Chapter 4: Family
Author's Note: Thank you for all the reviews, alerts, and comments. To everyone I told this would only take a month, I'm so sorry. I was dealing with some nasty writer's block and was having trouble ending this chapter. I still don't like where it ends, but at least this chapter is about 3,000 words longer than the last. A warning to all, Rini does show up in this chapter, however I don't plan on her being involved much more than is already shown. I don't care for her character that much and have no intention of forcing myself into the trap of rewriting everything to the anime or manga's scripts. I think for PGSM they should be guidelines at best. The rating went up to accommodate a few possible scenes that go beyond hand holding. Also, I still don't own Sailor Moon.
Formating is mostly the same:"pretend its Japanese here" [Silver Millennium language here] This is what inner thoughts look like And this means the speaker/thinker is emphasizing something. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\ signals a flashback or dream sequence being experienced by one of the current characters. ~~o~~o~~ signals a break within that same dream or flash back sequence.
Buzzing, the priestess thought. A loud buzzing sound was dragging her out of the darkness. No... No, those are voices...
[...totally inappropriate...wrong with you?]
That's Minako, she noted, She sounds angry.
[...was necessary...who she was...]
I...I know that voice, she realized, fighting to regain consciousness. "Nodens," she croaked, managing to sit up. She felt like someone had run her over, but at least she had remembered something of the man who went with the name. "That's No's voice."
The voices stopped, and were replaced with the noise of rapid footsteps. The former senshi of Mars felt the two approaching, but couldn't work up the energy to turn her head to see them enter. Instead, she noted for the first time that she appeared to be in a bed with silk sheets and a soft but heavy blanket in a very dark room.
Waking up in dark unfamiliar places seems to be becoming a habit, she commented in her head. Although its an upgrade from the make-shift futon, perhaps next time I could actually choose where I'm going to sleep. The priestess chuckled to herself at the absurdity of the thought and waited for her former commander and brother from the past life.
She didn't have to wait long as the idol burst through what sounded like a heavy cloth drape. That's odd. You would think she would have brought a light, the priestess thought.
"Rei! How are you feeling?" the former senshi of Love demanded with a hint of desperation in her voice.
"Fine. Just a bit tired," she answered clearing her throat a bit. "What happened?"
"You overexerted yourself doing something unnecessary and passed out," Minako replied more firmly.
The former senshi of Passion managed to turn her head and glare, but the effort was somewhat wasted in the pitch black of the room. "I did what you asked me to," she sneered, "Sorry if you didn't think Martian dog training secrets were an important thing to remember."
The pop idol snorted in annoyance and sat down on the side of the bed. "They took too much trouble kidnapping us to simply let a bunch of dogs rip us apart Reiko," she remarked, trying to sooth the anger emanating from her friend. The former senshi of Venus brought her hand up to the priestess' face hoping to calm her and get a better read on her reactions in the dark."He was posturing. You know, one of the many things you hate that everyone close to you seems to find it necessary to do?" she gently argued.
Rei's response was lost as a broad shouldered man in red camouflage walked in carrying a bright lantern. He didn't miss it when Minako's hand fell away or that Rei tried to sit up more as though she were trying to hide how weak she felt.
[I know you two have had a certain affection for chatting in the dark since you were teenagers,] he mocked in Martian while pulling over a chair, [but please restrain yourselves. I'd rather not deal with that particular can of worms on top of all the political chaos going on already. I'd also rather my bed didn't smell like someone else just used it for their own needs.] He placed the lamp on a table near the bed and sat down facing the exhausted priestess. Minako glared at him as the man looked searchingly over her comrade.
Rei stared back just as seriously, blinking at the sudden brightness. He looked older than she had remembered, but that was to be expected. In her memories he couldn't even grow a beard. This man was already going grey. "You're No aren't you?" she asked.
The Martian looked expectantly at the idol, who responded by sighing irritably. [She asked if you're name is No,] she translated.
[Yes,] he said with a nod, [and you really can't understand a thing I'm saying can you?]
"He said yes," the former Venusian threw out. It was quickly followed by a scathing, [Of course she can't! You'd be on fire if she could.]
[I doubt it,] No replied with contempt. [She's too weak from that little display outside. You must have had much more pleasant lives this time around for her to have so little stamina.]
Minako glared daggers at the Martian prince and threatened very evenly, [I'm not going to translate that, but if you ever even suggest that our new lives dealt us a better hand again, I will make you understand just how wonderful life during the Silver Millennium was.]
Nodens stared at the idol for a few seconds before he shook his head and replied with a chuckle, [Your life, perhaps, but that child's,] he said indicating Rei with a wave of his hand, [can't have been as difficult as you suggest. Her hair still has a red tint left and she couldn't even hold that circle for five minutes. Mars Reiko's hair was darker than a crow's wing by the time she was five, and at your age she could have encircled the entire palace with a wall of flame for half a day before she needed to rest.] He looked very seriously at Minako then, saying, [I don't care how much harder you are Princess Venus. All that matters to me, is that the sister I have been sent to find is a weakling when her people expect a champion of legend.]
Minako opened her mouth to tell off the Colonel once again, but Rei cut her off. "I think you should translate that before you say something equally stupid," the priestess interjected.
"But...," the former senshi of Venus angrily protested.
"You said before that he was posturing right? So how do you know he isn't now? Calm down and talk to me so you don't fulfill the dire warnings that have been going off in my head since your arguing first woke me up."
The idol glared at the priestess for a moment considering her words. "Promise me you won't react too badly first," she finally insisted.
