“Well, well, well. At last. It has been way too long, don’t you think? . . Sailor Senshi?”
All heads shot skywards and their eyes locked onto the source of the voice. Floating in mid air about twenty feet away was a tall, imposing man appearing to be in his late forties by Earth standards. He had the air of a seasoned athlete, not bulky with thick muscles, but rather lean and agile. The man’s skin was pale and sickly, as if he hadn’t seen the Sun in years. His severe, grey-blue eyes, rimmed with dark, discoloured skin and set deeply beneath his brow, burned with contempt. His face was somewhat angular with a prominent jaw, aquiline nose and high cheekbones. Faint creases could be seen bunching at the corners of his eyes and creeping along his forehead. However, the most exotic feature on this man was his hair, which was a powdery, light grey that appeared almost white, but littered with subtle streaks of the palest blonde falling in disordered, tangled waves about his head. He was dressed in a black, very old, very worn in uniform that had a distinct, militaristic feel, but completely unfamiliar. His hands were covered in tattered black gloves, clasped in front of him in an aloof manner.
“Yes,” he answered himself, the man’s voice dropping, “It has been a very long time.”
Before anyone could whisper a syllable he smoothly continued, “I understand that you have been struggling with the Kirikuma.” He gestured to the motionless demons, “They have always been extremely effective. You Senshi were never any match for them. The worst damage you could ever inflict was the Seal of Bunri, which is hardly a solution, wouldn’t you say?” His expression darkened considerably, “Things can come back to haunt you that way.”
Sailor Venus frowned in confusion as she tilted her head to the side without taking her eyes off the man, whispering, “What is this guy talking about?”
The others slightly shook their heads, affirming their confusion as well.
The man studied each one of them as his face contorted with disgust, “So pathetic!” His eyes then rested on Sailor Moon. As they did, a shudder of delight rippled through his body and his steely eyes flashed with fascination, longing, and remote obsession. However, the moment he registered what she was wearing his jaw clamped tightly shut. His eyes flared with rage and his breathing became erratic, “A . . . A Sailor Soldier?!” He whispered in incredulous disbelief, “No . . . Not you . . . Why is it always you?!”
Moments after the man had appeared, Prince Endymion had discreetly shifted back into Tuxedo Kamen. As their mysterious enemy lapsed into a furious stupor as he stared at Sailor Moon, Kamen had reached the limit of his patience, “Who the hell are you?!” He demanded with authority.
Succeeding to shock the man in black out of his trance, their enemy turned to the well-dressed young man in obvious surprise. “What?!”
Makoto had also run out of patience, “Are you deaf? He asked you who the hell you are!”
After a few short moments the man had a sudden revelation, which caused the fire in his veins to run rampant. His grey-blue eyes faded completely black.
“How dare you!” He seethed, “how was such power bestowed on such unworthy and utterly moronic . . .” He looked almost too disgusted to say the next word, “children?”
Sailor Moon suddenly sparked with life and heightened her posture as best she could, “Listen up! I don’t know who the hell you are or where you came from, but you are not going to succeed in your plan . . . whatever it is. Do you understand me? We are Sailor Soldiers that fight for love and justice. In the name of the Moon, you will be stopped.” She finished in her trademark pose that had to be known far and wide by now.
The man watched her introduction in deep fascination followed by an ugly scowl spreading across his face. “The Moon!” He spat the noun like it was venom. “There has never been a bigger disgrace in the entire Akashic! How could the Celestial Spirits let the undeserving rule? It was my destiny . . .” His eyes hardened even further, “you may not remember me . . . but I remember you, Serenity.”
Sailor Moon visibly faltered at the mention of her royal name, which practically no one knew. He continued to eerily stare her down, “I will claim what is rightfully mine.”
The Senshi stepped in front of their Princess, desperate to protect her. Rei clenched her fists, “You most certainly will not!”
The man’s cold gaze turned to her, “On the contrary Ms. Hino. Or should I say . . . the never to be Sailor Mars?”
He received the reaction he was hoping for. Rei’s arms shook with fury and she glared at him hotly, full of emotion.
“Tell me,” he goaded her, “What is it like knowing that you are now a pathetic, useless, good for nothing human?”
Her teeth clenched.
