“My. Uncle.” Repeated a bewildered Usagi.
Luna sighed, “Unfortunately, yes.”
Usagi struggled to grasp what she had just heard, “But how could I have not known this? I have no Lunar uncle, I’ve never seen that man before!”
“Yes you have,” answered Artemis. “Remember that all of you retain but a small fraction of your memories from the Silver Millennium. You knew him quite well Usagi,” he turned to the rest of them, “you all did.”
Usagi appeared as if someone was trying to convince her that the sky was pink when Minako commanded, “Well, out with it!”
Luna took a deep breath, “As we said before, Cirius, or Imbrium, his given name, was Queen Selenity’s brother. They grew up together as Prince and Princess of the Moon, but since it was Selenity’s destiny to rule she was to take the throne once she was of age. Cirius was older than Selenity, and he always seemed to think that their parents favoured her. It was written law that no heir could assume the throne until the age of one hundred and twenty. When Cirius was one hundred and twenty and Selenity one hundred and one, the King and Queen died a mysterious death while on a political trip to the Provinces with their two children. Queen Selene’s Senshi found the entire thing suspicious for no one could get close to the Monarchs without their watchful eye. In retrospect, it is now believed that Cirius killed them to assume the throne.”
“However,” resumed Artemis, “once the mourning period was over there was the announcement of throne succession . . . and it fell to Selenity.”
“Wait,” interrupted Makoto, “you just said that no heir could assume the throne until the age of a hundred and twenty. Queen Selenity was only a hundred and one.”
“True,” spoke Luna, “but destiny is absolute, and Selenity made no objection. It turned out that the law was just a formality, meant only for the princess’ preparation.”
Artemis cut in again, “We have to understand that in the Silver Millennium, for the most part, women born with planetary power were usually stronger than men born with planetary power, and the duties of a Senshi almost always fell onto women.” They all looked at Mamoru as Artemis explained, “Mamoru is an exception. It was destined that the Queen and King of Earth would have an only son, and at birth his celestial chart revealed that Prince Endymion was destined to assume the throne and be the Earth’s first Senshi.”
Mamoru fell back in his chair as he finally got the answer to the question he always wondered about. Usagi spoke his mind, “So he is a Senshi.”
Mamoru opened his mouth about to pepper them with countless questions when Artemis interrupted.
“We’ll answer any questions you have about that later, but right now we have Prince Cirius to worry about.” The gravity of the situation swung back full force. “As we were saying, when Selenity assumed the throne Prince Imbrium must have been deeply jealous.”
“Obviously not what he was expecting.”
“Exactly,” continued Artemis, “he hid it well though, fooled even us. As Selenity performed her royal duties Imbrium took more interest in the Military and Elite Lunar Guard. By Selenity’s marriage he had full control over the Lunar Forces and took solace in that for the time being, winning countless battles all across the galaxy.”
Luna turned grave, “Then Princess Serenity was born . . . the same year as the rest of you, minus Mamoru (six years earlier). Such an event, the inner Princesses being born within the same Solar Year was extraordinarily rare and fit with the prophecy of a great and legendary generation of Senshi, which happened once every 42,000 thousand years. Prince Imbrium knew this well and probably set his plan in motion from that very day, planning the destruction of the Moon Princess and her legendary Court.
Artemis took over, “You grew up loving your uncle and for years we were all oblivious to his resentment of Selenity, the Senshi, and the Moon Kingdom. He was bitter that he didn’t have the throne or any power of his sister’s or the Senshi’s magnitude. One day when you were around eight years old, Prince Imbrium took you to the front lines of a particularly dirty war being fought in the Sirian Sector. He had planned to murder all of you and make it appear that you had somehow got drawn into battle and died. Just before he could murder the first of you, Royal Sailor Mars, your mother Rei, descended upon him with Selenity and the rest of the Senshi, ready to stop him.”
Luna continued, “Royal Sailor Mars had sensed something about him for some time and divined his plan. Then Imbrium snapped raving mad and tried to kill everyone, screaming how it was his destiny to have power, the throne, and the Ginzuishou; that Selenity had stolen it from him. They managed to wound him severely and sentenced him to the dungeons on Phobos where he was reborn as Prince Cirius.
