Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Absence ❯ My Will, Act IV ( Chapter 56 )

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


Chapter fifty-six. Umm… I'll take everyone's word for it when you all say Rei knows some kind of Ninja martial art. I have absolutely no experience in that area. ^_^; But the stuff Rei chants (Rin, pyou, tou, etc.) as well as sitting in front of the Fire I'm pretty sure relates to the Shinto religion, rather than to anything Ninja.

Rei didn't get too pounded last chapter for a reason. There is always a reason for everything. Well, nearly always.

Why doesn't Sailor Moon use her silver crystal to fight? The silver crystal is the ginzuishou right? Well anyway, think back to the series. Why didn't Sailor Moon use her most powerful attack at the very start of each fight she ever had? Yes, you think about that. ^_^

Heh, turning this fanfic into a Sailor Moon movie would be cool. I could probably make the fight scenes longer then. It takes ages to write fight scenes.

This chapter was late for a whole bunch of reasons. It's up now, so that's all that matters.


- Kirika


Chapter 56 - My Will, Act IV

Sailor Mars treaded cautiously in between several rows of white-walled office cubicles, guardedly peering into each one with cagey eyes in search of possible hidden adversaries lying in wait to ensnare her in some trap. Her footsteps fell without a hint of noise on the drab grey-carpeted floor while even the sound of her own breathing was suppressed, the senshi's movements the embodiment of stealth. Sounds of unrest from the lower levels of the building danced on the very edge of Mars' hearing, now only barely detectable from high up on the twentieth floor. She had wandered for quite some time on level nineteen before deciding to move on, having not encountered Lazarus or any youma at all. It had been totally dead on the previous floor, eerily so in a skyscraper full of heated confrontations with evil monsters. And so far it appeared that level twenty was equally devoid of life.

Sailor Mars continued her meander through the cubicles, quietly moving towards an exit into a corridor ahead. To the untrained eye she looked laidback, casual even, but in reality her body was in a state of ready relaxation, loose yet prepared to uncoil and spring into action at the first sign of danger. But while Mars' body was primed for a fight --her prior wounds hardly even hampering the girl's motions-- her mind was in another place altogether. Despite her efforts to the contrary, the miko couldn't help her thoughts from persistently returning to a certain blonde odango atama. She wondered if Sailor Moon was all right. Sailor Moon had literally left Sailor Mars hanging, and in quite a precarious situation too, but while normally the Fire Senshi would have been irritated to no end because of this, even though her princess had had very little choice in the matter, she was instead worried endlessly about the girl's safety. What if youma had attacked Sailor Moon on the elevator? Someone had to have pressed the button on a floor to call it, and it might very well have been the enemy. What if Setsuna's predicted 'moment' occurred then and there? Sailor Mars narrowed her eyes in grim resolve. Focus. It was also a possibility that a Sailor Senshi or Tuxedo Kamen had called the elevator and not youma. And Sailor Moon wasn't a helpless maiden in need of constant hand holding either. Sailor Mars couldn't allow herself to be distracted by her overprotective tendencies towards Sailor Moon; she had something, or rather, *someone* else to take care of first.

The Senshi of Fire left the identical cubicles behind her and walked into the corridor, glancing both right and left prudently before entering. She then frowned and sharply snapped her head in the direction of a shadowed corner beside two sturdy expensive-looking wooden doors at the right end of the hallway, her body following suit instantly after. Sailor Mars was not at all surprised to see a dark figure swathed in black lurking there, just beyond the pale moonlight from two rectangular windows that streaked across the middle of the sizeable, wide, vaguely pentagonal area that led off from the corridor.

"Your senses are still as alert as ever it seems…" Lazarus remarked lethargically from the shadows as he casually leaned against the wall, the assassin looking as if he hadn't a care in the world.

"Always when it comes to repulsive creatures like you," Sailor Mars sneered, her expression twisting into one of disgust as she stepped into the angular room.

Lazarus cocked his head to one side, appearing to study the Fire Senshi's ripped and bloodied exterior. "You're hurt," he stated simply.

"I had to fight through an army of your pals to get here, so you'll excuse me if my clothes are a little dishevelled with my own blood," Mars said sarcastically, but withheld the impulse to glance down at herself and allow the masked assassin an opportunity to strike, instead keeping her eyes affixed to him. "What was the matter? Too scared to face me without a throng of youma between us?"

