Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Sovereign of the Spirit ❯ A Test of Will, an Acceptance of Memory, and a Rejection of Heart ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Now things begin to get… interesting. Fufufufu. Oh yeah, bad words ahead, just so you know.
In other news, if you liked the fanart by Setsu-P I've posted so far, check out her Deviant Art site:
She likes it when you comment on her work. I recommend doing so; she's a pretty good artist.
Enjoy and review!
Sovereign of the Spirit

Written by Bastion
Original character design by Setsu-P
Chapter 3: A Test of Will, an Acceptance of Memory, and a Rejection of Heart
The destruction was massive. In all her battle-tested years, Haruka could only remember the catastrophic collapse of the Mugen Academy being more complete and deadly.
“How many did you find?” Jerking her head up, the blond acknowledged her teammate.
“Four or five by my count.” Haruka replied, examining the smoldering ground once again with calm detachment.
Michiru landed gracefully next to her. “About ten scattered around the grounds.”
The blond woman pursed her lips. “That's less than the last few.”
Her green-haired companion nodded absently as she surveyed the damage. “Fortunately.”
Closing her eyes, Haruka found it difficult to ignore the death and destruction around her. It was obvious to her that this could only be the work of a Senshi. No one else could lay waste to an entire shrine so quickly. Pluto had warned them they were dealing with a powerful fire Senshi, but she hadn't expected something so malevolent.
Once again, Haruka observed the burnt corpses partially concealed beneath the ashes of what was once the shrine. Who were they? Were they priests or priestesses? Were they visitors praying for good fortune and long lives? Before, they were just casualties, but now they were people who'd had their lives cruelly snatched away from them.
It made Haruka reflect back on her life before they had met Usagi. Back then they worked with a single purpose - eliminating demons, no matter who got in their way. Whether or not those demons had taken possession of a person, the circumstances didn't matter. The ends justified the means; that was their motto. It hadn't been until they had betrayed Usagi during their battle with Sailor Galaxia that she had reconsidered that particular credo. Now those they had sacrificed for the greater good rested heavily on her soul.
“So this is what happens when a Senshi loses her way?” Haruka murmured somberly.
Sighing, Haruka turned her head slightly to see the worry on her lover's face, but found little comfort in it. “Michiru, what if it was us? What if we hadn't gained control of ourselves back then? Would we have gone on a rampage like this?”
“Haruka.” Michiru barked. Haruka winced; Michiru rarely did that. “What's done is done. We can't regret what's happened in the past. We have a mission and if we don't complete it, more innocent people are going to die.”
Facing Michiru, Haruka stared into her hardened dark emerald eyes. Feeding off their resolve, Haruka ruffled her short blonde hair, feeling a little embarrassed at the reprimand. In response, Michiru smiled warmly and gently caressed her cheek briefly before allowing her serious demeanor to return.
A smile flickered across Haruka's features. Michiru was such a kind-hearted soul. But with a sigh, the blonde woman let reality intrude upon their little interlude.
“We've been lucky so far that the casualties haven't been high, but I'm worried she's going to target a park or an office building or a school.”
Michiru nodded. “I agree, but there doesn't appear to be an obvious pattern, and she strikes so quickly that she's gone when we arrive.”
Haruka pursed her lips and a chill ran down her spine. “Except that she's focusing on Shinto shrines.”
Michiru's eyes lit up and her concerned gaze met Haruka's. “Has she struck any shrines in Juuban?”
“Not yet.”
“Do you think she's searching for Mars?”
“It's a possibility. Pluto said that she's a Senshi of fire. It might be her mission to eliminate her doppelganger.”
“I think it's time we pay Rei a visit.”
“Yes, let's.”
`What are those fools doing?' Yuki's hard gaze peered over the book she'd been skimming.
Looking over to a rack filled with thin glossy books, Yuki observed her two… compatriots, Zeus and Aphrodite. The taller one, Zeus, was standing stoically to one side, hovering protectively over her much more attractive and curvaceous partner, Aphrodite. Yuki knew that Aphrodite was up to mischief again just by that strange glint in her fiery orange eyes. Throughout her life, Yuki had very few regrets (like the times she'd irrevocably damaged some of her more `delicate' experiments), but now she was beginning to regret coming to this bookstore with these two.
Suddenly, like a lioness pouncing on a gazelle, Aphrodite captured Yuki's gaze and gave her a smoldering and sultry look. Immediately, a rush of heat filled Yuki and her heart beat faster. The book nearly fell out her shivering hands. She flushed all over and her knees began to buckle. The unexpected flood of erotic emotions were almost too much for her, and she threatened to fall like a heap of sexually charged goo willing to be taken by anyone who felt opportunistic.
`St-stop it, Aphrodite!' Yuki implored mentally, teetering on the brink of no return.
A small beguiling smirk formed on the redhead's face, making her look even more appealing. `I would refrain from calling us fools in the future, or at least think more quietly, else next time I'll have you orgasm so hard you'll burst an artery, my dear Herm.'
With that, Aphrodite broke eye contact and immediately the sensation disappeared as quickly as it came. The reddish tint on her skin faded to its original pale grayish color. Adjusting herself and clearing her face of a few annoying strands of white hair, Yuki's features hardened back to their detached and aloof familiarity. Finally, she fixed her glasses upon her nose using her middle finger with purposeful meaning.
Zeus barely even acknowledged the exchange, her eyes scanning the store, alert to any potential threats. Nonplussed, Aphrodite just skipped off towards a girl that looked like animals had nested in her hair.
Narrowing her eyes, Yuki closed the book on particle fission disappointed, but not surprised; this world's technology was slightly less infantile than that of Canyon's Edge. Off to the side, she could overhear Aphrodite engaging that mousy girl.
“Why, hello there.” The redhead purred.
