Usagi raced home after class to change – she and Mamoru had plans for the rest of the afternoon and she didn’t want to go in her school uniform. Her dad tried protesting as she left to meet her boyfriend, but her mother cut him off, saying she’d already given permission and warning him not to ruin it for their daughter. Said girl slipped out as they argued.
It was a gorgeous day. She and Mamoru strolled casually to the lake, and he rowed them to the center for some privacy. She tripped getting out of the boat afterwards, but he caught her. They shared a tender kiss there on the dock.
From there, things became… odd. A pink-haired child fell from the sky just like before, hitting the blonde before rolling onto her boyfriend. They both stared, recognizing her at once.
“Give me the Silver Crystal!” she demanded.
That snapped them out of their shock. “Chibiusa!” they said in unison.
She paused, caught off-guard. “No...” She fidgeted with the hem of her skirt. “You shouldn’t recognize me. Puu said.”
“Yeah, well,” Mamoru drawled. “We do. Could you let us up?”
The little girl scrambled to the side as they got to their feet, brushing themselves off. “Anyway. No, I’m not giving you the Silver Crystal,” Usagi said firmly.
She pouted, and for a moment Usagi thought she was looking at a younger version of herself, albeit with pink hair. “But I need it!”
Mamoru knelt so he was on her level. “We understand that, but Usako can’t just hand it over. It belongs to her. You have to tell us what’s wrong so we can help.”
“This isn’t how it’s supposed to work!”
“Humor us,” Usagi suggested. “What’s going on, sweetheart?”
Something in her tone or posture set the child off. She began sobbing. “It’s Mama!” she cried. “Bad people hurt Mama and I need the crystal to save her!”
Mamoru and Usagi shared an alarmed look. “Chibiusa-chan, why don’t I already have the Silver Crystal? I mean, why doesn’t she?”
She kept crying, and Mamoru caught her in a tight hug. “Okay, we won’t talk now.” He looked up at his girlfriend.” I’d offer to let her stay with me, but I’m not home enough to help.”
“Let’s go to your apartment for the time being,” Usagi suggested. “We can figure out what to do once we’re alone.”
He nodded and they began making their way to his place. “I’m sorry,” he said after several minutes’ silence. “I guess we’re not going out for dinner.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she answered. “It’s not important now.”
They managed to get to an empty elevator when they hit the lobby. Usagi breathed a sigh of relief, since it would’ve been hard to explain them being seen with a kid. They needed a cover story. Mamoru settled Chibiusa in his bed while the younger teen put on water for tea. He came out quietly, shutting the door behind him. She was about to say something, but he suddenly pulled her into a tight hug.
“What’s that for?” she asked as he let go.
He stared into the distance for a moment. “Things won’t be the same after this. Not just a battle, something else. I can’t explain.” Pulling out a pan, he gathered the ingredients for stir fry and added the beef once the pan was hot. She started some rice, one of the few things she could do in a kitchen without causing a fire. “Something needs to be done about Chibiusa. She’ll attract trouble if only because she’s young and won’t have control of her magic yet.”
“That’s not all,” Usagi sighed. “She’ll need protection. She’s not from this time, so she has no papers, no ID, no family except us.”
“We’ve seen her do things with the toy she carries. It could help. Pluto wouldn’t have let her time-travel without some sort of safety net, would she?”
She shook her head. “There must be a way for Chibiusa to fit in. Given our resemblance, she could easily be related to me. Then my mom could take care of her.”
The vegetables went in. “That’s our best chance. We’re in for a fight, aren’t we?”
“It depends on how long we can keep her calm.”
The bedroom door opened and Chibiusa walked in. “I’m hungry.”
Mamoru turned off the burner. “You’re just in time. Dinner’s ready.” He separated the food onto three plates and passed them out. Chibiusa stared at it for a moment before eating. “Chibiusa-chan, is there anything else we should know? Are you in trouble?” he asked.
She nodded. “The bad people tried to catch me, but the Senshi made sure I got away. Puu sent me here; she told me you could help.” The little girl stared at them for a long time. “You’re Mama and Papa, Puu said. Are you really?”
“I think so,” Mamoru responded. “We didn’t know until we heard it from Pluto, but you have Usako’s name. That ball is the spitting image of her cat.”
“What does your mother look like?” the blonde asked.
“She’s beautiful! She wears a pretty white gown and has a crescent moon on her forehead and really long hair.”
“Does she wear her hair like mine?” Chibiusa nodded. “And the moon, it’s gold and opens up, right?” Another nod. Usagi focused on the Silver Crystal in her brooch but didn’t reveal it. Her crescent flashed for a moment. “Like this?”
“You are Mama!” she exclaimed, throwing herself into the teen’s lap. “What about Papa? Is he Papa?”
Mamoru grinned. “Let me guess… He really likes roses and wears a mask?”
Why would you assume you wear a mask in the future?
He shrugged. It seemed reasonable. I don’t know why. He became Tuxedo Kamen. “Something like this?”
She tilted her head. “Not quite… The colors are wrong.”
“I’m sure your father had some growing to do before he became your father,” Usagi said briskly. “And if Puu was right about me, wouldn’t she be right about him?”
Everyone let the subject drop after that. Chibiusa turned on the television as her future parents retreated back to the kitchen. They were trying to make plans, but there wasn't much to go on. Usagi glanced at her watch once they'd discussed the little they knew. "I should take Chibiusa home." She raised her voice a little. "Chibiusa-chan?"
She came in looking exhausted. "Yes, Mama?"
"Do you have any way to create an identity for yourself? You need to go to school, and most of my family can't know who you really are."
She held up her toy. "This is Luna-P. Puu taught me how to convince people they know me. I can make everyone think I'm your cousin."
"Great!" Usagi exclaimed. "If you're my cousin, we should act like it. It's okay to be nice or call me Mama if we're alone or with people I say you can trust, but the rest of the time we should argue or something. Can you do that?"
"Yes," she said quietly, "but I don't want to. I want you to like me!"
Mamoru lifted her for a hug. "Of course she likes you, but we're trying to protect you. You need to be a normal little girl."
Chibiusa finally agreed, but she didn't want to let him go. In the end they decided to walk to Usagi's house together. One could stay with Chibiusa while the other explained. Once there, Usagi realized her father was out – probably on assignment. Shingo had plans with a friend. The explanations could be made just to Ikuko and Luna.
"Mama! Luna! I'm home!"
Her mom stepped into view, wiping her hands on a towel. "Welcome back. Who's this?"
The petite teen was completely unsure of how to begin. "Mama, this is… Um…"
Mamoru took pity on her and stepped in. "Usako said she told you about us, right? Well, this is Chibiusa-chan. She's from the future."
"Chibiusa?" Ikuko repeated. "Usagi mentioned her, but never said who she was."
The little girl hopped down from Mamoru's arms to introduce herself. "I'm Tsukino Usagi. It's a pleasure to meet you."
This was even more awkward than she expected. "She's my daughter,” Usagi explained hurriedly. “Or at least she'll be my daughter sometime in the future. I don't know when." It was frankly a problem she was nowhere near prepared to think about.
"I'm from the thirtieth century," Chibiusa piped in.
"Thirtieth century," Ikuko repeated faintly. Usagi felt the same. "Of course."
"Mama, she has to stay with us," said Usagi worriedly. "She needs to be protected."
That seemed to anchor her mom. "She's in trouble."
Usagi nodded. "Something happened in her time and she barely got away. We can deal with whatever it was later. Right now she needs somewhere safe to stay. She can create a cover for herself; everyone will think she's my cousin."
The older woman reached for Chibiusa. "So you'll be my grandchild someday?" she asked with a smile. "Imagine, my baby having a baby. You look just like her at that age."
Chibiusa leaned into the hug. "You like me?"
"Oh, you poor girl, just because the bad guys did some terrible things doesn't mean that people won't like you. I like you. I'm sure Usagi-chan likes you, and Mamoru-san. Don't let what happened upset you."
Chibiusa turned against Ikuko's chest and cried, which oddly enough was a relief. She'd been too calm for a child going through so much. Once she stopped, Ikuko passed her to Mamoru and gestured her daughter over to the side.
"Let's get the attic cleaned up. There's a bed up there, and enough old things of yours to make it comfortable. Has she eaten?"
"Yes. Why don't you stay with her? I can take care of the room. You should introduce Chibiusa to Luna; she'll need to be with her as often as possible."
"All right. You would know how to make her feel at home more than I would."
Usagi shook her head. "I don't know anything about her, and she won’t talk about what happened." She sighed, brushing her fringe back in annoyance. "I'll see what I can do."
It took some work since the attic was rarely used, but finally she was satisfied she'd done the best she could for the night. Chibiusa was bound to be tired. The teen headed back down, scooping the little girl’s sleeping form from her mother's arms and trekking up the stairs once more to tuck her in. She seemed to have slept through the whole thing, but she reached for Usagi when she went to leave.
Usagi sat on the side of her bed. “You don’t have to thank me, Chibiusa-chan. Even if you weren’t my daughter I’d help you. Get some sleep; we can talk more tomorrow.”
She was asleep before her future mother even got to the door. The blonde smiled before rejoining Ikuko and Mamoru in the living room. “She’s out like a light.”
“Good,” he said. “I was worried about her. She’s so young.”
“About five, I think. Mama?”
The older woman nodded. “Judging by her size and behavior, that seems about right. Usagi-chan, what kind of person would be trying to hurt a little girl?”
“I don’t know. It could be because of Mamo-chan and I; maybe we have more enemies in the future. When they make their move I’ll see what I can find out.”
Ikuko headed to the kitchen, saying something about baking so Chibiusa could have a treat in the morning. Usagi glanced at Mamoru, exhausted. He opened his arms and let her burrow close. “We’ll be okay,” he murmured against her hair. “So it’s another fight and a little girl caught in the crossfire. We’ll deal with it.”
“I hope you’re right,” she responded. “Mamo-chan, she’s our daughter. What if this is happening to her because of us?”
“Does the why matter?” he asked. “It’s happening. There’s no reason to attack a child, no matter who their parents are. If anything, they sealed their fate trying to hurt someone we love.”
“I guess,” she sighed, drawing back. “I’m tired, and you must be too. Go home. I’ll call a meeting tomorrow at the shrine.”
He kissed her before getting to his feet. “I’ll see you then, Usako.” She walked him to the door and gave him one last hug before he left. He’d just reached the sidewalk when he looked back. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Mamo-chan. Good night.”
It was Tuesday, but there was no school due to teacher conferences. As soon as Chibiusa was up and fed by her somewhat overzealous grandma, Usagi pulled out her communicator and ordered the Senshi to Hikawa Shrine. Kunzite and Mamoru had each been given one during the battles with the Cardians, saving her any further hassle. Chibiusa went along without a word. It was unsettling, but she decided Chibiusa was only trying to deal with everything. Hopefully seeing the others would give her more pep.