The former senshi of War raised her eyebrow at that, but nodded anyway. "Alright, I'll try not to," she agreed.
Minako still eyed her warily as though she didn't believe her former second capable of such restraint.
Rei rolled her eyes at the obvious distrust. "I won't do anything. Now just tell me already."
Riiight, the former senshi of Love thought skeptically. "He suggested that you were weak."
The priestess stared at the idol for a beat, waiting for her to continue. "Was that it?" she finally asked when her commander failed to add to the statement.
The former senshi of Venus hesitated a second more before softly admitting, "He thinks its because your life was too easy this time around."
"Well, I wasn't raised to fight wars if that's what he means," The former senshi of Mars responded with a small shrug, "but I don't see how that matters. From what you've mentioned of the past, neither you or Ami were either, so it should be a moot point. Why are you so upset? Its not like it really matters what he thinks, does it? They obviously think we're the only ones who can deal with some big problem of theirs, so we can't be all that weak."
Minako stared at Rei in shock for a few seconds before stammering out, "B-but he insulted you! He said your life was easy and insulted your hair! How can you not be infuriated by that?"
"Because he knows nothing about me or you," the priestess answered seriously. "He only has memories of people long dead, not Aino Minako or Hino Rei, and besides," she continued with a grin, "who cares what the old goat thinks of my hair. He's not my type even if he wasn't my brother."
The idol stared at her friend in indecision for a few moments before a deeper voice interrupted her thoughts.
[I see things between you two are similar to how they once were,] Nodens commented wryly. [I wasn't sure after the intelligence we gathered before retrieving you, but I suppose its not unusual for Venusians to do such things when they're so often away from their better halves.]
[Rei hasn't remembered that or shown any interest in a similar relationship in this life. What I do to fill the void until then is none of your business,] Minako snapped glaring daggers at the Martian commander. [I grow tired of these tests Colonel. Tell us why you abducted us or we're heading back to Earth at the first chance we get.]
The Martian stared at the idol thoughtfully for a few moments before shaking his head and responding, [I will answer your question in a moment, but first I need to ask my sister something that I don't trust you to interpret correctly.]
Minako's face flushed in anger at the insult, but the words of her retort were cut off before it began. [Lieutenant Cloris,] Nodens said into the communicator on his wrist.
[Sir?] a voice responded from the device.
[Report to my quarters immediately. I need a translator for my sister,] he commanded, watching the idol from the corner of his eye, [and bring some candles. I want a gage for her emotions before I tempt fate further.]
The former senshi of Venus' scowled at the Colonel and hissed, [I thought you said she was too weak to worry about.]
[No,] Nodens countered while lowering the device, [I said she wasn't a threat, but she's still a Martian,] he continued with a mocking grin, [and we resemble nothing so much as Earth's badgers when not taken seriously.]
"Are you sure this is a good idea,"Makoto asked, eying the empty courtyard around them.
"Getting cold feet already?" Jadeite mocked from across the circle they had formed. "Aren't you supposed to be the Senshi of courage, or did that go away with your powers too?"
"Why you!" The former senshi of Jupiter snarled.
"Stop," Kunzite commanded, grabbing her arm before she could lunge at the blond shitennou. "Mercury's method will last longer."
The florist glanced questioningly at the leader of the shitennou who pointed with his chin at the petite doctor next to Jadeite.
"...if we told her you smelled like Rei's perfume?"she caught Ami saying to a very pale Jadeite. "Usagi reacted poorly, but I think Minako might think things through first. What about you?"
"Now, why were you concerned?" Kunzite demanded.
Chuckling over the thought of the former senshi of Venus' possible responses to such a situation, Makoto answered, "The shrine's courtyard is paved. This won't damage anything, will it?"
"Should it?" Nephrite interjected, sharing a concerned look with his leader. "I only finished repaying Motoki a few days ago. I won't be able to pay the priests to repave this courtyard too if we damage it."
"No," Kunzite answered them both. "If this is the same method the Princess used to get away from her guards, it should leave no trace."
Nephrite looked uneasily at the shrine buildings. "Is it?" he cautiously asked.
The elder shitennou rolled his eyes and called over to Mars' guardians, "Lady Demos, will this disturb the shrine or its occupants at all?"
"Only if they try to convince someone else that they saw ten people, seven of which were in unusual clothing, fade away in the middle of the night," Phobos answered for her companion. "Why?"
"Jupiter expressed some concern," he replied, glancing at the florist expectantly.
The senshi of thunder sighed at the implied command, "I remembered seeing some people doing something like this in the past life, but after they disappeared the ground was torn up. I wanted to make sure we weren't doing the same thing."
"Sounds like a planet teleport," Luna interjected as she reached the top of the shrine's steps. "We might need to use it after we get to the Moon, but I think it would be overkill right now."
"Certainly," Demos agreed with a slight bow to the young girl and stuffed white cat she carried. "Miss Luna, Master Artemis," she formally greeted the two. "Thank you for meeting us here on such short notice."
The girl blushed slightly at the unusual level of formality. "I thought you two had been reincarnated like everyone else," she replied trying to bridge the gap in her understanding, "Why are you being so formal and acting like you're still just Mars' maids?"
The two guardians looked at each other in confusion before Phobos answered, "We were never just maids, Miss Luna. We are the guardians of our princess, but she guards Princess Serenity, to whom you are advisors. Some courtesy is the right of your station just as it would be for anyone who belonged to the court in the past."
"You really need to talk to Rei more," Artemis said with a sigh. "There's no need to be so formal. The Silver Millennium is over, and she would be happier if you lived your own lives instead of guarding her because of the past."
