Rei sat down on her double bed with her hands in her lap. The Senshi were scattered throughout her modest sized room when Makoto came in with some tea.
For the fifth time Ami asked, “Rei, are you sure you’re okay? Do you want to lay down?”
Rei accepted the tea calmly, inhaling its soothing, jasmine scent, “No Ami, I’m okay.”
Ami looked at her warily, but hesitantly kept her mouth shut.
Rei glanced at the others, noticing their worry and speculation. She smirked, “You guys can calm down already. I’m fine. Really.”
No one looked convinced. They’d known Rei for years and had never seen her react so extremely.
Usagi studied her carefully, “Rei, you know you don’t have to put up a front with us. We saw how you reacted. ” Her eyes softened, “Would you be able to tell us what happened?”
Rei’s expression instantly fell as she rubbed her teacup over and over. “Well,” she began, trying to find the right words but failed to. “I can’t really put it into words exactly . . .”
“Don’t worry Rei,” Minako assured, “take your time.”
Rei flashed Minako a brief, half-hearted smile then continued, everyone listening in silence.
“The explosion knocked me into the water. As soon as I fell in it felt like a pressurized force rushed in to attack me from all sides. It wasn’t as much physical as it was mental.”
Rei never looked up from her tea, but could sense their puzzled faces. “Something engulfed me and kept pulling me deeper, I couldn’t fight it! When I tried to find the surface I couldn’t see, everything was pitch black. Then I stretched out with my senses, which was a huge mistake. The moment I expanded my psychic boundaries and opened up my mind . . . it attacked. The force drove right into my head and all of a sudden I was exposed, paralyzed instantly by the pain.”
Rei’s voice quickened, “Every nerve in my body burned and my head pounded like it was going to explode. Then I began to feel its grip tighten, as if it was trying to forcibly rip something from me. I resisted as long as I could, pulling back with everything I had, but eventually gave up the fight, the pain being too great.”
Silence blanketed the room for a count of ten.
“I was helpless.” Rei added, eyes dark. “Laid bare. Whatever this force is it saw everything about me; my past, my fears, my life . . . my identity.”
The situation suddenly turned much worse.
Mamoru spoke to clarify, “So wait, you’re saying it knows who you are? Truly?”
Rei nodded solemnly.
Ami stilled, “Okay, this is potentially disastrous. This entity has the power to infiltrate our minds against our will . . . I wonder, though-”
Mamoru caught onto her train of thought, “What’s its next move?”
Makoto plunked down beside Rei, “So we have to try and figure out its plan then. Ami, did your computer pick up anything?”
Ami blinked and then scrambled for her computer, “I didn’t even get around to checking my data.” She opened the exotic device and began typing at turbo speed.
Usagi noticed Rei shiver involuntarily, “Rei, are you feeling okay? Do you want a blanket or something?”
Rei looked up at her, “It’s nothing, I just got a bad feeling. Maybe it’s an after effect, I don’t know. I’m going to do a fire reading anyway.” She could see them looking at her worriedly again, “Guys come on! This is Sailor Mars you’re talking to remember? I’m not going to let this thing get the better of me, I promise.”
Ami stopped typing, “Okay, all I can tell you is that the creature we fought is apart of the black mist. The black mist however is obviously more than just that. What? I don’t know. I’d have to see it again to get a more in depth assessment, but what I can tell you is that it couldn’t have just popped up on its own. It had to have come through a portal or something of that nature. Its energy signature is very alien, so it’s definitely not from Earth.”
Rei leaned forward, “So we can expect to see more of these alien, mind reading demons?”
Ami typed some more, analyzing the statistics, “From what I can tell? 96% chance.” Her brows suddenly knitted together, “I still don’t understand the reaction that took place when Sailor Moon blasted it though. With that amount of power it should have been destroyed.”
Makoto flipped her thick, chestnut ponytail back over her shoulder, “And I don’t understand why the darkness disappeared the moment we got to Rei.”
“We don’t seem to know very much right now do we?” Admitted Minako.
Usagi sighed, “I guess we don’t have a choice but to wait until it strikes again.”
“There goes our vacation.” Mamoru said, leaning against the wall.
Makoto shrugged, “What else is new?”
Rei stood up and looked through the window at the brightening horizon, “You guys had better go, the Sun’s almost up.”
Usagi didn’t move, “As long as you’re okay? I could stay over you know.”
“Please, I’m fine. You worry too much Odango.”
Usagi fumed, “Honestly Rei, when are you going to stop calling me that?!” She then glanced out the window; only now absorbing what Rei had just said.
“The Sun’s almost up!” Usagi buried her face dejectedly in her hands. “If my mom checks on me and finds that I’m not there she’ll pepper me for answers relentlessly.”
Luna hopped off Rei’s dresser, “I’ll go ahead and scope out the situation.” With that said she bounded out the window. Years ago, after Usagi began coming home in the wee hours of the morning due to her secret identity, Luna always went home ahead of her and then met Usagi nearby to tell her the situation in the house. It helped Usagi formulate the best ‘half-truths’ if necessary.
Everyone rose as Mamoru fished his keys out of his pocket, “Come on, I’ll give you guys a ride home.”
Ami snapped her computer shut and turned back to Rei, “You’ll let us know what you see in the fire?”
Rei smiled, though the expression didn’t reach her eyes, “Of course, don’t I always?”
Minako draped her arm around Usagi’s shoulders, “Come on, we’ll think up excuses to tell our parents together. I’ve exhausted most of the usual categories so we’re going to have to be creative this time.”
Then everyone said their good mornings and filed out of the door.
The moment they left Rei made her way directly to the Sacred Flame, housed deep in the heart of the temple. As Rei stalked the halls her uneasiness surfaced unchecked now that her friends were gone. What troubled her deeply was the lack of any sort of warning of the nights attack. Her intuition had always, always picked up snippets of a pending enemy, no matter how small or obscure. This proved the first time her clairvoyant senses detected nothing. Not even a blip on the psychic radar.