When they reached the temple no one had arrived yet. Rei, who was taking care of her chores, told Usagi she’d join them as soon as she was done and suggested they wait in her room. Usagi let Chibiusa play outside instead, though she was warned to stay where she could be seen. She sat on the grass, toying with the ball that looked so much like Luna. The real one had gone to meet Artemis and Minako.
The teen had just opened one of Rei’s comics when she heard Chibiusa cry out. The little girl had fallen and skinned her knee. Seeing her tears, Usagi hurried to check on her. A blinding flash lit the area, sending a beam straight up. She could barely think, entirely caught off guard. The reaction was familiar; as a child, Princess Serenity had been prone to the same thing. If anyone was looking… Well, no doubt the light could be seen for kilometers.
“Chibiusa!” Usagi called as she wrapped her in her arms. “Sweetheart, you have to calm down. You’re all right; I’m here. It’s not so bad.”
The tears came harder. “I want Mama and Papa and Puu! I wanna go home!”
“Oh, honey, I understand,” she said in the most soothing tone she could. “Really, I do. You need to be strong, though. Can you be brave until we ask Puu to take you home?”
“I found you, Rabbit!”
Chibiusa shuddered, and Usagi’s gaze snapped up. A strange woman was atop a brick wall nearby. She was wearing a pink and blue striped bodysuit with a purple skirt. Her purple hair pointed like cat’s ears. Most notable was the inverted black moon on her forehead.
“It’s time for you to die,” the new arrival continued.
“Who are you?” Usagi demanded angrily.
“My name is Koan. I am the youngest of the four Spectre sisters.”
That told her absolutely nothing useful. “It doesn’t matter who you are. You have no right to harm a child!”
She glared at the blonde. “If you’re going to stand in my way, I’ll kill you too!” The newcomer shot blue flames at her. Usagi ducked, and Chibiusa ran while they were distracted. Koan turned to go after her.
Usagi hoped Chibiusa was fast. She needed those precious seconds. “MOON CRYSTAL POWER, MAKE-UP!” As she finished transforming, Sailor Moon heard Chibiusa scream, and it didn’t take a genius to know she was hurt. “Stop right there!” the heroine ordered as she reached them. Chibiusa was on the ground, clutching her toy. Koan turned to face her challenger. “Trying to hurt an innocent child! I’ll never forgive you! In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!”
“I don’t know who you think you are, but you won’t stop me. DARK FIRE!”
A rain of blue flames surrounded her before roaring higher to form a fiery wall. Through it, Sailor Moon watched Koan advance on Chibiusa, who was too tired to run again. Glancing around, she realized the ring wasn’t complete – one side was an actual wall.
Koan extended one hand to burn Chibiusa to a crisp as the Moon Senshi acted. She threw herself off of the wall at the taller woman, knocking her into the dirt with her crossed arms as she landed in a protective crouch in front of the little girl. The teen was ready to grab Chibiusa and make a run for it, but a rose arced between them. For once, Tuxedo Kamen didn’t have a sappy speech to share – he just glared ominously as he picked up his daughter. Satisfied she was safe, the blonde focused on Koan.
Her rod appeared. “MOON PRINCESS HALATION!”
It seemed successful, but then they heard her voice from the roof of one of the shrine’s outbuildings, the usual speech of a defeated villain about coming back. She teleported away, and Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Moon turned to Chibiusa. She was curled up against him, holding his vest in a death grip. For an instant, the heroine saw a gleaming crystal city. The vision moved in, focusing on a spire in the center, but then it vanished. She glanced up in shock, her expression mirrored on Mamoru’s face as they powered down.
“What was that?” he breathed.
Usagi shook her head. “Whatever it was, I saw it too. Is that where she’s from?”
“Usagi! Mamoru-san!” Mars raced over. “Sorry I took so long. I was with Grandpa and Yuuichiro, and Yuuichiro thought I’d get hurt. It took till now to get away. What happened?” She let her transformation fade.
Mamoru took Chibiusa inside as his girlfriend explained what had happened. Rei wasn’t surprised, but she looked sad all the same. “Are they really after her? Why?”
“I don’t know,” the blonde said with a sigh. “Koan never said.”
“Did you learn anything else?”
“That she was the youngest of the four Spectre sisters. I assume we’ll come up against the rest too, or she wouldn’t mention them.”
She agreed. “Four at least, but this Koan is acting under orders. The aura didn’t belong to a magic user strong enough to time travel without Pluto. Someone’s pulling the strings.”
Usagi watched as Mamoru took a seat next to Chibiusa, who was sleeping on Rei’s bed. “What could they want with her?”
“It’s you,” Makoto said once the meeting started. “It has to be. She came back looking for the Silver Crystal after someone hurt her mother, didn’t she?”
Ami sighed. “Usagi-chan… She’s your daughter, right? If she is, she can use the crystal. She’s looking for it, and they’re searching for her. Maybe they’re worried about what’ll happen if she gets it.”
“So we have a young girl with rampant magic she can’t control,” Rei summed up. “When she gets upset, our enemy will know exactly where she is. Upshot, we will too. On the other hand, they can teleport and we can’t. This doesn’t look good.”
Makoto grimaced, trying to lighten the mood. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I didn’t know being a Senshi involved babysitting.”
Chibiusa was special, according to her parents-to-be. She was very clever for a child her age, which Usagi attributed to Mamoru. She had good people instincts – doubtless her mother’s influence. Still, she took the role of annoying cousin a little far. Usagi thought if her nightmares didn’t drive her crazy, the constant flip between sweet daughter and demonic cousin would do it. After one of their false arguments Chibiusa stormed off, but Usagi saw tears in the child’s eyes. She raced after her as soon as she could, calling Mamoru. He found her first. She was in the park – not their safe clearing, but the playground. The little girl was sitting on a swing, holding Luna-P. He hadn’t gone to her yet, waiting so they could handle it together. Mamoru laid his hand on her shoulder as Usagi crouched by her.
“Chibiusa-chan,” she began, “what’s wrong?”
She seemed calm, but her unhappiness still showed behind the smile. “It’s nothing,” she muttered, wiping away the remnants of her tears.
“It’s all right if you want to talk, Chibiusa-chan,” Mamoru said. “It can help.”
The child stared into the distance. “I don’t know if I can. Puu says the future is flexible and I could accidentally change it.”
“We at least need to know what happened,” Usagi replied. “Why are those people coming for you, Chibiusa-chan?”
She sighed. “I never told you who I really am. My name is Princess Usagi Small Lady Serenity, and I’m the only heir to the throne of Crystal Tokyo. My parents are Neo Queen Serenity and King Endymion.”
What she said, what it implied, threw Usagi off. “Queen?” Knowing she had stood to inherit a throne in a past life was different than hearing that she really had in this one, especially when the crown in question wasn’t hers to claim. She exchanged looks with Mamoru. “I think we need more information. What’s Crystal Tokyo?”
Chibiusa gestured at the surrounding area. “This place is. It’s perfect. Mama and Papa don’t really talk about it much, but something bad happened and Mama was the only one who could reawaken the planet. When she did, the people made her queen.”
Her boyfriend stepped in, saving her from having to say anything. “Are they after you because you’re the princess?”
Her face contorted and tears welled up again. “They want to kill everyone. They hurt Papa, but first… First they hurt Mama. She won’t wake up. I had to go for help.”
What could’ve happened to me that the Silver Crystal hasn’t already fixed?
Mamoru mostly focused on Chibiusa, but he watched Usagi as they walked her home, sensing her unease. The rest of the family had been looking for her too, but they were in the driveway when Mamoru, Chibiusa and Usagi reached the house.
“We found her,” the blonde said as her mother plucked her from Mamoru’s arms. Her father nodded until he noticed the strange man with his girls.
“Who is this?” he growled, gesturing.
Usagi had forgotten that her mom kept her dad away from Mamoru. “Papa, this is Chiba Mamoru. He was the one who found Chibiusa-chan.”
“Chiba Mamoru? Your BOYFRIEND?!”
Mamoru went white. Usagi almost laughed. “Yes, sir.”
“You’re too old!” he shouted.
“Kenji!” Ikuko censored. “I’ve already met him and approved. Let the boy be!”
“He’s way too old for her!”
He obeyed, though he kept turning and glaring. Mamoru swallowed and glanced at his girlfriend. “I’m going to go,” he said. “Meet me?”
She nodded. “Give me a few minutes so Papa can calm down. Otherwise he might go looking for his shotgun.”
He kissed Chibiusa’s forehead and took off. Usagi sighed and headed inside to let her father vent. Once he was done her mother would let her leave.
Something was bothering Usagi. Well, beyond the obvious. Mamoru couldn’t pretend to know everything, but her behavior was easy to read. Chibiusa’s revelation hadn’t helped; she’d hardly spoken since. It had been a shock to him too, but not on that level. He leaned against a wall a few blocks from her house, waiting for her to show up.
I’m on my way.
No hurry, Usako.
He felt her smile and decided to ask Minako or Kunzite about soul bonds, since he only knew enough to sense her mood and location or to hear when she spoke to him. He remembered there being more; he just didn’t know what that ‘more’ might be.
He didn’t even realize she’d reached him until she poked him in the shoulder with a wry smile on her beautiful face. “Sorry.”
“No problem. What’s got you so preoccupied?”
“Usako, something is wrong. Won’t you tell me what’s bothering you?”
She gestured, and they started walking to the park. They couldn’t be interrupted in their clearing except by one of the others. “I can’t, Mamo-chan.”
“Don’t I have a right to know?” he demanded, hurt.
“It’s not that I don’t want to tell you.”
Neither of them spoke again till they arrived. She jumped to a low branch before leaning against the trunk. He sat at the base. “Why can’t you?”
“I had a vision,” she said, so softly he had to strain to hear her.
“You’ve told me what you’ve Seen before.”
She shook her head. “Some futures can’t be shared.”
“Have you talked to Rei-chan?” he asked.
“No, but she knows,” she replied. It was getting frustrating. Since they’d reunited he’d told her everything . “I heard that.”
“I can’t hear your thoughts.”
She shrugged. “My powers are stronger than yours right now. If I wanted to, I could reach out and know everything you think. I wouldn’t, of course, but it’s possible.” He didn’t respond. After a minute, she dropped down and sat next to him, head on his shoulder. “You know I’d tell you if I thought it was safe, right?”
“Yes,” Mamoru said with a tired sigh. “I’m just worried because the last time you refused to talk about what you’d Seen we all wound up dead.”
Usagi bit her lower lip. “If I was Seeing that, I’d tell you in a heartbeat.
“Will you be all right?”
“Maybe.” He began to protest, but she held up a hand. “No one can predict the future with any real certainty, but I promise I’ll do my best to stay safe.”
“Usako, why could it hurt you?”
