Usagi was gone.
The moment the portal had disappeared Rei, Minako, Makoto, and Ami were able to move once again. Everything went jarringly back to normal, except . . .
Usagi was gone.
Mamoru remained on his hands and knees where the portal had stood just seconds earlier. His arms began to tremble and his empty, stone-cold eyes stared hard into the ground, unable to focus on anything else. For a few beats the ex-Senshi were deathly still, frozen in place from unabsorbed shock and disbelief. It took a few moments for the facts to stick.
Usagi was gone.
They had failed their Princess.
She was in the sadistic clutches of Prince Cirius . . . and,
They were powerless to get her back.
“ . . . Usako . . .” Mamoru whispered as he tried to stand up on weak, trembling legs. Unable to do so, Mamoru clumsily fell back to the hot pavement beginning to burn inside a condensed cloud of non-acceptance. His head shook faintly back and forth, and then faster and faster. “No . . . No . . . No . . . No, No No, NO, NO, NO!”
Rei, Minako, Ami, and Makoto’s eyes remained glued to the patch of air where the portal had been. Rei’s chest heaved shallow and quick. Her eyes had glazed over with her mouth hanging slightly open as deep bitterness set into her face. Rei’s ears filled with Mamoru’s continuous denial. Her lip trembled furiously when she choked out, “Oh God,” then succumbed to profuse sobbing.
Makoto just kept shaking her head back and forth with silent tears spilling from her eyes. A mask of horror remained frozen on her face because she could not stop visualizing Usagi’s limp body being dragged into the portal. Unable to keep it down Makoto turned to vomit in revolt.
Minako was already crying so hard her lungs felt ready to collapse. She sat against a car, knees to her chest and rocked ever so slightly.
The oppressive feeling of helplessness and guilt weighed down upon them to the point that they were barely aware of each other or their surroundings. Usagi was the brightest light in all of their lives. The void left in their souls due to her cold, sudden absence was so unbearable that living to see the next day seemed impossible. In the end they had failed her. They had failed her miserably.
Mamoru could scarcely formulate coherent patterns of thought. He couldn’t bear to entertain the infinite number of unspeakable horrors Usagi could be experiencing that very moment because of his failure to protect her. All he was able to envision in his minds eye was Usagi, standing before him brilliant and beautiful. He could see her luminous sky blue eyes looking up at him with limitless trust, love, and compassion. The same eyes that could break the most evil and corrupt megalomaniacs the Senshi had ever come across. Eyes that plunged Mamoru deeper in love as she rendered him breathless, gazing lovingly up at him while secured tightly in his arms. Usagi was the most beautiful woman he would ever know, and she only had eyes for him, the luckiest man alive.
The visualization momentarily soothed Mamoru’s mind producing a fleeting state of sanity and calm . . . and then reality came crashing back. Usagi’s smiling, peaceful face suddenly vanished to be replaced by smears of warm blood all too real on the asphalt beneath Mamoru’s hands. It was Usagi’s blood. It stuck to his palms. The same blood that came from her angelic, unconscious face when it grated along the pavement before passing into oblivion. Once the stark truth returned it burned unapologetically into his brain, deep and slow, like a relentless branding iron.
The world suddenly emerged with uncomfortable clarity. Prince Cirius had dragged Usagi out of his life forever and Mamoru was never going to see her again.
The strength of this fact caused bile to bubble up in Mamoru’s throat. The acidic taste burned in the back of his mouth becoming a physical representation of his repulsive failure. Unable to stomach the amount of despair converging on him, Mamoru cracked. His forehead collapsed into his blood stained hands as he emitted a long, deep, agonized groan.
Mamoru’s heartbroken moans startled the ex-Senshi out of their solitary worlds as they turned to him through bleary eyes. The man had succumbed to his grief in the middle of the street once the cord that eternally bound him to Usagi had snapped, now unable to sense her at all.
Consumed with grief and empathy, Ami moved carefully towards Mamoru with tears streaming from her eyes and placed a hesitant hand on his back. After many moments Mamoru eventually tilted his grief stricken face up at her. Ami held her breath. Throughout her life she had never witnessed such a look on a human’s face before. His eyes held untold amounts of fear and rage mixed with unmistakable hopelessness, guilt, and anguish.
Mamoru stared right through her and didn’t seem to register Ami at all. Then his eyes focused to finally discern who was in front of him. Without warning Mamoru’s face shifted into that of a wild animal as he startled Ami by grabbing two fistfuls of her shirt. He lunged at her with such hostility that he almost gave her whiplash. Mamoru shook her violently.
“How? . . . How the hell did this happen?! What the FUCK were we doing in that house?! We should have been HERE!”
He stared Ami down with pure hate in his eyes as he screamed into her face, “THAT PIECE OF SHIT TOOK USAKO AND WE ALL JUST STOOD HERE AND WATCHED IT HAPPEN!!! WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU GUYS DOING?! I WAS RIGHT THERE! I HAD HER!” His face contorted when the cold reality finally hit home.
“I-I had her . . . and . . . now she’s gone. Usako is . . . she’s . . .”
Ami took the full brunt of Mamoru’s rage and didn’t lift a finger to stop the abuse. The moment Mamoru admitted aloud that Usagi was gone it became all too real for him. Mamoru’s anger slowly dissolved to leave the most broken, hopeless, and despaired man she had ever seen. At that moment, with the adrenaline now absent from his system, Ami witnessed his heart shatter into a million pieces.
Mamoru collapsed to his knees, now clutching the hem of Ami’s shirt and proceeded to sob uncontrollably.
“Usako . . .” He choked out, “This isn’t happening . . . I won’t . . . I can’t accept it.”
The girls began to weep again only seconds later. Having to watch Mamoru, the very definition of steadiness and strength weep in utter heartbreak was too much. Their hearts shattered all over again, but for Mamoru this time.
At that very moment numerous lights converged on them. Mamoru looked up through blurry eyes to make out camera crews and reporters closing in around him; their lenses protruding into the worst moment imaginable and foolishly toying with a very unstable man subconsciously looking for something to unleash his rage upon.
As the paparazzi steadily increased in size the ex-Senshi were forced to regain a level of coherence. Mamoru observed the forming crowd as an abrupt, dangerous rage took him over.
In an unexpected outburst he lunged at the closest cameraman, tackling him to the ground. Mamoru ripped the camera out of his hands and smashed it into the man’s head drawing instant blood, “YOU WORTHLESS SON OF A BITCH! DON’T YOU HAVE EVEN A SEMBLANCE OF RESPECT FOR ANYONE?! WE’VE PROTECTED IDIOTS LIKE YOU FOR YEARS AND FOR WHAT?” He continued to pummel the man relentlessly in a blind, heartbroken rage.
It was at this point the rest of the Senshi were forced into action as they rose up and latched onto Mamoru, attempting to pull him off of the reporter before something irreversible happened. It took all four of them and every ounce of strength to restrain him.
Rei struggled to keep her shoulder in the socket, “We know how you feel Mamoru, but this is not the way!”
Minako strained, “Usagi wouldn’t want you to do this!”
“Minako is right,” urged Makoto as she anchored him around the waist, “He’s not worth it and we need to get out of here NOW!”
While trying to drag Mamoru away Ami noticed a parking garage across the street. With a lowered voice to the others she said, “I have an idea. Follow my lead.”
The girls finally pried Mamoru off and away from the injured man. The murderous sneer indented on Mamoru’s face suddenly dissolved. His chest deflated and he sobbed pitifully a few times, then transformed into the crazed man of before, eyes wild.