“All seemed well and eventually life settled back to normal. Time passed until you were about to complete phase IV of your training around the age of forty three when Cirius escaped and came after you. He must have planned it perfectly for you were all on Mars without Queen Selenity or the Royal Senshi. There happened to be a minor conflict there and you were sent as a group to exercise your political and diplomatic skills when he attacked with legions of hardened Phobos warriors.”
Everyone was deeply engrossed in the story as Artemis continued, “It was a long and ugly battle that went on for days. The instant the initial attack was launched, all your mothers knew simultaneously through their bond with you that something was wrong. He used his powers to erect a barrier over the area, which prevented them from teleporting to your rescue. We were all beside ourselves back on the Moon, fearing the worst, that you would all surely die, but the prophecy held true.”
Usagi was enraptured, “Well, what happened?”
“Since you girls were only near completion of phase IV of your training, you weren’t powerful enough to collectively destroy him, let alone on your own. But with the help of Princess Serenity, since there was no Sailor Moon, you all managed to banish him to the Monoceros Rim using an ancient, forgotten technique known as the Seal of Bunri . . . And the Monoceros Rim was the rumoured domain of the Mist of Niraasha.”
“The mist?” Inquired Rei.
“Yes, at the time not much was known about it, only that it specialized in consuming the mind.”
“But,” interjected Artemis, “from the account you’re telling us, it seems that the mist and Cirius have formed a symbiotic relationship, which is deeply disturbing.”
“Wow,” whispered Minako.
“That’s not all,” came Luna, “those alien creatures-”
“-Right, they repeatedly attacked the outer Solar System every so often up until the day the Silver Millennium was destroyed by Metalia. Back then we had no idea where they came from . . . Now we know.”
Usagi picked Luna up and placed her in her lap, “And now he’s back.”
They allowed everything to sink in for a few moments when Mamoru said, “So he’s stealing our powers . . . But what exactly is he planning to do with them?”
Artemis again, “The problem is, we don’t believe he can do anything with them physically, only the guardians marked by their planet can access such energies. However, he can use the information he has obtained on all of you, against you.”
They remembered what Rei had said about him seeing her past, present, identity, and her deepest fears.
Luna poked in again, “Ultimately, I believe that he wants to cripple all of you to get to Usagi . . . He hated his sister with a passion, and once the ancient prophecy was fulfilled the year Serenity and the inner Princesses were born, his hatred culminated with you.”
Usagi released a long, deep sigh, “Well, okay then, now that we’re more enlightened we need to develop some sort of game plan.” Just then Mamoru’s alarm sounded off in his bedroom.
“Shit,” he groaned, “I have to get to the lab soon.” Everyone looked down at their watches also saying that they had places to be and things to do too.
“Wait!” Pressed Usagi as she stood up, “we need to discuss what we’re going to do, we need a plan and we need Ami.”
“Okay,” said Rei, “why don’t we meet at the temple around eight to discuss this further. Luna, Artemis, why don’t you go and brief Ami on what’s going on and hopefully she can make it. Until then all we know is that we have to protect Usagi with everything we’ve got.”
Minako stifled a yawn, “There goes another night’s sleep.”
Now back in the comfort of darkness and solitude Prince Cirius paced erratically about his ‘throne room’ with the crackling energy of three crystalline spheres casting freakish shadows about his eyes. A bitter grimace seemed permanently chiseled on his face as he suddenly began pummeling his fists into the ground in a fit of rage. “Those arrogant, pretentious, entitled little shits!!” He picked up a boulder he had punched loose and tossed it wildly into orbit. “How dare they not remember me! The brazen nerve of those useless, talentless wretches!”
Heaving in fatigue Cirius turned to look at his prized trophies, walking ever closer to the orb pulsating with the chilling power of Mercury. He tilted his head watching the picture show amid the intense ice-water storm inside, then suddenly threw his head back letting out a peal of euphoric, high pitched cackling.
He balled his shaking hands into tight fists, staring at them with intense pride, “I certainly shut her dirty, cocky mouth didn’t I?”
In response, frenzied murmurs flared up from all directions.
A sudden calm washed over Prince Cirius as he gingerly descended onto his throne, caressing the smooth crystal over and over, “Yes. Only two more left to cripple.”
The disturbing whispers flared yet again and Prince Cirius jerked his head, the inexplicable calm vanishing in a heartbeat as an ugly snarl snaked its way across his face, “Yes, I know! I’m not an idiot!”
