Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Absence ❯ My Will, Act I ( Chapter 53 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
Absence - By Kirika


Chapter fifty-three. Sorry for the wait. This chapter took some time to write, and I was sort of busy too.

Lazarus and his pals weren't originally supposed to be ninja-like. They were supposed to be your generic cloak and dagger assassin types. However, as you'll see in this chapter and the next, I've put a ninja style spin on them. I couldn't resist. ^_^

Originally this was supposed to be one huge chapter. But that would have taken an absolute age (another week and a bit, probably) to be written and uploaded. I figured everyone would prefer if I split it in two instead. Hopefully this won't dampen the flow of this(these) major fighty-fighty chapter(s) too much.


- Kirika


Chapter 53 - My Will, Act I

Sailor Mars' eyes darted warily around the office building's spacious and nicely, but sparingly, decorated lobby. Pitch-black shadows in the lightless room stretched out ominously from all angles, appearing to reach out for the miko and her companions with long bony claws, creating a darkly foreboding atmosphere. Mars' footsteps echoed eerily around the lobby as she followed behind her fellow Sailor Senshi with Sailor Moon sticking close to her side. Her heartbeat was increasing steadily in her chest as the tension in the air got to her, and she felt her hands start to sweat in her gloves in anxious anticipation.

"They could have at least left a light on for us…" Sailor Venus commented in a nervously quiet voice as she looked around the large room, checking for hidden attackers.

"These youma don't fight that way," Sailor Mars said just as quietly. Her brow creased as she felt a brief icy cold sliver of something on her alert preternatural senses, spurring the miko to quickly move her gaze about her surroundings, her lavender eyes straining as she tried to will them to burn through the darkness in the shadows around her, searching for any possible threats. Mars just knew that Lazarus would bring his buddies with similar fashion sense along to help him out. Why else would he be unconcerned if she brought her friends? She expected no less of a despicable youma.

Sailor Mercury turned her head to Sailor Mars. "What do you mean?" she asked curiously.

"They hold a special affinity for the dark," Mars replied in an absent mumble as she continued her vigilant survey of the area.

"Like the youma that attacked Minato General Hospital?" Sailor Neptune said from behind the two Inner Senshi. She shivered slightly at the memory, no doubt recalling the knife that had been held to her throat. "This should be interesting…"

"Not the words I would have used…" Sailor Moon said uneasily from beside Sailor Mars. The blonde's somewhat frightened blue eyes apprehensively scanned the deepest shadows of the lobby, as if she expected any number of youma assassins to materialise out of nowhere at any second. She may have not been far wrong.

"I suppose it is only natural that this, 'Lazarus', would bring his cronies along to help out," Mercury said. "You did say he just appeared at the Hikawa Jinja, like the other youma did at the hospital, correct Mars?"

Just as Sailor Mars opened her mouth to reply, her senses were suddenly inundated with the detection of a huge number of inhuman presences, the company of many twisted creatures registering like multiple glaring red lights in the part of her mind attuned to the malevolent and unnatural.

"Watch out!" Sailor Mars yelled as she threw her arm out to the side, blocking Sailor Moon from walking any further and pushing her princess back, just as a barbed arrow slammed into the tiled floor by the blonde's feet, taking out several chunks of grey stone to scatter into the air.

"Take cover!" Tuxedo Kamen shouted as a great deal more arrows, coming from many different directions, swiftly joined the first arrow quivering in the floor.

Sailor Mars grabbed Sailor Moon's arm and then bolted to her left, heading straight for the arrangement of couches and armchairs around the coffee table she had noted earlier while she dragged her princess along beside her, using her own body to shield her love from the barrage of incoming arrows. The Fire Senshi spared a quick glance to her right as she ran, catching a glimpse of the enemy. It appeared her initial belief had been correct. The shadows that almost totally engulfed the lobby were filled with flashes of movement and the glint of polished metal. Mars saw one black-clad assassin dressed in a hooded cloak and loose fitting clothes standing slightly hunched against a wall as it pulled back horizontally on a short bow, ready to let loose another arrow on its deadly course. Lazarus had indeed rallied his associates to expect her and her allies. Sailor Mars registered this information in a fraction of a second, and then refocused her attention on getting Sailor Moon to relative safety. She could hear her comrades' cries behind her, but she paid them no heed; her princess's and true love's wellbeing came first and foremost above all else.

Sailor Mars let out a short grunt as she felt an arrow slice sharply along her right shoulder blade, creating a gash in its wake. More projectiles whistled by her head as she sprinted for the protection of the furniture, the noise of some of the arrows' flights loud in her ears, indicating how close they had come to their target. The Senshi of Fire almost stumbled and fell as another arrow tore across her leg, just above the knee, spraying droplets of red onto the floor. Mars ignored it, just like all of the arrows that flew by her. There was no point worrying about being struck; that would cause her to hesitate and waste time, most likely resulting in her, and Sailor Moon with her, becoming pincushions. Instead, Sailor Mars ploughed ahead, not even flinching no matter how close she came to being hit as she kept her gaze fixed on her and her princess's salvation, completely disregarding all things that could distract her from that goal. Such was the heavy role of a bodyguard, a guardian; to fail in one's duty did not only usually mean your own death, but the death of the one you were trying to protect as well.

After what had seemed like a hundred metre sprint, but in reality was merely a handful of that, Sailor Mars and Sailor Moon finally reached the fortification made out of arranged furniture. As soon as Mars was near enough, she whipped the arm holding on to her love around, throwing a surprised Sailor Moon towards a couch and causing her to bowl over it head first and land ungracefully on the other side in a heap. As Sailor Mars herself approached the couch, she leapt clean over it, landing in a crouch by her rather shocked and disorientated princess. But before the Fire Senshi could even catch her breath, she sensed danger directly in front of her. She quickly looked up to see a youma assassin, standing on the other side of another couch opposite her, level a cocked light crossbow straight at her chest, almost about to bury a spiked metal bolt into her body. Biting of a curse, Mars moved her hands into the position to launch a fireball, but knew the hot blazing attack would come all too late for her. All of a sudden a figure dropped down across from Sailor Moon, letting out a shout as it did so. The youma assassin barely had enough time to gurgle its last breath, let alone fire its crossbow, as a razor-sharp stemmed rose took the creature in the throat. Sailor Mars looked away from the toppling youma to Tuxedo Kamen, at the same moment a panting Sailor Neptune flung herself over the couch-turned-stockade and collided with Sailor Moon, sending both senshi sprawling.

