Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Absence ❯ A Moment In Time ( Chapter 57 )
[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
Absence - By Kirika
Chapter fifty-seven. Heh, it should have been fairly obvious that Rei would destroy the mask. It was clearly evil. Plus if she wore it how would she be able to kiss Usagi? Or do other, um, stuff? ^.^; See, you have to take these types of things into account. ^_^;; The whole thing was more or less a statement of Rei's new mindset (no longer the obsessed psycho like in previous chapters).
Don't worry about Rei being too beat up; one of the main reasons I brought Hotaru along for the ride was to refresh all the Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen for the final battle. Also, it should be apparent by now that Rei is as tough as nails and can take punishment as well as she can dish it out, so that's why she can get beat about the head and survive. Besides, if you can't take a few shots to the head, you shouldn't be fighting. Ideally you shouldn't get hit at all though.
As for the whole 'Rei is a ninja' discussion, it's okay, I don't mind. Though I still know very little about ninjas, bar their tools of the trade. Oh well, I'm more of a samurai girl anyway. ^_~
And finally, about my poor ankle. I'm off crutches but I can only sort of limp around. Plus my whole right foot is a mass of bruises. I still can't do any strenuous activity that involves running… or even a brisk walk. -_- Everyone's sympathy for my plight was appreciated; minna-san arigato gozaimasu!
Apologies in advance for any spelling and grammar errors in this chapter. It is mega-long, and checking it was a pain.
Chapter 57 - A Moment In Time
Makareus stood on the metal rooftop of the main observatory of Tokyo Tower, observing his minions bustle about making the final preparations for the gate ritual. The chilly night wind was blowing hard from the one hundred and fifty metre height, whistling through the orange steel girders and causing the assembled group of mages' assorted coloured robes and cloaks, and not to mention the demon's own black cloak, to snap sharply in the air. Incandescent lights from many large lamps laced in between numerous transmitters illuminated the tower, and hence the top of the observatory, combining with the pale light from the full moon above and dispelling most the darkness. Makareus and his followers could be easily seen due to the lights if the observer was close enough, but at this stage it did not matter. Everything was finally coming to fruition.
The seven-foot tall and imposing figure looked over his shoulder to where his right hand youma was coordinating his remaining troops into a defensive position on top of the observatory, while the rest were already gathered down on the ground floor and just below in the main observatory of Tokyo Tower. Iason was still wearing his human masquerade, the creature's artificial tie and black ponytail fluttering wildly about in the wind as he pointed to various spots on the rooftop, indicating to his Lord's troops where to place themselves. It seemed to Makareus that the youma had gotten back his nerve and was now acting like his usual self. For that, the demon was pleased. Replacing such a high-ranking, and frankly, quite capable aide would prove most troublesome. One had to be extremely careful whom they put their trust in. Even a servant of the lowliest standing could sow the seeds of your destruction if you were too trusting around them. Filtering out would-be usurpers from his continually swelling ranks was a never-ending task for Makareus. One could never be too vigilant.
Makareus turned his piercing gaze back to his older brother's former mages, the demon's twin long grey tresses hanging from beneath his hood fluttering in the breeze as he did so. Tokyo Tower had been secured very easily. There had only been a minor human presence in the tower, and they had all been summarily disposed of. Makareus' eyes moved over the carefully placed gate spell components situated specifically on each point of the scrawled black pentagram; Tzetloch weed from the shores of Myhithirial Prime; a vial of drained hyphollic fluid of a Slogoraoth beast; a chaos gem from the belt of Nureoff; and brimstone and amber, both latter materials collected from Earth. It was strange to think that all those fairly mundane items, coupled with a few arcane words and gestures, could open a tear in the very fabric of reality that could be further coaxed into a massive interdimensional passageway. Anybody could do it too; no skills in the magical arts were even necessary. Though, Makareus preferred to let a youma with some arcane experience handle the conjuring. Why would he bother with such a thing if there were perfectly able spell weavers at his disposal?
The demon put one black gloved hand on the ornately crafted pommel of his sword and looked out over the abundant points of light of the city of Tokyo at night, taking in the sprawling human capitol. Tokyo was certainly a… peculiar place. The imperceptible barriers that separated the infinite number of different planes of existence were thin here, weak, and those weak parts were also fairly plentiful. To open a small portal to Makareus' home dimension of Pandemonium required only a little magical effort. Perhaps the location of Tokyo was actually the nucleus for all the dimensions, where every plane of reality intersected with one another, creating a hub for prospective dimensional travellers. It would explain for a lot of bizarre occurrences that Makareus was not responsible for. Or perhaps it was merely a random anomaly. Whatever the reason, it had made choosing a focal point for the impending invasion of the planet simple.
"It is ready, my Lord," said a feminine voice, disturbing the dark figure's thoughts. "The reagents have been prepared, and the casting can now proceed."
Makareus looked down at the robed mage before him, noting the uneasiness in the creature as she shuffled her feet nervously. She had a right to be afraid. Who could stand before him and not prevent themselves trembling in terror? Makareus was a being of pure chaos, an immortal demon who was far beyond the level of an insignificant youma. Birthed from nightmares and given dreaded form, he was only one step below the gods themselves.
"Then proceed," Makareus ordered conceitedly, glaring coldly at his inferior.
The mage nodded anxiously and then quickly scrambled into position in the centre of the large pentagram drawn on the observatory roof as her fellows retreated from the general vicinity. The youma took a moment to consult a tattered piece of parchment pulled out of her robe, and then stuffed it back up a sleeve. While Makareus watched impatiently, she raised her hands firmly above her with fingers spread, and started to bark out a series of incantations. As the spell caster continued, each word of power began to take on a booming timbre that echoed out over the city, and the youma commenced moving her arms in smooth, flowing motions, punctuating every utterance with a precise gesticulation. Purplish sparkles manifested from the mage's fingertips, trailing behind them as they moved and then dropping lethargically downwards, but fading away before hitting the rooftop. Suddenly, each component of the spell burst into blue flame in succession around the five points of the pentagram, the tendrils of the fire licking high into the air and waving erratically about in the wind. The mage's body trembled, as if under extreme stress, but she kept up her chanting and gestures, the glittering sparks showering off her fingertips becoming a deeper shade of purple that hurt the eye as their frequency increased. A barely noticeable line grew visible several feet out in the open air from Tokyo Tower's main observatory surrounded by a crackling display of gradually spreading multicoloured energy bolts, Makareus' exceptional eyesight allowing the phenomenon to make itself known to only him at first. The line was a dark red, a scar on the night's sky, blotting out the stars. The image reminded Makareus of the blasted plains of Morderith, where the felled Khairephon's war legion were currently stationed, awaiting the invasion of Earth and subsequently its home dimension. It seemed that this rip in reality allowed one to see onto the plane on the opposite side, rather than just displaying an utter dark void of nothingness. Meanwhile, the robed youma intensified the strength of her invocation, the sound of her voice easily being heard above the howling wind. Without warning, the azure fires burning the spell reagents incinerated the materials completely, and then shot in spiralling bolts of flame towards the centre of the ebony pentagram, with the ash of the former components contained within them. The mage didn't flinch in the slightest as the searing flames fired directly towards her however, and was no doubt not the least bit surprised as they just stopped short from setting her alight and coalesced instead. The trapped ashes knitted together to form a silverly circular object that levitated in the air while it revolved slowly in a circle, basking untouched in the hot blue flames.
The mage collapsed to her knees, her arms dropping like lead weights to her sides as she panted heavily. "The…. the deed is… done," the youma declared between laboured breaths, while beads of perspiration fell to the metal platform from under her hood. After taking several moments to compose herself, the spell caster stood up on unsteady legs and gingerly reached out to the metallic disc that still hung rotating in the air before her. She gently grasped the object from the azure fire, evidently not being burned at all, and removed it from its flaming container. As she did so, the flames snuffed out completely, as if a blanket had been thrown over them. "This medallion binds the portal to this plane," the youma explained as she approached Makareus, dangling the silver disc from her hand by its thin and equally silver chain. The medallion was inscribed with complex script and designs that Makareus didn't recognise, but the demon knew that they must hold significant arcane power. The robed mage handed the disc to the black-clad figure reverently. "It allows the portal to remain in a stable state while it grows in size. It must be protected by all costs. If it is damaged, or worse destroyed, the consequences will be catastrophic to say the least."
Makareus slipped the chain of the medallion over his head and let the conjured artefact hang from his neck. He passed his gloved hand over the metallic item, and then it vanished suddenly from view, the demon having put a minor shadow glamour over it for safety's sake. Magic. There was always some problem with it that led to untold carnage and ruin. But unfortunately, magic was usually a necessary danger for many of Makareus' plans. At least he didn't have to rely on Thrinakie to provide it anymore, however.
Makareus dismissed the youma mage with an absent wave of his hand, and then looked out across the dark horizon of the city, in the direction his former headquarters were located. Taller buildings blocked the view of the skyscraper, but the demon didn't really need to see it. He was confident that the office building was now the tomb of this planet's defenders, the Sailor Senshi. Lazarus and the Silent Blades would not fail in their task. It was simply inconceivable. Makareus smiled smugly. From here on out, all he had to do was wait for the gateway's size to increase to allow more and more of his armies to slip through into this world, and another successful dimensional invasion would be under his belt. Yes, all he had to do was wait.
Rei walked purposefully out of the enemy's office skyscraper at a brisk pace, her comrades close by her side. Hers and the other Sailors' and Mamoru's most grievous wounds had all been totally healed by Hotaru, making the miko feel somewhat refreshed despite her body's small ongoing aches and pains from her remaining superficial cuts and bruises, allowing her to walk with relative ease. Rei and the others had also detransformed to let their tattered outfits restore themselves; none of them had wished to travel to Tokyo Tower in the cold night dressed in shredded rags, even in a car.