“Uh, hello.” The girl meekly replied.
“What's your name?”
“Yo-yomiko.” She stuttered. The nervous twit must be shivering, what a weak minded fool.
Yuki frowned. Aphrodite could have this effect on people with something as simple as her voice. It infuriated Yuki that she couldn't crack open that skull of hers to see what made that fascinating brain tick. It wasn't that she couldn't, oh no. Her eyes darted to the looming, muscular frame of Zeus. There would be consequences if she even attempted to harm a hair on Aphrodite's body.
Aphrodite twirled around from the mousy girl and gave Yuki the most radiant smile she could. It was so sweet it almost made Yuki visibly ill.
“We're done here, Sachiko.” Yuki stated.
Aphrodite pouted. “Ah, you mean we're leaving already? Just as my friend Yomiko and I were warming up to these dusty old books. Weren't we, Yummy?”
The girl's heavy blush was obvious under her large, thick-rimmed glasses, and it spread down her neck all the way down to the high collar of her dress shirt. She looked downward as she hugged a thick volume closer to the brown vest that covered her chest. “Uh, yes.”
“Oh she's so shy!” Aphrodite jumped behind the girl, pinching a cheek. “It's so cute!”
Yuki stifled a sigh at the redhead's antics. They really didn't need to be drawing attention to themselves.
Aphrodite smirked as her hands roamed. “And she's got some of the biggest boobies I've ever seen! They don't grow them like that in Canyon's Edge!” She exclaimed lewdly, juggling the masses under the girl's vest. The girl, oddly unperturbed at the molestation, moaned.
She continued her machinations a little while longer and added, “Plus, you'll like this Herm, Yomiko *loves* books! Don't you Yummy!”
“Yes I do.” The once shy Yomiko unabashedly groaned. “I love books!”
As the pair continued their little show, Yuki chose to ignore them and instead eyed the racks beside Zeus, almost immediately zeroing in on a headline printed across one of the loose stacks of newspapers.
`Shrine Arsonist still at large,' read the bold-faced type. Leaning slightly, Yuki examined the smaller text below. `Police and residents are worried over a string of arsons at shrines across the immediate Tokyo area. It is inconclusive whether the incidents are related but residents are wary.'
`Fascinating.' Yuki continued to scan the column of text.
Straightening up, the white-haired woman pushed her glasses back up her nose and once again brushed back that annoying thread of hair. Moving past Aphrodite and a small crowd of male onlookers, Yuki made her way to the exit.
As she reached the door, Yuki glanced back towards Aphrodite and Zeus.
`You two continue the search for the Sovereign of the Spirit.' Yuki broadcasted mentally. `I have some… investigating to do.'
“Man, Isisu, are you alright?” Ken asked as he and his tall, light-haired number-one model (well, Miss Meiou only trusted him with one) walked towards the shrine.
“Oh yes.” The woman replied quietly and looked away.
Ken blinked; was she blushing? Nah.
“You're not sick or anything? I mean, we can reschedule this shoot for another day.”
In truth, he prayed she wasn't sick because he was sure his editor, Ichigo, would have his head. Then again, the woman looked like a wreck. Her eyes, typically clear and resolute, appeared cloudy and confused - scared, even. It was the most emotion she'd ever shown in all the years he'd known her, and it kind of freaked him out.
As if she'd offended him, Isisu hopped back, waving her arms. “Oh, no! I mean, you went to a lot of trouble setting up the location and getting the photographer, oh, and getting the clothes. I wouldn't want to cause any of those hard working people problems just because I'm not feeling like myself. Hehehehe.”
Ken raised an eyebrow. Did Isisu just giggle? Now he truly was 100% freaked out.
“Are you *sure* you're alright?”
At that moment, Ken locked eyes with Isisu, and thought he saw something flash across them, a sort of recognition, maybe. Before he had a chance to interpret what it meant, Isisu turned away.
“Uh, I'm just nervous.” She said shyly, another blush surfacing on her tan skin. “I'll be fine, really.”
Thoroughly confused, but pressed for time, Ken decided not to pursue the issue further.
“If you say so.” Ken sighed wearily as they continued their journey to the shrine.
When they arrived, the shrine was crawling with crewmembers running about following the orders of the photographer. Bypassing the madness and chaos, Ken easily picked out Rei and her grandfather dressed in their ceremonial robes.
“Hihi!” Ken waved to the pair. The priest waved back, looking very happy at all the excitement going on around him while his granddaughter, though she did smile tightly, didn't appear as enthusiastic.
Remembering how explosive the girl's temper was, Ken turned to the priest and bowed deeply. “Thank you very much for allowing us to use your shrine for our photo shoot at the last minute. It means a lot to us and the magazine.”
The short, merry old man and offered a wry smile. “Oh it's nothing at all! Sometimes peace is nice, but every once in a while a little excitement helps break the mood. It's like I always say, if not for the distractions in life, there would be no need for meditation, and without meditation how can one reach nirvana!”
“That would explain why you keep falling asleep during meditations.” Ken heard the raven-haired girl mumble, but then immediately added sweetly, (well maybe a little too sweetly for his taste), “and I especially want to thank you for talking my grandfather into doing this.”
A predatory glint appeared in the priestess' eyes and Ken recoiled slightly. “Of course, I was totally, completely, and vehemently against the idea at first, but since Grandpa is the priest in charge here, what else could I say?”
“Ah.” Was all Ken could manage, and he couldn't help but notice that her nails were tensed.
Boy, did those sharp claws look like they might hurt.
Bowing and backing away, Ken stammered urgently. “Ah! I won't waste any more of your time! I need to attend to my model and see where the photographer is! Again, thank you very much! Now if you will excuse me!”