All cameras focused on the ex-Senshi as Mamoru threatened, “I swear to God.” He stared into one camera alone, “To whoever leaked our identities . . . God help you, because when I find out who you are, and I will find you, you will be wishing that you never heard of the Sailor Senshi. Understand?”
Mamoru broke free of the girls. His shoulders slumped and his body relaxed into hopelessness. He now seemed drained of all life and his voice could barely find the breath to speak, “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
Ami could feel her own despair threaten to shatter her momentary resolve, but she could not afford that at the moment. With a knowing glance to the rest of her comrades they grabbed onto Mamoru and jerked him back to reality. Only then did he read their expressions.
Time to go.
Ami’s eyes motioned subtly across the street. A moment later the ex-Senshi began to extricate themselves from the crowd. A journalist noticed their retreat, “Hey, wait a minute! You don’t get to assault one of us and then just walk away!”
The ex-Senshi were now jogging towards the parking garage entrance.
“Hey!” Yelled the journalist as he and a few others began trotting after them. The fugitives then broke into a full sprint with the media following after a few seconds of inactive confusion.
This was a rare instance where no one spoke or shared a plan of action. They were functioning on pure autopilot, desperately focusing on the immediacy of the task at hand, which was getting back to the house safely. They sprinted up the ramp towards the second level with the paparazzi close behind. Once out of view for a few precious seconds Ami lead them to a stairwell where they filed inside. She pulled out Usagi’s disguise pen. For the briefest moment their composure faltered as they stared at one of Usagi’s possessions when Ami screamed,
“DISGUISE POWER! Change us into completely different people!”
Following a bright flash of light they emerged as four, ordinary looking young women and a brown haired man of medium height. Now protected, they spilled down the stairs to exit on the ground level, thrusting themselves into a massive crowd of Senshi hungry reporters and civilians barreling up the ramp. Panic threatened to consume them, but no one paid them any mind as they cautiously walked out of the garage, onto the street, and back to the safe house with the heaviest hearts in the world.
Princess Serenity felt a light breeze billow around her as she stared up at the brilliant planet Earth, thoroughly captivated. It shone like a precious gem suspended in the mind numbing blackness of space. The Earth was a living, breathing oasis that she could happily stare at for hours. Serenity marveled at its magnificence feeling quite content when she was suddenly plagued by the overwhelming sensation that something was horribly, drastically wrong. The moment she focused on that fact the feeling rapidly increased in strength, sending disturbing vibrations throughout her body. Serenity fell to her hands and knees, and that’s when she became aware that she was not wearing an ornate, pure white gown as per usual. Instead, Serenity found herself dressed in everyday, twenty first century clothes, and her hair was blonde.
Usagi had never had memories or out of body experiences on the Moon without being in true Princess form, and was now becoming more and more alarmed. Feeling someone’s presence nearby Serenity swiveled in their direction as she rose to her feet and spotted her mother. Queen Selenity stood not too far away amid a quaint patch of native lunar flowers staring intently at her daughter through misty, grayish blue eyes.
Serenity spoke in a hurry, “Mother, what’s happening? Something is wrong . . . Out of place. I can feel it.”
Queen Selenity gracefully walked towards her then placed her hands over her daughter’s heart and smiled. Just as the Queen opened her mouth to speak she suddenly vanished along with the pleasant scenery as a foul, cold stench filled Usagi’s nostrils followed by a massive pounding in her head.
Usagi’s eyes slowly fluttered open to reveal a dark, blurry haze. Once she had sluggishly regained her vision her heart stopped dead in her chest. Directly in front of her, only a few feet away sat Prince Cirius on a hard, black, crystalline throne that appeared to grow directly out of the ground. He stared at her intently, eyes unsettled and full of elation to the point where he looked ready to explode in ecstasy.
The black mist trickled excitedly over the cold rocks emitting whispers of disturbed excitement. Upon noticing that she was half immersed in the mist, Usagi gasped and jumped up to quickly realize that she was bounded. Usagi raised her arms until they caught. To her horror Usagi understood that her hands were shackled and chained together, her feet were the same, and both were tethered to a point in the ground. She had minimal movement; enough that she could sit up and raise her arms to chest height, but that was it. The Princess of the Moon was chained and bound like an animal.
Prince Cirius sat on his throne with his chest heaving erratically and eyes split wide, the intense pleasure coursing through him being almost too much. He had finally procured his long awaited inheritance, denied to him for millennia. The Moon’s legendary, prophesized saviour had finally come into his possession, full of fear, devoid of power, and chained at his feet. In the peak of his delight Prince Cirius slipped into hysteria laughing uncontrollably, his face contorting grotesquely as he stared Usagi down with a thick, growing bulge hardening in his crotch.
Usagi watched all of this, thoroughly panicked and disgusted, “You’re . . . You’re sick!”
He ceased chuckling to stare at her eerily, voice low. “I wonder how you would have fared after countless centuries of isolation in the outskirts of the Monoceros Ring with no other companion than the Mist of Niraasha.”
Prince Cirius rose majestically from his throne and slowly stalked towards her, “I am what you Senshi have made me! I have made the best out of my pitiful situation!”
The closer he approached the more Usagi tried in vain to inch away, but her chains would not give.
His voice kept rising, “You spoiled, selfish, SHELTERED LITTLE BRAT!”
With Usagi cowering at his feet Cirius’ attitude mysteriously shifted. He towered over her small, fragile frame, “Look at how pathetic you are without your prized possession.”
“W-What?” Usagi mustered her courage to look up at her deranged uncle who grasped her broach firmly in his hand. Usagi gasped in horror.
“Funny,” he studied it carefully, “So close yet far away, wouldn’t you agree?”
Cirius lifted its cover revealing the legendary Ginzuishou. Fear gripped Usagi like never before. She was always so careful not to let the Ginzuishou fall into enemy hands. Usagi was overcome with the strongest desire for him never to use it.
The Ginzuishou seemed to sparkle a little less brilliantly.
He noticed her staring at the crystal intently, which unnerved him, “What?” He asked her innocently, “Do you want it back?”
He drew back his arm then clubbed her in the head with her own crystal. Usagi hit the ground immediately and saw stars. He then kicked her in the stomach with brute force, Usagi gasping in pain while ejecting the contents of her stomach. He continued to kick her over and over, then kneeled on the floor and started beating her with his fists. Prince Cirius had lost himself in his hatred for her . . . in his hatred for the Moon. Bones cracked, blood spilled, and contusions blossomed all over Usagi’s body. After a few minutes Prince Cirius curiously snapped out of his rage. He suddenly sat down next to her to look over her injuries with concern then proceeded to reverently wipe the blood off of her face.
Usagi lay collapsed on the ground half conscious, broken, and bleeding profusely. She trembled from head to toe as she forced herself to look at her uncle in shock and horror as he wiped her face attentively and gently stroked her hair. His eyes now exuded deep fascination and reverence as Cirius shifted a little closer. He suddenly grabbed her head and forced it into his lap. With her head in place the smallest whimper of joy escaped him, and then he began rocking back and forth in contentment. A faint, calm smile graced his lips as he picked up one of her pigtails, now half undone from the odango, and rubbed it soothingly against his face, eyes fluttering closed. He then commenced humming a faint, ghostly sweet tune.
