Well hello my darling readers. This has been one of my more difficult but nonetheless more intriguing projects. I haven't updated on this fic in nearly eight months. It's amazing how things can just get away from you. This is one of my more intrigue based fics with lots of angst but interesting character developments. I think everyone will enjoy it.

This chapter was a little over 11 pages long so no complaining it wasn't lengthy enough for you. Leave me some reviews so I know what you think. My little writer's ego needs some encouragement to keep writing :)

I have to dedicate this chapter to Liadan for editing this for me spur of the moment. She's got some guts to go up against me and my fragment sentences, bad grammer and awful spelling. Any errors left in this work are there for dramatic effect or were left there by accident. Either way take them with a pinch of salt and enjoy the story. That's why I wrote it anyway.

Now on with the show!

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Temptress

Violet Goddess

Chapter 3

Seduction. It's a powerful word, one fraught with vile connotations. One remembers Delilah and her Samson, the innocent and the jaded rogue, and other tales told around some long dead fire. The allure, the temptation to taste the forbidden is often something human kind cannot resist. Tell someone they cannot have something and they will strive unto their dying breath to obtain it. From Eve in the garden to the simplest man defying all for a beautiful woman, temptation has always gone hand in hand with seduction. But though seduction is usually a word associated with the pleasures of the body it is not always so. It is possible to seduce another with something far more enticing than mere pleasure. There is something all men seek. Something none admit to wanting except in the dark recesses of their soul where light does not reach, where laughter is kept far away and joy is forgotten. When men lay dying on distant battlefields for causes and kings that no one now remembers, it is the one thing that passes their lips. Love. Simple love and the peace and contentment it brings with it. To know someone will mourn your loss. To know you will mourn theirs. It is so simple yet men have killed for it, have died for it. That was the lure she held before him. Something no man could resist, not even one as jaded as their king.

With a sigh Pluto stepped away from the small pool that allowed her to look upon those who dwelled throughout time. It was cruel how much pain lay before Darien, but she was powerless to stop it. Usagi was offering him the one thing that every human soul craved, a chance for love. It was deadly, this game fate was playing and Pluto could only close her eyes in a silent prayer for her friends and hope that fate would have pity for once in its long life. But silently she knew it would not, it never did.

* * *

It was hard, so very hard to know that you were to be the catalyst for death. Oh people talk about death so easily. About dying for honor, for love or even, god forbid, for their country. It's one thing to die for one's own idealism, but it's something entirely different to be the reason for another's death. To take the choice of life or death out of their hands is something so against the human soul that it rips through you when it happens. It was tearing apart Usagi's soul now. He was going to kill them. Every last person she knew and all because of her. Gasping for breath against a sudden tightness in her chest Usagi knew she couldn't let him.

"Can I stop you?" The question was whispered hoarsely, so quiet Darien wasn't certain he had heard her correctly.

"Can you stop me?"

"Yes. Can I?" He could see her lips moving but no sound was coming out. He wondered what it was she was doing, until he realized she was whispering "please, oh please." It was something so characteristic of Serena that Darien felt his heart squeeze painfully. He silently cursed that she was manipulating him and she wasn't even aware of it.

"Honestly I don't know." Her head snapped up at that, her eyes, that distinct luminous blue shining with tears, riveted to his own. "This is one hell of a situation. God you just had to come here. Damn it, you complicate everything!" He was screaming now but she didn't shrink away in fear. Instead she became angry too. What right did he have to be mad at her?

"Are you blaming me for your problems?"

"You DID try to kill me, you know. We shouldn't forget that little bit of information." Usagi flushed at the heated reminder

"Just answer me damn it! Is there any way I can stop you?" Darien could only stare in astonishment at the small woman laying half-naked on his bed, shaking with anger, who was now dared to scream demands at him. Here she was, accused of trying to kill him and probably facing death and she was yelling at him. He couldn't stop the smile that curved his lips. She was definitely something special.