Ken gave one last fleeting glance back at the priest and his granddaughter, just to make sure no talons were descending upon him, and wandered the shrine grounds looking for his elusive photographer. The search proved difficult mostly because he and Isisu had arrived after the rest of the crew. Currently, said crew was busy scurrying about trying to set up lighting and prepping certain areas. And they also were too busy to take notice of Ken.
“Uh, excuse me.” Ken started as a young man carrying a pair of large reflective panels walked by mechanically.
“I'm sorry, ma'am?” Ken trailed off as a nervous girl ran by, clutching some folders to her chest.
He sighed, slumping, his large dress shirt billowing out. Resuming his search, Ken made his way to a young man seated near one of the prepped areas, laying something out on a blanket. He appeared in deep contemplation.
He hesitated as he took note of the black interlacing tattoos on the man's upper arms and neck. The jagged pattern appeared to criss-cross his arms and snake around his neck. It trailed up to his forehead, along a scalp of bright red hair that had been pulled tightly back. It had been put into a bun, allowing ruffles of red spikes to fan out behind his head. Overall, the young man looked a little out of place among the crew, most of whom did not have any visible tattoos, much less large intricate and loud ones like this young man's.
Unfortunately, he was also the only person not busy rushing about. Having little choice, Ken, with great trepidation, stood over the tattooed man and cleared his throat.
The man slapped his hands on his crossed legs and glared up. Ken fought the urge to take flight and smiled weakly.
“Uh, I'm sorry. My name is Ken Ishida.” Sometimes telling people his name helped. He hoped it would help him this time. “I'm looking for a man named Renji. He's the photographer on this shoot and I can't find him anywhere.”
The tattooed man frowned. “I AM the photographer, you moron! I'm Renji!”
Ken just stared at him.
His red spiky locks bristled. “I was the apprentice of the famed Saki Itabashi.”
Ken wanted to raise an eyebrow at the man, but the name did ring a bell. “Oh, yeah, Isisu worked with her some days back.”
“Such disrespect.” Renji grumbled, collecting his equipment from the blanket. “What do you want?”
“I just wanted to touch base with you.” Ken put on his best professional smile and got right down to business. “Your model for this shoot is a woman named Isisu Saito.”
Renji rubbed his chin. “The leggy number that strolled in here a few minutes ago? Yeah, I already met her. I had her change into her first outfit a while ago.”
“Ah.” Ken pursed his lips. “I have been given explicit instructions by Miss Meiou herself that she is to be treated with upmost respect.”
Renji made a face. “Who's Meiou?”
“Setsuna Meiou.” Ken said, aghast. “She owns the magazine.”
“Whatever.” Renji stood, raising a hand. “I don't care who she is. All I care about is getting the shoot done, collecting my paycheck, and getting home in time for my hot date tonight.”
At that Renji wiggled his eyebrows, which had an interesting effect on the tattoos along his hairline.
Feeling slightly offended (and admittedly a little jealous), Ken made a sour expression. “Mr. Renji, with all due respect, please behave. We're all professionals here and representatives of the Meiou Corporation. Please refrain from making any more lewd comments.”
“Whatever, dude.” The redhead snorted as he adjusted the lens on his camera. “Anyway, your leggy number is ready.”
Ken looked up and saw Isisu approach, self-consciously tugging on the clothes that hugged her slim body. He couldn't understand it; why was she so nervous? She'd done this many times before in skimpier outfits than this without blinking an eye.
“Is there something wrong, Isisu?” Ken whispered into her ear.
“No!” Isisu squeaked, backing away like he was on fire or something. “I'm, uh, I'm kinda nervous is all.”
Giving her his most reassuring smile, one that he felt he didn't use often enough; Ken tentatively placed a hand on her shoulder. He cringed when she flinched. Deciding discretion was the better part of valor, Ken gave her some space and tried to suppress the urge to fawn over her when she looked up at him, doe-eyed.
“Don't worry,” he soothed, “You'll do fine. Just relax and follow Mr. Renji's directions and everything will be just peachy!”
“God, you sound so gay.” Ken frowned and narrowed his eyes at the photographer's comment.
Gritting his teeth, Ken counted to ten and then exhaled very, very deeply. “Anyway, Isisu, don't be nervous. I'll be here and I'll make sure nothing bad happens to you, okay?”
Like a small child prior to her first piano recital, Isisu let what he had said soak in and then a small tentative smile formed on her lips. The breath hitched in Ken's throat when she did, and for a moment he thought the world had stopped on its axis, sending everything on its surface spinning out into space. Awed seemed like such a terribly inadequate word at the moment.
Now a blush rose on Ken's cheeks and he made a hasty exit. “Ahem, well, uh, good luck, Isisu.”
Isisu's smile grew and she happily nodded. Ken staggered away to vanish behind the scenes, his knees suddenly as sturdy as tapioca balls.
Once all of the people were in place, the shoot began in earnest. Ken watched with interest from afar. Things were going smoothly until Renji began barking orders to Isisu when her poses were not to his liking. Then it went downhill from there. Already jittery, the increasing frustration of the photographer made Isisu even stiffer, and the distress was evident on her face.
“Argh!” Renji roared after yet another ruined picture. “You've got to be the worst model ever!”
Seeing his charge cower as the redhead stomped about, ranting and cursing at her, prompted Ken to take action.
“Mr. Renji!” Ken spoke in loudest, meanest voice he could.
The glowering photographer pinned him with a withering stare. “What?!”
A chill of fear ran up Ken's spine; however he would soldier on, for Isisu's sake! “I, uh, already told you that you are to be professional with Isisu!”
“I would be *if* she was a professional!” Renji bellowed, the veins in his forehead doing weird things to his tattoos. “There are amateurs more qualified than her! She might have a nice face, great legs, and a fine ass, but she is not model material!”
