A/N: Hello! Welcome back, once more. I wanted to first of all respond to what may have prompted confusion with some readers, as for why Haruka wouldn't report some joyriders. Of course any of us with vehicles would report someone stealing our cars, BUT, consider that allegedly Haruka is too young to even have a license :) There's some story to it in the Anime, I guess she says something to the effect of receiving it in another country ? Not sure! Either way, seemed better to dodge that bullet. I'll let her bump into the authorities later!
Also, more importantly, this chapter gets a bit more dark and possibly graphic (not in sexy terms; sorry!) so just a fair warning on that. I don't like making readers queasy so I don't personally view the material as excessively grotesque. Just consider the chapter a bit more mature than the past. Anyhow, please read and review and enjoy!
"Seriously. Let's discuss this." Haruka eagerly insisted.
The violinist just grinned, completely amused by the fact the blonde seemed deeply offended by her cutting remark regarding her weight. Michiru thought Haruka was in amazing shape, without really any effort, but she would have her fun for the time being.
She shrugged her shoulders, feigning a lack of interest. "Really Haruka, I don't see what is necessary to discuss." She knew that would drive the other woman insane.
They walked alongside each other, their hands linked together. Michiru had her partner's jacket still wrapped about her shoulders, clearly one too many sizes too large for her. She clutched onto it with her free hand, whilst enjoying the warmth of their linked hands.
"Clearly you seem to be plagued with the delusion of my being "fat". Allow me to clear this up." Haruka insisted.
Smirking once more, Michiru turned to her mate. "How would you propose that?"
Haruka nodded knowingly. "I'll show you." She said in a flirtatious manner, grinning.
"Later." Michiru responded, squeezing her coupled hand in Haruka's.
Haruka sighed, letting the events of the evening replay in her mind once more. The fury of knowing her car had been taken for a joyride by kids considerably dampened her mood, yet again. Though she knew it was risky to involve authorities immediately, who would begin to question how she had acquired her license prematurely in the first place. Haruka had to trust Michiru, who seemed to place immense faith in Jiro, that all would be taken care of. Which would do nothing to restrain Haruka once she discovered the culprits responsible.
"Thoughts?" Michiru asked, observing her partner's silence and thoughtful expression.
The blonde half hesitated with responding, wondering whether questioning her partner's faith in Jiro would provoke an unwanted argument. Instead, Haruka thought on something else to speak of.
"So, this Sato..." Haruka started, addressing the other topic she had pondered on. "How well do you know him?" She asked, not bothering to turn her head or give any expression besides that of a neutral one.
"Don't be so formal, Haruka. It makes you appear incredibly unfriendly. Jiro." She smiled, drawing her face downward as they walked. "Well enough to not misplace trust in him."
Haruka frowned, not feeling as if the answer was really an answer; more like a statement to provoke further questioning. "Care to elaborate?" The blonde provided a movement with her free hand to insist on Michiru's clarification, as a 'go on' type of gesture.
Michiru instead arched one eyebrow, catching Haruka's interest in knowing more on her friend. "Are we jealous, yet again, Haruka?"
The racer smiled confidently, knowing there was never any reason to truly be jealous of any associate of Michiru's. They were promised to one another, the sea and the wind, without anything needing to be said. It was something that was predetermined in the chemistry between them, something inexplicable. An attraction so strong that bound them together in this life, and all others. Setsuna herself had recognized this.
Yet she played along, knowing her counterpart knew the same. She tilted her head to the side away from Michiru before responding. "A little."
Michiru observed a bench along the pathway, nodding in its general direction to indicate to Haruka she needed a break; standing in heels for an extended amount of time was one thing, walking in them for said time was another ordeal entirely.
They sat, silence enveloping them quickly in the dimly lit area. Haruka took the chance to undo her bowtie, as she had neglected to do such in her wake of fury. Letting it hang still in her collar, she undid the top button in the effort to afford her comfort. The artist saw this, and simply removed her footwear, tiring of their discomfort along their walk.