Usagi’s heart plummeted into the depths of despair while she struggled to hold herself together. Her lip began to quiver and her eyes shimmered with petrified tears. With her head pressed firmly in Prince Cirius’ lap she looked up to see the Milky Way stretching above her in all its glory, now being hit with the cold reality of how far from home she was. Tears began to spill from her trembling blue eyes as her body throbbed with pain. Usagi glanced over to the large crystalline spheres pulsating with the planetary powers of her friends and sadly began to understand that she would be trapped with a psychopath for the rest of her probably short life.
As Usagi’s eyes rested on the sphere crackling with the power of Earth, they widened in terror. She suddenly realized what had caused the unnerving sensation she had felt in her vision, before she regained consciousness. Usagi awoke to the fact that she couldn’t sense Mamoru at all. She understood at that moment that throughout her entire life a part of her had always sensed Mamoru’s existence deep in her subconscious, but only became aware of it in the last four years. She knew that she had always sensed him because this was the first time that she could not. It was akin to a pleasant, low background noise heard your entire life, but only noticed once it was turned off. All connection to and sense of him had vanished from her being. Once Usagi fully comprehended that she began to hyperventilate. At the height of her panic gut wrenching sobs began to pour out of her as the vivid nature of her situation set in.
She would never see Mamoru again.
She didn’t even know if he or her best friends were still alive. The harder Usagi sobbed the wider the smile on Prince Cirius’ face.
“Mamo-chan . . . . .” was the only thought in her head.
Under disguise power the ex-Senshi entered the safe house one by one separated by random intervals of time, just in case they were followed, and to give each other time and space to grieve alone. Once inside each of them let the magic go, reverting to their normal selves. No one could bear to speak. Rei and Minako sat in the living room in absolute silence. Rei was on one end of the couch with her knees to her chest and her arms wrapped around them, tears making their way down her face. She wasn’t even aware that she was crying.
Minako sat cross-legged on the floor on the other side of the room staring into the opposite wall in muted shock, barely blinking.
After Makoto had found her way back she collapsed at the table in the kitchen, her arms crossed and head down, shoulders quivering as she wept.
Ami sat in the staircase with her face pressed against the wall and her trembling arms wrapped around her body. Her eyes poured silent, continuous tears.
The many things that repeatedly tore through their minds was that Usagi was in the clutches of a cold-blooded, ruthless psychopath. The most brilliant light on their world, the glue that held them all together, and the most pure hearted person that they would ever know was gone . . . and it was their fault. Without their powers the ex-Senshi were struggling to accept the fact that they would never again hear her vibrant laugh, relentlessly tease her, encourage her, or find inspiration in her eyes. What killed them the most was the sheer uncertainty. Not knowing what unspeakable horrors Usagi could be enduring with each passing second and not knowing if Usagi was alive or dead. It was torture in and of itself.
While each of them spiraled within their own sorrow the sound of the opening front door reached their ears. Mamoru stumbled into the hallway, bottle in hand, completely wasted. He swayed to the right then fell against the wall knocking over the entry table, then clumsily corrected himself. His eyes were blood shot, his clothes very disheveled and he reeked of whiskey, the bottle being almost empty. After glancing at him all the girls sobbed harder, for they knew no matter how much pain they were in, Mamoru was in so much more.
Just knowing that the girls were there caused Mamoru to tear up again, but he would not look at them. He just stumbled up the stairs then barricaded himself in one of the bedrooms.
The following forty-eight hours were unendurable for the ex-Senshi. No one had left the safe house and everyone kept to themselves. Barely any of them had left their rooms, none of them had eaten a thing, and the house remained relatively quiet. Muffled cries could be heard coming from different parts of the house quite frequently, but the worst moments were at night, when Mamoru’s heart wrenching sobs could be heard from the bedroom he had shut himself in.
At night, no one slept. How could they? Only one thought consumed them. Usagi was gone, and God only knew if she was still alive. On top of that was Mamoru. Every time he moaned Usagi’s name through the darkness the other Senshi could not help breaking down into tears. How were they going to get through this? How was Mamoru going to get through this?
Early in the morning about two days later, the girls finally descended for breakfast. This was the first time since Usagi’s abduction that they were all in the same room. Though Makoto had gone through the motions of preparing a meal and everyone sat down to eat, they still had not spoken a word to each other. As Minako reached for the toast the phone rang. Its ringing succeeded in shattering their two-day introspective state. When the caller I.D. lit up their blood stilled in their veins.
The display read TSUKINO, K.
It rang a second time, then a third, and then a fourth as they stared at the phone, not knowing what to do. The ringing tone sounded vaguely familiar, had it rung before? Given the last two grief stricken days it was difficult to recall. The phone stopped ringing and Rei rose from her chair to check the log history. During the past two days the Tsukino’s had called six times. Why hadn’t they noticed?
The phone suddenly rang again, showing the Tsukino name once more. After it rang a second time Rei abruptly picked up the phone with eyes closed. She took a deep breath and put the receiver to her ear transforming lightheartedly, “Hello?”
“Hi Mrs. Tsukino. How are you?”
“Absolutely. Everything is fine. Thanks again for letting us use her house for the time being.”
“Yea. Sorry about that. It’s a little difficult to explain over the phone. We’ve been out dealing with some things.”
“Usagi?” Rei’s voice cracked. “Well . . . she’s not available at the moment, but . . . actually . . . she and a few of the others are out investigating a few things.”
“Yea, standard procedure.”
“Most definitely, I’ll be sure to tell her.”
“Wrong? No nothing is wrong, it’s just . . . I didn’t sleep very well last night.”
Rei slammed the receiver down then erupted into tears. “I couldn’t do it!” She choked out, “I couldn’t tell her!”
Makoto let Rei cry in her arms as Ami wiped tears from her own eyes and said, “We are going to have to tell them eventually, there is no way around it, it’s not like Usagi is coming . . .” Ami’s voice trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.
“Ami is right,” sobbed Minako, “We have a responsibility to tell them.”
“AND TELL THEM WHAT?!” Screamed Rei as she jumped to her feet, arms flailing, “THAT USAGI WAS ABDUCTED BY HER DEMENTED LUNAR UNCLE TO THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE GALAXY WHERE SHE IS UNDOUBTEDLY BEING TORTURED AND ABUSED UNTIL SHE DIES HORRIBLY OR ENDS UP AS CRAZY AS HIM?!” Rei stormed over to face the window in frustration, “It would be easier for them if we just told them she was dead.”
“Either way we will have to face them soon,” added Makoto somberly, “We can’t lie to them for much longer.”
Ami glanced at the liquor cabinet. She noticed another bottle of whiskey missing. That made three missing bottles in total. She looked up to the ceiling wondering how long Mamoru would barricade himself in that room drinking himself into oblivion.
In the darkened bedroom upstairs Mamoru grasped the half empty whiskey bottle firmly in his hand as he sat on the floor, legs splayed out and his back leaning against the end of the bed. Faint stubble protruded from his chin with his bloodshot eyes glued to the soft light of the television. His bottle-free hand held the remote control apathetically as he perused every channel over and over with a steady rhythm, looking tirelessly for one piece of information. About a day after the abduction when some of his senses had returned, Mamoru realized that the infamous photo at the heart of their shattered lives was taken when they had burst out of the woods in the park. He remembered a young girl holding a camera in her hands. Mamoru would bet his life that she was the one who ousted them. Who else could it be? He couldn’t recall her name but thought it started with an N or M because Mamoru distinctly remembered the boy she was with calling her by her name. With so little information Mamoru knew he would never be able to find her. This was why he flipped through the channels for hours on end, hoping he would learn the girl’s identity. Mamoru took another heavy swig of whiskey, trails of it dripping down his stubbled chin and soaking into his shirt.