"The others?" Sailor Mars asked breathlessly as she quickly scanned her eyes over Sailor Moon's prone body, searching to see if the girl had been hurt during their mad dash. The miko's heart rested easier in her chest as she saw that her princess looked like she had escaped from any significant injury.

"Don't know," Tuxedo Kamen said as he tilted his head to one side, avoiding an errant arrow as it skittered along the armrest of the peach coloured couch before lodging itself in a cushion of an armchair. " But we should be safe here for a time at least; I think this is a partial blind spot for their bows."

"Saturn and the rest are at the other side," Neptune answered the miko as she sat up. Mars noticed a thin wooden shaft of a feathered arrow protruding from the Outer Senshi's bloody right upper arm. The aquamarine-haired woman grimaced in pain and grabbed the arrow with one hand, then snapped the shaft in two between her fingers, letting out a gasp of pain and leaving the now shorter projectile still imbedded in her. "I think…" she exhaled deeply.

"Oh no…" Sailor Moon said from where she knelt on the floor. "We have to help them!" she declared, and then clambered up the couch to take a peek over into the kill zone.

"Usagi! Stay down, it isn't safe!" Sailor Mars ordered emphatically as she pulled on Sailor Moon's leg, forcing the girl back to safety as the storm of arrows continued to rain overhead, the sound of numerous thuds on the other side of the couch a testament to how severe the peril had become in the lobby.

"Rei--!" Sailor Moon started in surprise, but was swiftly cut off by her bodyguard.

"Stay down," Sailor Mars repeated sternly as Sailor Moon simply stared at her. "I'll check."

"Careful," Tuxedo Kamen warned as the Fire Senshi crawled up the couch, being diligent to remain as low as possible. Mars pressed her body down as flat as she could make it, lest she give the enemy the right angle to strike her.

Sailor Mars poked her head above the couch, only revealing enough of herself so she could get some idea of her friends' conditions without receiving an arrow in the head. She swallowed hard as she took in the heated and alarming scene before her. It appeared that the four other Sailor Senshi were not as lucky as Mars and the rest of her friends behind the furniture barricade. The other Sailor Senshi had apparently run to the lobby's main desk, which was made out of sturdy-looking hard wood and with a tiled surface akin to the floor's. While that should have been adequate protection from the bombardment of arrows coming from nearly everywhere, unfortunately the youma enemy had evidently decided that the main desk was a good defensive obstacle too, and had positioned themselves behind it. The resulting clash was messy to say the least.

As Sailor Mars watched anxiously, she saw Sailor Saturn currently engaged with three knife-wielding assassins behind the main desk. The Senshi of Death moved like a hurricane, skilfully parrying the multiple attacks from the trio of youma in swift succession with her Silence Glaive, displaying amazing speed and agility, all the while with a cold, grim, face. But the young girl's opponents were skilled themselves, and the Fire Senshi could see numerous red rips and tears in her Sailor fuku. Saturn kept up her defence however, but with the many blows directed her way it was nearly impossible for her to bring about any sort of decisive counterattack.

While Sailor Saturn fought, Sailor Mars saw Sailor Jupiter bound up onto the slightly curved desk and then race along it as arrows --and also crossbow bolts-- fired from youma on the ground floor, flashed by her, some taking shreds of fuku with them as they flew past, the bits of cloth more often than not stained with blood. However Jupiter did not falter under the barrage of such daunting fire. Her features twisted into a determined expression as she roared out a wordless cry and soared high into the air in a mighty leap across to the first floor balcony. Jupiter reached out as far as she could and then grabbed on to the top of the balcony's grey tiled wall with both hands, just barely managing to keep her grip as her body swung against the hard stone barrier. The archers on the balcony closest to the now climbing Sailor dropped their short bows and drew a variety of daggers, most likely to slice the fingers from the brunette's hands and send her falling back down to the floor. But before the dark assassins could do such a brutal thing, Jupiter had already hoisted herself up and over into the balcony and started to tear into the assembled creatures, leading with her fists, the close proximity and number of the enemy not allowing any chance for her to invoke her powers.

One clever youma hopped onto the balcony's ledge and ran along it, before pouncing at Sailor Jupiter's exposed back, its dagger's tip aimed downwards. But at the moment the creature would have sunk its weapon deep into the tall girl, a bright beam of yellow energy shot from the ground floor at the black clad assassin, taking it full in the ribs and scorching a large hole clean through the side of its body. The youma was catapulted backwards in a horizontal spin by the powerful blast into its allies, making more than a few lose their footing and trip over, allowing Jupiter to take punishing advantage of their vulnerable conditions. Sailor Mars' eyes snapped back to the lobby's desk and saw that Sailor Venus and Sailor Mercury were crowded behind one side, getting some shelter from the countless projectiles launched their way, while keeping relative safe distance from Sailor Saturn's fight with the three youma. Venus repeatedly fired Crescent Beams at the amassed assassins from behind her cover, providing some long-range support for Jupiter and slowly but surely thinning down the numbers of archers, despite their uncanny dodging. The Senshi of Love looked to have seen better days however, and sported numerous wounds that bled profusely… worryingly so. The most severe looked to be caused by one arrow that was stuck in the blonde's left shoulder and was haloed with dark red that marred her white Sailor fuku. The pain of her injures showed on Venus' face as she manifested her Sailor powers from a crouching position, the girl gritting her teeth as the constant stretching of the muscles in her arm disturbed the arrow jutting obscenely from her shoulder.

