Chapter 9

Usagi lay absolutely motionless. No matter how hard she tried she could not will her limbs to move. Human instinct screamed at her to open her mouth so that she could empty the blood that was pooling at an alarming rate. Usagi was a crumpled heap, lying somewhat on her back. About twenty-four hours prior, during one of Prince Cirius’ brutal tortures, he had kicked her with such force that he damaged her spinal cord rendering her completely paralyzed from the neck down. Regardless of the fact that Usagi had piloted her way through various emotional states during her bondage, she had now reached the point where she constantly prayed for death. In the beginning she had rallied her spirits tolerably considering the atrocities she suffered. As time dragged on Usagi moved to fantasies of snatching the Ginzuishou and terminating his existence. After that she trudged through bouts of self-pity. Following that phase she immersed herself fully in memories of her loved ones . . . then Usagi reached a stage where Prince Cirius succeeded in thoroughly breaking her spirit. Now she welcomed every opportunity to speed up her death before he could return, which was exactly what Usagi was attempting at the present moment.

Even though billions of years of evolution actively tried to force her to cough up the blood dangerously making its way into her lungs, she would not comply. Usagi’s empty but determined eyes blinked furiously while tears rolled down the sides of her head. Usagi compelled her involuntary reflexes into submission with clenched teeth while she gurgled her own blood. Willfully inhaling it into her lungs so that she would drown in it. Her forehead crumpled as her vital fluid bubbled up to splatter her face. A distant part of her could scarcely believe she was forcing her own death. If someone had hinted to her twelve months prior that she would soon be attempting suicide on a daily basis, Usagi would have erupted into a fit of laughter shortly followed by the search for food.

As Usagi continued to inhale sticky gobs of blood she spotted the mist emerging from the shadows through the corner of her eye to settle silently, as if watching her. Usagi kept her attention on the mist while she slowly drowned to death. Memories from her life flashed through her consciousness and her vision slowly blurred, her last sight being the mist bursting to life and churning excitedly. Just as death mercifully swooped in to take her spirit Usagi was rudely shocked back into life. To her horror she felt the familiar sensation of Prince Cirius’ dark energy spread outwards from her sternum through every cell and nerve ending in her body. The foreign, oppressive energy healed her completely but left Usagi utterly exhausted.

Feeling every broken bone and severed nerve in her body heal itself in less than a second caused Usagi’s eyes to bulge from their sockets, her chest heaving like her palpitating heart. Usagi gripped her blood soaked shirt with a shaky hand and sat up as best she could. Prince Cirius’ shadow engulfed her as he hovered, fear clearly present all over his twisted face. He crouched low, placing a hand on the side of her head to guide her face towards him. Contrary to other countless instances, Usagi did not recoil in fear or disgust. She didn’t resist him in the least, completely void of feeling. Even her eyes proved desolate and vacant . . . his eyes, however, searched her entire face in absolute panic. This was the closest Usagi had come to dying by her own hand and she could clearly see that it rocked Prince Cirius to his very core. For some reason the thought of Usagi dying scared the shit out of him and she wasn’t quite sure why. Considering that he beat her senseless almost every day did not help explain his reaction.

Prince Cirius had his trembling hands clamped on both sides of Usagi’s head. His smoky, bluish-grey grey eyes quivered while he frantically checked her over then pulled her towards him, pressing Usagi’s face deep into his shoulder with more force than he should have.

“STUPID Serenity! What has gotten into you?!”

He put her back at arms length, cradling her head with delicacy, “That’s not very considerate.” The lines in his face contorted, “You were planning to leave me here all by myself?!”

Without requiring an answer he stared off into the distance, “No . . .” then began stroking her face reverently, “No. We will be together forever, so please don’t despair.”

Fed up with it all Usagi stared listlessly into Prince Cirius’ face and opened her mouth for the first time in many weeks, “What are you doing?” she implored, barely audible.

Cirius snapped out of his trance to look seriously at her, “What?”

She repeated herself in the same, dull tone, “What are you doing?”

Appearing somewhat sane he squinted one eye in curiosity.

Usagi’s lifeless voice continued, “I’ve been trying to figure out why you remain all the way out here.”

He only stared at her so she went on, “You have constant access to the Earth and probably a wealth of other places, yet you sit and mope out here on the horizon of intergalactic space, insanely lonely and completely isolated when you could be making a life somewhere; you could be traveling the Universe.”

He remained silent for what seemed like an eternity as Usagi searched his face for any sign of comprehension. Prince Cirius on the other hand had been struck dumb. For the strangest reason the thought of finally leaving his godforsaken prison once the barrier had been destroyed had never occurred to him. Why had that not occurred to him? Prince Cirius sat there mulling it over, knowing that something must be drastically wrong if he could not have perceived something so obvious and desirable. Immediately following that thought the Mist began whispering the ancient, mind-controlling propaganda that had probably been used on him for millennia. The Mist excelled at blocking rational thoughts and ideas from dwelling in the conscious mind, especially ideas that supported its host becoming independent in any way. The Mist needed Prince Cirius in its clutches wholly and completely. Cirius had willingly accepted the Mist, and with a Prince of Earth’s Moon to siphon life energy from, the Mist would achieve immortality. By eliminating all threats of independence and sovereignty the Mist could further secure the symbiotic relationship it maintained with its host through absolute emotional control.

Prince Cirius abruptly snarled and tossed Usagi to the ground, standing up tall, “You are trying to plant ideas in my head. Wouldn’t it be convenient if I decided to leave?”

Fury and frustration were now dangerously close to overwhelming Usagi. Her countenance appeared detached and aloof; the tone of her voice starting out soft, though betrayed a smoldering intensity, “Oh that would be so, so very convenient . . .”

Usagi shifted her unstable eyes to his throne in painful longing, “All I would have to do is wrap my fingers around the Ginzuishou . . .” Her hands grasped the air in front of her as she fantasized, her apathy disintegrating with every spoken word. Her limbs began to quiver followed by the steady decline of her facial expression from indifferent to wrathful.

“I would just . . . barely have to touch it,” she seethed, her voice steadily rising to biblical proportions. “And by feeling my intent it would BANISH YOU INTO NON-EXISTENCE IN THE MOST PAINFUL WAY IMAGINABLE BEFORE I COULD EVEN EXPRESS MYSELF!!!”


From the floor at Cirius’ feet Usagi stared up at him with startling command and authenticity, her chest heaving and a blue vein throbbing on her temple. The look Usagi thrust upon him actually caused Prince Cirius to hesitate. He gawked for a split second then detonated, “YOU SPOILED, SMART MOUTHED LITTLE BITCH!”

For the briefest moment before Prince Cirius sprang into action threatening to beat her senseless, Usagi could have sworn that the Ginzuishou pulsated . . . almost as if reacting to her . . . but that couldn’t be.

Shattering Usagi’s thoughts Prince Cirius laid into her, clubbing her in the head and kicking her repeatedly. Just as he was warming up the Mist promptly interrupted by changing shades and emitting strange, alarming sounds. Prince Cirius stopped the abuse and turned to look at the Mist in surprise. Usagi swam in a mental daze, nonsensically wiping the blood oozing out of her. She had never seen the Mist behave like that. Something must be seriously wrong.

Usagi watched as Prince Cirius stood up straight and turned his head slightly to the left, his face frozen in pure concentration. What followed was about twenty seconds of complete silence. Usagi gently held her throbbing head, “What the hell is going on?”

In reality the Mist and Prince Cirius were conversing telepathically:

There is a disturbance!”

Prince Cirius’ heart thundered, “What is it?”

A rip in space-time has appeared and I have detected eight humans making the passage to our domain!”