She arched one brow. “I can’t say, but Chibiusa should be enough to reassure you. After all, if she’s still here…”
“You’ll be okay,” the dark-haired man finished.
“Time is flexible. If anything happens in the present to upset the future, she’d show it. As long as she’s here, I… Well, whatever problems I have won’t be permanent.”
“That isn’t very comforting.”
The blonde smiled a little. “It’s war, Mamo-chan. There are no promises.”
She headed home to spend time with Chibiusa not much after that. He stayed, thinking. It was hard to know she’d Seen something bad and couldn’t tell him.
After a while, Keiji appeared. A civilian appearance never suited Kunzite, no matter how many times Mamoru saw it. When he thought of the head of the Shitennou, he was as Endymion knew him, with his long hair, uniform, things that seemed like an intrinsic part of him. The man in the center of the clearing had short dirty blond hair cut like Mamoru’s instead of his normal silvery-white strands, and was much paler. The modern clothing seemed out of place.
When he noticed Mamoru, Kunzite shifted. His dark blue uniform shimmered across his form to replace his black business suit as his hair lengthened and lightened. His skin returned to its normal bronze and a cape unfurled in the breeze. “Good afternoon, Mamoru-sama.”
“Hey,” he replied. “I didn’t expect anyone, and you weren’t at the meeting yesterday.”
“My apologies. My appointments ran late, and one of my female investors was – how would Mina say – ‘making a pass’ at me. It took time to dissuade her. Did anything important come up?” The younger man gave a rundown the previous day’s fight and meeting. The general spoke once his superior was done. “The princess of Crystal Tokyo? Interesting.”
“Do you know anything about it?” he asked.
“Mamoru-sama, I could not possibly know of something almost a thousand years in the future. I am no Seer; you might recall that was Nephrite’s purview. Has Rei-sama or Usagi-sama said anything?”
“Rei-chan can’t See that far ahead, and Usako doesn’t know any more than I do. We found out at the same time. Something’s upsetting her, though – a vision.”
Kunzite’s brow lifted at the frustration he heard clear as day. “The princess learned the dangers of sharing visions from an early age. If it is something she is not ready to discuss, let it be. She will tell you in time. If not, it is not meant to be spoken of.”
“I know,” Mamoru admitted. “It doesn’t change the fact I’m worried about her.”
“She has expressed the same sentiment toward you on a number of occasions.” He drew his twin short swords. “If you would like a distraction, would you care to spar? Prince Endymion did so often to relieve stress.”
Mamoru leapt to his feet, civilian clothes shifting to armor. With Kunzite nearby to support the prince and no crisis at hand, it wasn’t difficult. “That sounds great.”
“Then we should renew your instruction. No doubt your abilities have dulled in the interim. Begin with the basics.”
Endymion followed his directions, striking at a target with his broadsword while the Shitennou stood to the side. Once he completed the exercise, Kunzite moved the stationary targets out of the way with a wave of his hand and stood opposite his master.
“Shouldn’t you use a longer sword?” the prince asked as he took a sip of water. Kunzite, ever a prepared soldier, had been carrying some with him since he had come to the clearing intending to do endurance training.
The Shitennou’s lips twitched as he raised one of his weapons. The other had been set aside. “We will see, will we not?”
Endymion tossed the bottle aside and took a fighter’s stance. “Let’s go.”
They closed, and seconds later the weapon flew from the younger man’s hand. “Clumsy,” his guardian scolded. “You left yourself open. Control every movement. See what I do, guard against it, and always be prepared for anything I might try.” The prince tried. Still his sword fell away. “Again,” the general ordered.
An hour later he was breathing hard and aching all over, but Kunzite didn’t look even the slightest bit tired. “Are we done?”
“For now. You have forgotten almost everything I taught you. It will take time to remedy that.” He bowed before returning the targets to their place and beginning a series of exercises himself, far more complex than those he had sent his prince through. It was like watching a lethal dance, especially when his second sword was added to the mix.
“One more,” the prince said impulsively.
The general glanced over as he continued the routine, his swords passing less than a millimeter from his skin. “Beg pardon?”
“One more,” Endymion repeated. “I want to try again.”
“Endymion-sama, between the stretches and practice bouts you have already done a great deal. You should rest before you make another attempt.”
“I never beat you before, but I at least did better than that.”
He straightened and again put away one of his blades. “Very well. If you are ready?”
The fight raged for several minutes all over the clearing before the general knocked the sword from the prince’s hand. Kunzite was in disarray now, not the unmoved statue he’d been in the other rounds, though Endymion knew he had still been holding back. The general could have killed his less experienced opponent at any time during the match.
“You did well, but if you wish to regain your previous skill, I would suggest regular practices. However, that is quite enough for today.”
“You’re awfully good at this, though. Is it just because of the past?”
“No. As you so clearly indicate, having been a gifted swordsman in a previous lifetime does not ensure the skill’s continuation. Having full access to my powers is part of it. There is also the fact that I studied kendo as a child, and I saw many battles in the Dark Kingdom.”
If reconciling Kunzite with his civilian self was hard, imagining that civilian as a child was functionally impossible, even with Endymion’s memories of Kunzite in his teens, and he quickly gave up. Contemplating him as he’d been in the Dark Kingdom was utterly appalling, so he didn’t even try. The younger man sheathed his weapon before letting the prince fall away. Mamoru glanced at the Shitennou a little wistfully. “We were good friends once. Do you think we’ll ever have that again?”
Kunzite looked startled. “I do not understand.”
The teen frowned. “You let yourself get close to Minako-san, even Usako, but you still hold the rest of us at arm’s length. Why won’t you be my friend like you were?”
A pause followed. “I am your friend,” he said finally, “as much as I trust myself to be.”
“We trust you. If Usako didn’t, she never would’ve let you near Minako-san. Why can’t you trust yourself?”
He replaced his swords. “You ask a difficult question. I do not accept my failures well, Mamoru-sama, yet I did so in the most inexcusable manner. I cannot help but allow Mina, for she is my heart and humanity and I would fade to nothing without her. Usagi-sama refuses to be kept at a distance, and her determined sweetness makes it difficult to even want to. With you? I fear that if I am close to you I will make the same mistakes again and ruin everything.”
“You’re a fool,” Mamoru said in the cold tone he normally reserved for enemies. “What happened wasn’t your fault. I want what we used to have. I can’t have the others yet, I know that, but I miss the way we were. I need my friend.”
Kunzite bowed his head. “I have always valued your friendship. As Prince Endymion, as you are now, that has not changed. Logically, I know I am not responsible for our past, but in my heart I cannot find forgiveness.”
“I betrayed Usako too,” Mamoru pointed out. “She doesn’t hold a grudge; none of the girls do. I have a hard time with it now and then, but I look at her and remember it doesn’t matter. As long as you can honestly say you’d do anything in your power to keep it from happening again, it isn’t important.”
“You are correct,” Kunzite admitted reluctantly. “This is not the first time I have been confronted for such behavior, and I suspect it will not be the last. I apologize for worrying you, Mamoru-sama. I cannot make any promises, but I will try. As your guardian and advisor, then, I reserve the right to speak my mind when I disagree with your chosen path. Prince Endymion heeded my words. Can you do the same?”
The younger man nodded. “You always knew what was best, except,” he laughed, “when it came to Serenity. You really didn’t stand a chance on that one.”
“I am aware,” he said dryly. “Destiny being as it is, there was nothing I could have done to keep you apart. Now go rest. You are tired.”
“How did you –” He groaned when his general only turned steady eyes his way. “I’ll never know how you manage that, Kunzite. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell.”
“While you are capable of masking your emotions to a certain extent, I know you. Go home. If Usagi-sama thinks you are unwell the next time she sees you…”
Mamoru waved off the rest of the statement. “I know. She’ll spend the rest of eternity worrying. I’m going.”
“Rest,” he repeated. “We can continue tomorrow.”
“I’m going to regret this,” he muttered as he headed home. Not only had he lost most of his skill, his new body lacking the muscle memory needed to be truly capable, he’d forgotten how harsh a taskmaster Kunzite could be. He reached his apartment at sunset and made for the bedroom. The instant he hit the pillow he was asleep.
He was in a church. It was beautiful, with massive stained glass windows and flowers everywhere. Usagi was next to him, more amazing than ever in a bridal gown. They were getting married. As they finished the ceremony, their friends threw fistfuls of rice at them. His beautiful wife held her bouquet up to protect her face, laughing. He turned to look at her.
The world went mad. The ground fell around them. He tried to grab Usagi, to save her, but she was gone and a ringing voice spoke in his mind. If he stayed near her, she was doomed. That wasn’t all; this mystery person knew who she was. He – Mamoru was nearly sure the voice was a man’s – called her Serenity.
Mamoru sat up with a jolt, accidentally straining his sore muscles. “Gods,” he muttered as he tried to breathe normally. “What was that?”
He headed to the kitchen for something to eat but noticed his right shoulder looked red and aggravated when he turned on the lights. A tendril of healing magic was enough for the color and pain to fade to nothing.
“That’s what I get for going to bed right after exercising,” Mamoru decided as he started cooking. “Strange dreams.”
He joined Kunzite the next day for more training. The general was already there when his charge arrived, hair tied back with a leather cord as he performed a sword dance. Mamoru hadn’t seen him that way since the Silver Millennium; it was oddly nostalgic. The older man had always been a superb swordsman, and it had been a rare thing indeed for that skill to be demonstrated artistically when there had been so many situations demanding its practical uses. The teen only had a moment to reminisce before Kunzite noticed his presence and stopped.
“Does Minako-san practice with you?” Mamoru asked curiously.
“From time to time. She needs to finish growing before she will be able to use her sword to full effect, so we use weighted training foils for now. She has talent.”
“I bet,” he agreed. “She’s always been something else. Am I in for another tough day? I ended up with weird dreams last night.”
Kunzite glanced over at him. “Did you wish to discuss it?”
Mamoru shook his head. “It’s not important. Where do we start?”
Endymion returned his sword to its sheath as they finished an hour later. Images formed in his mind again, of Usagi falling with her sad expression. He winced, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes.
“Endymion-sama?” Kunzite asked. “Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know… I think I need to go home.”
He nodded. “If you need anything, you need only ask. Will you be here tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” He powered down, dazed and distracted. “Thanks. See you then.”
He stumbled more than walked as he left. All Mamoru could see was Usagi in danger, and the need to protect her consumed him. He’d had visions of a sort before, dreams of the Moon Princess begging for help. Another onslaught hit and he leaned against a nearby wall, trying to convince himself it couldn’t be real. It took a moment to realize he was shaking, overheated and chilled in turn. He was so afraid for her.
Mamoru knew what he had to do. He had to stay away. He wasn’t ready, but there was no choice. He faced her as she ran up and hugged him, rubbing her cheek against his shirt. She said something about fate bringing them together, but he couldn’t really hear it over the pounding in his ears. He was going to destroy them both to save her.