Meanwhile, Sailor Mercury was anxiously observing Sailor Saturn's fight with the youma assassin triumvirate, searching for an opening so that she could help the taxed Senshi of Death. The blue-haired Inner Senshi appeared to have escaped from the most harm in comparison to the three other Sailors with only a few scratches, probably caused by being winged by arrows, gracing her body.

"So much for a one-on-one fight," Sailor Mars muttered under her breath. It looked like her hunt for Lazarus would be a difficult one if she had to wade through this many of his followers. The Fire Senshi dropped back down beside Sailor Moon and the others. "It looks bad," she reported, a blatant understatement.

"We can't just sit here and do nothing!" Sailor Moon exclaimed, looking ready to charge out from safety to help her friends no matter what the consequences. While Mars admired her courage, there was no way she would allow such a foolhardy and ultimately suicidal action.

"We can help them from here, keeping behind relative cover," Sailor Neptune advised.

Tuxedo Kamen nodded and then flicked his wrist, producing three roses between the fingers of one clenched fist. "The youma aren't the only ones with long ranged attacks."

Without warning, the prince's tall hat was suddenly shot off his head and pinned to the couch cushions behind him, the feathered end of an arrow protruding from the hat revealing the culprit. Sailor Mars turned in the direction the nearly lethal projectile originated from, and saw that the enemy had finally moved their position further along the left hand side balcony, and also along the ground floor as well. The Fire Senshi's and her three friends' temporary 'fortress' had just been breached.

"Look out!!" Mars screamed as her position was abruptly saturated with incoming arrows and bolts.

A crossbow bolt flashed by Sailor Mars' face, tearing open her cheek and making the girl let out a tortured cry of shock mixed with pain. She reflexively grabbed her now gushing face with one hand, glaring hate at the countless swarms of black shapes milling about the shadows in front of her. Resisting the senseless impulse to charge, Sailor Mars strafed to her left in a shielding position in front of Sailor Moon, and was only mildly surprised when she bumped into a rose-throwing Tuxedo Kamen.

"This is how it's done!" Sailor Mars sneered at the youma attackers, taking her hand away from her scarred and bleeding visage. "MARS FLAME SNIPER!"

The Fire Senshi drew her burning bow in a crouch, and then let loose a blazing arrow at the enemy on the balcony. The flames of the scorching projectile licked at the other in-flight wooden arrows, causing several to abruptly burst alight, some even crumbling away to nothing due to the sheer intensity of the heat radiating off Mars' blistering attack. The group of youma on the balcony ducked hastily behind the safety of the tiled wall, making the arrow smash into the ceiling instead. However, the resulting explosion of the fiery projectile rained searing flames down among the assassins along with numerous chunks of masonry, setting some unlucky creatures' clothes ablaze while others were clubbed by falling debris.


From behind an armchair she had hastily scrambled behind, Sailor Neptune blasted a cluster of tightly packed crossbow-wielding youma with a watery sphere, the large ball sucking the life out of many assassins before they had a chance to fade back into the shadows.

"Neptune, NO!" Tuxedo Kamen cried as he turned to the Senshi of the Ocean.

Mars spared a glance towards Neptune, and realised just exactly whereabouts the woman was hiding behind. Before she could yell out her own warning, Tuxedo Kamen had already leapt to his feet and tore off his cape, throwing it out in the air to his right as he threw a fistful of distracting roses at the youma to his left near Saturn and the others, creating an improvised smokescreen and providing cover fire respectively. The prince desperately dived at a bewildered Neptune at the exact moment the assassins on the ground floor at the right hand side of the lobby turned their attention to the now exposed Outer Senshi. Tuxedo Kamen pushed Sailor Neptune down flat to the floor as a shower of crossbow bolts flew over the pair's heads and pounded into the armchair, narrowly missing both by only so much as a hair's breadth.

"Mamoru!" Sailor Moon wailed, reaching out for her boyfriend with one hand as the man's back came close to being perforated… and also leaving the protection of the human shield named Sailor Mars.

Sailor Moon cried out in pain and retracted her arm close to her body reflexively as an arrow slashed across her forearm, ripping a line in her long glove. Sailor Mars heard her princess's cry and instantly turned her attention towards the girl, ceasing a second fire arrow attack in mid breath. Seeing that Sailor Moon had moved away from behind her body, without hesitation Sailor Mars swiftly twisted around and positioned herself in front of her true love, facing her, as the hail of arrows and bolts began to pick up once more, the lack of distracting attacks from Tuxedo Kamen and the senshi allowing the youma archers to regroup and recover. Sailor Mars gritted her teeth as she felt an arrow pierce her upper back on the right side, the miko schooling her face into a picture of impassiveness, bar the slight frown of concentration that marred her brow as she withheld the urge to scream in agony.

"We… can't stay here," Mars said rather haltingly as her back burned excruciatingly.

Sailor Moon looked at her guardian situated protectively in front of her with some concern while she cradled her hurt arm, as if she could tell that the Senshi of Fire was in pain. Perhaps it was due to half of Sailor Mars' face being covered in blood. "But what about Mamoru and the others?!" the blonde exclaimed, looking back at Tuxedo Kamen and Neptune as the two scrambled for any sort of cover as the volley of arrows continued.

"Go, Sailor Moon! Go!!" Tuxedo Kamen commanded, waving his hand for added emphasis while he and Sailor Neptune desperately dodged the many incoming lethal bolts and arrows.

Sailor Mars looked towards the pair of elevators and saw that the floor indicators above them showed that both were currently on the ground floor. Judging by the floor indicators actually working, she assumed that the elevators had power also.

"Come on!" Mars said, quickly standing up with some difficultly and pulling her princess to her feet as she did so. She pushed Sailor Moon towards the elevators, urging the blonde to run ahead as she followed.