“Eight?! It must be her God-damn Senshi!!! But how the hell could that have happened?!? That’s impossible!!! There is no way!!!”

“We must act quickly! I will do my best to distract them, you however, will have to come up with some sort of plan to deal with them indefinitely unless I have the go-ahead to murder them.”

“No.” Prince Cirius’ reply was immediate, “ . . . no. If anyone kills those cocky brats it will be me. I will think of something.”

“We must hurry!”

Alright. See if you can manage to separate them upon entry and I’ll do what I can.”

Usagi remained oblivious to the mental conference taking place between the two of them. Since she had vented much of her despair a few moments ago, a small semblance of ‘Usagi’ crept its way back in.

“Look at you.” She started in her trademark, sympathetic tone, “You have to be the most pitiful person I have ever seen.”

He glanced at her briefly but continued with telepathy.

“You were a privileged child of the Moon . . . You had everything! And now look at you. Pathetically corrupted by needless jealousy. Feeding off some alien entity that is undoubtedly mentally raping you. You have truly forgotten yourself.”

Prince Cirius made no reply as the Mist continued to ride the rainbow. Usagi detected a slight wave of fear ripple across his face as he suddenly turned on his heel and strode away from her. A portal ripped open and just before he rushed inside in an inexplicable panic, he pensively glanced back at Usagi. After that he disappeared along with the Mist, leaving her badly injured but thankfully, all alone.

Usagi coughed up a little blood while breathing in short, laboured bursts. She had never looked so worn down and despaired. The only sounds echoing through the vast emptiness were her sketchy breaths and rattling chains, a constant reminder of her forced captivity. She shifted her weight. Usagi was very accustomed to constant discomfort but she was badly injured yet again and had started to loose feeling in her legs weeks ago. Countless months laying on cold, hard rocks had taken its toll. She tried as best she could to lay down on her side in the fetal position. Her long golden hair lay stringy, dull and crusted with blood with her skin sallow and pale; she had been without sun for much too long. Her face rested on the cool ground and she wrapped her arms around her body even though one of them was broken . . . again. Usagi cleared her mind in an attempt to better accept her fate. She found that dwelling on everything she had lost and missed was too much for her to bear.

Usagi closed her eyes and relaxed her breathing when she suddenly shot up from the floor like a bullet, her chains catching to hold her down firmly.

“Mamo-chan!” She exclaimed, her voice echoing like a bell.

Her breathing intensified all over again when her connection to Mamoru surged unexpectedly, completely out of the blue. She was overwhelmed by waves of his warm, intense energy enveloping her heart as if he was nearby, and she could only collapse down and sob hysterically because she knew that was impossible. Usagi’s heart constricted like never before and she buried her face in her hands and cried the hardest she ever had in her entire life.

“Why can’t I just die?!” She lamented internally, “I just want to die! I can’t go on like this!”

Usagi knew that if she couldn’t control her emotions and desires she would be in great danger of crossing the line to insanity. For all she knew the Mist was messing with her and she would much prefer to die. Anything would be better than ending up like Prince Cirius. She just didn’t understand why she suddenly felt Mamoru so strongly.

Usagi roughly wiped her eyes, scared shitless, “I must be loosing it . . . it’s the Mist . . . it has to be.”

Her body shook from head to toe as tears poured from her crystal blue eyes in blind fear, “I don’t want to become insane!”

With Mamoru’s energy continuing to permeate her soul, Usagi pathetically pleaded, “Please God . . . Just let me die.”

As Mamoru stepped boldly into the portal that Pluto had conjured up, a powerful force sucked him in at high speed and tossed him around at a dizzying rate. Swirls of multicoloured fractals shot by him from various directions and Mamoru felt nausea coming on. After an indeterminable amount of time he was roughly ejected.

Mamoru skidded across the ground and slammed into a boulder. He inhaled sharply through his teeth as the pain shot down his spine while also fighting the urge to vomit. Once he recovered Mamoru slowly stood up to survey his surroundings while rubbing his sore back.

It was extremely dim wherever he was and it took a while for his eyes to adjust. Though sight was slow to return, his other senses explored immediately. The smell was . . . different . . . unlike anything he had ever smelled before. It was not necessarily as unpleasant as it was completely foreign, but definitely inexplicable and completely unlike anything on Earth. The ground was an uneven mess of rocks. It appeared like he was in some sort of cavernous, crumbling, underground maze with high ceilinged tunnels weathered from the passage of time. There were piles of boulders, rocks, and pebbles strewn everywhere, sometimes piling up all the way up to the ceiling, with unnatural shadows permeated almost every crevice. There were chunks of rock missing from the floor, the ceiling, and the walls, and considering that there was no detectable light source that he could see, he was baffled at how he could see at all. There had to be some strange magic creating light down there . . . wherever there was.

Mamoru instantly plundered into confusion. “Where are the others?”

He was very sure that they stepped through the portal only seconds after him; yet, they were nowhere to be seen. He originally surmised that time must have lagged somehow and they would follow shortly, but as he waited patiently not a soul arrived. He prayed to God that they didn’t get separated during travel, maybe to cross time streams ending up who knows where. Mamoru became increasingly nervous following that thought and then began wondering if he ended up in the right place at all.

Just as Mamoru’s mind started to contemplate the absolute worst scenario he was jolted out of his descent by the familiar screeches of the Kirikuma not too far away. Mamoru’s face hardened with ruthless, bloodthirsty determination. Well, that confirmed he was in the right place and it was time to get down to business.

Mamoru disappeared into the shadows behind a mass of boulders and rocks. He brought forth two large knives and crouched into an offensive stance, ready to pounce at a moments notice.

Suddenly, a string of Kirikuma appeared. They paused nearby and started screeching at each other, as if communicating. The Kirikuma’s vocals are shrill, piercing, and practically unbearable.

In the safety of shadow Mamoru’s eyes fluttered while his eardrums ached; they felt about ready to blow. For the life of him he couldn’t cover his ears for fear of making himself known. The Kirikuma appeared to be looking around, then moved on shortly after.

Mamoru waited a few minutes after they departed, just in case they lurked about. He slowly emerged and checked out the cavernous passage. There was nothing to be seen.

“Usako,” He thought.

Mamoru briefly closed his eyes and reached out, trying to sense Usagi through their eternal connection that had disappeared the moment Usagi passed into that portal. At first he became terrified because he felt like he couldn’t sense her at all. He strained further and low and behold, in the background he picked up her faint signature. Mamoru almost broke his cover until he remembered to stifle his cry of agony. All he could feel coming from Usagi was hopelessness, despair, immense sorrow, and debilitating fear. He clutched his chest and wanted nothing more than to rip his heart out; the feeling was unbearable. Mamoru seethed with rage and could barely contain himself.

The guilt and self-hatred overwhelmed him, “What the fuck did he do to her?! I am going to kill him! I swear to God I’m going to kill him . . .” his heart wrenched, “Usako! I’m coming!”

At that exact moment he heard the shrieks of more Kirikuma approaching. He immediately remembered his surroundings and his nerves calmed instinctively; that being the experience of years of battle ingrained in his genetic code. His face descended into darkness as both blades sat firm in his grasp. Usagi was his only thought.

Mamoru glanced around quickly to spot a way up to a shadowed nook near the ceiling. He scurried up and perched himself in the darkness directly above the path cutting through the tunnels. Just then two Kirikuma came hopping around the corner. Strangely, it really did look like they were searching the caverns for something . . . or someone, but, there was no way anyone could have known that he had shown up.

