A/N: A lot of people asked if we would ever find out what happened between Minako and Yaten and Ami and Taiki. I'm not sure, to be honest, but I hope so! Enjoy.
And that's how Yaten, Taiki and Chibi-Chibi found us, with me leaning in close to Fighter, my hand on her cheek, our eyes locked. The encounter with Rubeus had been so brief that it was over by the time they came out, and I had completely forgotten that they would be joining us. I wasn't going to do anything, but I have to admit that my mind had toyed briefly with the idea of leaning forward to kiss her. It would've been so easy in that moment, sweet and private, and I really wanted to. It surprised me, how much I wanted to.
Yaten clearing her throat ruined that. Fighter jumped and I jerked away. I was sure that my cheeks were flaming bright pink when I turned around to look at them. She was smirking and Taiki was doing a poor job of hiding her grin. I started to scowl at them and thought better of it: I could tell from her puffy eyes that Yaten had been crying, and although Taiki looked a little more put together I knew that she had to have been having a difficult time too. So instead I took a deep breath and forced myself to smile instead.
"Are you all done?" I asked, eyeing the two of them closely. I was dying to know what Minako and Ami had said to them but it would have been rude to ask.
"For now," Yaten said quietly. She was holding Chibi-Chibi in her arms and stopped me with a quick shake of her head when I started to move forward to take her. I backed off and she added, "I think they're gone now. Into the Galaxy Cauldron, I mean."
"Are you okay?" Fighter asked.
Taiki glanced at Yaten and then looked at us. "We're getting there," she said, which was probably just about the truest thing that she could have said at that moment. "What happened?"
Something tickled at the back of my neck, a feeling I didn't fully recognize but which felt slightly familiar. I let Fighter answer the question while I tried in vain to place it. I wasn't successful until the wind changed, blowing my hair around, and the sweet, pungent scent of olives reached my nose. I straightened up with a soft gasp and Chibi-Chibi clapped her hands with a girlish little giggle. Fighter stopped speaking abruptly, and I knew that she had caught the scent, too. My heart started to pound. Not an hour ago I had been wishing that the Starlights would have one more chance to see their princess and now it was coming true.
She appeared at the mouth of the alley, cast in shadows until one of the clouds covering the sun moved just right. Like the senshi, her body was translucent and faded and anyone walking by probably would've called her a ghost. In a way, she was. Out of the corner of my eye I watched as Yaten, Taiki and Fighter went still, and then Fighter suddenly let her transformation go. I knew why she had done it, she didn't want to be seen as someone else's soldier in front of her former princess, but even though it made sense it still stung.
I backed up another step, and this time when I reached out and took Chibi-Chibi Yaten didn't stop me. She was captivated by the sight of Princess Kakyuu. I didn't want to walk by her, but I had no choice, and as I made my way by I took care to make sure that we kept our distance, though she graced me with a kind smile. I turned my head away and clutched Chibi-Chibi so tightly that she whimpered. I didn't want to see Kakyuu's smile or hear what she was going to say.
In spite of that I found myself stopping just around the corner, where I could press my back to the sun-warmed bricks and listen to what was going on while people obliviously walked by.
"Princess…" Seiya was the first one to speak and she sounded completely breathless. I heard a noise a moment later that I suspected meant she had gone down on one knee. "You… you've returned?"
"No, Fighter," Kakyuu said gently. "Like Sailor Moon's senshi, I could not rest until I knew that my friends were doing well. I've used the last of my power and what I was granted a gift to make sure that you're alright before I go into the Galaxy Cauldron. I'll be reborn here on Earth eventually."
"So you won't be reborn on Kinmoku, then," said Taiki and I felt my heart constrict at the possibility. I hadn't even considered the idea that there was a chance Kakyuu could be reborn anywhere other than Earth. It was a good thing I hadn't because I would have been driving myself crazy wondering if the Starlights would leave when she reappeared.
Kakyuu sighed. "No," she said again. "I'm afraid not, Maker. That's not quite how it works. Perhaps if Kinmoku's shine hadn't been conquered by Galaxia, there is a chance that I might have returned there. But as it is, our planet is barren and dead. There are not enough people around to sustain life, much less give birth to a new generation. I died here and so I will be reborn here. I'll be an Earthling child this time around." She paused for a moment, and when she spoke again she sounded amused. "I'm rather looking forward to it, actually. I wonder what it will be like to grow up without knowing that I am a soldier or a princess."
"Princess..." That was Yaten. She was crying. It seemed to be the only thing she could say.