Haruka stretched one arm along the backside of the bench, creating a spot for Michiru to lay upon. The other woman, noticing this, let the mild exhaust set in as she nestled herself against Haruka.
"Tired?" Haruka asked, although already knowing the answer as she herself emitted a yawn.
"Definitely." Michiru nodded, responding with wear present in her voice. "But, aside of the issue we experienced prior to leaving..." Michiru paused, hoping not to reignite Haruka's anger which was seeming to just cool, "it was a really enjoyable evening. Don't you think?"
Haruka snorted, shaking her head in disagreement. "I enjoyed our time together, yes. Did I enjoy it in front of the smug, pompous guests?" Haruka thought on this, thinking she did in fact like making her relationship with Michiru well known by the public. "I did enjoy it."
Michiru rolled her eyes at this, proceeding to smile knowingly. For someone who wasn't fond on public displays of affection, Haruka was certainly revealing about their relationship...especially to the inner soldiers.
"What?" the racer innocently questioned. She yawned once more, the fatigue seeming to press further on her. For the briefest seeming moment, the blonde closed her eyes and shut the world out.
To Michiru's alarm, Haruka did not respond when called.
It seemed an indeterminable amount of time before Haruka finally came to, only to realize she was not where she had drifted off. Michiru was not nestled into her form on the bench; Michiru was not here.
Now what, she wondered. These dreams were completely unusual to Haruka. The control she exhibited in them was most astounding fact to her. Most other dreams were hardly ever remembered, let alone providing direct control to Haruka. Conscious, aware, active; unusual characteristics not typically experienced in a dream. Somehow this always left the impression upon Haruka of a much darker vision.
Expecting the alleged "guardian" Kali to come forth, Haruka waited in silence. It took hardly a moment before Haruka felt she was no longer alone in her conscious.
"Kali." She muttered, expecting the entity to be summoned out of the abyss by the mere mention of their name.
"Uranus." They acknowledged, keeping to the business names as per usual.
"Usually you seem to give the orders. Today, I'm going to insist on a role reversal." Haruka turned, not surprised to see Kali draped in the usual dark garb. They stood mere feet from Haruka, and as the blonde always acknowledged, at a considerably shorter stature.
Kali exhibited no signs of movement, let alone breathing as they spoke their next words. "The enemy has revealed themselves, and their first target has been activated." The seemingly neutral, monotone voice muttered darkly.
This made Haruka grit her teeth out of annoyance. Why couldn't we anticipate this? She wondered, knowing now the complications invoked by having an innocent involved. But what more could have been done but to wait? This enemy was elusive and, until the present, completely invisible.
This time Kali shook her head, clearly in disagreement, knowing Haruka's thoughts. "There is nothing to have been done to prevent the awakening. Though tread carefully, for this does not just indicate one individual target." They stopped, allowing Haruka time to process the information, though clearly still eager to push forth. "They are simply the first of many."
The blonde knew they had to act fast, and the first order of business was to react to the 'activated' target. "Where can I find them?" Haruka knew she had to cast aside identities; to involve that, would make matters worse. A name to the face of someone she may be responsible for killing would simply make the face that more memorable in her nightmares.
"The Marine Cathedral."
"What?" Haruka was completely taken back by this; wondering if after the confrontation with Eudial there if that place had still been left standing. She shook this off, not letting her curiosity distract her.
"Anything else?" Haruka asked, turning her back on Kali while still holding her head to the side to keep them in view.
Kali said nothing for a moment, which to Haruka signified it was time to leave this place. "Do not let Sailor Moon derail you, Uranus. She has done so in the past, and will try again in the future. Her idealism, if you permit it, will mark the end of humanity, perhaps all existence." Kali spoke grimly.
This was something Haruka knew in her mind before she had ever come upon Kali. As Haruka and Michiru had often reminded themselves, Usagi had been lucky with Hotaru, but no such luck as had happened with that girl would make a reappearing act once again. Before Haruka walked further, she had an inquiry that had loomed in her mind still. It seemed a better time than any.
"Are you familiar with Sailor Pluto? Time guardian?" The blonde asked unwavering, imposingly. Her back was still turned to the shrouded figure, yet her peripherals could still observe their present form.