His posture straightened as he aimed for composure once more, “What a coincidence that all of the attacks happen at night.” He smirked while gazing into the crystalline balloons roaring with Senshi energy, “They must be feeling it by now. The Senshi shouldn’t be able to function, much less fight on no sleep . . . it could prove dangerous.”
The composure he desperately strained for evaporated quickly as Prince Cirius began to rock back and forth ever so slightly. “They could slip up, make mistakes, and begin to break down.”
Chuckling absently to himself, Prince Cirius glanced to his periphery, summoning the Kirikuma.
Ami entered the condo unit she and her mother shared and leaned against the door, forcing it closed. She inhaled deeply, holding her breath for a few counts, and then exhaled, hoping her exasperation would leave her. Only one fact consumed her thoughts. She had sacrificed her powers for nothing. On top of that, the Holy Grail of data her computer contained was completely inaccessible as long as Sailor Mercury ceased to exist.
Ami slumped down to the floor and clasped her hands, which had not stopped shaking since she left Mamoru’s. “What am I supposed to do with myself now?” She wondered aloud.
Ami raked her trembling hands through her short, blue hair. Before she awakened as a Sailor Senshi all Ami had were her books; she had felt so useless, so alone, so cut off. After Ami found out she was Sailor Mercury, she finally had a purpose. She suddenly had loving friends and a mission to protect her Princess and uphold peace and justice. Ami was valued for her intelligence, her analytical outlook, and her powers. Now, however, she couldn’t produce a damn thing, and that’s what was eating away at her. What was she supposed to do now? Go back to her studies?
For the first time in Ami’s life that thought did not appeal to her. She composed herself as best she could and rose to her feet, making her way to the kitchen. As she poured herself a glass of water the phone rang and the caller I.D. read ‘Chiba, Mamoru’.
“I appreciate their concern,” Ami thought to herself, “but I need to gain some self control before I talk to them.”
Once she finished her water Ami felt so weak and drained that she wanted nothing more than to crawl into her bed and escape from the conscious world.
At that moment the sound of jingling keys and the opening front door reached her ears. Her mother was home. Ms. Mizuno shuffled into the kitchen and collapsed at the table spilling her purse and her keys.
“What a night!” She complained, rubbing her temples. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of trauma’s that kept pouring in, you’d think-” Ami’s mother abruptly ceased her complaints when she turned to her daughter standing by the fridge. “Ami, honey,” her tone changed completely, “what’s the matter?”
Ami hastily tried to push her feelings aside and forced that familiar smile onto her delicate features, “Nothing’s the matter mom.”
Her mother didn’t look convinced, “Are you sure? You look so . . . I don’t know . . . different. Whatever it is, I can help.”
“Actually, this is one thing you can’t help with” thought Ami, “No really, everything’s fine. Why don’t you go to bed, you look exhausted.” “Please go to bed so that I can as well,” Ami mentally continued, “I don’t want to answer any questions as to why I’m sleeping through the day.”
Ms. Mizuno got up and stretched, “That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard all day.” She proceeded to leave the kitchen then paused, “Oh, Ami? You’re probably on your way to the pool aren’t you?”
Before Ami could utter a response her mother continued, “I’m hosting a dinner meeting here tonight with a few of the hospitals board of directors. I usually wouldn’t ask so much of you but I’m utterly exhausted. Would you be kind enough to make sure our home is spotless for this evening? I also need you to be here when the catered meal I ordered arrives. We are also in desperate need of groceries and was hoping you could take care of that for me, the list is on the fridge.” Ms. Mizuno was about to disappear down the hall when she remembered, “Oh yes, I stupidly forgot my paper work in my office, would you be my saviour and run by the hospital and grab it for me?”
She turned to leave then paused again, “Oh, the head of Pediatrics is going to be here and is very eager to meet you, I couldn’t help but put in a good word. Please stay for a while, who knows what could come out of it.”
Ami just stood there staring blankly at her mother.
Ms. Mizuno shuffled out of the room yawning, “Thanks sweetie, I couldn’t keep my eyes open for another second.”
Ami was dumbstruck. She was suffering from acute power withdrawal, had been up for seventy-two hours straight and battled against their new enemy three times in that span, and was not permitted to speak a word of protest.