“Don’t do that,” Mamoru said.
“Don’t hug you in public?” she asked, head tilted to one side. “Well, I know we haven’t officially been together that long, and I’m so much younger than you…”
“That’s not what I meant!” he corrected sharply, bracing himself for what was next. “I’m saying I don’t love you anymore.”
Usagi froze. “I don’t understand.” Her pain poured through them both as she begged him without words to take it back. He blocked their bond, hiding his thoughts. She winced.
“We’re finished!” he snapped. Instead of waiting for her to reply, knowing a single tear would be his undoing, he walked away. His body felt like lead, and his heart seemed to beat more and more feebly with each step separating them.
The arcade was unusually deserted, Motoki decided as he wiped down the counters. Usagi and her friends hadn’t come in, and Mamoru rarely did anymore. It was strange, but he’d seemed distant since he’d started blacking out every other day or so. The door chimed and he glanced up to see his favorite blonde walk in. He was ready with a cheery greeting until she looked up and he saw her face.
He had no way to describe the expression she was wearing. Usagi always had a smile for everyone and could brighten up a room just by walking in. To see her so broken, tears shining in the corners of her eyes… It probably would’ve hurt less if she’d hit him with a baseball bat.
“Motoki-onii-san,” she whimpered, “I need to talk to someone. Please? Please…”
“Of course,” he said at once. “I’ll close the arcade for a bit. Want anything?”
She shook her head and half-collapsed on a stool, head on the counter. Her bag was near the door, so the older teen grabbed it as he flipped the sign to ‘closed’. He also pulled the screens down to give them some privacy before taking a seat next to her.
She was crying. Everyone at Crown had heard Usagi cry at some point; it had been a fixture during her fights with Mamoru. This wasn’t her usual wail, though. It was soft, and he’d known her long enough to understand the difference. She was really hurting. Motoki patted her back, deciding to let her get it out.
She stopped quickly, maybe too much so. “Thank you.”
“No problem. What did you want to talk about?”
She toyed with the ends of her hair, eerily calm. “You’re my big brother, right? If I tell you something, you won’t tell anyone?”
“Of course not,” he soothed. “You can trust me. When have I ever told anyone your secrets? You told me everything when we were little.”
She laughed hollowly. “I know, but this is important.”
Motoki had no idea what was wrong, but it had to be big. “Whatever you want to say, I’ll listen. What’s wrong, Usagi-chan?”
She sighed. “I’m Sailor Moon.” She was too tired to even try to soften the blow.
He studied her through his initial shock. There was an obvious resemblance when he looked for it, especially the hair. Sailor Moon and Usagi had the same style. She’d called it her trademark as a little girl, around the time she started wearing it. The only other person he could think of with the same hairdo and color was the famous protector of Tokyo.
Motoki realized she was watching him. “I know it’s hard to believe.” After that, she gave him a rundown of her first day as Sailor Moon and what it had meant for her.
“Who are the other Senshi? And Tuxedo Kamen?”
Usagi managed a smile. “I can’t tell you, but who do you think? Who appeared from nowhere and became my best friends in a heartbeat?”
“The girls,” he guessed. “Ami-chan is Sailor Mercury. Rei-chan… Mars? Mako-chan is Jupiter, and that leaves Venus for Minako-chan. So who’s Tuxedo Kamen?”
She walked to the window. “Can’t you guess? I fell in love with Tuxedo Kamen-sama. Sometimes it seemed like I’d die, but he’d save me at the last second… He was captured, tortured and brainwashed, and he fought me. Do you know how hard that is? I healed him, but he died saving my life. I gave it up to stop our enemies.”
“You look pretty good for a dead girl,” Motoki said with a laugh. He had to treat it like a joke or his brain would explode.
“I suppose,” she replied. “I made a deal with Death and we came back. Everyone forgot except me. I was alone again.”
He joined her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “You’re never alone,” he promised her. “I’ll be here for you.”
She leaned back against him. “Yeah, I guess you will. I should answer your question, shouldn’t I? Tuxedo Kamen-sama – My true love, my prince…”
True love. Usagi was a romantic, he knew, but she’d never use words like that lightly. Tuxedo Kamen was someone she really loved. “Usagi,” he said urgently as he put the pieces together. “You said you love Tuxedo Kamen. Your true love.”
She nodded. “I love him with everything I am. There’s no one else.”
“Is Tuxedo Kamen Mamoru-kun?”
“He’d have to be, wouldn’t he? We were drawn together from the start.”
He was struggling to wrap his mind around everything, but he saw how cool she’d become. It was as if she’d slid ice over her pain, and Motoki couldn’t stand it. “What happened?”
He sighed. “Usagi-chan, I’ve known you forever. You were so upset when you got here, and now you’re calm as can be. You don’t do that unless it’s really bad. Tell me.”
She spun, staring at the countertop. “I changed my mind. I don’t want to talk.”
“That’s not true; you’d never have begun this conversation otherwise. I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s going on.”
Tears welled up again, turning her eyes into lakes. “Mamo-chan broke up with me. He said he doesn’t love me anymore.”
Whatever he’d expected, that wasn’t it. Mamoru loved Usagi; he knew it without a doubt. Motoki had known Mamoru would die for her even without knowing the whole story. Hell, he’d figured out his best friend was gone on the girl before Mamoru even realized he didn’t just find her annoying. He couldn’t not love her. “That’s insane.”
She managed a teary smile. “I know, but it doesn’t make this any easier. Seeing it coming didn’t. Have you ever had someone you love say they don’t?”
“Well, since you know he really loves you, it can’t be too bad,” he said. “He’ll work out whatever’s bothering him and apologize.”
She shook her head. “It’s not that simple, Motoki-onii-san. We have a bond, we can sense each other’s thoughts and emotions; that’s how Tuxedo Kamen-sama knows if I need help. When he told me he didn’t love me anymore, he blocked our bond. It’s beginning to break.”
“Tell him,” Motoki urged her. “Say you knew – I’ll need you to explain that – and get him to understand.”
She lifted ancient-looking eyes to his. “It’s not that simple,” she repeated. “The bond between us is breaking. Once it’s gone, I’ll die.”
“Die?” Motoki repeated through a dry throat. “As in dead die? Are you serious?” Usagi dying? Impossible. Despite that, there was a haunting sense that he’d lost her before. “I don’t get it,” her older brother protested. “How will whatever’s wrong with him kill you? Usagi-chan, I’ll talk to him, make him change his mind. We’ll fix it.”
“I could have a normal life, if nothing else goes wrong, but it’ll change. Every time he denies us, I’ll get weaker. It’s a terrible way to die, to have your love torn apart as your life runs out.” She twitched, grimaced, and her expression changed to resignation. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I have to go. Luna is sensing something in a cosmetics store and she needs me. I can tell you the rest some other time.”
“Can’t the other Senshi take care of it?” Motoki asked, wanting to keep her with him where he could see she was safe.
She shook her head. “We don’t know our enemy or their plans yet. I have to be there.” She cut him off before he could ask anything else. “Later. I need to go.”
“Be careful,” he told her.
She let the automatic door open and remained framed in the light for a moment. “Careful flew out the window a long time ago.”
Usagi wandered in as a civilian to look around. She still had tear stains on her face from her cry at Crown, so she headed for the clerk. The woman immediately recommended a set of products for skincare. The blonde interrupted. “Will makeup make Mamo-chan love me again?” she asked, trying to sound extra love-sick and pathetic. Judging by the lady’s reaction, it worked.
“Of course! Heavy makeup can make any man love you. We have just the thing!”
Her eyes narrowed. Though she could be shallow at times, she hated people who thought their appearance was all that mattered. “Mamo-chan isn’t like that. He doesn’t care about looks! All you want is to sell your stupid makeup!”
The salesgirl grabbed her wrist. “No one is allowed to talk to me like that!”
“Let go!” Usagi shouted, trying to get her arm free. “Let me go!”
Browsers noticed the struggle and left, one muttering about calling the cops, and the clerk glared. “See what you’ve done! All my customers are gone!”
“It serves you right,” the teen snapped. “Now let go of me!”
The older woman held up a makeup puff and passed it over her face, revealing a monster. It was shaped like a perfume bottle but had a red gem with a black inverted moon in its depths on her forehead. “You’ll pay for this! Put on some makeup!”
Usagi yelped and Luna leapt into the monster’s face, knocking it into the shelves. They bolted and found cover. “MOON CRYSTAL POWER, MAKE-UP!”
It felt wrong, becoming Sailor Moon. Would he come? If she was in danger, would he save her? The transformation seemed to take forever but when it finally ended, she barely had time to duck. The monster shot something from its mouth that melted shelves into pink goo. The heroine considered what it could do to her and gagged. The monster came rolling at her, and the teen half-ran, half-stumbled down the aisle to evade it. Instead the Moon Senshi tripped on a jar and found herself on the ground with no chance of getting away uninjured. Luna jumped at the enemy, but it saw the movement and slammed her into the wall with a giant makeup applicator. She came away flattened and coated in white powder.
She was in trouble. She had no way to escape, and the only one who knew she was there had just hit the ground. She was terrified for her guardian’s sake and still the monster advanced, confident she was trapped.
A perfect red rose embedded itself in the ground between them. Tuxedo Kamen stood in an upper window and said something, but the girl he’d just saved couldn’t hear him through the roaring in her ears as her thoughts raced. The monster tried to shoot him too, but he jumped away and landed in a crouch at her side. She could only stare. She didn’t know what was in their future now – her dreams had only gone as far as their breakup. She’d thought he would abandon her.
The monster shot the pink stream in their direction once more, but Tuxedo Kamen was faster. Sailor Moon didn’t have time to do more than gasp when he was on his feet, turning the monster’s attack back with his cane. It screamed, and the blonde could see its face had been obliterated. Its mouth was the only thing left.
“My heavy makeup!” it cried, pulling an eyeliner pencil and compact mirror from… somewhere. It began to draw a face for itself.
“Now, Sailor Moon!”
It was the first thing she actually heard him say. The heroine couldn’t do more than nod as she got up. Her rod came to her hand with a thought. “MOON PRINCESS HALATION!”
The monster was too caught up in the loss of its makeup to notice her attack until it was already there, and it dissolved into dust. The gem it wore fell to the pile and darkened, the black crescent moon in its depths vanishing.
Sailor Moon saw Tuxedo Kamen leave and ran after him. It was foolish and reckless; she should’ve let him go, but she couldn’t. Even knowing he’d deny them again and that it would accelerate the breaking of their bond, she couldn’t. She hadn’t expected him to come and needed to know why.
“Wait! Tuxedo Kamen-sama, you were lying when you said you didn’t like me anymore, right? Because… you came to save me again.”
“That has nothing to do with this,” he said coldly, his gloved hands tightening into fists. Most people wouldn’t see it, but she did. He was unhappy too.