"We do not guard Hino Rei just because of the orders given to us in the past life, Master Artemis," Phobos objected with a scowl. "She is our purpose, but that is because she has done things both in this life and the last to deserve our service and loyalty. Treating you and the other members of Princess Serenity's court with respect is simply an extension of that loyalty."
"Princess Mars is truly fortunate then," Zoisite interrupted before any of the other former senshi could respond. Giving them all a warning look, he continued, "Now that Luna and Artemis have arrived, we should begin. The longer we take, the farther we may have to go."
Demos gave a grateful nod to the shitennou while responding, "Yes, we should. Miss Luna, please join the circle so we can begin."
"Right," Luna said joining the circle between Usagi and Jadeite.
"Good," Demos approved, "Now I need you all to join hands and close your eyes."
Phobos continued after they complied, "Now you must center yourselves. Focus on the energy at your core that you use everyday. It should feel familiar, welcoming even." The two waited for the expressions of the senshi to show that they had found what they needed.
"Tap into that power and imagine it flowing to the people next to you," Demos urged.
The girls gasped as they felt their energy form a circuit with the people next to them.
Its so warm, Ami sighed to herself.
So alive! Makoto marveled in her mind.
Its like when Mamoru and I played at the beach, their princess happily thought, or like going home after being away for a long time.
"Now imagine a soft white light," Phobos commanded, "Focus on it and nothing else."
"You might experience a brief sensation of falling," Demos commented, "but that's normal. Just keep focusing on the light."
"Open your eyes and let go of each others' hands," Phobos said after a few moments had passed.
Several of them gasped as they looked around at the ruins surrounding them. They were gray, pitted, and covered with weeds from the passage of time. Looking at the sky, most were surprised to see a opaque dome marring their view of the Earth.
"Welcome to the remains of the kingdom of the Moon," Demos calmly told them.
"What exactly do you remember of me Reiko," Lieutenant Cloris translated to Rei for Nodens.
The priestess gave him a strange look, asking, "How do you know that name?" She looked to her companion expectantly, "Why is he calling me Reiko? I thought you made up that name to harass me."
The idol opened her mouth to respond, but nothing came out. She tried again after a moment with a worried look on her face, "It is your name." Minako paused and glanced at the floor as though she didn't really want to finish answering, "It's your name from the past life. I used it to try and jog your memory."
"And I suppose using it has just become another way to irritate me since then?" the former senshi of Mars inquired.
The former senshi of Venus looked up hopefully. "Mostly," she answered with a small smile.
"That's not my name," the priestess sighed irritably and brought her attention back to the Lieutenant. "Tell him to call me by my current name," she demanded, "or I'll have Minako translate everything else."
[Sir,] the Mercurian began carefully, [your sister requests that you call her by her current name or have Princess Venus translate for her.]
[It was a demand actually,] the pop idol added nastily, [Reiko has an aversion to being associated with her past self even if she's the same person.]
[I see,] Nodens replied with a raised eyebrow. [I take it you're the only one immune to this...preference?] The former senshi of Love just smiled like a cat with cream. [Rei then. What do you remember of me from your past life?]
Cloris translated the new question to which Rei responded, "Not much. I think you spent a lot of time on the Moon after you were allowed to enter the military, but I don't really remember anything else except brief flashes of you and a few other people who seemed to be around a lot. Why?"
The Martian commander chuckled as he listened to the translation and got up to place and light three candles in front of Rei. [I need to know how far you might be willing to trust me.]
"For what?" Rei asked, seeming more revived after sitting in front of the flames for a few minutes.
[Lady Minka,] the Martian addressed Minako, [has Rei ever used a fire other than the ones at the shrines where she's been training to use her psychic gifts?]
[Not that I'm aware of,] the former princess of Venus carefully answered.
[Have you?] he asked Rei.
Once the Mercurian finished translating the priestess shook her head In the negative saying, "No, it wouldn't work. A normal fire doesn't have a strong enough connection with the gods to see anything, and even trying might insult them."
[That's what I thought,] Nodens said with a smile. [Our reconnaissance suggested as much about the Shinto seers before we even found you. Fortunately, they're wrong. You can, but only if you let yourself.]
"Which is why I need to trust you?" Rei finished once her translator caught up. "After all we saw from the Dark Kingdom I'm willing to believe you, but I don't think its enough to allow me to do what you're asking. Princess Mars might have been able to do it, but I'm not her," she asserted. "I was reincarnated as a human, and even though being a senshi has made me a bit different from most, there are still limits to those differences."
[Perhaps,] the Martian replied, [but being the senshi of Mars is why your past self could do it. Martian seers are also limited to sacred sites, but your senshi status gives you a more direct connection to the spirits of the flames.]
[We're not senshi anymore,] the pop idol interrupted. [We lost our powers when Princess Serenity shattered the Silver Crystal in order to reset the world after she destroyed it again.]
[You certainly looked like senshi in that battle we observed a few weeks ago,] Nodens commented.
[That was an exception granted by Queen Serenity's spirit.] the former senshi of Venus explained. [She sent us the Moon Sword so we could draw on its power to defend the princess one last time.]
[I see,] he slowly responded. [That's...very interesting. A few days ago we found the Moon Sword in the ruins a few days, but neither it's appearance nor it's disappearance have impacted anyone else. Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune have been guarding the outer system this entire time.]
[But...But that's impossible!] Minako objected.
"Uranus and Neptune?" the priestess asked incredulously once Cloris had finished translating. "You mean there are more senshi?" she directed at her former commander.
