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Path's Divergence

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Chapter 6
Good Timing

"How cute!" Usagi exclaimed one afternoon. It had been a couple of days since the idol contest and nothing new had happened other than watching the contest runners scramble to try and fix the mess left in the wake of the youma plot. Today was a rare off day for all the girls. Haruka and Michiru had after school activities back at their school, Mugen Gaken. And since they couldn't really do much now that wouldn't disrupting the other girls plans Luna had left them off the hook for once and so Usagi and Naru had hit the mall. Right now they were perusing a new clock shop selling some cute clocks. They kept in mind Luna's warnings about any new shops. But honestly, they didn't have to go into every shop expecting for an enemy to pop out, did they? Usagi sure hoped not because otherwise, her life was going to take a whole new level of complicated. And she did not need that.

"Aren't glad I dragged you here?" Naru chirped.

"Yeah I guess. Though I am not sure I can afford any of them." Usagi admitted pulling her wallet out check how much yen she had. She had used most of her allowance up on going to the arcade the other day. Plus she had bought a few things already.

"Oh Usagi..." Naru said with a knowing look on her face as she knew Usagi well enough to know the big three Usagi generally blew her allowance on. Sweets, Manga, and of course the Arcade though even Naru could admit she blew much of hers at the arcade as well. She just set enough aside for other things before doing so.

"The Sailor V game is really fun though." Usagi defended herself. She took another look at the cute clock. "Ah well, maybe another time."

"It's alright Usagi. Maybe set some aside next time." Naru said giving her arm a tug. Usagi turned away from the clock before following Naru off in the direction of more shops.

The first indication that something wasn't right coming the following morning. Usagi's Mom insisted on getting her up well ahead of the alarm and pushed her out the door an hour before the last bell. Not that she wanted to be late (though really, she hadn't been late much since she had moved to Tokyo) but this was a bit extreme. As she walked to school she noticed that apparently her Mom wasn't the only person feeling rushed judging by the amount of people going about everything at a run.

She ended up finding Naru at school (they normally met and walked part of the way but when she had swung by the shop since she was running early Naru's Mom had said she had already left). "Naru! There you are! How are you doing? Please tell me you have Luna with you."

"Mom shoved me out the door really early this morning. "Naru yawned before continuing. "Luna was still sleeping when I left. For now it is just us I guess." Naru said after a second trying to ignore the pacing of their teacher as they waited for the rest of their classmates.

"Yours too? Mom insisted on me getting up at 6:00 and having me out the door by 7:00. She insisted that if I didn't leave then I would be late for class." Usagi said scratching the back of her head. Well, there went her idea of asking Luna if the weird get up and rush mentality was a side effect of a youma spell.

"Yeah, mine did too. I probably should have called your house to see if you had been pushed out like me. It's so weird. I've never seen anything like today. Everyone seems to be in a hurry to do something or get somewhere a lot more than usual." Naru said.

"Yeah, I noticed that too. Maybe the enemy is moving again?" Usagi commented from her position her voice dropping a couple of octaves when she brought up the Dark Kingdom. Though the way their classmates were acting she could probably have been yelling from the rooftops and none of them would have noticed what she was saying.

Naru was saved from responding to that comment by their teacher slamming her bag onto the desk. Both girls exchanged glances before shrugging in confusion. The teacher maybe an okay teacher but she did have her odd moments so they were used to her doing odd stuff by now. However, as Usagi watched her pile stuff into her bag appearing to be preparing to leave she had to say this was one of the oddest things she had seen the teacher do.

Finally, when it appeared that she had gotten everything together she turned to the class and said, "Since it appears that most of your classmates don't know the definition of timeliness I am going to let you study on your own. Goodbye."

With the last word, she walked out of the room. Most of their classmates took it as their cue to pack their stuff up and leave as Usagi and Naru exchanged glances in confusion. This was definitely a first. Naru was the first to speak after that odd scene. "Find Luna?"

Usagi nodded her head starting to put her own things together before agreeing. "Find Luna."

Usagi split off from Naru early on heading back to the shopping center from the day before to wait for the others and Luna. It shouldn't take them too long for them to show up. Naturally, because her luck sucked big hairy biscuits like that, she managed to find trouble in that rather short period of time. Rather, trouble walked straight up to her like a predator hunts a helpless bunny rabbit.

"Well, well. If it isn't the school whore." Usagi froze at a voice that had haunted her dreams for months on end, startled, and turned to face the person behind her. She hadn't heard him or his buddies since the school had forced them to leave Juuban. She had been hoping she would never see them again.