Ken firmed his lips and narrowed his eyes once again. “You, good sir, have gone over the line! You will apologize to Isisu!”
“The hell I will!”
“Then you leave me with little choice!”
“What are you going to do? Sic `Miss Meiou's' death brigade on me!?”
Suddenly an explosion brought their argument to an abrupt halt.
“That didn't sound good.” Ken gulped.
Rei could have gone without all the excitement around the shrine. She was already on edge from the meeting Luna had called a few days ago about being on guard because `something was going to happen', as she put it vaguely. Of course, when pressed for more details, the little talking black cat wouldn't breathe another word, saying that she needed to confirm a few things first before telling them everything she knew.
On top of that, those attacks on the shrines had her pretty nervous. Though she was a seasoned Sailor Senshi and she was pretty sure she could fend off an assault by a small battalion by herself, Luna's warning made her wonder about the nature of these attacks. Had another great evil found its way here? Had another one of their past enemies returned?
Doing fire readings did her little good, and offered no clues as to what was going on. It was like the spirits were hesitant to give her answers. She never had experienced that before. What would make the spirits from beyond afraid?
Of course, what had raised her hackles the most were the daily visits from Michiru and the blonde heartbreaker, Haruka. That blonde woman always knew which buttons to push on her, and did it with that flirty smirk of hers. God, it was a good thing Yuuichirou had gone out of town to visit with relatives this week, or she wouldn't have heard the end of it. Sometimes she wondered if Haruka did that just to see her squirm. Aside from that, though, it bothered her that they always had some reason to drop by the shrine. They never had before unless for official Senshi business, and it was another thing that made her cautious.
Thus, her grandfather's timing couldn't have been any worse when he allowed that worm, Ken Ishida, to do a photo shoot on the shrine grounds. Now the place was an utter madhouse, with people running about wildly, asking Grandpa about what was where and where was what.
And then Ishida had the audacity to apologize with that fake, flighty smile of his after pulling rank on her by convincing Grandpa to consent to this. She had been particularly proud of herself for not clawing out his eyes.
So with all the activity going on at the shrine, Rei just wanted to get away and collect her thoughts. Something major was going down, and she needed to get to the bottom of it.
As Rei made her way back to the shrine, she caught the tall woman staring at her. The way she was looking at her made her feel uneasy, like she was being evaluated or something. The woman didn't seem at all hostile, however that look made her feel like there was a judgment being made against her.
Knowing that if she lingered around, she wouldn't be able to bite her tongue around the woman, whom she discovered was named Isisu, Rei decided to attempt to do her chores and maybe do another fire reading. She was about to settle down in front of the sacred fire when her senses went wild, and then an explosion shook the wooden structure.
Rei immediately jumped into action and bounded out onto the grounds, her henshin stick in hand. Years of experience had taught her that when she heard things like explosions or screaming people, it usually meant it was a job for the Sailor Senshi.
“Mars Crystal Power, Make Up!”
The priestess didn't stay still as rings of fire wrapped around her body to form her Senshi uniform. She had been fortunate no one was around the shrine building, or else she would have given them quite a show. Of course, it would have been the last thing they'd ever see before she'd incinerate them.
As the last rings of flames dispersed to reveal her completed uniform, Rei wasted no time taking one large leap after another. A fog of black smoke quickly enveloped her, making her eyes water and nose itch. Not far ahead, she could see some of the people from the photo shoot trapped by the raging fire. It appeared that two people were trying to drag a third unconscious person to safety.
“Sailor Mars!” Despite the dire situation, Rei had to keep herself from smirking when Ken ran up to her. “Thank goodness you're here!”
“Are you okay?”
Ken blinked. “Uh, yes.”
Rei immediately tuned out the blond man and assessed the situation. Splayed out on the ground was a large redheaded man with a gnarled knot on his tattooed forehead. Nearby was a large branch that she assumed had knocked him out. Kneeling next to him was that woman, Isisu, who now was giving her a cold, hard glare. The glare confused Rei, but she pushed that to the back of her mind, first she needed to get them to safety.
“You, uh, think you could help me pick him up?” She asked.
Isisu narrowed her eyes. “Your wish is my command, Sailor Mars.”
She could hear Ken gasp. “Isisu! Come on, she's here to help us.”
“Of course she is.” Isisu answered, all the while keeping her hard red gaze on Rei.
It was unsettling how Isisu's eyes seemed to penetrate the priestess, almost as if the pale-blue haired woman knew Rei Hino was Sailor Mars. It was like Isisu, who was earlier judging her, now was condemning Sailor Mars. More explosions, closer this time, prodded the priestess into action. She'd revisit this issue later.
They had just dragged the limp man out of the fiery den of trees when another explosion sent debris everywhere. Hastily lowering the man to the ground, Rei spun around. She had to put a stop to this before the shrine and the grounds around it were nothing but a patch of scorched earth.
As she did so, Rei could see a woman emerge from the wall of flames. Fallout from the fire caused the black cloak around the woman to dance about, giving Rei a view of the dark bodice underneath. Red cords formed a triple-looped pattern over her chest, covering a sailor collar and supporting the bodice. A gust of wind also ruffled her dark brown bangs, revealing a dully-glittering tiara.
A feeling of dread fell over Rei as she realized this was the big something that Luna was warning her about.
The mysterious woman stalked towards her, her dark, wild eyes sizing her up as well. When they came upon her uniform, she grinned widely.
“So you're the one the spirits have been crying to.” She declared, raising her arms. “I should have known they would seek out the High Priestess of Mars.”
Rei gasped and threw her hands up, ready to attack. “Who are you? Are you another Senshi? Or are you another Phage?”
“A Phage?” The woman snorted, and then scowled. “I'm hardly anyone's lackey! Can't you see how the spirits flee me? Or are your powers so weak that you can't sense it?”
