A/N: Definitely drawing close to the end... two more chapters to go. Enjoy!
It amazed me how quickly things settled down. Seiya's decision to have it out with Otori early on ended up being a wise one. Within less than a week, the Three Lights were being spun as a more responsible band. I started seeing ad campaigns that lauded them as being the 'new brand of rock star, ready and willing to accept the consequences of their actions'. There were a lot of comparisons being made with several other young musicians who were heavily into drugs or living wilder lives in an effort to cast Seiya into the more favorable light. Officially my name and our engagement had not been released yet, but we all knew it was only a matter of time before someone put two and two together.
I decided to go back to school to finish off the year, even though I knew that I and everyone else would be graduating to the next year automatically after all of the upheaval. We had about six weeks left, I'd be finished before things became an issue. After that… I wasn't sure what I would do. The tour for the Three Lights had been moved until after my due date, and I really wanted to go even though it would last for a couple of years. After Taiki discussed the situation with him, Otori had promised that we could do long-distance education as necessary so that our schoolwork wouldn't suffer. To me that sounded like a lot more fun with school, particularly since I'd have a couple of kids to deal with by then.
I'd had one doctor's visit so far, with Ami's mom. The reason I went to her was because I knew exactly when the baby's due date should be, and the numbers didn't exactly add up right. She said it herself, I was progressing a little faster than normal. It didn't take me long to break down and tell her exactly why. I have to say, she took the news that her daughter had been Sailor Mercury remarkably well. She thanked me for telling her and held it together until I left. I thought for sure she wouldn't want me to come back, but the next morning she called me up and insisted on being my doctor. It was reassuring to put the health of me and my child into the hands of someone I trusted so deeply.
One afternoon about three weeks after I told Mom the truth, I left school by myself. It wasn't often I got to go anywhere without an escort, but Seiya, Yaten and Taiki were all busy. I stepped just outside of the gate and paused, wondering what I was going to do for the rest of the afternoon. In spite of Mom's "couple of days", I hadn't heard from her or Dad. I wasn't sure if it would be a good idea to make the first move no matter how much I wanted to. I was thinking about going to see Motoki for a while – Chibi-Chibi's sitter would be with her sitter until 5pm - when I realized I wasn't alone.
I hadn't seen Koan, Berthier or Calaveras since our teleportation away from the spaceship. I had called and left a message at their store, but when no one responded to me I took the hint and figured that none of them wanted to be around me. So I was pretty surprised to see that Berthier was standing across the street. She was unmistakable, wearing a white sundress, and as soon as she saw me looking at her she crossed the street towards me.
"Hello," she said when she was close enough to speak without shouting.
"Hi," I said cautiously. I didn't want to be rude and ask her what she was doing here, but… "I have to admit, I'm shocked that you're here. I… guess I thought you guys didn't want anything to do with me."
Berthier sighed. "I can see how it came across like that, and I'm sorry. We just needed some time to get used to being here without Petz." She winced a little. "We've been really busy. It's been hard."
"I understand," I told her. "I'm not upset or anything. I was just worried about you."
She smiled. "I know you were and that's why I decided to come see you today. I wanted to let you know that you don't need to. Worry, I mean. It was really upsetting at first, especially for Calaveras. She and Petz fought a lot, but they were really close. Petz was concerned that something like this might happen when we found out about Rubeus, but none of us really believed her…" She trailed off and put a hand to her forehead with a grimace. "Petz was always the worrier, but I guess in this case she was right."
"I'm sorry. I can't help but feel like I should have done something sooner. Maybe this could've been avoided." Looking back, all of my reasons seemed like pitiful excuses. If I had known that not acting sooner would have caused Petz's death... there was nothing in the world that would've stopped me from defeating Rubeus before he dragged the Ayakashi Sisters into this.
"No! Usagi-san, no." Berthier caught my arm and squeezed it firmly, so that I had no choice but to look up at her. "Don't talk that way. It's not your fault, do you understand me? Rubeus was the one who decided that he wanted to attack this planet. It was in large part because he wanted revenge against you, but I firmly believe that he knew we were here from the beginning. He was merely biding his time because he liked to watch us live in fear him. He used to love it when we danced to his tune, and that hasn't changed." Her face darkened, eyes spitting fire. "This was his fault, not yours. We had no right to get angry at you. I should be the one apologizing."
"No, don't. It's okay, really."