Either way, Mamoru’s muscles tensed, just itching to kill. With barely a hint of patience he waited until both demons passed directly below him. Mamoru dropped from the shadows like a cat. He purposefully landed directly on top of one demon, forcing it into the ground. Before it could screech bloody murder, and before the other demon could even comprehend what was happening, Mamoru wasted no time in slicing the throat of the standing Kirikuma deep and clean. Just as the tackled one screeched at the top of its lungs, alerting the entire dimension to his presence, Mamoru smiled darkly and rammed his foot down on the back of its neck. The creature choked painfully and Mamoru thrust his blade deep into its back with absolutely zero remorse.

Both corpses dissipated into Mist. Mamoru put a bounce in his step and took off down the passage hearing the shrieks of various Kirikuma throughout the network of caverns. He knew he was now being hunted. Mamoru darted through the maze as fast as he could, following his instincts.

“I will get to you Usako.”

There was no doubt in his mind. If he had to kill thousands of them, he would get to her.

As the hours passed Mamoru spent most of his time ducking and hiding from the random Kirikuma that crossed his path. Mamoru’s luck seemed to run out quite quickly when forced into battle when there was no time to hide. Surprisingly, he was racking up quite a number of casualties but never came out unscathed. Each Kirikuma encounter added to his injuries, which were also racking up in number. Presently, Mamoru found himself face to face with three of the alien demons and tried his best to get through them alive. One Kirikuma embedded its claws into Mamoru’s back and tossed him down the rocky corridor. He knew that if he stayed and fought any longer he would be dead in under a minute. Ignoring the pain and using the momentum of the throw, Mamoru tumbled haphazardly across the ground, sprung back up, and sprinted off in the direction of travel.

The muscles in Mamoru’s legs pumped ferociously, propelling him at a speed that seemed to surpass his fastest. He spotted a partially hidden, hard left up ahead. Mamoru put on the breaks and threw himself in hoping that he would find another cavernous passage to throw off the Kirikuma catapulting after him. However, when Mamoru turned that corner his heart dropped into the pit of his stomach. Before him massed an entire legion of Kirikuma in a vast, stalactite-ridden cavern. They noticed him at once and produced a collective, deafening shriek. The sound wave’s damaging frequency and high intensity caused Mamoru’s entire body to buckle like he had been forcefully electrified. His eardrums ruptured instantly with blood draining out of his ears in steady streams. He collapsed to the floor completely stunned and in much pain. Though his eyelids fluttered aggressively Mamoru could see every Kirikuma around him prepare to pounce, ensuring that he would be brutally eaten alive. At that exact moment Prince Cirius appeared floating in mid-air about fifteen feet away.

Mamoru suffered terribly but neglected the pain of his broken eardrums the moment he sighted Prince Cirius. In one swift, passionate motion he pulled two knives from his pocket and launched them with unmatched accuracy directly at his enemy; one careening towards Cirius’ forehead and the other straight for his heart. Just before impact the Prince vanished then reappeared directly over Mamoru. As Mamoru prepared to attack with everything he had Cirius’ eyes tinted pitch black. Before Mamoru could taste even the smallest morsel of revenge a spiked metallic cable snaked out of thin air to circle Mamoru and constrict him, the taught metal and barbed teeth tearing into his skin. Completely immobilized Mamoru lay stunned. He guessed this was what Pluto meant by Prince Cirius having developed a relationship with this dimension.

Confined to the floor Mamoru struggled so hard that the spiked cable tore his flesh to ribbons, sinking deeper. Prince Cirius watched as Mamoru’s muscles rippled and bled, writhing so violently he practically convulsed. However, it was Mamoru’s eyes that captured Cirius’ attention. Mamoru did not break his gaze, even for a second. Amidst his furious wriggling Mamoru’s eyes burned with an intense and overwhelming rage. Prince Cirius’ fascination peaked when he recognized what fueled the all-consuming hatred in Mamoru’s eyes was the man’s deep love for Serenity.

Mamoru couldn’t believe it . . . he couldn’t fucking believe it. He swore on his life that he would not fail Usagi again. Not this time. Not after the countless times Usagi had overcome every road block imaginable to rescue Mamoru from whatever fucked up situation he was in due to their past enemies. As he struggled helplessly on the ground a tear slipped from his eye from absolute heartbreak. Prince Cirius surveyed the despaired man at his feet then was struck by a brilliant, sadistic idea. Cirius hastily transported both of them to a dark, enclosed space.

He leaned in close to Mamoru who was momentarily stunned at the sudden change of environment. Prince Cirius’ face filled with sick and twisted delight as he said, “I thought it would be a shame for you to come all this way and not even see her.”

Mamoru gave no reaction and continued to resist the cable. Prince Cirius nonsensically kicked the air in frustration when he remembered that Mamoru was now deaf from the damaging screeches of the Kirikuma.

“Well,” Cirius thought, “this won’t be nearly as much fun if he can’t hear me.”

After a brief internal debate Prince Cirius open palmed Mamoru in the chest sending a wave of dark, healing energy throughout his system just as Cirius had done to Usagi numerous times. Mamoru’s body seized as the negative energy passed through him, completely healing his ears.

Prince Cirius cleared his throat, “Now, as I was saying . . .”

Before he could finish his sentence Mamoru spat violently in his face, still fighting his confines. Prince Cirius’ eyes clouded black again then kicked Mamoru in the centre of his chest causing his victim to choke and gasp painfully.

With a stern, annoyed look Prince Cirius continued, “As I was saying,” wiping the warm spit from his face, “I-”

“I don’t give a shit about ANYTHING you have to say you sick son of a bitch!!!” Mamoru interrupted. “Where is Usako?!” He demanded, writhing on the floor, eyes hot. “WHERE IS SHE?!?!”

Prince Cirius smiled darkly, “I thought you would never ask.”

With a wave of Cirius’ hand Mamoru sensed something stir behind him. He rolled over to see the wall shimmer then become crystal clear.

And right there, lying five feet away from him . . . was Usagi.

Mamoru’s eyes widened in shock, relief, and urgency, “USAKO! USAKO!!!” He struggled more than ever now, “I’m right here baby. I’m right here.”

It was while he stared at her small form that he began to inspect her condition. He could easily see that Usagi was much thinner and her skin had a sickly pallor to it. He saw her feet and hands shackled in chains. He saw the bone of her right arm protruding out of her skin, her body covered in black, blue, yellow, and purple bruises. He observed the pool of blood collecting beneath her, saturating her clothes and her dull, stringy hair; both already caked with unhealthy amounts of dried blood, but his brain was unwilling to process such thoughts. The worst of it though . . . the absolute worst was the sound of her voice. He could barely make it out, but he heard it.

“Please God . . . Just let me die.”

All Mamoru could do was lay there speechless for a few moments at what he saw and heard. In both of their lifetimes, through their many trials and tribulations, he had never heard Usagi’s voice like he had just heard it; completely empty of any aspect of her personality, broken, and hopeless. Here was the Champion of Justice crumpled on the floor, pleading for death.

As soon as Mamoru snapped out of his shock his heart constricted as he bellowed, “Usako!! Usako I’m here!”

Usagi was not responding, “Look at me!! Usako!!!!” Mamoru shattered seeing the state Prince Cirius had reduced her to. He turned back to him with incredulous disgust. “What the hell did you do to her?!”

Prince Cirius laughed hysterically. “She can’t hear you. You are in an enclosed dimensional cocoon.”

Mamoru turned back to stare at Usagi, “This is just a projection?” He inquired, “She’s not even there?”

“Oh, she’s there all right. She is literally five feet from you, but Serenity is completely unaware of your existence. In this chamber you are vibrating in another dimensional plane, so to speak.”

Mamoru shone with determination and would not take his eyes off of her, calling her name over and over.