Cautiously, Rei scanned the area but couldn't see anything definitive with the glare from the fire. She wasn't sure what she should be looking for and felt somewhat ridiculous for even trying.
“You can't see them, can't you?” The woman shook her head and relaxed her stance. “You hardly seem worth the fight.”
Her pride wounded, Rei let her temper get the better of her. “What do you mean, I'm not worth the fight!?”
A predatory grin spread on the woman's face and without another word, she rushed forward. Suddenly Rei's world exploded in pain as she received a kick to her abdomen that stole her breath, and a punch to her cheek that sent her tumbling end over end until a tree stopped her momentum.
Dazed, Rei lifted herself to her feet just as this… this Senshi gripped her long raven locks and yanked. The woman peered at her and smirked.
“I said you weren't worth the fight, but I didn't say anything about not killing you.” The woman rasped in excitement and yanked her away from the tree while flickers of a flame materialized in her hand.
“Oh I'm definitely worth the fight.” Rei gritted her teeth. The pain was intense, but she refused to be defeated. She threw up both hands on either side of the woman's head and shouted her attack spell. “BURNING MANDALA!”
The woman shrieked, letting go of Rei's mane. Then she was hopping around like mad, trying to extinguish her torched bangs. With her opponent distracted, Rei gave the Senshi a few jabs and a swift kick to the solar plexus. She was a firm believer in karma.
Stumbling about for a moment, the mysterious Fire Senshi regained her footing and roared in anger. “I am Sailor Ares, and I'm going to fucking tear you apart! CHAOS FLAME!”
Then the air around the woman ignited.
Haruka was leaping like she skirting on the wind; so much so that Michiru had trouble keeping up. They both were making their way to Rei's shrine to make their casual daily visit when they heard an explosion and saw the resulting fireball. Neither wasted any time and immediately (and discreetly) transformed, thoroughly convinced their target had struck.
The dark wisps of smoke were definitely from Rei's shrine and Haruka's heart leapt into her throat. At each previous attack, the casualties had only been strange faces; innocent faces, sadly, but strangers. Now there was a possibility that one of her friends would be among those faces, and it made Haruka's blood run cold.
“Uranus!” Michiru's call made her realize that her green-haired companion had caught up to her. “What's our ETA?”
Turning her head as she leapt to the next tree branch, Haruka replied. “I would say about-”
A stray branch cut off the rest of her sentence, grabbing her ankle. Hissing from the unexpected pain, Haruka gracefully landed on the grass below the tree.
Michiru was next to her in a second, concerned. “Are you okay, Haruka?”
Grabbing her ankle, the blonde woman gave an experimental squeeze and felt a tinge of pain, but it wasn't anything serious. However, there no telling how it would affect her speed. “Yeah, I'll be fine.”
“Who did that?”
Haruka noticed they were in a rather secluded area near the shrine, and she noticed the smoke from the fire was growing thick around them.
“I don't know, but we need to hurry before Ares destroys the Hikawa Shrine.”
“Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune!” A voice boomed behind the pair.
The sounds of rustling leaves and the groan of wood caught their attention. Haruka watched, amazed, as several trees uprooted themselves and lurched forward surrounding the pair.
“We cannot permit you to pass!” The voices of the trees rumbled in unison.
Shaking her head, Haruka muttered. “We don't have time for this.”
“You will and you shall let us pass!” Michiru shouted back to the trees, getting in position to defend herself.
“Then you leave us with no other option.” They boomed.
Haruka followed Michiru's lead and evaded the swing of a large limb. Jumping back, Haruka decided it was time to strike back. Raising her palm into the air, she gathered the winds together into a dense, spiraling ball.
“World Shaking!”
Clenching her fist, Haruka slammed her hand into the ground, sending the ball screaming its way to one of the trees. The sentient lumber bent under the impact and then fell away, motionless. Unfortunately, her victory was shorted lived as another tree took its place.
“This is going to get us nowhere!” She shouted to Michiru, who was dodging and twisting, avoiding the striking branches.
“I concur.”
“Trees just don't suddenly come to life.” Haruka reasoned to her partner, in a tone more casual than she was feeling at the moment. “Someone's behind this! We stop them, we stop the trees!”
Michiru exchanged a look with Haruka and nodded. “Got it! Do me a favor and keep me covered. This will only take a moment.”
Both Sailor Senshi put some distance between themselves and the trees. Once situated, Haruka stood guard as Michiru summoned an oval shaped hand mirror.
“Submarine Reflection!” At her command, the mirror glowed. Michiru studied the surface before she pointed to a place just over the blonde's shoulder. “Over there!”
That was all Haruka needed to know - she charged up another attack.
“World Shaking!”
Haruka watched as the twisting ball closed in on its target and struck. Instantly, the heavy smoke that choked the air lifted slightly, revealing a woman with long dark hair that nearly covered her body like a thick coat. The woman was oddly composed, calmly smoking from a long pipe and paying the pair little attention. Before giving the stranger another thought, Haruka glanced over her shoulder to make sure the trees had stopped. Once sure she couldn't see any movement from them, she regarded their new threat.
“I had intended only to distract and maybe maim you.” The woman said, taking a long, leisurely drag from her pipe. “But you had to go and break my spell. Pity, now I'm afraid I will have to resort to the removal of minor appendages to insure you don't interrupt.”
The sound of her voice made Haruka's hair stand on end. Her senses were going haywire, warning her she was in grave danger. This woman just wasn't some ordinary lackey or youma. She wasn't even a demon. This creature oozed an amount of power she'd only encountered on very rare occasions.
“We need to be very careful, Neptune.” She murmured.
“I know.” Her green-haired companion replied.
Sensing the need to take action, Haruka made the first move before the woman could make any moves against them.
“World Shaking!” Another ball rumbled towards the mysterious woman.