The smile slid away as he forced his mind to realize that this was not the woman he loved, this was merely a stranger with her face. His eyes grew hard and cold.

"No." His voice was so calm, so dead that she could only stare at him in shock.

"What?" They had just been fighting, tempers running high and now he stood before her almost stoic in his emotionless expression.

"I said no. Your tribe dared to try and assassinate me, I cannot let that go unpunished."

He began to walk closer as he spoke, his eyes never leaving her luscious form. "I will kill each and every one of them, until the last of their lines dies out. Years from now, people will wonder if there ever were desert tribes in the north."

A screech of outrage and pain burst from her lips as she launched herself at him, seeking death, his or hers she was never certain. There was simply to much pain in her in that moment to keep from lashing out. He caught her easily though, holding her immobile he drew her close, her lips only inches from his.

"As for you, my little houri, you are going to visit a place near and dear to my heart." The look of utter hatred on his face at that moment stilled the breath in her lungs. What hell had this man lived through that had ravaged his soul like this? She waited for him to call the guards but he only continued to stare at her. Then, without warning, he dragged her close and crushed her lips to his. It was a savage, ravaging kiss that spoke of pain so fierce it bordered on insanity, but also of a love so sweet tears came unbidden to her eyes.

And then in a golden flash she was in a small, isolated cell in the dungeons of Crystal Tokyo. An anguished cry broke from her lips as she realized everyone she knew was going to die by the hands of the one man who, even in a moment of rage, had touched her soul.

* * *

The room was small and airless, a cramped prison for one who held the fate of an empire in her hands, even if it was unknowingly. Strange how things had a way of entangling themselves, Pluto thought wryly. Staring down at Usagi as she paced restless in the narrow confines, Pluto felt ill at ease. This was one of the few times she was allowed, even forced, to interfere.

Pluto smiled as she watched Usagi still, alerted to the timekeeper's presence. Few people could sense her, even Darien lacked that particular skill. In spirt of this girl's denial, she had Serena's power flowing through her veins. This girl was her queen.

"What do you want?" Usagi's voice was clipped, cold like the desert night.

"I thought I might tell you what you already know." Pluto stated as she materialized on the small cot that was the only furnishing in the small cell.

"I won't believe it, or you." She stated defiantly as she stood before the keeper of time, the oldest being in the universe without a hint of fear clouding those crystal blue eyes.

"Deny it if you will, I'm not your conscious nor do I wish to be. But you know what lurks in your soul." Usagi's once clear eyes were suddenly opaque, her body tense as she waited for the inevitable. "You are Serena. Her soul courses through your body just as yours coursed through hers. It is the way of things."

"No." The single word was barely above a choked whisper but there was so much pain, so much anguish pressed into it that Pluto actually felt herself flinch.

"It's the truth, something you cannot change through your denials. Do with it as you will."



It was somewhat overly dramatic Usagi thought numbly, a hollow speech a leader made to troop he would knew he was sending out to die. As silently as she had come Pluto vanished. Now Usagi was alone. Alone in her small cell, in a world that demanded she be a woman she could not. A woman who had died centuries ago.

* * *

The room was dark, airless even in the heated afternoon sunlight. Smoke clung to the walls, the stale smell of alcohol floated through the spacious room that sat empty except for one, lone man. It was an alehouse, like any other in the city but Darien had picked this one. Ami wasn't sure why, chance perhaps, but there sat the king of Crystal Tokyo, dejected and lost. His head was propped against his forearms, laying against the scarred wooden table. His jet black hair hung lifelessly, hiding his face from view. She didn't need to see it to know the ravaged and broken look it would hold.

He had been missing for three days now, masking his energy from them to stay hidden, anonymous in the giant city. Finally they had resorted to searching building by building for their missing king. No one could have expected the scene Ami saw before her. A man who had lost the only thing precious to him a second time, a man who would very likely welcome death with open arms.