Lazarus didn't immediately react to the jibes but first pushed off the wall, standing fully upright. "The presence of my order were a means to an end," he informed Sailor Mars, the dark drooping eyeholes of his weeping mask appearing to bore into girl from the shadows. "I wanted us to be alone, unfettered by friend or foe."

"I'm touched," Mars deadpanned, her expression dry.

Lazarus reached up and stroked one thumb slowly down the side of his mask, looking as if he was contemplating something. But after a second, the youma's hand dropped back down to his side. "I tire of words," the assassin said in his scratchy voice. He stepped into the moonlight, the pale illumination basking his figure in a ghostly glow. Ebony shadows emerged in the drooping crevices of Lazarus' sorrowful mask, giving the artefact an even gloomier and foreboding air about it while the youma himself stared levelly at the Fire Senshi.

"So do I," Sailor Mars declared, her tone containing a steely edge as she balled her fists at her sides.

"'The Silent Blade cuts best'," Lazarus whispered, his ominous voice seeming to come from all angles of the room to Sailor Mars' ears, the words sounding as if they held a ring of importance.

"Huh?" the Fire Senshi said, raising an eyebrow.

Laughter sang out, mad, uncontrollable laughter, bouncing off the walls and filling the pentagonal room. It took a moment for the taken aback Sailor Mars to realised that the malevolent manic cackle was actually coming from the black-clad youma before her. The miko's lavender eyes widened as she stared in shock at Lazarus' mask, the ebony masquerade of tragic misery being replaced by one of sinister insanity. A wicked wide grin had been exchanged with the previous grimace of despair, and demonic slanted eye slits now glared at Mars, rather than sagging dejected ones, creating a wholly nightmarish image. Sailor Mars couldn't help the small sliver of fear snake down her spine at the creepy transformation happening in front of her, and she had to resist the urge to take a retreating step back.

A barely restrained giggle escaped from Lazarus, and then suddenly a thin, metal, pointed object was flying Sailor Mars' way, the shiny polished surface of the throwing knife reflecting the full moon's light as it rapidly hurtled towards its target. Mars reacted instantly to the unexpected threat, her sharp mind swiftly shifting into gear. She lashed out firmly across her body with one rigid palm as the blade came into range, deflecting the projectile away from her in a single deft move.

Sailor Mars dived forwards as a second throwing knife was hurled in her direction, aimed straight at her head. She tucked in her shoulder and curled into a roll, slipping under the knife, and then struck out with a fist as she came upright at the creature responsible for the knives, attempting to deliver a quick punch to Lazarus' midsection. The masked assassin sniggered and slapped downwards with both his hands, redirecting the Fire Senshi's blow between his legs. He then, with almost casual effort, brought up his knee into the crouching Mars' face, bashing her head back. Lazarus followed his attack with a swift and fierce punch to the Sailor's forehead, the impact of his fist hitting with the force of a sledgehammer and sending the dazed miko flat on her back.

Sailor Mars didn't even have time to shake the cobwebs from her mind as Lazarus' foot came down right for her chest, the youma's mad chortling continuing all the while. Reflexively the Fire Senshi caught the assassin's fast descending foot, forestalling it from crushing her sternum and ending all her hopes for victory. She threw her arms to the side, pushing Lazarus' black boot away from her body to slam hard against the floor beside her head with a dull thud. Sailor Mars shook her head quickly to help clear the rhythmic beating banging on the inside of her skull, and then punched upwards, hoping to cripple her adversary with a shot to the groin. However, Lazarus nimbly jumped backwards before the strike connected, laughing at the raven-haired girl's failed attack as he did so, much to the miko's rising anger.

"Ooo, almost," the youma jeered as he landed, bouncing his head from side to side mockingly.

Mars deftly flipped onto her feet as Lazarus stood with his arms folded, snickering, merely watching the girl with exaggerated impatience. Once the Sailor Senshi had righted herself, he gestured eagerly for her to come closer with his hands, the wide grin plastered to the ebony mask adding more provocation to the taunt. Sailor Mars narrowed her eyes and ground her teeth in fury. The arrogant bastard, he would soon know the roasting heat of her flames as they burnt his body to so much ash!


A blazing fireball careered en route for the gloating masked assassin, the blistering flames that licked off the sphere blackening the carpet in its path. Lazarus simply chuckled condescendingly and then twirled in a circle while bending his knees, lowering himself into a crouch and twisting skilfully away from the fireball, the fiery projectile only just sailing past him without burning his clothes. Mars' ineffective attack crashed into the wall, blowing several chunks of plaster out to scatter across the floor and scorching the remaining white painted wall a splash of charred black.