Channel thirty seven showed a middle aged reporter standing outside Mamoru’s condo telling the world various details about his life; what kind of student he was, when his parents died, what restaurants he frequented, etc. Then they cut to an interview with the head of virology at Tokyo U, the same professor he had worked with for three years and who was helping him with his dissertation.
Professor Kawaoka spoke into the camera, “Chiba-san is one of the best students I had ever taught, attentive, innovative, and extremely bright. It’s quite shocking that he is a mystical superhero . . .” She then looked down and smiled knowingly, “Actually, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.”
“How do you mean?” Pressed the journalist.
She just smiled to herself.
The image cut to an interview with Risa, his lab partner, “Chiba-san is an amazing person. He is very kind and always willing to help out anyone in need. All the girls were violently in love with him, but he never seemed to notice or care. Now that we know he is in love with Sailor Moon-”
Mamoru’s throat constricted.
“-It seems obvious that only someone like her could attract him.”
Mamoru hastily changed the channel to see an elaborate newsroom broadcast displaying various kinds of information about each of them.
The news anchor addressed the camera. “It appears that each of the Senshi are highly talented in various areas. But ‘why?’ is the question. Where do these ‘powers’ come from? What are their motives? What is really going on in this city? And, why do they not come forward and explain themselves? We go to our field reporter Okiniro Yuri.”
The picture changed to a short, balding man shoving his microphone in the face of a young girl. “Please, tell us about your experience with Sailor Moon.”
Mamoru changed the channel again to see yet another interview with a fanatical looking man, “These Sailor Senshi are not normal and they probably aren’t even human! It’s a good thing we know who they are so that we can steer clear of those freaks!”
“There is more mystery than fact surrounding the Sailor Senshi,” the reporter countered, “but the general consensus is that they’ve done a lot of good. Don’t you agree?”
The man’s eyes shifted, “Screw that and screw them.”
The reporter quickly dismissed the man as he turned to his left towards a young girl with short black curls, “And your name?”
“And what is your opinion?”
“I think what’s happened is detestable. I would never have told anyone who the Sailor Senshi really were. We are all indebted to them for the lives we enjoy today and you should all be disgusted with yourselves for exploiting them and taking away their right to live normal lives.”
It appeared like she was holding back tears.
Mamoru watched the interview inquisitively as something began to gnaw at the back of his mind. The girl looked familiar.
The reporter became perplexed, “You seem to take this personally.”
“I-I don’t think anyone realizes what the person who ousted them-.”
“Do you know who leaked the story?” Interrupted the now zealous reporter.
Nakura paused in alarm, “I . . . no, I don’t.”
Mamoru’s eyes split wide open. That was her! She was the one who snapped that photo of them in the park, he was sure of it. His heart pounded in his chest. Mamoru’s obsession with finding the person who ruined their lives was the only thing he could think of. It kept him busy, focused, and somewhat sane. It was the only thing keeping his mind from dwelling on Usagi.
The reporter turned back to the camera, “Well, you heard it for yourselves. This is Dazai Akemi, live from Azabu-Juban Shopping District.”
Mamoru noticed a familiar store in the background and couldn’t believe his luck that the house they were locked up in was only a few blocks away. He immediately dropped the whiskey bottle and hurried out of the room.
As the girls finished up their breakfast they froze when Mamoru barreled down the stairs, strode right past the kitchen and into the entrance hall.
No one expected to see him emerge from that room for at least a few more days.
“Mamoru,” called Rei.
He didn’t stop or acknowledge their presence. Mamoru just grabbed the disguise pen that rested on the table by the door, transformed, dropped it and left in a frenzy.
“Where do you think he’s going?” Wondered Minako incredulously.
Ami stood up, “I don’t know, but I get the feeling we should follow him. Who knows what he will do in the state he’s in.”
Each of them disguised themselves with the pen and filed out the door hoping to keep a discreet distance from the distraught man.
“Is it just me or is Mamoru practically sprinting?” Makoto commented as the girls struggled to keep up with the long legged Prince of Earth.
Rei darted across the street, “Something tells me that he is not out for the fresh air. He has a destination for sure.”
The closer Mamoru got to Juban Shopping District his alcohol soaked blood boiled hotter and hotter. Once he got his hands on that girl he would make her understand exactly how he felt. How could she be so selfish? She probably did it to make a quick buck. And now Usagi was . . . His fists clenched in rage.
He rounded the corner to see hundreds of people going about their business and crowding the many reporters in the square. Mamoru ran over to a flower planter and jumped up onto the ledge, eyes scouring the crowd. Luckily, as an average height, non-extraordinary brown haired man he didn’t attract any attention. He must have stood there for five minutes before he spotted the girl and her brother descending into the subway. With eyes on his target Mamoru bulldozed his way through the throng, getting dirty looks and curse words as he pushed people aside. He flew down the subway stairs and scanned the crowd again, picking out the girl and her brother standing on the northbound platform as the train pulled in. Mamoru quickly paid his fare and got into the exact same car they did. He inched his way to within a fair distance and grabbed onto the overhead ring, staring daggers at the young girl. As badly as he wanted to go over there and drag her out by her hair he knew that this was not the time or place, so he waited patiently. Sure enough, they disembarked six stops later, Mamoru following in disguise a healthy distance behind them.
With all the patience he had left Mamoru maintained his casual pace, each step threatening to dissolve his fragile control over his drunken rage. Despite his best efforts all Mamoru could think about as he stalked the girl was Usagi’s unconscious body being dragged into nothingness. Then, a golden opportunity presented itself. At the next intersection the girl’s brother waved goodbye and turned down another street. Now the girl was all alone and continued on through a more or less deserted area. Mamoru instantly increased his speed and once directly behind her he scooped her up and clamped a firm hand over her mouth while dragging her down a dim alley. Nakura kicked furiously and tried to scream as she struggled to get away from her captor. Mamoru held fast as he slipped behind a dumpster, turned her around and slammed her against the brick wall, his hand still firmly clamped over her mouth. Nakura brimmed with fear and her chest heaved at the speed of sound.
Mamoru appeared calm, cool, and collected yet bruises bloomed on her arms from his vice-like grip. “Now,” he started, “you can be sure that I am not in a very pleasant mood, and if you so much as whisper too loudly when I take my hand off of your mouth I guarantee you that things will get worse.”
Nakura’s timid and terrified eyes stared into Mamoru’s cold brown ones. “Nod if you understand me.” Mamoru commanded.
Nakura nodded rapidly and he slowly removed his hand from her mouth to reveal her trembling lips. “Who-Who are you? What do you want because I don’t have a lot of money.”
Mamoru frowned in disgust, “I’m sure you’re sitting on shit loads of money, but that is the least of my concerns.” Mamoru’s eyes turned wild and crazy and the pressure of his grip increased causing Nakura to emit a small yelp. Mamoru slammed her against the wall again, “What did I say about loud noises?”
“You’re hurting me!” Nakura pleaded.
“No shit . . . now . . . what I want to know is why?”
“Why?!” She belted out, now seriously perplexed, “why what?! I haven’t done anything to you! I don’t even know you!”
“Is that right?”
