AN: I know, I know, I suck. I'm sorry! I just got super blocked. But here is a nice new, long chapter. Since I can't seem to update when I say I will, I won't make any promises, but I will say that I think a quick update should be relatively easy, as I know where this story is headed.
Also, the story's coming to an end soon. I know there will be at least 3 more chapters, but there might not be much more than that.
As always, a big thank you to my reviewers: SailorSea and LoveInTheBattleField. I know I've been terrible at updating lately, but if I could pretty please get at least 3 reviews per chapter (and sometimes you guys are awesome and leave lots of reviews) that would be very much appreciated.
Usagi wasn't sure how long she lay there on the cold ground, curled up into a ball and sobbing. Before long it started to rain, but she didn't move. Part of her felt like if she just lay there, maybe it would all turn out to be some horrible nightmare. Eventually, she heard footsteps, and murmured voices. She couldn't hear much of what they were saying, and didn't really care, but she caught a few snippets.
"She's shivering," one voice said.
"Completely soaked to the bone, poor thing," someone else said.
"Come on, let's bring her back to the shrine," a third person said. "She'll catch her death if she stays out here like this."
Someone picked her up, and started walking, and the gentle rocking motion lulled Usagi to sleep.
When she woke up, she was in a spare bedroom at the Hikawa shrine, under a very big pile of blankets. Despite all the blankets, she shivered. She wasn't sure how long she had been out in the freezing cold rain, but clearly it was enough time to get sick. It was a good thing her immune system was much stronger than normal people's- a perk of being Sailor Moon. She couldn't afford to be sick right now.
She shoved off the blankets and stood up, feeling a little weak and light-headed, but she shook it off. She walked out the door, and towards the common room, hoping she might find her friends. As she got closer, she could hear them talking.
"I'm really worried about her," Rei was saying. "I'm sure this must be hard on her but I've never seen her like that. It was like she was in some sort of catatonic state…"
"She'll be okay," Makoto said. "Right? She's strong, she can pull through."
"True," Ami said. "I'm just worried how long it will take. I hate to be the one to say this, but with the way things have been progressing lately, we don't have much more time to stop the Dark Kingdom. Usagi's our leader, and if we have any hope of winning this war, we're going to need her. We don't have time to deal with a setback like this."
"Ami is right," Luna said. "As hard as this must be on Usagi, we need her as Sailor Moon more now than ever."
Usagi entered the room, tired of eavesdropping.
"Usagi, you're up!" Minako said. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine," she lied. The slight fever she had and the light-headedness weren't bad, but she was far from fine. Although the haze clouding her mind had cleared, she just felt… empty.
"You really shouldn't be out of bed," Rei admonished. "You were running a high fever. Here, sit by the fire and drink some tea."
Usagi allowed herself to be led over to fire, and accepted the blanket and mug of tea Rei handed her.
"So…" Makoto trailed off. "I don't mean to pry, but…"
"He's back," Usagi said, knowing what Makoto wanted to ask. "But… he's not himself. The Dark Kingdom, they must have… brainwashed him, or something. He's working for them now. He tried to get the Silver Crystal."
"I'm sorry," Rei said, putting a hand on Usagi's arm, but she brushed it off.
"Ami, is there anything you could do?" Usagi asked. "Run some scans, reverse the process or something?"
Ami shook her head. "Not from here, at least. If I got close enough, I might be able to run some scans and figure out what's making him like this, but there's no guarantees."
"All right," Usagi said. "So, where do we go from here? What's our plan of attack in regards to the Dark Kingdom? What are we going to do about Mamoru? Since he's fought side-by-side with us for awhile, he knows our weaknesses and our strengths, which could create huge problems."
"Um…" Minako started to say.
"What?" Usagi asked her, her tone sharper than she meant. "Did you have something to say?"
"Nothing," Minako said, shaking her head. "It's just… you tell us that Tuxedo Kamen has been brainwashed by the enemy and turned against us, not to mention that you just found out he's Mamoru and Prince Endymion and you're Princess Serenity, and you're all business."
"So?" Usagi said. "I thought you guys were always telling me to be more mature. So here I am, being mature. My personal feelings don't matter; we need to stop the Dark Kingdom. Shit happens, but life goes on."
"We're just worried about you," Makoto said. "This must be a lot to handle. And, only a couple hours ago you were lying in the freezing cold rain in a catatonic state."