Rei and her friends had encountered no further resistance in the twenty-storey building when they took a short breather for Hotaru to tend to the Fire Senshi's wounds --the other Sailor Senshi and Mamoru having already been previously seen to-- and also none when they had journeyed downwards on the remaining working elevator and vacated the premises. Rei surmised that any surviving youma had been cowed by the tremendous amount of casualties they had received whose bodies were now currently slowly rotting in the tall building's hallways, and by their leader's defeat and consequent death. Ultimately, Lazarus hadn't been too tough to vanquish, a fact that Rei's mind found difficult to comprehend. Near the end of her battle with the assassin, the miko had almost felt like giving up. Almost. But after calling on what reserves of strength and will she had left, and with Lazarus' taunts helping to spur her on, Rei had burst back into the fight and emerged victorious. Although, she had to admit, the youma had lost his cool in the dying moments of the mêlée, allowing her to easily take advantage of his lack of focus. The Senshi of Fire wondered why Lazarus' mask hadn't foreseen her evading his finishing blow and his ensuing demise before the events came about. Perhaps there was a flaw in the mask? Rei supposed she would never know. The ebony artefact was dust blowing in the wind now, along with her hopes of ever being involved with Usagi again. But inside, Rei's heart weighed easier in her chest. She had made the correct decision. The fact that her dream of being together with Usagi truly was dead still hurt deeply, but she could take the pain for her love's sake.
"Oh great, your fan club is still here, Rei," Minako remarked in a long-suffering sigh as the group approached the waiting Tsubasa and Sanjuro across the street from the skyscraper. Both men perked up as the Fire Senshi and company made their way towards them, the pair looking pleased as they quickly exited their blue compact car to eagerly meet them.
As Rei and the others came closer, Sanjuro whipped out a camera from behind his back and snapped a photo, the sudden flash causing the team to abruptly halt in their approach and blink rapidly, trying to clear the bright spots obscuring their vision.
"Aah! No pictures! I'm a mess!" Minako implored, holding out one hand in front of the camera and recoiling away, while attempting to cover her dirty face and ruffled blonde hair with the other.
Rei glowered at Sanjuro levelly, making the man half-smile wanly and shrug his shoulders. "It's my 'hero' shot," he explained sheepishly. "I couldn't resist, you know?"
"I'm relieved you're alright, Rei," Tsubasa said in a heartfelt tone, saving the ex-reporter from a verbal lashing by the Senshi of Fire. There was a polite cough from Michiru, causing him to redden. "Uh, I'm relieved everyone's alright…" Tsubasa hastily amended, shuffling his feet guiltily as he looked down to the ground.
"Just another night in Tokyo," Rei said sarcastically, bending her head back and then rolling it around in gentle circles, getting the kinks out of her neck.
"So, since you lot are all here in… more or less one piece," Sanjuro said, pausing for an instant as he eyed Rei's still scarred visage that was caked with dried blood. "I guess that means that all the youma are all totally wasted in there. I never lost faith in any of you to get the job done for a second!"
"And who was the guy ready to bolt when all that glass fell on the car roof…?" Tsubasa queried evenly, giving his spiky-haired companion a withering look.
"Hey, I'm no hero," Sanjuro said quickly, holding his hands out and shrugging again. "I leave that to the professionals." He shot a cheesy smile at Rei and her friends.
"Isn't that the truth," the miko commented sardonically, rolling her eyes.
"We can't dally here," Ami cut in, forestalling any more banter and getting things back on track. "We must proceed to Tokyo Tower *immediately*. Time is of the essence; we don't know what could be happening there at this very moment."
Rei and the other Sailor Senshi plus Mamoru nodded in grave agreement. It was glaringly obvious to them all that the whole ordeal with Lazarus and his assassins had been merely a delaying tactic to draw their attention away from whatever was currently occurring at Tokyo Tower. Whatever was happening there, it couldn't bode well for the Sailor Senshi and Mamoru… or even possibly the world.
"Okay people, let's get moving!" Usagi ordered enthusiastically, slapping her hands together in a series of claps, urging everyone into action. She then pointed to Mamoru's red sports car and Haruka's convertible, positioning herself in a valiant stance. "To the cars!" she commanded in a bold, yet somewhat comical, voice.
Rei rolled her eyes once more, this time at her princess's adorable hi-jinks, and then smirked, shaking her head slightly.
"Hey! Don't just stand there, Rei!" Usagi exclaimed at the grinning Senshi of Fire, frowning at the raven-haired girl and appearing ready to stamp her foot. "Into a car!" the blonde odango atama demanded, pointing again in the two vehicles' general direction.
"Yes, your royal magnificence," Rei mumbled under her breath as she moved towards Haruka's car, still smirking.
"I heard that!" Usagi shouted huffily, though it didn't put a damper on Rei's smirk in the slightest. It seemed like old times to the miko, her and her princess just good friends, like nothing had changed between them. But of course it had. The whole light-hearted joking around was a façade, really. Rei could tell Usagi was putting a false face over things, pretending nothing was wrong between them, that everything was fine, like things were as they had always been. It was fabricated, but she found herself embracing the lie just as much as Usagi was, hiding her true face and feelings behind her haughty smirks and usual bravado. Rei supposed make believe did have its uses sometimes. It helped to ease the pain of reality.
As Rei walked towards the convertible, she noticed that Hotaru was leaning heavily against it, looking as if she was letting the car support nearly all of her weight, while her breathing was somewhat ragged.
"Are you okay, Hotaru?" Minako asked in concern as she moved next to Rei in front of the young Outer Senshi. "You don't look so good…"
Hotaru remained quiet for a few seconds, collecting herself, before looking up with violet eyes highlighted by dark circles underneath them. "I'll be fine," the young girl reassured the Senshi of Love, her face even paler than normal.
"Perhaps you should sit this one out," Michiru suggested as she joined the group, and then placed the back of her hand against Hotaru's forehead, testing her temperature. "Healing myself and the others must have taken a high toll on your body; no one can take *your* wounds and weariness away with simply a touch."
"It's okay, Michiru-mama," Hotaru said, finally catching her breath. "I can go on. Ami wrapped bandages around all of my cuts; I'll be okay."
Michiru looked at the Senshi of Rebirth dubiously, appearing to consider the sincerity of the girl's words, before then scanning her eyes carefully over her thin frail body.
"Hey, we don't have all night!" Makoto called from next to Mamoru's car, making Rei, Michiru, and Minako look over their shoulders to see the tall brunette waving for them to get into Haruka's convertible.
"Very well, Hotaru," Michiru consented, turning back to her fellow Outer Senshi. Hotaru smiled faintly at her guardian in gratitude.
Rei opened the front passenger door of the car as Michiru moved around to the driver's side and while Minako and Hotaru clambered into the backseat. She spared a glance behind her, and saw that Tsubasa and Sanjuro were also hurriedly entering their vehicle.
"What do you think you guys are doing?" Rei called out to the two men, pausing with her hand on the opened car door.
Sanjuro and Tsubasa looked at one another, and then back at the Fire Senshi, both also halting midway in getting into their car. "Umm… getting into a car…?" Tsubasa answered back uncertainly.
"You're not coming along!" Rei forbade vehemently.
"You can't ditch us now!" Sanjuro whined, looking at the miko with puppy dog eyes. "I wanna know what's going down at Tokyo Tower! I know it's something kick ass!"
"Rei, we must go," Michiru informed Rei from inside the car with quiet insistence, the aquamarine-haired woman's eyes darting between the Inner Senshi and Mamoru's red car as it pulled away from the curb.
"Grrr," Rei growled, getting in to the convertible beside the Senshi of the Ocean and deciding to leave Tsubasa and Sanjuro to their own devices.
"Man trouble?" Michiru inquired innocently with a small controlled smile and a single, raised, elegant eyebrow. Rei merely shot her a look that would have slain a lesser woman, and then forcefully put on her seatbelt with a hard click.
Sailor Mars bent her head back completely, looking straight upwards at the three hundred and thirty three metre tall broadcasting tower that loomed before her and her companions. Arguably the city's most recognisable landmark and tourist attraction, the brightly lit Tokyo Tower certainly didn't appear very inviting to Mars at the moment. Loud crackles of electrical energy filled the night air, while a chain of multicoloured lightning bolts surged along several of the white and orange metal support girders of the tower and around the red glaring tear in the dark sky, the low altitude, cloudless, and localised storm painting a vastly portentous and daunting picture. But that wasn't the only thing that disturbed Sailor Mars. The feeling that she had experienced outside the enemy's skyscraper had returned, but with increased force. It made the miko feel tense and uneasy, wanting to strike out at what was responsible for the unpleasant sensation and dispel it for some relief, but there was nothing apparent to strike out at. Sailor Mars looked over to where Sailor Moon was standing, gaping up at Tokyo Tower with wide eyes. She had to stay sharp. Her princess's life was still on the line; Setsuna's foretold defining 'moment' that could spell the end for Sailor Moon's existence having not come about yet. However, Sailor Mars knew it was close. Very close. Her mind called back the divined vision she had received through the Fire, going over its contents one more time, trying to find some clue if it related to Setsuna's 'moment', and if so, what the 'moment' actually entailed. But, as the raven-haired girl had suspected, it was no good; she still gained no further insight from her vision. Mars was certain she would be enlightened when the prophesised event was upon her however. She just hoped she would be able to act in time to prevent a tragedy that her or the other senshi and Tuxedo Kamen would never recover from.
Sailor Mars broke her gaze away from the paranormal display taking place above her, and turned it to the other uninviting scene before her. The entire ground floor of Tokyo Tower was covered by all sorts of hideous youma, the dozens of foes watching the Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen through the clear glass walls, shooting the group threatening scowls and barking vile taunts. The creatures held their position however, probably waiting for Mars and the others to make the first move. The miko spared a glance over her shoulder to where Sanjuro and Tsubasa were currently hiding in safety in their car fifty metres or so back. The two guys had followed behind Tuxedo Kamen's and Haruka's cars as they had raced to Tokyo Tower --much to Mars' displeasure-- but on her and most of her friends' combined insistence, they had agreed to stay away from the invaded tourist attraction.