Sailor Moon glanced back to the struggling Tuxedo Kamen for a brief instant, and then sped towards the elevators as fast as her legs could carry her. Sailor Mars swiftly followed the blonde despite the sharp stabs of pain in her back at her movement, weaving a staggered path around the countless arrows that stuck out of the tiled floor as she launched fireballs from her fingertips, drawing the youma assassins' fire towards her instead of Sailor Moon, allowing her princess to proceed relatively unhindered. Sailor Mars hunched over in an attempt to make herself a smaller target as she ran after Sailor Moon as best she could, while arrows whizzed by her head. She looked to her right, in time to see a youma fly over the right balcony and land head first with a sickening crunch on the hard floor. It seemed Sailor Jupiter was still fighting her way through the youma up there.

"Hurry up, Mars!"

Sailor Mars saw that Sailor Moon had reached the security of an elevator, and was earnestly waving the Fire Senshi in. Mercifully, it did indeed look like the elevator had power, if the light illuminating its interior from above was any indication. Mars called upon her reserves of energy and increased her pace in a burst of speed, racing towards her fretful love. All of a sudden, Sailor Moon's eyes widened and she hurriedly reached up and pulled her tiara off her head. Instinctively knowing what had just materialised in the darkness behind her, Sailor Mars dived forward and slid along the smooth tiled floor on her stomach the rest of the way into the elevator, uprooting a few arrows from the ruined surface as she did so.


Sailor Moon's glowing tiara flashed above the Senshi of Fire and sliced into one crossbow-wielding youma, spilling black blood to the already messy floor, before it honed in on a second crossbow youma assassin. Mars looked over her shoulder in time to see the second creature roll out of the way of the spinning tiara, and then fire a bolt in the direction of the elevator.


Sailor Mars rolled onto her side and a fireball leapt from her fingertips, the globe careering directly at the spry assassin as the bolt from its crossbow clanged harmlessly against the metal button panel on the wall next to the elevator. The youma darted to the side, avoiding the fireball, but at the same time Sailor Moon's tiara began its return path to its owner. The fashion accessory and potent weapon tore through the youma from behind, erupting from the black-clad creature's midsection in a horrific spectacle of gore, before returning to Sailor Moon's waiting hand. The squeamish princess looked away in revulsion as the youma's bisected corpse collapsed in a wet mess on the floor.

"Hit the top floor button!" Sailor Mars yelled as she clambered to her feet inside the elevator.

"But the others--!"

"There's no choice! If we stay here we're going to die!" Mars argued vehemently, talking over her princess.

Seeing Sailor Moon still hesitate, the Fire Senshi moved towards the elevator's control panel and slammed her fist against the button for the twentieth floor. It was just like Mars' kind hearted princess to wait for her friends no matter how insanely suicidal it was; it was one of the things that the miko loved about the blonde. But it was not Sailor Moon's place to risk her life like that. However, Tuxedo Kamen was out in that lobby-turned-war zone too, so perhaps that was the root of Sailor Moon's reluctance to escape.

As the doors to the elevator closed, Sailor Mars caught one last glimpse of the prince fleeing from a hail of arrows with Sailor Neptune by his side, the man's tattered cape that he must have retrieved billowing out behind him. For Sailor Moon's sake Sailor Mars prayed that Tuxedo Kamen would make it to safety in one piece. She knew that the loss of the prince was something that her princess would never recover from. Mars did have some experience in losing someone she had loved more than anything and anyone in existence, no matter how brief it had been. If it was in her power, Sailor Mars would make sure Sailor Moon would never have to experience such a terrible thing, even if the Fire Senshi had to extend her protection to Tuxedo Kamen.

"We should be safe for now," Sailor Mars sighed with relief as the elevator travelled upwards.

Sailor Moon nodded uncertainly and then replaced her magically clean tiara on her head, before leaning back against the elevator wall. Sailor Mars swallowed hard and placed a steadying hand on a wall and bowed her head as she tried to control the feeling of searing pain radiating from her back.

"Rei, you're hurt!" Sailor Moon exclaimed, finally noticing the wooden shaft protruding from the miko's back. "Why didn't you say something?!"

"There was… no point in worrying you at the time," Mars breathed heavily through the haze of torment.

There was a jolt as Sailor Moon pressed the button to halt the elevator's ascent, causing Sailor Mars to bite her lip to stifle a cry of pain as the arrow in her wobbled at the sudden stop.

"We don't have time for this…" Mars disputed weakly. "The youma…"

"You're in no condition to fight any youma," Sailor Moon interjected in a firm tone. "Now sit down," she ordered, pointing to the floor.

Sailor Mars reluctantly complied and sat down with a pain-wracked sigh. When her love spoke in that tone there was no use arguing with her. Of course, usually that didn't stop Mars from doing so anyway.

"It doesn't look too deep…" Sailor Moon mumbled absently. She touched the arrow's shaft delicately, but still managed to disturb Sailor Mars' wound, eliciting a sharp intake of breath from the injured senshi. "Sorry," the blonde quickly apologised.

"If it isn't deep, then you should pull it out," Sailor Mars said, speaking as if it were the most natural thing in the world. After a hearing a lack of response from Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars looked over her shoulder to see a pale-looking blonde girl staring apprehensively back at her.

"A-Are you sure?" Sailor Moon stammered uncertainly. "It'll… hurt…"

"I guess," Mars said casually, though inside she was mentally preparing herself for the eventual agony. The arrow head was barbed she knew, but she didn't have to tell her love that. "Come on, Usagi, we don't have time," she went on, seeing her princess's indecision.

Sailor Moon swallowed hard and then nodded stiffly. "Okay…"

Sailor Moon gingerly clutched the arrow shaft with both hands, and then looked to Sailor Mars for some kind of signal. "Make sure you pull as hard as you can," the Fire Senshi said, looking away from Sailor Moon and down to the floor. "And don't stop until it's out." She paused for a few seconds, and then her body became tense. "Do it now," she requested.

Sailor Mars began to sweat profusely and clenched her teeth in sheer torturous suffering as Sailor Moon yanked hard on the arrow imbedded in her back, the girl pulling at it with all her might. It burned like fury, and Mars couldn't help the strangled scream that escaped from her throat. Sailor Moon continued to follow her bodyguard's earlier instructions despite the raven-haired girl's cries however, and kept tugging on the arrow until the barbed head forcibly shredded through the Fire Senshi's flesh before finally coming loose.