With Nakura firm in his grasp Mamoru’s height magically increased by at least a foot followed by a slight lengthening of his hair, tinting from sandy brown to midnight black. His body structure simultaneously shifted into that of a tall, well-built man; his cold, brown eyes bled into raging steel blues; and the strong stench of whiskey filled Nakura’s nostrils. She spouted a gasp of amazement when Nakura finally comprehended whose arms held her firmly against her will.
Her mouth went bone dry, “Tu-Tuxedo Kamen!!!”
His eyes pierced into hers, “I should have known it was you from the park that day. I’ll bet it was exciting once you figured it out eh? It must have been like some sort of game.”
“But why would you stop and think of the potential damage you would cause with your greediness?”
Nakura’s eyes brimmed with tears.
“It must be nice to know that you hit the jackpot at the expense of our lives. So, how are you going to spend your money? Maybe disappear into anonymity? Something that my friends and I will never know again?!”
Nakura could not keep his gaze anymore, “I-I-”
Mamoru chuckled in his delirium, “Man! You must have really hated the Sailor Senshi! What did we do to you? Did we not save the world fast enough the sixth time? Or maybe it was the seventh or eighth.”
Nakura shed hot, guilty tears, “I don’t hate the Sailor Senshi! I look up to you guys. I believe in Sailor Moon!”
Nakura was unaware that she had just said the wrong thing for Mamoru’s face descended into the darkest expression she had ever seen on a human face. It paralyzed her with fear.
“Well,” Mamoru choked out. “Let me have the honour of telling you what your hasty, selfish actions have caused.” Mamoru gripped her harder, “Because of YOU we have lost the most selfless and powerful heroine that ever lived.”
“Because of YOU,” he emphasized as he slammed her yet again into the wall, “this planet is wide open to every megalomaniac out in the Universe.” Mamoru’s tortured eyes leaked a few tears. “Because of YOU,” he said, slamming her once more, “I was stashed in a house half way across the city, away from the FUCKING paparazzi, while Eternal Sailor Moon, the love of my lives was dragged into a portal by her demented uncle to the outskirts of the galaxy to be tortured until her death before I could get there to save her!”
Nakura’s face paled in horror.
Mamoru wept dejectedly for two short seconds before rage filled his eyes yet again, “My beautiful, fun-loving Usako is gone forever . . . and it is ALL . . .” His eyes went dark, “YOUR . . .” he inched closer to her face, “FAULT.”
Silence fell between them as he allowed the revelation to sink into her consciousness, hoping that this would be the beginning of her well-deserved guilt and torment.
Nakura felt sick. She began to shake her head back and forth, “No . . . No. I-I didn’t! I swear! It wasn’t me! I didn’t leak it to the press! You have to believe me!” She pleaded. “I would never do that to you!”
Mamoru exhaled in vexation. His eyes squinted as he drew back his trembling hand, “Don’t lie to me!”
The moment he would have brought his hand down to connect with her face Mamoru suddenly rose above his raging, drunken state. He was a second away from hitting a child. The jolting shock at his own behaviour caused Mamoru to freeze in place, his eyes fearful and unsteady, staring into the terror stricken face of a young girl. Mamoru clearly recognized that he was the monstrous cause of such a face, that this child was deathly afraid of him. Mamoru stood there frozen, unable to recognize himself anymore.
While thoroughly lost Mamoru’s fist unclenched and lowered slowly, then a strong force secured Mamoru’s raised arm and yanked him back.
Mamoru snapped out of his trance to see a young woman with shoulder-length, wavy black hair and hard brown eyes grasping him firmly. “What would Usagi think of you right now?” The strange woman demanded.
Two other women swooped in to rescue Nakura while the fourth helped the first pull Mamoru away.
The girl with the strawberry blonde ponytail checked to see if Nakura was okay, “Mamoru! What is the matter with you?! It’s Ami by the way.”
After hearing her name Nakura caught on to who the women were. They were the Sailor Senshi, but probably wearing the same type of magical disguise that Tuxedo Kamen had donned earlier.
Mamoru couldn’t take his sorrowed eyes off of Nakura. “This is the kid who leaked our identities to the media.”
The girls veered towards her in surprise. The disguised Rei released the young girl immediately, “It . . . It was you?”
Nakura struggled to gain control of her tongue, “Wha-? NO! It wasn’t!”
Mamoru slouched his shoulders as if releasing his drunken madness in full, “She won’t admit it.”
Nakura bristled, “I’m serious! It wasn’t me! Yes, I did snap that photograph of you when you burst out of the woods. And yes, once I found the only proper photo of the Sailor Senshi online I put two and two together. I admit that I knew Ami right off the bat and I followed her on her way to meet the rest of you. I eavesdropped and figured out your names. For some reason I put the information on my flash drive, but I never planned on doing anything with it! I swear!”
The ex-Senshi remained skeptical. Minako was disappointed, “How are we supposed to believe you? Did someone steal your flash drive?”
Nakura was downcast, “No I still have it-” though couldn’t help but dwell on her memory of giving Hiromi permission to get her research from her flash drive when she bolted to the bathroom. Hiromi hadn’t answered her phone since. In addition, Nakura had recently been obsessing over the fact that she had put the Senshi information under the heading S.S., which would have easily stood out to Hiromi since they were doing a project on the Solar System.
Nakura related what she knew to the Senshi, leaving out Hiromi’s name. Even though she did not directly out their identities, she still felt somewhat responsible.
Remembering what they had walked in on Rei turned to Mamoru in alarm, “And you! Look at what you’re becoming! For God’s sake Mamoru you were going to hit a child! You! Of all people!”
It was obvious to everyone except Nakura that Mamoru was heartily ashamed of himself. He couldn’t stomach the thought of even trying to defend his behaviour even though he had stopped himself at the last second, and could only remain silent.
Rei studied him carefully then spoke in a much softer tone, “If you keep this up you will surely loose yourself in despair and hatred.” She sulked heavily, “Usagi wouldn’t want that . . . and it’s not going to bring her back.”
The air became ripe with depression as Mamoru took a few steps back and slumped against the brick wall until hitting the ground in hopelessness, completely broken.
Nakura looked up to the disguised Makoto, her voice burdened with disbelief, “Is Sailor Moon really gone?”
The fact that nobody answered and could only stand silently with watery eyes gave her the answer they were unable to verbally give.
Nakura walked over to Mamoru and knelt down in front of him. After Nakura shed a few tears she put two fingers underneath Mamoru’s chin and lifted to look him in the eyes. She had never seen such misery on a human face before. Mamoru looked at her with nothing but heart breaking pain in his glistening eyes when she sobbed, “I am so . . . so sorry.”
All Mamoru could so was cover her hand with his own as he looked up into the dreary, grey sky.
“Usako . . .”
On the outskirts of the other side of the galaxy Usagi lay on the cold valley floor, shackled and collapsed like a rag doll. Her chest heaved in quick, shallow bursts as her glazy, desolate eyes stared up into the grandeur of the Milky Way.
“Mamo-chan . . .” she whispered.
Usagi had lost all track of time and did not know if she had been there a few months or a year. Prince Cirius disappeared quite often but would always return, his behaviour constantly fluctuating in wild, unpredictable patterns. The most dominant version of him would beat her and torture her relentlessly, causing severe trauma to her body in ways that would have her suffering in unspeakable pain, but never killing her. After the standard bludgeoning last time, Prince Cirius shattered both of her femurs then stabbed a jagged hole in her abdomen with a shard of black crystal. He then left her in that state for two days.