Rei entered the sacred space and knelt down in front of the crackling, blazing hearth positioned at the centre of the room. A semblance of calm descended upon her as she basked in the fire’s searing heat, gazing soberly at the flame’s hypnotic dance.
Rei settled into a comfortable position taking several deep, steadying breaths. She then began chanting and gesturing, cycling through the Kuji-in with a low murmur as she prepared to become one with the fire.
Usagi sat in the passenger seat of Mamoru’s car staring at her front door as she nervously twirled the ends of her hair. “Where is Luna? She should have been out here by now!”
Mamoru flashed a subtle, sexy grin, “Don’t worry Usako, I’m sure Luna will be out in a minute.”
Usagi’s eyes would not leave her house, “But what if they’re hysterical? What if they found out that I’m Sailor Moon? Then they’ll find out about you being Tuxedo Kamen and then they’ll forbid me to see you and my life will be over.”
Mamoru stifled a laugh at her over-active imagination and cupped her face in his hands, “Usako?”
She continued to stare at the front door uninterrupted, “But - but what if -”
The tremor of his voice tore her eyes away from the door to focus on the midnight blues in front of her. Her breath caught in her throat, pink heat now flooding her cheeks.
“Usako, don’t worry,” assured Mamoru as he delicately tucked a stray golden curl behind her ear. “They don’t know anything. And if they did find out about our identities and forbid me to see you I’d camp out on your doorstep until the cops dragged me away . . . but I’d just come back.”
Usagi laughed and it was like music to Mamoru’s ears, “Mamo-chan, you’re being ridiculous.”
He laughed with her, “You see? You’re just overreacting.” His laugh subsided as he admired her beauty and ran his thumb along her jaw. His face sobered, “Even if I tried I could never stay away from you.”
Usagi laid her head on his chest as he held her tightly. Even to this day she could feel his pain every time he reminded himself of when he pushed her away from him due to a prophetic dream.
“Usa . . . you know I love you right? I always have and I always will. Nothing will change that.”
She could hear his strong heart beating in sync with hers. Did that always happen? She glanced up at him and froze from shock at the smoldering, frenzied gaze he gave her.
His eyes and his thumb caressed the groove just beneath her bottom lip. Usagi’s voice came as barely a whisper, “Mamo-chan . . .”
Mamoru’s pupils dilated, his gaze increasing with intensity. Usagi’s heart shaped lips parted slightly, as if beckoning him. He succumbed immediately, seizing her lips in a passionate, vigorous kiss.
Just as Mamoru was about to loose himself in the depths of his desire, a dull thud caused the couple to look towards the hood of the car, seeing Luna there. Mamoru and Usagi flushed a deep crimson as he powered down the window feeling quite tipsy, which always happened when he kissed Usagi.
Luna poked her head in, embarrassed as well, “Sorry, it’s just that I suggest Usagi get inside now before her parents call the cops.”
Usagi sank into dejection. “Alright,” she looked up at Mamoru again, “good night Mamo-chan.” She kissed him once more and stepped out of the car to have Luna jump into her arms.
Mamoru sighed shakily after her. The unbridled, lustful heat coursing through his body quickly migrated south, commencing to run rampant as his eyes moved slowly up and down Usagi’s enticing curves as she walked away. If Luna hadn’t appeared when she did who knows what lines Mamoru would have crossed in his reckless state. When Mamoru first met Usagi she was fourteen years old and at the beginning stages of puberty, hopelessly innocent, and adorably cute. But now . . . now she was a physically mature young woman. Usagi had slowly blossomed into the most gorgeous flower over the past four years. Her hips had broadened and her legs had grown longer, showing off curved, defined muscle due to years of Senshi activity. Usagi’s arms were now strong and toned and her face had matured, loosing the cushion of childhood with her skin remaining angelically soft as always. Mamoru never failed to notice that her ass was now much more plump and pronounced, in addition to the pleasant swelling of her breasts. Usagi had evolved into a beautiful woman right in front of Mamoru’s eyes, and the most difficult part was that she had blossomed while he held her firmly in his arms over the years . . . pressed up against his chest, squirming ever so slightly in his embrace.
Mamoru fantasized about Usagi’s breath, sweet and warm on his neck followed by the soft brush of her lips as she snuggled close, sometimes falling asleep on him. Usagi had no clue how Mamoru struggled having her so close to him, touching him, kissing him. It took the Prince of Earth much effort to refrain from knocking down the carefully built wall of self-control keeping his lips and hands from wandering at will; holding him back from drinking Usagi in like sweet wine. Regardless, Mamoru had convinced himself that he must continue to resist at all costs. Through his eyes Usagi was unique and much more naive than other girls her age when it came to sex, he was sure.
Mamoru would never forgive himself if he ever put her in a situation where his overwhelming desire for her might overcome Usagi’s senses and inadvertently pressure her to do something she didn’t want yet. He knew he had the rest of his life with her so he would just have to wait a little longer. There was no need to rush.
Mamoru looked back to Usagi who was talking quietly with Luna at her front door. She then bent over to put Luna down, the night breeze ruffling her flimsy, short sundress. Mamoru caught the sight of her plump, perfect ass cheek peeking out from the powder blue lace of her skimpy panties. Mamoru shut his eyes and exhaled sharply, repeating the familiar mantra, “She only just turned eighteen. She’s still just a teenager,” over in his mind.
The long-standing excuse was starting to lose its weight these days. “I mean, she is eighteen now,” Mamoru thought. “And she has matured substantially.”
Mamoru opened his eyes just as the breeze picked up, revealing a bit more lace and a bit more cheek. He swallowed heavily, feeling blood throb into his groin. Mamoru shook his head violently in order to regain control over his burning desires. He firmly pushed the urges back down where he usually confined them. Mamoru sighed and decided that it was time to go.