Sailor Mars let out a shuddering sigh of pure relief as she felt the arrow leave her body. Sailor Moon sobbed and pressed one hand firmly against the now spurting wound as she wrapped her other arm around her bodyguard, hugging her tightly.

"Rei… Rei…" the blonde sniffled. "You're always getting hurt; why can't you be more careful?"

Sailor Mars said nothing, the raven-haired girl merely letting her mind swim in the afterglow of intense pain. There was no answer she could give that wouldn't just make her caring princess more upset.

"Please, Rei… I don't like having your blood on my hands," Sailor Moon went on, pressing her cheek close to Sailor Mars' unbloodied one. The Fire Senshi wondered if her princess's words were intentionally meant to have a double meaning.

The two girls remained that way for a time, both silent while Sailor Moon kept pressure on Sailor Mars' arrow wound, waiting until the bleeding stopped. Mars could hear muted sounds from above and below the elevator, no doubt the noises of battle between her and her love's comrades and the youma enemy. She wondered who was faring better.

"Do you think everyone else is okay?" Sailor Moon whispered into Sailor Mars' ear.

"They can handle themselves," Sailor Mars said with confidence she didn't truly feel. She knew that anyone who had stayed in the building's lobby was certain to eventually succumb to the relentless bombardment from the youma assassins. She hoped her friends had made it out of there all right.


Sailor Mercury let out a wheezing breath as she plodded up the eighth flight of stairs so far behind Sailor Jupiter with feet that felt like they were filled with heavy lead. It seemed liked she had been climbing up stairs for absolutely ages, caught in a never ending loop of hard white steps and identical bare white-washed walls. The repetitiveness of simply hiking up bland stairs was starting to take its toll on the blue-haired genius' mind, let alone her body. Her thoughts were beginning to wander aimlessly, and during a combat situation that she and her friends were currently still in, that could be extremely perilous.

Mercury paused for a moment to wipe the perspiration that covered her forehead and then took another heaving breath, before continuing her painstaking journey. She and Jupiter had deemed it was most likely that the other Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen would try to reach the highest floor of the office building, so the two girls had decided to do likewise. Mercury believed that taking an elevator to the top floor would be far too precarious; all the youma enemy would have to do is either cut the power, leaving the senshi to the assassins' mercy, or worse cut the cable holding the elevator and send the girls plummeting to an untimely end. Therefore, Sailor Mercury had suggested that she and Sailor Jupiter should take the stairs instead. Nineteen floors up didn't sound like such a taxing ordeal at the time while hordes of youma were gnashing at her heels. How wrong Mercury had been. She wondered if she would pass out due to the strenuous slog, or perhaps even go into cardiac arrest. The fact that the Senshi of Water wasn't ruling such possibilities out was a testament to the hardship she was suffering.

Sailor Mercury hoped the others were well. The state of affairs in the lobby had been treacherous to say the least, and a hasty exit had been obviously called for. So when she had heard and saw Jupiter's frantic plea for her to take her hand from a first floor balcony, Mercury had readily complied. She hadn't liked abandoning her friends, but Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars had already evacuated the area, and Sailor Neptune and Tuxedo Kamen had been tactically withdrawing also, so the blue-haired genius had decided to do the same with her girlfriend. Sailor Mercury worried about Sailor Venus and Sailor Saturn however. The last she had seen of the pair was during the time when she was being hauled out of danger up to the balcony by Sailor Jupiter's strong arms. Sailor Saturn had struck down her last remaining youma opponent, the other two both having had been turned into ice sculptures by Sailor Mercury, and had then been preparing to vault over the lobby's main desk using her Glaive into a charging pack of assassins. Meanwhile Venus had been furiously shooting Crescent Beam after Crescent Beam into a mob of youma archers as she slowly retreated towards a staircase, all the while screaming at Saturn to abandon the battle and fall back with her. By that time Sailor Mercury had already been pulled to safety, and had been turning around to flee with Sailor Jupiter as black mists began to form in the shadows around the balcony. She prayed Sailor Saturn and Sailor Venus had managed to beat back the enemy and escape also.

Sailor Mercury once again wiped the sweat from her brow and breathed arduously as she looked up at Sailor Jupiter marching up the stairs ahead of her, the brunette's ponytail bobbing with each sure step. She speculated how her girlfriend could endure it. Jupiter was quite tall, Mercury mused, a fair amount taller than her, and thus had longer legs, allowing for a bigger stride. Mercury analytically watched the firm muscles in Jupiter's long legs flex as she proceeded up the stairs, and found her eyes gradually roam higher unconsciously. The blue-haired girl blinked a few times and then swallowed, more sweat starting to form on her brow that was not due from the laborious ascent. From this angle, Mercury noted she could see straight up her girlfriend's short skirt.

"This is taking forever," Sailor Jupiter sighed in frustration and stopped walking, making her girlfriend automatically do likewise. She looked over her shoulder at Sailor Mercury, and then raised a quizzical eyebrow at the girl's flushed cheeks. "Are you okay? You look hot."

Sailor Mercury's eyes widened at the brunette's choice of words and then she quickly averted her gaze, her face reddening an even deeper shade. "I-I'm fine," she stammered, mentally chastising herself for her lack of discipline. They were in stairwell with youma assassins searching fervently for them, all hell bent on killing them too she might add, while their friends were missing and all Mercury could think about was… was… Mercury shook her head to clear it. This was simply unacceptable.

"Are you sure?" Sailor Jupiter persisted, turning around to face Sailor Mercury fully and placing a hand on her hip. "We can take a short break, if you need it."

Sailor Mercury nodded rigidly. "No, it's okay," she said, doing her best to not speak to the brunette's very ample chest. She shut her eyes and took a second to control her inappropriate thoughts. Luna had always argued against Mercury and Jupiter being together on the grounds of their judgement being clouded during a battle, and the Senshi of Water certainly did not want to ever prove the feline right. The two Sailors had an important task at hand, and Mercury could not let herself become distracted.