“Then, Mamo-chan, please just tell me why you don’t love me anymore.” She couldn’t keep the tears from flowing.
“I don’t like weak girls.”
Liar. Her heart shattered a little more. He didn’t think she was weak, but he knew she did. He was using it to push her away. She couldn’t feel his emotions, not with his block in place, and his words cut like a knife. She still believed he didn’t mean them.
“Mamo-chan!” She hadn’t meant to say anything. The nickname came without conscious thought. She’d wanted to watch him leave in silence, to prove what he said wasn’t true.
Guilt crashed through her, and it took a moment to realize why. Mamoru’s control over his powers and their bond was limited. He hadn’t been able to contain his feelings well enough and some had spilled through. As strange as it was, it gave her hope that he’d realize what he was doing before it was too late. Would she be strong enough to hold on until then?
I’m sorry, Usako.
The tears came more heavily. Sailor Moon hated it, knowing she couldn’t hold it back, showing that she was weak though he didn’t think she was. She wanted to fall to the ground and weep but forced herself to stay on her feet through sheer willpower.
Luna, who had recovered upon the monster’s defeat, came to her side. “Sailor Moon, the real shop girls are in the basement. They’re hurt and need help.”
The Moon Senshi took several deep breaths to steady herself. “I’m coming, Luna.”
She collapsed against Rei’s pillows with a sigh. “I’m exhausted.”
Mars and the rest of the Senshi had helped Sailor Moon clean up and get the victims to the hospital, but they’d sent the others to the park with Chibiusa and went to the shrine to talk.
“I’m not surprised,” Rei said. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine,” she muttered, pretending not to understand.
The priestess glared. “I don’t like reading minds, but I will if you don’t answer me.”
Usagi sighed. “Do you have to ask? He came to the battle, you know, and I couldn’t resist talking to him. It got worse. I can’t be Sailor Moon for much longer, but the others can’t know what’s happening between us.”
“Do you think they won’t notice you getting sick?” Rei snapped. “I won’t lie to them, Odango. This is too important.”
“What choice do we have?! If I tell them, they’ll go to Mamo-chan. I won’t have him fix this out of guilt, Rei. I need him to come back for the right reasons. Not Chibiusa, not what’s happening. He needs to admit that he loves me and that what he did is wrong!”
Rei took a seat after gathering the tea service her grandfather left at the door. “I know. I understand, but we’re a team. We can’t keep secrets from the others forever.”
“We don’t have forever.”
“Usagi!” she flared. “Don’t you dare make light of the situation! You’re dying, or did you forget?! I won’t let you die, Usagi. I don’t want to hurt you, and I don’t want you to doubt my loyalty, but I won’t watch you sacrifice yourself!”
Usagi forced herself to stay calm as Rei handed her a cup of tea. “I’m sorry, Rei-chan. I know you’re worried.”
“We can’t do this without you. What about your daughter? Are you willing to lose her because of your stupid pride?”
“Chibiusa…” she mused. “I’d risk anything to protect her. She’s my only hope. As long as she exists, as long as I can see her, I know somehow things will work out.”
“I get that it’s what you’re holding onto,” said Rei, “but don’t let it keep you from acting. You don’t know what changes between now and then.”
“If I have to tell Mamo-chan to keep her safe, I’ll do it.” They sat in silence for several minutes before Usagi spoke again. “I told Motoki-onii-san about us.”
“Usagi!” the miko exclaimed, aghast. “You didn’t!”
“I had to! I have you and the others, but you’re involved. I had to confide in someone who would worry about me for me, not thinking about Sailor Moon!”
The miko stewed for several seconds before letting out a tired sigh. “You’re right. We’d think of you, but we’d have to be soldiers too. I’m just afraid of how you’d feel if something happened to him.” Rei got up. “Let’s go find your daughter.”
“I have to go to the Time Door tonight. Pluto and I have a few things to discuss.”
She just nodded. “Do you need company?”
“No. She’s a Senshi too; she would never hurt me.”
“Then let’s go. Chibiusa-chan needs you.”
Having her nearby was a relief. Chibiusa was doing a great job staying calm, more than Usagi ever would’ve expected, but she still worried all the time. It was easier to cope while she could see her and know she was safe.
At first the blonde watched from the shadows as Rei joined the group in the center of the clearing. She seemed happy playing with the girls. Makoto tossed her in the air and spun until Chibiusa shrieked with laughter. Ami asked about her schoolwork whenever Makoto gave her a break. Minako capered around, deliberately being silly. Rei mostly watched, though she made some jokes. ‘Odango’ came up more than once. Chibiusa finally spotted her and launched herself into her future mother, knocking them to the ground. Pain shot through the older girl, but she ignored it and wrapped her arms around her with a smile.
“Hey, kiddo. Having fun?”
She stared up at Usagi. “I missed you. What took so long?”
“It’s been a busy day,” she replied. “We need to talk, sweetheart.”
“What happened?” she asked.
“That’s what I need to tell you. No, no one’s hurt,” Usagi added when Chibiusa chewed on her lower lip. “Let me explain. There was a battle today. The monster I fought had the same black mark as Koan. You remember her?”
Her nose scrunched up. “She’s the scary lady who attacked me at Rei-chan’s.”
“I think she or someone she works with sent the monster. We’re going to have to be more careful. You can’t wander off; I’m afraid of what could happen to you.”
“I promise,” she said in the voice of a child making a sacred vow.
“I’ll be going to talk to Pluto soon to see if she can tell me what to watch for.”
“Can I come?!”
She shook her head. “Honey, our enemies are from the future. If they use the Time Door while you’re there, Pluto and I would be the only ones available to fight them, and we could be outnumbered. You need to stay with your papa tonight.”
She must have had an odd inflection in her voice when she mentioned Mamoru, because Chibiusa pushed the subject. “Did something happen? Was he at the fight? Did he get hurt?”
“Yes, something happened. Yes, he was there. No, he wasn’t hurt. Chibiusa-chan… He broke up with me today, and I’m very sad. Please don’t bring him up if you don’t need to.”
Chibiusa frowned. “Why did he do that?”
“I don’t know,” she lied. “We’ll fix it, though. He and I just won’t spend as much time together for a while.”
“If you can’t, I won’t,” she said, but Usagi knew she wanted to. It was obvious how much the little girl loved her father.
“No,” she said with a sigh. “That wouldn’t be fair to either of you. You’re already so far away from everyone you know. I don’t want it to be worse because of my problems. I’ll take you to him before I go to the Time Door.”
“Mama,” the girl whimpered, “I don’t want you to be sad either. Is it my fault?”
“Oh, honey, it’s not your fault. He’s just confused. Don’t feel bad about spending time with him. Did the girls get your backpack?”
Ami handed it to her. “Your mother made sure she has everything she needs. Did you let Mamoru-san know you were coming?”
“No, but it’ll be fine. He loves having her around.”
“Usagi-chan…” Ami began. “Did something happen? You’ve been on edge, and I don’t think it’s because of Chibiusa-chan.”
Usagi put on her best smile. “It’s not important. I’ll just take her to Mamo-chan’s before it gets too late.”
“Have either of you eaten?” Makoto called from across the clearing. “There’s food over here if you want some.”
Chibiusa snatched the snacks before coming back and taking her future mom’s hand. Usagi slung the backpack on. “Thanks, Mako-chan. Let’s go, Chibiusa.”
The girls exchanged looks before rounding on Rei as soon as the two were out of sight. “Is something going on?” Minako asked. “What’s wrong with Usagi-chan?”
The miko looked away. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“We’re not stupid, Rei-chan,” Makoto said. “We can all see that something’s going on with her. Chibiusa-chan didn’t put that look in her eyes.”
They stared at Rei for a long time. “It’s Mamoru-san,” Ami guessed. “Something must have happened between them.”
“What goes on in their relationship is their business,” Rei said firmly.
“But you know,” Minako accused. “Either you Saw it or she told you.”
“Or both,” Ami added.
It was unusual for Ami to be forceful, and it made it clear just how much the others were worried, but the priestess was bound by her promise to Usagi. She couldn’t admit their leader was dying. But… the blonde never said she couldn’t tell them Usagi and Mamoru had broken up.
“Tell us,” Minako wheedled. “It’s important, isn’t it? She’s so upset.”
Rei sighed. “Mamoru-san broke up with her today.” The others fell silent for several long minutes, and she wondered if they were going to ask questions she couldn’t answer.
“No! Why would he do that?!” Makoto demanded.
“That’s terrible,” Ami said finally. “They love each other so much.”
“I haven’t talked to Mamoru-san,” Rei said. “He’s the one who knows why.”
Minako’s eyes narrowed. “No, you know. And Usagi-chan does too. Spill.”
“As your leader…” Mina began.
“I take my orders from Usagi,” the miko said curtly. “She doesn’t want me to say and I won’t betray her confidence.”
The blonde started to argue but Ami hushed her, glancing at the other girl. “I’m sure you have your reasons, Rei-chan. You wouldn’t keep it secret if it wasn’t necessary.”
Makoto nodded. “You’ve kept us on the right path so far. I’m sure you know what you’re doing. What goes on between Usagi-chan and Mamoru-san is for them to share when they’re ready, not because we pulled it out of you.”
“Thank you.” Rei sighed in relief. “Can you trust that, Mina-chan? There are things you and Usagi keep from the rest of us. We trust you to know when to tell the truth. Give me the same chance.”
Minako nodded reluctantly. “Usagi-chan always trusted you, Rei-chan, even through your fights. Through lives. I know you don’t like to reveal what you See, and I know you respect her privacy. I can live with that.”
“That doesn’t mean telling Kunzite to ask Mamoru-san,” the miko added. “This is their problem.”
She pouted. “Fine, they can have their little secrets. You’ll tell us if she starts slipping.” Minako wasn’t asking. As leader of the Senshi, she was the only one who could question an order from the princess. She would override Usagi’s instructions if it came to that, because sometimes what was best for her went against what she said.
“If I think she’s going too far, I won’t keep quiet. I care about her too much.”
“Minako-chan…” Makoto muttered. “It’s just relationship troubles. She managed when he was brainwashed. I think she’ll survive a breakup.”
Rei certainly hoped so.
Usagi thought about taking the coward’s way out and leaving Chibiusa in the building lobby. However, her conscience reminded her Mamoru wasn’t expecting her and would worry she’d run off. She had to make sure the little girl got to him. The elevator seemed to take forever. Chibiusa kept glancing up as if expecting her to change her mind and whisk her away again. The door presented another chance to turn back. What could happen in the time it took Mamoru to answer? She forced back the impulse, reminding herself he deserved to know what was going on.
Usagi knocked. I’m not a coward, she thought. Not a coward, not a coward. The door opened. I’m a coward. Her eyes fell to her feet.
“Mamo-chan!” Chibiusa cheered, launching herself into his arms.
