Disbelief and shock permeated Mamoru’s living room. None of them could fully grasp what Ami had just said. Rei and Makoto weren’t Sailor Senshi anymore . . . and it’s like they never had been. All four henshin wands and Sailor Moon’s broach sat on the coffee table as a cold, constant reminder. Mercury, Venus and Moon’s glittered and radiated their auras while Mars and Jupiter’s lay dull and sparkle less.
Makoto stood frozen in place, staring at her henshin wand with eyes that seemed to shine a little less brilliantly. She picked it up carefully; as if she moved too fast or breathed too hard it would vanish in her hands. A disbelieving smile tugged at her lips. There was nothing amusing of course, but Makoto clung to the idea that this was some sick, cosmic joke and everything would be back to normal in a heartbeat.
About to test that theory, the hand clenching her wand shook ever so slightly as Makoto continued to burn her gaze into it. She stood absolutely motionless, barely registering that anyone else was in the room. Her lips parted, though she hesitated to speak. Then, on the faintest of breaths came “jupiter crystal power.” So low that barely anyone heard it. The lack of fireworks yet again brought reality crashing down on Makoto. Her face fell expressionless and her arm dropped limp to her side, the life seeming to deflate out of her. Mamoru was the first one to remember himself, sensing breakdown in less than five seconds. He carefully began to move towards her, “Okay, maybe we should just sit down and try to figure this all out.”
He put a cautionary hand on Makoto’s back as Minako moved to her other side when Makoto suddenly jerked away to stare at Mamoru like he was a complete stranger. In an unexpected outburst Makoto chucked her wand into the opposite wall, hoping it would shatter, but to her disappointment it stayed intact. Makoto turned quickly on her heels and darted out the door. The girls (minus Rei) were already on their feet going after her when Mamoru stood in their path and shook his head. Each of them reluctantly sat back down at the suggestion that she needed time alone. Suddenly, everyone became aware of Rei’s presence in the room and all eyes turned to her.
Rei sat in the singular cushioned chair staring into nothingness. While everyone desperately tried to figure out a way to break the deafening silence, Rei beat them to it.
“It all makes sense . . . That’s why I kept shivering, that’s why I felt weak . . . and that’s why it took me over an hour to get a fire reading. A reading that wasn’t even clear.” She raised a hand to her forehead in a stupor, “a part of me is missing.”
In a vain attempt at solace Usagi quietly said, “But you did get a reading though, right? That has to mean something.”
Ami winced as she realized that Usagi hadn’t really thought that one through.
Rei slowly looked up to Usagi as if she was losing an internal battle, “I got a reading because I was trained as a Hino Shinto Priestess to read fire. An hour, Usagi, is how long it takes my grandfather to get a reading. It used to take me less than fifteen seconds.” Her violet eyes veered to the ground, “he always wondered why I had such a connection with the fire . . .”
Silence dampened the room again when Ami flipped her computer open.
“Well, for the time being we are down two Senshi, but we will find a way out of this. I suggest we analyze the information that I gathered and get to work.”
Everybody leaned forward ready to tackle the problem, when Rei suddenly tossed her wand onto the coffee table and stood up.
“I’ll be leaving then.”
“Wait!” Usagi jumped to her feet, “where are you going?”
“Like Ami said . . . this is Senshi related, it doesn’t concern me anymore.” She turned to leave when Minako stood up too.
“But you’re apart of the team! You always will be.”
Rei turned around abruptly, “No, Venus.” The use of that name caused Minako to recoil slightly, but Rei continued, “We’re not apart of the team and we’re not one of you anymore. Besides . . . we’d only get in the way.”
With that said she strode through the front door and slammed it behind her, leaving the rest of the room on their feet wanting to follow. Everyone gradually took their seats again, deciding that she too needed some time alone, or at least needed to be somewhere the Senshi weren’t.
Usagi plunked down next to Mamoru, dropping her head on his shoulder, “What the hell just happened?”
Minako shook her head, “I can’t believe this! Actually, I refuse to believe it! I mean, how can an enemy steal our powers? We were born under the protection of our planets, it’s like a birthmark, how can that be taken away from us?”
Ami, who was quite upset because she had caused Rei to storm off, answered, “I really don’t know Minako, but that’s what has happened.” She continued typing, “I can’t locate the signatures of Mars or Jupiter . . . it’s like they don’t exist! I just don’t understand.”
Mamoru wrapped an arm around Usagi in deep thought, “Makoto did say that she felt like something was missing, that something had actually been ripped away . . . This could spell disaster for us. How the hell can we even go about getting their powers back if we know next to nothing about our enemy? It’s not like this is something tangible like your henshin wands, it’s something way more mystical.”
Minako leaned back into the couch, “This is messed up. I can’t even imagine what Rei and Makoto are going through, what it feels like to actually lose that part of yourself.”
Usagi somberly looked up from the floor, “You know, it actually just hit me. I know all these years you’ve heard me complain from time to time that I just wanted to be an ordinary girl . . . but to all of a sudden be stripped of my responsibilities . . . I don’t know if I’d be okay with that.”