"It looks like they're waiting for us…" Sailor Venus said, eyeing the assembled enemy warily.
"There are at least thirty youma, possibly more," Sailor Mercury contributed, tapping away on her mini super computer as she gave frequent glances through her blue visor at the mob of creatures. "Most likely they have been placed there to deal with anyone who may happen by. And in our case, delay us from investigating the phenomenon occurring above."
"We should get to an elevator as fast as we can," Tuxedo Kamen advised as he observed the kaleidoscope sparks fly around the dark red line in the sky. "It'll take us directly to the main observatory. From this angle, it looks like the electrical disturbance is originating from there."
"Right!" Sailor Moon agreed heartily. "Who knows what's going on up there? We should get there as soon as possible."
Sailor Jupiter punched one fist into her hand, glaring at the numerous amount of youma as a somewhat sinister half-smile pulled up one side of her mouth. "Then let's not keep these scumbags waiting…" she growled.
"My sentiments exactly," Mars smirked in a feral-like grin.
Suddenly, as if on some silent signal, Sailor Mars, Tuxedo Kamen, and the other Sailor Senshi charged forwards towards the main entrance of Tokyo Tower, all knowing that there was no time to spare for an any more complex battle tactic.
"SPARKLING WIDE PRESSURE!"
Jupiter lobbed a ball of glowing white energy at the entrance of Tokyo Tower as she ran, blasting apart the doors and shattering many glass wall panes, creating a wide entryway into the foyer. The Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen burst into the broadcast tower, the crunch of broken shards of glass being pounded beneath their feet sounding out as they flung themselves into combat.
Sailor Mars ducked under a slash from a curved hook-like claw attached to one hand of a hulking four-armed youma covered with long clumps of thick, brown, shaggy hair as she catapulted herself into the escalating fray around her. She sidestepped quickly around the brutish creature and then bounded a couple of feet backwards, giving her room to attack.
The miko shot a fireball at the youma, setting its hairy hide into an inferno. The creature howled and flailed around uncontrollable, ripping into any nearby comrades with its scythe-like claws as it frantically tried to somehow douse the flames burning its body. However, to Mars, the youma was already forgotten. She smashed her fist into a fish-faced creature, sending it sprawling over a counter of a souvenir booth, and then delivered a high kick into the side of another youma's head, eliciting a sharp yelp from the thing, similar to a wounded canine's.
The Senshi of Fire shot a hasty look over to where Sailor Moon was fighting, and saw that the blonde was holding her own with her tiara while Sailor Saturn and Tuxedo Kamen kept the horde at bay, allowing her to use her ranged attack fairly unhindered. Seeing her princess was in relative safety was a load off Mars' mind, letting her know that she could engage the enemy while not having to worry about her. Sailor Mars heard a cry from Sailor Jupiter, and looked to the source of the noise to see the strong brunette pick up one of the brass poles that, with others, supported a red velvet rope barrier that led to the elevators, most likely there to control a crowd of visitors. However, Jupiter used the pole for an entirely different purpose. The tall girl swung the heavy brass rod in a mighty uppercut with a yell, whacking a youma with a burgundy furred fox head in the face, a dull clang ringing out and a shower of blue fluid gushing up to the ceiling from the blow.
Sailor Mars' attention was brought back to her own scrape when she felt a rush of air behind her. The miko instinctively dived forwards and rolled across the floor. When she was upside down, her front towards her latest youma assailant, the raven-haired girl quickly slapped her hands together, pointing her two index fingers at the enemy.
A fiery sphere left Sailor Mars' fingertips and she completed her diving roll, ending up on her feet. She glanced behind her, noting the now shapeless youma writhing on the floor in agony engulfed in roasting flames with morbid satisfaction.
Mars let out a short scream of shock and pain as something blisteringly hot grazed her right upper arm, searing a scorched line across her fuku, followed by her flesh. She reflexively grabbed her burning arm, disturbing the wisps of smoke wafting off the charred skin and muscle, and gritted her teeth, stifling another cry of pain as she searched for the origin of the attack with fevered, angry, lavender eyes. Sailor Mars saw a spindly greenish humanoid youma with long lank black hair standing stock still a short distance from her, the immobile creature clearly visible in the flurry of movement and violence going on around it. Its eyes were closed, but a dim red light could be seen glowing beneath its eyelids, making the veins prominent. Suddenly, it opened its eyes, and twin beams of bright red energy fired straight at Mars, the rays burning clean through any youma in their path to their senshi target. Sailor Mars desperately hurled herself out of the two beams' course, throwing herself behind a support pillar. She heard the beams crash into the other side, and then the sound of numerous objects hitting the floor, the shafts of red light no doubt taking chunks of masonry out of the upright structure. Mars strafed out from behind the pillar in a crouch, and saw that the thin youma had closed its eyes again, shutting off its beams.
The youma snapped its head in the fireball's direction as the blazing globe sailed towards it, and then opened its eyes once more. The shining red rays shot out of its eyes and collided with Mars' attack, the force of the impact blowing the orb into little bits of falling flame, breaking straight through it as if it were nothing and onwards to the stunned raven-haired girl. Sailor Mars cursed and ducked, letting the beams only just fly over her head. She prepared to hide behind the pillar once more, but then the path of the rays moved, striking it and blocking off Mars' retreat. Instead she rolled to her left, barely dodging the shafts of light as the youma's eyes moved with her, singeing the ends of her long raven locks. The Fire Senshi hurriedly manoeuvred herself in front of a large mass of milling youma, punching and kicking any who dared challenge her, while madly wracking her brain for a plan to deal with her red-eyed adversary.
The skinny youma closed its eyes, hunting for Mars in the pack of its fellows, its powerful eyes strong enough to see through its eyelids.
"SHINING AQUA ILLUSION!"
A geyser of water suddenly banged into the side of the searching youma's head, taking the creature unawares and causing it to stumble. Instantly ice started to form on its skull and spread rapidly over its face, freezing its eyelids shut. Sailor Mars grinned rakishly and after beating off one clingy monster with her foot, she quickly vacated the throng of creatures, her eyes focused intensely on the blindly staggering lanky youma.
"MARS FLAME SNIPER!"
Sailor Mars drew her burning bow and launched an arrow flawlessly at the half-frozen red-eyed youma, forcing several other creatures to jump recklessly out of the way of fiery death, before the bolt took her target cleanly in the chest. The projectile exploded, blowing out the youma's insides and incinerating them in a roasting hot fire before any of the mess could hit the floor. Mars looked over to were Mercury was and flashed her a grin of thanks, to which the blue-haired genius responded with her own smile, before returning her attention to the battle.
As the miko did likewise, she realised that the youma enemy were doing a good job at delaying her and her comrades from reaching the elevators, and hence the main observatory of Tokyo Tower. The Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen fought bravely and skilfully, sending scores of youma to their graves, but the sheer numbers of the enemy were enough to continually push the group back time and time again. It was very frustrating for Mars. She knew that she and the others couldn't keep fighting forever, and even if they did manage to slay all the creatures, by then it would probably be too late to stop whatever diabolical thing was happening up at the main observatory level.
"Damn it," Mars swore under her breath as she torched yet another youma to a cinder, and then backhanded another nearby across its pig-like features, knocking it back, while the cacophony of her fellow senshi fighting filled the air around her. The Sailors and Tuxedo Kamen needed to get to that observatory or all would be lost, the Fire Senshi just knew it. They needed another plan to get there. And fast.
"It's not looking very good; I think they're in trouble," Tsubasa said across to Sanjuro who was standing on the other side of the rented compact car, busy taking pictures with a telephoto lens attached to the camera hanging around his neck. The ex-reporter had been excitedly taking shots ever since Sailor Mars had went into that big office building with the rest of her pals, and it didn't look like the spiky-haired man was ever going to stop. Tsubasa wondered when he was going to run out of film; he must have taken a hundred pictures by now. Tsubasa had tried to dissuade Sanjuro from disobeying Mars' request for no photos, but it was useless. All the self-centred man could think about was how famous he was going to be for getting such 'action packed' pictures of the Sailor Senshi, and how all the newspapers would be throwing jobs and money at him.
"Pfft, dude, that's what you said last time, back at that other joint," Sanjuro said as he snapped another photo, not taking his attention away from the ground floor of Tokyo Tower. "Sure, before it looked like those youma were about to wear their asses as hats, but all those monsters got owned in the end." He lowered his camera, and looked over to his worrying companion. "That's just their way of fighting, you know? They get beat up, and then come back and kick the crap outta everything."
"I don't know…" Tsubasa murmured uncertainly, squinting his eyes as he tried to get a good look at what was happening in the tower. He couldn't make out Sailor Mars anywhere, though he did spot the older aquamarine-haired woman he had seen before at the high-rise plaza earlier, and the blonde with the red ribbon in her hair, who was currently shooting yellow beams of energy out of one pointed finger. That was certainly something you didn't see everyday, evil monsters overrunning Tokyo Tower notwithstanding. Tsubasa angled his head to the side, hoping to somehow get a glimpse of the fiery miko, but to no avail.
Sanjuro sighed deeply, letting go of his camera and allowing it to rest on his chest. "Don't worry, I'm sure your girlfriend is fine; kicking ass and taking names like she always does," he drawled, rolling his eyes in exasperation.
"She's *not* my girlfriend," Tsubasa replied testily, with more bitterness in his tone than he would have liked.
"Yeah, too bad for you, huh?" Sanjuro smirked, and then returned to aiming his camera at Tokyo Tower and taking photos.