“I stole both of your powers in a measly span of twenty-four hours, and I’ll surely get the rest of you. Once you insufferable Senshi are out of my way . . .” His eyes locked with Sailor Moon’s again, his expression both empty and disturbingly intense, “I’ll claim what is rightfully mine.”
Sailor Moon let a small gasp escape her lips as Tuxedo Kamen blocked her possessively, now spoiling for a fight. Sailor Mercury moved forward, “What is rightfully yours? Not that it really matters, because you won’t succeed as long as we’re around.”
A knowing grin curved his lips, “Ah, come now young Mercury. Ever the strategist I see.” He emitted a childish giggle, “That’s just it though . . . you won’t be around.”
His eyes pierced deeply into hers, “three down . . . And two to go.”
Sailor Mercury’s eyes scurried about in thought, “Three down? Damn it! He still has me as his next target. I don’t stand much of a chance against those power hungry Kirikuma . . . There has to be something I can use to my advantage if he would just give it to me.”
Makoto whispered to the others, “This guy seems obsessed with the power we have.”
Sailor Mercury chewed on that. “Yes . . . he seems almost jealous . . .”
She had trouble keeping up with her own thoughts as a shaky plan began weaving its way through her brain. Mercury knew she was the next target so her best bet was to try and turn the tables of control on him. “If I’m not mistaken, the lake isn’t too far from here . . .”
Sailor Mercury began walking backwards through the frozen Kirikuma towards the clearings edge, “Wow. You are more of a loser than I originally thought. This is all a waste of your time because you will never match up to the Sailor Senshi. If you were naturally born with some real power, like myself and my friends here, perhaps you wouldn’t be so bitter and desperate. It’s quite unattractive, and you’re starting to bore me.”
The man’s eyes split wide open and the heads of all the motionless demons snapped towards Mercury, reacting to his blinding wrath.
“Good” she thought to herself, “it’s working.”
The rest of the Senshi were taken completely by surprise as Sailor Moon muttered, “Wha-what is she doing? Has she gone nuts?”
They began to slowly inch towards the blue-clad Senshi, fearing for her health. “Mercury!” Venus hissed, “What the hell are you doing?”
Mercury glanced at them briefly but continued on, focusing her attention on their enemy. She spat on the ground in disgust, “You’re pathetic. We don’t know who you are and we don’t give a fuck. So why don’t you take your little demons and your life story, which nobody wants to hear anyway, and get off our planet! We have better things to do, so just go ahead and keep saying how much you want to steal our powers because these are powers you couldn’t possibly handle anyway.”
The man was so visibly enraged and out of his mind that black mist began seeping out of the air surrounding him. The amount of fury their enemy experienced must have affected the Kirikuma because they immediately resumed motion and began slowly closing in on Mercury. The Senshi stood there with slack jaws, shocked beyond reason by Mercury’s behaviour and what had spilled out of her mouth. The Senshi couldn’t help but wonder if she secretly had a death wish.
Sailor Mercury silently prayed that her risky plan would work when the look in his eyes confirmed her suspicions. He was mentally unstable, just as she suspected. All she had to do was piss him off and now knew he would fall right into her hands. The words she had just muttered ran through her mind but she didn’t have time to blush at them.
His arms rattled with fury as his voice bellowed, “How dare you, you little bitch! You don’t stand a chance against me! Your powers are mine!”
“Just keep it up,” Mercury coached herself while rolling her eyes dramatically. She turned away from him and cocked her hips, radiating as much attitude as possible. She then glanced over her shoulder with a look of boredom and scoffed, “Please! Either shut-up or kiss my ass, take your pick.”
As soon as her sentence concluded Mercury disappeared into the woods at top speed when the man instantly faded into mist and mindlessly bolted after her followed by dozens of screeching Kirikuma.
The Senshi remained in the clearing for a count of three, staggered by Mercury’s behaviour, but they quickly snapped back to attention and took off after her wondering who in God’s name had possessed the water Senshi.
Super Sailor Mercury darted through the trees like a bat out of hell, feeling the demons rancid breath on her neck. She scolded herself for being so careless but she had to try something in order to get some answers. She knew what she had to sacrifice, but it was all for the greater good. Mercury increased her speed, hypothesizing that the forest was going to end soon and the lake would only be a hundred metres away.
