Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Absence ❯ My Will, Act II ( Chapter 54 )

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


Chapter fifty-four. A very late chapter indeed. But I have an excuse. My girlfriend's relatives from the eastern states have come to visit for the week or so and some have opted to stay with us instead of with her parents. Which means, besides from the loss of privacy and our normally peaceful house becoming chaotic, we both are forced to help entertain them during their visit so I have even less time to write than usual. Expect the possibility of more long delays in the future. And for the record, being repeatedly jumped on at six in the morning is not my most favourite way of waking up. -_-


- Kirika


Chapter 54 - My Will, Act II

Sailor Neptune exhaled deeply in heartfelt relief as the sounds of fervently chasing youma behind her and Tuxedo Kamen began to fade into a muffled background noise, joining the muted clamour of the other echoes of skirmishes that could be heard through the walls. The pair had been running for what felt like hours, but finally after frantically darting randomly from room to room and corridor to corridor in the office building, it seemed like the dark assassins had lost their trail. Neptune rested her fatigued body against a nearby wall, bowing her head as she tried to catch her breath and let her frenzied heartbeat subside. Her left arm stung something fierce from the arrow still buried deeply into her flesh, but the blood had crusted over the wound somewhat at least, preventing any more loss of precious oxygenated fluids the Outer Senshi's drained body couldn't afford to lose. To say it had been difficult to run while sporting a broken arrow in her arm would have been an understatement. The sensation of the arrow's snapped shaft quivering in Neptune's upper arm as she sprinted was… unpleasant. The Senshi of the Ocean had done her best to keep her arm as straight and rigid as possible by her side to avoid the sharp, piercing, pain, but it was hard to concentrate on such a task when hosts of murderous youma forced you to dash wildly all over an expansive skyscraper. Sailor Neptune wasn't even aware of what floor she and Tuxedo Kamen were on now.

After taking several moments to compose herself, Sailor Neptune looked up to see Tuxedo Kamen bent over with his hands on his knees, still panting heavily. Outwardly, the man looked to have seen better days; his cape and the tuxedo that was his namesake had appeared to have been put in a shredder and then violently spat out again, but Sailor Neptune knew that beneath the dishevelled garb his body had only sustained minor injuries. Neptune glanced down at her own ruined outfit. Her fuku looked as if a swarm of moths had opted to have it as their main course in a feeding frenzy. The aquamarine-haired woman pursed her lips distastefully at the numerous holes that more often than not revealed blood stained skin. The fast pursuit did not stop some youma from frequently suspending their chase of Sailor Neptune and Tuxedo Kamen to take pot shots at the fleeing pair with their short bows, crossbows, or throwing knives. Neptune was very thankful that luck had been with her and Tuxedo Kamen during their flight; suffering a debilitating wound in their backs and/or legs would have definitely spelt their demise.

"Are you alright?" Tuxedo Kamen asked with concern, causing Sailor Neptune to cease her scrutiny of her cut up body and raise her head to meet the man's eyes.

"I have had better days," Neptune replied dryly, glancing back down at her scruffy fuku and then left at her injured arm. "And you?" she then inquired in return.

Tuxedo Kamen gave a wane half-smile and then stood upright, shrugging his shoulders indifferently as he did so. He took a moment to survey their new surroundings. "This place looks like a cafeteria," Tuxedo Kamen commented curiously.

Sailor Neptune looked at the numerous circular tables surrounded by silver metal chairs that filled the sizeable eating area as she wandered about with Tuxedo Kamen, her companion a few feet to the left of her. She shifted her exploring gaze to the long aluminium buffet on one side of the room and approached it, before wiping the cool metallic surface with one gloved fingertip.

"It appears the facilities here haven't been used for quite some time," Neptune remarked over her shoulder to Tuxedo Kamen as she noted the black smear of dirt standing out in stark relief on her white glove. "Either that or the cleaners are rather negligent."

"I guess human food is an acquired taste for youma," the prince said wryly from a short distance behind the Senshi of the Sea as he walked between the cream coloured tables, continuing to examine the surroundings.

"Me don't know, me like *human* food-food…" sneered an unknown, thin, shrill voice from the double door entrance to the cafeteria. "And me find some now…"

Both Sailor Neptune and Tuxedo Kamen whirled around sharply to the source of the voice at almost the same instant, each in a ready stance, primed to clash with the owner of the hostile voice at a split second's notice.

Three darkly dressed, vaguely humanoid, youma assassins stood in front of the entrance, but it was obvious to Neptune that the one in the middle was the leader. And also the most formidable of the trio. The middle youma looked like a giant, hairless, albino rat that strode upright on two feet. It's clothing, or rather rags, were also the most unkempt assassin apparel Neptune had ever seen on any of the enemy. The majority of the rat youma's outfit was made up of long, hanging, frayed strips of black fabric that left its hands and feet, or more accurately, paws, uncovered, along with its lashing tail. A wide-brimmed slightly coned shaped hat made out of weaved bamboo, in a style reminiscent of Japanese feudal times, graced the youma's lowered head, hiding its bestial features from view.

The rat youma touched the brim of its hat with a thumb, pushing it up as he raised its head. A hideously ugly rodent visage greeted Sailor Neptune as the assassin's face was revealed, and the senshi fought the urge to heave. The creature's face was lumpy, like it was riddled with tumours, and its malevolent cheesy grin contained more than one broken yellow tooth. Red eyes shone with baleful intelligence that first narrowed at the sight of Tuxedo Kamen, as the youma sized the man up, and then widened when they moved to Neptune, the assassin's evil smile grew even more, beyond what the woman thought possible.

A thick slimy tongue slithered out of the youma's maw and licked its cracked lips lewdly. "Pretty-pretty…" it twittered at Sailor Neptune, the disgusting creature's intense stare disturbing the Outer Senshi greatly, provoking her to cover her chest in a protective gesture with her good arm. A paw reached down to the rat youma's waist and touched the end of a long, slender, slightly curved piece of wood similar in shape to a bokken, stuck in its belt. "Human female… me like-like…" it declared in its squeaky voice, slavering its greasy saliva all over its mouth as it drunk in Neptune's attractive exterior. The youma's nose twitched, as if it smelt something in the air. "Blood-blood smell good… good scent-scent…"

Tuxedo Kamen began to warily step defensively in front of an appalled Sailor Neptune as the youma leered repulsively at the woman, the man gripping his black cane in an iron grip with both hands in front of him. "Back off," the prince growled menacingly at the giant rodent.