Tsubasa didn't dignify Sanjuro's remark with a response, and instead let out a depressed sigh and looked up at the strange goings on taking place in the sky by the white and orange landmark. He wondered if the police were going to show up soon; someone in this city must have noticed what weird stuff was happening right this second. It would not do for him or Sanjuro to be caught at the scene of such a disturbance however, especially after the police had them on file for being at Juuban High School during that awful youma attack.
Tsubasa looked back to the ground level of the broadcast tower, and frowned when he couldn't make out any of the Sailor Senshi anymore. A wall of rippling youma was all his anxious eyes could see, no matter where he looked. He swallowed nervously. Maybe everything was really fine, and that Mars and her friends had just fought onwards to a higher floor. Yes, that was it. Nothing to be worried about.
"Damn, I lost 'em," Sanjuro complained, finally giving up on snapping any more pictures.
Tsubasa felt sweat bead on his brow as his now rather frantic eyes scanned over the horde of youma, trying to see any of the senshi. Detecting none of the girls, or even the formally dressed man that accompanied them, he glanced up at Tokyo Tower, looking to see if an elevator was ascending along the partially see-through shaft running up the centre of the landmark. No. There wasn't. He swallowed hard again. Something was wrong, he just knew it. But what could he do? Tsubasa was just your average guy, no one special. He had no super powers; hell, he didn't even know any martial arts or anything like that. Tsubasa looked up at the electrical display in the sky, and saw that the long red tear had widened and lengthened since the last time he had saw it. He lowered his head back down, staring at the ground. So this was the moment he had been waiting for; this was the time to get involved and make a difference in the world. It was a peculiar feeling, having such a responsibility on his shoulders; he wondered if this was a feeling that Sailor Mars experienced most of time. Tsubasa's heart felt like it was in his throat, and a blanket of fear fell about him, but it was tempered by an exhilarating sense of anticipation. He didn't know if he had what it took. Tsubasa had been a bystander all his life, no real meaningful purpose to his existence, but here and now, he could change that in a single instant. He raised his head, looking once more at the daunting tide of youma in Tokyo Tower, and then up at the gouge in the night's sky. And then, all of a sudden, an odd calm came over Tsubasa, his mind never having been so clear. This was his one chance to make a difference; a chance he didn't think he would ever have again… and he didn't intend to let it slip by.
"Give me the car keys," Tsubasa ordered Sanjuro, turning his head to the man.
"No," Sanjuro answered reflexively, as if it was the most insane request he had ever heard. "Why?" he then asked.
"Just give them to me!" Tsubasa demanded, putting more force behind his voice. "This car *is* rented with my money, you know!"
"Fine, fine," Sanjuro grumbled, fishing the keys out of his pants and tossing them over to Tsubasa, who snatched them out of the air.
Tsubasa hurriedly jogged around to the driver's side of the car and got in, slamming the door behind him and then putting on his seatbelt. There was the sound of another slam of a door from Tsubasa's left, and he looked over to see that Sanjuro had gotten into the car too.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Sanjuro asked from the passenger seat, incredulous. "This is a once in a life time spectacle! We are *not* leaving yet!"
"Who said anything about leaving?" Tsubasa said evenly as he firmly slid the keys into the ignition.
"Uhh…" Sanjuro said dumbly, blinking at the man next to him. "What do you plan to do?" he continued, with obvious trepidation in his voice.
"Buckle up," Tsubasa commanded without inflection, her eyes riveted to the front entrance of Tokyo Tower, a short distance straight ahead of the car.
"Y-You can't be serious!" Sanjuro exclaimed, his head snapping between the youma invested Tokyo Tower and the determined Tsubasa.
Tsubasa turned the car key forcefully, revving the engine hard, and then took off the handbrake. "I said buckle up," he repeated, not taking his eyes off his goal.
"Are you nuts?!" the ex-reporter screamed, at the exact same moment Tsubasa put the automatic gear into drive and floored the accelerator, causing a loud squeal to sound out from the rear tires. The small blue car careered forwards, directly for Tokyo Tower, Sanjuro howling in terror all the while. He fumbled frantically for his seatbelt, somehow getting it on as the ominous view of the youma-packed ground level of the tower came closer and closer, filling the windshield more and more by the second. "We're gonna get in a lot of trouble!!" Sanjuro screeched as the car whizzed past two of the four main support legs for Tokyo Tower, on a certain collision course with the landmark's foyer.
"LOOK OUT!!" Sailor Mars heard Sailor Venus' voice scream at the top of her lungs, her warning rising above the clamour of the battle.
Sailor Mars socked her current youma adversary in the jaw, and then broke off the conflict, quickly throwing her head over her shoulder and looking past the dozens of congregated creatures to see what had elicited such a vehement warning from the Senshi of Love. The miko's lavender eyes widened and almost bugged out of her head as she saw the speeding compact car that Tsubasa and Sanjuro had been travelling in hurtling directly for her and a whole lot of youma between her. Just what in the name of all that was holy were those numbskulls thinking!?
Mars bit off a curse and then recklessly launched herself to one side, along with several youma doing likewise. She crashed into some more of the creatures, bowling them over, before landing on top of them. There was a loud bang as the car smashed through what remained of the windows and doors, and then a series of dull thuds and sharp, abruptly cut off, shrieks, which no doubt came from any unfortunate youma who had failed to get out of the unforgiving car's path in time. The Fire Senshi hoped that none of the pain-wracked cries belonged to any of her friends.
The car swerved to the right, skidding along the floor and sideswiping more startled youma as it left black tire marks in its wake --and also making Mars desperately scramble backwards on the floor to avoid being squashed-- before the vehicle finally came to a halt. The blue compact's front and right side were covered with dents and its headlights were smashed, and also its bumper and licence plate were missing, both items lost under a pile of youma bodies, but other than that the car had appeared to have come through the ordeal in more or less decent condition. Of course, once Sailor Mars had torched it to so much melted metal along with the stupid men inside, it would be a different story entirely. Had Tsubasa and Sanjuro lost their minds?
"Get up, Mars!" the miko heard Sailor Jupiter call to her. Sailor Mars dragged her eyes away from the now silent car to see that Sailor Jupiter and the others, who had all evidently escaped the car's rampaging charge, were using the lull in the enemy's resistance and focus to pile into an elevator.
Mars swiftly clambered to her feet, and then bolted for the open elevator doors and towards the others, stepping on and over many prone dead, dying, and stunned youma, while Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus anxiously waved her in, shouting encouragements. After what had seemed like an eternity, but in actual fact were only several seconds, Mars finally reached the elevator and her waiting princess, the blonde giving her a relieved smile. The Fire Senshi flashed Sailor Moon a swaggering grin, and then turned back to the ruin that was Tokyo Tower's foyer, only to see Tsubasa and Sanjuro stumble in a daze out of their car as the surviving youma began to get their wits back.
"Isn't that…?" Sailor Venus started, but was promptly cut off by Sailor Moon.
"We have to help them!" Sailor Moon exclaimed, looking at the men with frantic blue eyes.
"You two, get in here!" Tuxedo Kamen yelled at Sanjuro and Tsubasa, gesturing with one hand for added emphasis.
"A little fire support wouldn't go amiss," Sailor Neptune suggested from behind Sailor Mars, as all the senshi started joining in calling wildly to the temporarily stunned pair to hurry up and run to them.
"Way ahead of you," Venus said, crouching and bringing up one arm. "CRESCENT BEAM!"
A ray of energy blasted through a youma's chest as it moved to grab Tsubasa, blazing a black cauterised hole in the monster. It toppled backwards, just as Sailor Moon's tiara ripped into another youma who leapt at the two men, slicing into its stomach. Its jump was halted prematurely as it landed hard on its knees, clutching at its eviscerated abdomen.
"Move it, you idiots!!" Sailor Mars hollered angrily as she released a fireball from her fingertips, the attack exploding in a recovered group of youma in a large conflagration, making skin and flesh alike run like wax.
The severity of their situation finally dawning on the men's addled minds, Sanjuro and Tsubasa sprinted like crazy for the open elevator and the protection of the Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen-- Tsubasa covering his head with his arms as all sorts of attacks flew over and around him from Mars and her comrades, while Sanjuro just screamed like a baby as he ran, flailing his arms wildly as the camera dangling around his neck bounced up and down uncontrollably on his chest.
"Close the doors! Close the doors!" Sanjuro begged hysterically as he collapsed in the elevator, tucking his legs close to his body so that they were completely inside.
Sailor Moon quickly hit the button to shut the doors, followed by the button for the main observatory level. Sailor Mars and Sailor Venus continued firing fireballs and energy beams respectively at the gathering youma as the doors closed however, only ceasing their assault when the gap between them was too little for their attacks to fit through. At last, the doors closed completely and the elevator started its slow, scenic, ascent, shutting out the remaining frenzied youma and leaving them behind on the ground floor.
"Oh geez, I thought I was a goner," Sanjuro sighed in unmistakable relief, falling flat on his back on the elevator floor. "You psychopath! You tried to kill me!" he then yelled at Tsubasa, who was leaning up against a clear plastic floor length window of the elevator that took up most of the wall while he breathed heavily from his run, with Mercury meanwhile inspecting his body for any serious injuries.
"I'm glad the youma didn't kill you," Sailor Mars said without emotion, her tone making Sanjuro fall quiet. "Because now I get the chance to murder you both myself."
"It wasn't my fault!" Sanjuro instantly declared, pleading to Mars with his eyes as he got on his knees. "It was all Tsubasa! The guy flipped out or something!" he insisted, pointing accusingly at Tsubasa. "I didn't want to drive *into* Tokyo Tower, for god's sake!"
"You know, Rei, they did provide us with a chance to get to this elevator…" Sailor Jupiter reminded Sailor Mars, causing the Fire Senshi's lavender eyes to sharply flick to her. The tall brunette smiled weakly and held up her hands in a pacifying motion.