There were times during her suffering where Prince Cirius would sit on his throne smiling darkly while watching her, reveling in her pain. Other times he would sit next to her as she bled out and ramble on and on about utter nonsense, most times not even making sense, forcing Usagi to listen to his delirium and insanity. Only when Usagi was on the verge of death would Prince Cirius open palm her in the chest sending waves of dark, restorative energy through every cell in her body. This healed her physically but left her exhausted. It was at times like these that another part of his personality would emerge. He would suddenly handle her gently and stroke her face, her lips, her hair, and then loose himself in her eyes, thoroughly mesmerized. If Usagi dared to look away he would suddenly revert back to the torturer and beat her in a heat of rage until he was out of breath. On rarer occasions when he sat humming the same ghostly tune with her head in his lap, caressing her face, he would suddenly and aggressively fondle her breasts or shove his hand roughly between her legs, then giggle like a boy who had knowingly done something wrong. There were also instances where he would kiss her ravenously, like a man starving, and then beat her, angry because he accused her of enticing him. One time Usagi had made the mistake of practically biting his lip off . . . and she paid dearly for that. This cycle of torture, isolation, healing, reverence, molestation, and more torture repeated itself haphazardly, over and over until Usagi had lost count.
At present Usagi lay on her side during one of his God given absences while her body desperately tried to mend itself. Her right ankle was broken and swollen like a grapefruit and her left tibia was fractured. Her left hip was crushed and Usagi didn’t know how many of her ribs had been cracked and broken. She was no doctor, but Usagi was dead sure that one of her broken ribs had punctured a lung, which would explain the immense chest pain and shortness of breath. Her left eye had swollen shut and due to raising her hands in defense during the beating, Prince Cirius had broken several of her fingers. Her left collarbone was cracked and her left shoulder gruesomely dislocated. Usagi’s right arm was currently broken in three places and she was bruised almost everywhere, bleeding internally and externally. Least of all her clothes were torn, saturated with blood, and dirty.
Strangely, all of her standard bodily functions ceased to operate. Usagi never felt the need to eat or drink and never had to relieve herself. She assumed that the foreign energy of the dimension had something to do with it, or perhaps Prince Cirius had done something to her, she didn’t know. Though she survived without food and water Usagi was very malnourished and had little to no energy.
The only thought circling Usagi’s mind was that of her friends, her family, and especially Mamoru. In the time she spent bleeding on the ground Usagi would gaze up at the galaxy and try to guess which star was the Sun. That would be the only time she would attempt the slightest of smiles, praying that everyone she loved was all right and living their lives happily. Usagi glanced over to Prince Cirius’ throne and stared intently at the one thing that tortured her more than anything else. The Ginzuishou gleamed tantalizingly while perched on the seat of his throne. Cirius said that he would leave it there to torment her, knowing that the one thing most likely to defeat him was just out of her reach. As Usagi’s breathing slowed her mind began to slip into blackness and she sighed in relief. However, she knew that the momentary bliss of being at death’s door would signal Prince Cirius’ return . . . the sound of his heavy boots approaching meant an entirely new world of agony would be upon her. Usagi glanced up to a random star in the sky.
“As long as they’re alive and happy,” she thought.
After Mamoru’s incident with Nakura the girls had instructed her to go home. The disguised Minako disappeared then returned with a baseball cap for Mamoru to wear on their way back to the safe house. It wasn’t the greatest disguise but was the best she could do with the amount of money she had and the stores that were close by. With Mamoru not so cleverly incognito they hopped in a cab and had the driver drop them off a few blocks from their destination. Once inside the safe house Ami noticed that the Tsukino’s had called two more times. While Makoto prepared something for Mamoru, insisting that he eat something Minako addressed the elephant in the room.
“We have to go to Usagi’s and tell her parents.”
Ami descended into the couch, “Should . . . we tell them the truth?”
Each of them toyed with the idea when Mamoru said, “No, that would be too cruel. Loosing Usako and knowing her true fate is our burden to carry for failing her. I couldn’t put Usako’s family through that torture. It would not be fair to them.”
“Then what should we tell them?” Asked Rei, “That she’s . . . dead?” She could barely utter that last word.
Makoto kept a watchful eye on the food, “Maybe we could tell them that Usagi was missing in action and that we have no idea what happened to her.”
Mamoru rested his elbows on the kitchen table and buried his face in his hands, “Is it fair to give them that kind of hope? That they might see her again one day when we know full well that they won’t?”
Each of them sat in silent contemplation having the hardest time believing they would never see Usagi again, loosing themselves in their own personal memories of her. Mamoru felt a tear escape his eye as his sorrowed voice broke, “What are we going to do without her? How can we live knowing that she is suffering or dead . . . and there is nothing we can do about it?!”
In his sudden anger he swiped at the vase of wild flowers sitting on the table as it flew into the wall, smashing to pieces and causing everyone to jump in fright. As Mamoru collapsed back into his chair sobbing silently into his hands Rei came over to sit next to him and placed her arm around his shoulders. The others couldn’t help but cry along with him and it seemed like crying was all they were good for. For the life of them they could not keep their emotions in check. Usagi meant absolutely everything to them and they would gladly sacrifice their lives so that she could live. It was destroying them that they were all sitting there healthy and unharmed while Usagi was the one suffering or dead.
Just as the ex-Senshi attempted to achieve a semblance of emotional control, an urgent knock at the door was heard. Everyone started but did not move. If it were one of the Tsukino’s they would be forced into an intensely difficult situation.
Whoever it was knocked again. Now they thought that maybe the media found out where they were hiding. Just before panic got the better of them Minako got up and cautiously approached the door. Steadying her nerves she slowly wrapped her fingers around the knob, paused, then opened it quickly.
It was neither the Tsukino’s, nor the paparazzi. Standing in the doorway was a tall, short haired sandy blonde, a serene looking woman with aquamarine waves falling past her shoulders, and a shy, pre-teenage girl sporting cropped, deep violet hair.
Minako gasped, “Haruka. Michiru. Hotaru.”
The others still inside were surprised when they heard who was at the door. Haruka crossed her arms in front of her chest with an irritated look, “Well?” She asked, “Aren’t you going to invite us in?”
“Oh,” Minako stated in a daze. She just nodded and moved to the side. The three outer Senshi entered the house and made their way into the living room. Upon seeing them Michiru gracefully clasped her hands in front of her.
“It’s so good to see you all again,” she enthused, glancing at their faces. Michiru could immediately tell they were all heavily distressed, “Unfortunately, we wish it could be under more pleasant circumstances.”
None of the inner Senshi could stammer a word. Haruka plunked down on one of the dining room chairs and dangled her arm off the back. “We were in Peru when we heard the news.”
The inners looked up at her, surprised that she was taking it so well.
“Honestly, I’m still shocked someone discovered your identities.” She paused for a moment, her face filled with concern, “I’m truly sorry. How are you all holding up?”
When none of them responded Haruka and Michiru glanced curiously at each other. They had never known the girls to be so subdued. Hotaru peered into the kitchen to see Rei with her arm around Mamoru and Mamoru staring blankly into the floor. Something shiny caught her eye and she noticed the shattered vase. With her quiet, yet commanding voice she stated, “Something’s wrong.”
Haruka stood up, “Yea, I’ll say, where’s Odango? I’m surprised she’s not wailing up a storm by now. I know it sounds kind of corny, but, I really did miss you guys.”
All of the girls sat in silence, not meeting their gaze. It was then that the outers noticed the misery in their eyes, not to mention the unshed tears. An icy grip immediately clutched the hearts of the three outer Senshi; terrified to find out what caused the hopelessness they could see in all of their faces, but needing to know at the exact same time.