Approaching him slowly Ami reached out one white gloved hand and lay it gently on his shoulder. Darien's entire body shook from the slight touch. Unconsciously Ami made soft, cooing noises, trying to sooth something that wracked even her own soul. Darien was her friend, a man who had carried his world through disaster and then stood alone to rebuild it. It had nearly killed him when Serena died, this likely would if they all didn't draw together to save him.

"So you know." His voice was hoarse and raw. Ami wondered if it was from crying or screaming.

Likely both.

"Yes, I know." It was no use to play the innocent here. Everyone knew about Serena's lookalike and each had felt the shock ripple through them. Ami had stood silently as each took the news differently. From rage to tears. But through it all no one could squash the fragile hope that had bloomed within them. Could they have Serena back, their leader and friend? Was the universe that kind? No one had the heart or courage to point out that it had never happened before and likely it never would.

"She's not Serena though. She just looks like her."

"I know Darien." She might know, her very logical brain might accept that fact, but her heart stubbornly refused to realize that one simple thing.

"Pluto." He growled. "She had the honor of informing me, you know. I hate her. I thought about killing her, but I didn't know how to kill someone who is immortal." Ami winced at the bitter hatred and regret in his voice as she inhaled the smell of liquor that wafted off his body in waves. Ami was faintly surprised. Darien never drank. But then if there was ever a time to make exceptions this was it.

"Darien you can't hold her like this, it's not right." Ami's soft words never passed the drunken, tortured shell he had drawn around himself.

"I dream about her you know." He slumped against the scarred tabletop, lost in his own dark world. "Every night. All golden skin and silky hair. She smiles and laughs and everything in the world seems to fit again. It's never Serena or Usagi. They've become one for me." A hoarse laugh floated through the dark taproom, a tortured sound that more resembled a sob of despair than a laugh. "They've become one for me."

Ami stared at the man who was her king, a man who had always been strength, even if at times ruthless strength. He sat before her now a broken man, his mind and soul in tatters and nothing in her vast knowledge could help him.

* * *

"He is, understandably, dying inside." Ami's voice was soft and sympathetic as she spoke to the other senshi. Every eye stared beyond her into the dark bedroom they had finally hauled Darien to. He lay now a wretched heap on his silken sheets, a man without hope surrounded by all the finery of his empire. And to him it was all worthless. Ami stared into the shadowy chamber and felt her heart squeeze painfully before she turned back to her friends.

"We can't let this happen to him again, he barely survived it the first time. Hell WE barely survived it the first time." Rei's angry voice was almost a relief from the morbid atmosphere that had surrounded the palace since the girl's arrival. It was as if everyone already grieved for what they would lose with this girl, or perhaps they grieved for what she could never be. She could never be Serena. No, their Serena was dead.

"So what do you suggest we do then? Storm the dungeons, Rei? Rescue this poor lookalike from Darien's evil clutches?" There was a wealth of menace in Lita's voice. She was having none of this. This girl was tearing apart her family! Damn her angelic face and her innocence, no one was going to shatter the people she loved like this! No one.

"Damn it, I don't know what we should do!" Rei shouted helplessly. She leaned wearily against the cold marble walls, exhausted in body and spirit. She stared at the others blankly, a look of torment ravaging her beautiful features. Rei was a priestess, someone who thrived on, even depended on balance. Indecision was not something she could cope with easily, nor was the atmosphere of death and grief. She needed something for her elegant hands to grasp at, something besides this inaction! Her violet eyes scanned the shadowy room, noting the still body within and her jaw firmed with resolve.

"We can't let this happen again so we're going to do the only thing we can." She felt their eyes on her and she knew without looking the expressions were a mixture of fear and confusion. But she never moved her gaze from Darien's prone form. She must protect him, she thought. She must protect them all.

* * *

She wondered if they were still alive. Would if their souls continue to cling to this plane or would they pass willingly, easily into the next? It was a difficult thing to make herself ponder. Her room was dark now, night had descended upon the great city of Crystal Tokyo, but it mattered little to her. The window allowed a single, sliver of moonlight to struggled through the thickening evening clouds. A storm was rolling in off the ocean. She could feel the electricity flicker through her blood and hear the wind moan and pitch.