"That *is* true, Rei," Sailor Neptune joined in, smiling faintly at the raven-haired girl.
"Don't you start," Sailor Mars muttered irritably, to which the Senshi of the Sea responded by simply smiling a touch wider. The miko looked over to Tsubasa, who had remained quiet thus far. "What do you have to say for yourself?" she asked tersely.
Tsubasa looked out the gradually climbing elevator at the slowly improving view of Tokyo at night, and then at Mars. "I just did what had to be done," he reasoned, shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly.
Sailor Mars opened her mouth to respond to the lame motive, but then felt a light touch on her shoulder, knowing instinctively that the gentle hand belonged to her love.
"It all worked out. Don't be angry, Rei," Sailor Moon said quietly to her bodyguard, sparing a brief smile at Tsubasa.
"But that's not the point," Mars argued, somewhat stymied by her princess's touch and words, her tone now sounding like she was whining like a petulant child, much to her dislike.
"I… I think I see something," Sailor Saturn interrupted in her small timid voice, pointing at a spot outside the slow elevator.
"Looks like we've got company!" Tuxedo Kamen loudly informed everyone as he saw what the Senshi of Rebirth was pointing to.
Sailor Mars followed Sailor Saturn's finger and noticed that something was heading straight for them at high-speed. No, it was a collection of somethings. As the objects came closer, the Senshi of Fire realised with grim recognition just what danger was approaching her and her friends.
"Oh no, not these guys again!" Sailor Venus lamented as the party of robed youma flew towards them on their levitating discs, the circular floating travelling devices decorated with all sorts of unrecognisable characters and coloured designs.
"What? What is it?! What's going on?!" Sanjuro wailed, looking frantically all around him.
There was a flash of orange light from one of the flying youma, and a swarm of what looked like large fireflies buzzed towards the ascending group, before punching through the plastic section of the elevator shaft and impacting hard on the adjacent clear window on the wall of the elevator itself, the multitude of insects striking it like a rain of hailstones before they dissipated into nothing, leaving behind a web of cracks.
"Aaaah!! We're all gonna die!!" Sanjuro howled, pulling himself into a tight ball.
"None of those bugs got through; the elevator shaft provided a buffer of a sort," Mercury reported, ignoring the ex-reporters cries. "But these walls won't last forever under a prolonged offensive. Try and stay away from them."
"Um, how?" Venus asked, looking around the packed elevator.
Sailor Mercury glanced around the elevator herself, and then turned her head to the Senshi of Love. "I see your point," she conceded disquietly.
"Rei, uh, Sailor Mars, what do we do?" Tsubasa pitched towards the Senshi of Fire, eagerly awaiting her guidance.
"You just do like Sanjuro and keep your head down," Sailor Mars said to Tsubasa, to which he looked at the cowering ex-reporter with a mixture of consternation and disgust, not wishing to lower himself to his level.
There was a loud thud and the elevator reverberated as a wave of rippling energy collided with it, the nearly invisible attack only able to be seen by the way it blurred the air in its wake. The wave caused another window of the elevator to instantly be covered totally in a net of fractures, the neighbouring section of the shaft already destroyed, but somehow it held out, only barely maintaining its shape.
"Saturn!" Neptune called earnestly. The woman's fellow Outer Senshi nodded to her in acknowledgement.
Sailor Saturn raised her Silence Glaive above her head horizontally in both hands, the weapon only just fitting the breadth of the elevator, while in the meantime more energy-based projectiles assailed the elevator, weakening the hard plastic windows more and more with every hit.
Jet-black bolts of lighting curved up in a jagged path to the Senshi of Death's Glaive from the floor, surrounding the elevator's occupants in a protective cage. The bits of dislodged plastic from the windows bounced off the invisible domed force field with the youma attacks, absolutely nothing getting through the tangible silence.
"Cool…" Sanjuro whispered, looking up in awe at Sailor Saturn, before unconsciously bringing up his camera in one hand and snapping a picture of the young girl, his fear forgotten.
"It should be a pretty cushy ride now!" Sailor Jupiter commented with a smile, obviously glad.
Sailor Mars frowned as she saw sweat start to form on Sailor Saturn's forehead and drip down her face, the Outer Senshi's thin arms beginning to tremble minutely. The miko's head swiftly whirled to Tsubasa as the man let out a surprised yelp, a small piece of plastic having struck him in the side of the head, before bouncing off to land on the floor of the elevator.
"Hotaru, what's wrong?" Sailor Neptune asked with deep concern in her voice, the woman looking at the pale girl with fretful eyes.
"I… can't…" Sailor Saturn forced out haltingly as her shaking increased. And then, suddenly, the girl dropped to her knees, her manifested barrier vanishing as she rested heavily on her Silence Glaive, her dark-haired head bowed. "I'm sorry…" she apologised as Neptune joined her on the floor, putting comforting and protective arms around her.
Sailor Mars cursed inwardly at the new development. Healing Tuxedo Kamen and her fellow Sailor Senshi must have taken a lot of Saturn's power, greatly decreasing the girl's strength, both physical and mental.
"Oh no!" Sailor Moon wailed, turning to gaze out an almost shattered window of the elevator, attempting to make out the circling youma enemy through the roadmap of cracks. "We're defenceless!"
"Can't we fight back?!" Jupiter growled as she ground her teeth, also looking out a battered window.
"And lose what little protection we have? Our own attacks will surely destroy the windows," Sailor Mercury said, shaking her head in dismay. "We have innocent people with us; we can't willingly expose them to youma attacks!"
"Yes! Yes! Listen to her!" Sanjuro interjected vigorously, clearly very much agreeing with the Senshi of Water while he flinched away from another brightly coloured attack courtesy of the flying enemy pounding a window.
"They're already exposed," Sailor Mars disagreed gravely. "We should counterattack now, before they get really smart and try to take down the whole elevator."
"Isn't that what they're trying to do?" Tsubasa said somewhat calmly from his slightly defensive hunched stance, the man apparently managing to keep his cool under fire unlike his partner in crime.
"We can't risk their safety, Rei," Sailor Moon overruled as a blue wobbling sphere of light crashed in a spot on the window by her blonde head, making her start slightly. "We should just sit tight and hope this stupid snail of an elevator makes it to the observatory with all of us still in one piece."
"Fine," Sailor Mars sighed, a little frustrated. She took hold of her princess's arm and drew her back into the centre of the elevator by the drained Sailor Saturn, the comforting Sailor Neptune, and the cowering Sanjuro. "But you stand here," the miko requested in a no-nonsense tone. Sailor Moon reluctantly conceded, but with an exasperated purse of her lips. Sailor Mars began to return her attention to the youma outside, but noticed Tuxedo Kamen looking at her impassively from one corner of the elevator, their eyes meeting. Unsure if she had given him the wrong impression of her intentions towards Sailor Moon or not, Sailor Mars broke the prince's gaze and opted to say nothing. Protecting her love was her duty, just like it was all the Inner Senshi's duty; it was in her right to watch over the blonde girl.
All of a sudden, there was a deafening boom sound as one window completely blew out under the force of the latest robed youma attack, the intact but heavily fractured plastic pane flying inside the elevator and hitting Sailor Jupiter in the side, the brunette only barely managing to get her arm up in time to protect her head before it impacted.
"Now you can attack!!" Sailor Moon cried out as Sailor Jupiter kicked the pane out of the now breached elevator, sending it falling down the shaft.
The one-layered plastic section of the elevator shaft now no adequate protection from the youma attacks, Sailor Mars and Sailor Venus quickly scrambled into position by the empty window frame, the girls knowing their powers would be the most effective against the nimble aerial enemy.
"MARS FLAME SNIPER!"
Sailor Mars tracked one disc riding youma with her blazing bow from a crouch by the left side of the hole in the elevator, and then let loose her arrow. The bolt of fire punched through the elevator shaft, the pointed tip of the projectile allowing it to tear past the plastic wall without detonating and instead barbecuing the miko and her friends. The arrow only struck a glancing blow against a youma's disc, but it was enough to trigger the hot projectile to explode. The creature was able to pilot its levitating device with expert skill however, and avoided most of the explosion by angling the bottom of its disc upwards, letting it take the burnt of the blast.
Venus' streak of yellow light punctured the plastic part of the elevator shaft with ease, burning clean through it before the ray travelled onwards to a flying robed youma. The creature swerved erratically out of the beam's path, its green-hued clothes billowing hard from the fast movement and fierce high winds.
Sailor Mars and Sailor Venus kept up their attacks as best they could, but were unable to score a substantial hit on any of the youma or their flying discs. The enemy was simply too fast, and after realising which side of the elevator the Sailors' shots were originating from, they tended to shun that region of Tokyo Tower. But mercifully, as the elevator travelled higher, the area in which the youma could manoeuvre to assault the Sailor Senshi and company was diminished, the funnelling girders of the tower restricting their movement greatly. Seeing that it was now near impossible to stop or destroy the elevator, or to kill its occupants, the youma peeled away from Mars and her friends and flew upwards, joining the rest of their allies at the main observatory.
"I never even hit any of them!" Venus moaned, sounding as if she had viewed the whole ordeal as a shoot-em-up video game.
"There's always next time," Mars said grimly, certain that she and the others would see those particular youma again very soon.
"Oh, thank god, I'm so glad that's over!" Sanjuro sighed in relief, once again collapsing back onto the floor, nearly ending up with his head under the crouching Neptune's skirt. But luckily for him, the aquamarine-haired woman's attention was elsewhere.
"Are you feeling any better, Hotaru?" she asked Saturn with compassion filling her tone and eyes.
"I think so, Michiru-mama," the Senshi of Rebirth answered, looking up at her guardian. "I still feel tired, but I feel a little stronger too."