"Aito." Usagi said fighting to keep the fearful tremble out of her voice and hide the trembling of her hands at running into one of them. Aito and his friends ranked only just below Yuki as people who had made her situation at Juuban a living hell. They only ranked below her due to the fact that there had been only one incident involving them versus the multiple occasions she had dealt with Yuki.

The more Usagi tried to look around the more she realized she was trapped with him, no one else around the mall that she could see. She was in one of her worst nightmares again with no apparent way out of it. She attempted to grab her phone out to call someone and alert them but just as her fingers grasped the plastic of her device Aito grabbed a fistful of her shirt saying almost into her ear. "I am going to enjoy your screams as much as I did the first-time little whore and this time I am going to leave you where everyone can see with so much cum dripping out of you that you won't be able to hide from it this time. If your nice I might even let you live to feel the humiliation." Usagi's voice was lost on her as she struggled to form the vocals to scream for help.

"Get off of her." Usagi had never been so happy to hear Haruka's voice. She hadn't even realized the others had arrived. She was just glad they had as good timing as they had.

"Or what?" Aito said turning his head away from her and the direction of the new arrivals loosening his grip on her shirt slightly. Haruka decided to take a swing at Aito when he didn't fully take her 'suggestion'. Haruka and Michiru might have arrived only after whatever the situation was had started. But she had seen the clear panic and fear written all over Usagi's face. The advances were clearly unwanted and Haruka wasn't going to let the situation continue. She'd castrate him first.

The fist coming at his throat got Aito to release Usagi as he moved to dodge it. Usagi took the opening to scramble as far away from him as possible ending up with Michiru's arms around her trembling form. He hadn't had a chance to do anything this time but if they hadn't-

Michiru gave her a concerned look for a moment before looking up to the boy not quite dodging Haruka. "I recommend you leave." Michiru said with a hard voice etched with cold towards the boy. There was no room to interpret her 'recommendation' as anything but command. Aito seemed to hesitate for a moment longer considering before clearly deciding to take off. As his steps echoed slightly off towards the other end of the mall, only then did Usagi let out a sigh of relief.

"You alright?" Haruka asked turning her full attention to Usagi. It looked like they had gotten there before anything could happen but Usagi was visibly shaking. Her dainty fingers wrapped around her purse strings sported knuckles a white that made Haruka wonder if her palms would be bleeding when she finally unscrunched her fingers. If there was nothing, then she wouldn't be having such a reaction so there was obviously at least some sort of history between the two. Maybe an ex? Haruka had no clue. All she really knew was the guy was bad news and Usagi was shaking like a leaf in absolute terror of the boy. Even without what they had seen here, he clearly needed to be kept far away from Usagi.

"I'm fine." Usagi said trying to wave off the concern with what was clearly meant to be a smile, but really ended up a strained grimace. They had gotten there before anything could happen, so all was good except for getting shaken by seeing Aito again. She just didn't want to have to explain why Aito shook her so much or what his appearance brought back. She hadn't seen Aito or the other two in months. Not since the school had forced them to transfer out.

"You're shaking." Michiru said voicing what she knew Haruka was thinking before continuing. "Come on, let's take Usagi home and maybe we can pick up some sweets on the way." Sweets... Usagi's weakness.

Usagi thought about it for a moment, starring longingly at the food court and milkshakes but not quite feeling like remaining where she'd so recently run into Aito. What if she ran into him again? She couldn't do it. She just couldn't. Haruka seemed to save the day right then. "It's getting time to go home anyway. Why don't we pick up takeout on the way home?" Usagi could only nod. Michiru seemed to also agree.

Not long later they were sitting back in Usagi's room, her mother having left the girls to it and brought some odango for them to share with their meal. The odango was long eaten and Haruka was playing with her salad, bowl held in lap and some dumplings sitting nearby while Michiru sat, legs curled, with her small plate eating her sashimi with a delicate grace only she seemed to be able to achieve. And Usagi? Well she hadn't felt like eating much but that strawberry cake was calling her name regardless of earlier upset. None of the girls seemed to want to broach the subject and every time Usagi tried she lost her appetite and started to cry.

Finally, Usagi spoke quietly. "Aito and the rest of his group transferred out about six ago. He was enlisted by Yuki, he and his friends." Usagi didn't wish to elaborate and both Michiru and Haruka seemed to understand, although Haruka seemed a bit intense. She decided to change subjects after a moment of silence, and so with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes she spoke. "Come on, let's eat this cake and then I'll show you where the youma shop is."