Oddly enough, it made her feel like she was back in the desert. How many times had she stood and watched a storm roll in off the horizon, black clouds and ominous thunder crash across the sky? She remembered how the wind would whip her hair about her, even as the smell of damp earth lingering on it as the storm drew nearer. It was heady, watching lightning fly from cloud to cloud, and wondering how long you might stare at something so powerful, so violent.

Gods how she missed home. She wondered if she would ever see it again. Would they bury her there if she asked? A last wish perhaps? She hoped so for the thought of be buried beneath the tawny desert sands gave her a kind of peace that she could never have imagined. She could endure anything if she could one day return to the desert. She wondered if his soldiers would bury her family or simply leave their bodies out for the desert scavengers? Her body hurt as wave after wave of questions rolled over her, she lay on her side, her head held between her hands as she rocked gently, trying to ease the pain.

It was the sound of footsteps that alerted her to their presence, the sound of the ancient and neglected door opening that told her that she had drawn their interest. She turned slightly, too disheartened to do more, and simply stared. They stood before her proud and yet uncertain in the small, damp room. Four women, each exquisitely beautiful, regarded her with open speculation. She felt their questioning eyes run across her, taking in the tattered crimson veils of her dress, the dirt that lay thick across her pale skin, the salty track of dried tears on her cheeks. Those eyes missed nothing and yet Usagi couldn't dredge up the anger to protest. What did it matter anymore? She had been sent to deliver her people from a king they had not pledged to and did not want. She was to have been their savior. What irony it was that instead, she would be their downfall.

"My God, you could be her." The voice was soft and pained as it floated through the room. Usagi didn't know who had spoken, her eyes were closed against the women. They thought she was her, Darien's woman. She would kill the girl if she weren't already dead.

"Her, her, her! Always her! I'm not Serena." She knew she sounded slightly hysterical but she couldn't help the sharp edge that crept to her voice. She would not stand by and be told she was this long dead woman, would not let them turn her into their Serena. "I am Usagi." Her voice wavered weakly but there was pride in it.

"We know. that's part of the problem," the one with raven hair said. For a moment Usagi lay quietly, entranced as she watched that woman's extraordinary hair slither and snake about her body. It seemed almost alive as it drew the light to it, like a living flame. This woman would be drawn to fire. The thought came from somewhere far in the back of Usagi's mind, a quiet whisper that was so sure and confident that a chill swept up her spine. But how would she know anything about this woman? The fear made her edgy, and snapped back at the woman.

"Who the hell are you? All of you?" Her crystal eyes narrowed on them dangerously even as she lay helpless on her small, rotting cot.

"We were Usagi's protectors."

"And friends." Another added. Usagi didn't bother to see which one had spoken, obviously all these women felt the same. Obviously they were trying to come to some sort of decision. She just didn't know what.

"I gather from the guilt on your faces that you were the ones who let her die?" Usagi knew it was a cold thing to say, something that would merely twist a knife they themselves had thrust into their hearts but she wasn't sorry. These women were her enemies and any weapon was one she must use.

"Yes." No denials, no excuses, just simple acceptance. Yes, the guilt must be great for them to merely accept her accusations.

Rei stared at the flowing gold hair pooling around the girl's head. She stared at the narrowed blue eyes and pouting red mouth. Oh she looked like Serena alright but that was not what held her hand. That was not what stopped her from calling her flame to end this girl. Instead it was her aura. This girl had Serena's soul coursing through her. Rei's eyes widened as she realized this, her hands shook as she drew them through her disheveled hair. This girl was Serena. Different body, same beautiful soul.

"I wondered how long it was going to take for you to figure it out." The voice was soft, melodic with a kind of bitterness that only knowledge could bring.