The Senshi ran like hell, trying in vain to catch up to Mercury before the enemy got to her. As they ran, words fired back and forth.
“What does she think she’s doing?” Sailor Moon vented as she maneuvered her body between a set of branches in mid jump. “She’s lost her mind!”
Makoto answered from far behind her, “It’s not like her.”
Rei however, reasoned it out, “It isn’t like her; which is how I know she has a plan.”
“That’s Ami for you,” stated Venus matter-of-factly, “I just wish I knew what she’s up to!”
Tuxedo Kamen cut in. “The forest is ending!”
The Senshi burst out of the forests edge and immediately recognized their surroundings. They were by the lake. At that exact moment about fifty metres to their right they spotted Sailor Mercury darting out of the trees and continue on at light speed towards the water. The Kirikuma, headed by a cloud of mist trailed her by mere inches.
The Senshi ran forward in fear for her and watched Mercury dash onto the pier with no sign of stopping. Sailor’s Venus and Moon were in the midst of calling upon their powers when they heard Sailor Mercury’s distant voice, “No! Don’t do it! Trust me!”
The creatures were about to tackle her when she reached the end of the pier, vaulted into the air in a show of somersaults and made the perfect diving arc into the water. As soon as the Kirikuma launched off the pier in pursuit, they transformed into mist and crashed into the water after Mercury, following her to whatever depths she went.
They sprinted to the edge of the pier where Mercury had dove in and at that instant the entire lake turned black. Air bubbles surfaced where she had entered the water and now their fear was evident, wondering what Mercury had gotten herself into.
Seconds seemed like years as they contemplated what to do as no sign of Mercury showed. That was when Sailor Moon broke, “That’s it. I’m going in.”
She prepared to dive when the mist exploded high from the water in a plume of black, echoing spasmodic laughter. The voice of the mystery man was easily heard, “I’ve shut that cocky brat’s mouth! Like I said, three down and two to go . . . then, you’re mine Serenity. There is no escaping me!”
His laughter lingered in their ears after the mist disappeared into a portal, the water tinting dark blue again.
Wasting no time Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor’s Moon and Venus dove in after Mercury while Makoto and Rei knelt at the edge of the pier ready to receive them when they surfaced.
They didn’t have to dive for long because they detected her floating in the water curled up in the fetal position. Venus was the first to get to her and took Mercury in her arms while Moon and Kamen helped them swim back to the surface.
For the second time that week hands helped pull a Senshi up from the water and when they were all safely on the pier was when they noticed Ami was still Sailor Mercury. Hopes rose at the sight as Sailor Moon knelt next to her, “Look, she’s clutching something in her hands!”
Makoto pried Mercury’s arms away from her body and found her holding her Henshin Wand. Kamen wrapped his wet cape around Mercury, acknowledging that it wouldn’t do much good while the rest of them tried to get through to her.
Sailor Moon had Mercury’s head in her lap repeating her name over and over, tears threatening to fall. When Mercury opened her eyes her fuku glowed bright blue and numerous tendrils of water unraveled to leave Ami lying weak, drenched, and cold in Sailor Moon’s lap.
Sailor Venus picked up Ami’s wand and cursed in frustration, “Shit! They got her powers too.” The wand appeared lifeless and dull, “Ami’s plan didn’t work.”
Ami coughed up mouthfuls of water and rolled onto her knees, her shaky hand reaching into her shirt. Her friends hovered protectively over her, Sailor Moon imploring, “Ami, take it easy! What are you doing? Just relax and we’ll look after you.”
Ami shook her head and spat out more water, “N-no! You don-don’t understand!” She took her hand out of her shirt to reveal her Mercurian computer and snapped it open, typing immediately. Everyone sympathized as they expected a reaction similar to Rei and Makoto’s. Denial came first.
Makoto leaned over her, “Ami, I know it’s hard, but don’t worry, it’s okay that you’re plan didn’t work. I mean, you can’t be right all the time.”
Ami’s fingers continued to fly across the micro pad uninterrupted and everyone remained confused when her face broke out into a wide smile. She laughed, “Look! It’s there! I have it!”
The others glanced amongst each other, worried that she had cracked with the sudden withdrawal, but they were soon proven wrong.
“My plan!” Ami enthused, “It worked! I got it!”