She ripped the list off the fridge and stomped through the front door ignoring the incessant vibrating of her communicator. Giving up any hope of sleep Ami slammed the door behind her.
Rei terminated her call to Ami for the third time and shoved her communicator back in her pocket. “Well, I certainly understand. Ami probably needs to compose herself first. I’ll try again later.”
She reached the landing at the top of the temple stairs and looked around, reveling in the peace and quiet. Rei sucked back another yawn and almost tripped over an uneven stone in the pathway.
“Man, I need sleep desperately. Thank God for Yuuichirou. With him around I can at least rest without having to worry about Grandpa or the temple. I should really treat him better, if he wasn’t around I would have double the amount of work and probably have no time for anything else, let alone protecting the world.”
She made her way inside and passed by the kitchen to see her grandfather making a poor excuse for breakfast when she stuck her head in. Without turning to face her he greeted, “Good morning Rei. I hope you weren’t up all night in front of the sacred flame, you need your rest you know.”
“You’re telling me!” She thought, “Sorta. Grandpa what are you doing making breakfast? Where’s Yuuichirou?” Rei asked as she ushered him to the table and dumped whatever he was cooking into the garbage to start something fresh.
Her grandfather folded his legs underneath him with amazing flexibility “I sent him on retreat in the mountains so he won’t be here for the next day or so.”
Rei poured rice into the cooker and nodded in understanding. She then froze and stared straight into the wall, realizing what that meant.
Her grandfather continued, confirming her thoughts. “I’m going to need you to take over his duties today.”
Rei shut her eyes in irritation, “Fine! What was he to do?”
“He was to help me guide four public meditation sessions which start in half an hour.”
Four sessions, that means that she should be done by one o’clock. She could get over that, there was still plenty of time until the others arrived so she could sleep.
Her grandfather added, “He was also scheduled to instruct an afternoon martial arts lessons in the dojo.”
Rei’s eyebrow began to twitch, “Okay”, she thought, “not a total loss, I could still squeeze in four hours of sleep,”
“Yuuichirou was also to paint the entrance hall and do the laundry. It’s not that much, I know you’re up to it.” He assumed his usual jovial attitude, “Rei, would you mind hurrying breakfast? We should be preparing for receiving the public.”
Rei gripped the spatula harder muttering to herself, “Yuuichirou-baka! Retreat? I’ll show you a retreat, that worthless, good for nothing vagabond.” She wrapped both hands around the utensil, “when he gets back I swear to-”
“What was that?”
Minako climbed into her window with Artemis in tow. She tried Ami again but she wasn’t answering. The sight of her bed brought tears of joy to her eyes, “If Ami’s smart, she’ll be sleeping.”
Minako didn’t even bother to change her clothes as she rolled back the sheets and climbed in muttering, “Sleep. Gorgeous, well deserved sleep.” Her head was just about to hit the pillow assuring instant slumber when a knock came from her door followed by her father’s entrance.
“Minako? Mina honey, wake up.”
She glared at her bedroom door as if it had single-handedly dashed all of her dreams, “Dad?”
He glimpsed his watch, “Don’t tell me you forgot.”
A sense of dread hovered over her, “Forgot what?”
“The Ishikawa children will be here any minute. You promised Mrs. Ishikawa you would watch them this morning.”
Minako thought that her present reality wasn’t real, that she was already asleep and dreaming, but the bright yellow post-it note on her headboard confirmed it.
She buried her face in her pillow “For the love of justice!”
Her dad left only to be replaced by her mother as she came in fastening her earrings, “Mina, when you’re finished babysitting I need you to take Artemis to the vet for eleven thirty, I made an appointment.”
Mrs. Aino did a double take. She could have sworn that she saw a look of dread in the cat’s eyes. “Oh, and Matsuda-san called saying that he needs you at the studio at one o’ clock to help with some last minute production.”
Minako whimpered in despair when the doorbell rang. Mrs. Aino heaved her daughter out of bed and pulled her towards the stairs, “Come on Mina, they’re here.”