“Hey,” he said, surprised. “What brings you here?”
Usagi passed over her bag. “I have to… work tonight, and I thought she should spend time with you. Her school things are in her backpack and she’s had a snack, but not dinner. I’d appreciate it if you made sure she got to class on time. Luna will meet you there.”
“Work?” he repeated as he glanced up from Chibiusa, though his tone was cool. “Did something happen after the meeting?”
“Investigating,” she replied. “We don’t want to be caught unaware.”
Mamoru nodded. “Thank you for bringing Chibiusa-chan. Have a good night, Usagi.”
The door shut in her face. She nearly cried again when she realized he hadn’t called her Usako, but she hoped she’d made it through the conversation without furthering the damage to their bond. Usagi shook her head, pushing the thoughts away. She needed to talk to Pluto, not dwell on her pain. She went back to the clearing, sighed, and pulled the Crystal Star out of her pocket. It lit up as she passed her hand over the gem in its center.
“MOON CRYSTAL POWER, MAKE-UP!”
Once her feet were back on the ground, she focused on the crystal. A warp was normally done with a Time Key, and Chibiusa had one she could’ve borrowed, but it didn’t matter. The crystal would do. The world seemed to melt as the transfer occurred, leaving her in a world of swirling mists. This was the land outside Time, controlling its ebb and flow. Pluto’s domain was not a cheery place.
“Who goes there?” a voice demanded. “Those who enter this realm risk death. Identify yourself at once.”
Sailor Moon moved in that direction. “You already know who it is, Pluto. You realized I was coming the moment I used the Silver Crystal.”
The mists parted and the great Door of Time loomed before her, decorated with carvings of the phases of the moon. A tall woman with dark green hair who seemed both ancient and youthful stood to its side, a long, key-shaped staff in hand. Sailor Pluto, the only Senshi the Moon Princess could not command in the solar system, and a dear friend.
Her gaze softened as she studied the younger girl. “Whether I knew it or not, there is a certain protocol to obey, Princess Serenity.”
Sailor Moon rolled her eyes though she could feel the beginnings of a laugh. The first since… She pushed the thought back. “You don’t have to call me that.”
Pluto’s formality dissolved as she stepped forward and embraced her. “It is good to see you, Sailor Moon, though I am sorry for the circumstances.”
The blonde returned the gesture. “It’s great to see you too. I’ve missed you.”
The Time Guardian waved her Garnet Rod and the mist changed to a comfortable sitting room. Pluto commented when she noticed the Moon Senshi’s surprise. “Do not think I stand at the Door every moment. I may be immortal, but I appreciate getting off my feet now and then.”
“That makes sense. It’s nice.” She plopped into a chair and let her transformation drop, knowing she was safe with Pluto. The Time Guardian blurred as her Senshi uniform shifted to a lavender skirt suit, though the Garnet Rod remained close at hand. “I don’t know your civilian name, do I? You were always a Senshi or a princess to me.”
“It’s Meiou Setsuna, at least in this life,” she replied as she summoned a tea tray. “Would you like a cup?”
“Yes, thank you. Using your name might take some getting used to.”
“Perhaps.” She handed the younger girl her drink. “In truth, I find it difficult myself after spending so long in solitude. Now, you had things you wished to discuss.” She gracefully settled herself in another seat. Usagi was almost embarrassed by her unladylike behavior, but it passed. She was too worn out to care.
“Why is Chibiusa-chan in my time?”
A faint smile creased Setsuna’s lips. “Surely she told you that much.”
“Ha. I wanted a proper explanation, actually.”
Setsuna sipped her tea, reminding the visitor she had some. She swallowed a mouthful without tasting it. “You know I can’t say much without risking the timelines.”
“Rubbish,” Usagi said flatly. “This timeline is unique; you don’t know what’s coming any more than we do. If you want us to protect her, we will, but we can’t go in blind.”
“She needs to be watched.”
“Oh, really?” she asked sarcastically. “The crazy future lady didn’t clue me in on that yet, shockingly.” Dialing back the sass, she tried again. “I need whatever information you can give me about the monsters with the black moon marks if you want me to keep her safe.”
The elder woman sighed and set her cup aside. “You make a valid point. To be honest, I will be of little help. The most I can tell you is that they seek the Silver Crystal and its mistress.” She studied the blonde. “The path you tread is your choice, Usagi-chan. I can say no more.”
She sighed. It was even less than she’d hoped. “Thanks, then. Could you take me home? I’m too tired to transform.”
“The damage to your bond is worrying,” she warned. “Already you stray perilously close to illness. You cannot continue as Sailor Moon, not even for a brief period.”
“I know,” Usagi muttered as she drained her tea. “Take me home. I’ll go straight to bed.”
Setsuna hefted her staff and was Sailor Pluto again. “I do not like leaving my post in so dangerous a time, but I am concerned for your well-being. I will guide you.”
A whirling portal appeared in front of them, and Pluto assisted her to her feet when Usagi realized her weariness was stronger than she’d thought. The Time Guardian walked the short path with her, and they stepped into the teen’s room. She sat on her bed as soon as they arrived.
Pluto looked at her, and her worry was clear. “I fear for you, Usagi, and everyone else. I hope you see a bright path I cannot.” She vanished, leaving her words twisting in Usagi’s mind.
Chibiusa settled down easily with Luna at her side. Mamoru, however, was restless. He would be camping on the couch, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to sleep. The expression on his soulmate’s face when he’d said he didn’t love her was haunting him.
Beyond that, something had him out of sorts. He’d seen two of the girls pass by in Senshi form, but neither stopped to talk. It didn’t explain his nagging unease. The pain he understood – lying to Usagi left a gaping wound in his heart. He hadn’t sensed her danger earlier, and the only reason he’d been in time was because he was nearby and heard the ruckus. He’d felt the dark power before he realized she was there. Maybe that was what set him on edge.
He had to see her. Regardless of the visions of her dying, he needed confirmation that he’d been fast enough to protect her. He had to know she wasn’t hurt. Luna and Chibiusa weren’t there. She’d be alone. The Senshi… There was bound to be at least one near her house. They would’ve arranged their patrols to cover the area since Chibiusa was the enemy’s target. Her energy would linger, and the girls would want to protect Usagi’s family. He suspected Rei at least knew what had happened even if the others didn’t. He had no idea and didn’t care.
It didn’t matter; they’d never notice him. Tuxedo Kamen was silent and unseen; he could sneak over. If anyone noticed him on the way, they’d assume he was patrolling too. Luna could watch Chibiusa. Mamoru drew a rose before he could convince himself not to. A leap took him off his balcony as the door closed behind him. A cool wind blew, throwing his cloak out and almost knocking off his hat, but he was focused on seeing Usagi to make sure she was all right.
And there she was, he thought as he settled in the tree outside her window. Lying in bed, her face turned to the moonlight. She was trembling. A nightmare? Tuxedo Kamen knew she had them frequently. No, it was fever. Her flush and restless movements made that clear. She was sick. Why? What had happened? She’d been fine a few hours ago, as far as he knew.
He opened her window and slipped in, taking a seat at her side. Removing his gloves, he wiped sweat and tears from her too-warm face. His heart ached. He gently placed his hands on either cheek, holding her still. The tears slowed, then stopped, but she didn’t wake up. Tuxedo Kamen focused on his healing power. A thin golden sheen formed around his fingers but didn’t go to her as he’d intended. He’d done the spell right, he knew he had, so something was keeping him from helping.
He refused to be discouraged. “Hold on, Usako,” he whispered. If he couldn’t get rid of whatever was making her ill, maybe he could lessen its impact. New to his powers as he was, it could be he lacked the knowledge to do better. “I can’t heal this, but I can slow it down. You’ll be strong enough to cure yourself.”
“Mamo-chan,” she murmured. Her breathing was uneven.
Tuxedo Kamen jumped, startled. If she saw him, she wouldn’t believe what he’d said. Did she know he was with her? Possibly. She knew him better than he knew himself. “I’m here,” he said softly. “I’m trying to help.” His power flared again, meant to soothe rather than heal. Her breathing steadied as her temperature dropped to a safe level. He backed away. “I don’t know why I can’t fix this. I just hope I did enough.”
The hero left, making sure to close the window behind him. He began to retrace his steps, but he couldn’t go home. The restlessness was still there. Instead he crossed the city, searching. Part of him yearned for a fight, but he didn’t find one. Everything was quiet, the silence before a storm. That foreboding thought drifted through his mind, though he did his best to ignore it. It mocked him. He gave up and went to the clearing, becoming Endymion and drawing his sword.
Lunge. Thrust. Parry. Riposte. Block. Feint. Slash. Again and again… Kunzite’s cleverly enchanted dummy kept coming at him. His muscles ached and holding the prince’s form quickly became a struggle, but he continued. It was all he could do, letting the exertion drive everything from his mind. When Endymion heard someone behind him, he whirled in a deadly attack. Kunzite barely raised his own swords in time to deflect the blow. With a twist of his wrist, he sent the prince’s blade flying. It landed several meters away, tip embedded in the dirt.
The leader of the Shitennou returned his weapons to his subspace pocket. “While I applaud your dedication, Endymion-sama, it is foolhardy to lose yourself so.”
The younger man realized he was taking harsh, heaving breaths as his mind began to clear. “I’m sorry,” he said between gasps. “I was trying to… I don’t know.”
Kunzite’s face was an emotionless mask. “You were attempting to avoid your guilt over hurting Usagi-sama by working yourself to exhaustion.”
He pushed his sweat-drenched hair out of his face. “You already heard, then?”
“Indeed. Mina is quite displeased, though the other Senshi have insisted she not become involved in settling whatever dispute there is between you.”
“I guess it’s no surprise Usa- Usagi said something.”
“That is not it,” Kunzite corrected. “Rei-sama spoke to the others after Usagi-sama left to bring you Chibiusa-sama. Mina also tells me Rei-sama was made aware by her gift, though no doubt Rei-sama confronted Usagi-sama.”
He sank back against a tree with a sigh. “I’m sorry, Kunzite. I shouldn’t use you as a target for my frustration.”
“Better I than one who would be hurt by your dark mood.” The general retrieved his charge’s sword and placed it in its scabbard, which had been left at the edge of the trees. Silently, he handed it back to its owner. Finally, Kunzite spoke. “Is there something you need to discuss?”
Endymion laughed. “Your loyalties are torn. If I say anything, you’d be conflicted and would end up telling someone.”
Kunzite’s gaze locked with his. “I would never betray a confidence and well you know it. Have you become a coward, then? You could be cold at times, but you never lied about your feelings. Does Usagi-sama deserve such treatment?”
“How did you know?” he asked faintly.
“I am meant to be your guardian,” the Shitennou said. “When I can spare the time, I watch. I was nearby when you spoke so cruelly to Usagi-sama. Discretion demanded I keep my distance, but now I wish to know why you rejected someone you clearly still love.”