The rat assassin hissed at Tuxedo Kamen threateningly, its tail pounding against the floor more fiercely behind it in a rhythmic beat. "Female your mate-mate?" it asked inquisitively, its red eyes boring into the prince.

"No--" Sailor Neptune started to respond, finally finding her voice, but was promptly cut off by the youma.

"Heh heh," the creature sniggered, and then tensed, its waving tail halting completely in mid motion. "No matter, you mine-mine now! Take her! Kill man-creature!! KILL-KILL!!"

Without warning Neptune felt strong hands roughly grab her arms from behind, pinning them firmly to her sides. The startled senshi's head snapped to her left and then to her right, and realised with rapidly rising panic that another two youma assassins had materialised silently from the shadows behind her, and now had her totally at their mercy. Neptune struggled mightily nevertheless --as best she could with her wounded arm constantly sending sharp twinges of pain to her brain-- but the pair of youma had a secure grip on her, one the aquamarine-haired woman did not have the strength to break. She resorted to kicking brutally at the enemies' legs, but her close proximity did not allow her enough leverage to grant her attacks any substantial force, and the youma easily shrugged them off.

"Neptune!" Tuxedo Kamen shouted as he saw the woman's predicament, but before he could move to help her, the other two youma that had been by the rat assassin's side had already bolted forward, each smoothly drawing a steel ninja-to from their backs with a dual metallic ring that echoed ominously around the cafeteria.

Tuxedo Kamen swiftly pivoted on one foot and turned to face the pair of charging assassins, only just barely bringing up his cane in time as a silver blade slashed sideways at him, deflecting off his weapon in a shower of sparks. As Sailor Neptune watched, Tuxedo Kamen was quickly forced back under a relentless flurry of blows, the prince's arms moving in nearly a blur as he frantically blocked each potentially deadly strike in succession.

"Man-thing be dead-dead soon," Neptune heard the rat youma's portentous voice whisper in her ear, the assassin no doubt having used the shadows to reposition itself close behind her. Her eyes started to water as the creature's filthy breath wafted near her face, the stench akin to raw sewage.

"Ohhh--!" Sailor Neptune moaned in pure repugnance, shivering as the rat assassin's arms encircled her trim waist. She grimaced and felt her stomach churn as the creature's long oily tongue slobbered over her cheek, coating her skin with an abundant amount of dribbling drool.

"Mmm… tasty-tasty…" the rodent youma murmured in its strange way of talking, and then moved one paw up to the senshi's wounded arm while its comrades continued to hold its prey still. It violently grabbed the broken arrow shaft embedded in her arm and then twisted it viciously, eliciting a shocked and agonising scream from Neptune. "Screams a sweet melody…" the cruel assassin absently mumbled, and then twisted the arrow in the opposite direction mercilessly, forcing blood to flow in red rivulets down the Sailor's arm. A single tear of torment rolled down Sailor Neptune's face from her flooded blue eyes as she concentrated with all that she was not to give the sadistic youma the pleasure of hearing her cries of suffering, the woman only unable to prevent letting out a small whimper. Never before had Neptune so wished for Haruka to be fighting by her side. If her lover were here her giant rat torturer would surely already be a red smear on the wall. But Haruka wasn't here. With Tuxedo Kamen currently occupied battling two sword-wielding assassins, Sailor Neptune was on her own; she could rely on no one but herself. While she knew independence was normally a good thing, without Haruka by her side she felt… weaker, incomplete. Together the two women formed a whole and functioned in concert as a well-oiled machine, both reading the other's moves without conscious thought. But without Haruka, Sailor Neptune was crippled. The aquamarine-haired woman watched Tuxedo Kamen as he dived to his right and rolled quickly to his feet once more, smashing one youma's ninja-to away from his body as he rose. If only Tuxedo Kamen could break off his fight long enough to distract one of her captors for an instant, then maybe she could use the lull in the creature's focus to free herself. Neptune continued to watch the mêlée with feverish eyes as she started to sweat, the level of concentration needed to block out the excruciating sensations from the rat youma torturing her arm requiring every ounce of her mental strength.

Tuxedo Kamen ducked as one youma sliced at neck height, almost decapitating him cleanly. He quickly lunged forward with his cane and jabbed the assassin in the stomach, knocking the wind out of its lungs and making it hunch over in pain. Tuxedo Kamen planted one hand on the bent youma's back and then vaulted over the assassin, kicking out with both feet at the other rapidly approaching youma, crushing his heels directly into its face with devastating force. The black-clad assassin staggered backwards holding one hand to its nose as Tuxedo Kamen's feet hit the floor, and the prince immediately took advantage of the enemy's inattention. A lush red rose flashed forth from the man's gloved hand and struck the youma's eye, the power of the impact enough to drive the flower's razor-sharp stem into the assassin's brain, ending its life. As the creature dropped its ninja-to from its now limp grasp and toppled backwards, Tuxedo Kamen spun around and brought his cane ruthlessly downwards, most likely hoping to clout the hunched over and exposed youma on the back of the head. But instead all the cane met was air, and the prince suddenly howled in pain as a sword's tip stabbed shallowly into his shoulder before being hastily bashed away by his weapon.

Tuxedo Kamen jumped back and then paused for a moment as a rose appeared in his free hand. The youma before him tensed, bringing up its ninja-to in a defensive stance, ready to deflect the projectile. Tuxedo Kamen lifted his arm to throw the rose, his wounded shoulder only seeming to affect him to a minor degree, but then abruptly angled the shot to his right, taking everyone by surprise. The hold on Sailor Neptune's left arm suddenly loosened and then was gone, the assassin slumping to the floor with a rose buried deeply where its heart would have been. Knowing this was the chance she had been waiting for, Neptune dived to her left, managing to break free of the other youma's restraining grip, and also the rat assassin's malicious hold on the arrow in her arm. The woman landed heavily on her side on the hard floor, but she ignored the pain of the abrupt jolt; she had to act now.