While being pulled against her will she could not take her eyes away from her bed, “But . . . but . . . I really need to-”
The moment she reached the bottom of the stairs Minako was assaulted by three very hyper, very loud children. Her parents blew her kisses as they closed the door behind them. Minako stared at the door, then back up the stairs, then down at the bouncing children as she muttered, “Stupid good nature of mine, always helping and giving. Just because Venus stands for love doesn’t mean that people can just take advantage-”
One of the children interrupted her by tugging on her shorts, “Minako! Minako look! Your kitty is sleeping with his mouth open.”
She shot her head over to Artemis who was sprawled out on the couch fast asleep and her eyes narrowed murderously, “He did not just do that in front of me!”
Mamoru hung up the office phone in Kawaoka-sensei’s virology lab, “Usako is not answering and neither is Ami.” He succumbed to a deep yawn and temporarily rested his head against the phone to doze off instantly. A fellow research student passed by the office and glimpsed the tired man. He smiled broadly and stuck his head in, “Mamoru! You finally went out and had some fun for once! It’s about time, I was beginning to worry about you.”
Mamoru opened one eye with his face crushed against the hard plastic, “Huh?”
“You partied hard last night, didn’t you?”
Mamoru hadn’t even registered what the guy had said before he felt a heavy hand slam into his back.
“I can tell, you look like death incarnate.”
Mamoru stared at his research partner like he was imaginary when Kawaoka-sensei came in. She glanced at them both then asked, “Mamoru, are you alright?”
Mamoru instantly straightened up, appearing completely normal and energetic, “Yes sensei, everything is fine.”
She studied him skeptically, “Okay . . .” then glanced at the other student, “Mitsuo, please prep the centrifuge and the CO2 incubator.”
The young man nodded and went off to his task.
Kawaoka then turned to Mamoru, “Today you and Risa will begin prepping cultures 16A through M, finally. This is the most delicate step in the project and will take time, we’re all going to be here well into the evening.”
Mamoru could have cried right there but masked his heartbreak with a neutrally pleasant face.
“Let’s get started.”
Makoto finished her morning shift at the bakery and stumbled towards her neighbourhood. “I’m going to pass out soon, I swear. Running around town at all hours of the night is murder, especially since I wasn’t transformed.”
She yawned furiously several times while sauntering up to her lobby door, not taking notice of the crowds of people or the emergency crews.
A fire fighter stopped her approach, “Do you live here miss?”
Makoto looked up at him in surprise, now noticing her surroundings, “Yes . . . why, what’s going on?”
“Sorry miss,” he stated without a hint of sympathy, “there has been a gas leak in one of the apartments and we have evacuated the building until it is safe to go back inside.”
Makoto panicked, “What?” She glanced around wildly then stared up at her apartment window, her thoughts lingering on her plush bed, “Well, how long before we can go up? Five? Ten minutes?”
The fire fighter shook his head, “Sorry, I can’t make any promises, we’ve just arrived and this could take hours. If you would kindly back away from the building.”
Makoto suddenly gripped the bricks with both hands fighting down the urge to scale the balconies herself, “But, you don’t understand, I really, really need to sl-”
“Look, I’m sorry but it really isn’t safe.” He ushered her away from the building and reassumed his post.
Makoto had to stop herself from bulldozing the emergency crews over in order to get to her bed then began to think of where she could go to get some sleep.
. . .
Makoto stumbled through the streets of Juban yet again, doing her damnedest to keep her eyes open when a brute force slammed into her chest. Makoto’s eyes shot open to see Usagi flat on her ass in front of her and apologizing profusely.
“Oh, Mako, it’s you.”
Makoto helped Usagi up, “I didn’t even see you. Are you okay?”
Usagi dusted herself off, “Oh I’m fine, I kinda zoned out there.”
“What are you doing?” Makoto inquired, “I thought for sure you would be dead gone in your bed right now.”
Usagi slouched, “That was the plan, but my mother kicked me out of the house and told me not to come back until I dropped off at least twenty resumes and picked up the groceries.”
“Are you finished?”
“I just finished the job hunt and was on my way to the grocery store.” Usagi yawned, “Then I’m locking myself in my room to sleep.”
Makoto grasped Usagi desperately, eyes pleading, “Please, let me come with you! I’ll help with the groceries. I’ll do anything!”
Rather than ask why Makoto wanted to sleep at her house so badly, Usagi just said, “Of course.”