"How pathetic," Lazarus commented derisively as he straightened and spared a glance behind him at the damage inflicted by the senshi's fireball. "And here I thought you would actually be a challenge for me," he added, before bursting into another stream of hysterical laughter.

The frustrated anger boiled inside of Sailor Mars at the assassin's snide words, her expression contorting into an incensed snarl. "Keep pushing," the Fire Senshi dared her assailant through clenched teeth, her knuckles cracking as she balled her fists tightly.

"Come on, human!" Lazarus said though his giggling, goading the raven-haired girl once more. "I thought you wanted my mask?" The creature traced the indentation of the sadistic grin engraved in his ghastly mask with both thumbs, trailing the pale digits up to the edges of the broad mouth. "Perhaps you've found someone else, hmm? Someone better than that pitiful excuse for a warrior you were once so infatuated with? I knew you humans were fickle, but to drop the female in only a couple of days is really something!"

Mars spat out a colourful curse and whipped out an ofuda. "Rin, pyou, tou, sha, kai, jin, retsu, sai, zen. Akuryou taisan!"

The miko threw the holy ward at the standing and open youma with a force born out of fury, sending the paper flying. But nearly as soon as the ofuda left Mars' hand, there was a flash of silver and a thud in the wall behind her, followed by the crazy laughs of Lazarus, as if the mere look of the Sailor was the most hilarious thing he had ever seen. Mars glanced behind her and saw a throwing knife quivering in the wall, her ofuda speared on the sharp point of the blade.

"Evidently I seem to have sorely overestimated your abilities," Lazarus chuckled, picking idly at a fingernail with a throwing knife. He tossed the metal weapon upwards, and then snatched it out of the air, before repeating the move again in a continuous cycle. "You're going to die here, little girl," he then stated coldly, his laughter cutting off abruptly, all mirth now gone from his voice. "I think once I've put you to death, I'll hunt down that female you like so much. It's been a long time since I've had a pretty plaything to amuse myself with…"

"YOU'RE GONNA BURN BEFORE THAT!!" Sailor Mars screamed in rage, and then charged at the youma at breakneck speed, her face a picture of pure hate and wrath.

Lazarus tossed the knife into the air once more as the infuriated Senshi of Fire rushed towards him, but instead of catching it, he let it fall. As the throwing knife came down, he brought one leg back and kicked sharply, hitting the blade and sending it rocketing straight for the stampeding Mars. Sailor Mars' berserk red hazed vision made out the object speeding right for her and batted the knife aside with the back of her left hand, disregarding the deep gash left behind and not even breaking stride. Lazarus appeared taken aback for a moment, his body freezing for only a fraction of a second, but that was all Mars needed. She let out a roar and leapt into the air and spun around, extending a leg and smashing it into the side of the assassin's head, the momentum from her charge adding to the spinning kick's force and making the youma stagger to one side. She dropped to the floor and then lashed out with a fist, aiming for Lazarus' masked face. But the darkly dressed creature was fast, and moved like quicksilver despite receiving an earlier hit, blocking the punch with his forearm and turning it aside. However, this did not deter Sailor Mars. She continued her assault, chaining together a sequence of attacks and raining an onslaught of punches, kicks, elbows and knees upon Lazarus, each blow fuelled with the strength of berserker fury. Nevertheless, in spite of Mars' fierce bombardment of attacks, Lazarus' defences were impenetrable, the assassin fluidly blocking or dodging each one with apparent ease. The perpetual grin on the creature's mask mocked Sailor Mars and her inability to land a substantial hit bar the previous kick, further feeding her anger and frustration.

Lazarus snapped his head to one side away from the most recent of Mars' punches, to which the Fire Senshi reacted by altering her strike, bending her arm and angling her elbow for the youma's face. The assassin moved in a blur and caught the girl's arm before it could make contact however, and then he countered by rabbit punching her in the ribs. Mars' enraged mind didn't register the pain of the series of hits on the same spot of her body, and instead the Senshi of Fire used her free hand to throw yet another punch at Lazarus' head. The youma let go of Sailor Mars' arm and swiftly ducked, stabbing his elbow into the girl's stomach as he did so. Mars grunted and took a single step back, and then toppled backwards as the floor was suddenly no longer beneath her feet, Lazarus having stolen her footing away from her with a leg sweep. She twisted her body around and slapped one hand on the floor to break her fall, and then kicked off the carpet and dexterously pivoted on her arm, directing both her heels at the crouching youma in a quick double kick. Lazarus rolled backwards in a tight ball, evading Mars' attack, and nimbly uncurled in a handstand, before dropping into a standing position.