With a flick of her wrist, the woman transformed her smoking pipe into a folded fan and batted Haruka's ball away.
Haruka had anticipated as much from their new opponent and had summoned her scimitar, the Space Sword, with every intention of taking her off guard. Unfortunately, a solid wall of dirt burst from the ground and blocked her strike. An instant later, the wall lowered, her opponent waiting behind it with two fingers extended. With a snap of those fingers, the air around Haruka exploded into flames. She had little time to scream as she felt her body launched into the sky and then painfully skipping along the grass.
“Haruka!” She heard Michiru exclaim.
In the background, she could hear the woman's bland voice. “Very foolish, Sailor Uranus. I am the Demon Harutaki. Attacks such as those will not harm my person.”
Though it felt like a million needles were poking every inch of her exposed skin, Haruka sat up, only to witness Michiru charge.
In the blink of an eye, a crackling whip of electricity materialized in Harutaki's hand. Michiru had no chance of escaping as it snapped towards her and wrapped around her waist. She gave a startled yelp and her body twitched and flopped around like a fish out of water.
“Stop this now!” Haruka bellowed, and swung her sword, calling out another attack. “Space Sword Blaster!”
An arc of energy flew from the glowing sword as Haruka put all she had into her swing. The arc sped towards Harutaki, splitting the earth like a boat through calm water. The Demon, on the other hand, stood still, spinning her whip into a spiraling circle.
Just as the arc reached her, the crackling, electric spiraling circle solidified into a grey plate and the attack harmlessly ricocheted off it. Uranus gaped at the display.
The plate remained suspended in the air and shrank until Harutaki took it in one of her pale hands, transforming it back into the long pipe. She'd expected there would be a smug smile firmly on the woman's face, but Haruka found she still wore the same disinterested expression she had when they began this battle.
`This isn't a battle.' Haruka thought. `This is a lesson in pain.'
Without warning, a heavy tree branch slammed into her back, throwing her down into the dirt face first. Twisting her head, the blonde could see Michiru struggling to free her hands from the grip of another tree. She could hear the grass rustle as footsteps just out of her sight came towards her.
“We still have some time to waste.” Harutaki announced like she was hosting a business meeting. “Where should I start? An arm? A hand? Perhaps a finger or two? Surely you don't need all ten fingers, do you?”
Even using all her strength, Haruka couldn't free herself from the tree limb now burrowing her deeper into the soft ground. Not one to give up the fight, she stubbornly closed her fist when she felt Harutaki's deathly pale slim fingers grab her wrist. However, with a squeeze, Haruka's fingers involuntarily shot out and strained stiffly. Turning briefly towards her restrained hand, she could see the dark-haired Demon regarding her fingers, toying with a katana.
“I think I'll start with the index finger and work my way up from there.”
“NO!” Haruka cringed at Michiru's scream and turned her way.
When she did, she noticed the large ball of water gathering in her bound hands. “DEEP SUBMERGE!”
For once, the attack must have taken her by surprise because the ball of water splashed everywhere, soaking both Haruka and Harutaki. Suddenly the pressure on her back relaxed and Haruka wasted no time in jumping to safety. She flexed the hand that had been under the woman's control a moment ago and noticed, fascinated, that the woman had remained unmoved from her position.
Soon, Michiru joined her, waiting for the Demon's next attack. As they waited, Haruka noted that the air around them was clearing up considerably; she could make out the area just beyond the trees.
“What is she waiting for?” Michiru asked under her breath.
Wiping an errant drop of water from her face, Haruka shrugged. “I have no idea. She seemed intent on chopping off my fingers. I'm surprised she let me go.”
“You think it was the attack?”
“Want to give it another try?”
“My pleasure.”
With a start, the soaking woman shot up, nearly tripping over her own feet, obviously disoriented. Her breathing was ragged and deep. Her red eyes were wide, confused, but she refused to express it any further than that. Then her crimson gaze darted to the two Senshi, and she tensed.
That had been enough for Michiru. “DEEP-“
Harutaki's eyes widened even further as more water gathered in Michiru's hands. The woman reacted immediately, stretching out one of her hands away from them, toward a place where the smoke thickened.
Instinctively, Haruka had her Space Sword ready for another offensive from Harutaki, but was stunned when the woman reached into the swirling smoke and slipped into it.
“-SUBMERGE!” Michiru finished, launching another ball of water.
However, the last wisps of Harutaki's dark hair had disappeared into the smoky portal, as the ball zipped past.
The pair paused and exchanged a look. Peering into Michiru's beautiful emerald eyes, Haruka finally spoke, almost in a smooth purr. “So I assume your love for my fingers is what won the day?”
Michiru narrowed those emerald orbs and pursed her lips. “We don't have time for this, Haruka. We've got to help Mars!”
In stiffened body language that Haruka knew meant business, Sailor Neptune beckoned the blonde to follow her towards the billowing columns of smoke just past the cover of the trees.
Haruka didn't waste another moment, and raced off like a feather in the wind.
Isisu tried her best to push back those old painful memories which still felt fresh, but the realization that the priestess was the Princess of Mars only burst open those gates, allowing the bitterness and resentment to settle in.
Surprisingly, the Princess didn't recognize her, and Isisu figured that perhaps the Martian had forgotten her and probably didn't have memories of her last incarnation. Cyrus had mentioned that some of the stronger Star Seeds, especially those of Sailor Senshi, could retain memories of past lives.
`Oh, Cyrus.' She thought, forlorn. `Did you meet the same fate as the rest of Queen Serenity's Court? Will you remember me when we meet again?'
Those thoughts flitted through her mind while she endured the photo shoot with that rude redheaded photographer. She had literally swooned when Ken swooped in and came to her rescue. He looked so much like Cyrus at that moment, standing so tall and brave. Then it hit her; maybe Ken was Cyrus' reincarnation.