Sailor Neptune yelled out her attack and launched a huge blue sphere of water at her recovered and now pouncing youma captor, the creature with its own ninja-to raised high over its head, ready to cleave the liberated senshi in twain. The ball of cold liquid slammed into the leaping assassin and smothered it, suspending the creature in mid air as its life force was drained completely from its body. The sphere deteriorated, and the youma's cadaver dropped lifelessly to the floor, the crumbling metal of its ninja-to blade flaking down like weighted dust motes with the corpse.

The remaining sword-wielding youma dropped its guard for only a fraction of a second due to the all the commotion involving Neptune, but it was enough for the alert Tuxedo Kamen to benefit from. Three roses were suddenly blooming bizarrely from the youma's chest, black blood splattering to the floor from the triple piercing strikes. The darkly dressed creature looked down at its bleeding body with something akin to astonishment in its eyes, and then collapsed to its knees, dropping its sword with a metallic clatter, before keeling over to one side, dead.

The now unaccompanied rat youma looked between the slowly decaying bodies of its allies and then glared hatefully at Tuxedo Kamen, its lips curling up menacingly as a low growl sounded from its throat. "Human scum-scum," the assassin spat venomously as it pulled the long polished piece of wood from its belt, holding it with one paw near the top. Sailor Neptune started to clamber laboriously to her feet when the humanoid rat's free arm flashed out at her to the side, a handful of shiny spinning objects sailing through the air in the woman's direction. Neptune frantically rolled to her right as the barrage of shurikens embedded themselves in the floor where she had once lain, one star-shaped projectile hitting close enough to fasten one end of the Outer Senshi's rear bow of her fuku to the hard surface. "You sit tight-tight," the rat youma demanded Sailor Neptune, but kept his red eyes fixed on his opponent named Tuxedo Kamen.

Suddenly, both Tuxedo Kamen and the scruffy assassin rushed forwards at one another, one bringing up a black cane, the other holding a thin piece of wood out wide to the right. A loud crack sounded as Tuxedo Kamen's cane smacked against the youma's stick, and the prince swiftly darted backwards, and then bolted forwards once more, raising his cane over his head with both hands, preparing to deliver a bludgeoning overhead strike to his opponent. However, the rat creature was faster, and lashed out brutally with one foot, kicking Tuxedo Kamen directly in the chest and sending the man sprawling over a cafeteria table.


Sailor Neptune invoked her primary attack from her prone position, casting a large ball of shimmering water in the youma's direction. The rodent assassin's nose twitched, and then it dropped to a low crouch --the dangling black strips of cloth that made up its garments snapping sharply with the abrupt movement-- before catapulting itself up high into the air, allowing Neptune's projectile to fly under him and splash harmlessly against a wall. The youma twisted its body three hundred and sixty degrees in the air, its clothes flailing wildly, and then aimed both its feet downwards, preparing to stomp on Tuxedo Kamen's vulnerable form still lying on the round table. At the last possible second, Tuxedo Kamen rolled off the table, just as the rat youma's bare feet slammed onto the centre of it, snapping the flimsy furniture in two. Tuxedo Kamen scrambled to his feet as his assailant ferociously knocked the ruined pieces of table aside, the creature's tail lashing angrily as it tramped through the debris.

Sailor Neptune struggled to a standing position with the help of a nearby chair, tearing her rear bow on her fuku and wobbling on her feet slightly as she stood, while Tuxedo Kamen dived to one side as a volley of shurikens were furiously hurled his way. It was obvious that Tuxedo Kamen needed her help, and Neptune was more than willing to oblige. Her arm continually beat in waves of pain, but she distanced her thoughts from the distracting and uncomfortable sensations. As Tuxedo Kamen fought frantically with the rodent assassin, Sailor Neptune staggered away from the chair, repositioning herself to try and get a clear shot at the enemy.

Tuxedo Kamen's cane banged against the youma's polished stick with a yet another hard crack as both fighters attacked at the same time, their weapons locking as they each pushed forward against their respective foe with all their might, attempting to overbalance the other. The strain showed on Tuxedo Kamen's face and his arms trembled with the effort as he only barely matched the youma's strength. Sweat was visible beading on the man's forehead while the assassin hissed threateningly at him, droplets of slimy spittle being sprayed on the prince's face, but he didn't even react in the slightest to the distraction.

After several moments of the testing its strength against Tuxedo Kamen, the rat youma's evil red eyes narrowed craftily, its wagging tail freezing, and Sailor Neptune saw the creature's left hand grip his wooden stick tighter, and then pull on one end. A glint of metal could be seen as the youma continued to pull on the apparently loose section of wood, and Neptune's blue eyes widened in horror as realisation dawned on her.

"A shirasaya sword!!" Sailor Neptune shrieked out in warning to Tuxedo Kamen, at the same moment the rodent assassin fully drew the katana from its sheath.

The youma abruptly broke off its push against Tuxedo Kamen's cane with the now empty scabbard of his weapon, before twirling around in a blur of motion, its katana held in a reverse grip. Tuxedo Kamen threw himself backwards desperately at Neptune's frantic warning, but it was too late. The youma's blade slashed across the prince's stomach as he jumped back, ripping a line in his clothes that was quickly filled with spilling blood.

"NO!!" Sailor Neptune screamed and rushed forwards as Tuxedo Kamen stumbled backwards, clutching at his sliced open stomach, no doubt trying to hold his insides in.

The rodent assassin sniggered evilly and then stabbed backwards at the recklessly sprinting Neptune, taking the distraught woman by surprise. The Senshi of the Ocean howled in absolute excruciating agony as the youma's katana punctured her left thigh and burst through the other side in an eruption of red, before the sharp tip of the weapon stabbed into the floor, impaling the woman's leg and trapping the limb securely. Sailor Neptune continued to scream as the youma let go of its katana and left the senshi, totally disregarding the crippled woman as the giant rodent bounded towards the mortally wounded Tuxedo Kamen, ready to finish off the man with the shirasaya sword's solid wooden sheath.