Sailor Mars growled at her latest failure to hit her opponent and darted rashly forwards, leading with a fist. The masked assassin sniggered and moved like lightning, kicking Mars in the side of the head with his left foot as the girl came into reach, and then smoothly following with his right, smacking it into her stomach. With the Fire Senshi's charge broken, she was prematurely halted in mid motion, leaving her open to further attack. Lazarus rammed his fist under Sailor Mars jaw, knocking her head back, and then smashed his other one straight down into the girl's face, whacking her head downwards in a spray of crimson that dotted the grey carpet with red spots. Another punch stuck Mars, thumping into her kidneys, and yet another clocked the girl in the side of the face as she only just began to raise her cotton-filled head. A strong booted foot then made devastating contact with the Senshi of Fire's chest, forcing her to stumble backwards several unsteady steps, finally ending the her beating for the moment.

"Useless," Lazarus remarked scornfully, a few maniacal titters escaping from the creature as he slowly lowered his still outstretched leg from the position where it had struck the Fire Senshi.

Sailor Mars shook her battered head lethargically as she wavered shakily on her feet, and reached up to wipe her aching face. She blinked and frowned at the sight of her blood-covered glove, and then glared at Lazarus heatedly. The mask the assassin wore was proving to be more of an obstacle than the Fire Senshi had first believed. Everything she threw at the youma was evaded or blocked, while her own defences were easily broken nearly every time. Mars needed a plan, but how could she fight and win against someone who could predict her every move? Against someone who could see the very timeline during a battle?

"It looks like I've spoiled your beautiful face," the assassin said matter-of-factly with a hint of humour lacing his tone. "Such a shame. She won't want to even look at you anymore. What was her name? Usagi?" Lazarus tilted his head to the side, as if gauging Mars' reaction at the mention of her princess's name. "Yes…" he drawled out. "Usagi… But don't worry yourself; you'll not be in this world much longer, and once she has experienced my… tender attentions, she shall be unrecognisable too!"

Sailor Mars spat out a pale red glob of saliva and roared out a wordless battle cry that promised a grisly death to her bitter adversary, and bolted forwards, diving directly at Lazarus in a lightning-fast and reckless manoeuvre. Mars collided heavily with the slightly surprised youma, sending the pair crashing through the double wooden doors behind them into an executive office, causing broken shards of wood to go flying. The Senshi of Fire landed hard on top of Lazarus as the remains of the doors fell down around them, showering the carpet with splinters.

Lazarus punched the furious Sailor Mars in the head as the girl struggled on top of him, ramming her fist into the prone youma's side repeatedly, finally able to land some blows. The darkly attired creature grabbed two handfuls of the miko's tattered fuku and then rolled backwards, taking the raven-haired girl with him, before throwing her off of him to smash into an oak desk. Mars gritted her teeth in pain as her back made agonising contact with the desk's edge, and then fell to the floor headfirst. She hurriedly scrambled to her feet only to meet the black sole of Lazarus' boot in the face, knocking her over the desk and depositing her in a heap on the other side, taking most of the stationery and papers on the item of furniture with her.

Sailor Mars leapt up despite her wounds and vaulted over the desk with both of her feet directed forwards, hoping to strike the youma unawares. But Lazarus was not just any normal lowly youma, and as Mars appeared, her adversary grabbed her legs and pulled, making the Sailor fall on the desk and slide towards him. As Mars came closer, Lazarus clothes-lined her with his arm, pounding the girl in the face and forcing her flat on her back. The Fire Senshi rolled off the desk as the assassin chopped at her prone body, barely dodging the blow and instead letting the furniture take the burnt of the hit. The desk shattered in half as Mars dropped to the floor, an explosion of wooden debris flying above her. She quickly rolled once more, desperate to get more space between herself and the assassin, and then pushed off the floor with her hands, spinning in the air before landing on her feet facing her enemy.