Then came the explosion. “That didn't sound good.”
Isisu frowned and doubt began to creep in. This wasn't the Cyrus she remembered. Her Cyrus would have jumped into action and helped her fend off whatever evil being was causing all this destruction. Of course, she herself would have jumped into action immediately, (which was part of the reason why she knocked out the photographer when he was distracted), but Ken didn't. Instead he fawned over that damn Sailor Mars like a lost puppy when she graced them with her appearance. Her smugness towards them, Ken especially, made Isisu's blood boil.
So Isisu just watched as this Sailor Ares and Sailor Mars beat the living daylights out of each other. For a while she found it rather cathartic. However, even though Mars was putting up one heck of a fight, she was definitely losing. There was something about this evil Senshi that gave her greater power. Her senses could definitely feel it.
Isisu became alarmed when Ares tossed Mars into the shrine, as did Ken.
“Sailor Mars!” He shouted, and Isisu had to restrain him from rushing towards the building. The blond turned, astonished and flustered. “Isisu, what are you doing? I've got to help Sailor Mars somehow!”
That did it. Isisu narrowed her eyes, a fire as bright and as intense as the blaze around them burning in them. Ken instantly recoiled when he saw that fire, his ardor cooled. Without any hesitation, not a care in the world that Ken would know her secret, Isisu decided she could no longer stand for this. Even though she resented Serenity for making her suffer for over a thousand years alone in the coldness of open space, she couldn't allow a fellow Senshi to be killed. Her conscience wouldn't permit it, anyway.
Reaching into the purse she had brought with her, she took out the small piece of smooth green stone. She threw the Jade Crescent into the air.
“Dimension Soul Charge!”
Unlike the first time she had transformed in her bedroom a few nights ago, Isisu waited impatiently for the fog that wrapped around her form to materialize into her uniform. Irritated, she snatched the World Spear as it expanded from the Jade Crescent, and marched over to the battle.
“Isisu?” She sighed, and only turned her head to the gaping blond man.
“What, Ken?”
Through blowing strands of pale-blue hair, she could see Ken open his mouth and then close it several times. Isisu closed her eyes. She didn't have time for this. She'd take care of this later.
Another blast of flames erupted from the shrine and a badly singed and beaten Mars skidded to a stop at her feet. She shifted her red gaze down to the injured Senshi and then to the angry one charging at her, several spears of flame twirling around her at her command.
Ares didn't acknowledge her presence, and didn't bother to alter her attack or approach.
`Does she have any sophisticated technique at all?' Isisu mused as she quickly recalled her strict training at the hands of Setsuna's mother. Calmly, she lifted her staff and summoned her defense spell.
“Spatial Shield!” A weird tingling crawled up her skin as she felt the fabric of space around the tip of the spear condense and concentrate to form an invisible shield. She smiled slightly; she had forgotten how good that felt.
“Ugh!” The psychotic dark-haired Senshi grunted as her body collided with the barrier.
Feeling somewhat satisfied, Isisu looked down at her opponent, who was sitting in the dirt and glaring daggers at her. That passed quickly when a dull ache blossomed in her forehead, severely distracting her.
“Who the fuck are you!?” Ares growled.
“I am Sailor Dis. The Guardian of the World Gate.” She answered evenly as the dull ache spread. What was going on?
“I don't care who the hell you are.” Ares rose and dusted the dirt from her long skirt and bandages. She tensed her hands, igniting a pair of fireballs above her palms. “You're so fucking dead.”
Isisu ignored the now agonizing pain in her brain and prepared for another assault. Running through a catalog of memories, she recalled another spell.
“Weight of the Worlds!” With an out-stretched hand she commanded the gravity around Ares to increase.
“Urk!” Ares appeared to nearly bite her tongue off as the flames in her hands extinguished. However, the woman resisted the force pulling her down. “I. Will. Get. You.”
This wasn't good, Isisu thought as she perspired profusely. With Ares resisting, she could feel her hold on the spell waning. She couldn't understand why she felt so weak.
“You call yourself a Guardian!” Queen Metallia's screeching voice had taunted during Isisu's foolish attempt to destroy the Dark Kingdom alone. “You're too weak to be a Guardian!”
Isisu cringed at that memory. An instant later she felt something in her snap, and all of her power drained away. She couldn't recall much else after that until her trial in front of Serenity's tribunal. It had been so painful to endure their accusing stares, and the pain from that memory only added to the physical throbbing throughout her body.
Then she remembered how badly she'd wanted the pain to just go away. As they encased her in the ice, she somehow had been able to will it away. Just that thought made something in her shift, like she was pushing hard on a large, heavy door. Then she felt it slide, and suddenly a little bit of the pain went away. She mentally gave another shove, and more pain drained from her body.
`That's it.' Now she pushed with all her might; she wanted this pain vanquished completely. Once the pain was gone then she could deal with all these unsettling memories.
Finally, something inside her cracked, and a strange sensation washed over her. It was neither bad nor good, just a pressure that was releasing from her forehead.
As soon as the sensation passed, Isisu felt nothing aside from the clothes on her body and the smooth jade stone she now held in her hands.
`It appears I have reverted back.' She observed. `This is unfortunate as well as unexpected.'
Isisu lifted her gaze as she heard Ares chuckling. The evil Senshi had reignited the flames in her palms and now wore a predatory grin, much like that of a jackal.
“It looks like your luck has just run out, Guardian.” She continued, chuckling; then her eyes widened in surprise.
“Amaunet's Breath!” Isisu turned and immediately recognized the blond man standing beside her, his sword sending his attack towards her opponent.
“Cyrus.” She whispered.