"Alright," Jupiter said, and then turned around and resumed climbing the stairs. After a moment, the brunette stopped again. "Don't worry, I'll take care of you after this is all over…" she said in a voice as smooth as velvet, winking impishly over her shoulder at Mercury.

Sailor Mercury felt her face blush hotly once more and she looked down to the steps in front of her. She should have known she couldn't hide anything from her lover. Mercury certainly was glad they were alone, or she probably would have fainted from mortification under the relentless teasing from her friends.

Sailor Jupiter let out a light laugh, but it cut off sharply. The tall senshi paused in mid step and cocked her head to one side, appearing to listen for something. "I thought I…" Jupiter mumbled uncertainly.

Sailor Mercury's head snapped sharply to the upper right as several shiny objects suddenly spun through the air directly at Sailor Jupiter. Before she could shout a warning however, Jupiter had already dived forward and was curling into a roll on the landing at the top of the stairs, ending up in a crouch as the objects imbedded themselves in the steps the brunette had previously been standing on. Mercury blinked at the star shaped objects stuck in the linoleum surface of the stairs, recognising shurikens when she saw them.

But before Sailor Mercury had a chance to ponder more on her observation, a black-clad assassin swung down from the landing on the floor above, kicking out at Sailor Jupiter's face with two black, tightly wrapped feet. Sailor Jupiter was faster however, and willingly fell backwards, landing on her back and evading the attack.


Sailor Jupiter quickly blasted the youma with a near point blank electrical attack, hitting the creature dead centre, causing it to jerk and spasm painfully as the current made all its muscles contract involuntarily. Sailor Mercury pulled her attention away from her lover as she heard soft padding footsteps behind her. She swiftly swivelled around to see that two youma armed in each hand with a rattan stick of some sort, just a little longer than a metre in length, were stealthily approaching her from the landing at the bottom of the stairs she was standing on. The pair of assassins twirled their weaponry around in their grasps gracefully, and Mercury realised that the short poles where actually escrima sticks, strong and formidable weapons in trained hands. The blue-haired genius also realised that she would be no match for the creatures if she allowed them to engage her in close combat. While she had learned some basic karate moves from Jupiter, she was certain she would be a total pushover for the clearly skilful youma duo.


A geyser was sent bursting forth from Mercury's hands, directly at the two assassins. As the pillar of water roared towards the pair, one youma darted to the left, out of the attack's path, while the other pressed itself flush against the wall on the right. The second youma was not quite fast enough however, and one of its escrima sticks was torn from its grip and frozen solid instantly, before shattered against the wall due to the force of Mercury's blast, the hard and cured rattan made brittle by its icy casing.

The first black-clad youma quickly regathered its wits and jumped onto the stairway's handrail, and then nimbly ran up it. The creature then leapt off the rail as it raised both its escrima sticks above its head, preparing to cave in Sailor Mercury's skull. Mercury desperately ducked and scampered further down the stairs, just barely avoiding the youma's overhead swing as the rattan sticks cracked loudly on the steps behind her.

By that time the second youma assassin had recovered, but before it could bring its remaining escrima stick to bear, Mercury took the initiative and lashed out with one foot, smashing it into the enemy's face and making it stagger backwards. The blue-haired girl winced in pain as her foot felt like it had kicked a brick wall. But she didn't have time to recuperate however, as the other youma took advantage of the senshi's vulnerable back and whacked both rattan sticks sharply across it. Sailor Mercury cried out in agony at the impact of the dual heavy blows and then stumbled forwards, tripping over the steps of the stairway before tumbling down them, ending up crashing painfully in a bruised and battered heap at the bottom landing.

Sailor Mercury groaned and began opening her eyes lethargically, but as she saw the rapidly incoming black covered foot speeding directly at her face, the girl's eyes snapped fully open, utterly awake. She hurriedly rolled to the side, somehow evading the kick, and then scrambled to her feet. The Sailor Senshi hopped backwards and swiftly called upon her water-based powers.


The youma that had been hit by the same attack before this time had no chance to dodge it. That didn't stop the assassin from attempting however, and in an amazing feat of agility, the youma bounded high into the air, trying to simply jump over the blue geyser. Mercury's adversary didn't gain enough height however, and the watery attack rammed into its legs, freezing its entire lower body solid. The youma crashed down to the floor, splintering its legs-turned-ice into a hundred wet angular shards. The darkly dressed assassin verbally expressed its torment in a piercing, inhuman, screech, until its companion viciously smashed an escrima stick against its throat, crushing its larynx and ceasing its scream abruptly, granting it a slow death by suffocation.

The unmerciful youma ignored its mewing comrade and turned sharply to Sailor Mercury, its rather reptilian-looking eyes showing from beneath its hood glaring coldly at the girl. Mercury quickly repositioned her hands to attack again, but the youma stuck out brutally with both its rattan sticks, forcibly banging the senshi's arms down and no doubt leaving a big bruise on each of her forearms. Sailor Mercury whimpered in pain and staggered back against a wall, rubbing her throbbing arms with her hands. The girl desperately manoeuvred her head out of the way as the youma thrust at her skull with the end of one stick, wishing to mash her brains to pulp. The creature followed up with its other escrima stick, pounding the hard rattan cruelly against the Sailor's ribs. Mercury clutched her burning ribs and fell to the floor on her side, finding it difficult to breath, the torture of the hit as great as it was. She wasn't certain, but she thought that perhaps some of her ribs had been cracked or broken. She prayed that was not the case.

Sailor Mercury looked up at her assailant with blurry tearful eyes, her body wracked with pain. She knew she had to move, but she just couldn't bring her pummelled form to obey her frantic commands. The youma lifted one stick above its head, ready to deliver the killing blow to the senshi's head.