A hesitating silence pursued which hardly did anything to set Haruka's always present agitation at ease. Kali clearly had some affiliation with Pluto, yet she remained hesitant.
"I know Pluto better than she knows herself." Kali acknowledged, seeming to think this piece of information would do nothing to compromise their identity.
Haruka suspected Kali wouldn't answer her next question, yet she inquired still. "How?" At this, the blonde turned around to face Kali; yet the shrouded figure was no longer there. Indicating to Haruka it was time to wake from this trance. Enough time had been wasted with the no-longer dormant enemy now unmasked.
Michiru worried immensely about Haruka when she slept, but for her to be so tired to instantaneously drift to sleep within a matter of seconds bothered her greatly. She wondered for a moment if it was medically induced, perhaps something along the nature of narcolepsy. Mentally shaking her head, Michiru felt a much more serious threat with Haruka's 'disconnect' from her body. She had left to the dream world with Kali; though it seemed she was summoned, rather than just falling into it as the blonde typically did.
The blonde lain stretched out across the bench, furrowing her brows while her eyes still remained shut.
"Haruka?" Michiru called out, trying to bring her partner back to her. She held tightly to one of the racer's hands hanging over the edge of the bench, squeezing it reassuringly. If Haruka awoke to a dark scene with no sight of Michiru for even a fraction of a moment, it could be disastrous. Reawakening a sleeping demon that had not appeared for so long.
The still figure sat up slowly, but her eyes opened quickly, scanning the surroundings. "Michiru," she said, clearly out of relief. The violinist took a seat next to her partner, knowing something of extremely serious nature had been revealed to Haruka; Michiru felt this within herself too.
"Are you alright?" Michiru concernedly asked, still holding one of Haruka's hands in her own.
Haruka nodded, though did not reveal a smile to accompany her response. She was still groggy, as if she had just awaken from a drug induced stupor; it made Haruka feel uneasy, susceptible.
Michiru's face of concern didn't fade, and her mate saw this. But there was no time to reassure one another; a person's life hung in the balance. Yet to Haruka, she knew there was only one option. Standing to her feet, she held out a hand to her partner. "Our enemy has appeared. We're done waiting." The soldier in Haruka made it's reappearance in full force; she was ready to confront this new opposition.
Taking the other woman's hand, Michiru was helped from her spot on the bench to her feet, still holding the jacket around her shoulders. Haruka reached one hand behind Michiru's back, gently, and with the other reached into a pocket of the jacket Michiru donned to retrieve her transformation pen. Haruka knew there wasn't time, but she felt they were walking into the complete unknown. She kept one hand still on the small of Michiru's back, closing the short distance with a tender kiss.
Stepping away once more, they looked at each other knowingly. Michiru took the jacket from around her shoulders, dropping it on the bench momentarily to retrieve her own pen. "Where are we needed?"
"The Marine Cathedral." Haruka spoke, dreading of a return to a place with such horrible memories for her and her partner. They had died there; literally.
"Let's end this before it begins." Michiru responded with resolve, not revealing an image of being visibly shaken at the thought of returning to the cathedral.
"Too late." Haruka spoke, with a touch of despair to her words. The opportunity to prevent the unnecessary deaths of countless innocents had never passed, it never even appeared. It was fight or flight now; as soldiers with sworn duties, flight was never an option.
The last few weeks, Ken had been completely out of sorts.
Everything he said, did; it was all completely out of character for him. He knew it, but felt completely powerless, for reasons beyond his understanding, to stop himself. Like being the conductor behind a train bound for something terrible; the doors are sealed, the path is set, and there's no way out. It suffocated him, filling him with despair. That's why when the voice started calling to him, he followed obediently.
He didn't know why it called to him, why it yearned for him; he just knew it was an alluring, beautiful voice in a dark time he felt most alone, he found comfort in it. The siren beckoned him, and he fell as her servant easily.