Tuxedo Kamen raised his head slowly as the youma charged straight for him, glowering coldly at the grotesque humanoid rat. Suddenly, Tuxedo Kamen thrust his cane directly at the rushing youma and without warning the weapon's length extended outwards several feet, catching the shocked creature violently under the chin and knocking it in the opposite direction. As the evil assassin staggered backwards towards her, Sailor Neptune gritted her teeth and clutched the katana skewering her leg with both hands. With a cry of pain mixed with defiance, she smoothly drew the sword from her torn flesh in one fluid motion, letting her blood pump free from the unplugged wound. Balancing on her good foot with the torture of her left leg drowning out the pain in her arm, Neptune lunged at the youma's defenceless back with its own weapon stained with her blood, the end of the blade exploding from the doomed rodent's chest in a black spray. The rat creature screeched and thrashed as ebony fluid gurgled forth from its maw, the liquid a stark contrast to its pale white skin, while it shredded its fingers as it tried to extract the razor sharp blade from its body. Neptune lost her blood-slick grip on the sword's wooden handle with the youma's erratic death throes and was knocked to the floor, landing on her behind.

"NOO!! Me no go dead-dead…!" the rat assassin whimpered pitifully through the disgorging fluid streaming out of its mouth, its flailing becoming weaker and weaker with each passing second.

Finally, the giant rodent breathed its last and fell slowly to the floor, still twitching periodically as a black blood pooled around its carcass, much to Neptune's great relief. She was panting heavily, and her eyes were drawn to her bloody leg, the dark red fluid liberally soaking her thigh as it spewed out the hole in the limb holding her mind in a macabre enthrallment.

"Oh, god, hang on," an anxious voice said from above the critically injured Outer Senshi, causing her to look languidly up. Tuxedo Kamen was standing before Neptune, his white shirt and left side of his jacket discoloured with his blood, but otherwise looking fine.

"Your stomach…" Sailor Neptune inquired lazily as her head felt like it was floating off her shoulders. "I thought…"

"It was close, but it didn't cut deep enough to disembowel me," Tuxedo Kamen informed the aquamarine-haired woman as the prince took of his tattered cape and starting to tear ragged strips from it. "But if it wasn't for you warning me, it might have been different…"

Sailor Neptune mumbled something incomprehensible and nodded her head, nearly falling forward. Her mind was swimming in a sea of haze and she had trouble focusing. Without warning, a sharp pang of pain shot up to her brain from her leg, clearing the cotton from her mind with searing torment, before a dull throbbing set in. Neptune looked at her perforated thigh and saw that Tuxedo Kamen was just finishing tying a makeshift bandage made from his ripped cape tightly over her wound, the pressure helping to lessen the loss of blood. And the pain helping to keep her mind on the here and now.

Tuxedo Kamen grunted in pain as he tied a strip of his cape around his slashed stomach securely, and then exhaled deeply, visibly relaxing his muscles. He scrutinised Neptune's heavily wounded leg with worried eyes behind his mask, his brow furrowing deeply. The Senshi of the Ocean swallowed hard and wiped some of the sweat from her forehead. Sailor Neptune knew what he was thinking.

"I can find my own way out," she said resolutely from the floor, staring off to the double door entrance of the cafeteria through the legs of tables and chairs. "Sailor Moon is still here… you should go to her. I will only slow you down."

When she realised no response was forthcoming from Tuxedo Kamen, Neptune raised her gaze to the prince. "No," Tuxedo Kamen finally stated levelly. "No. I'm not going to leave you like this," he went on, eyeing the Outer Senshi's grievous injury. "Usagi will be all right for the time being. She's with…" He paused briefly, hardly noticeable, but even with her wandering mind Sailor Neptune could still detect it. "…Rei. Usagi's with Rei. I know Rei won't let any harm befall her."

Sailor Neptune nodded in acquiesce, studying Tuxedo Kamen's features circumspectly. The man's expression was completely impassive however, not so much as a hint of emotion being exhibited when he said the 'renegade' Fire Senshi's name. Interesting. Sometimes no emotion meant the entirely opposite. But then the miko was still probably a touchy subject with the prince; the hurt of Usagi and Rei's secret relationship no doubt still fresh in his heart and mind.

Tuxedo Kamen shook his head slightly, as if clearing it. He crouched down beside the crippled Sailor Neptune and gently eased one arm around her waist, and the other under her legs, before hefting the woman up. A wince came to Tuxedo Kamen's face as his arms strained under the full, yet quite light, weight of Neptune, the man's torn stomach and weeping shoulder stab wound most likely the source of his discomfort. He spared another concerned glance at the Outer Senshi's leg, his eyes tightening somewhat as he noted that the improvised bandages had become saturated with dark red. Sailor Neptune's head rested against the prince's chest of its own accord, the effort needed to keep it upright simply too much for the aquamarine-haired woman. Her mouth was dry, and she felt chilled to the bone.

"Don't worry; I'll get you out of here," Tuxedo Kamen assured her quietly. "I'll get you help."

Breathing with quick, shallow, breaths, Neptune knew that she wasn't going to leave this building alive.


Wheezing, heavy, pants rapidly came from Sailor Venus' throat as she ran slightly behind Sailor Saturn down one of several wide hallways in the youma skyscraper, while the countless thuds of swift footfalls echoed from the corridors behind her, the usually noiseless steps of shadowy assassins made loud by the sheer number of them. No other sounds from the enemy could be heard; no wordless war cries of hate, no venomous declarations of verbal abuse; just the persistent noise of a relentless horde, all simply keen to go about their cold task of murdering the escaping Venus and Saturn. It was unnerving, no, make that frightening, to the wounded Senshi of Love.

The arrow in Sailor Venus' shoulder hurt horribly, but there was no time to even worry about it. Saturn was setting a very fast but steady pace ahead of her, and Venus was having great trouble keeping up. She felt as if she had been running a marathon prior to this, and her body was about ready to shut down due to all the exertion. Looking at Sailor Saturn's back as she jogged briskly in front of her, the Senshi of Love couldn't believe how the young girl could keep it up. But of course, she didn't have an arrow stuck in her.

"Saturn… I… can't… go on… any… longer…!" Sailor Venus gasped out between shuddering breaths, before slowing to a halt in a T-junction and collapsing back exhaustedly against a wall. Sweat was pouring off her, plastering her blonde bangs to her forehead and making her fuku stick to her body uncomfortably.