A blistering hot globe of fire sailed at the youma, to which he responded by simply bounding to his right over the destroyed desk and beside a row of floor length rectangular windows that gave a view of the Tokyo skyline. Sailor Mars ran to a new position as soon as the fireball had manifested and left her fingertips, and skidded to a halt when she was a few feet in front of the ruined desk. There was no way Lazarus could dodge a fire attack from this range.


The miko drew her burning bow and fired an arrow at the masked youma, the projectile blazing on its path straight and true, as droplets of flame dripped onto the carpet in its wake. Mars' growing smirk was wiped off her face as Lazarus whipped out a metallic fan with black ornate script decorating it in one hand and extended it fully in front of him, at the exact second the arrow was about to hit his chest. The arrow collided with the fan and appeared to be absorbed directly into it, the licking flames actually being pulled forcibly into the shiny metal by seemingly invisible hands. Once Sailor Mars' attack was completely swallowed, with not even a hint of light from the fire arrow left, the metal fan crumbled away to dust in Lazarus' grip.

"You should see the look on your face! It's priceless! The blood really brings out your eyes!" the youma laughed uproariously, pointing at Mars insultingly, twisting his finger back and forth.

Sailor Mars swore loudly at the psychopathic youma, snarling out her curse, her blood drenched visage making her expression all the more baleful. "MARS FLAME SNIPER!"

A second arrow shot at Lazarus, but with inhuman speed the creature cartwheeled out of the way, his cloak trailing out along side him. The fiery bolt singed the ends of the youma's fluttering cloak before ripping into the wall behind him and detonating inside it, blowing out all the windows and a huge part of the wall, sending a torrent of masonry and glass flakes down to the street below and creating a large hole that let in the cold night air.

As soon as Lazarus had righted himself he sprinted straight for Mars, jumping up onto the edge of one broken half of the desk and running along it, before springing off the corner. The Fire Senshi nimbly strafed to the left as the youma landed, and somehow managed to bring up her arms in time as he threw his forearm locked in a vertical position at her. Lazarus countered with a solid knee in the ribs, causing Mars to drop her guard for a second, leaving her open for a right hook to the side of the head. The miko staggered, and then was pushed backwards as Lazarus slapped both hands firmly against her chest. The assassin feigned a punch to the left, making Sailor Mars move her arms in accordance, and then slammed his palm directly into the raven-haired girl's sternum in a crippling strike, driving all the air from her lungs and making it difficult to breath. Mars took a wheezing breath, trying to force air back into her tight chest, when Lazarus delivered a chop to her neck, aiming right for the artery and hampering the blood flow to her brain.

Sailor Mars clutched her head and wobbled on her feet, the room spinning around her. She shook her head and tried to focus on the assassin through blurry eyes as she retreated until she felt her back touch a wall.

"It is time for you to depart from your mortal coil," Sailor Mars heard Lazarus declare levelly through muffled ears, the creature's voice cold, his mad giggling suppressed. He reached down to two holster-like sheathes strapped to his legs and drew a pair of identical steel punch daggers, similar to katars in shape, with each blade of the weapons ending in a tapered razor point. Lazarus raised his arms in an upright position, the tips of his punch daggers directed upwards to the ceiling. "There can be only one who wears the mask, and that one is ME!!"

Lazarus slashed at Mars with one dagger, scoring a diagonal gash across her torso and sending a line of blood along the wall beside the girl, the line holding its place for a moment before rivulets broke away and rolled down the white paint. The miko let out a cry and fell against the wall, using it to support her beaten body. She then hunched over, barely able to stand as her berserker rage freed her mind, abandoning her under the burden of a lack of oxygen and blood to the head, the debilitating deficiencies simply too much for her.

"Look at you," Lazarus jeered, cocking his head to one side. "Look at how pathetic you've become. Once, you were strong. A warrior of formidable skill, with great power. But now look at you." The youma shook his head in disgust and brutally kicked Mars in the long cut along her midsection, making the girl whimper and slide down the wall huddling herself as she gasped for breath, her lavender eyes glassy. "You are now nothing. A deplorable shadow of your former self," Lazarus went on, no more laughs coming from him now, only pure seriousness. "And why?" he snorted. "Why? Because of one flaw… love." The youma spat out the last word, as if it was poison on his tongue. "You came here to face me because of your love for someone. A mistake. It has clouded your mind; you never had any hope of defeating me. Look where it has led you. Perhaps once your love for 'Usagi' made you strong, but now, after her *rejection*, you have become a wretched being. A feeble, snivelling child. Love is a plague that pollutes the heart, you fool. And it has made you weak. The one truth in this world is--" Lazarus leaned down, shoving his nightmarish masked visage in Sailor Mars' bruised and cut face, the demonic eye slits seeming to bore into her drawn up form. "--The strong are strongest *alone*." The assassin stood upright, looking down at the cowering Senshi of Fire, his once powerful adversary only a shell now. Lazarus lifted his arm, aiming one punch dagger down at Sailor Mars, preparing to finish her once and for all. "Take that knowledge to your grave."