Forty minutes later and laden with numerous grocery bags the pair made their way through the gate at the end of Usagi’s driveway, passing an unfamiliar van outside. Once inside Makoto and Usagi were greeted by various men in dirty jeans and tool belts going up and down the stairs and could hear nail guns going off. Usagi’s mother was busy in the kitchen.
“Mom?” Usagi inquired as she and Makoto set their bags down on the counter, “what’s going on?”
Her mother smiled warmly at Makoto then shot her daughter a look of weary disbelief, “Don’t tell me you forgot Usagi, your father and I told you three times that we were having the upstairs floors redone today.”
Usagi and Makoto shot distressed glances at each other followed by Usagi asking casually, “But, they’re almost done, right?”
“Goodness no,” the woman admitted, “This will be going on all day, the second floor is off limits until they’re finished.”
She missed the suicidal faces of the two teenagers as she tasted the broth she was preparing. “Usagi, look at the time, please grab your brother and get going.”
Usagi studied the clock on the stove racking her brain, trying to figure out what she had forgotten this time.
Ikuko dropped the spices she was sorting through and turned to chastise her daughter, “Usagi, tell me you’re joking. You do remember that you, your brother, and your father go to a Giant’s game every year at this time.”
“Birthday tradition Usagi. We’ve been talking about it all week.” Her mother shook her head in defeat, “I swear, I don’t know what to do with you sometimes. It’s like you’re going senile! Please, just go pick up your brother and get a move on.”
As Mrs. Tsukino turned to Makoto Usagi tried her best to hide her frustration. Of course she forgot! Her primary, secondary, and tertiary concern right now was Prince Cirius and the safety of her friends. She was beyond angry with herself that she couldn’t seem to get better at juggling both her lives. No wonder her parents thought she was daft.
“Makoto,” Usagi’s mother smiled, “I really can’t thank you enough for agreeing to help me out.” She looked at the clock again, “and earlier than we decided too.”
Makoto stared at her best friend’s mother with her eyebrows knitting together, “Help you out?”
“Yes,” Ikuko agreed, “the strawberry shortcake for my husband’s . . .” her voice trailed off as she stared suspiciously at Makoto. “You forgot.”
She then glanced between the two teenagers and studied them properly for the first time. Ikuko immediately sensed that something wasn’t right. Usagi and Makoto looked listless and exhausted . . . stressed out even. Ikuko turned deathly serious, “Is everything okay?”
Usagi and Makoto transformed into their usual, vibrant selves so quickly that Ikuko began to doubt she had noticed anything.
“Of course I didn’t forget,” assured Makoto, now completely at ease and washing her hands in the sink. “We got extra strawberries at the grocery store and everything.”
Usagi was already by the front door slipping into her sandals as she texted Shingo she was on her way while Makoto produced the flour and the mixing bowls from the cupboard. Ikuko glanced between them then dismissed her initial instincts. Everything seemed fine.
Minako dragged herself down the street towards Hikawa Jinja. Her clothes were creased and rumpled and her long blonde hair was in a state of disarray. Minako yawned so often that her eyes would not stop watering. All in all Minako was seriously unhappy. She hadn’t slept a wink in close to four days and couldn’t even walk straight. In her stupor she began crossing the street, not even recognizing that it said ‘DON’T WALK’ and almost had a heart attack when a car zoomed around her blaring its horn. She scrambled back to the sidewalk grasping the guardrail with wide eyes, panting heavily.
“Holy shit! I almost died!” she thought to herself, “This lack of sleep has become dangerous, I’m seriously vulnerable like this.”
Her eyes drooped lower and lower and the blackness was more and more welcome. She forced her eyes open but the darkness remained. “I’m so tired I’m starting to black out . . . wait a second-”
Mamoru emerged from the University’s Institute of Medical Science and began to make his commute to the temple. He had never been this tired in his life. There were intervals during his lab work where he would occasionally black out for five or even ten minutes straight, not remembering what he had done during that time. It was only blind luck that he managed not to sabotage their three month long research project or his dissertation prospects. His lack of sleep was becoming dangerous, and he knew it. That aside, he was much more concerned about Usagi’s safety, praying to God that his communicator wouldn’t go off. They now knew that Prince Cirius’ goal was Usagi, and he was systematically stripping them of their powers as if it were child’s play. Just the thought of Usagi disappearing from his life tied Mamoru’s stomach in knots. He wouldn’t entertain the notion. He couldn’t. The moment Mamoru sat down on the train he fell asleep immediately, only to wake up with a start four stops past Azabu-Juban Station. Embarrassed, Mamoru was forced to jump on the southbound train and backtrack, making sure to stand this time. He couldn’t recall how he arrived at the temple steps, but there he suddenly was, and so were Usagi, Ami, Rei, and Makoto, sprawled out near the bottom of the stairs.