"Pluto." Rei whispered the word, sensing that the others weren't aware of Pluto's presence. Except for perhaps Usagi, she seemed tense as her restless, exhausted eyes scanned the dingy interior of the room almost warily. Silently Rei stepped into the long, deserted hallway, leaving the other girls to talk with Usagi, to try to come to some sort of resolution among themselves.

The passageway was archaic, the oldest part of an ancient castle and it showed.

The smell of decay and mold clung to the walls, mingling with the scent of the stale water dripping ceaselessly down the pitted walls. It was a dreary place made more so by the echo of anguish that had seeped into the very stones after centuries of prisoners breathing their last within these walls. She walked several paces from the doorway, away from the soft light flowing from Usagi's small window and the single torch they had left outside her door, a talisman against the total darkness that lurked here.

"So I know." The words were thrown out like a challenge, and in a sense they were.

"Yes, so you know. But you cannot tell them." The words flowed around her, no body attached, no origin, merely there. It was a little grating to have to speak to shadows and ghosts like this but for answers Rei would have spoken with the devil himself. She had Pluto penchant for using her powers to play the all-knowing teacher like this.

"Why should I keep this from them?" Her voice vibrated with anger. She was a person who valued those she loved. She couldn't hurt them by denying them this information. Rei's knowledge added a new, unexpected complication to the situation. In a sense this girl was their Serena. Perhaps she could remember. Souls often carried memories from the past lives. Perhaps they could awaken her powers again. Perhaps....

"That is why. They will try to mold her into Serena as surely as the Sun rises each day. They will not be able to help themselves. Their love for Serena will be what suffocates Usagi. She isn't Serena, she never can be."

"But -"

"No! Listen closely. They share the same soul but they are not the same person. No god would be that cruel, to force the mistakes or the passions of another life onto a person." Rei glared into the darkness, stubborn in her hope to have Serena back.

"Then why would fate bring her here. Why would it flaunt her at us."

"Perhaps fate enjoys your pain, who knows?" Rei could almost see Pluto's shrug and she suddenly felt like hitting the green-haired witch. "Leave it be Rei. The girl already lives in the Queen's shadow enough."

"But this is killing us! Killing Darien."

"I know but it must play out....without interference." She added harshly. The darkness fell silent and Rei felt her shoulders slump in defeat. She knew the truth of the timekeeper's words, felt them in her bones. They couldn't kill the girl, but neither could they make her into their leader. Pluto was right, Usagi was a different person, with different allegiances and dreams. It was still painful to accept and her heart rebelled instinctively against the death of that small hope.

She turned back slowly, watching the torch light slide silently across scarred walls. It seemed fate would have the last laugh.

* * *

The gag tasted bitter in her mouth, a constant reminder of bondage as much as the ropes bitting so harshly into the delicate skin of her wrists. A ragged piece of cloth hung securely across her eyes, its foul smell nearly gagging her as her captors pushed her forward. She supposed they were taking her to her execution or perhaps back to their king. The options were each equally unappealing. She heard their harsh voices echo off the stone walls and felt dirt shift beneath her bare feet. She supposed they were in some kind of tunnel. Odd that they should take her by way of passage but she had long ceased to be surprised by anything.

She was still wearing the tattered remains of her scarlet dress. The ragged silk clung desperately to her thin body as she was rushed down endless passageways. Her captors were silent except for their harsh commands to move faster. They weren't cruel to her though, their hands were strong but impersonal. They moved over her with neither hatred nor sympathy. They were simply doing a job. It had been nearly three days since she had been banished to her cell in the crypts of the palace and her body was weak. No food or water had been brought though she doubted she could have consumed any. Her spirit was dead even if her body continued to cling stubbornly to life.

She wondered how long it would be before it too gave out. Would her breath simply cease or perhaps-

Dear gods! The feel of sunlight across her skin was so delicious, so unexpected that she stumbled and fell to her knees. Her hands connected with the lush feel of grass. She ran her hands across it almost lovingly. Her feet had only felt the grit of dirt beneath them but here was a small patch of grass. She was outside! She was beyond the walls of that hellish place. She could die in peace as long as it was away from there.