"Perhaps you should stay behind with these two gentlemen in the elevator," Neptune suggested gently, glancing over at Sanjuro and Tsubasa. "You can watch over them."
Saturn shook her head, her dark locks swinging. "I will go on," she insisted, a glimmer of steel underlying her voice, the senshi in her coming out. Neptune merely smiled and nodded in acquiesce.
The battered elevator started to slow more in its ascent --if that were possible-- until it gradually came to a halt on the main observatory's level, to everyone's collective appreciation.
"Finally! This thing took forever! I didn't think we would ever make it!" Sailor Moon said, letting out a long breath.
"Me neither," Tsubasa murmured, but for an entirely different reason.
There was a ding and the double doors of the elevator slid open, revealing the darkened main observatory of Tokyo Tower. Sailor Mars couldn't make out any movement in the general vicinity, but her senses picked up the presence of a considerable force of youma close by. Very close by. The miko had assumed there would be a substantial number of the enemy on the observatory level however, so she wasn't too alarmed. But that didn't mean she wasn't wary.
"Ehh… I think you guys better stay here," Sailor Jupiter suggested to Sanjuro and Tsubasa, who both nodded in agreement, the former most readily.
"Yes, ma'am! I've been scarred for life by this traumatic nightmare!" Sanjuro declared from where he lay on the floor of the elevator. "On the inside," he elaborated, seeing the perturbed look he was getting from the medically inclined Mercury. "You know…? Emotionally…?" he went on lamely. Sailor Mercury directed a look at Sailor Mars, to which the miko responded by rolling her eyes at Sanjuro's behaviour, causing the blue-haired girl to hide a giggle behind her hand.
"Keep an eye on him," Sailor Mars ordered Tsubasa. "And stay out of trouble yourself." The man simply nodded in compliance, not taking his eyes off the Fire Senshi.
The Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen stepped cautiously out of the elevator and into the dark main observatory of Tokyo Tower, the only illumination spilling out from the elevator behind them, the floodlights decorating the landmark not reaching inside the large room. A grand view of the city could be seen through the windows that completely covered the outer wall of the circular observatory that surrounded the group, the countless pinpricks of different lights from the buildings of Tokyo painting quite an exquisite tapestry for the eye.
"Wait," Sailor Mars said out of the blue, halting her friends' movements with a quick hand motion. "I think… something's…"
There was an inhuman growl from in front of Mars, and then a low hiss joined it from behind her, making the Fire Senshi and her friends spin around at the sources of the threatening noises, forming a defensive back-to-back formation, four persons facing towards each one of the two sides of the observatory in a ready position. Sailor Mars' eyes narrowed as they adjusted to the darkness and made out just how many youma of all shapes and sizes were crowded in the room with them, every one with their cold eyes directed menacingly at the Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen.
"I think we're in trouble," Sailor Moon gulped from beside her bodyguard. Sailor Mars was certain everybody else agreed.
Setsuna gazed forlornly out the window of her private hospital room with slumped shoulders at Tokyo Tower standing tall on the horizon, watching the anomalous spectacle of the gradually expanding interdimensional portal as it became increasingly more noticeable in its defacement of the dark cloudy night's sky. Soft moonbeams spilled into the otherwise dark room, the streak of light illuminating the Guardian of Time in a pale glow as she sat upright in her hospital bed. Events were finally drawing to a conclusion. To an end.
Chibi-Usa had visited the green-haired woman frequently during the night with Luna and Artemis both hiding in her shirt from the on-duty nurses, but now those visits had dropped off completely. Setsuna knew that the future princess was too tired to continue her patrol between her and Haruka's rooms. The Senshi of Time welcomed the solitude however. She was used to it; it was a feeling she was intimately familiar with. And on this night, she wanted to be left alone.
Setsuna had been staring out of the window for some time now, a length of time her normally astute mind had lost track of long ago. It was late into the night, and she really should have been sleeping, resting her weary and wounded body to hasten her recovery and subsequent release from Minato General Hospital. The Senshi of Time let out an almost silent sigh, barely audible to the casual listener. No, regardless of how tired she was a peaceful slumber would definitely be unattainable tonight, much like it undoubtedly was for Haruka one floor above her. And not to mention Chibi-Usa. How could you sleep when the people you cared about were out there fighting for their very lives? How, when someone who you loved with all your heart and soul was fighting without you by their side?
The Guardian of Time smiled faintly; a resigned, sad smile. That wasn't quite right. While Michiru would wish for Haruka to be along side her, and similarly with Hotaru and Chibi-Usa, it was different for Setsuna. She didn't have her love's heart; she never had. She wasn't the one Rei craved for to be by her side. The one the fiery miko longed for was already there, even if it wasn't for the desired reasons the girl would have liked. Such was the story of Setsuna's existence.
Setsuna's shoulder's slumped just a tad more as she saw pinpricks of different coloured lights twinkle around the lower half of Tokyo Tower, a countless number blinking in and out of view at a rapid rate. It wouldn't be long now. At times, the woman truly hated her life. There were some pleasant spots naturally, and she had met many good people who were now her friends and family. But then, she had been destined to meet all of those particular people from the moment she was born. Destiny. Fate. It was strange how those simple equivalent words could cause such pain and misery in one's life. Setsuna had learned a long, long, time ago that she was bound by an inescapable and merciless fate, a fate that forced her to guard over the Gates of Time for all time, and consequently trapped her in other harsh chains of Destiny. When she had finally understood that she was to be forever alone, that no one would ever hold her, love her; it had been a horrible, wretched realisation. The Senshi of Time hadn't wanted to believe it at first of course, and had entered a state of denial that had lasted until… until only a few days ago. But Setsuna knew the cold hard truth now; she had always known somewhere in the back of her mind, though she had never had the courage to accept it. Everlasting loneliness was her fate. And no one escaped their fate, a fact she knew all too well now.
But then Rei had come and dared to challenge Destiny, and one of the most powerful and binding destinies there was no less, just to be with Usagi, the one she loved. It had been a futile effort Setsuna had first believed, but she had still hoped for the raven-haired girl's success despite herself. But it had all been for naught after all, ending in sorrow and confirming what the Guardian of Time had already known. Setsuna closed her jaded crimson eyes, banishing the sight of another fate in the making from her sight. She wished… the Senshi of Time shook her head gently. She wished for a lot of things, but it was a pointless endeavour. Wishes were for people who had a bright future, not for someone doomed from their very first breath.
On one of her many trips to the Guardian of Time's hospital room, Chibi-Usa had been noticeably agitated about Hotaru's safety, prompting kind words of reassurance and comfort from Setsuna. It seemed that nearly all of the Sailor Senshi, even the youngest ones, were finding companionship and love. The only ones left were Rei, Minako, and herself. All three senshi were in the same situation, but Minako appeared to handle her fate, or rather, her curse easier than the Guardian of Time and the miko. Minako had always been a light-hearted and fun-loving individual though, so perhaps her very nature made her future easier to bear. She wasn't like Setsuna and Rei.
Setsuna opened her eyes, returning them to the spectacle at Tokyo Tower she had already seen numerous times at her appointed post. Rei… she liked to think that they would have been good together. Setsuna would have treated the raven-haired beauty well, lavishing her with all sorts of kindness and affection. She would have given Rei her whole heart to hold. Though, Setsuna knew she had already done so. The Guardian of Time could have tempered the passionate miko's raging internal flames; she could have been the one to tame the raven-haired girl's fierce fire burning strongly in her heart. But the fires in Rei's heart only cooled for one person… and that person didn't even wish to embrace them. Setsuna would have gone on Rei's behalf to talk to Usagi, reasoned with the blonde, begged her even to not spurn the Fire Senshi's heart. She wanted to yell at the Moon Princess for being so foolish as to let such a wonderful person's intense love go to waste, and also ask how she could turn away from such fiery passion after basking in its heated flames for a time. But it would all have been useless. Fate had other plans for Usagi, tying her to Mamoru, Chibi-Usa, and Crystal Tokyo… and such a fate was the strongest Setsuna had ever encountered.
The image of Tokyo Tower and the dimensional gateway blurred in her eyes and the Guardian of Time swallowed the lump forming in her throat. She could have been the one to take all of Rei's pain away, if the girl had just let her try. Setsuna would have devoted her life to making the miko happy. But instead, Rei had opted to willingly spend eternity alone, merely loving Usagi silently from afar. Setsuna couldn't voluntarily welcome an existence like that. However, the fact that Rei could was a trait that made her admire and love the girl all the more. For Rei's heart to accept no other… her love for the princess must be strong indeed. But now, she was condemned like Setsuna, facing a future of never-ending loneliness… no… that was wrong.
Setsuna cleared her cloudy vision as the points of multicoloured light stopped appearing around the bottom of Tokyo Tower, just below the main observatory of the landmark. A future. The green-haired woman's grip on the bed sheets tightened, scrunching the material in her fists. She should have never had brought Rei back from Yokohama. Setsuna could have prevented everything then; all the pain the Fire Senshi had went through with Usagi, the damage it had caused between her friendships with Mamoru, Chibi-Usa, and the other Outer Senshi-- everything. But most importantly, Setsuna could have prevented what was about to happen tonight.
Setsuna smiled again, but his time somewhat bitterly. No, she knew that keeping Rei away from Tokyo, away from Usagi, wouldn't have worked in the end. The princess's life hanged in the balance, and if she were to meet her demise when Rei wasn't there to provide her with aid, it would have yielded the same result as if the Fire Senshi had died herself. Besides, Setsuna had seen the future. It was a gift that was more like a curse. Being able to see every variation of the future timeline practically took all of the surprises out of life, and not being able to speak of them made it worse. And if a thread of Time was shackled on a set path by a destiny, then all surprises were definitely gone. Just like the thread that Rei was travelling along this very night.