Mamoru dropped his bag and collapsed down on the step in front of Usagi to plunk his head in her lap, muffling out, “Hey.”
With closed eyes the others grunted back a greeting.
With his head buried in Usagi’s lap Mamoru inquired, “What are you guys doing down here?”
Makoto yawned, “We couldn’t force ourselves to climb a million stairs and Rei came down to yell at us.”
Rei yawned as well, “I just don’t have the energy.”
Mamoru nodded, eyes still closed, “So I take it nobody else got any sleep either.”
It was Ami’s turn to yawn, “I’m starting to wonder if this is deliberate.”
Mamoru struggled to stay conscious, “What do you mean?”
The unmistakable voice of Minako yelling “Venus Crystal Power!” reached their ears. The fatigued Senshi immediately burst to life and took off running in the direction of the commotion, fighting the herd of people running away from the darkening street.
As they rounded the block making sure that everybody had fled, Usagi and Mamoru transformed as Super Sailor Venus fired a crescent beam at the two Kirikuma. Kamen and Moon joined the fray while the others stood on the sidelines ready for anything.
Venus maneuvered herself around her enemies so that she could strategically fire up another attack when she tripped on the curb. She actually tripped . . . while transformed. Fortunately, Tuxedo Kamen was just in time to push her out of the way of a demons attack.
Kamen breathed heavily in exhaustion and asked, “Are you alright? You just . . . well . . . you tripped.”
Venus rubbed her reddened eyes gruffly, “I know! I’m wiped out, I didn’t even see the curb!”
Sailor Moon’s searing Twilight Flash momentarily stunned the two Kirikuma when Venus and Kamen ran up to her. Moon leaned against a street lamp and noticed Venus looking disoriented and Kamen trying to catch his breath. They had only been fighting for five minutes and were utterly spent.
Makoto detected black mist seeping out of the sewer grate behind Sailor Venus and frantically yelled a warning. A demon quickly took form with its teeth inches away from her head. Venus, Moon and Kamen bolted in various directions, but Venus didn’t get far. She was forcefully yanked backwards when the Kirikuma took a mouthful of her blonde hair then took to the air. It mounted on top of a streetlight with Venus dangling painfully by its mouth.
Venus tried desperately to grasp the post so she could ease some of her weight off of her scalp, which felt about to rip, when she heard the others scream incoherently. She strained to turn her head seeing another Kirikuma vault off the ground with teeth and claws bared, aiming to rip her insides out. Tuxedo Kamen pulled out his razor sharp lance preparing to save her by any means, even cutting off her hair if he had to. The second after he was airborne the Kirikuma everyone forgot about rammed into him, its boney head fracturing his ribs. The pair hurtled towards the ground and crashed into a stone wall sending rubble flying everywhere. The demon quickly pinned him down.
Sailor Moon desperately tried to call back her tiara as Venus prepared for the worst. Just before the creature could sink its claws and needle-like teeth into her abdomen, it morphed into mist and slammed into her body, encircling her like a cocoon. Tuxedo Kamen, Sailor Moon, Ami, Makoto, and Rei watched in horror. Hot crescent beams pierced the mist cocoon swirling around her in a fury. Then the beams of light quickly vanished as their ears filled with Venus’ hysterical and piercing screams.
Tuxedo Kamen pushed with every ounce of force he could muster, but couldn’t move, “Where is my strength? I’m usually much stronger than this! I’m just so exhausted.”
Still pinned helplessly against the wall he could hear nothing other than the hysterical shrieks of Sailor Venus and overflowed with guilt that he couldn’t save her. Regardless, Tuxedo Kamen pushed harder and harder, moving his arms if only a little.
The ex-Senshi had helplessly grouped together watching everything unfold. Being robbed of their powers they had been forced onto the sidelines now impotent and useless. However, being able to observe the battle from the outside made it clear to them that these attacks were indeed carefully orchestrated. Watching the fight was like watching a chess game, each piece and each action a precise, manipulated control.