“Got what?” inquired Venus as she peered over her wet shoulder.
“I can’t believe it actually worked!”
“What?” Venus asked again, “what did you get?!”
Ami slapped a hand to her dripping head, “We got all the information we need!”
Tuxedo Kamen waved his hands before him, “Woah, woah, woah. Back it up. What information? What exactly were you up to?”
“Well,” started Ami after an involuntary shiver, “Back in the clearing while that man ranted away I observed him carefully. His behaviour seemed odd to me. It was as if he was putting a lot of effort into keeping himself . . . Controlled. Didn’t you notice the fleeting moments where it appeared like he was a crazed animal? I was pretty sure he was mentally unstable.”
Sailor Moon scratched her head, “And how did you know that?”
Ami bit her finger, “I’m minoring in psychology at Tokyo U in my spare time.”
Ami continued a mile a minute, “So I figured if he was mentally unstable it would be relatively easy to emotionally manipulate him and get him to do what I wanted. His-”
“Oh I get it,” nodded Tuxedo Kamen, “that’s why you went on all rude and cocky.”
“Exactly.” Ami confirmed.
The others questioned him with blank faces as Kamen caught on to her thinking. He noticed their confusion and explained, “Mentally unstable people are prone to manipulation when experiencing emotional stress.” He looked back to Ami, “but what I want to know is, what was your plan?”
Ami shivered subconsciously again, “At the time I wasn’t really quite sure. It first came to me before the mist attacked me when I was alone in the park. Before I took off I typed in a short programming code on my computer which put it into a super sensitive scan, hoping that if the mist did get me, my computer would gather all the information it could, but that didn’t happen at the time. Later when that . . . man showed up, I began to realize that the only way we could get the upper hand on our enemy was to find out as much as possible about his mechanisms, and the only way to do that would be to get up close and personal with the mist.”
Rei knelt down next to her and rubbed Ami’s arms to get her warm, “And you knew that the only way to do that was to let it get you.”
“Right,” said Ami as she exhaled, “I knew that I had to sacrifice my powers for this, but . . . but that’s okay, we stand a far better chance now of reclaiming our powers.”
“Okay,” Makoto said, catching on, “I understand why you did what you did, but why jump into the lake? Wouldn’t that make you more vulnerable? And why were you holding your henshin wand?”
Ami held a finger up with a smile on her face, “You see, that’s just it. Think about it, the water is definitely not a vulnerable place for me. It’s my element. I knew that if I dove into the water I could use it to my advantage and the longer I could stay Sailor Mercury-”
Sailor Moon caught on as well, “The more time you had to get some info on the enemy.”
“Right.” Ami enthused yet again while summoning information on her computer, “The reason I took out my henshin wand was for my computer to get a reading on what exactly happens when our powers are ripped away.”
Venus watched what she was doing, “And you came up with all of this in the clearing?”
“Well not exactly,” admitted Ami, “some of it came to me while I was running for my life.”
Venus smiled as Ami continued bringing up data, “Our enemy took my powers maybe half a minute after I entered water, I felt it being torn away from me, but my-”
“Wait!” interrupted Sailor Moon, “you say that your powers were taken when you were down in the water?”
Ami nodded, “Yes.”
Moon’s eyes narrowed, “Well then how come you were still Sailor Mercury when we pulled you up?”
Rei added to that, “Yeah, your transformation let go about half a minute after we got you up here.”
Ami wasn’t expecting that, “It did? That can’t be if . . .” She suddenly stopped talking as her fingers flew yet again over her keypad. After a few moments she continued, “What I can tell you for sure is that the instant the mist ripped my powers away, my wand simultaneously lost all trace of the powers of Mercury . . .” She bit her finger again, “but then why was I still transformed if I had no power?”
Just when they were beginning to get some answers Ami instantly stopped typing, “What the-?”
Makoto looked on, “What? What is it?”
“No!” Breathed Ami
“What?” asked Rei.
“My computer!” she typed in some commands but the screen remained blank. Her computer had lost power, which had never happened before because it had a self-sustaining system core. She closed the device and everyone could easily see that the ever present symbol of her planet, that had always graced the top panel . . . was now missing. It then became crystal clear that when that man stole her powers that meant everything that came with it went too.
All of her data, all of the priceless information that they suffered for, was now inaccessible.