"I've processed my emotions," Usagi said, taking a big sip of tea to disguise the fact that her hands were shaking and her voice was breaking. "I'm fine now."
"Okay…" Makoto said. "Well, we're not quite sure what our next plan is. Due to… recent circumstances, the Dark Kingdom currently has the advantage over us."
"I don't think you're strong enough yet for a full-on attack," Luna said. "All of you have had such precious little training. We need to control the situation as best we can, and train harder than ever to prepare for an attack. We need to end this, as soon as we can."
"Okay," Usagi said. "So, we just keep training and dealing with the regular youma attacks? We need to do more than that. Especially now that Tuxedo Kamen is working for them we're at a serious disadvantage. We need to act, now."
"Well, what do you propose?" Luna asked. "There isn't much more we can do, not right now."
"Well, we have to do something!" Usagi shouted. She took a deep breath to stabilize herself. "I just think that maybe a more aggressive plan of attack would be a good idea."
"I have to agree with Luna," Ami said. "We're not ready for a full-on attack. The Dark Kingdom has many powerful youma at its hands, not to mention the head of the Shitennou, Kunzite, and now Tuxedo Kamen, too. And we don't even know how powerful Queen Beryl is, we've only been working with her soldiers."
"Fine," Usagi said. "Maybe you're right. I guess we'll just have to train harder than ever, so we can be ready to end this once and for all."
"Well, I guess that's it for the meeting, then," Makoto said. "It seems like we have a plan."
"Good," Usagi said. "I need to train. Rei, do you mind if I stay here for a bit to train?"
"Of course not," Rei said, surprised. Usagi was usually not one to initiate training, and when others suggested it, she usually whined for a bit.
Usagi got up, and opened the hidden door to the training area. The Hikawa shrine had become the home base of the Senshi, and Rei had set up a secret training area in an old, unused room.
There was a collection of training equipment: punching bags, mats for sparring, target practice for magical attacks, and a secluded area for meditation. Luna had recently told the Senshi that meditation would help enhance their spiritual and magical powers.
Usagi walked over to one of the punching bags. It didn't matter that she was still in her school uniform, which was a little muddy from lying on the ground; she put her all into it, without even bothering to tape her hands. With each punch she threw, she felt her anger grow. She didn't deserve this.
She gave up her old life to be Sailor Moon and protect the world on a daily basis. She put her life on the line day after day, night after night, and she couldn't even tell her family. And what did she get in return? Betrayal. She finally found someone who she cared about, who she could maybe love, and had loved before, but before she had any time to spend with him, everything was ripped away from her.
It just wasn't fair. And so she punched and she kicked and she poured everything she had into the punching bag. She relished the burn as her muscles strained to do what she was asking of them. Once she tired of the punching bag, she moved on to the targets, throwing tiara after tiara and using her scepter at least a dozen times. She felt exhausted and worn out, more than she ever had before, but at least she felt something.
After she felt like she finally couldn't train any more without collapsing, she exited the training room. Ami was still in the common room, researching something on her computer, and Minako and Makoto were doing some light sparring.
"Do you know where Rei is?" Usagi asked.
"She's in the fire room," Ami said. "I think Luna's with her."
Usagi walked down the hall and poked her head into the room where Rei was meditating in front of the fire.
"Did you want something, Usagi?" Rei asked without turning around.
"Nothing important," she said, shaking her head. "Is it alright if I shower and borrow some clothes of yours?"
"Of course," Rei said, turning to face her friend. "If there's anything you need, or if you want to talk, don't hesitate to ask."
"Right, thanks," Usagi said, forcing a smile.
She headed towards the bathroom, and stripped off her sweaty, muddy clothes. The minute she got in the shower, she could no longer keep it together. She collapsed on the floor of the shower, curled in on herself, sobbing. She hoped the sound of the shower would mask the sound of her cries. She didn't want to worry her friends, and she knew they were right.
She had to be strong; she had to be Sailor Moon right now, not Usagi Tsukino. The time to end the Dark Kingdom once and for all was fast approaching, and she didn't have time to cry over a broken heart. She needed to be as strong and as prepared as she could be.
She was the leader of the Senshi; she couldn't abandon her friends now. She had to be strong. But she had never felt weaker in her life.