The self-reflection in the room intensified.
“It’s who we are, that’s why.” Stated Ami.
Silence lingered for a moment as each of them contemplated their destinies. It was true that it could be really shitty at times. Whether it was dragging their asses to an exam after a three-day battle with Mistress 9, not even remembering which exam they were on their way to. Or, the moments after getting fired yet again from a decently paying part-time job due to their unreliability and unexpected disappearances. Or worse, telling boldfaced lies to their loved ones over and over, and shouldering the disappointment due to their apparent ‘elusive flakiness’. All of that aside though, the Senshi were fiercely proud of their mission and their heritage, even if they couldn’t tell anyone about it. It filled them with a sense of purpose and responsibility to bring about good in the Universe. Their mission stretches backwards and forwards in time by thousands of years. Originally, other than Mamoru, they were not even from this planet. In ways such as these, yes, they were slightly different from the rest of humanity. However, they were still thoroughly and completely human. And it was at that moment they realized that they wouldn’t change their destinies even if they could.
“Well,” exhaled Mamoru, “we really need to get to know our enemy. I don’t like this ‘flying blind’ business. Firstly, we don’t even know who or what is behind this. Secondly, we don’t know what they’re planning to do with our powers and personal information. Thirdly . . .” He glanced around the room, “we’ve definitely not seen the last of these demons. One of us could and most likely will be next.”
Meanwhile, straight overhead in the clear, night sky; up through the stellar-rich ripples of the Milky Way; on the outer fringes of the far side of the Monoceros Ring drifted a strange, space-time cocoon. This universal pocket lay isolated within a tightly knit web of knotted dark matter, silently floating along its slow, solitary orbit. Trapped inside the impregnable shroud was a small chunk of world, about the size of a continent; a fragment of a once larger planet, long since destroyed. Its surface appeared rocky and geologically natural, dotted with mountain ranges, canyons, valleys and cliffs, but desolate and void. In the far highlands, nestled within a cluster of mountains lay a valley the size of Tokyo city, the valley floor spreading more or less evenly in all directions. Located at its epicentre sat an extremely foreign object, completely out of place amid the natural terrain. Directly at this point the rock grew into an angular, majestically ornate, crystalline throne fit for a king, with perfect symmetry and human proportions; its surface faceted like quartz, but a deep, opaque black. Upon this planetary throne sat a lone man. His posture was slouched apathetically with long legs bent and open. His elbows pressed uncomfortably into the cold, dark arms of his crystalline chair as the tips of his fingers steepled firmly before his austere, bluish-grey eyes.
The entire landscape danced with the bright, crackling light of two, massive crystalline spheres suspended about fifteen feet above the ground. Each encased torrents of energy fiercely shining through the black tinted crystal shell the size of a large house. The sphere to his right contained blasts of raging fire entwined with tendrils of the intrusive black mist, while the other guarded chaotic laces of lighting. Both rumbled with immense power, so much so that if you got too close you would swelter in the heat. Within the heart of both spheres flashed a phantasmagoria of constantly shifting scenes. The fiery sphere displayed images of the various incarnations of a raven-haired beauty. Holographic snapshots flickered in erratic order showing the Princess of Mars, the Senshi of Mars, and Hino Rei. It revealed all aspects of her lives; all of her memories, hopes, dreams, and fears. The other sphere blinked with images of the tall, voluptuous brunette, revealing the same for Kino Makoto, the Princess of Jupiter, and Sailor Jupiter.
The corners of the man’s mouth creased into a faint, unnatural smile. Gripping the arms of his chair he began humming to himself, low and faint. The melody produced by his rumbling baritone sounded lulling and sweet, the dream-like tune completely at odds with the eerie smile that crept wider and wider across his face, eventually stretching into a perverse grimace. He knew it wouldn’t be long now. He had claimed the powers of two of those cursed Senshi. All he needed now were the other three, and then he could finally reclaim what was rightfully his. He would finally tip the scales of destiny back into balance and he would finally, finally, have his revenge.
The man rose from his throne and tilted his distorted gaze to the sky overhead, the majestic Milky Way Galaxy stretching in glorious splendor above him. The cold, cloud grey-blue of his eyes faded quickly to an inky black. In an instant the sinister mist rolled over the peaks of the surrounding mountains to crash down towards him as the same black mist ascended from vents in the ground to swarm across the valley floor, engulfing the mysterious man in stifling darkness. Deranged, fanatical whispers flared from hordes of voices in every direction, creating an encompassing and fierce cacophony of chilling sounds. If anyone were unlucky enough to be exposed to such dissonance, all mental faculties would permanently vanish after a few, short minutes.
Amid this hellish nightmare the man extended his arms and threw back his head in apparent ecstasy. His perverse smile intensifying into a pleasurable hysteria.
“Go.” He husked. “I’ll follow shortly.”
A portal through space-time exploded open immediately with the viscous, black mist pouring eagerly inside.