Suddenly a white-gloved hand grabbed the assassin's wrist in an iron grip, causing the creature to look over its shoulder at the figure responsible. "Hey! That's my girl!" Sailor Jupiter snarled through clenched teeth, glaring fiercely into the youma's reptilian eyes.

Jupiter pulled on Mercury's attacker's arm with all her strength while she grabbed the assassin's shoulder with her free hand, wrenching the creature's limb completely out of its socket with a stomach-turning crick sound. The youma hissed in agony and attempted to club Jupiter with an escrima stick, desperate to beat the enraged girl off of him. The tall brunette let go of her enemy's shoulder and brought her arm up, blocking the attack, the hard rattan impacting loudly on the girl's harder bone and muscles.

Sailor Jupiter grabbed the youma with both hands and then hefted it across the landing, throwing it viciously against the wall and making it howl in torment as its dislocated arm flopped about obscenely.


Jupiter threw a bright ball of pure energy at the youma, blasting its torso to ragged pieces as her attack detonated, sending its arms and head careering off in spirals of black blood and crackling electrical discharge, before they landed in sodden ebony heaps on the landing and stairs.

Sailor Jupiter knelt down to Sailor Mercury and touched her shoulder gingerly. "Are you okay? Can you stand?" she asked tenderly.

Seeing the uncertainty in her lover's blue eyes, Jupiter gently slipped her arm around Mercury and carefully helped the battered girl to her feet. Sailor Mercury smiled tremulously at her strong yet compassionate love, silently thanking her for her support.

"The other youma…?" Mercury inquired, moving her gaze to the landing at the top of the stairs as she leaned against the brunette.

"There were two," Jupiter revealed, letting the blue-haired genius rest her weight against her body. "Neither will be getting up again."

"So… my disciples are dead," an unfeeling voice interrupted from the top of the stairway to the right of Mercury and Jupiter. "Clearly they were not worthy."

Both Sailor Mercury and Sailor Jupiter tensed as a youma dressed similar to the others slowly walked down the stairs, taking precise, deliberate steps. It appeared male, but his black garb bulged in unusual places with pointed protrusions, as if there were strange bone structures hidden beneath his clothes. The youma wore no hooded cloak, or a cloak at all for that matter, and only a tight black scarf covered the lower part of his face, thus revealing a pale white baldhead adorned with a red headband and two small pointed horns that sprouted from his cranium. But the main distinguishing feature of the youma was his eyes. They were round, and they glowed an unnatural deep azure, so much so that the actual true colour of his eyes were hidden. Though perhaps dark blue were their true colour. The assassin's eyes burned with blue fire, and he moved fluidly and purposefully, the combination symbolic of a being who knew himself perfectly, and had channelled that knowledge to give him supernatural strength of body and soul.

The bald horned youma stopped on the fourth step from the bottom and reached behind his back, moving in a blur, and drew two short wide-bladed swords with slightly curved tips and ornate hand guards. Butterfly swords, Mercury knew, remembering seeing pictures of them in one of the many, many, books she had read.

"Perhaps you shall find *me* a more challenging foe…" he said, pointing at the two girls with one sword.

"You better sit this one out, Ami," Sailor Jupiter advised, gently but insistently pushing Sailor Mercury behind her as far away from the youma as possible, while keeping her gaze vigilantly affixed on the new enemy. "Leave him to me."

Sailor Mercury stepped back and scuttled down another set of stairs out of the way, wanting to give Sailor Jupiter as much room to move as possible. While the Senshi of Water wanted to assist her girlfriend greatly, she knew that it would be difficult for her to be able to get a clear shot at the youma while the tall girl was battling it. For now, Mercury had to be content to merely watch… no matter how nerve-wracking it would be.

Without warning the bald assassin dived off the last four steps straight at Sailor Jupiter, his twin butterfly swords leading the way. Jupiter darted to the side just as the creature passed, and then prepared to deliver a chop to his back as a counter. However the youma moved like lightning, and using only his knees, leapt into the air from a kneeling position on the ground into a backwards somersault, preforming a physics-defying manoeuvre. The aerial move surprised Jupiter, causing her counterattack to over swing and for her to stumble forwards slightly, breaking her stance. The youma took advantage of the lull in his opponent's concentration, and lunged at Jupiter's stomach with his right sword as soon as his feet touched the floor. Sailor Jupiter barely managed to angle her body away from the disembowelling attack, letting the blade flash by her body. She quickly lashed out with her left fist at the exact same time the youma stabbed at her with his left butterfly sword, bending his head to one side as he did so, easily evading the tall girl's strike. Jupiter desperately grabbed the assassin's wrist, forestalling the impending impalement of her midsection, and then twisted her body around until her back was to the creature, still holding on to its wrist and adding her other hand to her grip, before pulling her opponent over her shoulder, initiating a throw.

Just as the youma's back was about to slam with bone-crunching force against the hard floor, he bent his knees and let his feet take the impact instead, somehow absorbing the power of Jupiter's shoulder throw with his legs. The bald youma's free blade flashed in front of Sailor Jupiter's face, forcing the girl to release him. Jupiter jumped backwards near a wall of the stairway landing, giving herself more room.

"Try this!" she yelled out. "JUPITER OAK EVOLUTION!"

A barrage of razor-sharp leaves were fired at the now upright youma, taking the creature aback. He dodged as best he could, using his swords to deflect the numerous attacks in a display of sparks, but it was simply impossible to avoid all of the cutting projectiles, and soon the youma's clothing was ripped in a myriad of places, black blood oozing through the tears. The slightly slumped assassin took a few laboured breaths, his chest heaving visibly, and then straightened fully. He was still standing. Mercury swallowed worriedly and then returned to avidly observing the fight, searching for any sort of opening that she could use to somehow help her lover.