Ami’s hands began shaking as she tried in vain to type in some familiar commands while staring into the darkness of the screen, “No. Not after all of that. Not after . . .”
Sailor Venus fell to her knees running both hands through her hair, “This is not happening . . .”
Tuxedo Kamen studied the computer with a closer eye, “You have got to be kidding me!”
Everyone was speechless. After all that trouble and Ami sacrificing her powers they finally obtained the information they needed, and now there was no way to access it. They were back to square one.
Ami’s eyes lowered with her hands hovering in the air in front of her, trembling. A moment ago she could have dealt with losing her powers because she knew she was still contributing in another way, she knew that they had a chance of getting their powers back due to the information her computer contained. But now, the realization that she just gave her powers up for nothing hit her full force. Now she felt completely and utterly helpless. They couldn’t get their powers back now. The unknown man claimed three of their powers in less than two days, and to top it all off her body was now drained of adrenaline with her mind free to fixate on her reality; feeling the full affects of existing without the ever-present strength and power of Mercury, which had always fueled her.
Ami’s breathing quickened with the sudden flood of despair and physiological shock. It was like being cut down to thirty percent of the energy you had lived your entire life with, feeling extremely off centre, off balance. This was what Ami was trying to adjust to so quickly, and aside from being soaking wet and sleep deprived, she physically couldn’t handle it.
The Senshi noticed her distress and tried to comfort her while concluding that it was about time they got out of there. The Sun broke over the horizon as Makoto stood up, “We had better get out of here soon before people start showing up.”
“Yeah, good point,” agreed Venus, “Ami is obviously too shocked and weak to walk on her own, the withdrawal’s hit her hard.” She finished in sympathy.
Sailor Moon helped get Ami into Kamen’s arms. Without taking her eyes off of her she offered, “Okay, we should get her to Mamo-chan’s place right now since it’s closest. Then we’ll have to figure out what to tell her mother.”
They all silently agreed to that. Just as they were hastily making their way to Mamoru’s apartment, a group of early morning joggers spotted them from up the path. The people slowed, pointed, then jogged closer to get a look at the infamous Sailor Senshi, presumed to be an urban legend.
The Senshi instantly felt the unwanted limelight and panicked as Kamen covered Ami’s face with his cape and told Rei and Makoto to get behind Moon, Venus, and himself. If anybody identified them they would be in a situation they did not want to be in. Before the joggers could get any closer the Senshi took off in the opposite direction and were horrified to see a group of dog walkers heading towards them.
Rei stopped in her tracks, “What the bloody hell? Is this some sick twist of fate?”
Feeling very exposed the Senshi momentarily froze, unsure of what to do. Sailor Venus started to move, “Quick, the woods!”
Without wasting another second the Senshi took off into the forest yet again hearing the exclamations of surprise that followed them.
The adrenaline pumped through Sailor Moon’s veins for the umpteenth time that day as she hastily ran through the trees, “There are too many people around. What are we going to do?”
Tuxedo Kamen glanced behind to see a handful of people trying to follow them, “I think there is only one thing to do. We have to de-transform.”
“What?!” hissed Rei, “how is it going to look when we walk through the streets with an unconscious girl? I say we just make a break for Mamoru’s apartment.”
Venus was beginning to get nervous hearing the sounds behind them increase, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” she looked forward and could see a slew of people walking another path up ahead. “We’d risk being seen by all those people. We should just de-transform and walk out of here as normal and as quickly as possible.”
Rei sighed, “Maybe you’re right.”
Just then the shouts behind them came louder, “Look, I think I see them! It’s the Sailor Senshi, I swear!”
“Where’s the Sailor Senshi?”
“Oh my God, there they are!”
With the more than audible mention of ‘Sailor Senshi’ the people walking the path up ahead of them stopped and turned their attention to the woods. People were talking now, “Did you hear that? The Sailor Senshi!”
“Do you think they’re in there?”
“Let’s see! I’d kill to see them in person!”
Sailor Moon groaned, “Why are people up this early anyway?”
Makoto paused, “De-transform now. I have an idea.”
The sharp, brown eyes of a spunky, eleven year old girl peered intently through the lenses of her binoculars. She stood absolutely still with her shortly cropped black curls swaying gently with the early morning breeze as she carefully adjusted the focus. The young girl suddenly dropped the binoculars from her eyes in disappointment, scowling, “Man! It flew off. I could have sworn it was a Short-eared Owl.”
