Chibiusa watched the leaf pull gently away from the rest of the tree and drift lazily to the grass below. She had watched several leaves do this over the past hour and still she could not take her eyes from them, watching yet another follow in their footsteps. Somehow they reminded her of Pu and why she was here. Not that Chibiusa really understood why she was back, once again. Chibiusa simply knew she had been told to come, to give Haruka the message and to stay close to Hotaru. Not so hard, was it?
Another leaf broke free and drifted slowly down...
The wind was changed from when Chibiusa had come before. It wasn't how it was in the future either, so lazy and light. It was not unpleasant, but Chibiusa was not impressed by it nonetheless. Neither, Chibiusa noted, was Haruka.
Chibiusa knew the Outer Senshi would play a large role in whatever was about to happen, and something was about to happen, that Chibiusa knew for certain. She had tried to keep Pu's words secret from Hotaru, and had succeeded to a certain extent, but Chibiusa knew Hotaru had sensed the lapse in time. Chibiusa knew Hotaru would figure it out. Sooner rather than later. The question on Chibiusa's mind, however, was not when, but what. What would Hotaru do when she put all the pieces together? Sighing heavily, she stood and walked away from the window, down the stairs toward the front door.
"Where do you think you're going?"
Chibiusa huffed inwardly, wishing she had just climbed out the window instead of deciding to use the safer alternative, the door. Why did Usagi always pop up when she was completely unwanted?
"I'm going to get my jumper from Hotaru's place," she replied icily.
"You know where Haruka and Michiru live?" Usagi asked conspiratorially. Chibiusa frowned darkly and stuck her finger into Usagi's nose.
"Yes, I do. And you aren't coming."
Usagi began fidgeting with her skirt and large blobs of tears appeared in her eyes. Chibiusa contemplated simply walking out the door, but when Usagi got over her crying fit she would just follow. Besides, Usagi was so... loud!
"Fine, hurry up. I want to get there today stupid Usagi!" Chibiusa snapped. Usagi was so pleased to be allowed to go she didn't even comment on the 'stupid Usagi'.
Chibiusa spared a short glance for the leaves scattered across the front lawn se had watched all morning, then began skipping down the street. Even though she was only sent back in times of great danger, Chibiusa could never be disappointed while here. She loved seeing the Scouts before they were so... grown up! Here they wanted to play without rules and restrictions, because here she was just Chibiusa, not the Princess.
"How do you know where Haruka and Michiru live?" Usagi asked skeptically, leaning in rather close and making Chibiusa uncomfortable, not to mention a little grumpy.
"Hotaru told me so I could visit them. Haruka even offered to pick me up whenever I liked!" Chibiusa stuck out her tongue, knowing Haruka would never have made Usagi such an offer. Usagi had ways of annoying everyone, even Haruka who thought Usagi was great just because she was the moon princess. Chibiusa thought Haruka needed to be sat down and told what Usagi was like at home.
"How far is it?" Usagi asked a little too optimistically.
"Your feet hurt already, don't they stupid Usagi?" Chibiusa grinned evilly and poked Usagi in the ribs. "You weren't supposed to come, stupid Usagi, so don't complain!"
"I am not stupid!" Usagi bellowed, but Chibiusa ignored her and skipped around the corner, slid under a bridge, ran through a park, cart-wheeled along a short lane, crossed through an old lady's garden making sure to wave politely to the old man on the verandah, and finally skidded to a halt outside a lovely, neat house with Haruka's car out the front.
A great rustling in the bushes and Usagi stumbled out beside Chibiusa, collapsing on the ground with a great sigh.
"You can't just go running through people's garden's like that," Usagi said flatly.
"You forgot to wave to the old man on the verandah," she said, delighted. "And he sent the dog after you!" Chibiusa laughed loudly as she strode up to the front door and knocked three times. Usagi pushed herself to her feet, moaning and stood beside Chibiusa, fiddling with her hair.
The door opened and Hotaru's head peeked around the corner.
"Chibiusa!" She squealed, delighted, grabbing the girl's hand and hauling her inside with surprising strength. Usagi stood on the front step, peeking inside, wondering what to do. Hotaru and Chibiusa disappeared into a nearby room, leaving her completely alone.
"Ah, hello? May I come in?" Usagi stepped quietly into the house, knocking loudly on the door. A round of muffled giggles came from behind the door Hotaru had taken Chibiusa through, but there was no other reply.
"Haruka?" Usagi called nervously. "Michiru?"
A door finally opened and Michiru slipped out, closing it once again behind her. Usagi sighed heavily in relief.
"Usagi! I take it you came with Chibiusa to pick up her jumper?"
Usagi nodded enthusiastically and sat in the great lounge Michiru motioned to.
"Would you like a cup of tea?"
"Yes please," Usagi nodded enthusiastically, her eyes roaming the room. The television was on in the corner, but the volume was all the way down, not that it mattered; the news was on. There were several photos on the bookcase and cupboards around the room. Usagi stood and looked at each as Michiru made the tea.
Haruka and Michiru, Michiru, Haruka, Hotaru, Hotaru, Hotaru... So many of Hotaru! Then, finally, hidden behind a large pile of books, one of Setsuna. Usagi lifted it carefully and studied the face. Smiling, but the eyes with that same intense sense of duty. Usagi missed Setsuna more than she cared to admit. She missed them all; Chibi Chibi, the Starlights, Three Lights, Galaxia... yes, even Galaxia.
"I think we all miss her more than we would care to admit," Michiru said from behind Usagi's shoulder. Usagi jumped, nearly dropping the photo. She carefully placed it back on the shelf, this time in front of the books, and took the cup of tea Michiru offered.