It hadn't taken long to get back to the mall where the suspected youma shop. Luna meeting up with them along the way.

"This seems kind of tame compared to the last few plots. At least on scale level, I guess. The Cinderella contest seemed to involve everyone in the Tokyo area." Sailor Uranus said frowning slightly tilting her head looking at the shop.

"My first youma plot involved a jewelry shop. So this isn't the first time I've dealt with a possible plot involving items that are sold to the public." Sailor Moon confessed.

"Not every plot of theirs is going to be over the top and exaggerated," Luna commented.

"Though it does seem like Jadeite's M.O." Sailor Neptune added.

Luna sighed tail swishing slightly in agitation. "It is possible that he is changing things up to try and throw us off track."

"If he is trying to throw us off track he should make the possible plot stand out less. Having everyone in Juuban running around makes it stand out more." Sailor Moon pointed out.

"True." Luna said with a slight shrug.

"No kidding." Sailor Uranus said.

"Regardless we need to dismantle this operation." Sailor Neptune asserted.

"So how are we going to get in we just can't exactly expect them to open the door for us if they are the enemy?" Sailor Moon commented and as if on queue a strange portal formed on the grated blocking the entrance to the shop. "Or I guess so."

"This has to be a trap." Sailor Neptune said frowning

"An obvious one." Sailor Uranus agreed.

"If we walk away we leave an ongoing youma plot however if we move forward we are walking into a trap." Sailor Moon said frowning slightly. "But we can't let this go on either..." Sailor Moon frowned shaking her head slightly. If it was left to linger who knows what could happen. The longest lasting plot that she knew of was the one at Naru's shop. And from what she could tell she had gotten to it before the youma had really put into action.

"It's definitely a trap and you shouldn't go in but..." Luna confessed after a moment. First instinct was to take care of the threat, however, to walk into a blatant trap appeared to be asking for trouble. A threat in of itself to her team and to the one she suspects may even be the princess. Above any mission the princess's safety was to be put above all else and walking into traps was not aligned with 'safety'. Even so... they could not let this be either. What to do...

Another silence fell and no one moved from in front of the shop door. After a brief moment Sailor Moon made up her mind, with or without the others she was going after the youma. Was it trap? Yes but leaving a plot untouched raised too many concerns about possible developments if it was allowed to run rampant. So she made the first step towards the portal ignoring the protests of the others breaking into a run. They could come or they could stay behind this wouldn't be the first youma she had faced alone if the need arose.

"So you three fell into my trap." The youma's greeting echoed cockily once she had cleared the portal.

"It was a very obvious one." Sailor Moon heard Sailor Uranus grumble under her breath. She let out a breath she hadn't even known she had been holding. So they had followed her through the portal now.

"I shall defeat you and gain Queen Beryl's favor!" The youma proclaimed. "Let's make a game. if you can properly find me. Then you can fight me. Otherwise, you will be trapped in here forever." The youma vanished into thin air before any of them could protest against the idea leaving a swirling portal on the ground.

"What were you thinking?!" Sailor Uranus rounded on Sailor Moon angrily now that the youma had vanished they had a brief moment to themselves.

"I just don't want to see anyone else die. I…I lost someone close to me a couple of years ago. I am scared if these plots are allowed to drag on someone will die from them." Sailor Moon admitted through tears. Shingo's death would forever haunt her. The fact that maybe if she had just been a bit more careful or tried a bit harder he might still harder would forever hang over her. She couldn't. Wouldn't let anyone else die due to her lack of action.

"Usagi you can't save everyone you know that right?" Sailor Uranus asked gently. Apparently the comment about losing someone had at least softened her anger towards Sailor Moon.

"I will save everyone I can and do everything I can to save them." Sailor Moon said squaring her shoulders and bracing for the anger or the calls of foolishness.

Sailor Neptune, the ever calming presence asserted herself. "We are here. We should take care of things as they are. We can discuss things later if we need to."

Stepping through the portal had been sort of surreal. Whatever they had been expecting, this definitely wasn't it. As the girls looked around at their strange surroundings they saw most of the area was a blueish green in colors with distorted clocks floating around and what looked like the longest line of doors she had ever seen in her life.

"Are we supposed to open all of these?" Sailor Moon frowned.

"That seems to be the idea." Sailor Neptune agreed.