The girl’s slightly taller elder brother fidgeted with the tripod hanging carelessly over his shoulder, “Patience Nakura. Bird photography takes patience.” He glanced around, “Maybe we should just set up somewhere.”
The boy tugged his little sister along when he heard faint voices from the woods, “Look, I think I see them! It’s the Sailor Senshi, I swear!”
“Where’s the Sailor Senshi?”
“Oh my God, there they are!”
The boy turned to his sister with wide eyes, “Did you hear that?”
The shorter girl snapped to attention, “Of course! It came from the woods. The Sailor Senshi could be in there! We have to check this out, I can’t believe our luck!”
A handful of people around them heard the commotion as well, now talking excitedly and inching towards the forest in fascination, hoping to catch a glimpse.
Nakura dug into her knapsack in a hurry, “If it is them Haru, I want a picture. Now where did-”
Nakura snatched up her camera as everybody strained their ears towards the trees and heard,
“I swear I saw them just ahead of us!”
“I saw them too! Look, I’d swear that’s Sailor Moon!”
At that moment a small group of people burst out of the trees. Nakrua focused her camera and snapped a quick photo. She glanced up from the viewfinder to properly see the image she had just captured. Breathing very heavily stood five beautiful young women and a tall, handsome man looking around very excitedly, though slightly nervous.
The girl with the blonde pigtails grabbed the shirt of the one with raven hair, “Didn’t you see them! I swear I did, where did they go?”
The girl she was tugging on yanked away, “Quit pulling me Odango, I saw the Senshi just ahead of us too.”
There was a tall, chestnut haired girl with the arm of another with blue tinted hair draped around her shoulder. The strange thing was the one with the short, blue hair looked dazed or tired as she sagged against the other. “They turned left, I saw them!”
Mamoru jogged up to the closest pair, “Did the Sailor Senshi run this way?” His eyes narrowed in suspicion as he leaned in closer and they leaned back, “are you the Sailor Senshi?”
Haru shook his head, “No, they didn’t come by here, right Nakura?” His sister didn’t answer. Her eyes glazed over as she gazed dreamily up at the dark haired man. Haru rolled his eyes then burst with animation, “Did you see them though?”
The rest of the girls popped up behind Mamoru with the pale blonde saying, “We did, but they were fast, we might have lost them in the woods.”
Suddenly, the same voices were heard very close by, “Hurry, the path is up ahead!”
“I saw them, I know I did!”
“Hurry up then!”
Haru turned back to the group in front of them to ask more questions when the brunette said, quite frantically in fact, “Anyway, I swore I saw them go this way, no time to talk, we’re gonna find those Senshi and maybe get Jupiter’s autograph. She’s amazing!”
They took off quickly, passing the young siblings. The blonde girl with the pigtails eyed the love struck Nakura suspiciously while the rest of them continued talking on their way.
“Jupiter’s amazing huh?” Challenged the pale blonde. “I’d much rather get Venus’ autograph, she seems more sophisticated.”
“You know,” spoke the pigtailed girl, “I don’t like the way that girl is looking at you Mamo-chan.”
The tall man held his hands up as if in surrender.
The bickering continued as the odd group approached a bend in the path that disappeared behind tall trees.
Nakura looked after them strangely, thinking to herself. When the brunette had passed her, Nakura noticed that the blue haired girl leaning on her was slightly damp, and shivering too. Before Nakura could ponder that any further another group of people shot out of the trees firing questions at anyone nearby.
“The Senshi! Which way did they go?”
One of the search party looked down the path and pointed ecstatically towards the rapidly disappearing group of people, “Look, there they go!”
Haru stepped forward, “No, that’s not them, they just bolted out of the woods moments ago looking for the Senshi too.”
The girl who had pointed turned to her friends in confusion, “I didn’t see anybody else looking but us, did you?”
The other two just shrugged their shoulders. Nakura glanced behind her, camera in hand and saw no one. “That was weird.”
As soon as Mamoru and the girls rounded the corner, ensuring they were out of sight, the group simultaneously ignited into a dead sprint.