Once she had her emotions under control again, Usagi shut off the water, and grabbed a spare shrine uniform to change into. She headed back towards the common room, to see if there was any other Senshi business to attend to. Before she got there, she could hear them talking.
"I just don't know what to do," Rei said. "I mean, if she were crying and upset, that would be one thing. At least it would be expected. Normal. But this… it scares me."
"Maybe she's finally maturing," Luna said. "She seems to be coping relatively well."
"She's barely holding it together," Rei said. "She's not coping at all, she's in denial. I feel like one small thing is going to tip her over the edge. And then what? You saw what she was like when we found her in the park. It was like she wasn't really there, like she had just completely checked out of reality."
"Well, what can we do?" Minako said. "She clearly doesn't want to talk about it."
"Maybe we should just lay low," Ami suggested. "We shouldn't pressure her into anything. Maybe we should follow her lead, and let her do what she needs to."
"I don't know…" Makoto said. "I agree with Rei, this behavior is kind of scary. She just doesn't seem like Usagi. I know we need Sailor Moon now more than ever, but we need Usagi, too."
Tired of listening to them talk about her, again, Usagi made her presence known.
"So, is there anything else we need to talk about?" she asked.
"No, I think the meeting is all done," Makoto said.
"Great," Usagi said, turning to leave. "I should head back home, I wouldn't want my parents to worry."
"Right," Rei said. "Um, Usagi?"
"Yeah?" she turned around.
"Listen… we've been talking, and we're worried about you," Rei said. "I mean, it's great to see you taking such initiative with the training and all that, but… what happened with Tuxedo Kamen must be hard on you. And you're allowed to grieve, you know."
"Well, I appreciate your concern, but I'm fine," Usagi said, plastering a fake smile on her face.
"Are you sure?" Rei asked. "I just… we care about you, Usagi. And no matter how hard things are, you know we're always here for you, right? You don't have to pretend around us."
"Really, I'm fine," Usagi said. "You don't need to worry. Can I go now?"
"Yeah, of course," Rei said after a moment.
"Well, keep me updated if the plans change," Usagi said, and then turned around to leave.
By the time she got home, it was nearly dinner.
"Usagi!" Ikuko said when her daughter walked through the door. "There you are. Where have you been? I know you said you were going out with your friends, but it's been so long, I was starting to get worried."
"Sorry, mama," Usagi said. "We went back to Rei's shrine afterwards for homework club."
"Well, I'm glad you girls are studying together," Ikuko said. "I don't know about them, but your grades could certainly improve."
"Yes, I know," Usagi said, rolling her eyes. "What's for dinner?"
"Stir-fry," Ikuko said. "Do me a favor and call your brother down, will you?"
"Shingo!" Usagi called up the stairs. "It's dinner!"
A few minutes later, he came thumping down the stairs. "Where have you been all day?"
"I was out with friends," Usagi said, sticking her tongue out at him. "Something I'm sure you're unfamiliar with."
"Hey!" he shouted. "Mom, Usagi's being mean!"
Ikuko shook her head. "Be nice, you two. You've been getting along so well lately."
"Only 'cause Odango's never here anymore," Shingo said. "Isn't that what that guy who tutored you in math called you? Odango?"
"Yeah," Usagi said, trying not to show how much Shingo's innocent comment hurt. "It's not very nice!"
Before Shingo could respond, the door opened. "I'm home!"
Kenji walked in, setting his briefcase on the table. "Something smells delicious."
"Well, you're just in time," Ikuko says. "It's all ready. Usagi, Shingo, please set the table."
As Usagi helped her little brother set the table, and they all sat down to dinner, she thought about how nice it was, having a simple, happy life. She had parents who loved her and a little brother, who despite being a major pain in the ass, could actually be kind of sweet sometimes.
This was the way her life was before she became Sailor Moon, before she discovered she was Princess Serenity, before she lost Mamoru. She would give anything to have it back, but she knew that was impossible. Her friends were relying on her; the whole world was relying on her. She couldn't disappoint them.
The next day passed relatively uneventfully. School was the same as usual; Usagi was late for class, she failed a test she hadn't had time to study for, and Ms.
Haruna gave unfair amounts of homework because she didn't have a date. After school was over, she headed to the Hikawa shrine to train more.
She worked just as hard as she had the day before, pushing the limits of her strength and endurance until she felt like she felt like she couldn't possibly go on.