"I...Yes. Most inhabited planets have one, but what do you need us for if you still have them?" the former senshi of Venus asked in exasperation. She let the Mercurian translate her question while explaining to Rei, "Uranus and Neptune guard the system from outside invaders and individually are much more powerful than we were as senshi, but they shouldn't be able to use their powers now that the Silver Crystal is gone either."
[They do what they will,] the Martian commander replied, [Supposedly they're still following Queen Serenity's orders, but whose to say. Ever since we saw that light envelope the Earth again, more invaders have managed to push past them. I suspect the latest ones were actually able to fight their way past Uranus and Neptune's perimeter.]
"So you want us to drop everything so you don't have to fight them yourselves?" the former senshi of Mars asked, confused and a little indignant at the explanation.
"No," Minako cut in before the lieutenant finished translating Rei's question, "If it got past Uranus and Neptune, its out of any normal soldiers' league. We were probably the last chance they had to take down whatever it is with only a few losses, but as we are now, we can't help them." She addressed Nodens next, [I'm sorry, but even if they can still use their powers, we can't. Rei can try to do a reading for you, but we can't be involved more than that. Earth's shitennou might be able to help, but you'll need to talk to the prince of Earth for that.]
[Are they the ones who needed you to defeat the youma?] Cloris asked interrupting his commander's response.
[They didn't need us to,] the pop idol answered very carefully. Nodens lack of reprimand to the lieutenant was putting her on edge. [Our being there simply made things go faster. The prince and his shitennou misjudged the threat and we stepped in before they got a second chance at the monster.]
[I see,] the Martian answered again, [and you said this was made possible because Princess Serenity was in danger?]
[Queen Serenity's spirit believed so,] Minako replied, suspicion making her response guarded.
[Then I suppose I will have to speak with these shitennou then,] the commander remarked with a sigh. [Could you introduce me to them so we can avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings?]
[Let me talk to them first,] the former commander of the senshi conceded.
[Thank you,] he accepted with a smile that somehow bothered the former senshi. Turning his full attention to the priestess sitting in his bed he probed, [Now, Rei, about that fire reading, would you be willing to attempt it?]
The former senshi of Mars gaze flickered to the pop idol as Cloris translated, and at her slight nod, Rei replied, "I'll try, but I can't guarantee you anything."
[That's all I ask,] he assured her. [Cloris will help you to your tent so you can rest. In the morning I will send someone in to help you prepare.]
"How can any of this still be here?" Ami wondered aloud as she took in the stones that surrounded them.
"Magic," the Prince of Earth replied while he examined the shattered fragments of a statue, "Probably the same kind that kept random bystanders from recognizing you after you transformed in a crowded area."
Usagi frowned, protesting, "But Motoki and Naru knew who we were when we transformed in front of them!"
Mamoru shrugged as he returned a fragmented hand to the dusty ground. "Their attention was already fixed on you, and you did it thinking they would know, right?"
"Sort of," the former senshi of Protection answered, "but I think Motoki might have been more focused on the youma that was attacking us."
"I doubt it," Mamoru countered with a smirk.
"Master Endymion is right to some extent," Zoisite cut in, "however your senshi magic was a little bit different from ours. Your friends' ability to recognize you afterwards was most likely because they already knew you so well."
The former senshi looked to Phobos and Demos for confirmation, but the two just shrugged.
"The identities of the Sailor Senshi were well known in the past. You never had to hide your identities when you used your normal transformations," Demos clarified, "so we really don't know."
"There might be something about it in the archives if there's anything left of them," Phobos added, "but that information wasn't really relevant during the Silver Millennium."
"Its also not relevant as to why we are here right now," Kunzite sternly pointed out. "We need to find Mars and Venus before they're taken out of the solar system." He brought his attention to the two guardians. "Can you sense anything?" he asked.
Demos' gaze drifted far away for a moment before she finally answered. "Yes, I can feel her. Its faint and masked by several other auras, but I think Lady Rei is near one of the old gardens in the princess' wing of the palace."
"Why would it be faint?" the former senshi of Wisdom inquired with concern. "Shouldn't it be easier to sense Rei in an area as small as the moon palace?"
"Is it easier to see a black dot on a white field or black one?" Demos asked sarcastically.
"White," Jadeite snapped. "Why? Was there a point to answering the question with a riddle?"
Nephrite casually cuffed the blond shittenou while seeking clarification from the guardians. "So you're suggesting this is one of the more common methods of hiding things for the people of the moon? Sort of like Venus pretending to be the princess?"
"Its usually part of a larger plan with several other layers of protection, but yes, misdirection is one of the favored methods for hiding things in plain sight," Phobos responded with a brief glare in Demos' direction.
"Enough!" the prince of Earth commanded sending a challenging glare at both his men and Mars' guardians. "Kunzite is right," he declared turning his full attention on both women, "we're wasting time. If you know where they are, lead the way."
A strange expression passed over Phobos and Demos' faces as they glanced at each other and seemed to come to an accord. Demos moved a half step behind her sister and both women fell into a fluid bow.
"By your command Majesty," they murmured in unison.
The two turned around, maintaining their staggered positions as they walked toward what looked like the main body of the ruined palace.
The remaining senshi glared at Mamoru and Usagi lightly smacked him on the arm.
"We're trying to get them to act normal!" she chastised, "Stop convincing them you're royal enough for them to keep acting all formal on us!"
Her husband merely rolled his eyes, tugging at her arm so he would start following as well. "Its their choice Usagi," he reasoned, "Let them be who they want to be."
The former princess of the Moon pouted, but made no further protest as they followed their companions through a marble archway and into the palace proper.