It was almost time now. Setsuna knew it for a fact. Her love was riding ever closer to the moment the Senshi of Time had already seen the outcome of. As soon as Rei had returned to Tokyo, her fate had been sealed. And what was Setsuna doing while the girl she loved deeply was charging blindly towards an unavoidable destiny with all her thoughts on protecting the Moon Princess? Sitting in a comfortable bed observing the event from a distance. The green-haired woman lowered her head in self-pity and loathing. She had *known*. She had known from the very start even before Rei had been buried alive in that clothing store, and yet still she did nothing. Setsuna had the power to change things; she had some control over Time. But there were rules, weren't there? Rules, rules, always rules. We can't interfere with the timeline, can we? The bedridden woman's fists clenched tighter, balling more of the blankets hard in her grip as her crimson eyes attempted to bore a hole through the bed. Can't interfere… all her power, and ultimately it was worthless. She couldn't even protect the one she loved. No, she *wouldn't* protect her. And Setsuna claimed to love Rei? While she sat in her cosy and secure bed doing absolutely nothing? The rules constraining her as the guardian of the Gates of Time didn't have any bearing when weighed against the safety of her love! Setsuna wanted to change Fate? Break it? Then she should break it with her own hands, not wait and pray for a mere *girl* to be successful doing it for her! God, she was a grown woman, a woman old enough to be that girl's great, great, great, grandmother, if not older! For once in her long life, Setsuna should take up the fight against Destiny herself, and prove it could be conquered after all!
Setsuna's head snapped up, and then she threw off the blankets, revealing her bandaged form, before swivelling her legs over the side of the bed and planting her feet firmly on the floor. She then stood up, her newly energised state of mind allowing her to distance herself from the sharp twinges of pain that ran up her legs and spine.
"PLUTO PLANET POWER, MAKE UP!"
Setsuna felt her hospital gown disintegrate from her body --the dressings on her numerous cut and stab wounds staying in place with a thought-- followed by her Sailor Senshi fuku wrapping around her mostly naked form as it materialised. The heavy weight of her Time Staff was then in her hands, the cool metal still able to be felt through the woman's white gloves. The newly transformed Sailor Pluto took a resolute step forward, resting only a small fraction of her mass on her weapon. She wobbled slightly on her feet, gripping her staff tightly in an attempt to retain her equilibrium, but managed to remain standing. Knowing that the time left to make any sort of decisive difference at Tokyo Tower was flittering away with every passing second, Pluto took another step, and then another, increasing her pace to a brisk walk.
And then suddenly, Sailor Pluto's weak legs gave way, buckling at the knees like soggy paper and depositing the woman hard on the floor in a kneeling position, jarring her injured body and sending acute needles of pain to shoot through her. No! She could do this, she could! She wouldn't let Rei down! Pluto gritted her teeth as she attempted to pull herself up using her staff, sweat beginning to break out on her forehead. The Senshi of Time's wounded body shuddered as she desperately tried to will her legs to work, mentally striving to infuse them with strength she knew deep down she didn't have. After a few seconds, Sailor Pluto's still-recovering body fell limp, totally drained of all of its energy. In a fit of frustrated anger, Pluto threw her Time Staff to one side with the remnants of her depleted strength, sending it spiralling along the floor to smash against the wall with a loud bang. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair! Fate really was unbeatable. It had stopped her in her tracks before she even had a chance to act. And now Rei… but wait! Pluto could stop Time! Perhaps if she stopped it at just the right moment, she could… could what? She would have to be close enough to Tokyo Tower for Rei to not be affected by the halt in the flow of Time, so that the raven-haired girl could take advantage of it. The fact that Sailor Pluto would lose her life as a result of her blatantly violating the rules she was bound by never even occurred to the increasingly frantic woman. Or perhaps Pluto could simply use her communicator to warn Rei! …No, the radio and television signals from Tokyo Tower would disrupt the transmission. Her efforts were hopeless. Fate had ensured Rei's path, it had began to carve it from the very instant the thought to leave Tokyo had entered the miko's mind. Pluto covered her face with one hand as the tears trembling in her eyes ran down her cheeks, leaving wet trails. There was nothing she could do. She was going to fail when Rei needed her most. Sailor Pluto blamed herself utterly. She had known what would happen, and yet she had simply sat and observed, nothing more. Further tears sprung to her eyes, seemingly inexhaustible as they streamed down her face and collected between the fingers of her hand, her body being wracked with heaving sobs. Her breathing was fast and shallow as she wept for the first time in hundreds of years, the agony of her duty, her loneliness, her *life* breaking past the dam she had built up over the long length time, destroying her resistance to the cruel reality of her painful existence. The Outer Sailor's fuku fell away from her, reverting her back to Setsuna, simply the lonely woman she was, trapped in an eternal cycle of pain as she cried for Rei, her love. She cursed herself for being so weak, and cursed whatever higher power had deemed it necessary for her to be the solitary Guardian of Time. And most of all she cursed Fate, for denying her the love she so yearned for.
"We really don't have time for this…" Sailor Mars growled out of the corner of her mouth to her comrades, not taking her eyes off the amassed youma enemy in front of her, while the other senshi covered her back. "We have to get to the roof."
"I remember seeing a maintenance ladder by the elevator when we first arrived," Tuxedo Kamen whispered from the Fire Senshi's right, his grip on this black cane tightening as the horde of youma tensed and began to slowly fan out, taking cautious and sure steps as they moved to circumspectly surround the Prince of Earth and the Sailor Senshi.
Mars risked flicking her eyes to the windows of Tokyo Tower's main observatory, catching a glimpse of the view before she returned them to her countless adversaries. In her fleeting look, she had observed a dark reddish patch hovering a short distance outside of the windows with currents of green, blue, and purple electricity crackling along its edge. Whatever that dark red smudge was floating in the air near the landmark, it was getting bigger, which couldn't possibly be a good thing. The Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen had to get up on the roof of the observatory and find out just what was going on, and then most likely put a stop to it.
Sailor Mars eyes narrowed to menacing slits at the youma. "Usagi," she whispered to Sailor Moon on her left hand side, the raven-haired girl's lips barely moving. "When I give the signal, run to the ladder on your left."
"The ladder?" Sailor Moon replied just as quietly. "What ladder?"
"The ladder on your left!" Sailor Mars repeated in low hiss.
"Okay…" the blonde odango atama whispered uncertainly. "But what's the signal?"
Mars' mouth curled into a sinister grin, making the youma halt in their not-so-subtle manoeuvres. "This! FIRE SOUL!"
Suddenly a ball of flame erupted from the miko's fingertips, illuminating the interior of the observatory in a flash of bright light, temporarily blinding the host of youma before her. The sphere careered towards the temporarily stunned youma force and hit the nearest one before exploding, reducing the creature to chunks of gore and severely burning its nearby fellows.
"RUN NOW!!" Sailor Mars yelled out, turning to Sailor Moon and pushing her forwards with one hand on her back as the girl frantically ran for the maintenance ladder. She heard a shout from Sailor Neptune followed by a loud splash of water, the woman probably delivering her own form of distraction to the other half of the youma swarm.
Sailor Mars charged after her princess, hearing the fast beat of footsteps behind her that no doubt originated from Tuxedo Kamen, Sailor Venus, and the rest of the senshi. Sailor Moon reached the ladder a few feet from the elevator, and then jumped up on it, grabbing a rung with both hands and pulling herself up. Mars planted a helping hand on the blonde's behind as the girl struggled up the maintenance ladder, pushing her on her way and out of the danger area. Once Sailor Moon was two thirds of the way up the ladder, with Sailor Mercury climbing hot on her heels --the Senshi of Water only pausing to spare an anxious glance back at Jupiter on the floor-- Sailor Mars turned around back to the now enraged youma mob. To her rising dismay and distress, she saw that the dozens of youma had all been provoked by her and Neptune's attacks, the horde roused into brutal retaliation against them and the rest of their group. But the most alarming sight was Sailor Venus and Sailor Neptune standing steadfast in the middle of the two halves of the howling abominable monsters, the pair holding back the frenzied masses while Sailor Mars and the rest of their friends made their escape.
"Michiru-mama!!" Sailor Saturn screamed her aquamarine-haired guardian's name, pleading to her with her tone to come back to relative safety, while the woman in question launched a globe of blue-hued water at almost point blank range at a pack of bloodthirsty youma, destroying several and forcing many back in a hasty retreat.
"Go on, Hotaru!" the Senshi of the Ocean called, looking over her shoulder briefly at the young girl, before returning her attention to raining attack after attack upon the enemy, buying her friends more time to flee.
"Yeah! Leave it to us!" Venus joined in enthusiastically, after evading a fierce swipe of one creature's claw and blasting a smoking hole through the unfortunate thing's skull with a well-aimed energy beam as she nimbly darted away. The Senshi of Love then winked over her shoulder and flashed a V with the fingers of one hand at Saturn. "This is when I'm at my best!"
"And someone has to protect those two!" Neptune cried above the din of otherworldly shrieks from the fighting and dying youma, and above the clamour of senshi powers being repeatedly invoked.
"I think you'd be mad if you're fan club were to end up food for youma, Mars!" Venus added, referring to Tsubasa and the cowering Sanjuro still in the elevator, the pair both watching the unfolding events with anxious, fearful eyes.
"Saturn, Mars, come on!" Tuxedo Kamen yelled from the top of the maintenance ladder, spurring both Inner and Outer senshi into action, before he pulled himself up through the opening in the ceiling, the fluttering red and black tail of his cape the last thing Mars saw of the prince.
"Up you go, Hotaru," Sailor Mars said to the Senshi of Rebirth, allowing the younger girl to climb the ladder up to the roof of the observatory first, before the miko herself followed suit, leaving behind Venus and Neptune as self-appointed rearguard. She gave one last look back at the pair of senshi and the overwhelming number of their opponents. Mars wasn't sure how long they would be able to hold out, if they even could at all. Her hopes and prayers with Sailor Venus and Sailor Neptune, the Fire Senshi clambered up the final rungs of the maintenance ladder and onto the roof of Tokyo Tower's primary observatory.