Annoyed at watching their undying love for each other play out in front of him, Prince Cirius’ eyes clouded black yet again. The barbed, metallic cable encircling Mamoru’s body constricted, piercing a quarter inch deeper into his muscle tissue.

Mamoru gasped in pain but continued calling Usagi’s name, praying that some way, some how, she would hear him.

Mamoru’s behaviour irritated Prince Cirius immensely, so he baited him with, “You wanted to know what I did to her?”

Mamoru threw a peripheral glance his way.

“Keep watching.”

On that note Cirius disappeared through a portal to reappear near Usagi while Mamoru watched everything unfold.

Usagi witnessed Cirius saunter towards her. Between shallow breaths she asked “Wha . . . What’s . . . Ha . . . happening?”

Prince Cirius looked down on her, his expression excited, “I don’t know what you mean, but I can easily make something happen if you like.”

As promised he kicked her square in the chest. Usagi flew into the air until her chains caught, causing her to drop to the floor like a sack of meat.

Mamoru’s eyes erupted with tears of frustration watching the love of his life get beaten to a pulp. He screamed her name, Usagi being only a few feet from him but completely unaware that he was even there. Mamoru bellowed in agony.

As if Prince Cirius could hear Mamoru’s anguish he stared directly into the empty space where the Earth Prince was being held captive . . . and smiled. Prince Cirius then ripped into Usagi, thoroughly beating her senseless. With each blow Mamoru’s heart shuddered. It was unbearable to watch but he could not look away. Mamoru convinced himself that he must watch, that he deserved it, for failing to protect her. He knew that if he lived through this it would haunt him in ways that he couldn’t begin to imagine.

With each hit Usagi let out a grunt of pain so severe that Mamoru could practically feel it. When he caught glimpses of Usagi’s face his heart plunged into despair. Considering the torture she suffered her face held absolutely no expression, her eyes vacant and far away. Prince Cirius telekinetically raised a huge chunk of rock out of the ground, hovered it over Usagi’s body, then brought it down with force, crushing Usagi’s leg. Her face still blank, she only gasped in a cloud of pain. Still laughing Cirius summoned a shard of black crystal and started slashing at Usagi randomly, and stabbing her in places that missed all vital organs. Usagi barely grimaced as she was being stabbed like a pincushion. After another severe beating Prince Cirius had exhausted himself so he stopped to catch his breath as Usagi lay in a crumpled heap at his feet.

Mamoru could clearly tell that most of Usagi’s bones were broken, her skull had to be fractured, and her face was unrecognizable. The only way he could tell she was still alive was by the minimal movement of her chest as blood quickly pooled beneath her. It was then that Mamoru noticed the rocks surrounding Usagi. They were caked thick with layers upon layers of reddish-brown dried blood forming a large ring around her that radially decreased in intensity. It was almost as if she had spilled countless pints of blood on the rocks beneath her, enough to fill several human bodies, but that was impossible . . . Another thought that Mamoru promptly disposed of because he could not bear to process such things.

Prince Cirius laughed hysterically. This was all way too much fun. He glanced to where he knew Mamoru to be and smiled disturbingly as he knelt down to look Usagi in the face. Cirius grimaced at the sight then passed his hand over her head utilizing his dark energy to restore it to its pre-beaten, angelic condition. With a final leer towards Mamoru’s invisible prison, Prince Cirius sloppily planted his open mouth over Usagi’s and kissed her with ravenous, demented delight. He fondled her breasts aggressively and forced his hand between her legs mumbling, “Mine! . . . Mine!”

Usagi remained completely unresponsive.

As the sight before him diffused through Mamoru’s eyes and into his brain, he suddenly stopped struggling to become deathly still. His breath caught in his throat in shock and disgust. Inflicting physical pain upon Usagi was one thing, but the mere idea that he had been molesting her to God knows what degree dragged Mamoru down to another level of fury and vengeance all together. With the multitude of emotions churning inside him, Mamoru had no choice but to scream in consuming rage.

Prince Cirius disappeared through a portal leaving Usagi’s side to appear next to Mamoru laughing so hard he grabbed his sides for support.

Mamoru’s eyes were bloodshot red and his mouth quivered with indignation, “YOU! . . . .” he began, shaking all over, “YOU ARE TRULY . . . TRULY DISGUSTING!”

Prince Cirius just continued to laugh.

From watching such putrid blasphemy Mamoru felt something stir deep within his soul . . . so deep he was sure that he had never delved that far within. Whatever was down there shone through for but a brief moment, and it wordlessly commanded Cirius to look him dead in the eye.

Suddenly every ounce of determination, willpower, and spirit Mamoru had ever felt burst forth into his persona for what he would say next while staring at Prince Cirius so intensely it actually made the Lunar expatriate nervous.

“I . . . am going to kill you.”

Prince Cirius mysteriously stopped laughing. For some strange reason that statement carried a ring of truth deep to his core even though his mind knew it to be impossible. He felt the urge to look away but would not let himself.

Mamoru’s eyes darkened even further, “I give you my word . . . I am going to kill you . . . and I’ll leave the Mist to Serenity.”

Prince Cirius felt uncomfortable all over. Mamoru had briefly radiated something so powerful that it made their hairs stand up. However, it disappeared as soon as it came.

Cirius lifted his chin while glaring down at his second captive, “You keep daydreaming Endymion.”

As Mamoru exhaled and rolled back over to watch over Usagi, Prince Cirius turned on his heel and disappeared with a swirl of his cape to deal with the rest of the Senshi.

Ami and Makoto catapulted out of the portal to land roughly on cold ground. Once the pain and nausea subsided they checked to see if the other was all right then stood up to look around. They found themselves in a large, circular cavern of some sort. They both looked up to realize that they were at the bottom of the entrance to a cave, the surface being at least a 100 metres above them.

Makoto rubbed her bleeding elbow, “Where the hell are we? I hope to God we’re in the right place.”

All around them were large archways to cavernous passages leading to destinations unknown, and they were at a loss as to which one to go through.

Two Kirikuma appeared unexpectedly in one of the entrances and screeched. Both Ami and Makoto whipped their heads around. Ami pulled forth two knives from behind her as Makoto gripped her baseball bat and meat cleaver. The two shared a nod as Ami darted off to the left.

“We’re in the right place alright.”

Makoto stood where she was as part of their strategy, “Those demons are both going to die. We will save Usagi.”

Rei and Minako spewed out of their portal to be plunged into cold, deep water. Their bodies seized from the chill making them forget their nausea as they quickly swam up to the surface. Through chattering teeth they looked about finding themselves in a huge fresh water reservoir underground somewhere. They could hear a waterfall some ways away and noticed the crumbling, cavernous walls. They hastily swam to the edge and couldn’t get out fast enough.

Minako squeezed the water out from the bottom of her tank top, “Wh-where th-the hell-ll are we-e?”

Rei clasped her hands and closed her eyes. Unfortunately her extra sensory abilities were nowhere near the level they used to be at, but nonetheless, she had to try. “I-I thin-think we’re in th-the r-r-right pl-place.”

Minako was now wringing her hair out, “H-how do you kn-know?”

Suddenly five Kirikuma jumped through an entrance on the far side of the reservoir and dove into the water. To the dismay of them both Kirikuma proved to be proficient swimmers, crossing the distance faster then the girls would have liked.

Rei and Minako produced their weapons and readied themselves with hard eyes. Usagi had to be around there somewhere.

Sailor Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn burst through their portal in mid-air. Since they were in strong Senshi form they could easily acrobat around to land gracefully on their feet. Upon surveying the environment they immediately recognized that they were in the middle of a gargantuan cavern riddled with stalactites. Before they could even formulate a thought endless cues of Kirikuma poured into the cavern from every entrance available.