It was just after midnight. The bold and steady glow of a bright star captivated the woeful green eyes of an extremely troubled young woman, though it was no star. The planet Jupiter had been captivating her attention for the past half hour at least, until Makoto finally turned away in frustration, anger, and sadness. It was ridiculous to even imagine. Kino Makoto not being Sailor Jupiter? Nonsense. How could something like this even come to be?
She succumbed to the force of gravity, falling dejectedly into the plush cushions of her couch.
Makoto buried her face in her hands, “I was born Sailor Jupiter,” she thought. “I died Sailor Jupiter, I’m the Princess of Jupiter. So how can I all of a sudden cease to exist?”
Makoto peeked through her fingers at the loose phone cord coiling on her hardwood floor. She had yanked it out of the wall after about the twelfth consecutive ring. She knew who it was, but she couldn’t talk to them right now, she didn’t belong with them anymore. She was useless.
Makoto’s communicator vibrated and faintly illuminated the room, the symbol of Venus flashing periodically. She hesitated to answer it despite the growing concern that they could be in danger. A slave to her stubbornness Makoto decided to ignore it, considering that it had beeped several times before, cycling randomly between Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, and even Tuxedo Kamen. Extremely deep down she was touched by their concern, and all the way down there she knew that they were still her best friends, Sailor Senshi or not. Normal, everyday life was how they met anyway.
A small fissure cracked its way through Makoto’s hardened exterior as she watched her communicator beep incessantly. Ignoring those feelings she shoved it roughly under a pillow. Makoto heaved a heavy, frustrated sigh when a persistent knock on the door startled her. Makoto remained on the couch staring at the door when the unknown visitor knocked again, this time more urgently. Makoto glanced from her door to the pillow that silenced her communicator, then back to the door again.
“Shit!” She exclaimed to herself, “What if they really were in danger and something happened to the others?”
Makoto vaulted off her couch and swung the door open with concern etched clearly on her face. Her eyes searched frantically, expecting to find a bloodied and battered Senshi in hysterics. Instead she found Minako standing in the hall with hands planted firmly on her hips and concern etched clearly on her face.
Makoto looked away darkly and began to close the door, “Minako, don’t feel like you have to come here. Shouldn’t you be with the others trying to figure out a plan?”
Minako jammed herself in the doorway, “Mako! How can you say that? I don’t feel like I have to come here, I want to come here, and so does everyone else. We’re worried about you! What? We’re not friends anymore?”
A long, pensive look at Minako’s expressive face caused Makoto to sigh in defeat. She surrendered and opened the door fully.
“I’m sorry,” and that was all she needed to say. Minako pulled her tall friend into an empathetic, warm hug, which Makoto eagerly returned.
“Mako. You are always going to be apart of the team. We know who you are, you’re a Sailor Soldier.”
Makoto was on the verge of protest when Minako raised a finger in warning, “I don’t want to hear it. The others would have come but Usagi and Ami are at Rei’s and Mamoru stayed back at his place to brief Luna and Artemis,” Minako closed the door behind her, “I can’t figure out where those two go. Anyway, I’m going to make some tea and we’re gonna hash this all out.”
Makoto couldn’t help but release a small, genuine smile.
Usagi and Ami walked silently up the steps of Hikawa Jinja. Both had one thing on their minds and that was how their fiery priestess friend was coping. They knew that in situations such as these Rei would put up a seemingly unbreakable front to hide the pain that she was undoubtedly feeling. In consideration of this they were the best pair to see her right now; Ami with her gentle and understanding nature, and Usagi with her radiant love and experience with Mamoru.
They reached the top of the stairs and looked across the courtyard. It was very dark. Rei’s grandfather and Yuuichirou were surely in bed by this time. Ami tapped Usagi on the shoulder; they shared a silent look then headed towards the room of the sacred flame without deliberation.
After finding the secret entrance the Senshi always used, they walked down the hall in complete silence. As they approached the rice paper door flickering with oranges, reds, and yellows, the pair suddenly felt nervous. Ami cautiously slid the door open and it did so with absolute silence. Usagi and Ami stood awkwardly in the doorway waiting for Rei to acknowledge their presence without so much as a glance behind her, which was standard.
Though her back faced them, it was clear that Rei’s eyes were shut tight in attempted concentration and her hands gestured rapidly through the Kuji-in. Upon closer inspection they could tell that her raven hair was damp with sweat and her hakama and haori were also soaked through. How long had she been sitting there?
Usagi and Ami were now perplexed as to why Rei hadn’t said anything to them, but then thought that she was purposely ignoring them. Usagi was about to lightheartedly scold the stubborn woman about how rude it is to ignore people when Rei’s voice cut through the silence.
“Fire of Mars, I seek your guidance and strength. Help me find the answers that I’m looking for.”
There was a moment’s pause when nothing happened. Ami and Usagi guessed that Rei opened her eyes to look at the fire but they couldn’t be sure.
Rei’s voice roused with anger, “I am Mars! You will tell me what I need to know!”
Usagi and Ami were immediately startled. They had never known Rei to raise her voice to the fire. It was her element. She innately melded with it and worked with it, never demanded anything from it because she understood it.
