie intake and acts like a pedometer. It was a great accessory for people who are looking to have a healthier lifestyle.
For Sailor Moon, the gadget held little appeal to her since she got all the exercise she needed from her five minute sprint to school and she always forgot her breakfast and lunch. Not to mention she was always fighting a Youma basically once a day; what a workout that is!
Just like all the other Dark Kingdom servants Sailor Moon fought, this one shared the same features like the one that posed as Naru's mother. It was hard on the eyes and genderless, but judging by the clothes it wore; it looked as if it been posing as a man based on the now baggy muscle shirt and shorts.
The Youma was now gloating about the stolen energy to the unconscious victims. Unable to listen to its arrogance anymore, Sailor Moon unveiled herself from her hiding spot and dashed behind the Youma; aiming a flying kick to its back.
Her booted foot connected squarely on the middle of its back with enough force to send the Youma flying face first towards the ground and skid about two meters on the rough asphalt.
"Tricking innocent people into believing they're losing weight when instead they're losing energy is unforgivable! In the name of the Moon, I shall punish you!" Sailor Moon struck a pose and winced internally at her speech. 'Geez, did I really just say that? Maybe I'll skip the speech and go right into Youma dusting next time.'
The Youma craned its neck backwards to see who had the gall to attack someone giving themselves a congratulatory pat on the back and saw a dolled up girl playing superhero.
'This must be the famous Sailor Moon that's been giving Lord Jadeite trouble.' The Youma picked itself up from the ground and its vermillion eyes narrowed in thought, 'If I can get rid of her for good, I can only imagine the praise I'll receive from my lord!' A sick grin showcasing rows of jagged teeth split across its face.
A chill crawled down Sailor Moon's spine when she caught the Youma's eyes slowly roaming up and down her body and she visibly shuddered when the grin formed on its ghoulish face. Then faster than she could blink the Youma was in front of her swinging its grey arm and backhanding her to the nearest tree.
Her back collided with the rough bark of the tree trunk. Green leaves gently floated down after being shaken loose from their branches by the impact. Sailor Moon gingerly touched her cheek and hissed lowly at the sting. She could already feel it start to swell; it would most likely leave a nasty bruise behind by the end of the night.
The blonde heroine wiped away the spittle from her mouth with the back of her hand; staining the once pristine glove with a smear of red.
"Be careful of this one, Sailor Moon." The low voice of Ninth cautioned her from behind. "It's faster than all the other Youma's you've faced so far which makes its attacks seem like they're coming from no where."
Nodding to show that she had been listening to Ninth, Sailor Moon pushed herself off of the tree. Before she was able to properly prepare herself, the Youma came at her with lightning speed. She dodged in the nick of time and the noise of wood splintering sounded next to her. The Youma's arm was embedded in the tough wood up to its elbow in the exact spot Sailor Moon's head had just occupied. If she hadn't moved at that moment then her head would've been crushed like a watermelon on a hot summer's day.
She paled considerably at that thought and scrambled to put some distance between them. Soon enough the Youma was laying its attacks back on her.
It was fast, too fast for her mind to comprehend and the longer the battle wore on the more her mind was descending into panic. The skirt on her sailor fuku was ripped and tattered, blood was oozing out of the various cuts she had received, bruises of all sizes peppered along her body, and blood, grime, and sweat were plastered against her. The odds were against the blonde for she was losing the fight. She had maybe managed to land four hits on the enemy in total while the number she had received were too many to count.
Sailor Moon was trying to clear her foggy mind from the recent blow to the head that she never saw the Youma appear at her side. It grabbed her elbow and swung her off her feet towards the park bench, nearly ripping her arm out of its socket in the process. Her lower back hit the back of the bench, flipping her body over leading with her head connecting with the bench seat and then stopping on the ground. The Youma was at her side instantly, kicking her several feet away.
She landed roughly on her side having the breath knocked out of her. Her lungs burned with every wheezing gasp she took, her chest ached and there was a harsh pounding behind her eyes. 'I… I can't do this anymore. I'm not going to win.'
"Get up, Sailor Moon." Ninth implored.
"I can't. The Youma is too fast for me to see! I can barely keep up with it! I… I don't think I'll be able to win this one…" Sailor Moon voiced her thoughts out loud.
"You can and you will! You're Sailor Moon, Champion of justice! Your light will defeat the darkness!"
Frustrated tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes as Sailor Moon screamed at her companion as much as she was able to in desperation, "Just look at me, Ninth! I've barely scratched the Youma while it's managed to do this to me! I'm not strong enough; I'm too weak to defeat it!"
The Youma, overhearing Sailor Moon's screaming, had taken her words as a sign of defeat and began to gloat about its pending victory, "Nyahahaha! That's right, Sailor Brat, you won't win and when I finish you off, I'm going to serve your stupid blonde head on a silver platter to my Lord Jadeite! Hahaha!"