The Mist had decided to channel most of its energy and resources into this attack, as its memories from the Silver Millennium were sound and complete thanks to Prince Cirius. The outer and inner Senshi had awesome power of course, but both groups of Senshi were most impressive when operating in specific arenas. In order to be effective and versatile both types of Senshi were obviously skilled in many types of scenarios. However, the outer Senshi were noticeably better dealing with enemies on a sizable scale and in wide-open spaces; hence the grand, powerful nature of their primary attacks and their function as protectors of the Solar System from outside forces. Since they operated in the outskirts of the kingdom it was not unusual for them to work alone most of the time, which meant no back up.

The inner Senshi on the other hand were noticeably better at dealing with enemies adept at deception. Since their primary duty was to protect the Moon Princess they were together almost all of the time, and it usually took small, talented groups to get close enough to the Princess undetected. Due to this, the inner Senshi were experts on staying observant, quick action, and teamwork. The awesome power of their primary attacks could be easily condensed to achieve unmatched precision and accuracy, ideal when in a large crowd or at a function.

In the midst of chaotic battle each of the outer Senshi’s hearts beat well out of the normal range. Very quickly did they learn of the hidden abilities of these amphibian/reptile-like demons. They immediately understood that any lapse in judgment or concentration could mean their last error ever made. All three were forced to push the boundaries of trust and instinctual teamwork to new levels in order to survive. They had to dig down and force their powers into an evolutionary jump; applying them in ways they never had before.

All of the guardians of the Silver Millennium were physically, and mentally engaged . . . which was exactly where Cirius wanted them.

Confined to the floor of his prison the metallic cable had now pierced half an inch deep into Mamoru’s skin and muscle tissue. The wounds were jagged, swollen, and very sore. Just a whisper of movement put Mamoru in agonizing pain, which was just fine with him since, according to himself, he didn’t deserve mercy of any kind.

Mamoru’s eyes remained fixated on Usagi. For the strangest reason she remained on her side with her back towards him so he could not look into her face, driving him mad. He never ceased talking to her, calling her name, projecting all his love towards her, hoping that he was helping in some way. He could not give up.

Usagi’s forehead pushed depressingly hard into the cold ground. Her heart was shattered and her mind on the verge of panic. In contemplating the isolated months before now she was shocked to say that she was able to accept her situation with a lot more stability, even though she would rather die. But now . . . now Usagi felt like repeatedly smashing her head into the floor. All she was aware of, all she could feel was Mamoru’s overwhelming presence and energy. She had never felt him so strongly before. It was as if he was right next to her and at any moment would reach out to caress her, which was why Usagi turned away from where she felt him the most. This was the worst moment in her life and she was at a loss as to how to deal with it. Past experience taught her that whenever she was on the verge of succeeding at suicide the Mist would blow the whistle on her and Prince Cirius would swoop in to selfishly keep her living a nightmare. No matter what she did he would not let her die, but why did she feel Mamoru so intensely? Was she so far gone that her subconscious willed this feeling into existence because she wanted him so badly? Her heart sank into fear and despair . . . or was it the Mist beginning to gain control of her, slowly chipping away at her sanity and playing on her deepest desires?

Usagi came to a frightening conclusion. The Mist was trying to break her. She knew it, and once she broke it would be a downhill slope from there. She did not want that to happen, but Usagi didn’t know how to cope with feeling Mamoru’s overwhelming love and compassion permeate her very soul. It was too much to handle. All that consumed her mind was death, the only release from her horrific existence. Usagi would give anything to die . . . but she didn’t see that as a possibility, not given her track record.

Mamoru’s faith dwindled fast as he lay on the floor with his eyes burning into the back of Usagi’s head.

“Usako . . . I’m here. I’m right here . . . I can’t even tell you how sorry I am. You have always been there for me, no matter what. Any time I needed you, regardless if I was aware of it or not, you would be there, saving me. You save me every second of every day. You never think of yourself, you never give up, and you always follow your heart. I have never met anyone like you . . . truly one of a kind.”

A solitary tear seeped from his eye, “But now, in your absolute darkest hour . . . when you need me the most . . .” another tear followed, “I failed you.”

Heartbreak and guilt weighed down on him heavily. “It was not supposed to end this way. You can’t end this way! Not like this! You don’t deserve it! It should be me instead!”

His eyes unexpectedly softened while staring at her, “If I could take your place . . . I would, in a heartbeat.” He then remembered what Pluto had said about the future. “The Universe is doomed without you! How can something like this even happen?! You stand for so much good. Your very existence kept the Universe in check . . . but now . . . I’m powerless and I don’t even know how the hell this even happened!” He snapped, “It doesn’t make any sense!!! It shouldn’t even be possible!!!”

Mamoru shifted his gaze to the large crystal spheres in the distance encasing their powers, “but there they are.”

Usagi began to sob harder.

Mamoru’s mind hit the wall and his determination and resolve disintegrated. His body slumped in defeat and he stopped talking to her.

“What’s the use?” He thought, “ She can’t hear me. She has no idea that I’m even here. God has a sick sense of humour. To come this far, where I can almost touch her, only to lose in the end.”

Usagi battled against the potent sensation that Mamoru was with her. She had to ignore it . . . she just had to. If she didn’t, if she gave in to this fantasy, the Mist would surely secure its hold on her. Anything was better than becoming permanently insane. Sticking to her resolve Usagi was startled when she felt a sudden shift in Mamoru’s energy. Beforehand she felt intense love, hope, and compassion. Suddenly, all she felt was overwhelming guilt, hopelessness, and defeat. Her mind fell into confusion. It didn’t seem like the Mist would do such a thing. Besides, for fleeting moments when she wasn’t fighting the thought of the Mist, her soul almost believed that her feeling Mamoru so strongly was real. Her instincts whispered to her to trust in that love but Usagi had strayed so far away from her normal state of mind. She was consumed by fear and paranoia by this point and she couldn’t recognize what was true, what was the Mist, and what was a delusion.

Drowning in sorrow Mamoru tried to accept the fact that even though Usagi lay practically an arms length away from him, she might as well have been in another Universe. Prince Cirius said himself that he was vibrating in another plane of existence. Mamoru’s heart felt especially heavy, so he closed his eyes in an attempt to gain some clarity. His breathing began to slow and his mind cleared. After a few moments of stillness something surfaced and his eyes shot open again. Amid all the horrors of their reality he became conscious of the fact that regardless of their dimensional separation he believed he could still feel her through their ethereal connection. Was he making that up? No, he couldn’t be making that up. Actually, Mamoru became aware of the fact that he had never felt Usagi so strongly before.

Not fully understanding what he was doing Mamoru inched as close to Usagi as his prison would allow and involuntarily reached deep down inside himself; close to the depth he reached when he promised Cirius that he would kill him. Mamoru then began to whisper a prayer, not consciously knowing what words came out.

“Please, Gaia . . . I just want to reach her . . . I just want her to hear me!”

Without realizing it Usagi’s resolve began to slip. For the smallest moment she indulged herself in the fantasy, willingly loosing herself in Mamoru’s warm energy.

Mamoru sighed heavily, pleading, “Hear me . . . Usako . . . I’m here.”

Usagi peacefully exhaled and whispered, “Mamo-chan.”
Mamoru’s ears instantly perked up and his body erupted with hope. He was scared to breathe in case he had drowned it out. He swore she called his name.

With a painful, intense longing he hoarsely choked out, “Usako!”

As if responding to him he watched her head turn slightly. He could see the corner of her eye! Suddenly her shackled hand reached over her shoulder, as if towards him. His heart leapt at the sight. Before he could think anything else he was astounded when Usagi painfully rolled over to face the empty space behind her, unknowingly staring into Mamoru. His breath left him.