Sailor Saturn ceased her run and turned to the worn out Inner Senshi, planting the end of her Silence Glaive on the floor as she held it upright loosely in one hand. Her chest rose and fell quickly, but other than that, she didn't appear the least bit tired. "We can't stop," the Senshi of Death and Rebirth said, her eyes flicking to the empty hallway they had been travelling down. There was no sign of any youma but the sounds of their movement. "They'll catch up soon." Saturn turned back around, preparing to set off once more.

"No! Hotaru I… I can't run anymore…" Venus declared, leaning her head back tiredly against the wall and closing her eyes. She then opened them again as an idea came to her. "Maybe if you could…" She reached up to the arrow embedded in her shoulder and grabbed it, wincing at the painful sensation, and on a mental count of three, yanked hard on the barbed projectile, hoping to pull it out and allow Sailor Saturn to heal the serious injury. But, as an agony-wracked Venus soon found out, the arrow was too deeply imbedded in her body, the barbs too firmly stuck into her flesh. To continue to pull on it would result in pure torture and most likely severe damage to her person. Sailor Venus would probably pass out from the trauma.

Venus sighed in defeat as Saturn watched her strenuous efforts with a level, and rather cold, gaze. Sometimes when she looked into those chilly violet eyes of the Senshi of Death, a different person from the kind, timid, Hotaru looked back at her. It was as if when the girl transformed into her Sailor alter ego, it wasn't just her clothes that changed, but her personality as well. It was a disturbing thing to witness. The only thing that could break that serious veil was usually the presence of one of the other Outer Senshi, but sometimes not even they could truly do so. Chibi-Usa was always certain to however… but that could be expected.

Sailor Venus smiled softly at Sailor Saturn, coming to a decision. The sounds of youma were fast approaching, and time was running out for the both of them. No… for *one* of them. "You… you run on ahead, Hotaru," the Inner Senshi said without inflection. "I'll be right behind you. I just need to… rest for a second," she concluded, looking away from the young girl before her. She couldn't run any further; her body just couldn't take the strain. It would be better for Venus to remain behind and hold off the shadow-jumping youma as best she could to buy more time for Saturn to flee and maybe find the other Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen. One last display of heroics for Sailor V. The blonde could think of worse ways to go out. Hopefully Saturn would survive to tell the tale… but, in the end, it didn't really matter if it went unsung. Glory wasn't everything. And besides, it wasn't like she had anyone special in her life who would miss her.

Sailor Saturn merely stared at the resigned Sailor Venus with dead violet eyes, her pale face expressionless. She blinked once, and then simply stated; "No."

Sailor Venus looked up at the Senshi of Death and Rebirth inquiringly. "What do you mean, 'no'?" she said.

"I mean no. I'm not going," Saturn clarified, adjusting her grip on her Silence Glaive.

Venus frowned in irritation, starting to get a little angry. "It's an order, Hotaru. Do I have to remind you who is in charge here? I'm the leader of the Moon Princess's personal bodyguard, so I rank the highest here!"

"You are not the leader of me," Sailor Saturn said evenly.

"I am to! So do as I say!" Venus demanded, resisting the urge to stamp her foot. She wasn't the belligerent child here, after all.

"No," Saturn stubbornly persisted.

This was getting ridiculous. Youma were about to swarm their position for god's sake, and Saturn chose this time of all times to be disobedient? "We don't have the time to argue about this; just run, okay?!" Venus shouted, the pain of the arrow and the ache of her sore muscles forgotten in the midst of the rebellion by the Outer Senshi.

"You're right; we don't have the time to argue," Sailor Saturn concurred, apparently agreeing to at least something the Senshi of Love said. She walked to the entrance of the T-junction, facing the corridor she and Venus had only shortly run down. She twirled her Silence Glaive about in both hands, and then levelled it in the direction the youma assassins would probably be charging along at any moment. "I shall stay. You run," the Senshi of Death then said firmly, not looking at Sailor Venus.

Venus blinked at Saturn, dumbfounded, as the young girl stood in an unwavering ready stance, her Glaive aimed down the hallway. She couldn't believe it; Sailor Saturn was trying to steal her thunder! "Saturn, what are you doing? You're perfectly able to run; I'm not. It makes sense for me to stay behind," Venus argued, ignoring the fact that she'd just given away her real plan for wanting the Outer Senshi to run ahead.

"No. That is all the more reason for me to stay and allow *you* time to run," the Senshi of Death and Rebirth said determinedly.

"But… but…" Venus spluttered, nearly indignant. Great feats of heroism were her thing, not Saturn's! It was just plain wrong!

Sailor Saturn's eyelids fell marginally, as if suddenly becoming heavy, and her expression turned even more sombre, if that were possible. "This is my duty," she explained softly and slowly. "I am the Sailor Senshi of death and rebirth. I symbolise the cycle of Death and Life. All things die, but it is my duty to hasten our enemies' inevitable journey into Death's icy embrace, so that they can eventually be reborn and continue the never-ending cycle. That is my duty as a Sailor Senshi."

Sailor Venus was quiet as she digested this information. "But… but you'll die," she said finally, all thoughts of how heroic a death it would be gone from her mind.

"Death cares not from where the lives come, even if it is my own. We are all the same when we are in its grasp," Saturn stated grimly.

While Sailor Venus didn't like what the Outer Senshi was saying, she supposed it was true, at least to some extent. While some deaths where better than others, death was still death. The dead couldn't reap the spoils of their sacrifice, no matter how heroic or just. Death is what brought all beings down to the same level in the end.

Venus shook her head, shooing away the morbid musings. The noise of the youma were so close now, they had to almost be upon them. Any second darkly dressed assassins would be tearing down the hallway Saturn was so vigilantly watching, or materialising from the shadows. "What about Chibi-Usa, Hotaru?" Sailor Venus said quietly, approaching the Senshi of Death and Rebirth. "You told her you would be careful… would you betray her trust so easily? She would go nuts if she saw what you were doing now."

Sailor Saturn started at the mention of her pink-haired best friend, her stance and the impassive mask she wore faltering for a second. "This is a battle. She isn't so naïve to believe anyone can avoid danger in a situation like this," she then said, her grim self resurfacing.