It was like entering the remains of a gilded maze. The walls and stairs had failed in places, but everywhere they looked were partial friezes, cracked vaulted ceilings, and faded artwork framing crumbling doorways and empty landings. It might have still been beautiful to see if not for the grime left by the passage of time and war, but the state of what was once a masterpiece just underscored how complete the end of the Silver Millennium had been.
"Which way?" Kunzite asked, breaking the silence.
Phobos started to speak, but all that emerged was a choking noise.
Demos put a hand to her shoulder and said apologetically in Martian, [We don't have time for those long dead. As you've often said, the princess is more important.]
The black dressed guardian nodded stiffly as she squeezed the hand on her shoulder, and returned her attention to the leader of the shitennou. Taking a deep breath she began, "That way. They're located somewhere near Princess Serenity's old..."
She stopped when they heard the tinkling bell like laughter of a child.
"A ghost?" Usagi asked as the shitennou all drew their weapons and Mamoru assumed his princely regalia.
"No," Phobos answered, "I didn't sense any spirits when I searched for Lady Rei."
"There are parts of the palace that we can't read," Demos cautioned.
Phobos shook her head. "No one should be there, even if they're dead. The doors are protected better than that," she objected, "We had to get special permission just to go near them when we were guarding Princess Reiko." The guardian sighed and looked to Kunzite. "We don't have time to investigate, but I don't like trusting that nothing will happen either. We'll cover point and trust you to guard our flanks and rear."
Kunzite nodded saying, "That's acceptable."
Demos' gaze flicked to Jadeite, Usagi, and Luna before it finally landed on the prince. "Don't let anyone wander off," she warned him, "We don't need more rescue missions."
"Hey!" Usagi protested, "There's no way I'd get lost in the palace!"
Ami smiled while Makoto and Mamoru tried to suppress their laughter at both the comment and the former Moon princess' reaction.
"Certainly not Your Majesty," Phobos agreed with a small smile of her own. "You stopped doing that a long time ago."
Usagi opened her mouth to refute the implication, but Phobos brought her finger to her lips. "Shhh Princess," she cautioned, "We're here to find Lady Rei and Lady Minako, not to alert the people who kidnapped them that we are here as well."
The former senshi of the Moon pouted as everyone adjusted their positions to accommodate the new concern, and once again began to follow the two guardians to their friends.
"Minako! I'm fine!" The former senshi of Mars objected, trying to get her comrade to stop trying to help her walk.
"You were unconscious less than an hour ago," the former Venusian argued, refusing to let the priestess pull her arm off the idol's shoulders. "Stop trying to overdo it again." She re-secured her arm around the other woman's waist and fixed her with a glare and demanded, "What's wrong with me helping you? Is Hino Rei so pig headed that she can force her help on others, but not accept it herself when a friend offers it in a time of need?"
"N-no," the former senshi of War protested, "but..."
The former commander of the senshi cut her off, "Then let me help you!"
The priestess found herself unable to stand up to the idol's self righteous gaze. "Fine. Do what you want," she finally acquiesced turning her head away from the idol's glare.
They continued to walk to their tent and Minako found herself glancing at Rei from time to time. Its like the only time we're willing to accept help from the other is when the other's not there, she thought. This needs to stop.
"I'm sorry," the idol forced out after a strained moment of silence.
The former senshi of Mars almost tripped in surprise, but managed to catch her balance before the misstep toppled them both. The priestess looked at her companion suspiciously and expectantly waited for her to continue.
"Sometimes," Minako began, "I worry..." She looked forward, and upon seeing the back they followed, remembered they had an audience that could understand them. "...about all of you," she hedged, "but...seeing you so still like that..." she paused, not sure how to describe it without giving away too much. "It felt like watching the end again."
The end? Rei questioned in her mind. I guess that was what I remembered before. "I suppose I can understand," she yielded thinking back to her own reaction over the idol's death. "I probably wouldn't react well if I thought you were sick or hurt again either."
The idol was barely able to restrain her immediate reaction to make a scathing retort and instead offered,"Then we can worry about each other."
Rei gave her a strange look, not trusting what she had heard. "What do you mean?"
The idol huffed in frustration. She's really going to make me spell it out! she protested to herself. "It's like what you said in the mess hall. There's no one else here to take care of us when we can't ourselves, so why not take advantage of our past roles and leave everything to the one person here we both know we can trust?"
"You mean you'll listen to me if I think you're wrong?" the former senshi of Passion asked incredulously.
Minako grinned a little ruefully at that and glanced back at the former Martian while replying, "I'll try."
"Humph," Rei snorted. "At least you're honest about it." She sighed, glancing up at the Earth in the sky before continuing. "You're right. There isn't anybody else." The priestess gave her friend an assessing look before finally concurring, "Alright, we'll take care of each other."
The former Venusian gave a pleased smile and laughingly added, "In sickness and in health."
She was startled when her friend suddenly paled and leaned heavily on her, forcing the idol to stop their forward motion. "Rei?" she questioned worriedly.
The former senshi of Mars shook shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut as she said in a pained voice, "Wait until we get to the tent."
"Are you sure?" Minako queried cautiously, "Can you still walk?"
Rei drew in a deep breath and nodded quickly. "Yes. Its not that," she clarified, "I just remembered something."
"Oh... I see," the idol replied, once again very aware of the Mercurian patiently waiting for them a few steps away.
They continued the rest of the way in silence to a different tent than they had started the day in. Instead of just a pile of blankets, this one had a large bed and camp furniture. On top of the table was even what looked like a satchel holding a few changes of clothes.
Minako looked it all over appreciatively. I see we've gone up in the world, she joked to herself.