Usagi extended a hand to rest on the ground between them, her face crumpled in fear, “Mamo-chan. I feel you so strongly. Why do you haunt me?” Her terrified eyes searched the empty space frantically; “it’s like . . .” she dragged her shackled hand across the floor. “It’s like you’re right here!”

Mamoru felt like he was going to explode, “I’M HERE USAKO! I’m here!” His eyes stared into hers, begging with her, “Feel me! . . . I’m here.”

Usagi’s eyes were immediately drawn to a specific point in front of her and her eyes found his, though she didn’t know it. Usagi was inexplicably overcome with a sense of calm. That feeling of warm, comforting protection she always had when staring into his ocean blue eyes cascaded over her. Usagi’s mind convinced her that the Mist had succeeded in trapping her, but at that moment she didn’t care. Usagi took a slow breath and produced a half smile. She couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled, but her eyes shone a little brighter and Mamoru drank it in.

“Mamo-chan . . . I can feel you.”

For a split second the entire Universe fell away and no one existed but the two of them. Their eyes were locked in a soul-piercing gaze where they connected on a level never reached before. A wave of euphoria pulsed through them both even though they had no clue what was happening. The power and depth of their love had strengthened to the point where it permeated the veils between dimensions, now spanning all of creation. Despite being removed from the known Universe, and despite all the odds, Mamoru and Usagi had managed to feel each other out in their greatest time of need.

Prince Cirius watched from the shadows as each group of Serenity’s protectors fought with only as many Kirikuma as they could handle without being killed. Strangely, they seemed to be increasingly more capable at fighting the demons than they were before, which baffled him considering that they were powerless. However, Cirius began to sense the Mist exerting a subtle but constant pressure against his willpower. He noticed how perilously close to murdering the Senshi the Kirikuma came at times, which he didn’t want. He would not let them die so easily . . . they needed to suffer first and suffer terribly. The corrupted Moon Prince instantly remembered Serenity’s words,

“You were a privileged child of the Moon . . . You had everything! And now look at you. Pathetically corrupted by needless jealousy. Feeding off of this alien entity that is undoubtedly mentally raping you. You have truly forgotten yourself.”

As soon as that thought entered Prince Cirius’ mind, the Mist was prompt in disposing of it. Exercising caution, the Mist temporarily backed off its host’s defenses. It became aware of a slight resistance now present. It had to cooperate for now.

As Cirius watched the outer Senshi battle magnificently with the remaining Kirikuma he was struck with another pang of loathing and jealousy. Fully aware of this shift the Mist took advantage of the opportunity and poured more of its energy into the attack, now looking to kill.

In the midst of battle Neptune gracefully weaved in and out of every empty space available to her. Sailor Saturn sliced open an escape wherever she needed it while also applying her powers in ways she hadn’t before. Uranus unleashed her powers and caused the entire cavern to quake from a colossal World Shaking. With the demons knocked off their feet the Senshi welcomed the spare moment. Sailor Saturn’s glaive suddenly glowed bright purple, while Uranus’ and Neptune’s talismans materialized in front of them, glowing as well.

Without knowing what they were going to do they each grabbed their respective talismans and felt an intense gravitational pull between the mystical weapons. When each Senshi brought their talismans together a bright as hell flash of light poured out. Prince Cirius and the Kirikuma were momentarily blinded, but once their vision returned, the outer Senshi were gone.

Rei and Minako ran for it through yet another crumbling tunnel when the outer Senshi appeared up ahead out of nowhere. Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn were stunned for a moment at what had just happened, but then saw Rei and Minako and suddenly sprang into action. Uranus and Neptune stayed in front while Saturn passed by the ex-Senshi to bring up the rear. Uranus motioned with her head as she took off down the passage, “Come on.”

Not knowing where they were going, everyone followed suit. The Kirikuma proved much easier to fight in the narrow corridors than the cavern and the three, transformed Senshi blasted their way through any pockets of demons they came across.

Upon seeing the Senshi-less cavern before him Prince Cirius eyes clouded black as he and the Mist went in pursuit. It was not long before they were hard on the Senshi’s heels. Due to the relatively confined nature of the tunnels they couldn’t get too close without feeling the fury of the outer Senshi. The group moved quickly then reached a crossroads in the maze. They were about to veer left when Neptune felt a breeze on her cheek.

“Stop!” She commanded, “this way.”

Again, they all followed suit. Not a minute later they stumbled into a large clearing where Ami and Makoto battled with a Kirikuma. Sailor Neptune yelled a warning and the two dove out of the way just as the depths of the sea slammed into the demon, rendering it back to its source. All of them looked up the shaft towards a surface of some sort to see faint, flickering lights. That had to be the way out and probably the way to Usagi. Without being told what to do next they all started climbing while Saturn erected a barrier to prevent the Kirikuma and Prince Cirius from getting through.

Prince Cirius almost laughed as he attempted to teleport into the cave shaft. To his shock and surprise he found himself unable to. It immediately dawned on him that he had been expending massive amounts of energy dealing with his unexpected visitors. On top of that was his handling of Endymion.

Prince Cirius watched two of the outer Senshi scale the wall getting closer to the surface, closer to Serenity. Under no circumstances would he let that happen. He then melded into the Mist and pushed forward. With much effort Cirius momentarily overpowered Sailor Saturn and the barrier dissipated. With the opening he needed Prince Cirius and the Kirikuma burst forward. The demons let out a piercing, collective shriek and raced up the shaft. The Senshi climbed faster. Just before impact the horde transformed into Mist and enveloped them. Simultaneously, Prince Cirius used even more of his energy reserves to place each Senshi in their own dimensional cocoon; just like the one Mamoru was in, but each one of them vibrating in a different dimensional plane. Even though they were completely unaware of each other, the view through their prisons was crystal clear . . . and Usagi was now visible right in front of them.

The Senshi were astonished by the sudden change of environment until they caught sight of Usagi. Panic overwhelmed each of them like never before and they began screaming her name at the top of their lungs. Strangely, Usagi continued to lie there broken and bleeding, staring into the empty space before her as if mesmerized.

Within their dimensional shrouds the Senshi were beginning to realize that Usagi could not hear them.

Rei was positioned closest to Usagi about ten feet away. On hands and knees Rei stared out of her prison completely fixated on her best friend. She couldn’t believe the state Prince Cirius had reduced her to. As she fought the urge to vomit Rei’s eyes boiled with frustrated tears and all she could think was, “This is not right!!! This is unacceptable!!! I have to help her!!”

The others seethed inside their respective barriers having equally similar thoughts while gaping at the deplorable state of their beloved Princess. By this time Prince Cirius and the Mist had finally come to an agreement with regards to the handling of Serenity’s Senshi. As agreed, the Mist crept in and seeped through the ears of each Senshi undetected. Prince Cirius knew that he couldn’t steal the powers of the outer Senshi without Usagi becoming aware of what was happening, so he opted to mentally torment them for now. He couldn’t risk the transformed Senshi being conscious; that would be too much of a gamble. For the inner Senshi however, he executed a starkly different plan all together.

Following Prince Cirius’ request the Mist utilized the information it had gained from entering their minds when stealing their powers and simulated a personalized reality based on their deepest and darkest fears. Cirius’ plan was to successfully consume them in their own anxiety, so much so that they would be unable to remember where they were or what was going on.

Unbeknownst to Prince Cirius the Mist was beginning to loose patience with its host’s obsessive goal of lengthy revenge. In contrast, the death of the Sailor Senshi was the primary thought of the Mist.