Ken woke from his night terror, groggily, feeling jittery; erratic. It scared him, and even more so when he saw he was no longer in a place he recognized. But the fear he felt was pushed in the back of his mind; it was secondary to his objective. Everything was secondary to it these days, especially his emotions.
Ken noticed he was laying flat on what would appear a stone platform, erected as a pedestal of sort in the center of a vast room; something man-made. The man noticed he wasn't restrained, and would have lacked the will to escape even if he had been bound. Looking over to his one side and then the other, he noted something. His left hand remained free, yet not his other. He held an elaborate knife, taking the moment to curl his fingers around the hilt. It looked ceremonial, and certainly lethal. Somewhere in his mind, this was the trigger; the sight of this knife in his hand. He knew what he was bound by this new code he had accepted. Everything from this point on was completely automated; he had been reaped of his free will.
The young man had not noticed it, until he felt the dagger tear through his flesh; rendering him thoughtless, and for a moment, liberated. The memories and awareness bombarded his mind, providing the briefest moment of clarity. He looked down to his chest, breaths coming in sharply now as he struggled for air, seeing both hands wrapped around the knife still. Ken had drove the dagger into his own body; fulfilling his end.
"Why..." he cried out, with his last words drowned by the sound of blood surfacing, distorting his last words with unintelligible gurgles. His body went limp after several quiet moments of agonizing writhing, hands dropping to the sides of the constructed platform, knife remaining plunged into his chest.
Alexander and his army had claimed their first sacrifice, with the devourer readying to dissect and assimilate the first victim.
To Uranus' surprise, the Marine Cathedral withheld and persisted; it still stood.
The duo had abandoned their transportation, seeking a silent infiltration into the Cathedral once more. Uranus and Neptune stealthily walked the same halls they had walked once before. This time they looked cautiously for traps.
It didn't take long for them to encounter the activated target. "We're too late..." Uranus muttered, not daring to speak a volume above a whisper. The soldiers were unaware whether an enemy existed still in the area.
Cautiously, the approached the stone platform the corpse rested upon. He looked frail...not exactly due to malnutrition, but accountable to an entirely different reason. Then it dawned on Uranus what would cause a form to appear as the man did.
"He's missing his organs." Neptune whispered solemnly, observing the incisions that had permitted someone, or something, to reap the man of his vital components. Uranus knew her partner was right; she noted the same distinguishing marks in the appropriate places. Conducted so precisely, cleanly. Then the taller soldier noticed the knife; still plunged in the middle of his now concave chest.
"A harvester? Is that what we're dealing with?" Uranus looked upon the corpse further, still not taking her eyes from the bejeweled knife. The scene before them was hard to look at, but hard to tear their eyes away from. The body looked as if it had been sitting for weeks, the pungent smell seeming to confirm the same. Yet the decay didn't indicate this had occurred naturally; something of force progressed the body to the present state.
Uranus turned her back on the lifeless form, surveying the surroundings for any clue. "We need to know more. Look around."
Neptune nodded, still not letting her gaze leave from the form of the man on the table. I'm not convinced there isn't more to him, Neptune thought, thinking there was more than they could see to him. His name? His interests? More importantly, the interest the enemy found in depriving him of his organs. Why him? She asked, knowing there was no answer in sight soon. The ever sympathetic woman and soldier in her found herself questioning further; who were you to someone else? It saddened her knowing this man was beyond identity, no marks, no traces, nothing distinguishing. Whatever loved ones he held once, would be left behind forever in question.
Uranus sought to examine the scene of the crime, looking for anything telling. Blood, finger prints, weapons...traps, Uranus thought further. She remained unconvinced there wasn't a trap lurking for them in the dark. Or in the open for that matter.
Her aquamarine haired companion seemed to come across an interesting observation as she called to her companion. "Uranus." The tall blonde turned to the mention of her identity, jogging over to her partner quickly.
"His heart is still there." Neptune spoke, carefully choosing her words in the event she was wrong. "Hard to imagine why this 'phantom' harvester would take all the organs..." She continued before letting her words hang in the air unfinished.