"It's not, but thank you anyway," she said softly. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, the tension sliding from her shoulders. "To tell you the truth, Petz was never entirely happy on Earth. Nemesis was a cold, dark place but she found happiness there with Safir. Part of her yearned for him after he died, no matter how much we encouraged her to try to move on. Wherever she is now, I like to think that they've found each other."
"I'm sure that's true," I said.
Berthier smiled sadly. "I hope so, too." She released my arm and took a step back, putting a little distance between us. "Good-bye, Princess."
My eyes widened. "What?"
"Your friend Helios made us an offer we can't refuse," Berthier replied. "At least not for the time being. I love it here on Earth, but spending time with the dark magic ravaging through me... It makes me feel conflicted. I need time to myself to sort out what I want and who I am and I can't do that here. Calaveras and Koan feel the same way. We've decided to close up the shop and stay on Elysian for a little while. I think that someday we'll come back here, but right now we just really need to get away."
Her words saddened me, but I understood what she was saying. Earth could be pretty chaotic sometimes, and that was for people who were used to it. Berthier, Koan and Calaveras had only lived here for about a year. It was no wonder they felt the need to leave for a while. I studied her, wondering if she was being honest when she said they might come back. Maybe they would discover that life on Elysian was everything they'd ever wanted and stay there instead. I couldn't say that didn't appeal to me, if only because it would offer Helios some sorely needed company.
"Then I hope you find that life on Elysian is exactly what you're looking for," I replied at last. I had the feeling that she was looking for my blessing, and I wanted to know that they had it. Maybe Elysian could be the Crystal Tokyo that the three of them had never been able to experience. But, wanting to make sure that they would keep in contact, I asked, "Will you come visit me once the baby is born?"
"Of course. It'll be nice to see the Rabbit again," she said, and this time her smile was actually a true one. "Just so you know, we're leaving this afternoon. Everything's already been taken care of. If you ever need us, you know where to find us. We're in your debt after everything that you've done." She glanced up at the sky, which was fortunately a brilliant and clear blue.
"I'm just happy that I was able to help," I said, but I was speaking to no one. In the blink of an eye, Berthier had vanished. I stared at the spot where she had just been, wondering how she'd done that. Either I paid a lot less attention to my surroundings than I thought, or Helios had really excellent timing.
My encounter with Berthier had not taken all that long, so I decided to go through with my original plan to visit Motoki. I had a serious craving for a chocolate milkshake. I sent a text to Seiya, Yaten and Taiki as I walked, letting them know of the departure of the Ayakashi Sisters. Yaten and Taiki didn't answer me, but Seiya wrote back a quick note to say that she was glad and to ask me where I was. I smiled to myself and answered truthfully. I thought it was cute, how closely she tried to keep tabs on me.
The arcade was just starting to get busy as I went in. I started to head over to the counter, thinking that I'd get my milkshake and then play a few rounds of Sailor V, but I stopped when I heard a very familiar giggle. It sounded just like Chibi-Chibi! I reversed my steps and went over to the games instead, tracking the sounds until I found myself right in front of my favorite game. Sure enough, Chibi-Chibi was there but she wasn't alone. Shingo was holding her up in front of the machine and helping her to hit the right buttons.
"Shingo?" I said, completely amazed. He turned to look at me and my eyes moved past him automatically, spotting something was even more shocking. My parents were sitting at a table not twenty feet away, laughing and sharing a milkshake. When they noticed me, Mom waved with a bright smile. I slowly held my hand up and shook it back and forth. It was probably a pretty sorry excuse for a wave but I was too shocked to do anything else.
"Hey Nee-chan," Shingo said with an easy grin.
"Mama!" Chibi-Chibi cried, twisting around in his grip. Her voice was clearly audible over the sounds of the games, and she made no effort to hide the fact that she was looking right at me when she said it. My heart squeezed when she called that right in front of my family, but none of them looked all that surprised to hear it. Shingo put her down on the ground and she ran straight to me, her hands extended. I picked her up automatically and balanced her on my hip. There was a thin ring of chocolate around her mouth that told me one of us had already indulged in a shake today.
"Hi baby," I murmured, pressing my face into her hair for just a moment before I looked up again. Shingo was closing out of the Sailor V game, apparently not minding that he'd lose his tokens. He shoved his hands in his pockets and ambled closer to me, still wearing that knowing grin that made the hair on the back of my neck rise. As soon as he was close enough that I could talk without yelling, I grabbed his shoulder. "Alright, talk. What the hell is going on?"