“Good night Usako,” Mamoru whispered.
She turned and waved as he added, “Good night Luna.” He saw them converse a bit more as Usagi dug out her keys, so he drove off. He wouldn’t take his chances of her father seeing him out there. Something about the older, kind-faced man scared him to death.
Ikuko heard the soft click of the door signaling her daughter’s return. Kenji sat on the couch fuming and was about to rise and scold his daughter fiercely when Ikuko placed a gentle hand on his. He looked at his wife and silently settled back down to stare at the television again. Usagi made her way into the living room to see an angry father, a stoic mother, and a smirking little brother all clad in pajamas. She momentarily glared at Shingo until Kenji cleared his throat. Usagi put her hands up quickly in defense.
“I know you’re upset,” she began, “and you should be.”
Her father looked as if to say, ‘that’s all you’ve got?’
Usagi continued, “I’m sorry I was out so late . . . or early. Mom, I know you prepared a family breakfast and everything and you know I would never miss that . . . the thing is . . .” She studied her family hesitantly, ‘I’m the super heroine Sailor Moon and I was out protecting Tokyo from an alien threat so you really should be thanking me.’
Yeah right. Like that would go on.
Quickly remembering the story concocted with Minako’s help, Usagi explained, “Well, we were in the car on our way home from the beach when Ami suddenly passed out.”
“Oh no,” Ikuko breathed, “Is she alright?”
Usagi hated lying to her parents but continued on, “She’s fine now, but we pulled over immediately to let Ami get some air in the shade, turned out to be sunstroke. Then Mam- uh, Haruka got back in the car to grab some water from the nearest gas station when the car wouldn’t start. So she and Makoto had to walk up and down the remote highway looking for a jump-start while we stayed behind with Ami until they came back with help. By that time it was so dark we just came home as soon as possible . . . I’m sorry to worry you guys like this.”
Kenji sighed in frustration, “I swear! You and your friends are so strange. The rest of your generation has been on cell phones since the age of ten, but you and your friends are the only teenagers I know without them. I mean, you can’t even call us if something happens to you!”
Usagi broke their gaze nervously when he touched on the truth. Yes, it was very strange that none of the Senshi had cell phones. For one, they had trouble affording the monthly payments since they all had difficultly keeping steady jobs. This was due to the fact that the moment their communicators went off they had to drop everything and leave, no matter what they were doing. The safety of the Earth and their fellow Senshi always came first. The other issue was their otherworldly communicators. With technology like that they didn’t need cell phones anyway, at least not for what was important.
Kenji stood up, sighed, and walked over to his only daughter, “You know we’re hard on you because we worry about you, not because we’re evil you know.”
Usagi smiled sheepishly at her father, “I know.”
He added, “We’re just glad that we have a daughter who can at least tell us the truth.”
A pang of guilt shot through her as she lowered her head in shame then leapt into her father’s arms.
‘I’m sorry I have to lie to you constantly, but it’s better that you don’t know the other side of me. It’s for your own protection.’
Her father hugged her back, astonished at Usagi’s sudden burst of emotion, “Don’t worry about it sweetie. As long as you’re safe.”
Usagi sighed, ‘Would you call it safe if you could write down an endless list of psychopaths that would have loved to see you dead?’
Her mother disappeared into the hallway to emerge with something in her hands. “Your father and I have been talking. Since you seem to have trouble keeping a job,” she reprimanded with a stern look, “We’ve decided to foot the bill for your own phone. We’ll pay the monthlies too. It’ll give us peace of mind.”
Usagi stiffened in her father’s embrace.
Kenji glanced curiously at her, “What’s the matter Usagi? Considering you worried the living daylights out of us I thought you’d be ecstatic about getting something new as opposed to getting grounded.”
Ikuko dropped the cool, flat device in her daughter’s hand. Usagi stared apprehensively at the sleek contraption and managed a meager smile as Shingo loomed up behind her, “You don’t look very happy there Usagi, already thinking up excuses to refuse?”
Usagi narrowed her eyes questioningly at her brother.
“What are you talking about Shingo? Of course I’m happy,” Usagi looked between her parents and bowed, “Thanks mom, dad.”
Shingo smirked in amusement, “Now you’ll have to be much more creative when you lie to them about where you really go so late at night.”
Usagi’s heart stilled in her chest as her parents gave her brother wary looks. “Shingo couldn’t know about my alter ego, there’s no way.”
Shingo could read Usagi’s distress as clear as day and enjoyed every second of her torment. Kenji sighed, “Stop messing with your sister and just come out with it.”
Shingo couldn’t help but goad her one more time, “Should I tell them or should you?”
Usagi just stood with her mouth slightly agape, wondering how the hell her evil little brother found out her secret identity.
Shingo shrugged and decided to drop the bomb, “Did you know that Usagi goes out secretly, late at night, to be with an older man?”
Kenji’s eyebrow twitched as he veered his head sharply back towards his daughter. “WHAT?!?!” He bellowed for the entire neighbourhood to hear.
Usagi shot her brother a murderous stare, “No dad, he’s obviously lying!”
Exhausted, Usagi trudged up the stairs after attempting to calm her father down for the last hour, completely denying the implied, mature relationship with an older man. She left him in the living room staring at one of her baby pictures muttering incoherently to himself, his over protective streak rearing its fanatic head once again. Usagi swore it was getting worse. That was the reason only her mother knew about Mamoru, and what Usagi had told her were only the basics.
With a heavy sigh Usagi closed her bedroom door and tossed her new phone onto her dresser. Luna jumped up onto the bed, “How did it go?”
Usagi shot her a deadpan stare, “How do you think it went? And now look,” Usagi gestured to the phone as if it were the devil incarnate, “now I have that to contend with.” She couldn’t help but sigh yet again, “This makes things exponentially more difficult.”
Luna curled her tail around her feet as she studied the new phone, “I see your point. So what are you going to do?”