It now dawned on Ami and Usagi that Rei wasn’t ignoring them; she really didn’t know they were there, that without her planetary powers her extra sensory abilities had significantly diminished.
The pair practically jumped when Rei lashed out yelling, “DAMN IT! WHY AREN’T YOU ANSWERING ME? TELL ME WHO I AM!”
After a few beats they witnessed Rei’s form slouch forward followed by the quivering of her shoulders. They instantly recognized that if Rei knew they had been standing there the entire time she would be extremely embarrassed, so Ami quickly, but quietly closed the door to save Rei’s pride. After a few seconds Ami knocked lightly. She was going to knock again when Rei’s calm and collected voice filtered through, “Come in.”
Usagi and Ami entered. Without Rei turning to face them, she apologized, “Sorry Yuuichirou, did I wake you?” then turned to face the door. “Oh. Ami, Usagi . . . I could have sworn that-”
“It’s alright,” smiled Ami.
The pair entered to kneel down on either side of their friend. They could see that her eyes were red but Rei hid her emotions well.
“So, what brings you guys here at this hour of the night?” Rei asked, as she neatly pressed down the creases in her damp robes.
Usagi couldn’t take the feigned ignorance a second longer as her smile faded to be replaced with a face of pure concern, “Rei you can’t ignore this. We’re all very worried about you and Makoto. We need your help to defeat the enemy and get your powers back. You’re apart of the team!”
Rei looked away from Usagi’s pleading eyes and scoffed, “Don’t be ridiculous Usagi-baka. You don’t need our help because we are no help.”
Usagi looked annoyed, “How can you say that? Just because your powers are temporarily unavailable doesn’t mean that you two are labeled useless! And that doesn’t even matter because-”
“Just listen to yourself Usagi!” Rei turned back to her hotly, eyes burning with unshed tears, “That’s just it. We are useless. Being ordinary cannot help the Sailor Senshi, we would only get in the way.”
No matter how hard she tried to fight it, a tear escaped Usagi’s eye, “Rei, how can-”
Rei abstained from arguing at the sound of Ami’s delicate, reasoning voice. Ami knew that both of them were just worked up and very tired. She placed a hand on Rei’s arm. “Don’t ever say that you’re useless because you know you are not. Next to our powers we have many, many assets that contribute to the team, making us such a strong force to be reckoned with.”
Rei couldn’t release her anger that easily and continued her protest, “Honestly Ami. You don’t have to say that just to make me feel better about myself . . . Whoever I am. Besides, you wouldn’t understand in a million years what it’s like to-”
“You’re wrong Rei. I understand more than you think.”
Rei and Usagi gazed questioningly at Ami’s stern face, her eyes shining with determination, “Do you know what it was like to hear people talk about the Sailor Senshi and refer to Sailor Mercury as the weakest and most useless of the group?”
Rei and Usagi’s eyes flashed with disbelief. Ami continued, “It hurt to hear that, and I believed it for a time, thinking I contributed nothing substantial power-wise.” Ami gazed somberly into the sacred flame herself, “Sailor Mercury. The brainy Senshi with no useful power.”
“That is the biggest load of crap I have ever heard in my life,” Usagi remonstrated with all her heart.
“Bullshit Ami. And you know it. We would be dead a million times over if it wasn’t for you,” assured Rei.
Ami turned to smile warmly at Rei, “and I can say the same of you and your spiritual intuition, which is your own gift, not that of Mars.” A self-amused smirk made itself known, “anyway, I only felt like that in the early days, until I grew into my power and you all made me see just how valuable I was.”
Rei sat there in contemplation, and Usagi, now much calmer, said her piece. “She’s right Rei. I don’t care what our enemy is up to, but we know you’re Sailor Mars, transformed or not. Mark my words. You will be wielding flames in no time. I swear it. In the name of the Moon.”
Rei rolled her eyes at Usagi’s dramatics, but did so with a slight smile. That was when Usagi forced her into a tight hug as Rei shook her head in exasperation, but folded her arms around Usagi regardless.
Afterwards, Usagi pulled forth the henshin wand of Mars. “We thought that you might like this back.”
Usagi held it out to her as Rei reached towards it with hesitation. She held its cool handle in her palm, tracing her slender finger over the ruby crystal encasing the dull insignia of Mars. “Thank you, but with the void I feel in my soul . . . I fear Sailor Mars might never return.”
“Later Ami,” Usagi waved as they parted ways, “We’ll be by your place after lunch. Get home safe okay?”
Ami waved back at her, “See you tomorrow.” She watched Usagi turn the corner then continued walking down the deserted street smiling to herself, glad that things with Makoto and Rei had improved. She then began thinking about their enemy. Ami had yet to delve into the mounds of data gathered in the second battle. She hoped anxiously that she would be able to come up with some new answers. Ami was absolutely determined to get to the bottom of it all and figure out how this enemy could get hold of a Senshi’s powers. Being a logical Virgo she knew that cold, hard facts don’t lie. Her computer could not detect even the faintest trace of the energies of Jupiter and Mars, but there was a part of Ami that just couldn’t believe it. A Senshi’s powers were apart of whoever possessed them, they were inborn, their destinies intertwined with the planetary Spirits . . . Or so they thought. Regardless, the fact that Rei and Makoto held absolutely no planetary power in their bodies had Ami truly puzzled.