The Kirikuma roughly dangling Venus by her hair suddenly released her then leaped straight for Eternal Sailor Moon. Encased in the mist cocoon and still screaming, Venus crashed into the pavement. In civilian form Ami, Rei, and Makoto sprinted towards Sailor Moon, ready to protect her in any way possible.
Tuxedo Kamen’s heart stilled in his chest as the Kirikuma descended on Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon knew she had no time for her Crystal Power Kiss but plucked the imaginary tiara from her brow in a panic regardless, also knowing there wasn’t enough time for that either.
Tuxedo Kamen experienced a huge surge of adrenaline and wrenched one of his arms free. He impaled his lance through the chest of the demon restraining him, which allowed him to send a fistful of roses into the Kirikuma heading for Sailor Moon. Although Kamen was exhausted with a few cracked ribs, the roses had just enough supernatural momentum to stab the creature and push it off course into a post box. Not acting quickly enough Kamen jumped high into the air and prepared to banish the Kirikuma to hell when Venus’ mist cocoon left her and shot into Kamen’s back, driving him head first through a store front window, encircling him. Sailor Moon and the civilian Senshi felt their stomachs churn when they heard his tenor voice scream at the top of his lungs.
Venus lay convulsing on the pavement with strands of uprooted hair around her. Ami and Makoto vaulted over their comrade just seconds away from Sailor Moon, who was scrambling to reach Tuxedo Kamen in a blind panic. Rei remained with Sailor Venus who de-transformed seconds later as the creature that Kamen had impaled screeched and lunged at Sailor Moon. Ami threw herself between them in the nick of time, attempting to deliver a slash kick to its face, but the Kirikuma clawed her legs, throwing Ami aside with a splatter of blood.
Makoto swooped in and attacked with a flurry of offensive moves. She was unable to land even one hit when the Kirikuma butted its rock hard head into hers, shattering her nose, then swiped her aside with a vicious claw slash to her back. The Kirikuma flexed its jaws and rushed Sailor Moon again, whose vision blurred with her own tears as she yelled, “Moon Tiara Act-”
Rei had pounced the demon from behind, one knee in its back and her arm round its throat.
Moon screamed at her, tiara in hand, “No Rei! You’ll get hurt! Move!”
Rei ducked her head underneath its flailing claws as she tried to avoid its sharp horns as well, “It’s our job . . . to protect you!”
Moon desperately wanted to attack the creature and make everything end when the mist released Tuxedo Kamen, leaving him convulsing on the floor. The sight of his flailing body surpassed her common sense as she swept him up in her arms, trying to get through to him.
The Kirikuma wouldn’t give up. It dug its claws into Rei’s arms and tossed her over its head, desperate to get to Sailor Moon while she was engrossed with Mamoru.
Ami and Makoto hobbled back up as they both pounced the creature. It immediately motioned to bite one of them when Makoto grabbed hold of its horns and jerked its head to the ground as Ami brought her foot down into its face.
The Kirikuma screeched, but it was all too easy when it grabbed both assailants with its hind legs and threw them into a store window with little effort, glass shattering everywhere. Now free, the Kirikuma reached out and yanked an exhausted Sailor Moon up by her neck and pinned her against the wall. She kicked it in the face several times but it pinned her legs down with its hinds and screeched into her face. The creature bit into the bow on her fuku, barely missing her chest, and yanked. Sailor Moon’s fuku erupted in an explosion of ribbons and feathers as her broach separated from her chest. The Kirikuma grinned with her broach gleaming between its teeth as its eyes tunneled into hers. The whispers flared and the mist was soon to follow when a convulsing Mamoru suddenly tackled the demon to the ground.
The broach flew out of its mouth and the Kirikuma rolled away and stood up. Mamoru propped himself up on his hands and knees breathing in short, ragged gasps while shaking uncontrollably. The five, battered ex-Senshi dragged themselves over to a stunned and tired Usagi. Makoto had Mamoru, Ami grasped her broach, and Rei held Mianko as they made a shaky human wall in front of their Princess. They hovered over her in complete exhaustion, bloodied and bruised, but with obstinate purpose. It was then that they noticed the other two demons standing out of the way. The creatures stared at them, then dissipated into mist and vanished.