Sailor Moon closed her eyes in despair as its words washed over her. 'Oh, God! It's right, I can't do this! I can't, I can't, I can't!'
"Sailor Moon, open your eyes and look at me."
Her cerulean orbs snapped open instantly and focused in the general direction of Ninth's voice.
The gentleness which she had used in her encouragement bled out of Ninth's voice and was replaced with a harsh, almost biting tone, "Yes, you are weak. You were weak the moment the Youma demonstrated its strength in the first strike and you are weak now with your complaints."
The young blonde felt like she was being slapped with every word she listened to. More tears slid down her cheeks as she lay on the ground without making a sound.
"Instead of concentrating on the battle ahead you're letting your panic rule your thoughts! And because of that you have already accepted your defeat before the fight is even over. Breathe; cleanse your mind of the negative thoughts and observe its footwork. With a cleared mind the path to victory will be shown to you. Now get up! You can defeat the enemy!"
With startling clarity the blonde realized that her hidden companion was right. She had been letting her panic determine her actions all along. She carefully stood up on trembling legs and nearly doubled over, cradling the area where the Youma had kicked her in the side. There were definitely some cracked ribs as sharp bolts of pain raced along her body.
Despite the agony she was in, Sailor Moon did as Ninth had suggested, she ignored the pain and breathed in deeply, cleansing her mind. When she exhaled, all the doubts and panic went along with it.
"You better say your prayers, Sailor Moon because by the time I'm done with you, you'll be begging me to end your life!" The Youma sneered.
Sailor Moon ignored the Youma's jeering and took a couple more deep breaths. She stood there unmoving just quietly observing her target with a calmness her body and mind had fallen into.
Irked that Sailor Moon wasn't responding to its taunts, the Youma launched itself at her. Just before it was able to hit her, Sailor Moon dodged the attack by pivoting on her heel and swinging her other leg out to land a hit on the Youma's side. Three rapid strikes to the chest followed in succession before she stomped on its foot then drove her knee into its stomach. She backed away quickly to regain her breath.
The Youma was left doubled over gagging and coughing at the surprisingly strong attacks, but recovered quickly. It spat out a wad of green phlegm and went after her once more.
Taking Ninth's advice to heart, Sailor Moon tracked the Youma's movements by watching its footwork. She saw its body tense and its feet slightly shift in the direction it would come at her. She would then counter it by moving in the opposite direction.
Heroine and enemy had been doing the dodge-and-hit dance for quite some time with no results on either side. The Youma was becoming increasingly frustrated that it wasn't winning and redoubled the speed of its strikes.
Sailor Moon was reaching her breaking point the longer this went on. Her movements were getting more sluggish, her steps heavier, and she was having difficulty countering the attacks. She needed the Youma to stay down long enough to charge her tiara, but it looked like the Youma wouldn't be letting up on its attacks any time soon. She was caught off guard at one particular fast strike that she tripped over her own feet trying to dodge it and landed on her damaged ribs.
A cry of agony tore up her raw throat and out of her mouth. Tears of pain gathered in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall; refused to show this monster anymore of her weakness.
The Youma stalked closer to Sailor Moon's fallen form and growled out, "It's about damn time! You're more trouble than you're worth and I'm going to enjoy ending your pitiful existence."
Ninth, who had been watching everything from the trees, knew that Sailor Moon was exhausted and wouldn't be able to defend herself for much longer. Her charge had been pushed beyond her limits and couldn't fight anymore. She was about to intervene when a flash of red flew between the Youma and Sailor Moon and struck the ground. It was a rose. A beautiful red rose in full bloom with a long dark green stem that was strong enough to pierce the hard pavement like it was butter.
"To strike a lady and then have the audacity to gloat about it is inexcusable. You, sir, are the lowest scum on this Earth to do such an act."
All eyes pinpointed to the dark figure garbed in a black and white tuxedo balancing perfectly on top a lamp post. Silence ensued as each person took advantage of the lull in battle to contemplate the newcomer.
Ninth had stepped back into the shadows. At first she had thought the rose had belonged to another senshi, but the person who had thrown it was clearly a man. Who he was and which side he belonged to was unclear. His actions and speech suggested that he was an ally; however, it could all be a ruse to lure them into a false sense of security. 'It is never wise to assume the actions of the Dark Kingdom.' Ninth mused. For now she'll continue with her silent vigil. After all it wasn't time for her to reveal herself just yet.