“Well . . .” Usagi began, “I don’t know, but I couldn’t just stop everything in the middle of a battle and make a phone call to my mother! Now they will be expecting me to call and I can’t just make up any old excuse anymore. I hate lying to them like this, it’s exhausting! What if I just sat them down and told them everything?”
Luna practically jumped out of her fur, “NO USAGI! You can’t! It would cause too many problems and then you’d have to worry about the enemy targeting them to get to you, and we don’t want to deal with that.”
Usagi huffed as she struggled with her long sleeved pajama top, “You’re right. I guess I’m just frustrated.” She climbed into bed and pulled the covers up with Luna curling up into a furry ball beside her, “I just wonder what this new enemy is all about . . . I hope we can handle it.” She stifled a yawn.
“Don’t worry Usagi,” Luna yawned with her, “I have great confidence in all of you. You’ll pull through it one way or another.” They both fell asleep as sunlight streamed through the window, unaware of the evil that loomed over all their lives, threatening to change them forever.
Minako and Usagi walked into Crown Fruit Parlour later that afternoon to find Mamoru chatting with Motoki at the counter.
Usagi flashed her golden smile, “Hi Motoki!”
Minako followed suit, “Hey Motoki!”
Motoki’s pale green eyes lit up at seeing the girls again, “Hey yourself! Has hell frozen over or something, because you guys haven’t been in here for ages. I was beginning to get bored.”
Minako jumped up on one of the stools and twirled towards him, causing her pale blonde hair to float around her. Usagi greeted Mamoru with a kiss as Minako responded, “Well, we hated to stay away but you know how end of term exams are.”
Motoki rested his chin in his hand as he leaned on the counter and smiled back at her, “Don’t remind me! The countless nights I overdosed on caffeine trying to study . . . trying being the operative word there.”
Mamoru groaned into his hands, “You should have seen us Minako, bags under our eyes, stubble on our chins a few days old, staring at a spread of monster text books with mouths hanging open like zombies.”
Motoki leaned towards Minako as if to tell her a secret, “This one time, during one of our late night study sessions, Mamoru had completely passed out at the table and began drooling steadily all over the pages. I thought it was hilarious so I didn’t wake him. When I finally did wake him he had been out for so long that the ink of his notes had turned into a Rorschach test.”
Minako and Usagi burst with laughter as Mamoru rolled his eyes but betrayed himself with a small, amused grin.
The automatic doors slid open as Ami, Rei, and Makoto walked in, waving their hellos. Motoki couldn’t help but smile broadly. He missed hanging out with the girls at Crown. Everything was so much brighter when they were around.
“So,” Motoki started as he pulled an apron over his sandy blonde head, “Since I haven’t seen you guys in a while how about a round of chocolate-strawberry crepes? On the house of course.”
Usagi’s eyes widened with delight, “Motoki you’re the best! I’m starving! Can I also get two almond croissants and a slice of cherry cheesecake? Oh! And some of those delicious chocolate truffles?”
Motoki sweat dropped, “Uh, sure Usagi.”
“Shall we go grab a booth?” Ami asked, suddenly all business.
Motoki watched as an air of seriousness inexplicably fell over his friends as they got off their respective stools and headed to the farthest booth in the corner where they always sat to talk about . . . well, whatever it was they talked about so quietly.
Motoki looked after them inquisitively, “They can act so strange sometimes.”
As soon as they all filed into the booth Mamoru asked, “So Usako, how did it go with your parents last night?”
Usagi groaned into her hands, “Horrible!” She then related everything about the previous night.
Ami raised a skeptical eyebrow, “Sun stroke and a run down car?”
Minako defended Usagi, “Hey, as far as excuses go, it’s solid!” She counted her fingers off, “Remote location, not a phone in sight, and a pretty good sympathy factor.”
Usagi winced a little, “My mother hopes you get well soon.”
Ami frowned in disapproval, “Why did I have to be the one to get sunstroke?”
Rei counteracted, “Ami, you didn’t actually get sunstroke, fiction remember?”
Minako turned to Rei, “So, what did you see in the fire? How do you feel today?”
Everyone quieted as they studied Rei. She seemed better than the day before but looked tired and worn out, “Yeah I’m fine I guess. It was so weird though. I didn’t get a vision in the sacred flame until about an hour into it. When the vision did appear it was all splotchy. I guess this is pretty serious because it has never taken that long.”
They looked at her expectantly. “Unfortunately there’s not much to report. I mean, nothing concrete about the enemy really. In my vision I saw a human figure clouded in black mist, but I couldn’t tell if it was male or female. Then I saw the figure backdrop against the Solar System. After that I saw all of the Senshi shrouded in the black mist trying to fight the enemy . . . but the weird thing was we weren’t transformed.”
Everyone sat in silence trying to make heads or tails of it. Usagi repeated, “A human figure huh? And we weren’t transformed? That’s odd.”
Ami took the opportunity to tell them, “Well, earlier this afternoon I went by Jonanjima-”
“Ami,” interrupted Makoto, “Why did you go there by yourself? You know damn well you should always bring backup.”
Ami brought out her computer, “Yes, it was a bit stupid but I was running some errands nearby and decided to take a detour. Anyway,” she began typing various commands as they gathered around, “when I got there I scouted around and found these.” She dug into her bag and pulled out a soggy, charred rose and a small pile of ashes, each within separate Petri dishes.
Mamoru donned his pair of black-rimmed glasses, astounded, “Wow, you actually found my rose?”
“Yes,” continued Ami, “I also found a small scattering of ashes by the pier from where Mars, Jupiter and Venus attacked it.” She placed her own, rimless glasses over her eyes, “when I scanned them, this was what I found.”
Motoki had their full order on his tray and walked briskly over to their semi-circular booth. As he neared Motoki noticed that they were all huddled around Ami looking at some type of device. When he got close enough he overheard, “-the pier from when Mars, Jupiter and Venus attacked it. When I scanned it, this is what I found.”