It was going to take forever to find the youma though if they didn't get lucky. And god knows how time worked in this weird place so they could end up being in here for a short period compared to the outside world or they could be in here until the end of time.

"Michiru you seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to these things can you maybe pick up where the youma is actually hiding?" Sailor Uranus asked.

Sailor Moon frowned slightly. This was something that hadn't come up before. Then again this was only the third youma plot that the three had taken on together. And the last two they had kind of just met where the youma was not trying to find where it was. Still you would have thought that something like this would have come up during one of the afternoons they had spent together so far. But then again considering she was hiding stuff she really couldn't talk.

Sailor Neptune frowned for a moment seeming to be concentrating on something before shaking her head, "Too much interference. It feels like the youma is everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time

"Well let's start opening doors then." Sailor Uranus said opening a door on her right hand side. At first seeing nothing Sailor Moon decided to step in the door opened before them to see if she could if the youma was in there. Once she stepped in an odd effect kicked in, it seemed that she was shrinking?

"Sailor Moon!" She heard Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune yell grabbing a hold of her and pulling her back towards the doorway. She let out a breath she didn't even know she had been holding as she felt whatever had occurred reverse itself and return to normal.

"Are you all right?" Sailor Neptune asked looking her over. Sailor Uranus growled in frustration. "I have had about enough of this place."

"I'm fine. Honestly, it was just a really weird sensation." Sailor Moon reassured her rubbing her hand over her arm avoiding eye contact. She hadn't meant to cause trouble, but it seemed like whenever she was with them she found it accidentally.

"Why did you step into the room anyway?" Sailor Neptune asked slightly scolding her.

"I was trying to see if the youma was maybe further into the room." Sailor Moon explained with a shrug. How was she supposed to know she was going to suddenly de-age if she actually walked into a room?

"Well, no one is going to be stepping through doorways unless we see the youma from here on out." Sailor Uranus finally stated.

"Sorry I didn't mean to cause trouble." Sailor Moon said looking at the ground.

Sailor Uranus let out a sigh running a hand through her hair while Sailor Neptune comforted "You seem to have a tendency to end up in situations."

"Sorry." Sailor Moon meekly said knowing the comment was also referring to the idol contest after a slight pause. "So what now? We're kind of at an impasse right now. We could just try and open every door but that would take who knows how long."

"Not unless you have some idea or ability you haven't mentioned." Sailor Neptune asked raising an eyebrow.

"The only closest thing I've not mentioned was accidentally seeing through the guise a youma had on once the day I became Sailor Moon, and I'm not honestly sure if that was just a fluke event." Sailor Moon admitted. She hadn't been able to do anything like that since then so she had her doubts that it was an actual ability she possessed.

"Maybe I can be of assistance?" Asked a new voice causing all three to jump and Sailor Uranus to form a ball of energy in her right hand in response to the possible threat. She faltered a little seeing the new arrival was bearing a similar senshi garb.

"Who are you?" Sailor Moon asked.

"My apologies. I am Sailor Pluto senshi of time and space. This youma is messing with a function of time. It is my duty to deal with it." Sailor Pluto explained.

"She is actually speeding up time?" Uranus asked frowning at the thought thinking back to what they had seen outside the shop.

"This youma is messing with the body's internal clock. This Youma is also a very strong illusionist. Makes a person believe that time is actually passing quicker then it is. Thus giving a person the need to rush and burn energy at the same time. I am the guardian of time. I would rather her not grow powerful enough to effect time on a wide scale." Was Pluto's explanation.

"Wait there are creatures out there that can mess with the flow of time on a large scale?" Uranus asked skeptically.

"A very small number but yes there have been a few throughout known history that have been capable of performing such a task." The newly named Pluto admitted with some reluctance.

"Okay, that is a creepy thought. Beryl and her minions can't do that can they?," Sailor Moon piped up having kept quiet during most of the explanation. An enemy that could actually mess with the time stream just screamed big bad problem.

"No Sailor Moon. There is no one working in the Dark Kingdom, thankfully, with that kind of power." Pluto reassured her.

Sailor Moon pondered over the thought that it seemed almost like the older senshi was refraining from calling her by a different name. It was a bit odd but she wasn't going to press the subject. If the new addition wanted to have secrets, fine. She couldn't really hold it against her without being a hypocrite considering she still hadn't told the others about her legs. As long as whatever she was refraining from mentioning wasn't dangerous she could keep whatever secrets that she was apparently holding at the moment.