"Oh, Healer, don't make that face, and please don't cry. It's alright, really. You three don't need me anymore. You have Sailor Moon. She will be a wonderful princess to all of you and I know that you'll make each other happy. She needs you."
"But we want you!" Seiya cried.
I couldn't stand there and listen to anything else. I started to walk away and Chibi-Chibi went tense in my arms, and then she started to squirm around and whine. I realized that she didn't want to leave Kakyuu and that was the last straw. I set her down on the ground, perhaps more harshly than I should have, and started running down the street. I wasn't sure where I was going; I just knew I needed to get away. I didn't want to hear the friends I had come to value so highly talk about how they missed their old princess. It hurt too much. And I hated that because it was selfish of me to think that way. Didn't I miss my senshi? Was I that horrible a person to not want them to say the same thing about the woman they had spent their lives protecting?
I kept running until my eternal sense of clumsiness kicked in and I tripped. It was inevitable, looking back, because I'm simply not meant to move at that speed for an extended period of time. It was a crack in the sidewalk that did me in, a little portion that was just a bit higher than the rest, and when my foot hit it my right shoe stayed behind while the rest of me kept going. I hit the ground hard and gasped at the pain, remaining where I was for a long moment. I was breathing hard and doing my best not to sit down right there in the middle of downtown Tokyo and give over to a good cry.
The simple fact of it all was, the Starlights might have belonged to me now but they had belonged to Kakyuu first. There were years of history between them that I would never be able to match. I had forgotten that for just a little while but I knew it was something I would have to keep in mind from now on. As much as they might have cared about me, I would never replace her in their hearts. And I knew that, damn it, just like they would never replace the senshi in my heart. So why did this hurt so much? Why did it bother me?
I sat there for a long time until my heart rate slowed and my breathing was under control, ignoring the people who were walking by and giving me cross looks for being in the middle of the sidewalk. I inspected the damage on the palms of my hands and knees. Scraped quite badly, but nothing serious, and after years of being a klutz and falling all over myself on a regular basis I was pretty familiar with the sting. I got to my feet and looked around. I actually hadn't gone as far as I had thought that I had. I was still in the downtown. I wasn't that far from the arcade.
I went there because I didn't know where else to go. It turned out to be a wise decision - or a poor one, depending on how I looked at it, and at that moment I honestly couldn't be sure. The arcade was busy, thrumming with kids and parents, and I was already a few steps in the door when I caught sight of Shingo. He was leaning over the Sailor V video game, fingers flying over the controls, and there was a girl I vaguely recognized pressed up against his side laughing. I stopped short and nearly caused a traffic jam. By the time I got out of the way I couldn't see Shingo anymore and I assumed that meant he couldn't see me, either. I didn't know if I should leave or go over and talk to him or wait to see if he would notice that I was there.
My confusion must have been noticeable because someone touched my arm, and I jumped and turned to see Unazuki standing there. She was smiling. "Hello, Usagi-chan."
"Unazuki-chan!" I said. "What are you doing down here?"
"I came to visit Nii-san while I was on my break. He's out back. Were you – " She cut herself off suddenly and her eyes widened. I realized that she was looking at my knees and hands. Before I could say anything she had taken me by the wrist and steered me into the women's room. She flipped the lock on the door to keep anyone from walking in and interrupting us and started wetting paper towels in the sink. "Okay, let's hear it. What happened?"
"I don't suppose you would accept that I just tripped," I said tiredly, watching as she knelt in front of me. I didn't bother to argue as she began dabbing gently at the scrapes, washing the blood away.
"No, not really. I know you're a klutz but I can also tell you were crying."
"Yeah." I sighed and looked at the mirror. She was right. My face was streaked with tears and my eyes were all puffy. "I just… I've been having a hard time, that's all." I paused and Unazuki looked up and gave me an encouraging smile. I realized that I wanted to tell her the truth as much as I could, so I added, "And I overheard some of my friends talking about this girl they used to know. She died in the attack. I guess I felt like I was a replacement for her even though we were friends before. She was just really important to them and… I don't know. I guess I feel like I'm not good enough."
Unazuki threw the towels in the garbage and wet some more, this time to work on my hands. "Well, it can be hard to hear people talk about their loved ones who died. One of my friends lost her husband and she hasn't stopped talking about him yet. I except one day she'll move on, though. It's a little different, what you're talking about, but the principle is the same. Just because you love one person doesn't mean you've got any less room for another, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," I said sadly, and I did know that what she was saying was the truth. But that didn't mean it made me feel any better about what I had overheard.
A/N: Unazuki is Motoki's little sister. Her name in the English dub was Elizabeth or Lizzie, depending on the season in question.