Usagi, being used to hauling ass for too many reasons, took the lead naturally but looked back in fear, “That was too close! I saw that girl staring at Ami, and I didn’t like the way she was looking at you either Mamo-chan.”
Since they were all in civilian form, Makoto or Rei had no problem keeping up with the rest of them. “Shouldn’t you be used to every girl swooning over Mamoru by now? Still, although we did get away I think that kid got a picture of us.”
“And that,” Mamoru pointed out, “could be bad. I mean, who knows what she could have found out once those stalkers came out of the forest and started asking questions.”
Makoto grunted as she shifted Ami’s weight, “Whatever! Ami here is not exactly light as a feather. But more importantly, we need to get her inside. Now.”
Everyone remembered what their priorities were and quickly rounded the corner onto Mamoru’s street, slowing their pace to a brisk walk upon seeing the morning rush of people.
Not wanting to grab too much attention, Mamoru walked in front of Makoto in a vain attempt to conceal the wet, unconscious girl on Makoto’s back. They were beginning to get some odd stares but breathed a sigh of relief when they slipped into the safety of his condo lobby.
The group rushed to the elevator and Mamoru punched the button. When the doors opened everyone quickly piled in and exhaled.
“Finally,” said Usagi, “We’re safe.”
That was when they noticed a man and woman standing in the corner looking very skeptical and slightly afraid. They froze and could do nothing but smile politely at the couple who just inched more into the corner. The woman’s eyes widened upon seeing the wet, unconscious girl on one of their backs. The seconds ticked by slowly.
An eternity later the elevator chimed signaling the seventh floor, where the couple hastily made their exit. Once the elevator doors slid shut everybody felt the tension drain away. Mamoru leaned against the mirrored wall, now exhausted.
“ . . . Honestly.”
Up in Mamoru’s apartment Ami lay on the couch in fresh, dry clothes beneath a heavy blanket. She still had not awakened. Minako paced the floor slowly as Usagi knelt quietly next to Ami, and Makoto fixed another blanket over her. Mamoru tinkered in the kitchen attempting breakfast when Makoto shook her head and shoved the culinary challenged Mamoru out of the kitchen muttering something along the lines of ‘good for nothing bachelors.’
Minako fiddled with her hair nervously, “I don’t get it. Why hasn’t she woken up yet?”
Mamoru brought in the coffee, “I think it’s a combination of things. First, loosing her powers in the water, which was a complete shock to her body, and the additional shock of loosing her research. She should be waking up soon though.”
Usagi took comfort when Mamoru sat next to her, pulling her close as she said, “Her mother is on the night shift and comes home around seven a.m.” Her watch showed six fifty five, “We can’t just sneak into her room and leave her in her bed. We need to know she is okay first.”
Makoto came in with a modest breakfast spread, placing simple, but nutritious items down on the table. Rei’s stomach grumbled, “You know, this is the second time we fought through the night, we haven’t slept in forty eight hours.”
Makoto yawned as she plopped down onto the floor, “Yeah I know, it’s catching up to me.”
Usagi dove into breakfast, “What do you mean? You guys didn’t sleep when you got home yesterday morning?” They shot her dark looks as she glanced around at them oblivious.
“No Usako,” sighed Mamoru, “I had work.”
“Work,” added Makoto.
“I was in charge of the shrine for the day . . . so, lots of work.”
Minako yawned, “I had my errand gig at the studio. I’m lucky they let me volunteer/intern. Hopefully, this leads to a job.” In classic Minako style, she completely switched veins, “Can you believe my parents almost caught me jumping down through my window while still transformed? I was so out of it I wasn’t even paying attention to where everybody was. I was this close to disaster.”
“Minako,” reprimanded Rei, “Please be more careful. That is the last thing we need.”
“Don’t I know.” Minako returned seriously.
Usagi defended herself, “Well, I haven’t been able to find another job yet, but hey, you guys can surely nap today right?”
Ami abruptly shot up from her position on the couch with a startled scream, which caused everyone to jump, practically spilling their breakfast bowls all over the floor.
Ami breathed heavily staring at the far wall as if in a trance, “I-It was gone . . . gone . . . forever.”
Usagi was at her side in an instant, “Ami?”
Ami tore her eyes off the wall and focused them on Usagi, then on her surroundings and everyone else. She raised her hands to her forehead, “It was so real.” She swung her legs off the couch and blinked her eyes several times.
