"Your love will be hopeless for all eternity," she heard him speak as his body began to disappear, his eyes still watching her intently. "What's wrong? You should look happier…"

How can I be happy, watching the person I love crumble into nothingness before my very eyes? I'm holding onto his hand, but it's doing no good. I can't stop this.

"Your fate is to continue fighting… you true battle begins now," she saw that as he spoke these final words, the coldness in his eyes had finally disappeared. Her last glimpse of his face saw a look of relief, as if her were thanking her for freeing him from something.

She let her tears fall freely. As she clutched at the ground she noticed a card lying just next to her knees: the Ace of Hearts. His card. She picked it up and hid it quickly, before Artemis saw. As she hid it on her body, she could feel a warmth emanating from it.

Quietly, she heard him once more in the breeze, a voice just for her: "Thank you for freeing me from the darkness… I am myself once again, at long last."

….

She peeked out her door just to make sure that she was alone. Closing the door, she leaned against it and sighed.

No one is here… not even Artemis.

She knelt down on the cushion on her floor and carefully pulled the card out of her back pocket. She held it up in front of her, studying it as if there was something very interesting about its appearance.

The Ace of Hearts. It just looks like an ordinary playing card. Oh, but this card is so much more.

She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, to calm herself. As she exhaled, she opened her eyes and called his name.

"Adonis," she whispered. Please, work this time. I need you. Her eyes widened as she watched the form appear out of the card she had held on to for all this time.

The ghostly figure smiled at her and bowed. "Princess Venus," he spoke, his voice sounding far kinder than it had the last time she heard it. "I see you have finally found the power within yourself to summon me."

"I… I needed you. Why did you abandon me? Betray me?" her eyes welled up with tears. "I kept your card all this time—kept it a secret from everyone. I keep it with me always." Out of the rubble after his body was destroyed, he has stayed with me in this card for all this time.

"You don't need me, though. Do you?" he sighed sweetly. "Venus… in the past life, you didn't even know of my existence. I was just another one of your many soldiers. In this life, I died while still corrupted by heartbreak and hatred. Of course, I will always be here for you… but…"

"But what?" Minako interrupted. What does he mean, saying that I don't need him? Wasn't it the meeting with him that helped me to awaken and recall my memories of the past life?

"Why would you rely on me, when you have so many companions? Those who you did know in the past?"

Minako looked down at her clenched hands. "This is… something that I can't tell any of them about." She looked back up at Adonis, his green eyes flickering. "I can't transform right now."

"Oh," he nodded, his eyes watching Minako's expression intently. "How long has this been a problem?"

"Since the defeat of Galaxia and Chaos…" she slammed her hands against the floor. "I don't understand! I need to protect Usagi still… I'm the leader of her guardians, and it is my duty to stand by her side as a Senshi when she assumes her role as Neo Queen Serenity."

Adonis' sweet smile returned. Minako assessed his appearance for the first time since summoning him. He looks just as he did as Kaitou Ace- mask and all. His eyes glisten, his hair tousled effortlessly. I always felt that he was older than me, but it has been years since then, and of course in his present state he doesn't age. We're about the same age now. But despite looking the same, I can tell that he's different. Is this what he meant when he thanked me for freeing him from Metalia's darkness? This is his true self.

"Why are you blushing, Venus?" Adonis asked, bringing Minako back to reality. He held the Ace of Hearts between his fingers, waving it in front of Minako's face. "Do you want me to tell you your fortune again?"

She shuddered at the memory of the last fortune he had given her. I remember thinking I was doomed for all eternity after I heard that fortune… after I watched him die just as I realized my love for him…

He grinned, reminding Minako of his old cocky self as Kaitou Ace. "Not much has changed since the last fortune, I'm afraid… and yet now it seems more hopeful, doesn't it?"

"What do you mean? Is there a way for me to regain my ability to transform?" Minako leaned in closer to Adonis, hanging on his every word.

He shook his head, not answering her questions, perhaps unable to. "I am afraid I have reached my limit in this form, for now. But know this: a new battle is about to begin for you…"

Minako grasped at the air in front of her, begging him to stay, but watching him fade away. "Please, don't go… I don't know what to do…"

Even as he began to disappear, he bent down and kissed Minako on the forehead. "Do not fear, Venus. This is not the last time you will see me. Call me again, and I will come."

Minako touched her forehead where he had kissed her. It felt like more than just a simple kiss. He left me with something, just now. But what?

"Mina?" she heard Artemis' voice calling her from the other side of the door. "Are you in there?"

"Yes, coming!" she called back, quickly wiping away the last of her tears and making sure to put on a big smile before opening her door.