"...and yet they would leave arguably the most important of all?" Uranus finished, their minds syncing to the same thought. "Yes." Neptune nodded slowly, agreeing while still focusing on the body.
"Were he wrapped in linen, you'd think he was being prepared for something, of the funerary nature." Neptune calculated, still confused by the array of unknowns encountered thus far. "Mummification." Uranus contributed, agreeing to the same point again.
The situation rubbed Haruka wrong, as if there was some unfinished business in front of them they were bound to be caught in the midst of. "Something isn't right here." Uranus admitted, her nerves seeming to get the better of her. "I don't think our enemy is done here, Neptune."
They glanced at one another, still standing by the table, sharing the same look of contempt. Contempt for the enemy that defiled a human body in this way.
They nodded at one another knowing they had reached the same consensus; there was nothing further to be saved or salvaged here. The damage, irreparable and tragic, had been done. To stay and attempt to ambush the harvesters would be useless. The duo was familiar only slightly with the layout of the Cathedral; they couldn't risk the possibility their enemy was more versed in this way. It would compromise the entirety of the mission to eradicate this new enemy at the source.
With that, the two soldiers rapidly took their leave of the Cathedral; leaving once more with their lives. Though this time having the luck to not have died in the first place.
"Carvers?" Haruka asked quizzically.
"It's just a means of us identifying them, Haruka. Nobody has ever confronted them to ask who they truly are." Setsuna answered to the blonde's inquiry. "You've seen what happens to those who are close enough to them...the ones susceptible to their indoctrination."
"It's a term coined by the victims." Michiru dismally added. "Not one provided by the assailants." The scene at their return to the Marine Cathedral had nauseated the violinist. She was a fierce woman beneath the surface, but capable as any other human of being jarred by events such as what her and Haruka had witnessed. The thought of the memory made her shudder in slight repulsion.
The three of them stood in the same amphitheater they had met the girls at. This time they felt it more appropriate to meet during the day. The sun was bright and beaming, high in the sky to indicate it was nearing noon. Slightly chilling weather to reflect the fall season upon them. Haruka and Michiru were in their school uniforms, not bothering to hide the fact they should more than likely be in class. They were prodigals; if a police officer observed them truant, they'd be more inclined to ask for an autograph than anything else. They stood closely, Haruka simply keeping an arm wrapped behind Michiru's back.
"What do you know about them?" Haruka pushed eagerly, not bothering to look at either woman as she asked.
"As I said, Haruka, nobody has ever been granted...an audience, if you will, with them." Setsuna said defensively, folding her arms against her chest.
"Well you also seemed evasive on the details of your knowledge on Kali, but Kali seems to be confident they know considerably more of you than you know of yourself." Haruka retorted, this time drawing her eyes to meet Setsuna's. The blonde not attempting to dismiss the piece of information Kali had passed.
The attractive green haired woman shook her head in disagreement quickly. "Kali knows no more of me than you know of a single blade of grass." She countered to the accusation.
"You'll excuse me if I'm not reassured by the comparison, Setsuna." The blonde sighed out of irritation, taking the palm of her free hand against her forehead. Her and Michiru had not slept well after the scene at the Cathedral.
Setsuna looked sympathetically to the couple, seeing the ever present look of fatigue on their drawn faces. "Let us hope the Kali you encounter is not the same as the one I have, Haruka." She said letting the sympathy wash off and be replaced with a voice laden with warning.
It was Michiru who questioned the guardian this time; "Why?"
"They are an agent for the Carvers. And they will turn on us." Setsuna warned, not attempting to mask the alarm in her voice. Seeing the distress and confusion between the two faces opposing her, Setsuna continued. "The Kali I knew betrayed our kingdom...the old kingdom. They aided in the ruin of the life that existed there." "Not just the ruin...the perversion. Like a lethal siren of the sea."
To Haruka and Michiru, this fit; Haruka had been warned these victims would willingly sacrifice themselves towards the creation of this new enemy. It would seem plausible the only way they could do this is through perversion of sorts, such as being subject to indoctrination.
"Then let's hope we're not dealing with the same traitor." Michiru uttered darkly.