Michiru’s throat constricted. Haruka’s fists clenched. Hotaru stood as still as stone.
“Where is Usagi?” Michiru asked in a low, potent tone.
“She’s . . .” started Ami, “She’s . . . . .” More tears fell.
“She’s gone.” Stated Mamoru in a voice devoid of feeling.
Silence followed for ten, long seconds. Haruka’s arms began to shake, “Gone? What do you mean gone?! . . . You’re going to have to do better than that!”
Rei struggled to control her own voice, “Usagi was . . . abducted.”
Haruka stumbled back as if she had been punched in the gut. “Abducted? By who?” She glanced at all of them wide-eyed, “And you all just let her go?! You didn’t do anything to stop it?!” Haruka’s breathing began to quicken, “What kind of Senshi are you? I mean, that’s your job isn’t it?! Protect the Moon Princess?!”
Michiru immediately put a cautioning hand on Haruka’s arm, wordlessly telling her to calm down.
Makoto brimmed with anger and stepped up to Haruka, eyes watery and hot, “Oh really?! Since you’re so invincible I’d like to see how you would have prevented it if you couldn’t transform!”
The three outers were shocked into silence. Hotaru stepped between the two strong women and pushed them both back. She looked up to Makoto with surprisingly adult eyes, “I don’t understand.”
Minako began the long tale by describing their first battle on Jonanjima, when Mars was the first to loose her powers. She recounted as much as she could until she couldn’t go on anymore. Then someone else would take over. This continued until they got to the point where Prince Cirius took Usagi. That portion of the story took a few tries to verbalize, but eventually, the entire story had been told.
After the recount Michiru, Hotaru, and Haruka immediately sank to the floor where they stood, each assuming a far away, disbelieving stare.
After it reached a level of understanding Hotaru shook her head slowly, “No . . . that’s impossible . . .”
Michiru’s eyes were the first to well up, “Not Usagi . . . not the Princess.”
Haruka could say nothing. She just sat there with a sour look on her face as tears streamed down her cheeks.
Hotaru was consumed with the image of Super Sailor Moon fearlessly entering the heart of Pharaoh 90 with only one purpose, and that was to bring Hotaru out alive no matter what she had to do. In addition to the loss of the Moon Princess was a new horror that almost none of them had yet realized. Hotaru’s tears became relentless as she choked out, “Chibi-Usa!”
The mention of Mamoru and Usagi’s future daughter hit everyone like a cold slap in the face. They were all so fixated on the loss of Usagi that they barely followed through with what else they had lost. With Usagi gone, the future would most definitely be changed. There would be no Chibi-Usa.
“Oh God,” Mamoru moaned as he clutched his abdomen and doubled over. He had lost his future wife and his future daughter all at once.
Michiru wiped her eyes to no avail, “We should have been here.”
Ami sighed, “How would you have known something like this would happen? That we would cross paths with a member of the Moon’s Royal Family that had the unnatural ability to steal a Senshi’s powers.”
Rei suddenly snapped to attention, “Wait a minute.” She looked to the three of them with hope in her eyes for the first time in days, “You guys still have your powers right?”
The outers glanced between themselves, “Of course,” Haruka replied.
Rei turned to the inners, who seemed to brighten up, “Do you think there is a way we could use this to our advantage?”
Minako shrugged, “As great as that news is what good will it do?”
Keeping his emotions in check, Mamoru rose from the kitchen chair and walked into the living room crossing his arms along his chest, “Minako is right, we can have all the powers in the world but the fact is Usagi is outside the galaxy God knows where. The only chance we would have is if Prince Cirius decided to open another portal and come to Earth with Usako.”
“Which he has absolutely no reason to since he achieved everything he set out to do.” Finished Ami.
All of their dreams shattered in an instant. Prince Cirius had already come to do what he had planned and that was that. Rei fiddled chronically with the hem of her dress then seemed to realize something important, lifting her head towards Michiru, “Hold on. Where’s Setsuna?”
The inners now noticed Setsuna’s absence.
Michiru explained, “We were in Bolivia about to head for Peru when Setsuna announced that she would be taking a solitary detour on her own.”
Makoto furrowed her brow, “Why?”
Haruka stepped in, though still struggling to cope, “All she told us was that she really needed to meet someone, that’s all.”
“That’s all?” Ami asked.
Haruka nodded her head once, “That’s all. You tend to learn over the years that there is a lot Setsuna never talks about or is forbidden to talk about. Eventually you just accept it.”
Minako inclined her head, “When was this?”
Hotaru sat down next to her, “About a month ago.”
“And you haven’t heard from her since?” Inquired Mamoru.
Haruka’s eyebrow twitched and her eyes filled with rage, “Odango . . .” She murmured. In truth she was shocked to the core and angry as hell. Usagi was one of a kind, shone brighter than the Sun, and always seemed to have an affect on Haruka. There was something about Usagi that made you believe anything was possible. She truly loved the little rabbit . . . and now Usagi was in the hands of some ancient, psychopathic relative on the other side of the galaxy and it killed Haruka to think about it.
Completely restless Haruka hastily stood up, “I have to get out of here for a while.”
“And go where?” Makoto asked.
Haruka ran her hands through her hair in exasperation, “I don’t know . . . I’m going for a drive.”
Haruka made her way to the door in her usual long, swift strides when Ami noticed a small shimmer in the air. She half rose from her seat in an instant, “What?”
Everyone turned to see a purple mist swirl into existence in the middle of the living room. The mist parted to reveal a portal. Michiru, Hotaru, and Haruka had their henshin wands in hand, a breath away from transforming when Sailor Pluto barreled out of the void to crash violently into the dining room table, breaking it in half.
“Pluto!” Yelled Rei as she and Mamoru rushed to either side of her to help her up. As Rei grabbed her arm and looked into her face she froze in alarm. The always-composed Sailor Pluto trembled from head to toe. Her unsettled eyes radiated terror and she gripped her staff so tightly her knuckles were sure to be bone white.
Everyone in the room huddled around in surprise firing a million questions at once. As if not hearing any of them Sailor Pluto shook her head back and forth, eyes darting about wildly, “I couldn’t . . . I just . . . couldn’t!”
Mamoru hurried to get her a chair as Rei motioned for Pluto to sit. Instead, she just broke free of them and stumbled forward. With her back to the others she hugged her staff close to her body, “I can’t believe I’m here,” she whispered. “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”
Pluto turned to face them, revealing a tense, hysterical expression causing everyone to recoil.
“But . . .” tears began to well in Pluto’s eyes as she forced her next words out through clenched teeth, “I . . . just couldn’t stand by and do nothing!”
Everyone in the room was now officially terrified. They had never seen Sailor Pluto so unhinged. The ancient, ever-serious warrior appeared absolutely tortured.
Michiru stepped forward with worry, “What are you talking about? What’s wrong? You’re freaking us out!”
Sailor Pluto knew what sort of questions were to follow so she just started from the beginning. “When we were in Bolivia last month I was awakened in the middle of the night by an urgent mental alarm. Following my instincts I checked my henshin wand and became overwhelmed with the feeling that I had to transform as soon as possible. So I slipped out to the nearby cemetery and transformed immediately. Once I had my Garnet Rod in hand I observed my talisman pulsating with light. That only meant one thing.”
“And what was that?” Asked Hotaru.