With a smile on her lips she stood gracefully, ready to follow wherever they led but a beefy hand merely pulled the blindfold from her eyes. The sunlight stun eyes to long accustomed to darkness but it was a sweet ache and one that eventually abated as the men cut the bonds at her wrists and her gag. She turned to see two men, huge in proportion. Both had dark black hair and intense blue eyes. Brothers she realized as she looked at features that mirrored each other so perfectly. Twins perhaps. They both wore the outlandish and impractical uniform of the elite palace guard. It was an outfit that was black from head to toe and required carrying at least one sword though many preferred two. Serena had done her research before attempting her assassination of their king. Though those elite men of the Guard were legendary in themselves. For though black leather seemed impractical it very much accomplished what they intended, intimidation.

"Why?" Her voice was harsh from disuse, a rusty imitation of speech.

"Go." The one to the right replied and then they turned as one and left.

"Where?" The question stopped them though the one on the right never looked back as he replied.

"Home."

* * *

The shifting desert sands felt like heaven beneath her. She rode a small horse, stolen from one of the few villages she had passed through. She had skirted civilization as much as possible on her trek home, fearful of the Guard searching for her. She knew the king had not released her. She represented a kind of hope that he couldn't give up, even if it was a false hope. She wondered if perhaps those women had been behind her release, but she could be sure of nothing. They had looked at her the way Darien had, with a kind of hopeless longing, wishes laced with pain.

It had taken nearly three months to work her way back here, across the vast plains of the south and even vaster deserts of the north. But now she was home. She pulled up her hood against the glare of the afternoon sun. She knew she shouldn't be traveling at this hour but she was helpless to resist the lure of home. In the back of her mind a constant worry nagged that they might already be dead, but she had ruthlessly pushed the thought aside as she worked her way north. Her people were of the sands and they could disappear into them as easily as the wind shifts the dunes.

She smiled mirthlessly as she thought of those first few days after her release, when she had been forced to scrounge and steal her way out of the city. The first thing she had done was steal clothes to cover the crimson dress that would have drawn endless attention. Slowly, she had traveled across the countryside, avoiding people whenever possible. She had not wanted to tempt fate again.

She shifted in the saddle. Her muscles were cramped from the long ride, protesting her endless hours of riding. All her aches were forgotten though as she crested the next dune and saw the simple camp below, encroaching on the small oasis. She was finally home with her people. They were alive! Her heart swelled and she kicked the tired horse into a trot, smiling brightly as it worked its way down the shifting dune. She watched several people step out of their tents and stare inquiringly at her. She threw back her hood and laughed aloud. She saw them shout excitedly while they gestured towards her. Her blonde hair was good for something at least. She was the only one in her tribe to carry the color, a tribute to her mother who had been from the south. Fair and blonde she had been sold to Serena's father as a concubine but there had been love between them, a love that had nearly destroyed her father when her mother had died.

Her eyes lovingly scanned the scene, jumping from face to face. Drinking in every detail ravenously. And then her eyes alighted on one figure, dressed in black from head to toe. She felt her heart sink. Escape was impossible and truthfully where would she go?

She had survived this time because only because of the fierce drive to return to these people. She would never willingly abandon them. So she held her head high and rode towards camp, looking for all the world like a condemned desert queen.

She held her eyes on the far horizon even as she rode into the camp, even when she felt the warm hand grab the reins from her.

"Hello Usagi." With something akin to horror Usagi stared down at Darien. He stood proud and arrogant, like the king he was. His eyes blazing at her. They were the clearest blue she had ever seen. She felt herself drowning in them, drowning in the anguish and desire rioting within him as they stood beneath the hot desert sun. She was sure she heard fate laughing softly or perhaps it was only the desert winds mocking their child. Whatever it watched the two, it could smell the struggle and attraction between these two and gloried in it.