Everyone froze as Motoki unloaded his tray onto the table. They had all forgotten about their food order . . . even Usagi.
Motoki had to ask, “What are you guys looking at?”
Before anyone could answer he reached over and picked up Ami’s palm computer. Ami’s reaction came too late as she desperately tried to snatch it back but he was too far away and already staring at it. She placed her head in her hands. Now he was going to plainly see the highly advanced technology, the arcane symbols, and the alien information.
Motoki’s face lit up, “This is the most interesting tablet I’ve ever seen Ami, and so small!” He looked up at her, “Where’d you get it?”
Ami slowly met his gaze, “. . . Tablet?”
Usagi repeated her dumbfounded friend, “Tablet?”
Motoki narrowed his eyes suspiciously, “Yeah . . . tablet.”
Usagi jumped up and peered at the highly advanced, Mercurian super computer. She blinked twice. She’d never seen this thing before! All of the arcane Silver Millennium symbols were gone, including all of the information Ami had been typing about. Even the symbol of Mercury was gone from the top panel.
She stuttered, “It’s . . . It’s gone?”
Motoki reassumed his suspicious look, “What’s gone?”
Usagi just laughed nervously and sat back down as Rei gave her a questioning look and Usagi just shrugged her shoulders. Ami remained staring blankly when Motoki leaned on the side of the booth, “So what’s with all the Sailor Senshi stuff?”
They all practically sweat bullets. Usagi looked as if she had no idea what he was talking about. Mamoru stared longingly at the front door, which he would have given anything to be walking through. Ami looked like she was contemplating suicide. Makoto began wiping imaginary things off of the table. Minako ducked under said table to pick up a non-existent coin, while Rei looked about ready to jump straight through the glass window.
“Come on you guys,” smiled Motoki, “you don’t have to hide it.”
Usagi blew their cover, “What do you mean we don’t have to hide it? Of course we do!!!”
Motoki shook his head, “Why should you? If you’re fans of the Sailor Senshi then just say so.”
Mamoru ripped his gaze away from the door, “Fans?”
“Yeah,” Motoki reaffirmed as he leaned in, “you guys are Sailor Senshi junkies aren’t you? You follow all the blogs and even go to their battle sites and everything as I can see.”
There was no other way to respond than to nod mutely. Motoki suddenly became very interested, “So?” He asked eagerly, “Have you seen them?”
“Well,” shrugged Makoto, “once or twi-”
Rei had elbowed her in the ribs.
“Really?” he asked, “they’re smokin’ hot! Eh Mamoru?”
Mamoru and the rest of the girls blushed like mad as he stammered like a fool, “Well . . . I, um . . . hadn’t . . . really noticed.”
Motoki slapped him on the back, “How could you not notice?!? Have you seen those skirts?! They’re practically non-existent!”
Mamoru scratched his head in total embarrassment. Motoki was right though, he wouldn’t be a man if he didn’t appreciate the beauty surrounding him all the time. A few of his classmates and acquaintances wondered how Mamoru got so lucky to become tight friends with 5 gorgeous women, especially with those long, slender legs, skintight body suits, and short fuku skirts. Running and jumping around, up and down . . . and up and . . . Mamoru coughed then shifted in his seat. He surely wasn’t going to admit anything next to Usagi, the only woman he would ever love.
Motoki continued, oblivious to the extreme discomfort of his friends, “I’d give anything for a date with Venus or Moon.”
Both of the girls in question blushed even deeper, Rei and Makoto slouched in rejection, Ami was still recovering from the last blush, and Mamoru suddenly gained control of his tongue.
“Sailor Moon’s not interested so you can forget that idea.” Mamoru looked inexplicably serious and Motoki was slightly perplexed by Mamoru’s faint, but threatening tone.
“Why Mamoru?” winked Motoki, “no offense Usagi, but is Sailor Moon your number one fantasy crush or something?”
Mamoru only responded by pulling Usagi closer to him. “Motoki . . . shouldn’t you be getting back to work?”
Motoki snapped out of it as he noticed the forming line and hustled back to work. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and visibly relaxed.
Makoto slouched further in her seat, “That was too close a call!”
Minako burst with glee, “Did you hear that?! He said he wanted to date Sailor Venus!!!”
Rei scoffed, “I don’t see why he fancied you and Usagi. What’s wrong with the rest of us?”
Ami spoke softly, “Um, guys?”
“I don’t get it,” said Usagi as she shoved the last of the crepe into her mouth while picking up Ami’s super computer, “How did the template change? It looked completely different!”
Ami raised a finger, “Excuse me . . . guys?”
“I mean, what are we?” Exclaimed Rei, “chopped liver?”
Ami cleared her throat, “Hello?”
“Don’t sweat it Rei,” comforted Mamoru, “he just has a thing for blondes.”
Minako floated up to cloud nine, “Wow! This could really mean something!”
Usagi reached across the table, “Are you gonna eat that?”
Ami’s face tinted pink with frustration, “HELLO!!!!”
They looked towards Ami whose face turned from pink to red realizing that she had yelled. Despite that, she had their attention, “The Petri dishes! Look!”
They did as she commanded and gasped in shock. The dried, greenish-blood sticking to the rose was in the process of slowly transforming into black mist. The exact same thing was happening to the ashes, the unnatural mist swirling in ink-black tendrils, beginning to fill their containers.
“Shit!” swore Makoto, “what does this mean Ami?”
“As I was saying,” Ami continued with her computer back in hand, “When I scanned them they revealed the same properties as the mist, but I’m still at a loss to how and why they change into mist form when they do. I analyzed the creature’s blood in depth but was unable to detect any sort of molecular structure, as if it has no DNA.”
Rei looked on with hard eyes as the Petri dishes suddenly splintered to pieces. The mist shot out, seeped through the edge of the window then into the crowds on the sidewalk. Startled, they threw money onto the table and dashed outside. Motoki watched them run past and shook his head, “They just keep getting stranger and stranger.”