Lazarus stabbed viciously at Mars' head, but suddenly she wasn't there anymore, the punch dagger instead impaling itself into the wall. The masked youma froze, appearing stunned, and creaked his head around to where Sailor Mars had dodged to with uncanny swiftness, the miko standing only a couple of feet away from him.

"You're wrong," Mars declared evenly, glowering at Lazarus grimly. "Just because I can't be with the one I love, doesn't mean that I have become weak. My love for Usagi hasn't dwindled, and it *still* gives me strength. *You're* the one who's flawed. I would pity you, but a *pathetic* youma doesn't deserve my mercy."

"This… this cannot…" Lazarus choked out, shaking his head faintly from side to side in disbelief. "It wasn't…"

But before the shocked youma could say anymore, Sailor Mars let out a roar and kicked at his stuck punch dagger, at the point where the blade met the handle, shattering the steel in twain with a sharp metallic ring. Lazarus let go of his destroyed weapon and sliced wildly at Mars with his remaining dagger. The Fire Senshi sucked in her stomach and let the blade pass by, and then ducked under another blow as the youma continued his frantic swings. Lazarus rambled out a deranged spew of words as he attacked recklessly, screaming something about Sailor Mars dying tonight, while the raven-haired girl herself smoothly evaded each undisciplined swipe.

The black-clad assassin jumped in the air and thrust his punch dagger in the ceiling before lifting himself off the floor and kicking out at Sailor Mars. The miko angled her body to the side away from the strike, and then after lining herself up correctly, she delivered a ferocious side kick into the dangling youma's middle, catapulting the creature back to sprawl near a blasted window, leaving the punch dagger wedged in the ceiling.

Lazarus raised his head from the floor to look at Sailor Mars, the creature's mask seeming to have lost its menacing appearance somewhat. "I don't think I'll be 'departing' my mortal coil tonight," the raven-haired girl said firmly, with a touch of sarcasm. "Or any time soon."


Sailor Mars whirled around at the recognisable sound of her princess's voice, and saw Sailor Moon accompanied by Tuxedo Kamen standing just inside the doorway to the executive office. The prince looked like he had taken a pounding, but Sailor Moon looked exactly like how Sailor Mars had last seen her, for which the miko was very relieved. It appeared that Setsuna's 'moment' had thankfully not occurred while Sailor Mars was busy elsewhere, and that Sailor Moon had managed to avoid suffering any further injuries.

"Usagi…" Mars breathed, gazing adoringly at the welcome sight of her love.


The Senshi of Fire turned back to Lazarus as the youma spoke, his voice barely even a whisper. He was staring at Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen, not moving a single muscle, and even though the creature wore a mask, Sailor Mars could tell that he was greatly unnerved.

"This is…" Lazarus whispered. "This is… it cannot… it's not… how…?"

Suddenly, the assassin burst into an insane cackle, laughing hysterically, as if the biggest joke in the entire universe had been played on him. Lazarus rolled on the floor, giggling like a maniac and clutching at his sides in uncontrollable mirth. Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen looked at each other in confusion while Sailor Mars watched without expression. Then without warning, Lazarus' arm flashed out, and a throwing knife was launched Sailor Moon's way, the blade spinning end over end on its flight path.

"Look out!" Sailor Mars shouted, turning back to her princess and the prince.

Sailor Moon let out a surprised wail while Tuxedo Kamen's cane swiftly lengthened and hit the throwing knife, knocking it out of the air. At the same moment, Lazarus flipped to his feet and kicked Mars in the back, bashing her to the floor to land on her stomach. The raven-haired girl quickly turned over then curled her body into a ball and rolled backwards onto her feet. Lazarus babbled incoherently as he charged towards the trio, apparently more insane than ever. Sailor Mars darted to meet the psychotic youma, engaging him before he could get close to Sailor Moon.

"Hold him!" Mars yelled to Tuxedo Kamen as she blocked a punch from Lazarus with her arm and redirected his fist away from her.