"So how do we defeat someone that messes with our sense of time?" Sailor Moon asked frowning slightly deciding not to ponder on Pluto's speech patterns for now. That would be something to try and figure out at a later time when they weren't facing down a youma.

"Its a bit difficult but it can be done. We need to figure out what her weak point." Sestuna explained as she began to lead the way.

"Do you have any idea where we are supposed to be going or are we just following the path down the hallway?" Sailor Uranus asked frowning slightly as they followed her.

"Again. I am the senshi of space and time. I can find where the youma is." Was the response given.

The other girls exchanged glances for a second before Sailor Moon followed behind first with a slight shrug of the shoulders, Neptune after and the Uranus reluctantly following. "I'm not so sure about this." she heard Sailor Uranus mutter before following behind her.

"What do we have honestly to lose at this point?" Sailor Moon asked turning back to face the older girl for a moment voicing her own thoughts, "We know nothing about the realm we're in. We were essentially flying blind and the senshi who has domain over the realm has offered to help. At this point we don't know how to get back out of where we came from."

"I still don't like blindly trusting her though." Haruka said as she followed the green haired senshi following after Sailor Moon.

"Well, we're not exactly blindly trusting her. We all seem to have our own issues with this situation but Uranus, unless you want to be stuck here until the end of time we are going to give her the benefit of the doubt." Sailor Moon stated hoping to end the argument here and there.

She heard Uranus grumble some more but didn't voice anything else after that. She got it, she really did about the worries of trusting someone that was a complete stranger here in a foreign realm. But at this point they needed to put their trust in her or else they may be stuck here until the end of time.

After that, a silence descended over the group. Apparently, Pluto wasn't really the talkative type choosing to just lead them to their enemy then go into many other details. Maybe that was part of the point though, keep her realm delved in secret and suspense. Really it didn't matter in the end she realized, as long as they got to the youma and eventually got out of whatever this weird place was.

"She should be through here." Pluto said opening one of the doors on the right-hand side of the hall. Moon frowned for a moment glancing down the hall and then back at the door. As far as she could tell there was no way to distinguish them from the hundreds of other doors. But who was she to argue with the senshi of time and space over a time-related matter?

She frowned once they were into the room. As far as she could see there was no sign of the youma that was causing all this trouble. She then noticed a lilac ball not that much different in shape and general composition than the one that Haruka and Michiru used for their attack beginning to form around the staff that Pluto carried. Okay if she was powering up for an attack that hopefully meant the youma was nearby but where? Before she got a question Sailor Pluto on what she was doing Sailor Pluto aimed the ball in what appeared to be a random direction saying, "Dimension Dance."

That brought the youma crashing down in front of them though she didn't quiet understand how that was physically possible. Never mind that, was the youma actually squinting at them now? That was a new reaction she hadn't seen before. Before she could process this strange new reaction it spoke. "Who in the world are you and how did you get here?"

"I am Sailor Pluto senshi of time and space. Your interference with time is forbidden." Pluto's calm response.

Sailor Uranus, having decided to take advantage of the fact that Pluto was providing a distraction, powered up her own attack while it appeared the youma tried to make heads or tails of the new addition. "Spiral Buster!"

This knocked the youma back a distance but didn't destroy it. Deciding against giving the youma enough to time to collect itself, Sailor Moon reached up removing her tiara, aimed it at the youma, and unleashed. "Moon Tiara Action!

That did the trick, thankfully, turning the youma to dust. She breathed a sigh of relief before turning to Sailor Pluto smiling, "Thank you for your help."

Sailor Neptune frowned thoughtfully looking around. "How do we get out of here."

For some reason or another whatever weird pocket dimension that had formed still hadn't dissipated so Pluto from there lead them out of the area and within moments they found themselves back in front of the shop. From there she excused herself saying she had other things to take care of.

"Who was that?" Luna asked coming up to them now that Pluto had left for parts unknown. With no way to contact her either now that she thought about it, that was a bit annoying. Though she guessed if she really had such domain over space-time she probably could tell when they would need help next time. Maybe, hopefully.

"Sailor Pluto. She showed up helped us track down the youma." Sailor Moon said glancing back at the facade of the clock shop. Come to think of it what happened to these places once the youma plots were done? She had never gone back to investigate after a fight of one of the former pop up shops so she really didn't know. Maybe one day on her down days she would go check out. She briefly noticed that a strange look came over Luna's face momentarily but chose not to push it. If the cat wanted to keep stuff from her for the time being so be it. It would probably all come to a head eventually anyway.

End Chapter 6