“As the guardian of time I am told to watch for three types of alerts or beacons. The most serious of which is when my talisman pulsates with energy. This beacon is to alert the guardian to withdraw from the streams of time and return to the gate immediately.”
Haruka couldn’t help but ask, “Why?”
Sailor Pluto sighed, “Because the continuum of time was about to experience a Class Seven Warp.”
Mamoru fell into confusion, “And what is that?”
“A warp is something I thought I would never live to see since it has never happened before.”
Pluto began to gain some semblance of composure, “There are countless time streams evolving simultaneously; the probability of each dependent on how likely a situation is to go one way or another. When removed from it, time presents itself as everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will ever happen all occurring at once. A warp is the most random of all random events that can occur in the space-time continuum. It is the emergence of a chance event that was never conceived in all time and probabilities. It is a fluke happening that completely changes . . . warps . . . all related time streams for eternity. And a Class Seven Warp is the most destructive and far reaching.”
Everyone gasped as Pluto continued, “Upon the alert I am meant to return to the gate and under no circumstances am I to re-enter space-time until the streams settle.”
“And that’s what you did?” Minako inquired.
The forgotten distress bubbled back up to break through the temporary composure Sailor Pluto had achieved, “Well . . . I obeyed my duty and told you three I was going solo when I immediately went back to my post.” It was here that Sailor Pluto began descending into hysterics, “Once there I began observing the potential changes. The . . . the future . . .”
Hotaru leaned forward, “What did you see?”
Pluto’s eyes quivered, “I-I can’t speak of it. It’s just too horrific . . . I mean . . . things I couldn’t have even imagined!”
Michiru expertly cut in, “How long did it take for the streams to settle?”
The technical question succeeded in distracting Pluto from her despair, “It, um . . . it takes around seven hundred years in space-time for the streams to settle.”
“What?!” Exclaimed Mamoru, “You’ve been at the gate for seven hundred years?”
Pluto shook her head, “No. What I saw in the future was bone chilling. Having to sit idly by while countless systems descended into darkness and chaos was surely the hardest thing I would ever be called to do.”
Pluto’s face cracked, “That was only until I traced the pivotal event that caused all of the subsequent destruction.” Her lip began to tremble, “the event that I traced was not even the original warp event . . . it was another occurrence not long afterwards that became the true catalyst to the grim future I see everywhere.”
“What occurrence? What happened?” Haruka demanded loudly.
The tears that had collected in Pluto’s eyes came cascading down her cheeks. “The moment the portal closed behind Prince Cirius and Usagi, the Universe was forever changed and everything would slowly start going drastically wrong.”
The Senshi struggled under the weight of a new load of depression. Sailor Pluto lowered her head. “The absence of Sailor Moon will have an exponential effect that will eventually plunge the future of the Universe into suffering, untold destruction, and death.”
No one could speak. Every day just kept getting worse, and this was the worst so far. Pluto’s tears intensified, “But when I saw what was happening to Usagi-”
Mamoru instantly snapped to full attention.
“-What he was putting her through.”
Mamoru stumbled forward and clutched Pluto forcefully with both hands. He stared wildly into her face on the verge of panic, “You’ve seen her haven’t you?” Barked Mamoru, eyes quivering, “What?! What has he done to her?!”
Pluto broke down, shaking her head and avoiding his gaze, “I couldn’t! I just couldn’t sit there and fulfill my duty!” She could not stop conjuring the countless memories of Usagi throughout the centuries she had known her. “I just couldn’t! I know explicitly that my duty as time guardian is of the upmost importance, even more so than my duty as a Senshi.” Her eyes shimmered, “But I had known Usagi so long . . . and I knew in the depths of my heart that if it were me in her position and Usagi as the guardian of time, she would not hesitate to break her duty and do whatever she could to save me.”
Mamoru gave her a subtle shake, that faintest spark of hope bleeding through his voice. “Pluto, what are you saying?”
Pluto’s tears suddenly subsided and she took a deep, shuddering breath, “It took some time to gather the courage to go against what I know I should do, but . . . there is no way I could live with myself if I didn’t do this.”
Each one of them held their breath, not knowing what Pluto was going to say next.
“I don’t know what, if anything you all can do, but . . . I will break the forbidden laws and open a back door to the space-time cocoon that Usagi is in.”
Mamoru’s jaw dropped; hope bursting into his face for the first time. “You can do that?”
“The actual warp event was a star that went supernova seven hundred and forty eight years before its probability window. The signature of that energy pulse disabled the protective shroud encasing the time-space cocoon concocted by your past selves millennia before. It had sealed the Prince of the Moon making it impossible for anything inside to cross the boundary and vice versa. Now that the seal has been broken I was able to capture its frequency and construct a back door.
Ami erupted into tears of joy, “So we can go and rescue Usagi!”
Before everyone could fly on the wings of elation Pluto answered, “Not necessarily. The major taboo that I’m breaking only allows me to create the way for you. Just because I can make the rip in space-time doesn’t mean that I know anything about the dimension on the other side. Depending on his relationship with the space he could have control over its properties, which means you could be at a serious disadvantage.”
She saw the unbreakable determination in the cores of their souls but explained further, “The chances of you succeeding given the huge unknowns, as well as most of you not being able to transform, are slim to nothing. Chances are, you will die quickly or be stranded there for the rest of your short lives.”
Rei’s eyes shone with loyalty, “How quickly can you get this portal open?”
Makoto shifted impatiently, “We can’t waste any more time.”
“We’re coming Odango,” Haruka whispered as she, Michiru, and Hotaru transformed.
Mamoru emerged from the kitchen with an armful of knives and other potential weapons and distributed whatever the inners could stash on their bodies; they weren’t going to take any chances. He pocketed the last weapon he could, “I am going to kill that asshole if it’s the last thing I do.”
Sailor Pluto smiled the best she could, “I knew you would say that . . . and I am willing to make any sacrifice for our Princess. Just the remotest chance that one of you can rescue her is worth any punishment.”
Hotaru became somber, looking into the floor, “What will happen to you Pluto?”
“Once I close the portal I will receive the severest sentence for breaking the most sacred of time laws.”
Minako was scared to ask, “And what is that?”
Sailor Pluto twirled her staff around her, and then froze. Her talisman glowed eerily as a portal swirled into existence, signaling that there was no turning back from that moment. “My body will descend into hibernation within a crystal encasement for a thousand years while my mind will remain active and aware.”
The ringing silence following that statement told of the pity each of them felt for her. She would most likely emerge from her thousand-year sentence irreversibly insane. However, they said nothing about it since they were all about to do whatever was required of them to get to Usagi.
Mamoru was the first to approach the portal. His resolve was rock solid and his passion burned like wildfire, “I’m coming Usako . . . just hold on.”
Pluto stood tall as she held the portal open and gave a last warning before they entered. “Remember that the rules may be different on the other side, you don’t know what will happen. Be careful. Remember your purpose. Once this portal closes you are all on your own.”
Without looking back Mamoru stepped through the portal and disappeared into darkness. The rest of them followed in single file.
Minako was the last to approach the void then paused, turning to look at Pluto and said, “Thank you Setsuna.”
Sailor Pluto produced a sad smile, “I will pray for your success . . . I will pray for our Princess.”
Upon seeing Minako step through the portal Pluto closed her eyes and wiped away her tears. She exhaled, “For you, Usagi.”
The portal closed.
Sailor Pluto immediately disappeared to her fate for the next thousand years as the rescue team entered a world of the unknown where their demise was almost certain.