"Princess Mars. Princess Venus," the lieutenant addressed them after giving the two a chance to take in their new quarters, "Please excuse the poor accommodations, but we didn't expect to need to keep you in our camp for more than a night. This is what we were able assemble from our officers' tents, and Lieutenant Rhode should be back from Venus in a few days with more supplies." He gestured to the assortment of clothing on the table and pulled a rucksack off one of the folding chairs, saying, "We've also gathered clothes from some of the women who are close to your size so we can wash the ones you're wearing. Just put them in this bag and hang it on the pole outside the tent. Someone will pick it up and drop them off in the morning after they've been laundered."
He stepped out of the tent holding the flap open to show the Jovian who was setting up a perimeter like the one around the Colonel's tent and explained, "Should you need anything, Corporal Autonoe and his squad will be guarding you again. The Corporal has a communicator to contact myself or Major Ida. She was doing reconnaissance in Japan before we found either of you, so she has a fairly good command of your language as well. Now if you'll excuse me," he finished with a bow, "I need to attend to some other duties."
Once the Mercurian was gone, the former senshi of Mars took a shuddering breath and sat on the side of the bed with her head resting in her hands.
"Talking helps," Minako began as she sat next to her friend. "I remembered almost everything all at once, so it took a few days to hit me, but talking to Artemis helped me keep it together when it did."
The priestess just sat there as though the former Venusian hadn't said a word, and Minako felt a melancholy descend upon her.
"Reiko, " she asked, worried at the lack of response, "what exactly did you remember?"
There was a pause while the idol held her breath, hoping the former Martian would answer, but fearing she would just shut her out instead. Eventually the former senshi of Mars chuckled brokenly. "She didn't see me grow up in this life either," she half laughed, half sobbed.
"We're almost to the gardens," Demos quietly commented as she glanced to see her sister's reaction. "Why do you suppose we haven't heard that voice again?"
The calm guardian shook her head to emphasize her own concern. "I don't know," she returned. "You're probably right about it having come from the forbidden corridors though. Hopefully it's just an echo from the past rather than something new. I doubt we can handle anything that could get past the gates."
Demos shuddered at the idea.
"Why are you two whispering?" the former princess of the Moon complained loudly. "Aren't we supposed to be working as a team?"
"We are Princess," Demos contradicted while rolling her eyes, "I was just commenting to Phobos about our location." She gestured at the nearly windowless corridor they were walking through. "This is one of the limited access sections of the palace, but going through it is the fastest way to the Princess' gardens," she explained, "I was concerned that this might be where that voice came from before."
"Really?" Ami asked surprised, "Why? Do you think something managed to survive the end by hiding here?"
"No," Phobos was quick to deny, "but something new could hide from us here. The magic in the area effectively stops any psychic scans, so its hard to tell if there is something out of place."
"Is the magical energy stronger here or something?" Makoto asked looking around at the disintegrating paintings with newfound suspicion.
"In a way," Demos replied. "Its part of why the area was off limits to most people in the first place."
"So your palace spawned some sort of demonic disembodied voice?" Jadeite threw out.
"Nephrite," Kunzite called from the back of the group.
"Yeah," the red haired shitennou said with a malicious grin. He then reached forward and smacked the blond in the head. "Don't be an idiot," he mocked while Jadeite glared at him.
The laughter started again, obviously closer this time.
"You're all silly," a childish voice laughed.
"Its definitely coming from the gates," Demos warned, "What do you think we should do about it?"
"Nothing," Phobos immediately answered. "Its probably trapped there. If we ignore it we can..."
"Hey! Who are you?" Usagi called out, "Why are you hiding from us? Come out where we can see you!"
"...Or the princess could give it permission to leave and possibly attack us," the guardian ended with a snarl. She signaled everyone to stop as she and her sister summoned curved black daggers to their hands.
"I guess she doesn't remember anything about the time gates," Demos commented humorlessly.
"Time gates?" Zoisite asked with some concern. "I thought they were just a myth."
"Why should I?" the childish voice asked in a superior tone. "Plu said that no one was supposed to be here anymore, so you're probably bad people. I'm not going to come out just so you can kidnap me."
"Thats because to most people it was," Demos answered the silver haired shitennou.
"Only the royal families and a few of their guardians knew about the gates," Phobos elaborated. "Tampering with time is dangerous at best, so the Queen encouraged the idea that the gates were a myth, and entrusted them to one of her own guardians."
"Why would we kidnap you?" Mamoru asked holding his hand over his wife's mouth to keep her from responding to the voice's insult. "We're here looking for some of our friends. They're both a little shorter than Usako here and fight a lot. Did you see them go through here recently?"
"Master," Kunzite interrupted, "Perhaps we should move on. We don't really have time to play twenty questions with a child."
The prince of Earth just shrugged saying, "It doesn't hurt to wait for her answer before continuing."
"Those were your friends?" the child shouted incredulously, "They went through here a while ago. If I show you where they went will you hurry up and take them away? Plu doesn't like them here and she'll probably let me stay longer if they go."
The prince of Earth glanced at his guardians. They made gestures of approval or indifference to Mamoru's unspoken question. He nodded back and raised his voice to answer. "Alright, but you need to promise to help us keep Ami, Mako, and Usagi safe too. They can't fight with magic anymore, so we need to protect them," he demanded gesturing at the former senshi.
"Can't fight?" the little girl said as she stepped around a corner. She was holding a strange black ball with a cat face on it and hugged it tightly as she asked, "Then what good are they? Why would you bring useless people like that to rescue anyone?"