The youma glowered grimly at an equally serious Jupiter, and then sprung forward, slicing at the brunette's features with both of his wide-bladed swords in a dual horizontal slash. Sailor Jupiter threw her head back hurriedly as the sharp weapons sped by her face, and then gasped in pain and hunched over, the youma following up his first attack with a knee hammering into her stomach. The assassin then fluidly brought his fist up in a left hook to smash against Jupiter's jaw, the steel hand guard on his butterfly sword bashing the senshi's head roughly to one side. Sailor Jupiter pushed out with both hands at her assailant in a reckless move, desperate to give herself some space and relieve the pressure she was currently under. The youma was knocked back only marginally, but it was enough for a capable Sailor Jupiter to take advantage of. The tall Inner Senshi darted around the youma, just as the creature himself began to turn around, hacking at the fleeing girl and slitting open a large cut on her arm with one sword. Sailor Jupiter quickly kicked out blindly behind her, her rash yet powerful attack catching the youma by surprise and making him stumble backwards due to the sheer force of the blow. The senshi spun on her heel and delivered a punishing roundhouse kick to her enemy's head, but not before the spry assassin had stooped low and ripped upwards with both butterfly swords in vicious, crippling manoeuvre. Sailor Jupiter screamed as the two blades tore into the flesh of her leg, gouging deep furrows that poured red blood to the floor, mixing with the black internal fluids of the felled youma corpses about her. Jupiter staggered back, visibly limping, as her adversary, his expression still retaining its dour appearance despite his decisive strike, flitted forwards, preparing to finish off his foe. The youma's eyes seemed to burn a deeper blue as he pulled back one arm to stab at the vulnerable Sailor Jupiter, ready to skewer the brunette senshi with one butterfly sword and pin her run-through carcass to the wall behind her.


Suddenly out of nowhere a huge pillar of rushing water smashed into the bald horned assassin's exposed back, covering it and half the creature's face before it could dive to safety. Sailor Mercury had barely managed to stifle her cry when her lover had been brutally hit, wishing to remain as quiet as possible so that the youma would hopefully forget about her presence. And so that then she could make her *own* decisive strike.

The youma staggered rigidly about on partially ice-encased legs, his breathing awkward as he struggled to force air past his half frozen lips. The entire left side of the ill-fated assassin's head was a solid ice block, the thin chilly vapours rising in lazy wisps off the blue tinted mass indicating its very low temperature.

Sailor Jupiter mouth curled into a sinister smile. "She's got my back," she declared to the youma's face stuck in a stunned rictus. "Who has yours?"

And with that, Jupiter's right fist lashed out at the assassin's head, shattering half its skull into splintered ruins, the shining pieces of glass-like ice spraying out widely backwards to collide against the wall. The youma toppled stiffly over, the rest of his partially frozen corpse smashing to bits as it hit the floor. Sailor Mercury and Sailor Jupiter breathed a collective sigh of immense relief.

"I was so worried!" Mercury said, rushing to her girlfriend's side to give the brunette some support and a quick hug. "Your leg… are you able to walk?"

"Yeah, I think so," Jupiter answered as she glanced down at her fallen opponent. "His technical skill and efficiency was brilliant," she commented, letting out a weary sigh. "But there was one thing he didn't have…" The tall Sailor turned her head to Mercury and grinned at her. "A beautiful, smart, loving girl by his side."

"Let that be a lesson to all martial artists," Sailor Mercury remarked wryly to her love, but with an impish smile.

"How is your side?" Sailor Jupiter inquired with concern lacing her tone, making a small gesture towards the offending area with her head.

Mercury blinked as she realised she had forgotten all about her own sore body while her attention had been glued to Jupiter's fight. She brought a tentative hand to her ribs. They still ached, but not as much. It looked like she had escaped a fracture after all.

"It's fine," the blue-haired girl said. "I'm fine. But you should rest awhile and recover. Your leg needs to be tended."

Jupiter nodded in agreement, but with plain reluctance. "Okay. But not for too long, it's not safe to stay here, and the others might need our help."

"I doubt you will be much help in this state," Mercury said gently, helping the tall brunette lower herself into a sitting position against a wall. "Let Dr. Mizuno take care of you first, and then we'll see," she added in a somewhat playful voice, hoping to put Jupiter's heart at ease. She knew that no matter how badly her girlfriend had been hurt, she would still insist on going to help the other Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen. Jupiter's indomitable strength of will was something Mercury admired and loved about her girlfriend. She knew that she could probably never match Jupiter's strength, but she hoped that one day her own spirit could come close to the brunette's inner strength.

Sailor Mercury reached behind her and undid the bow decorating the rear of her fuku, and then pulled the long strip of light blue material completely off. She looked at the cloth in her hands critically. Yes, she decided, it would be adequate to stem the blood flow from Jupiter's slashed leg until better medical treatment could be provided. The blue-haired genius spared an analytical look at Jupiter's other numerous injuries, but deemed them light enough to not need care at the current time.

"I wonder where the others are…" Sailor Jupiter murmured absently, verbally expressing her thoughts while Sailor Mercury bandaged her leg tightly.

"I'm sure they're perfectly all right," Mercury assured her girlfriend as she finished tying off the improvised bandage. "In all likelihood they will all still be trying to reach the highest level of this building, if they haven't already done so," she went on. "We should continue to do the same." The thought of resuming the hard slog up just under a dozen flights of stairs was not appealing to Mercury, but what other choice did they have? She looked at Sailor Jupiter's wounded leg, worry starting to show in her blue eyes. "Perhaps we should risk taking an elevator…" she suggested carefully after a slight pause.

"Thank god," Sailor Jupiter said with great relief, letting out a deep breath. "If I had to climb any more steps I would have lost all feeling in my legs."

Sailor Mercury smiled at her lover, and then helped her stand, before the two struggled for the nearest exit to search for an easier way to travel to the twentieth floor.


to be continued…

Author's ramblings:

Longest chapter ever? Yes, I think so. Even more fighting up next, which means it make take awhile to come out again. Action fans rejoice, everyone else despair. ^_^ Don't worry, there will be more Rei time in the next chapter.

Makoto knows karate, right? I know she knows something, but is it karate? I hope it is. ^.^ I hope there weren't too many errors in this chapter either. It took so long to check. I hate checking long chapters! >_