Once outside they fanned out, searching for any sign of the black mist. All they found were people shopping, loitering around, and going about their daily business.
Usagi scanned the area frantically, “Where did it go?!”
Mamoru looked back into the Crown Parlour at the smashed Petri dishes. All that was left was his rose, now an untarnished, bright red. Ami’s computer began to beep softly, “Guys, wait. Something’s happening.” She spotted black fingers of mist rising up from a sewer grate.
The oblivious crowd looked on in confusion as the dense mist expanded rapidly. Then the screaming began as they ran in every direction to get as far away as possible. The Senshi scattered as well, but into hiding so they could transform. By this time the entire area was immersed in deep, engulfing darkness.
Rei slipped into a narrow alley and pulled forth her henshin wand. She thrust it up into the air and commanded, “Mars Crystal Power!”
She frowned in confusion and thrust it up even higher, “MARS CRYSTAL POWER!!!”
“Why isn’t it working?!”
Rei faintly heard the transformation phrases of her friends and tried again with no luck. She blindly stumbled out of the alley in total darkness as a wave of hysteria began to overtake her. She couldn’t transform, what was she going to do? How was she supposed to fight? Why the hell was this happening?!
Just before Rei succumbed to her panic she felt the temperature drop devastatingly low as the power of Mercury shot by her, driving the black mist away. With vision restored the Senshi could see three of the demonic creatures leaping high into the air, shrieking at the top of their lungs. None had ever heard a sound so shrill and piercing, and it shocked them into action. The Senshi ran in every direction unleashing their powers onto the demons from hell. Not many attacks hit because the creatures proved too fast.
Super Sailor Venus let her love and beauty shock rip, and then cursed, “They’re too fast!”
Tuxedo Kamen unleashed a flurry of roses as he took to the air, attempting to catch their enemy by surprise. “Then we’re going to have to be even faster.”
He sailed over his target, bringing his lance down on its head. The creature glimpsed the attack at the last second and diverted itself, missing the crushing blow by a hair’s breadth.
Sailor Moon scrambled for her life as one of the creatures had her in its crosshairs. The two enemies bobbed and weaved through the street, either ferociously darting in for the kill, or narrowly escaping harm. Sailor Moon expertly dodged the demon’s swiping claws, executing a quick back flip, only to dodge again, barely escaping an ambush from the air. She rolled across the pavement as the ground shook with the impact. Sailor Moon sprung back up in a rush, preparing to attack when she spotted Rei standing near the bus stop . . . as Rei.
Caught completely off guard Sailor Moon yelled over the din of battle, “Rei! Why aren’t you transformed?!”
Rei’s eyes widened in alarm, “Sailor Moon, watch it!”
Sailor Moon spun around to see the creature lunging right at her, jaws flexed and obsidian claws reaching to tear her apart. In turbo panic she attempted to scurry away, but not fast enough to escape injury and she knew it. A blur of red hurtled past her and the brute force knocked the creature through a store window pinned with numerous roses. Sailor Moon turned to her saviour to see Tuxedo Kamen looking relieved beyond reason. With him focused on Sailor Moon he failed to notice another creature headed straight for him. Luckily, three of the others did.
“Mercury Aqua Rhapsody!”
“Jupiter Oak Evolution!”
“Moon Twilight Flash!”
The three attacks raced above Tuxedo Kamen and impacted. After a bright pulse of light the creature exploded into mist that shot into the sky towards an unknown destination. The remaining two creatures shrieked in anger, causing the Senshi to wince in pain.
Jupiter observed Rei standing on the sidelines in pure frustration. “Rei! What? . .”
Rei’s hands rose to her shaking head, “I don’t know!”
A second shriek by the demons snapped the Senshi to full attention. The creatures catapulted high into the air, the Senshi anxiously preparing their attacks when the demons suddenly vanished. Mercury couldn’t activate her visor fast enough while Sailor Moon screamed,
The Senshi erratically dispersed when the ground trembled, knocking everyone off their feet. Two small craters appeared where Venus and Mercury once stood. The only thing left to do now was to keep moving.
Rei stood on the sidewalk frustrated out of her mind. She needed to be in there! She needed to help them! Why the fuck couldn’t she transform?!
Sailor Jupiter vaulted into the air in order to keep moving, hoping that their unpredictable movements would throw the demons off. Unfortunately, in mid flight an invisible force rammed straight into her chest, stamping her brutally into the ground. Her breath whooshed out of her lungs and two gashes tore its way down her upper arm and her lower thigh. The pressure on Jupiter’s torso astounded her, coming devastatingly close to crushing her ribcage and all vital organs within; it was like being trapped under a ton of bricks. Her hands rose to force the thing off and could feel its boney protrusions through her gloves. A volley of roses impacted the air above her, forcing the creature to shriek into her face, spraying rancid saliva. Jupiter’s ears almost ruptured from the assault. She tried desperately to kick the creature off, now furious. Her jade green eyes pierced into the air above her as the storms of Jupiter coalesced on command.
The lighting surged out of her and into the creature, which instantly became visible and shrieked in agony, now electrocuting to death. Between the bright flashes of lightning, its supernatural eyes locked directly onto Jupiter’s, forcing her gaze. That was when the whispers started.
The Senshi rushed over in a frenzied panic, breaking formation. Rei was forced to reestablish order, “Venus, help Jupiter! The rest of you, get the last demon!”
With renewed direction Tuxedo Kamen shared a look with Moon and Mercury who nodded in response. Kamen closed his eyes, concentrating on the shrill sounds of the demon in an almost hypnotic state when his eyes shot open and he spun around. His lance laced out instantaneously to pummel the invisible creature into a wall, chunks of stone flying everywhere. On cue Sailor’s Moon and Mercury rushed forth.
“Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss!”
“Mercury Aqua Rhapsody!”