Sailor Moon was awestruck at the man over top them. The way the moon's light bathed him in its white glow softened the sharp angles of his facial features. She wondered if his eyes were as captivating as the rest of him, but couldn't tell because of the white eye mask he wore. His crisp tuxedo jacket defined his broad shoulders and he wore a pair of white gloves that looked quite soft to the touch. Glancing down he had a pair of very long legs with well polished black dress shoes on his feet. The bottom of his red lined cape fluttered softly to the side by the cool evening breeze. Overall he looked like a well bred gentleman ready to sweep a lady off her feet. He even wore a top hat to complete the look!
The Youma was resentful that the newcomer interrupted its moment before the kill. It didn't dwell on it for too long before facing the tuxedo clad man and hissing, "Who the hell are you?!"
"I don't need to introduce myself to the likes of you. Just know that I'm here to help stop you."
"Grr, so that's how it's going to be. Fine! Bring it on, Pretty Boy!" Deducing that Sailor Moon wouldn't be going anywhere any time soon, the Youma changed targets and rushed the mysterious man. It tried to claw at the man's leg, but he jumped away at the last second towards the ground. As soon as his feet touched ground he had to roll away from the Youma's incoming strike. He popped back onto his feet and whipped out a black cane seemingly out of thin air. The man swung his weapon and struck the Youma across its face. There was a sickening crunch of bone breaking, the Youma clutching its broken cheekbone and screeching in pain. The man didn't hesitate to take advantage of the Youma's distraction to attack again.
Sailor Moon watched in awe as she slowly struggled to her feet. She couldn't take her eyes off of him. It was quite obvious that the man was winning. He was stronger and all of his attacks were swift and precise. This man managed to do what she couldn't in a matter of minutes. It almost made her envious. Almost. She took this chance to charge her tiara, waiting for the right opportunity to throw it.
It was becoming clear that the Youma was being overwhelmed by the newcomer. It could scarcely believe that it was losing and to some pretty boy who looked like he came straight out of a shoujo manga no less! The Youma became blind with rage at that thought; its attacks were wilder and much clumsier.
The Youma misjudged the speed of its opponent because during mid-attack the man quickly reached inside his tuxedo jacket and withdrew another rose, flinging the flower at the Youma's outstretched hand. The rose flew with frightening speed and impaled the front of its hand. The stem went cleanly through with the bottom of the rose touching its palm.
A terrible wail rent through the air. Dark green, almost black, blood sluggishly trailed down the rose stem to drip on the ground in a rhythm all of its own.
Spotting her chance, Sailor Moon began her attack.
"Moon…" She wound her arm back, "Tiara…" Then flung her arm out, "Action!" And released the glowing disc with a flick of her wrist, carving a golden path through the air towards its target.
The Youma barely had time to move, let alone look up, before the tiara cut right through and it became instant dust. The magical accessory returned to its owner and she slid it back onto her forehead.
All was quiet. A gentle breeze swept by, blowing away the rest of what used to be the Youma. The harsh panting of the bruised and battered warrior was the only sound that could be heard through the silence that had descended upon them.
"Good work, Sailor Moon. You should get some rest and probably let someone take a look at you injuries." The man's deep baritone suggested. The noise of his rustling cape and the crunch of gravel indicated that he was about to leave stirred Sailor Moon into action.
"W-wait! Please don't leave just yet!" She pleaded to his retreating back.
Her masked savior stopped in his tracks and shifted so he was somewhat facing her. Now that she had gained his attention she was suddenly feeling jittery. Her heart was hammering in her breast, her mind blank, and she was having trouble producing enough saliva to wet her tongue.
"Um, I just wanted to say thank you. For helping me back there. I don't know what would've happened if you hadn't shown up just then. So thank you for saving me."
He dipped his head in acceptance of her thanks. Noticing that he hadn't moved to leave yet, Sailor Moon summoned her courage to ask the question she had been burning to know the answer to since laying her eyes on him, "And-and you obviously know who I am so could you tell me who you are? Since it's only fair after all." She added the last part in quickly.
He hesitated a brief moment before answering, "My name… is Tuxedo Kamen. We should depart before these people wake up." He gave her a small smirk. "Until we meet again, Sailor Moon." He turned around and leapt high in the sky. She kept her eyes on him until his form became lost within the surrounding trees.
"Tuxedo Kamen." She tested his name out loud. 'It suits him. He's like a knight saving the damsel in distress in those fairy tales.' She blushed at the thought and committed the name to memory.
The unconscious people were beginning to come to signaling it was time for the blonde superhero to make her exit. Ninth stayed behind to review the events leading up to their victory. She was particularly interested at the arrival of the masked man.
'Tuxedo Kamen, hmm? Is he friend or foe? I'll need to keep an eye on him. But for now…' Ninth stuck close to the shadows following the same direction her charge went. She hadn't looked well when she left and Ninth wanted to make sure she made it home in one piece. She had full confidence that the blonde could take care of herself, but she had the penchants of klutzing at the worst possible moments. And so, Ninth trailed after her. Just in case.