"Because there's more to helping people than fighting," Ami said coldly before either Makoto or Usagi could get a word in. "You said you knew where they were," she continued in a voice that caused even the shitennou to take a step back, "Then by all means, lead the way."
Minako stroked her friend's long dark hair as she slept, wondering what else she might remember before all of this was over. She's never been able to remember anything substantial before, so why is every little thing making her remember so much now? she wondered. The one time leader of the Sailor Senshi smiled, still musing to herself, It almost makes me want to ask for a blond wig and some lingerie to see if she can recall anything fun. Of course, knowing my luck she'd remember something like dressing for a ball or some other event, not what we shared in the past. Still, the idol reflected remembering why she was able to sleep with the priestess in her arms, I guess even that is preferable to memories that hit her like this.
The former senshi of Mars had been a mess of emotions as the memories of her mother's death in both lives mixed and warred for her attention. It took some prodding, but Minako had eventually convinced the priestess to change for bed and try to rest. After all, they were all older than they had been last time, so like Rei always said, the past was still in the past, even if people from back then hadn't figured out how to leave them alone. When exhaustion finally caught up to the priestess, she had been clutching the pop idol to her as though she were trying to reassure herself that this woman who had so recently died and yet didn't, wouldn't disappear too.
"I won't leave like that again, Reiko," the former senshi of Love whispered as she kissed the top of her friends head and tried to fall asleep as well.
Mars Reiko opened her eyes as the feeling of fingers running through her hair stirred her from her slumber. It didn't feel like she had slept long. She glanced at the glowing chronometer in the dark room before grumbling, [It hasn't even been an hour. Go back to sleep.]
She felt another hand begin trailing down her back, and she released a sigh. She doubted she'd be able to sleep anytime soon.
[But I'm not tired yet,] the senshi of Mars' companion protested. [Its not my fault you and Mercury stayed up all night, and I deserve to be consoled for being tricked into destroying your best lace.]
The Princess of Mars smiled at the memory as she began to allow her own hands to wander. [I assumed that was why I was running for my life this morning,] she commented.
[Of course not, Reiko,] the other woman giggled, [That was only because you beat me. You still owe me for the sneaky method you two came up with.]
[You're just mad I didn't have to dig through an entire jungle looking for your flag to win,] Reiko declared as she rolled her partner under her so she was straddling the woman. [You should know better than to ignore the technicalities when dealing with Mercury. Its how she usually beats us.]
[So you won't help me sooth my ego from the nasty beating it took today?] her companion pouted as she ran her hands down the senshi of Mars' sides.
[I suppose I could assist you with that,] she replied, and smiled as she leaned in for a kiss. [What did you have in mind?]
[Mina, please,] the Martian begged her commander in their planning room. [She can't be here. There won't be anything left after the Earthlings get here! Please!] she begged while falling to her knees and touching her head to the floor, [Please let me send her away.]
Jupiter sucked in a shocked breath and Mercury fidgeted uncomfortably a few steps away. Mars had been acting peculiar for the past few days, but they'd never seen the proud Martian bow to anyone but the Queen and their Princess. That she was practically abasing herself to the Venusian made the two more than a little worried.
Venus gazed coldly down at Sailor Mars' form before turning her back on the sight. [Get up,] she ordered.
The woman didn't move.
[This is not up for discussion,] their commander declared in an icy tone, still facing away from her subordinates. [Both the Princess and the Queen will remain on the moon. If we have to, we can evacuate them during the battle, but the royal family doesn't abandon the Moon until absolutely necessary.]
The princess of Venus paused waiting for the sound of movement to signal her second in command had gotten up off the floor, and sighed when it was not forthcoming.
[Send away your brother and whoever else you need to,] she told Mars, turning around to look at her, [but we can't go against the Queens orders. We will protect the palace and Serenity along with it.]
Reiko finally looked up at the words, and tried to make her case one last time. [We can't win Venus. Every future I've seen is just a variation of the same calamity. No one is going to survive.]
The Venusian reached down to her friend as she replied sadly, [Then we will protect the Princess as long as we can.]
The Martian let her commander help her stand as she agreed with haunted eyes, [Even beyond the very end if need be.]
Flames. There were flames and explosions everywhere she looked.
Not mine, she thought in confusion, they won't listen to my commands. We're being attacked! Where are the others?
She looked around franticly, stumbling occasionally from a stray explosion and incinerating stray monsters. Who is doing this? she wondered. "Princess! Princess Serenity, where are you?" she called trying to decide which way to go. She could barely feel her comrades or the princess. Its like I'm in a fog, she reflected, Why...she began only to stop when she noticed the blood. Her abdomen was soaked with it and only getting worse. When... she started, but stopped at the sound of screams and a feeling of crushing loss.
She ran toward the voices fearful of what she'd find.
[Mercury,] she heard herself whisper.
The senshi of Wisdom was lying crumpled in front of a screaming Princess Serenity whom she seemed to have taken a blow for. Jupiter was trying to drag the hysterical woman away from the scene while Venus held off a group of attackers. Mars began to run towards the battle, and ran faster still as a feeling of dread descended on her. No, she screamed in her mind as she stumbled.
The fall forced her to notice archers preparing to loose a volley upon the senshi of Beauty. It would probably hit Jupiter and the Princess too.
[Run!] she screamed hoping to get her comrades away from the arrows.
The Jovian heard the warning and dove through a doorway dragging the Princess with her. Venus was not so lucky.
She looked instead toward her shouting lover. The lover she had given up for dead when the energy that connected the senshi of Passion to their princess dwindled to almost nothing. The lover who was now scrambling over the rubble to reach her.