She continued to contemplate their current dilemma as she passed through Arisugawa Park. Ami was so deep in thought that she didn’t notice the absence of all sound. The trees stood deathly still and the natural turbulence in the atmosphere had vanished, the absence of wind causing the small lake to settle as smooth as glass. There were no chirping insects, no croaking frogs . . . not even the faint hum of the city.
Ami raised her arms in a stretch as she strolled along when her ears picked up faint, hysterical murmurs. She spun her head around to see nothing but the darkness of the path and trees. Ami frowned and continued walking, this time paying more attention to her surroundings. It was then that she noticed the unnatural, deafening silence. Ami swallowed dryly and subconsciously pulled forth her henshin wand, but then tried calming herself.
“Man I’m paranoid.” She thought, “We got attacked only a few hours ago, it must just be my nerves.”
She glanced down to the pale blue wand, now realizing that she had subliminally pulled it out, “old habits die hard I guess.”
Unbeknownst to Ami, she didn’t put the wand away, but kept it tightly in her grasp instead. As she continued walking, and faster this time, she again heard indistinct, fanatical mumblings along with quiet, maniacal laughter. Ami again spun on a dime, taking in the stone path, the tall trees, and a black, rolling mist seeping out from the woods. Her eyes widened and soon remembered what Makoto had said, ’Well, I started to hear these whispers . . . really disturbing whispers.’
“Oh, God,” Ami breathed.
The black, viscous fog continued to roll lazily out of the trees with Ami gripping her henshin wand intently. The unearthly whispers made themselves known again, and the only word she could make out among the unnerving jumble was ’mercury’.
Ami remained still. She knew that any given moment she was going to be attacked. Being as smart as she was Ami took those few precious seconds to dance her fingers across the pad of her Mercurian computer. Within a heartbeat she snapped it shut then spontaneously sprinted into the woods with the black mist suddenly jumping to life and racing after her.
Amid her frantic pace Ami grappled for her communicator but couldn’t get into her sub-space pocket. “I can’t access my space pocket! It must be interference from the mist. I have to find a way to contact the others!”
Not daring to look back and her mind going into overdrive, she glanced around wildly, spotting a familiar looking building through the branches of the trees. Her initial plan was to transform normally, but quickly revised that, praying to Mercury that he (and hopefully the rest of them) could possibly hear her. Ami did not have great faith in her telepathic skills so her best hope was to try and reach Mamoru. It was going to be a long shot but she’d try it anyway, not caring who else heard her. Remembering what Rei had taught her that rainy day up at the temple, Ami cleared and opened her mind then screamed with all of her strength,
“MERCURY CRYSTAL POWER!!!”
With a phenomenal show of bright, aqua-blue fireworks and watery blue tendrils, Ami was no longer running. Without even breaking her stride she had transformed into Super Sailor Mercury, now running three times faster than she was a second earlier.
“I hope to God that he heard me. And the rest of them for that matter.”
Mamoru lay horizontal on his living room couch with Luna comfortably curled up on his chest. Artemis perched himself on the back of the sofa while Mamoru’s curtains billowed gently in the open balcony door.
Luna propped her head up, “I still can’t believe it. It just doesn’t make any sense. You can’t steal a Sailor Senshi’s powers! It’s just not possible.” She turned to the white haired cat, “Artemis?”
“That’s what I thought. Well, whoever stole them can’t use them to become Sailor Senshi, that’s for sure. Whether they have been stolen or not doesn’t matter, the powers of Mars and Jupiter are Rei’s and Makoto’s alone.” His tail twitched impatiently, “what is taking so long Mamoru?”
Mamoru glanced at his silent communicator, “I know, it’s getting late. They said they’d call when everything was all right. I hope Rei and Makoto are okay, I can only imagine what they must be going through.”
“Those poor girls,” empathized Luna, “We should have been there, but Artemis just had to have his gourmet feast at the back of that posh new restaurant across town.”
Artemis jerked his head in offence, “You can’t tell me you’re malnourished!”
Luna’s eyes narrowed, “You are the worst sometimes.”
“And that’s why you love me,” retorted Artemis.
Luna crouched low ready to pounce when Mamoru grasped Luna by the nape of her neck, “Now, now children, we mustn’t fight.”
He stood up to place Luna on the coffee table then walked over to the balcony door and stretched. Mamoru’s senses suddenly aroused with the midnight breeze when he heard it.
“mercury crystal power!”
It was faint but he had heard it, although he could have sworn that it registered in the back of his mind as well. Luna and Artemis dashed over and the three of them observed a brief, but bright as hell blue pulse of light. Mamoru noticed that half of the park’s forest was shrouded in black mist.
In an instant Mamoru transformed into Tuxedo Kamen as he jumped up onto the balcony ledge cursing, “Shit, those creatures are after Mercury. You two warn the others, but for some reason I think they already know with that little telepathic nudge. I’m on my way.”