"Hey, Usagi," Minako said, poking her head into the training room. "You've been working so hard lately, so I was thinking it might be fun to go out on the town and have some fun."
"I should really train more," Usagi said. "But thanks."
"Aw, come on," Minako said. "There's this new nightclub opening, and they're having karaoke night! It will be fun! We can make fun of Makoto when she tries to sing."
"Hey, I heard that!" Makoto said from the other room. "My singing is just fine!"
"Okay, fine," Usagi said. "I guess I can take some time off."
"Great!" Minako beamed. "I need to change out of my school uniform, and you probably want to clean up. Let's leave in an hour or so?"
"Okay," Usagi said, a slight genuine smile appearing for the first time. Maybe an evening out with her friends would help get her mind off of things.
An hour later, Usagi had showered and changed out of her school uniform. Everyone else had changed as well, and the five girls headed out for a night of karaoke.
The club was hip and cool, with bright flashing lights, and the sounds of karaoke could be heard from outside. Despite the long line, they got inside relatively quickly.
Minako immediately signed everybody up for karaoke, and they settled down to listen to other people sing and wait their turns.
After several truly horrible renditions of famous songs and a couple good ones, it was Minako's turn. Just as she was about to start singing, someone screamed.
"It's a monster! Run!" someone shouted.
"Great, a youma," Usagi muttered. The youma had sealed off the entrance to the club, and there were too many people running about for her to safely transform. Glancing around the room, she spotted a small alcove where she would hopefully be hidden from sight.
"Moon Prism Power, Make Up!" she called out, letting the transformation take over. A minute later, and Sailor Moon was ready for the fight. Peeking out into the room, she tried to gather some information about the youma before jumping into the fray.
It was humanoid, seemingly female, and appeared to have powers over ice, as all exits were sealed over with ice, and the room had dropped in temperature drastically. That was enough for now.
"Hey, over here!" she shouted, diverting the youma's attention from a group of civilians.
The youma glanced up, and tossing a civilian aside, ran towards her at an alarmingly fast speed.
"Crap, it can really run," Sailor Moon muttered to herself. Knowing her tiara or scepter wouldn't be much use until it was weakened, she turned to run, hoping one of the Senshi would cover her. But when she started to run, the floor beneath her turned to ice, and she slipped.
"Fire Soul!" Mars cried out.
The blast of fire hit the youma, giving Sailor Moon enough time to get up and try and regain her footing. Slipping and sliding, she managed to make her way over to the other Senshi as Mars and Venus covered her.
"Mercury, got any useful info?" Sailor Moon asked.
The blue-haired Senshi shook her head. "There isn't much to it. It has a weakness to fire, and its attacks are all ice-based, so my attacks will only help it. It extremely agile and fast, and appears to have quite a lot of stamina as well. The only way to beat it is through strength and perseverance."
Sailor Moon sighed. She had trained so hard earlier she wasn't sure if she had any energy left for the actual fight. She had already pushed herself past her limits, not thinking that she would have to face a youma.
"I'm going to attend to the wounded, since my attacks won't be of any use," Mercury said.
"Supreme Thunder!" Jupiter said.
"Burning Mandala!" Mars shouted at the same time, and the combined attack hit the youma.
"Think it's weak enough?" Mars wondered. "Sailor Moon, finish it off!"
"Here goes," Sailor Moon muttered to herself, and pulled out her scepter. "Moon Scepter Elimination!"
The attack hit the youma, but it wasn't enough to dust it. Sailor Moon swore as she felt her knees buckle.
"Sailor Moon!" Venus cried. "Are you alright?"
"Fine," she said. "Nothing to worry about."
The youma sent a blast of ice daggers towards the Senshi, which Mars blocked with her fire.
"I don't know how much more of this we can take," Jupiter said, shivering. "This thing is tough!"
It was true that the youma didn't seem to be affected all that much by the Senshi's attacks, even Mars' fire, and the temperature of the room kept dropping.
The youma, seemingly bored of the Senshi, turned its attention back to the civilians, who had been making futile attempts to escape.
"Oh no you don't!" Sailor Moon cried, running after the youma.
It raised its hands to attack, but instead of attacking Sailor Moon, it raised a wall of ice around the rest of the Senshi, effectively trapping them. Sailor Moon gulped, realizing the youma had just lured her out by herself.