Tuxedo Kamen ran behind the occupied Lazarus and grabbed both of the assassin's arms, dropping his cane as he did so. The youma struggled mightily in the prince's grasp as he desperately tried to pin the creature's arms back, the strain showing on the white-masked man's face. Taking advantage of Lazarus' diverted attention, and knowing Tuxedo Kamen wouldn't be able to restrain the mad assassin for long, Mars reached out and grabbed the youma's ebony mask, shoving her fingers underneath the rim. She pulled hard, the mask feeling as if it was stuck onto Lazarus' face with superglue, until it finally gave way, allowing the girl to slowly peel it from the youma's features. Lazarus screamed like he was being flayed alive as the mask was torn from him, the assassin jerking in Tuxedo Kamen's grasp spasmodically as Sailor Moon looked on in wide-eyed horror.

The dark mask was then finally removed from Lazarus' face, being fully stripped off from the creature's pale skin, and at long last in Sailor Mars' hands. She finally had it. The object that could grant her all her most sought after desires. With the mask, she could see the timeline and anticipate any danger that could befall her princess and easily prevent it. What better thing to have when Sailor Moon was already under threat from the Guardian of Time's prophesied 'moment'? The predicted event would now be a piece of cake for Sailor Mars to deal with; Setsuna had nothing to worry about. And of course, there was the another use for the mask; alter Fate and spend the rest of time with the love of her immortal live, Sailor Moon. It was now all within Sailor Mars' reach.

"Give it-- give it back!!" Lazarus shrieked at the miko, breaking the raven-haired girl out of her reverie.

Sailor Mars looked up from the mask in her hands and to the conquered assassin. She blinked at the youma's now revealed face. Lazarus was… plain. His complexion was pale like the rest of the enemy in the skyscraper, but his actual features were nothing really special. A series of bony ridges surrounded the assassin's eyes and graced the bridge of his nose, but they were the only non-human parts that were really noticeable on his face. But there was something strange about his eyes, Mars noticed. Lazarus' eyes were unblinking and looked as dried out as salted eggs, while his pupils and iris' were an off coloured white, giving him an eerie and fevered gaze, the orbs appearing to bug out of his skull as they darted erratically about. Lazarus' features were almost human if you ignored the ridges and his intense shrivelled eyes; he was almost like a man. A desperate man. A weak man.

Sailor Mars took a retreating step back as profound realisation dawned on her, and bumped into Sailor Moon behind her as Lazarus' struggles subsided, until the creature dropped to his knees in Tuxedo Kamen's grip and bowed his head, his blue locks hanging, appearing resigned and dejected.

"Wh-What's the matter with him?" Sailor Moon asked with trepidation, peering out cautiously from behind her bodyguard.

"It wasn't supposed to be this way…" Lazarus mumbled, his lips hardly moving. He sighed deeply, like a broken man, and then looked up at Mars. His dried up eyes were no longer fevered but rather, accepting, as if he was prepared for whatever the future held for him. "Use it well, Rei Hino; you have proven yourself, despite my initial misgivings. I hope you have more… 'luck', than I have had. But know there is always a price for looking where only the *chosen* are allowed. And remember; Death comes for us all. Time is its steed… and Fate is its lance."

As Sailor Mars and her friends watched on, Lazarus' eyes began to slowly flake away in the night wind from the broken windows and destroyed wall, small flecks of dust peeling away from the dehydrated orbs, until only empty sockets in the youma's skull were left. Tuxedo Kamen let the once powerful assassin's corpse drop face first on the floor, while the dust of what had been the creature's eyes still lingered in the air.

"What was he talking about?" Tuxedo Kamen asked, glancing at Lazarus' carcass and then at Sailor Mars.

Mars shook her head gently as she looked at the still body of her enemy. "Nothing. Don't concern yourself," she said in a murmur.

"Oh, Rei… you're really badly hurt!" Sailor Moon cried as she clutched her hands to her chest, finally getting a clear look at the miko's bloodied form. "We need to get you to Hotaru! She can help you!"

Sailor Mars gave her princess a reassuring half-smile, despite the many pains her body was suffering, her numerous wounds unwelcomely letting her mind know of their existence. "I'll be fine. But if Saturn is giving out her healing hands, I wouldn't say no to them," Mars admitted.

"Okay! I'll go and get her; she isn't too far from here. You just stay put!" Sailor Moon ordered, gazing at the miko earnestly.