He then disappeared from the balcony with a swirl of his black cape.
Rei sat on her bed studying her Henshin Wand and sighed heavily as she tucked herself in for the night, “I pray that Ami and Usagi are right because for some reason, I don’t think I’ll ever get my powers back.”
As she closed her eyes waiting for sleep, Ami’s faint, desperate battle cry floated through her head. In one fluid motion Rei shot out of her bed, threw on some clothes and ran out the door. She sprinted down the temple stairs, jumped the last five steps, and increased her speed in the direction of the park.
“They will not get Mercury too.”
Minako walked home from Makoto’s filled with a sense of accomplishment. Her pale blue eyes sparkled with pride, “Wounds mended, feelings spared, and love restored in its proper form. The goddess of love strikes again!”
She smiled a bit and put a little hop in her step, glad that her friends were okay. Then Ami’s battle cry pulled at the back of her mind. Without hesitating she turned on the spot and bolted in the opposite direction, heading straight for the park while transforming on the way.
Makoto watered the marigolds blooming on the ledge of her balcony with a half smile on her face. She was thankful for the wonderful friends she was blessed with but remained saddened and confused by her lack of power. Makoto was protective of her friends by nature, so how could she protect them fully if she couldn’t do so on the battlefield?
Ami’s transformation phrase flitted suddenly through her head causing Makoto to drop the water filled jug. In a daze she grabbed her keys and headed out the door, fueled by the panic she sensed in Ami’s voice.
Usagi walked through her front door and lazily kicked her shoes off. She could already tell that her father was reviewing an article at the dining room table while her mother sat in her favourite chair reading a book. Usagi took a detour through the kitchen to grab a glass of milk, and then plunked herself down at the table with a heavy sigh.
Her father glanced at the clock, ignoring the fact that she had broken curfew again after observing his daughter’s exhaustion, “Long day?”
Usagi picked up a few pages from his spread and glanced them over, “You could say that.” She dropped the pages, “Mom, what did you make for dinner? Anything left?”
Ikuko smirked and glanced up from her book, “Is there ever a moment when food is not on your mind?”
Usagi brought the glass to her lips, “Mom, I’m starving,” then took a giant gulp when Ami’s frantic voice drove into her mind. On instinct she jumped out of her seat, spilling milk everywhere. Her startled parents shot up in surprise.
“Usagi, honey, what’s the matter?” Her father demanded in alarm.
Usagi pushed her chair back causing it to crash to the floor and her pigtails bee-lined as she hurried to the door mumbling, “I have to get to her!”
Her mother planted herself in her daughters path, “Usagi, what’s wrong, where do you think you’re going at this hour?”
The young blonde became immediately conscious of her parents’ presence, but she had to leave, and now. Usagi’s face drained of colour and she began to physically shake. She thought the best thing to do was to just hurry out with a lame excuse rather than waste any more time trying to explain. The more time she wasted the higher the probability something terrible would happen to Ami.
As quick as light Usagi dashed past them sputtering, “Luna. I forgot Luna,” then sped out into the night with her parents yelling after her.
She would worry about them later on but right now Ami needed her. When she rounded the corner Usagi quickly ducked behind a neighbour’s garage and transformed. Immediately taking to the rooftops, Sailor Moon headed directly for the park in a panic.
Super Sailor Mercury ran as fast as her lean legs would carry her. She darted through the trees, weaving this way and that, buying as much time as she could to formulate a plan . . . whatever that might be. She vaulted off the ground and jumped from tree branch to tree branch, sensing the mist directly behind her. If she could have risked it she would have glanced back, but did not need the distraction. While pouncing like a cat from tree to tree the darkness of night finally threw her vision into slight confusion for she couldn’t tell how strong the next branch was. Mercury soon found out when the limb snapped underneath her boots. As she careened to the ground Mercury tried desperately to acrobat around for a soft landing, but gravity got the better of her. Her back slammed into the ground forcing the air out of her lungs as the black mist raced down towards her, hungry to find its next victim. The darkness swept in and engulfed her with Mercury expecting the mental anguish when it didn’t come. Her confused eyes shot open to find herself in the arms of Tuxedo Kamen.
His worried voice cut through her senses but his eyes did not because they were focused on getting away from the mist, which was directly behind them. “Mercury, are you alright?”
She was struggling for breath but managed, “T-Tuxedo Kamen?! Th-Thank God! I didn’t think m-my voice could reach you. As always, y-you’re timing is impeccable! Thank you.”
He gave her a silly look that read, ‘no thank you’s necessary’ then said, “We’re lucky my balcony door was open. You scared the shit out of me!”
Mercury whipped out her computer and typed as best she could throughout the bouncy ride. Hearing the continuous tapping he inquired with a smile, “I take it you have a plan?”
Glancing behind them Mercury surmised that the mist was accelerating and would overtake them in seconds, but she had to try something. “I’m working on it, could you please keep carrying me for a few more seconds? I have an idea.”
In spite of the grave situation at hand he chuckled, “Anything you say.” Even in battle she was always so polite.