Once full consciousness had returned she registered the sympathetic and somber faces of her friends to realize that it wasn’t a dream; she was powerless and her useless computer sat on the coffee table as a cold reminder.
Ami clasped her hands in her lap and blinked slowly once more, staring at her computer. Half of her mouth curved up in a pathetic smile as she quietly asked, “What time is it?”
There was immediate silence because that was one question they weren’t expecting. Rei stammered looking at her watch, “Um, it’s twenty after seven.”
Ami inhaled deeply, “I guess I’d better get home and pray that I can evade my mother.” She began to rise from the couch as her friends flashed concerned faces.
Usagi stepped forward, “Ami, a-are you sure? Do you want one of us to go with you?”
“Yeah,” agreed Mamoru, “I’d be glad to give you a ride.”
Ami shrugged her shoulders in an attempt at a lighter mood, “I’ll be alright, a walk will do me good.” She moved to the door while everyone else stood speechless, “Thanks for saving me guys, I’ll see you later.” And with that said the door shut behind her.
Mamoru stood behind Usagi and placed his hands on her shoulders. “She is not taking this well.”
Makoto sat back down, “How do you expect her to take it? You don’t know how it feels . . . It’s like being empty. It’s shattering, I can’t explain it.”
Minako sat as well and stared emotionless into the floor, “I’m sure we’ll all know what it feels like soon enough.”
Usagi stared at her friends as if she didn’t recognize them, “I’ve never heard any of you speak this way. I will be damned if we let this new enemy tear us to pieces!” She stammered for something positive to say, “okay, fine, things may be bad now . . . but we will get through this.”
Minako sat there defeated, “Come on Usag-”
“No!” Usagi belted, raising her voice, “We can’t talk like that. We can’t go down that path.” Her face hardened with determination, “I don’t care what our enemy thinks he can do, but we can do better. We will do better. We must.”
Mamoru smiled adoringly at her when he heard a very soft rapping at the door. He frowned in confusion. The sound came again and sounded more like scratching. He opened the door to see two streaks of black and white rush past him.
Luna and Artemis breathlessly hopped onto the coffee table and asked what happened. Of course they knew there was a battle from the hours before, and they just saw Ami leave.
Makoto leveled with them, “Ami’s powers are gone too.”
Luna was mortified, “What?! How?! What happened?”
Makoto, Minako, Rei, Usagi, and Mamoru conveyed the story of the previous fight trying to leave nothing out. When they got to the strange man who controlled the Kirikuma, Luna and Artemis fell deathly silent.
Artemis’ tail went still, “Who did you say this was?”
Mamoru leaned back, “Your guess is as good as ours Artemis. It was so odd though, he talked as if . . . as if he knew us or something.”
Luna narrowed her eyes in suspicion, “How so, what did he say?”
They then launched into their encounter with the man in black; what he said about their abilities, their powers, how he bitterly insulted the Moon, and his apparent obsession with Usagi.
Usagi shuddered at this as Mamoru squeezed her protectively. Luna and Artemis stared at each other in disbelief and slight fear, which did not escape Rei’s notice.
She leaned towards them, “What is it?”
As if not hearing her, Luna said to Artemis, “It can’t possibly be . . . Can it?”
Artemis replied, “No, there’s no way . . . right?”
Everyone in the room now stared the two felines down.
“Um, hello?” Came Usagi, “Can you let us in please?”
Both cats turned to the Senshi then Luna said, “Tell us again, what did he say to you exactly?”
Rei repeated it as accurately as she could and clearly took notice of Luna and Artemis appearing like they were going to be sick.
Makoto began to panic, “Come on you guys, tell us what you know, you’re starting to freak us out.”
“Prince Cirius,” Breathed Luna.
Mamoru leaned forward, “Who?”
Artemis reiterated, “High Commander Cirius.”
Usagi paled, “Oh God! Are we talking about another Dark Kingdom warrior?!”
“No,” corrected Luna, “a Moon Kingdom warrior.”
“WHAT?!” They all bellowed.
Luna sighed, “Prince Cirius, or as he used to be known, Prince Imbrium, brother to Queen Selenity and uncle to the Moon Princess . . . your uncle Usagi.”