Venus had just reached Jupiter and was forced to cover her eyes amid all the fireworks. The alien strobe-flashed in and out of visibility then exploded into mist shrouding only Jupiter, who began to scream in absolute, deranged terror.
Moon and Mercury’s attacks collided with their target, the creature strobe flashing as well then exploded into black mist, engulfing the area.
The blood in their veins turned ice cold as they listened to Jupiter’s horrific, psychotic screams, trying desperately to locate her in the darkness.
Rei attempted a spiritual ward but nothing worked.
“Damn it! Jupiter! Hold on!”
The Senshi were now frantic listening to their friend’s tortured screams, helpless to stop it. Tears stung Sailor Moon’s eyes as she scurried about in the mist, “JUPITER!!!” Every time she thought she would reach her, Jupiter’s screams would then come from another direction.
Mercury was about to unleash her Shabon Spray in pure panic when the mist inexplicably dissolved away. Sailor Jupiter was found in the fetal position sobbing hysterically, bleeding, and suffering violent convulsions.
Rei was closest to her and rushed to Jupiter’s side trying anything to help her. “Jupiter! Jupiter come on!”
The Senshi hovered over with Sailor Moon in tears and everyone else near breakdowns. Mercury had a look at her wounds then at Jupiter’s spastic, crying form. Her face creased with worry, “She’s in shock! We have to get her out of it!”
With vigor, Mercury, Rei, and Venus ventured to rouse Jupiter back to reality but to no avail. A wave of lightning abruptly crackled along her skin to leave Makoto in her street clothes. She had de-transformed.
Tuxedo Kamen expressed his concern in haste, “You guys, I hate to rush this but the cops are coming and crowds will start returning any second. We have to get out of here. Now.”
The sirens in the distance confirmed his statement. Their attempts to revive her increased and the sirens increased along with them. Sailor Moon stopped patting Makoto’s cheek, “She’s not responding!”
Mercury ceased reviving her as well, now rubbing the back of her neck at a total loss. “Tuxedo Kamen’s right, if we don’t get out of here now we’re going to have to face Tokyo P.D.”
Sailor Venus bit her gloved finger, “There’s only one choice.”
She commanded their attention.
“We have to teleport.”
Everyone knew with Rei not transformed and Makoto in shock that would be two Senshi out so it would be taxing on everyone, but there was no other choice.
Mercury agreed, “The temple.”
“No!” Rei erupted in panic, “We can’t!”
The sirens neared.
“Grandpa and Yuuichirou are holding public meditations. There could be crowds up there.”
From the sound of it the sirens were seconds from rounding the corner.
Tuxedo Kamen commanded, “My apartment, focus on my living room.”
With a collective nod they promptly formed a circle with Makoto and Rei in the centre. Each lent their planetary powers and simultaneously whispered, “Teleport.”
The police cruisers veered onto the street as the Senshi disappeared in a brief flash of light.
“Hey . . . did you see that?”
The driver glanced at his partner, “See what?”
“Huh . . . Guess it was nothing.”
Following a bright pulse of light the Senshi appeared in Mamoru’s apartment, a sharp rush of air signaling their presence. Makoto’s sobs caused everyone to awaken from their subconscious state. The Senshi were now twice as tired but this was no time for a nap. Makoto continued convulsing unabated when Tuxedo Kamen ripped off his cape and wrapped it around her body.
“Good thinking,” Mercury observed, “the warmth might help her out of shock.”
Tuxedo Kamen tucked his cape in tightly, “She needs warmth fast!”
The Senshi grabbed blankets from anywhere they could while Sailor Moon rubbed Makoto’s arms. Her convulsions mysteriously ended but her breathing remained ragged and her eyes were clamped shut. Sailor Moon brushed Makoto’s damp hair away from her sweaty forehead and pleaded, “Mako, please wake up.”
Makoto gradually opened her eyes and the light hit her like a runaway freight train. She scrunched them tight in response.
“Ugh. What happened?”
Makoto sat up as if she was awakening from a bad dream. Her emerald eyes focused on her surroundings then finally her friends.
Sailor Moon hugged her fiercely as she did Mars, “Oh thank God!”
Makoto hugged her back then shivered uncontrollably. She felt so empty, so incomplete. The Senshi were awash with relief as they all de-transformed. Mamoru emerged from the hall with more blankets, which Usagi and Rei swaddled Makoto with. Minako shifted over on the couch as Usagi and Rei helped her up.
When comfortably seated Ami smiled at her, “Okay Mako, you take it easy alright? I’m just going to have a look at your wounds.”
Ami lifted the blankets and saw for herself the sordid state of Makoto’s injuries. Blood was smeared across Makoto’s skin and the wounds themselves were jagged, swollen, and deep, effusing fresh blood and a foreign black puss.
Ami slipped into medical mode, “Okay, we’re going to need some disinfectant, gauze, and bandages.”
Mamoru disappeared down the hall.
By this time Makoto was beginning to relax, sinking into the couch and sighed, “I feel funny.”
“What do you mean?” Inquired Ami.
“I don’t know. I just feel . . . different somehow.”
Mamoru came back with the necessary items as Rei scooted over and he sat down, gently handling Makoto’s arm.
Usagi patted Makoto’s hand, “You just relax okay? I’m going to make some coffee.” With that she hurried off into the kitchen.
Both Mamoru and Ami donned latex gloves. Picking up a pair of forceps they dipped their gauze in the strong, disinfecting solution. Mamoru glanced up to Makoto, “Just try and relax . . . this is going to hurt.”
Makoto bit her lip and nodded. Both pre-meds began cleaning her swollen wounds at the same time.
“Fucking hell!” cursed Makoto as her hand found Minako’s arm and clamped it in a death grip. She breathed heavily through clenched teeth and after what seemed like an eternity, the wounds were clean.
Ami and Mamoru discarded the forceps and picked up the their bandages.