"I'm going with you," Tuxedo Kamen said, walking to the blonde. "There might still be youma creeping around this place."

Sailor Mars waited until her princess's and the prince's rapid footfalls faded from earshot, the Fire Senshi unable to resist smiling as she heard Sailor Moon's complaints about how her bodyguard was unable to take care of herself and stay out of trouble. Once she was sure the pair was gone, she looked at the black mask held in her hands. It was made out of a hard acrylic-like material Mars didn't recognise, but it was smooth and cool to touch, even through the girl's gloves. The face on the mask had returned to its picture of tragic misery, the grief filled grimace restored again. The Mars turned it over, and saw that the jet black inside shimmered slightly. It would be so easy to just put it on. The mask could solve all of her problems.

Sailor Mars lifted the mask up, and then flung it out the large hole in the office's wall with all her might, spinning the forbidden artefact like a frisbee.


Mars fired a scorching arrow at the whirling mask, the bolt soaring out of the skyscraper at its target, the flames illuminating the outside of the building with flickering light. It struck the mask like it was a rifle bullet hitting a clay pigeon, blowing the ebony object apart in a ball of roasting red flames to rain down twenty-storeys to the streets below. It was for the best. Sailor Mars wasn't stupid, she saw what Lazarus had become; a complete raving lunatic. Perhaps seeing the timeline without it being an innate gift did that to you. She wondered if the youma had ever even taken the mask off once he had first put it on. Or even could have. The miko doubted it. Besides, Mars knew the temptation for her would be too great. The temptation to use the artefact to get what she wanted, to capture Sailor Moon's heart and to say to hell with the consequences. The Senshi of Fire wouldn't cajole Sailor Moon into loving her by viewing the timeline; it would be like she was cheating in a way, strongarming the blonde into what she desired with fake seducing gestures and words that held no true feelings, instead the actions being made out of necessary measures to win the girl over. Sailor Mars wouldn't do that to her love. She wouldn't make another horrible mistake in regards to her feelings towards Sailor Moon. She had done enough damage already without adding to it.

Sailor Mars smiled resignedly as her lavender eyes watched the flaming remains of the mask, and any chance she had with Sailor Moon, disappear from in front of the dark night's sky. Yes, it was for the best. She viewed this whole ordeal as a test, and this time she had made the right decision. The words Sailor Mars had said to Lazarus had been true; her love for Sailor Moon had not dwindled in the slightest, and she would gain enough sustenance from it to live the rest of her life alone.

"That was fast," Sailor Mars said as she heard quick footsteps behind her, not expecting her princess to have returned so soon.

"Rei, what are you doing just standing around for?!" Sailor Jupiter's voice called out to her.

Mars spun around to see that Jupiter and Mercury were standing in the doorway, both appearing anxious, almost bouncing on their feet. "I'm waiting for Usagi and Hotaru," the miko explained. "Why? What's going on?"

"You don't know?!" Jupiter said incredulously.

"Look, Rei!" Mercury piped up, pointing behind the Senshi of Fire out the shattered windows and ruined wall.

Sailor Mars turned back to the broken windows to see what had her friends so worked up. Her eyes widened as she saw just what Mercury was pointing at, and realised that the blue-haired girl and her girlfriend's concern was definitely warranted.

"What is that…?" Mars whispered absently, staring at the abnormal sight on the Tokyo skyline.

"We don't know, but I think we should all get over there right now!" Sailor Jupiter advised.

"You're right, we should gather the others now," Sailor Mars agreed, retreating back from the spectacle in the sky but not taking her eyes off it.

"Then come on, let's go!" Jupiter yelled, spinning around and then starting to run out of the office.

"Hurry, Rei, we can't waste any time," Mercury added before she joined the brunette in her fast sprint.

Sailor Mars turned away from the strange array of multicoloured electrical bolts crackling near the first observation deck of Tokyo Tower, and from the small streak of dark, foreboding, red that marred the night sky alongside the tall structure. It looked like this night wasn't over yet.


to be continued…

Author's ramblings:

I bet you all thought the 'moment' would happen sometime in this block of chapters. Hah!

Yes, I know the big final battle taking place on Tokyo Tower has been done to death, but there is a reason why it's done so much: it's just a great place to have a final battle! ^_^

The next parts may take a while to come out. They have a lot of content, and it will take me some time to write. Plus I want to make sure I do a good job.