[Mars,] she whispered, pausing in her destruction of the Earthlings long enough to give the archers a shot.
The senshi of War watched as the slight smile was ripped away from Venus' face and circles of red blossomed on her lover's fuku.
[Venus!] she screamed in terror watching the senshi of Love and Beauty stumbled forward from the force of the projectiles slamming into her.
Minako woke up with a start. What was that? she wondered. It sounds like someone...crying? She heard another whimper come from the woman in her arms and realized why she had woken up. Is she having a vision or just a nightmare? The pop idol worried as she tried to wake her friend.
"Rei," she called while stroking the priestess' cheek, "Rei, wake up. Its just a dream. You need to wake up. Rei!"
The former senshi of Mars woke in confusion. She'd just had a vision of her friends deaths. "Venus!" she shouted in panic as she tried to rise and help them before it was too late.
The sudden movement startled former senshi of Venus, but she managed to hold on to her struggling former subordinate before she got out of the bed and ran from the tent. "Rei! Reiko, calm down," she soothed as the stubborn woman continued to fight her. "Stop it. It was just a dream, I'm right here."
The former Martian stopped as the words sank in and she realized she had dreamed of the past. She would never call for Princess Serenity's name instead of Usagi, and she couldn't even transform anymore. "Sorry," she mumbled after she had calmed a bit. "I think I just dreamed of the last battle on the Moon."
Minako flinched. "I can see why you might panic a bit after that," she sympathized with a small nod. "Are you...are you feeling any better?" the idol asked hesitantly. She didn't really mind holding the priestess, but she wasn't sure what was acceptable now that she was no longer panicking or breaking down over people who had been dead for years.
"Um...yeah," the former senshi of Mars answered with a blush. She'd just realized how close they were, and it was bringing back the first dream she had had. No, she corrected herself, they were memories. "Do you know if I was...involved with anyone in the past," Rei cautiously asked as she moved to sit up. She didn't know what time it was, but she was too riled up to sleep anymore.
The former Venusian was glad for the darkness that hid her disappointed expression and had to wait a moment to be sure she had control over her voice. "Why?" she demanded.
The question took the Martian aback. Wasn't she the one who wanted me to remember more?
"I...," the priestess began, not sure how to explain what she'd seen or even why it suddenly seemed so important. "I remembered someone, but..." she continued.
She was interrupted by shouting outside, and a few moments later by Corporal Autonoe rushing into the tent and shouting at them in Jovian. [Princess, we need to leave now. There's no time to change, our location isn't secure anymore. Come on.]
The former Venusian would have happily killed the corporal and whatever had set him off for the interruption, but the soldier in her recognized the urgency in the man's voice. "We will finish this later," she informed the former senshi of Mars as they rose to follow the Jovian. "I want to know what inspired that question before I answer it."
Rei blushed slightly as she bent down to grab the satchel and nodded as they left. "Fine, but later. Somethings obviously wrong."
Minako smiled and picked up the bag holding their clothes as they passed through the entrance. She's just as stubborn as ever, the idol reflected after stepping into the light. And if thats what she looks like in pajamas, I'll have to work on my eye contact. She's even more beautiful than I remember.
The entire camp was in motion as they followed the corporal between the tents. He was rapidly giving them instructions in case anything went wrong and kept snatching things and shoving them into a backpack as they passed. When a strange building came into view he hurried them in and shoved them into an oddly familiar chamber with clear walls. Three of the Colonels' dogs quietly followed them in at his command.
[Some of those invaders I was talking about showed up,] Nodens told them through the wall while Lieutenant Cloris typed away at a control panel. [I'm sending you to Magellan Castle. Its the safest place right now. Alaisiagae and Eros will be there to meet you,] he told them before looking at Rei very sternly, [I will get that fire reading from you sister. Until we meet again.] He turned away without giving the priestess a chance to respond, and drew a large sword from a scabbard on his back as he left the way they came. Corporal Autonoe bowed to them and followed his leader out the door, leaving just Cloris and the dogs with them.
The minutes crawled by as the Mercurian hurriedly adjusted the settings. He finally gave a shout of [Done!] as the door was blown inward bringing a cloud of dust with it.
Rei and Minako ducked to avoid flying debris, but the clear wall held. Cloris spun around pulling an odd looking pistol from his belt, aimed it at the entrance, and waited for the dust to settle.
Rei sensed it a second before the dogs started barking madly. "Youma," she announced in a soft whisper.
The idol looked at her sharply before calling to the lieutenant, [Cloris! Are the controls synced?]
They heard a rapid clicking noise in the background as he settled into a wider stance and nodded. [Yes. Just tell it to go to location Lambda,] the Mercurian clarified.
The former senshi of Venus hurried over to the control panel mounted inside the chamber and hurried through the menu screens.
The clicking got louder and more rapid when they heard an inhuman roar. A few seconds later twin silver poles shot into the room. The lieutenant rolled out of the way, but the poles rammed into the outside controls smashing them into the wall and through the section where the former princess of Venus was working.
The priestess rushed to check on the idol and glanced at the flashing ruins of the controls next to her. "Minako!" she called gently shaking the woman.
The idol blinked rapidly and tried to sit up, but failed. She winced bringing a hand to her head with a small groan, and tried to focus on the woman in front of her. "Press the triangle," she got out hoping it was in the right language. "We can return with help after we get out of here."
She assumed the former Martian had understood her when she felt a familiar weightless feeling wash over her. The sand under her back and the sun on her face were the first signs that something was wrong, but Minako couldn't get the words out to warn Rei before she blacked out.