Sailor Venus sighed. "I have a duty too, Hotaru," she said softly, nearing the resolute Outer Senshi. "I am the Sailor Senshi of Love and Beauty. Love and beauty is what *I* symbolise." The blonde put a hand on Saturn's shoulder, using her good arm. "And for that reason, I can't abandon you." Sailor Saturn turned her head towards Sailor Venus, confusion now on her features. Venus smiled at her, giving her shoulder a small squeeze. "Chibi-Usa would be devastated if anything happened to you… and forever unrequited love is the love I hate the most."

Sailor Saturn's violet eyes widened at the blonde's words, her face becoming shocked as her stance relaxed. But as quickly as the surprise appeared on her features, it was gone, replaced by a joy that the Senshi of Love and Beauty delighted in seeing. The shy young girl Venus knew shone through the grave exterior of the Senshi of Death and Rebirth, and the blonde felt her own smile begin to mirror her friend's.

"Let's make our stand together," Sailor Venus suggested quietly. Sailor Saturn nodded firmly, and then took a brief moment to school her happy expression to one of grim resolve, her cold mask of Death sliding into place once more.

Sailor Venus took several steps back as Sailor Saturn assumed her ready position once again, returning her attention to the corridor ahead. Venus placed herself behind her fellow senshi, just slightly back from the middle of the T-junction of the intersecting hallways. If any youma managed to get past the steadfast Senshi of Death, they would have to deal with her.

As Sailor Venus and Sailor Saturn watched in alarm and passivity respectively, the hallway before them slowly filled with a blanket of jet black fog, the dark shadows becoming even darker with the ebony vapours. Saturn tightened her hold on her Silence Glaive and tensed in front of Venus, set for the coming onslaught. Suddenly, the mists coalesced into a host of black clad figures, weapons of all sorts held in their grasps. Sailor Venus swallowed hard, the pain in her shoulder returning with the sight of the enemy.

Then, all of a sudden, the youma assassins were all over the pair of senshi, overrunning their defensive position. Saturn's Glaive struck out unerringly and as ruthlessly as the Reaper's scythe at the mass of assassins, repelling attacks and slaying the attackers with merciless precision, her weapon and person becoming soiled with droplets of black while the girl herself remained as silent as the grave. But even though the Senshi of Death's assault was formidable and severely damaging to the amassed youma, the sheer numbers of the enemy were simply too much for her to contain. Several managed to slip past the dark-haired girl's slicing blade and into the T-junction. But Sailor Venus was waiting for them.


A bolt of searing yellow energy shot out of the index finger of Venus' right hand, smashing into a surprised youma assassin's face behind Saturn's fighting form, leaving a smoking beheaded corpse to fall to the floor. More nimble creature's darted past Sailor Saturn, which Sailor Venus quickly fired at, mindful not to strike her companion in the back as the beams burst through the enemies' bodies. Some were fast however, contorted their bodies to amazing angles, narrowly dodging Venus' frantic attacks.

Sailor Venus ducked as one surviving assassin kicked out at her head, her long mane of hair instead catching the blow. The youma followed its move with lightning speed however, and grabbed the arrow protruding from the blonde's shoulder with one hand, wrenching fiercely on it. Venus howled in torment at the mistreatment of her injury, and lashed out with a reflexive backhand, knocking the youma's hand away from the arrow.


Sailor Venus blasted her assailant at near point blank range, sending its carcass rocketing backwards to crash against the wall, halfway buried in the now demolished plaster.

The Senshi of Love kept up her attacks as Sailor Saturn kept up hers, but more and more youma started to inundate the blonde's location. Venus gritted her teeth in frustration coupled with desperation as she felled yet another assassin, killing it with a shot in the throat just before it had the chance to sink a serrated knife into Saturn's vulnerable back. There was just too many of them; she killed one, only to have it replaced by another a second later. Where were they all coming from? Sailor Saturn couldn't have been letting *that* many youma past her. Venus' eyes scanned the area quickly as she let loose another Crescent Beam, scorching a hole though a score of lined up assassins in succession. As the now dead group collapsed, the Senshi of Love realised with rising dread where all the enemies were coming from.

The shadows that lurked in the two other corridors and even in the T-junction itself provided easy means for the youma to bypass the daunting Sailor Saturn and strike from the rear… given that they manage to deal with Sailor Venus, however. And there was no way the Senshi of Love would ever let that happen, not without one serious fight anyway.


Sailor Venus grabbed the end of the long chain of hearts that manifested around her, and then cracked it like a whip, driving back the gathering mass of youma. The golden light that shown brightly from the chain chased away the dark shadows around her and Sailor Saturn, banishing them from their presence and cutting off the crafty youma enemy's means of stealthy travel.

The Senshi of Love cracked her whip once more, ripping a deep gouge in the floor, and then attacked the crowd of assassins before her, tearing through many of the creatures' bodies before they knew what was happening. Some dived for shadows that were no longer there, and promptly paid for their mistake at the hands of Venus. One daring assassin grabbed the heart chain as it whizzed by its head, only to have its palms seared as the hot, high energy weapon burned though its black hand coverings and pale flesh, wisps of smoke wafting off the unfortunate creature's charred appendages.

Soon, with their advantage lost, the youma assassins behind Sailor Saturn were beaten back and then down under the relentless hail of lashes from Sailor Venus' heart chain whip. Any weapons brought to bear against the Senshi of Love were swiftly pulled from the assassins' grasps by the glowing whip, and then the defenceless creatures were viciously punished for their transgression. Venus' whip cracked once more, splitting a youma's skull in two in a grisly display, before the only remaining assassins were the ones currently engaged with Sailor Saturn, the rest all gashed, rotting, corpses on the floor around the Senshi of Love's feet.

Sailor Venus turned her attention to Sailor Saturn's fight, her own crisis averted. She saw the Senshi of Death's Silence Glaive lodge in the chest of one foe, causing the unlucky youma to screech out a short cry before it cut off in a disgusting burble sound. While Saturn was apparently faring fairly well, it was clear that the unremitting, but greatly diminished number of youma assassins were taking a toll on her energy reserves. It looked like the dark-haired girl would welcome some assistance in Venus' opinion.