Meanwhile, Ares barely had a moment to raise her arms in defense before the three arcs of energy plowed into her. When it was done, three deep gouges had been carved into the dirt in front of her rescuer.
“Are you all right, Isisu?” The woman just stood there as she gathered her thoughts.
“I feel a little winded and tired, but otherwise I am in good health.” She said dryly.
Cyrus raised an eyebrow and appeared to want to say something when Ares burst back onto the scene.
“I love this!” Ares sputtered, her eyes wide and crazed. “The more of you keep appearing, the more destruction we can orchestrate together! Let the chaos commence! CHAOS-”
“Heart of Ice!”
Ares' mouth hung open and her body froze as ice crawled up her legs. A woman in a black uniform similar to hers appeared beside the Fire Senshi. She wiped away a strand of her white hair smoothing it back with the rest tied tightly behind her head.
She turned to the psychotic Senshi. “I see you've stirred things up here, Ares.” The dull, pale skin of the woman glowed in the raging fire's light as she placed a gloved hand on Ares' shoulder. “However, we can't let you go and kill yourself in some illogical rampage to satisfy those homicidal urges of yours.”
Cyrus, his sword tensed and ready to fight, slowly approached the pair. “Who are you Senshi and where do you come from?”
Her steely grey eyes studied them for a moment, as if calculating their strengths. Then she answered. “I am Sailor Hermes, the Ice Queen, and I am a member of the Dark Senshi. That is all I will tell you, but rest assured that you will get better acquainted with the rest of us in the near future. Portal open.”
At Hermes' command, a darkened mirror materialized next to the pair of Dark Senshi. Hermes pushed her partner none too gently through the reflective surface, which rippled as the icy statue disappeared within. Cyrus leapt at the pale woman, but she too disappeared through the rippling surface, and the mirror faded from existence.
“Damn it!” He cursed, swinging his sword at where the mirror had been. “This isn't good. I didn't recognize her Star Seed.”
“Um.” Isisu turned towards the meek voice and saw Ken, face bloodless, hand raised. “Would anyone be willing to explain to me what just happened?”
`This is most unfortunate.' Isisu commented mentally, stealing a glance at Cyrus.
“Ugh, I don't know how you can tolerate these cram schools, Umino.” Naru made a face as she and her boyfriend made their way to her house. “Weekends are meant for lounging and having fun. Not more school. That's what weekdays are for.”
Umino chuckled, which had the effect of unsettling his large glasses. Immediately, he adjusted them, and nearly tripped over a rock in the process. Naru groaned inwardly. It looked like she was going to have to drag him to the eye doctor and order to him to replace those coke bottles on his face. Why he insisted on keeping them all these years was beyond her; it was obvious he needed new ones. Maybe this time he'd get contacts.
Naru's heart fluttered at the thought of seeing Umino's face unblemished by his glasses. He had such beautiful eyes. She especially loved looking into them when they…
The redhead blushed furiously and eagerly made plans. They had nothing going on next Tuesday. Then they could go to that nice restaurant-
“What's that?” Umino's question stirred Naru from her plans.
Focusing on the brown-haired boy next to her, she followed his finger up towards the darkening sky. Something flickered and then fell to the ground just behind some trees. The mysterious object landed in a peaceful and quiet explosion of light.
Both of their mouths hung open for a moment, and Naru exchanged a quick glance with Umino. She grinned at his anxiety; that boy never did have a sense of adventure. Oh well, half the fun was dragging him with her when there was something too irresistible for her curiosity to ignore.
She grabbed his hand. “Come on, scaredycat!”
“Wait, Naru,” Umino protested vocally, but he didn't resist her pulling. “Don't you think this is a bad idea when you consider everything that's happened to us over the years?”
Not breaking her stride or her grip, Naru shot back. “Bah, nothing has happened to us in the last few years, and anyway, nothing bad is going to happen this time.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I don't know, after having so much happen, I kinda got a sixth sense for these things.”
“Yeah, right.” Naru heard her boyfriend mutter, and frowned. Oooo, she was going to make him pay later.
They made the rest of the journey in silence until they came upon the site where the light landed. Carefully, the pair stepped into the brush and gingerly pulled away branches.
“Doesn't look like anything landed here.” Umino murmured, studying the surrounding vegetation. “There's no sign of a crater or any kind of fallout.”
“Oh my goodness!” Naru gasped, covering her mouth.
“This doesn't make any sense!” Umino exclaimed as he peered down at the ground.
Naru couldn't believe it, but there at their feet was a very young and very naked girl, curled up comfortably, who was sound asleep. Quickly, she took care of the first order of business.
“Umino! Cover your eyes and give me your jacket!”
“Ack!” Naru's expression soured at her boyfriend's delayed reaction. Once he had his back to them, jacket extended like an olive branch, he spoke again. “What are we going to do with her?”
“I guess,” Naru covered the slumbering girl and gently moved aside some of her pale blue hair, “we take her to my house and call the police.”
-End of Chapter 3-
Author's Note:
Well another chapter in the bag. I really want to thank Setsu-P for inspiring and motivating me to get this one out the door so quickly. She's drawn up some mean fanart for this project and it shouldn't be missed. She has been constructing a website just for this story filled with drawings of various characters. Once it's finished, I'll include it here.
And a big hello to the Tower of Time forum folks (Dragon Rhapsody and Carla most especially) for their kind words on what I've posted so far of this story. Check out the Tower of Time forum here:
So onto the next chapter where the Inner Senshi finally meet the Dimension Guardian, Setsuna gets bitched out, Ares makes a startling discovery, and Naru and Umino discover that maybe being minor characters wasn't such a bad thing.
Until next time, folks!
Sailor Moon is owned by Naoko Takeuchi.
All original characters are owned and copyrighted by Setsu-P (c) 2008.
They are being used with owner's expressed permission.
Rev 03/08