Rei snickered, “You’re lucky you have two people here studying medicine. Imagine if Usagi had to do this for you?”
A sudden image popped up of Makoto strapped to a chair with Usagi holding a needle and thread saying, “Don’t worry Makoto, I’ve hemmed my own pants before, this won’t hurt a bit.”
There was a collective shudder at the thought.
Usagi walked in with the coffee tray as the last of the bandages were being wrapped while Ami noted, “With our accelerated healing this should be fine by tomorrow.”
The conversation took a serious turn. “Makoto,” urged Rei, “why don’t you tell us what happened.”
Makoto averted her eyes, “It’s hard to say really . . .”
Ami immediately produced her computer and poised herself to begin documenting.
“The demon pinned me to the ground,” Makoto began quietly, “I was surprised at the weight of that thing! It was as heavy as an elephant! Anyway, I panicked and attacked with my Supreme Thunder. It began to fry . . . but then it looked at me with this,” she pulled the blanket over her free arm, “with this void, empty look and that’s when I heard it.”
Usagi raised an eyebrow, “Heard what?”
“The whispers,” Rei said.
Makoto leaned forward, “You heard them too?!”
“Yes. I heard them before I was attacked although I didn’t really say anything about it because I didn’t think of it after what happened.” Rei apologized, “Sorry Mako, go on.”
Makoto nodded, “Well I started to hear these whispers . . . really disturbing whispers.”
Mamoru finished wrapping the bandage, “What were they saying?”
“I don’t know!” Makoto belted back, her expression wild, “it was too jumbled that I couldn’t make anything out. I remember feeling nervous so I put it all into my attack. That’s when it exploded and the darkness drove into my head. It tore through my mind without mercy. It must have seen everything. The pain started almost instantly and it felt like something was being pried away from me. I tried to hold on as long as I could but the pain became too much to bear. The mist won, and something was removed. All I could feel was a gaping hole. After that though, it disappeared.”
Silence shrouded the room as the wheels in their heads turned, trying to find out what it meant. Rei’s darkened eyes moved about frantically in deep thought. She subconsciously twirled her hair around her finger as a frightful conclusion entered her mind. Her voice dropped an octave, “No . . .”
All eyes turned to her.
“What Rei?” Inquired a panicked Minako, “what’s wrong?”
Rei’s brow creased as she slowly brought out her Henshin wand and stared at it mournfully.
Ami practically read her mind when she ripped hers out too, “Everyone take out your Henshin wands.”
They all did as requested with Mamoru looking on since he didn’t have one. Each wand was placed onto the coffee table along with Sailor Moon’s broach. Rei and Ami stared in shock. Mars’ and Jupiter’s Henshin wands appeared dull, their crystals dark and lifeless, while the others sparkled brightly, radiating the auras of their respective owners.
Usagi paled, “What does this mean?”
Rei speechlessly sank into her seat, staring at her wand uninterrupted. She looked lost and utterly helpless. Ami began typing with her eyes fixated onscreen.
“Makoto,” she said cautiously, “transform.”
Makoto shrugged and carefully stood up. She picked up her Henshin wand, held it high and gladly proclaimed, “Jupiter Crystal Power!”
Makoto frowned waiting for the familiar energy that was hers alone to wash over her, to feel the power of Jupiter course through her veins and sense lightning at her fingertips waiting for her very command . . . but it was not so. She inspected her wand oddly then held it up again, “JUPITER CRYS-”
“It’s no use Mako,” interrupted Rei from her seat, her eyes cast down to the floor, “you can’t transform.”
Makoto’s gaze shifted from her Henshin wand to her long time friend with confusion in her eyes, “Well, why not?”
Rei narrowed her eyes in contempt, as if she was trying to explain something to a petulant child, “Why? Because you’re not Sailor Jupiter anymore that’s why! As far as you’re concerned, you never were.”
Makoto stumbled back slightly, as if some vein of truth had lashed out and pierced her. “What do you mean I’m not Sailor Jupiter anymore?” her voice became unstable. “Of course I am . . .”
“You’re not.” Impressed Rei, her voice inexplicably laced with venom. “There is no Sailor Jupiter Makoto. Face it.”
Fury flooded into Makoto’s body as she stepped up to Rei, towering over her, “What’s your problem? Are you looking for a fight?”
Usagi stood up immediately, sensing the sharp rise in hostility, “Guys, c’mon. Just take it down a notch okay? You’re best friends.”
Mamoru took to his feet as well, “I think we all just need to calm down, it’s been a long day and we’re all very tired.”
A smile graced Usagi’s lips though her eyes held a tinge of disbelief, “This is ridiculous. Of course Makoto is Sailor Jupiter.”
“She’s not.” Rei affirmed with cold formality, glaring at Makoto.
Makoto narrowed her eyes and clenched her fists. No one took a breath.
“Tell her Ami,” Ordered Makoto, her blazing eyes never leaving Rei’s.
Ami kept to her seat staring at her data, silent as a church mouse.
After a few more seconds of intensity Usagi opened her mouth to say something when Rei suddenly breathed out, “There’s no Sailor Mars.”
She spoke the words just above a whisper, most likely to herself, but they all heard her just fine. Rei’s eyes unfocused as she dropped back into her seat, her anger vanishing as she stared blankly at her wand. “There’s no Sailor Mars.”
No one spoke for a few moments until Ami said, “It shouldn’t be true . . . but she’s right.”
All eyes turned to Ami who just blinked at her computer, “I’ve scanned their Henshin wands and themselves . . . I can’t find any trace of their Senshi powers.”
Exclamations of surprise erupted as Ami continued, “I can’t find their signatures on the computer. It’s as if they hold none of their planetary powers . . . like they had never been Senshi.” She slowly looked up to the wild eyes of Makoto, once Super Sailor Jupiter and to the unfocused eyes of Rei, formally Super Sailor Mars.
“They are just normal human beings.”