He peered down with curiosity when she activated her visor.
An embarrassed blush bloomed on her cheeks. “Erm, pardon me,” she meekly stated as her arms folded around his neck. Kamen was confused until violent shivers shot down his spine, the temperature dropping much too quickly. He jerked and his teeth began to chatter.
Mercury became alert to this. “Oh! I’m sorry.” She moved her hands from directly on his back to just above it, “The mist will get us in a few seconds, I’m going to use my powers as a shield and when I say NOW, you push back with all the powers of Earth okay?”
Kamen caught sight of a clearing up ahead, “Got it Mercury, whenever you’re ready.”
Mercury kept her eyes on the mist; it opened up and shot out at them. After that, all Mercury and Kamen heard was the gush of water and feverish whispers.
As destiny would have it, all four Senshi, two transformed and two not, met up outside the park walls and without a word they sprinted in at top speed. Moon and Venus quickly outran Rei and Makoto as the two yelled to them,
“We’re right behind you!”
Moon and Venus followed their instincts towards Mercury and charged into a clearing. Oddly enough, they both stopped. Seconds later the sight of Tuxedo Kamen vaulting out of the trees at top speed with a clinging Mercury in his arms greeted them, the mist following by the hairs of their necks. Gravity brought them onto the grass as the mist crashed on top of them in waves. Both Venus and Moon gasped in horror, although Venus could have sworn that Mercury activated her powers a second before.
The mist exploded in all directions and it was soon déjà-vu for no one could see a damn thing. Eternal Sailor Moon feared the worst for her soul mate and best friend until she felt a familiar surge in her connection with Mamoru, and the mist suddenly retreated back into the woods.
With vision restored Moon and Venus sprinted over to their comrades. They found Sailor Mercury but not Tuxedo Kamen, for in his place crouched Prince Endymion clad in regal deep blue and shining armour.
Rei and Makoto ran up short of breath as the other two Senshi knelt by their friends’ side. Sailor Moon put a hand on each of their backs.
“Ami, Mamo-chan, say something!”
There was no response and their faces were contorted in pain. Now everyone joined in shaking them and calling their names.
Upon hearing their voices Mercury and Endymion opened their eyes then grabbed their heads in discomfort. For a moment the Senshi feared that their powers had been stolen, but Mercury was still transformed and Mamoru was in royal form. Mercury and Endymion lolled about shaking their heads while being assaulted with worried questions and sighs of relief.
Finally, Sailor Moon’s voice cut through everyone else’s, “Thank God you two are okay! How were you able to fend off the mist?”
Prince Endymion squinted his eyes, holding a hand to his head, “I don’t know exactly, I just did as Mercury instructed.”
All eyes turned to the water Senshi in question. Mercury massaged her temples with eyes closed, “It was a fleeting idea really. Lucky for me Mamoru is the Prince of Earth.”
No one noticed Super Sailor Venus turn her head to look elsewhere in confusion.
“What do you mean?” inquired Makoto, “What exactly did you guys do?”
Mercury was about to answer when Venus hissed, “On your guard!”
Everyone turned to see the mist surrounding the grassy clearing from the shadows of the perimeter trees. It dawned on them how vulnerable a spot they were in; surrounded by a dense forest and surrounded by the enemy. The tall trees loomed over the grassy field they claimed as the mist raged impatiently at the clearings edge with the horrific creatures forming, dissipating, and reforming in front of their eyes.
Mercury and Endymion scrambled to their feet as the demons began to circle the Senshi slowly, then faster and faster, revealing that there were several of them. The sudden movement caused the Senshi to assume attack positions when Sailor Moon ordered, “Rei! Mako! In the middle!”
The two couldn’t understand at first as they both stood offensively ready to fight when it struck them that they couldn’t . . . they weren’t Senshi anymore. Rei’s pride caused her to rebel, “Sailor Moon-”
“Rei!” Cut Prince Endymion through clenched teeth, “I know you don’t want to but just do it!”
He turned back around as Rei and Makoto reluctantly stepped into the centre. Normally, they both would have been pissed at such a command, but knew deep down that everyone was just concerned for their safety.
The alien creatures circled them at a speed that kept increasing, like a dizzying centrifuge.
Sailor Moon grit her teeth, anxious as hell, “What are they doing?!”
Mercury had a hard time following the movement, “They must be claiming their prey,” came her lowered voice.
“How are we supposed to fight this army?” Asked a baffled Sailor Venus. “We could barely handle three of them!”
Prince Endymion, who persisted in royal form because he had access to a razor sharp sword, spun the weapon apprehensively, his adrenaline rising. “We’ll think of something . . . right?”
No one answered.
Like a devastating bolt from the blue the debilitating whispers pierced through their eardrums at a decibel level near the peak of human endurance. The Senshi covered their ears suffering a traumatic shock. It was not so much the volume as it was the disturbing content and sinister energy that made them writhe in agony. If asked what they heard it would be impossible to explain. It was comparable to one million voices moaning the most horrific things while utilizing an eerie, insufferable energy. No being alive had ever lasted more than two minutes without loosing their minds permanently.