Letting her heart chain dissipate, Sailor Venus quickly called out Saturn's name, attracting her notice and silently informing the pale girl of her intentions before the youma could take advantage of the restored shadows. Sailor Saturn's eyes met the blonde's for only a split second, but the Senshi of Death nodded almost imperceptibly, understanding. Abruptly, Saturn darted backwards and then dived down the hallway to her left, giving Sailor Venus a clear line of sight towards the clustered black swathed enemy.


Sailor Venus blew a kiss and an orange heart was hurled at the lead youma in the middle of the group from her hand, the creatures all recklessly stampeding forwards with Sailor Saturn gone. The heart smashed into the assassin's chest and then detonated in a bright orange light, slaughtering the entire party in the following explosion, the surrounding walls and ceiling of the corridor being totally blown out in a shower of debris.

As the dust clouds began to settle, Venus felt her stomach roil as her handiwork was revealed littered gorily all over the ruined hallway. She swallowed back the nausea and quickly surveyed the place through the falling grey dust, making sure all the youma were in fact down for the count permanently.

"A kiss of death," Sailor Venus punned in a whisper, seeing that none of the youma had escaped the lethal blast.

A small sound of agreement came from the Senshi of Love's left, and a rather battered looking Sailor Saturn stepped beside her. Black fluid liberally graced the Outer Senshi's once white fuku, making the girl's appearance in the floating dust and dark shadows of the hallway sinister indeed. Saturn took a sharp swipe with her blood splattered Silence Glaive, casually flicking off some of the thick liquid from the weapon's blade onto the walls and floor, before bringing it up in an upright position next to her.

"We should do something about that arrow now," Sailor Saturn said in a nonchalant tone, turning her head to the injured Venus, as if the pair hadn't been butchering youma only a few moments earlier. "It could get infected."

Sailor Venus looked at Sailor Saturn's impassive blood streaked face and simply stared at her for a second. She then closed her eyes and shook her head at the Outer Senshi's unflappable behaviour. But before the blonde could nod in concurrence, she heard a crunching sound come from the destroyed corridor. Both Venus and Saturn quickly returned their attention to the hallway as a lone slim figure stepped from the darkness and through the nearly settled dust, kicking up small puffs of grey powder in their wake.

"Well, well, such an impressive exhibition of power," said the approaching figure in a condescending voice. "I had heard Death had entered this place, and I was anxious to meet the human who the other pathetic youma harbour such fear for…"

The lithe figure was feminine in form, Sailor Venus saw, and dressed like Rei when she was at the Hikawa Jinja, but instead of her clothing being red and white, it was pure black. Venus wasn't surprised of the colour choice in the slightest; the youma really had to get a fashion consultant as soon as possible. The youma's head was completely uncovered by veil or bandage or hood, unlike the others of her kind, exposing a very pale and human-like face framed by soft, straight, shoulder length lilac hair with the tips of long, pointed ears poking through the tresses. Her eyes were pools of jade; an extremely vivid shade of green that shone in the darkness like a cat's. Like a predator's.

But the feature that stood out the most on the youma was the extremely long, solid, wooden pole that the creature rested over one shoulder. At least a foot long curved steel blade was attached to the top of the pole, its single sharpened edge appearing exceptionally intimidating to Sailor Venus. One good hit with that weapon and she was sure she would be cleaved in half like butter being cut through by a knife. The Senshi of Love gulped as her gaze continued to study the weapon similar to Saturn's Glaive, her blue eyes held spellbound to the foreboding sight.

"Naginata…" Sailor Saturn murmured next to Sailor Venus, inclining her head in the direction of the youma's weapon. The Senshi of Death altered her grip on her Silence Glaive as her violet eyes narrowed at the apparently naginata-wielding creature; the enemy's weapon so like her own.

The youma lifted her weapon off her shoulder and brought it into a horizontal position with both hands, the blade directed at Sailor Saturn. A confident smirk pulled up one side of the assassin's mouth. "I see you are but a child. Hmm… come then, young one, let our blades meet and the clash of steel on steel ring out!"

The assassin screamed a battle cry and charged forwards, letting her naginata lead the way. Sailor Venus jumped hastily back as Sailor Saturn swung her Silence Glaive around in circles above her head, giving the Senshi of Death space to manoeuvre as the sharp ornate blade nearly scalped the blonde. Just when the youma was practically upon her, Saturn stuck suddenly downwards with her weapon, smashing the assassin's fast approaching naginata away from her body and into the floor. The Outer Senshi swiftly followed her move with a smooth swipe using the end of her Glaive at her assailant's head, forcing the youma to duck and then hop backwards, pulling her naginata free from the floor. Sailor Saturn slashed diagonally upwards in a gutting carve at the retreating assassin, but only met air as the youma dropped into a crouch and swung at the Senshi of Death's legs, attempting to trip the girl with her weapon's shaft. Saturn skipped over the naginata nimbly and stabbed the butt of her Silence Glaive into the forehead of the squatting youma as she came down, knocking the creature's head back and depositing her on her backside. The youma rolled backwards, being forced to drop her naginata on the floor as Sailor Saturn hacked at her susceptible body, nearly caving in her skull, but instead implanting her curved blade firmly into the floor. The black swathed assassin slipped her foot under the wooden shaft of her naginata and flicked the pole weapon upwards, before snatching it out of the air. Saturn tugged hard on her Silence Glaive, but realising the weapon wasn't budging, the Senshi of Death immediately took a step back then jumped at the nearly vertical metal shaft, grabbing it with both hands and swinging her body around straight at the recovered youma, ramming her feet into the creature's chest. The assassin staggered backwards from the blow, granting Saturn enough time to wrench the now loosened Glaive free from the floor as she swung around a second time. The two combatants struck out at each other at the same time, the shafts of their weapons colliding with a dull bang. Sailor Saturn and the youma abruptly burst into whirlwinds of motion, striking out with both ends of their pole weapons like staffs, sparks flying when the two curved blades met. Every attack Saturn made was instantly countered by the skilled assassin and visa versa, neither getting the upper hand as both fighters moved fluidly together, displaying an amazing display of speed and agility, providing a wondrous show for the audience consisting solely of Sailor Venus. That is, if the Senshi of Love wasn't scared out of her wits each time the dark-haired friend only narrowly deflected yet another attack from the proficient youma.