“I had to save her,” he said quietly. With more confidence, he repeated himself. “I had to save her. I was putting her in danger.”
Kunzite’s disbelief was veiled but clear nonetheless. “Really. You callously reject your true love after the many trials the two of you have already endured to save her. Endymion-sama, I vowed to serve you and will always do so. Regardless of my allegiance to Usagi-sama and her Senshi, that remains my first priority. However, I am forced as your friend and advisor to speak. How can you help her like this? Has she not suffered enough already?”
“You think I don’t know?!” Endymion demanded. “She has a hard time with all the battles we’re caught in. She gives everything she has to protect this world, and it costs her. I get it! Still, no matter how much I love her, I can’t be selfish. I can’t let her die!”
Silence fell in the wake of his outburst. Kunzite’s expression softened slightly. “I will not pretend to know why you think such a thing will happen, but I begin to realize what pushed you to this. I well understand the urge to protect your soulmate. I would do anything for Mina, no matter what it did to me. I would save her even if I had to hurt her to do so. However, it would be an absolute last resort. What brings you to this, Endymion-sama?”
He stared at the ground. “I told you I had a nightmare.”
Kunzite nodded. “I had thought that your overexertion yesterday induced a strange dream, but nothing of importance. Why?”
His hand rested against a tree after he pulled himself to his feet. “I used to dream of her constantly, you know. Princess Serenity was always there asking me for the Silver Crystal. She wanted my help, and for a long time there was nothing I could do.”
“Usagi-sama spoke of sending you such visions, but I fail to see the connection.”
Endymion sighed. “I had another this afternoon. It seems nice at the beginning. Usako and I get married, then she’s Serenity and I reach for her, but she’s gone and a voice tells me being with her will bring disaster.”
Kunzite studied him. “I have known you for a long time, and you have never shown even a hint of the Sight. This is likely nothing more than a dark place in your mind preying on you.”
“I thought that was it at first too, but I kept seeing the same thing. Even when I was awake. If I ignored it and something happened to her, I’d never forgive myself.”
“That is,” he said with a frown, “understandable. However, would it not have been best to speak with Usagi-sama rather than make this decision without her?”
“She’d never agree. She would risk her life to stay with me, and I can’t let her do that.”
“I do not have the answers,” said Kunzite. “Nor can I make your decisions. You chose what you see as the best course and though I disagree, it is not my life. Just do not lose sight of what matters. Now, I must beg your pardon. There are things I need to see to.”
He waved the older man off. “Go. I’ll visit Motoki-kun or something. Maybe he’ll be able to screw my head on properly.”
He vanished and Endymion returned to his civilian self as he walked off. Motoki might help, even if he couldn’t tell him the truth, but it could wait. Chibiusa was in his apartment and she was still important even if his mind was wrapped up in thoughts of her mother. Mamoru headed back and went straight to his room. He sat down and brushed some hair from her face, wondering at the unusual shade. And were children her age always so small?
“I want you to grow up just like her,” he told their little girl as she slept. “I love you so much, but it’s hard to be near you when I can’t be with her.”
“Mamoru-san?” Luna asked as she stretched. “Did something happen?”
“No, I just wanted to check on her.” The cat nodded and curled up at Chibiusa’s side again. Mamoru walked out with a sigh and dropped onto the couch. “Usako…” he murmured as he drifted off to sleep.
Usagi seemed okay, mostly. She was walking around, but she was pale and what excess kilos she might’ve had were gone. In a way, the paleness of her skin and her fragility only enhanced her beauty. With that and the sadness in her eyes, she reminded anyone who saw her of a princess in the sad part of a fairy tale.
Motoki watched while she was in the arcade. The others tried to push food on her or to get her to play the Sailor V game, but she stayed at the table. Eventually she convinced them to leave and sat holding a little girl. They talked as the arcade worker glanced at the clock. His shift was nearly over and Unazuki would be there soon for hers. There were no other customers. He tossed his apron on the counter and joined them, bringing a pair of chocolate shakes.
“Here you go, girls,” he said as cheerfully as he could. “On the house.”
The little one glanced at Usagi for permission. She nodded, so the child pounced and dug in. “Thank you, Motoki-onii-san,” Usagi murmured.
The older teen dropped into the booth across from them. “You okay?”
A faint smile ghosted across her lips. “As well as I can be, all things considered.”
“Who is she?” he asked, trying to get her to talk. Anything was more productive than letting her sit there looking so sad.
“This is Chibiusa-chan. Chibiusa-chan, this is Furuhata Motoki-onii-san. Say hi.”
The little girl looked at him warily but obeyed. “Hello. It’s nice to meet you.”
“You, too. I haven’t seen you around before. Are you related to Usagi-chan?”
She turned to Usagi, not replying. The blonde’s arms wrapped around her and she did a quick survey of the room. “She’s my daughter.”
Motoki didn’t see that coming, and his jaw practically hit the table. “What?!”
“My daughter,” she repeated, though a hint of laughter shone in her eyes. “You should know what that means, since you want a fancy medical degree and all that.”
“Obviously, but it doesn’t make sense. You’re fourteen!”
“She’s from the future,” Usagi explained. “Something happened and a friend sent her to us for help.”
He wondered why she hadn’t mentioned the child before, but he shrugged it off. “Time travel means Pluto, right…?”
She nodded. “Pluto wants her here; I don’t know why. There must be a reason.” She faced Chibiusa. “We trust him, Chibiusa-chan. If something happens and you need help, you can go to Motoki-onii-san. He’s friends with Mamo-chan, and he’ll contact us for you.”
“Really?” Chibiusa asked. “He doesn’t hate me?”
Usagi sighed and hugged the little girl. “No one hates you, sweetie. He cares a lot about me and your dad. He wouldn’t hate you.”
Chibiusa-chan stared at Motoki. “Really?”
He had no idea why she would ask if he hated her, but since Usagi nodded behind her back Motoki did the same. “I don’t hate you. Who is your dad, anyway?”
Usagi winced. Oh. Chibiusa answered. “Mamo-chan!”
“Is he?” he asked with a smile. “Well, he’s lucky to have such a cute kid.”
“Chibiusa,” Usagi interrupted, “why don’t you go play for a while? Motoki-onii-san and I need to talk.” She passed the girl a handful of tokens.
“Yay!” Chibiusa cheered as she ran over to the Sailor V game and plunked down on the stool. Usagi watched her like a hawk.
“So what’s the deal with the kid? You didn’t mention her.”
“I’m sorry,” Usagi said tiredly. “It’s hard to let others get too close. She’s the enemy’s target. One showed up at Rei-chan’s looking for her, and she was almost killed.”
“Does Mamoru-kun know?”
She arched one brow. “She’s in a time where she doesn’t know anyone but us, and she’s scared. I wouldn’t take away one of the few people she has.”
Motoki rubbed his head sheepishly. “Sorry. How are you holding up?” he pressed.
She frowned. “It’s tough. I should’ve stopped being Sailor Moon, but I thought I was doing better. I’m exhausted; if a battle starts I won’t be able to fight. At the same time, I have to. Chibiusa-chan is my responsibility. I can’t let her get hurt.”
“Isn’t there anything someone could do?” her brother demanded. “You have to be careful or you’re going to die! Is that what you want?!”
“Shh!” she hissed. “Chibiusa-chan doesn’t know; only Rei does. As far as the others are concerned, I have a cold or something. They want me to stay home.”
He glanced at the little girl playing the Sailor V game with the same concentration he’d seen on Usagi’s face so many times. A sudden thud and the clang of falling glass caught his attention and he turned back. Chibiusa started to cry when she turned around.
“Usagi!” Motoki yelped, running around the table to grab her. Her face was flushed, her breathing uneven. It looked like she’d fainted. He ignored the spilled shake. “Chibiusa-chan!”
Chibiusa looked terrified, and a strange light was appearing on her forehead. “Mama…”
He had no idea what was going on, so he had to wing it. “Calm down,” he ordered. “Can you contact Rei-chan? Tell her I’m taking both of you home.”
She nodded, steel replacing fear, and pressed the nose of the toy she carried. “Rei-chan!”
“Chibiusa-chan?” he heard Rei answer. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. Mama collapsed.”
“Oh, no,” Rei moaned. “Where are you?”
“We’re at Crown,” Motoki responded for Chibiusa.
The image in the cat’s pupil looked his direction. “Motoki-san? What happened?”
He shook his head. “I have no idea. We were just talking and I turned to check on Chibiusa-chan. I heard something hit the table, and…”
Rei let out an interesting string of English curses he really hoped the kid couldn’t understand. “Can you get her home?”
“As soon as I call Unazuki-chan,” the older teen promised. “I need someone to watch the place. Then I’ll drive them back.” He took a moment to be intensely grateful that he’d been able to get a provisional license to help with work.
“Chibiusa-chan,” Rei soothed, “she’ll be all right. We can take care of her.”
“Why isn’t she waking up? What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s just sick,” Rei replied.
“Get to her house as soon as you can,” Motoki said. “Is there anything I should know?”
“Don’t let Chibiusa get upset. She releases her magic and it draws the enemy. With Usagi down, we can’t let that happen.” Rei cut the connection and Motoki grabbed the arcade phone, dialing his sister’s pager. She called back in seconds.
“What’s up, onii-chan?”
“Unazuki, you need to get to Crown.” He glanced at the clock. It would take her at least ten minutes since it sounded like she was still at home.
“What’s wrong?” she demanded.
“Something came up,” he told her. “No one’s here, so I’ll lock the door. You can reopen once you get here.”
He dropped the phone in its cradle and grabbed his keys, picking up Usagi. “Come on, Chibiusa-chan. You can sit with her. Tell me if anything changes, okay?”
She nodded, clinging to Usagi’s hand. “Where’s Papa?”
How do I handle this? “Do you know how things are for Mamoru-kun and Usagi-chan?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I messed things up and now they’re not together.”
What? “I’m sure that’s not it,” he said in his best comforting voice as he settled Usagi in his car. “Did Usagi-chan tell you that?” The girl shook her head, so he pressed on. “Then it’s not true. You’re not the reason they broke up, Chibiusa-chan. If Ikuko-san says it’s okay, I’ll take you to Mamoru-kun once we get Usagi-chan home.”
“Promise?” she asked.
“Yeah, I promise. Who does everyone think you are, by the way? ”
Chibiusa frowned. “Kenji-papa and Shingo-onii-san think I’m a cousin, but Ikuko-mama knows about us.”
Motoki pulled into their driveway, realizing Kenji wasn’t home. “Go get her then, and tell her what’s going on.”
Rei sprinted up. “What happened? How is she?”
He pulled Usagi out of the car. “I’m not sure. I just didn’t know if it was safe to take her to the hospital.”
“We might show up on the tests wrong since we’re not exactly human. You did the right thing.” She laid a hand across her friend’s forehead. “She’s burning up. Her fever is too high.”