Ami pressed against the limits of her prison trying to break through it in order to get to Usagi. Angry tears spilled from her eyes as she thought, “I can’t stand this!!! I have to help her!! I must!”

She glanced over to the crystal sphere roaring with her Mercurian powers and yelled in outrage. It didn’t seem right; it was like this was some sick and twisted dream. It couldn’t be real! How could Prince Cirius steal their purpose, their destiny? It didn’t make sense! Why couldn’t she figure her way out of this?

Ami closed her eyes and lowered her head in frustration thinking, “I’ve always been able to figure my way out of things . . . I feel so . . . so . . . helpless. I usually always find the answer.”

Ami could feel the weight of a pencil in her hand and subconsciously began twirling it between her fingers like she always did when thinking through a mathematical problem. The frustration she felt intensified and her thoughts began to drift.

“I have to do something!! I have to figure out a way to help . . . to protect . . . ummm . . .” Ami opened her eyes to stare down at her desk to an empty exam booklet, “I have to figure out these problems! Otherwise I’ll never get into medical school!”

She glanced at the clock on the wall then back at the empty booklet, “Time is running out and I haven’t solved a single problem! At this rate I’ll be rejected from all my school choices! I’ll fail . . . I’m a failure.”

And so it happened for each of the inner Senshi. Through their frustration, anger, and hopelessness the Mist gradually transformed their realities into their deepest fears without any of them realizing what had happened. Soon they were all consumed by their own inner demons; their feelings for Usagi slowly being transferred to the fantasies fabricated by the Mist. None of them were aware of what was most important. Usagi didn’t exist.

The outer Senshi on the other hand were relentlessly bombarded with disturbing, unnatural thoughts amplified to an unendurable level. So much so that they were also completely unaware of their true reality and their own surroundings.

Prince Cirius couldn’t help but laugh hysterically as he stood over Minako inside of her prison. He surveyed all of the others and almost failed to believe that he had pulled this off! Although he was extremely weak after all the feats he had performed, it was well worth it. Now, Serenity would be his companion for eternity while her protectors slowly wasted away in their fears, losing more of their sanity with each passing moment. With a crooked grin plastered on his face Prince Cirius turned his attention to Serenity, his prized possession, when he faltered from unmitigated shock.

He saw, clearly, that Serenity lay directly in front of Mamoru. If they had been in the same dimension they would have been holding hands! He saw how they stared deeply into each other’s eyes even though he knew that Usagi couldn’t know Mamoru was even there. Prince Cirius stood in surprise for a few moments until anger flushed through his body. He wouldn’t admit that fear had a firm grip on him as well. Not reacting quickly enough he exited Minako’s cocoon and made a beeline for the two star-crossed lovers.

Mamoru and Usagi’s souls enjoyed a fleeting sensation of relief and calm. Through all the savagery they endured they had found each other. Mamoru was overcome with gratitude. He didn’t know how, but his love had reached her and he could not help but loose himself completely in the bliss of their newly, deepened bond.

Usagi’s belief that the Mist had successfully depleted her sanity was lost on her for that brief moment. Right there she truly believed that Mamoru was with her. It had been an eternity since she had felt anything even remotely close to comfort or warmth that it lifted her spirit from the depths of despair. In that moment, everything was all right.

Due to the ecstasy of their connection they both failed to sense Prince Cirius approaching. He was upon them without their notice and grabbed a handful of Usagi’s hair, lifting her up off the ground.

Usagi’s brief salvation shattered into a million pieces as she was forced to look into the face of her worst nightmare. Prince Cirius’ eyes split wider than she had ever seen them. They were filled with so much hatred and fear that his pupils quivered.

He leaned in close to her, his wild, cloudy eyes tunneling into hers, “That look on your face,” he spat at her, teeth clenched, “I hate that look on your face!!!”

Usagi’s heart plummeted back into her bottomless pit of despair; the truth of her previous state completely lost to be replaced by hopelessness and fear of insanity. However, this time she did something that she hadn’t done in months. This time, she resisted him.

Usagi defensively raised her arms and tried to push him away, her head turning from him. The gravity of this action was not lost on Cirius and his eyes protruded even more. Somehow, she had gained a tiny amount of her spirit back. Prince Cirius shot a demented, vexed look where he knew Mamoru to be and then turned his attention back to Usagi.

His hands began to shake, “Oh, Serenity . . . I can not abide that look on your face!”

Usagi was confused. Even though her face was riddled with disgust and terror, the look of peace and love that had been there a moment before was burned into Prince Cirius’ memory. That was all he could see when looking at her. He slammed her body into the ground, straddled her on his knees, wrapped both hands around her slender neck, and squeezed.

Mamoru’s pulse galloped.

Prince Cirius descended into a blind rage as the Mist seized the opportunity to put both ‘hands’ on the steering wheel, forcing its host to squeeze tighter and tighter. It wanted nothing more than to crush the life out of this nuisance of a girl. It did not like the attention she commanded from its host. The Mist needed the mind of Prince Cirius wholly and completely. This Moon Princess was standing in the way.

As the Mist took control Cirius stared into Usagi’s face. He could see that life was slowly trickling away from her, but her eyes radiated relief . . . relief that death was coming, finally. Cirius continued to drown in her eyes and to his astonishment they looked directly back at him. Just a few moments from her death she cast a look at him rife with pity and sadness. Her large, blue eyes pierced deep into his diseased soul; right down to his very core and he suddenly began to see that he was killing her. The only one of his prisoners that he truly wanted to keep alive was perishing in his grasp.

Mamoru watched Prince Cirius squeeze the life out of Usagi. He bellowed and bellowed for him to stop, but it was clear that his eyes had clouded ink black. The Mist was in control.

Prince Cirius promptly forced his way back in control of his motor functions. The black in his eyes vanished and he immediately let go of Usagi’s windpipe. Usagi choked and gasped for air while Cirius trembled from head to toe, stroking her face cooing, “Shhhh, shhhhhh. Everything is okay . . . you’re okay now. You’re with me now.”

Trembling, Prince Cirius scooped Usagi up and rocked her gently in his arms. He soon pressed his cheek to hers and began humming a sweet, ancient lullaby.

When Mamoru witnessed Cirius take Usagi in his arms and rock back and forth with her while humming to himself, he was taken aback in confused abhorrence. Mamoru’s mouth fell open and he stared at Prince Cirius as if for the first time. This behaviour was completely unexpected and baffled Mamoru thoroughly, for he couldn’t understand this strange display of deep affection. Mamoru was then startled out his trance due to Usagi’s wretched sobbing.

While being smothered in Prince Cirius’ arms and her body trying to recover from near suffocation, two silent tears slipped from the corners of her eyes. She was so close . . . so close to the sweet release of death, only for it to be stolen from her yet again.

It was now crystal clear to her that Prince Cirius was never, ever going to let her die. Usagi’s mind teetered on the brink of mental breakdown, swaying gently back and forth on its ledge. She instantly remembered how the Mist had tricked her into believing she was with Mamoru and that’s when her resolve slipped. Usagi’s mind tumbled off the ledge and into the abyss.

Her grieving started off slow and quiet, then steadily increased in distress and heartbreak. Usagi moaned in despair and cried hysterically as the realization of the permanence of her situation solidified in her mind. Prince Cirius was plucked from his reverie by Usagi’s distress. He silently watched as the Moon Princess imploded from her trauma and misery. She had reached her breaking point.

Despite the spiked cable burrowing slowly into Mamoru’s flesh, he painfully got to his knees and fixated his entire consciousness on Usagi in silent desolation. He could sense intrinsically that Usagi yearned for death, but realizing that she would never get it caused her mind and heart to cross the void into permanent despondency. She had finally cracked, and listening to her wail in the most depressing wretchedness plunged a knife so deep into Mamoru’s mind and heart that he was sure he would never recover.