Sailor Venus watched anxiously as Sailor Saturn did battle with the assassin, unsure of what to do. The fighting between the pair was so fast and furious that the blonde had trouble merely following the combat; the elegance and sheer number of flawless moves chained together by Saturn and the youma were simply mind-blowing. However, in closely scrutinising the Senshi of Death's fighting style, Venus only now realised that something was different from the last time she had seen the girl in battle. Sailor Saturn fought like someone who wanted to live, not with the cold accuracy and perfect efficiency of a detached killing machine, but with the heated passion and resolute spirit of a warrior who fought for a worthy cause they believed completely in. Her expression was as grim and serious as ever, but the pale girl's eyes were no longer devoid of life. Venus had too look hard to see it, but there was a fire behind those violet eyes, a fire that fuelled the Outer Senshi's attacks and granted them a flair that icy precision couldn't provide. It was obvious to Sailor Venus that this change bestowed a vast improvement to Sailor Saturn's combat technique, allowing her to preform more combinations based on initiative, rather than technical skill.

"Why don't you… channel some of that… fire I hear you have?" the youma assassin forced out through clenched teeth, the strain of the unrelenting and highly competent attacks from Sailor Saturn showing on the creature's face.

Saturn said nothing in return to the youma's strange request, merely continuing to keep up with blocking the series of strikes from her opponent, searching for a break in the assassin's defence. Sweat trickled down the youma's face as the Senshi of Death's Silence Glaive cracked once again against her naginata, the power of the hit jarring the creature's arms painfully. The youma leapt backwards, out of range of Saturn's Glaive and ceasing the test of dexterity and skill that she would surely eventually lose. The assassin spun her naginata above her head in fast rotations, the weapon becoming a total blur.

"Now we finish this!" the youma snarled, the speed of the spinning naginata creating air currents that blew up the dust around her. The sound of the whirling weapon made threatening swooping noises that filled the hallway, but Sailor Saturn merely scowled at the assassin's performance, clearly not impressed at all. "DIE HUMAN!!" the youma suddenly howled, altering her grip to prepare to slash at Saturn in a fatal horizontal chop backed by unstoppable power.


There was a crash as an unidentifiable object flew off from above the youma's head and banged against a wall. The assassin blinked in confusion at the sudden loss of momentum in her naginata spin, and lowered the weapon. Her eyes widened to nearly the size of saucers as she saw the splintered broken shaft of the weapon, the other half of the bladed wooden pole having been shot off by Sailor Venus' well-timed energy attack.

"Wha…?" the youma said weakly, totally stupefied at what had happened to her once formidable weapon.

"No one just ignores me like some nobody and gets away with it!" Sailor Venus declared to the stunned assassin, wagging a pointed finger back and forth while she shook her head in chastisement.

The youma spluttered indignantly for several seconds, before the words finally managed to form. "But-- but-- but this isn't *FAIR!* This isn't f-- GARK!" Sailor Saturn's Silence Glaive sunk deeply into the assassin's skull and abruptly cut off her incensed protestations, the curved blade cleaving through bone nearly down to her jaw. The ill-fated youma dropped to the floor, the Glaive still embedded firmly in her cranium and face.

Sailor Saturn put one booted foot against the dead assassin's chest and pulled hard on her trapped Silence Glaive, attempting to free it from the cracked bone that held it. After the fifth tug, the blade finally came free, sending a spray of black blood and brain matter flying obscenely to splat against the already dirty walls.

"Oh, god, that's disgusting," Venus commented in a breath as she sat tiredly down on the floor, grimacing as the arrow stuck in her shoulder vibrated.

Saturn made a noncommittal sound and then walked up to the blonde and sat next to her, placing her soiled Silence Glaive on the floor beside her. She gingerly prodded a spot near Sailor Venus' arrow wound with a finger, eliciting a sharp intake of breath and a mild verbal reprimand from the Inner Senshi, causing the young girl to quickly pull her exploring finger back and apologise.

"It's going to be hard to get it out," Saturn informed Venus after looking at the arrow from all angles.

Just as Sailor Venus was about to enlighten the Senshi of Rebirth about her acute dislike for pain, there was the noise of heavy footfalls from the undamaged hallway to their left. Venus and Saturn looked at one another, both silently praying that it wasn't yet another youma out for their blood, and then hurriedly climbed to their feet, the Outer Senshi retrieving her Glaive as she did so.

"Saturn! Thank god, I was hoping that those noises would lead me to you!" Tuxedo Kamen said with relief while he rearranged his hold on Sailor Neptune in his arms. The aquamarine-haired woman eyes were shut and she appeared very pale and drawn out; it was apparent to Sailor Venus that something was seriously wrong with her. The Senshi of Love's first guess was the blood soaked clump of rags around Neptune's left thigh.

"Michiru-mama!" Sailor Saturn wailed at the sight of one of her guardians in need of immediate medical attention, the dark-haired girl dropping her Silence Glaive and her emotionless mask, before running over to the woman. It seemed that Saturn's philosophies about Death and Rebirth didn't extend to her family. Or her friends.

Sailor Venus sat back down on the floor as Tuxedo Kamen lay Sailor Neptune carefully on the floor while Sailor Saturn hovered frantically above the Senshi of the Ocean, plainly disconcerted. At least there were four of them now, despite Neptune's obvious crippled state. Venus was confident that Saturn would use her innate healing ability to patch the woman up, however. And then it would be her turn to get nursed back to health. Sailor Venus was certainly not looking forward to getting that arrow ripped out of her shoulder. As Sailor Saturn gently removed the makeshift bandages from Sailor Neptune's leg, Sailor Venus wondered where Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Mercury were. Hopefully they weren't experiencing what she, Saturn, Neptune and Tuxedo Kamen were suffering though. Sailor Venus had known that coming to this skyscraper was a bad idea.


to be continued…

Author's ramblings:

Okay, so I lied. No Rei at all in this chapter, but I had to do this little deviation thing. I swear its nearly all Rei from now on. And I'm not sure, but I think maybe this chapter is the longest ever now. ^_^;