The first thing Sailor Mars noticed once she had stood up on the windy platform one hundred and fifty metres from the ground, was that it wasn't any less dangerous than the situation she and her friends had just took flight from under their feet, the vicious combat taking place below now barely even being heard over the fierce winds around them. Mars wouldn't have been surprised if there was even more youma up on top of the observatory than there were in it. The whole orange metal rooftop was absolutely covered with a huge crowd of the evil creatures… with more joining the congregation's ranks every second. The dark red rip haloed by sparking, vividly coloured, lightning bolts in the night's sky hanging before Tokyo Tower was now more like a deep weeping gash, bleeding youma instead of blood. All manner of creatures great and small were pouring at a steady rate out of the tear, leaping over the small gap between the tower's observatory roof and the opening in the sky, and some even flying over it on wings sprouting from their backs. If Sailor Mars squinted her eyes, she could make out a black rippling mass inside the dark red slash. It took the raven-haired girl a moment to grasp that the moving swarm was yet more youma, fervently waiting their turn to travel through the breach to her world.
"A portal," Mars spat, as grim realisation finally dawned on her. It was an interdimensional portal, probably similar to the ones Khairephon and his vanquished siblings had used to bring their youma forces to the planet.
"A portal?" Sailor Mercury said curiously, gazing at the paranormal spectacle with renewed interest. "So this is how so many youma have gotten to Tokyo," she said with newfound understanding, nodding her head unconsciously, agreeing with her own conclusion.
"Among other things," Tuxedo Kamen murmured, the man no doubt thinking back to his rather unpleasant time in the demon Laodameia's captivity.
Suddenly, a man dressed in a dark blue business suit, whom Sailor Mars recognised as the youma who had made an attempt on Sailor Jupiter's life at Minato General Hospital several days ago, whirled around from watching the portal to the Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen, his black ponytail whipping out behind him in the wind as his human-looking eyes widened almost imperceptibly. However, Mars wasn't sure, but the masquerading youma looked somewhat pleased that they were there for some unknown reason. Perhaps she was mistaken. Or perhaps the creature had a death wish.
"You…" the finely dressed youma said without inflection, his cold, even, voice somehow managing to reach the miko and her friends without being stolen by the raging winds.
"You better believe it," Jupiter sneered, glaring hatefully at the creature and taking a threatening step forward, only to be restrained by a gentle touch on the arm by Mercury. Obviously the tall brunette had some score to settle with the onetime would-be youma assassin.
"Ahh… what a surprise," said a low, deep, masculine voice. All eyes turned to the owner of the voice as he turned around from the gradually enlarging interdimensional gateway. He was a tall man --if he could be called a man-- perhaps about seven feet tall and was completely swathed in a rich dark garb, dressed akin to a European aristocrat during a time long past, the white plumb of a silk scarf at his neck the only hint of colour on his outfit besides deep black. A hooded cloak moved in tune with the currents of the night wind behind the figure, while two long grey locks of hair that almost reached his waist from beneath his hood flowed freely about also, riding the airwaves. A slender, slightly curved sword comparable to a katana hung at his waist, the shiny jet-black weapon heavily decorated with wicked serrated spikes around the hilt and handle, painting the blade in a positively fiendish light. An evil aura radiated from the katana, the presence of pure evil from the blade nearly tangible in the air to Sailor Mars' attuned senses, the miko almost believing she could reach out and touch it if she were so inclined. "I wasn't expecting the presence of the Sailor Senshi," the man continued, walking towards the assembled group a few steps. "I take it the that the reception at my headquarters wasn't to your liking then? And here I had heard that Lazarus, the Night Haunter, could be such an… entertaining host."
"Well, it was all fun and games until good ole' Laz lost his party mask," Sailor Mars replied with heavy sarcasm, smirking derisively. "And then things just got plain… *dead*, you know?"
"Such a shame…" the blue suited youma murmured impassively, though the Fire Senshi was sure he meant the complete opposite.
"Don't worry," Sailor Jupiter snarled, clenching her fists until her knuckles cracked audibly. "You'll get to experience the same treatment soon enough…"
The black-clad figure took another step forward, seeming to focus on Mars beneath his hood and ignoring all others, as if he was intently scrutinising her. "You are she, aren't you? Sailor Mars…" he said, stretching out the name of the miko's alter-ego. "You are… different, than I had believed you would be in person."
"So you know me," Mars deadpanned, obviously not caring one bit. "My reputation precedes me I suppose."
"Yes…" the tall dark figure replied, his tone almost taking on a bitter sneer. "But where are my manners?" He gestured to the youma with the ponytail nearby with one hand. "This is my associate, Iason," he said in a slightly patronising tone as he introduced the creature. "And I…" The shadowy figure grabbed the top of his hood with one hand and pulled it back, revealing his face. Or rather, *faces*. "I am Makareus."
Sailor Mars swallowed a little uneasily as it became evident that Makareus was in actual fact the final remaining demon of the four who had chosen to invade the planet. But the thing that was most unnerving was what the creature's hood had hidden. As Mars and her friends watched with slowly growing apprehension, Makareus' face *changed* with every passing second, going through a constant cycle of masquerades, each one different that the last, some more so than others. At one moment, his face was that of a nondescript man, and then an instant later it was covered with a multitude of eyes, each blinking in unison. At another moment, the demon's features turned bestial, becoming like that of a ravenous wolf's, drool dripping from his open maw. And so the cycle of faces continued, never letting up for a second as they masked Makareus' turn visage… if the demon even had one.
Sailor Moon blinked a few times, and then after visually recovering from the bizarre sight of Makareus' thousand faces, she steeled herself, her Spiral Heart Moon Rod appearing in one hand in a burst of glittering light. "For love and justice, I'm the pretty senshi Sailor Moon!" she declared, pointing challengingly at the tall, intimidating, demon with her Moon Rod. "And in place of the moon, I will punish you!"
Makareus stared levelly at Sailor Moon with his ever-changing eyes, clearly not at all impressed. However, a slow, calculating smile began to grow on his features, the devious grin carrying over to every different face. The demon then looked at Sailor Mars, his smile increasing even more as his eyes began to narrow in a cunning, portentous, way. And then, without any warning whatsoever, Makareus' arm flashed to the belt around his waist in a lightning quick blur of motion, Mars' eyes having tremendous difficultly following the fast movement. The miko saw a glint of metal, the light from the floodlights of Tokyo Tower reflecting off the steel and to her lavender eyes. Suddenly, Sailor Mars knew, as if divine inspiration sent from the gods themselves had hit her, that this exact time, this exact *moment* was the one she had been dreading from the very instant Setsuna had warned her about it. Time stretched out, slowing to but a crawl as Sailor Mars' wide, seriously alarmed amethyst eyes watched as Makareus bent down into a low stance as he pulled out a razor-sharp dagger, a tanto, from his waist and drew his arm back, the lethal pointed tip aimed straight for Sailor Moon.
"BOYAKERU SHADOU ATEMI!"
Sailor Mars' feet felt rooted to the rooftop as the demon took his first step in his furious charge, multiple dark, shadowy afterimages of himself streaming out behind him in his wake. Makareus' deadly dagger led the way while he screamed a battle cry, the words sounding to come out lethargically to the Fire Senshi's ears, as if each syllable was lengthened a vast extent, like a stretched out audiotape. She heard her comrades shouting out around her, their words unintelligible gibberish to her. Sailor Mars stared at the unstoppable rush of Makareus, not blinking, feeling distanced from her body, as if she were watching the scene from far away. And then, without fanfare, without so much as a proverbial bolt of lightning striking her from the heavens above, Sailor Mars finally knew her purpose for coming back to Tokyo. What had always been her purpose. The understanding came gently, calmly, and clearly to her mind. It had always been so simple. Everything else that had happened since returning to Tokyo; the attempt to defeat Fate, her short-lived romantic relationship with her princess, *everything*… it didn't matter. In a way, it never had. This moment was the reason she had come, this single moment in time was the only reason.
Sailor Mars willed her feet to move, breaking into a run that was the longest in all her life, her prior hesitation not summing to even so much as a fraction of a second in reality. Each footfall came slowly, languidly, racing against Makareus' in a sluggish contest, as if both competitors were sprinting through mud. There was a loud, heartfelt, desperate cry from her left, but the senshi ignored it, utterly focused on her final, most important task of her existence, the reason she was born in this world. And as Sailor Mars darted in front of Sailor Moon, Makareus' glinting blade driving hard in her stomach in a mortal blow, she at long last realised she had been deluding herself. She had never defended her princess out of duty, never out of obligation or responsibility; it had always been out of love.
Sailor Mars pushed her stomach out to take Makareus' tanto fully in her body, protecting her princess from it erupting out of her back and piercing the girl. She looked down at the dagger disappearing halfway into her abdomen. There wasn't any pain, but she felt… sad, that it had to end like this. Empty, that she would no longer be by Sailor Moon's side, basking in the loving glow that always shown from the angelic girl. But there was also a sense of satisfaction, of knowing that in her death, she had given Sailor Moon life. Sailor Mars smiled faintly as the memories of her Fire vision came back to her mind. So that was what it had meant. She now knew what the feeling of absence in her prediction was. The absence was her.
to be continued…
Minako's curse Setsuna was thinking about refers to the curse she received from Saijou Ace during her time as Sailor V to only have her duty to protect Usagi, and never have love.
I wrote Makareus' attack in Japanese since all the senshi's were in English. I don't know, I just felt like doing that. What the attack translates to isn't really important.
I have a couple of tests this week and the next, so I'm not exactly sure when the next part will be out. Probably in two weeks time.
And on a final note… it's good to be evil. ^_^