Ikuko came bustling out and the arcade worker glanced at Rei. “What can I do?”
“Nothing,” the priestess sighed. “There’s only one thing that would help… and she refuses to let me get it for her.”
Ikuko led them to Usagi’s bedroom and he set her down before going to their living room to wait. Shingo glanced up from his game for a moment. “Did stupid Usagi hurt herself again?”
“No. She has a fever.”
The kid shrugged and V kept killing aliens, unconcerned. “Is she going to be okay?”
“She should be,” Rei said from the entry. “Right now she needs rest.” She turned to the older teen. “Usagi’s mom says it’s okay to take Chibiusa-chan to Mamoru-san’s.”
“She’s not angry with him?”
“She doesn’t know,” Rei answered grimly before handing him a backpack. “Here are Chibiusa-chan’s things. She’ll be here in a moment – she wanted to change.”
“Motoki-kun?” Ikuko called as she came down the stairs. “Thank you for bringing Usagi home and taking Chibiusa-chan. It’s no trouble?”
“Not at all,” he assured her. “I’ll walk her over to Mamoru-kun’s. Do you mind if I leave my car? I want to see Usagi-chan again before I go home.”
“It’s fine,” her mom answered. “Her father has a dinner meeting tonight, so he’ll be late. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she added as Chibiusa came in.
The pink-haired child nodded. “Take care of Usagi-chan?”
“Of course. Have fun, and be a good girl for Motoki-kun and Mamoru-san.”
“I will,” she promised.
The walk to Mamoru’s was almost silent. When they reached his apartment, he wasn’t in. Motoki pulled out his key. “He’s not here, but we can wait inside. He should be back soon.” She nodded, curling up on the couch and digging a book out of her backpack. She fell asleep after a few pages. He sighed and dropped into an armchair, praying that his surrogate sister would be all right. He was on the balcony looking out over Tokyo when Mamoru got home.
“Is something wrong?” he asked as he came in.
Motoki spun, startled. “Mamoru-kun! You’re here!”
The darker teen’s brows arched. “I live here, so why do you sound so surprised? Did something happen?”
“Usagi-chan’s mother asked me to bring Chibiusa-chan. Since you weren’t here, I let us in. She fell asleep.”
“Except for the part with Usagi’s mom,” he drawled, “I figured most of that out myself. Something is bothering you, Motoki-kun. Care to explain?”
Motoki swallowed. “I was working while the girls were at the arcade. They left, but Usagi-chan and Chibiusa-chan stayed and the place was empty, so I went over for a chat. Usagi-chan passed out.”
“What?” the other man demanded, fear clawing at him.
The blond shrugged. “I think she has the flu or something. That’s what Rei-chan said when I called her.”
“Is Chibiusa-chan okay? You said she was there.”
“She got a little upset, but I managed to calm her down and promised to bring her here if her aunt said it was all right. Is there anything else? I want to get back.”
“That’s fine. Thanks for bringing Chibiusa-chan. Let me know when Usagi’s all right?”
He hesitated but nodded. “I won’t pretend to know what’s going on with you, but I’ll call once I know more. Bye.”
Mamoru watched Motoki leave at a near run before sitting down next to Chibiusa. “Wake up,” he said, poking her in the shoulder. She batted at him and turned over, still asleep. He sighed and carried her to the futon he’d set up in his room, tucking her in. He’d have to find a way to see Usagi later.
When Usagi had seemed better, Rei thought they were safe, that the danger she Saw was her imagination. When Chibiusa called, the blood in her veins froze. If she’d been normal one second and collapsed in the next…
Her mother tried, but she hadn’t gotten the miko to leave Usagi’s side. She stayed, alert to her wellbeing at all times. The priestess was so tempted to go to Mamoru and make him undo the damage, but she’d promised. Rei was afraid Usagi wouldn’t relent until it was too late.
Usagi stirred as Rei changed the damp washcloth on her forehead for a fresh one and slowly opened her eyes. “Rei…?”
“I’m here,” she answered shortly.
“What happened?” the blonde asked.
Rei smoothed the cloth. “You passed out while you were at Crown. Motoki-san brought you and Chibiusa-chan home.”
Usagi tried to sit up, but the other girl pressed her hand against her friend’s shoulder. She was too weak to fight. “Where’s Chibiusa-chan? Is she all right?”
She always worried about everyone else first. It was at once endearing and aggravating. At the moment aggravation was winning, but Rei forced it back. She was so sick, so weak… Rei wanted to kill Mamoru for hurting Usagi when she loved him so much. “Motoki-san took Chibiusa-chan to Mamoru-san.”
“He did?” she asked, relieved. “I’m glad. She’ll be all right there.”
“Usagi, this needs to stop. You can’t be Sailor Moon. Using the Silver Crystal will only make you weaker.”
She frowned. “I won’t sit back and watch when the enemy is after my daughter .”
“You won’t survive to have a child if you fight again!” the priestess shouted. “Don’t you get it yet?! You will die! ”
Usagi seemed taken aback by Rei’s temper, which she rarely displayed while they were alone, but she recovered quickly. “I know.”
“Why won’t you let me tell Mamoru-san?” she demanded. “Why?! He’d save you the instant he knew. He loves you and we all know it, so why are you letting this continue?!”
“I already told you,” she said. “I don’t want him to come back out of obligation. I want his love completely or not at all.”
Rei wanted to scream and rage, but she couldn’t put the blonde through that. She was trying so desperately to hold on already, though the miko knew it hurt her. “Aren’t you frightened?” she asked instead.
“Yes,” she responded after a long pause. “This is war and the stakes are the things I love most. I have faith in him, though. Mamo-chan will come back to me.”
Minako poked her head in the door. “Everyone is downstairs. Is she awake?”
Rei gestured. “She just came to. Bring them up; we have a lot to discuss.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“The flu,” Usagi lied. “I picked it up at school, and I’ve been too worried to take care of myself properly. I can’t seem to shake it.”
Minako didn’t look convinced. “Senshi don’t get sick. I haven’t had so much as a cold since I started fighting.”
A false smile settled on Usagi’s face. “Well, I guess I ran myself down taking care of Chibiusa-chan. I’ll be okay soon, but it looks like I’m off the duty roster for now.”
The other blonde nodded and left, soon ushering the rest of the team in. Motoki was there too. Kunzite hadn’t been happy to find out he knew about them, but the miko didn’t care. He was a comfort to Usagi, and that was all that mattered. She’d rather he was there over the general anyway. She at least trusted Motoki.
Makoto, leaning against the wall, started. “If Usagi-chan is sick, what do we do?”
“She can’t be Sailor Moon,” Rei said. “She was running a low-grade fever for the past few days and it’s spiked. Transforming could make it worse. She needs rest, which means we need someone else to keep an eye on Chibiusa.”
“What about battles?” Ami asked. “We can’t destroy these enemies. According to the computer the four of us combined would only be able to take down weaker monsters, and that wouldn’t be a guarantee.”
Minako glanced at Kunzite. “Can you do anything? Destroy them, maybe?”
The stern Shitennou nodded slowly. “Yes, with time and effort, but it would be draining. I am not compatible with the Senshi without the remainder of my team, and I would be unable to match any of their commanders on my own.”
“So what’s left?” Makoto demanded, ignoring the mention of the generals they could only remember with loathing. “This is a mess. Do we just pray the enemy won’t make a move?”
Usagi joined the conversation for the first time. “That won’t happen. Chibiusa is scared, and I won’t be able to stay with her. She’ll panic soon. We also can’t predict the next time they’ll try to take a location. That store can’t be the only one.”
“She’s right,” Rei said with a sigh. “After Sailor Moon defeated the monster, I was in the basement helping the clerks. The place was deliberately being filled with dark power.”
Everyone but Motoki and Rei filed out to continue their discussion downstairs. “Are you all right?” Motoki asked Usagi. “Mamoru-kun was worried about you.”
“You can’t tell him,” she said tiredly. “Please. Say it’s the flu or something. It’s all right if you tell him you know who we are, but keep this secret for me.”
“I can do that,” he said reluctantly. “Will you be okay though?”
She plastered on a second fake smile. “Of course. I can do anything, after all.”
He nodded and headed out. Rei rounded on her as soon as he was gone. “Of course you’ll be all right?! You can do anything?!”
Usagi winced. “Calm down, Rei. I just don’t need more people hovering over me.”
She took several deep breaths to cool her raging temper. “Okay. I’m sorry for yelling at you.” She sat on the edge of her bed and changed the washcloth on her forehead again. “You’re burning up. You shouldn’t be this far gone; something is wrong.”
Her eyes closed as she relaxed against the pillows. “I thought so, but I was afraid to say something. I didn’t want you to worry.”
Rei watched for a few moments, realizing she was beginning to fall asleep. “You should rest. Ami-chan will keep an eye on you.”
“If you insist,” she answered faintly. “I’m tired, Rei-chan.”
“Sleep well, Usagi. I hope you feel better tomorrow.” She was already out by the time the door shut, and Rei joined the others in Usagi’s family room.
“How is she?” Makoto demanded.
“She’s sleeping. Ami-chan, stay with her. She’d be an easy target like this.”
“Of course,” Ami agreed. “It’ll spread us thin, but we’ll manage. Their safety is the most important thing right now.”
“Minako-chan, you need to patrol,” the priestess continued. “I know you’re the leader, but out of all of us you and Kunzite have the best shot if a monster attacks. I can deal with the rest for now. Chibiusa will be with Mamoru-san or here, so whichever of us is with Usagi will keep an eye on her too. If she goes out, she goes with a guard. Mako-chan, would you be okay with taking her while she’s not here or at school?”
“Sure, but what about you? If Ami-chan will be staying with Usagi-chan and Minako-chan is covering the streets, what will you do?”
“Scrying, mostly,” Rei replied. “I also need to talk to Mamoru-san. They wanted to keep Chibiusa here, but there’s no way Usagi can handle it right now.”
Everyone headed for the clearing to train. The miko followed, lost in thought.
Tuxedo Kamen waited for the others to leave before he even considered moving. Kunzite had set protective spells around his apartment like the ones in the clearing and Luna had come to watch Chibiusa, so he wasn’t worried about her. Usagi held his attention and he wouldn’t be able to rest until he did what he could to help. Staying away was destroying him. His powers were growing unstable, and he had no explanation. Still, he could ease her pain once she was alone.
Climbing to her window an hour later, the hero peered inside. Ami was asleep, head on Usagi’s bed. The blonde wasn’t moving, but her feverish flush was vivid. Tuxedo Kamen slipped the window open just enough to reach Usagi. Like before, his magic wouldn’t heal her, but he managed to soothe the worst of it. He’d do it every day if he had to, and he’d find a way to get rid of whatever was making her sick. The masked hero melted into the shadows as Ami stirred.