It smiled wickedly at her, and raised its hands to shoot more ice daggers at her. They were coming at her far too quickly for her to run, especially given the icy floor. Pulling out her scepter, Sailor Moon managed to deflect most of the daggers, using the scepter as a shield, but a couple still hit her, cutting her face and arms.
"Fire Soul!" Mars shouted from behind the ice wall.
Sailor Moon could see the attack hit the wall, but it didn't seem to make a difference. She knew she was all alone, so she raised her scepter higher, ignoring her shaking hands, and made a last attempt to dust the youma.
"Moon Scepter Elimination!"
Despite putting all of her energy into it, the youma still wasn't defeated. She could hear Mars and the other Senshi continuing to try and force their way out, but it sounded distant and far away. Somewhere in the back of her mind she realized that the combination of her energy loss and the cold were starting to get to her, and she would die if she didn't finish the youma off.
But she felt a pleasant lull into unconsciousness and she didn't want to fight it. Stumbling backwards, she realized she couldn't feel her feet anymore. She hit something hard and cold, and realized the youma had raised another ice wall behind her. Ice manacles formed around her wrists, trapping her place.
The youma produced a long, deadly sharp ice spear, and with an evil glint in its eye raised it high, prepared to strike.
A second before it could throw the spear, a red rose pierced the ground, freeing Sailor Moon from her ice manacles. Suddenly, she felt awake and alert. She knew it was ridiculous to get her hopes up, there was no reason for anything to have changed, and yet… looking up, she saw Tuxedo Kamen.
"Hand over the Silver Crystal," he said, and just like that, her false hopes and daydreams were shattered. The rose on the ground turned black and wilted away.
"Tuxedo Kamen, don't do this!" she said.
"I told you before, I am Prince Endymion of the Dark Kingdom," he said, his voice irritated. "Now, give me the Silver Crystal, and I will spare your life."
"Why are you doing this to me?" she cried. "Don't you remember me? Don't you remember us? I was Princess Serenity of the Moon; you were Prince Endymion of the Earth. And then there were our civilian lives here on Earth. You can't tell me you've forgotten it all."
"None of that matters," he said. "I will not hesitate to kill you, although I do not wish to. This is your last warning. Hand over the Silver Crystal!"
"Please," she begged. "You can't pretend you don't care about me. You can't have just forgotten everything we had so easily."
"The only thing about you I care for is that you are in possession of the Silver Crystal, which I need," he said. "Enough talking, give it to me, or I will take it from you by force."
"Just answer me this," she said. "If you don't care about me, why do you keep saving my life? I know a part of the real you is still in there. You don't have to do this."
He faltered for a second, and in that second Sailor Moon hoped that maybe just maybe she had gotten through to him, but then it was gone.
"You are a worthy foe," he said. "It would be a shame to kill you. But make no mistake, I will get the Silver Crystal from you one way or another."
Sailor Moon shook her head, tears spilling down her cheeks.
"I don't have time for this," he said, and turned to the youma. "Finish them off, and make sure you obtain the Silver Crystal."
The youma nodded, and produced another ice spear, ready to strike and finish Sailor Moon off once and for all.
Her grief fueling her, Sailor Moon shakily stood up, and raised her scepter. She closed her eyes for a moment, and drew upon all of her pent-up emotions, drumming enough energy for the final blow.
"Moon Scepter Elimination!" she cried, just as the youma threw its spear. The youma turned to dust, and the spear evaporated, inches away from her chest. Sailor Moon sunk to her feet.
The ice covering the exits thawed, as did the wall containing the Senshi. Slowly, the temperature in the room started to return to normal.
"Sailor Moon!" Mars cried out, as the Senshi rushed over to their leader.
Mercury pulled out her computer, quickly analyzing Sailor Moon's injuries.
"She's got a moderate case of hypothermia, and some slight frostbite around her wrists. Luckily the cuts all seem to be superficial wounds only."
"Are you okay?" Venus asked, and Sailor Moon shook her head.
"He's gone," she said, her voice breaking as she started sobbing. She had tried to keep it in, she had tried to be strong, she had tried to pretend that she was okay, and she could deal with this. But she couldn't do it anymore.
"He's just gone," she sobbed. "And he's not coming back. I've lost him forever."
AN: Please review!