The creatures kept circling faster as the Senshi contorted at their mercy. Sailor Moon gripped her head, eyes fluttering. Her knees hit the ground and she seethed, her eyes now rolling into the back of her head.
Rei shook her head violently to try and disperse the eerie voices that kept coming at her. It was unbearable, she could not endure, but there was no escape. She began to pound her own head and rock subconsciously.
Venus, amidst her own suffering saw her allies in agony, which fueled her passion. She had had enough. Her head screamed at her as she clumsily raised two fingers to her lips and in a shaky voice bellowed, “Love and Beauty SHOCK!”
She was unable to put all her force into the attack due to her mental state, but she mustered enough power to stun their enemy, which is exactly what happened. The bright, hot light shot into the misty hoard of elusive creatures and dispersed, venting love, goodness, and light everywhere. The whispers promptly stopped with the creatures in a state of temporary shock, unable to function from the brief touch of light and love.
The Senshi emerged from the nightmare and stood up, slowly regaining their sense. Mercury quickly tried to look for a way that Rei and Makoto could seek safety but they were locked in, completely surrounded. “You two, stay close!”
Rei and Makoto nodded but were still obviously too used to fighting for they were just as ready as the rest of them.
The low groaning from the misty creatures suddenly ceased as they stopped circling to stand deathly still. Prince Endymion inhaled as he and the rest of the Senshi tensed up. “Here it comes.”
He predicted correctly, for at that moment the grass clearing transformed into an absolute circus in mere seconds as the aliens leaped towards them from all directions. Without even the time to blink attacks were unleashed, firing in the direction where anything moved. It was utter chaos for nothing stood still, Senshi and demon darted every which way trying to throw each other off, trying to get a better shot, or just trying to save their skin.
Eyes wide and heart beating at the speed of light Sailor Moon sent out her tiara. As soon as it left her hand she produced a hasty Twilight Flash, after which she swept the energy of her Tiare across any demon she had missed. When that attack finished she raised up her other hand and caught the tiara that cut through six creatures as it left and five on its return. She caught sight of Prince Endymion, glad that he was all right for the time being.
Rei and Makoto attempted to remain focused as they continued to duck and run out of harms way as best they could. Makoto caught herself in the middle of a supreme thunder, but then remembered that she was incapable. Rei hated being the helpless victim, but did her upmost to control her panic and executed several offensive moves to any demons that passed. Both were determined to prove that they could still hold their own without their powers, but the creatures were much too fast. It took all of their reflexes and concentration to just remain alive, let alone cause any damage.
Sailor Venus launched her hundredth attack after just three minutes, and since then she hadn’t stood still. She ran at top speed, jumped into the air and came down in a string of somersaults letting a love and beauty shock and two crescent beams rip on the way. At the exact second she landed her eyes stopped on three creatures about to pounce Rei and Makoto from the air. In a panic she yelled to the closest Senshi, “COVER ME!”
With that said Venus unleashed her Love-Me Chain in a flurry while Mercury sent an Aqua Rhapsody to the creatures around Venus so she could concentrate on saving Rei and Makoto. The searing chain of energy immediately strung up the three creatures and with a mighty heave she pulled them towards her. With such force Venus stumbled backwards as her catch flew steadily in her direction, when the silver light of the Moon shot through them and they turned to mist.
For the split second that she saved Venus, two creatures were seconds away from tearing into Sailor Moon.
Prince Endymion was alert to this and bounded over to rescue her, but with him focused on Sailor Moon, four creatures were moments away from tearing into him. Mercury witnessed this and sent a pile-driving plume of water to save him, but the second she let her attention slip from her fight, three creatures were waiting to come down for the kill.
It was too late to move as the Senshi turned to realize their doom. They prepared for the worst as defensive attacks flared up in a last, vain attempt at survival, when suddenly the horde of demons froze in place. Whether they were in the air or on the ground ready to rip them to pieces didn’t matter, they were all paralyzed as if time had stopped.
Prince Endymion lay on the ground breathing raggedly. His wide eyes were locked on the two creatures frozen just inches above him, their mouths agape with razor sharp, crooked teeth directly in his face, and their outstretched claws positioned to rip his jugular open. Momentarily confused (but grateful) as to why everything came to a screeching halt, Endymion snapped to attention and scurried out from under sure death to find the others.
The Senshi gathered in the centre of the clearing amid the horror of their frozen enemies. It was like being thrust in the middle of a live action movie on pause. Sailor Moon clung to Endymion and looked around frantically, scared to death that this was some trick and the creatures would resume the attack at any given moment. Sailor Mercury tried to recover from the shock as she thought out loud,
Rei massaged her shoulder in pain, “No,” she said as she scanned the area suspiciously, “I don’t think so.”
More questions were about to be fired when a tense, baritone voice began chuckling in amusement. Everyone crouched low and searched their surroundings, trying to find the source of the laughter that sounded . . . off.
“Well, well, well. At last. It has been way too long, don’t you think? . . Sailor Senshi?”