Prince Cirius watched Usagi sink into despair and didn’t know what to do. The Mist, however, had reached its own breaking point. It could not stand Serenity being alive for another moment. It had to be rid of her now, once and for all. Cirius would surely be angry, but the Mist was betting that soon afterwards it could grab hold of Prince Cirius’ mind in its most vulnerable state to hopefully bond even deeper than before. It decided to take that chance and with much effort the Mist crossed the barriers of Cirius’ willpower for complete control of him. The Mist knew it only had moments. It was now or never.

The eyes of Prince Cirius quickly faded to black. His face emptied of emotion as he robotically stood up, towering over Usagi. In a smooth, emotionless voice it said, “Serenity.”

Usagi’s fit of hopelessness subsided as she looked up to her captor.

Through the eyes of Prince Cirius the Mist peered through the cocoon to stare directly at Mamoru with disturbing black eyes then remembered how Serenity had left her previous life. The Mist was struck with the best idea it had ever had.

Mamoru shivered when Prince Cirius stared at him with those cold, unfeeling black eyes. The Mist raised Cirius’ arm in which a razor sharp sword appeared.

“Wait,” ordered Mamoru, “ Wait!”

The Mist glowered down at Usagi, “Well . . . I’ve had my fun. I wondered how long it would take to completely shatter the Champion of Justice.”

Usagi just stared at Cirius.

The Mist flipped the sword over and studied it, “I give you credit. You lasted much longer than I thought you would. I must say that I almost respect you.”

Usagi’s eyes commanded his, “You would know nothing of respect.”

The Mist shrugged, “Whatever. You bore me now. You want to kill yourself? Kill yourself.” He tossed the sword on the floor next to her with a resounding metallic clatter.

Usagi stared hard at the weapon, daring to hope.

Mamoru erupted in panic, “No! NO! Usako! Don’t do it!”

Though deep down inside Mamoru knew that Usagi wanted nothing other than death. He knew it implicitly.

The Mist steered Prince Cirius away through a portal then turned to watch Usagi from inside Rei’s dimensional prison; Rei being completely absorbed in her fears did not notice him. The Mist reveled in the irony of it all. This was exactly how the Moon Princess died in her previous life. She had stabbed herself with Endymion’s sword because she could not live without him. How fitting, and even better this time because the Prince of Earth had to watch her do it. The Mist reeled in delight, rubbing Cirius’ hands together in anticipation.

“Do it! DO IT! DO IT!”

Usagi wasn’t sure what was going on. It seemed odd that after all the effort Prince Cirius put into keeping her alive, he would all of a sudden care less if she killed herself now. The gleam of the sword tantalized her though. Usagi told herself not to look a gift horse in the mouth. She prayed for death constantly and if this was the only window of opportunity to end this agony, she would snatch it up before Cirius changed his mind. This could be her only chance. Usagi gripped the cool handle of the sword as best she could, considering her many wounds and broken bones, and sat up.

Mamoru struggled so violently that the cable tore even deeper into his flesh. His midnight blue eyes shuddered in blind fear.

“This is not happening! Not like this!” he thought. “No Usako!” He yelled, “Put it down! Don’t do it! You can’t!” Mamoru had never sounded so desperate in his life. Everything in him screamed at Usagi to stop what she was going to do. Begging with her, pleading, but she could not hear him.

Usagi’s eyes hardened as she shakily placed the tip of the sword over her heart. She would not take the chance of Prince Cirius having a change of mind. She wanted to make sure that once she stabbed herself she would be dead before she hit the floor.

The Mist could feel resistance building in Prince Cirius due to what was going on before them. The Mist fought back. It only had to hold out for a few more moments.

Mamoru felt a tear slip from his eye. “This can’t be the end. It can’t be.” He mentally chanted as he watched her hands steady, ready to pierce her own heart.

“No . . .” Mamoru declared, his eyes shining brighter, “You are not dying today.”

At that moment something inside Mamoru, something that had been slowly building for a long, long time . . . detonated.

The years of guilt and grief that he had begun suppressing since the day Usagi had saved him from Queen Beryl rushed forward. The strange power that had been lying dormant deep within Mamoru exploded outwards as he screamed her name like it was the last thing he would ever do.

Usagi put all her force into her arms and was about to thrust when she heard her name as loud and as clear as a ringing bell. She gasped loudly as her head flew back. Her body immediately stopped itself from plunging the sword into her chest just after the tip pierced a quarter inch into her skin. A trickle of blood spilled from the superficial wound as she gasped for breath; hope filling her voice for the first time in months.


“What?!” Bellowed the Mist.

Tears spilled from Mamoru’s eyes thinking that he just lost his soul mate when he heard her call his name. His body erupted with desire, “Usako! Stop! I’m here! I’m with you!”

The Mist was absolutely enraged and could not believe what had just happened. It attempted teleportation but found it was too weak to do so. The Mist was forced to delve deep within itself and its host to find the energy it needed to teleport.

Usagi blinked repeatedly, “Mamo-chan . . . I . . . I can hear you . . . but, how are you with me?”

“I’m right behind you!” Came Mamoru’s hoarse voice.

Usagi spun her head around to perceive the most beautiful sight her large eyes ever beheld. Right there, barely five feet from her knelt Mamoru. His face was stained with tears, his wounded body effused blood, but his eyes shone vivid and brilliant.

Mamoru didn’t notice that when he unleashed whatever it was lying dormant within him, he had shattered his prison and eliminated his confines.

Usagi erupted into tears as her body buckled and collapsed from emotional overload. Mamoru was quick to sweep in and catch her in his arms. Seeing as how Usagi was in a very delicate condition his touch was gentle and protective. The feeling of Usagi in his embrace sent a wave of ecstasy through his heart since a few moments ago he was dead sure he would never hold her again. He did not know how or why, but Usagi was back in his arms, where she always belonged.

The Mist was seconds away from harnessing the energy it needed to make the portal. It had to act now. It must get to the Ginzuishou before either of them did.

Mamoru and Usagi gazed into each other’s eyes. He gently and lovingly caressed her cheek, his tears of joy falling on her face. Her own tears of joy poured from her eyes as her shaky, broken hand reached up to his face. Mamoru’s eyes fluttered closed at her rejuvenating touch.

“Mamo-chan . . . You saved me.”

The words she had just spoken caused Mamoru to break down as he gently but firmly hugged her to his chest. Both of them cried together, releasing all of the pent up emotions that had been corroding them since Usagi disappeared into that portal.

Mamoru exhaled, emotionally exhausted, “Usako, I love you more than you could ever know. You’re everything to me. Everything.”

Usagi’s eyes welled up with tears again, “I love you.”

Mamoru’s face inched ever closer to hers and they were seconds away from sealing their newfound, deepened love with a kiss when from the corner of her eye something pulsated with a sparkle. Usagi turned her head to see the Ginzuishou sitting on Cirius’ throne throbbing with energy.

Usagi bolted upright, “The Ginzuishou!”

She had been so caught up with Mamoru that she almost forgot the one thing that could solve all their problems.

The Mist conjured up a portal without a second to loose and stepped inside. A moment later the Mist in control of Prince Cirius stepped out right next to his throne.

The mention of the Ginzuishou ushered Mamoru back to reality as he followed Usagi’s gaze to the throne, upon which sat the Silver Crystal pulsating with a strange energy. Both of them had never seen it do that before. Mamoru was just about to place Usagi down and run over to grab it, when to their horror Prince Cirius stepped out of a portal next to his throne and snatched up the Ginzuishou with a triumphant, sadistic grin.

“Too little, too late.”

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