Michiru gracefully sat on the lounge and Usagi nervously took a place beside her. The lounge was warm.
"She fell asleep," Michiru explained with a private smile playing on her lips. "I made her go to bed."
Usagi could not explain why she suddenly felt uncomfortable sitting on the lounge.
"Michiru," Hotaru said loudly, running into the room from the hallway, Chibiusa at her heels. "We need a lift somewhere. Where's Haruka?"
"Asleep," Usagi interjected, grinning at Chibiusa's shocked expression. Michiru laughed behind her hand, then motioned toward one of the other doors down the hallway. Hotaru grabbed Chibiusa's hand and hauled her toward the door. Usagi wanted to say something, but Michiru seemed calm...
Too calm. A jolt like lightening ran through Usagi and she sat upright, knocking over the tea. Michiru was saying something, asking if Usagi was alright, but Usagi was spiraling deep into memory.
They were all there, the Outers, the Inners, even her mother, Queen Serenity. Everyone was calm... too calm. Usagi looked from face to face and recognized the determination she had seen in Setsuna's photo. Then she looked at Sailor Pluto and screamed. She was on one knee before Serenity, her staff laid across her knees, the Guardian shattered at its head. Her uniform was torn and bloodied, her hands shaking.
'Enemies', she said in a voice that chilled Usagi to the bones and she found herself spiraling once more, the memory falling away as she was thrown once more into reality, the now, and Michiru was kneeling before her, just as Pluto had knelt before Serenity!
"Are you alright Usagi?" Michiru asked, concerned.
"I'm fine," Usagi replied quickly, waving her hands uselessly. Her mind was in turmoil. What had she just seen? What did it mean? Was it just another memory surfacing now there was time? She wanted to believe so, but it had been so vivid, not like a memory at all!
Standing, determined, Usagi shrugged off her strange melancholy.
"Everything's fine," she said obstinately to Michiru, just as a door opened in the hallway and Hotaru skipped out holding Chibiusa's hand and the bottom of Haruka's shirt. Haruka was still yawning.
"Oh, dumpling?" Haruka exclaimed, surprised. Her eyes narrowed on Michiru and she frowned. "You should have told me we had guests Michiru."
"I would have," Michiru replied tartly, "but you looked so cute asleep, I didn't want to wake you."
Haruka blushed a bright pink while Michiru looked innocently from Haruka to Usagi. Usagi blinked, confused. Hotaru tugged on Haruka's shirt and pulled her toward the front door.
"Where are you two so eager to go anyhow?" Haruka asked grumpily.
"It's a secret," Hotaru replied stonily and even Usagi could tell it was going to stay a secret.
Michiru watched them leave in wry amusement. It was obvious Hotaru decided to go on secret jaunts on a regular basis and Michiru was not about to interfere, so Usagi decided against interfering with Chibiusa who was being hauled along as reluctantly as Haruka. Instead, Usagi sat back on the lounge, took the new cup of tea Michiru offered and began to relax. The earth was calm. Everything was normal.
The lights flickered wildly on the horizon once more and Sailor Pluto readied herself for another attack. It was all so strangely familiar she wanted to scream. Instead, she fought, again and again as the lights came with the voice, tormented her and ran. Pluto didn't mind that they ran. She feared what would happen when they no longer fled.
"Fear me and you must fear yourself, Sailor Pluto," the voice said softly, somehow nearby while the physical body was still far away. Pluto could sense it, off to her right, unmoving, waiting, teasing. She hated that it waited, and for hating it she hated herself. Perhaps she even feared herself...
It was not wholly impossible.
"Who are you?" She yelled into the great void. It was growing greater as the hours passed, the light entering the eternal darkness. Pluto could see the ground about her for a hundred meters before the darkness closed about her once more. Someone had opened the gate, and left the entrance ajar. Until it was locked once more, Sailor Pluto could not let her guard down, for to do so meant death of all things. To let her guard down meant to lose the gate to the voice, and that voice wanted nothing but power over all things, including time.
"I am you," it replied, the same answer again and again. But the voice was male. It was not the same as Pluto, not the same as the woman Setsuna Meiou. Not the same at all! Pluto scowled into the darkness and was rewarded with that deep mocking laughter. She tired of the laughter. When would this all end? When could she leave the gate of time and live as she had for so brief a time?
"Now," the voice taunted and Pluto clutched here staff tighter in her hands. It was not time to give up Time. Not yet time, but soon... Soon the world would wake. Soon she would be free, if only for a short while.
"Are you sure it has been three days? Not two, or four? We did stay on the border a long time watching. Maybe an extra day passed without our realizing it!" A gentle but persistent hand clutched Yaten's shoulder and he quieted quickly, nodding knowingly to Taiki as the taller man gently released him, suppressing his own inner laughter and relaxed on the steps of Hikawa shrine. They were lucky; Rei was with Usagi and the others at a Three Lights Fan reunion, completely unaware that the Three Lights themselves were on her front steps. It brought a smile to Yaten's lips.
"I hear..." Seiya leapt up from where he had been watching Yaten and stuck his head around the corner. "Her car..."
Taiki's nose twitched and Yaten bit his lip. They both knew who Seiya meant by Her, and all three men were contemplating running. Haruka Ten'ou tolerated their presence no more than Sailor Uranus, who tolerated them not at all. To Her they were invaders, pure and simple and their presence was completely undesirable. She was perhaps the only person they did not want to encounter, and yet... She was the one person Hotaru felt knew of the danger surrounding Earth.
The car, a smart looking dark blue convertible the Three Lights had never seen before, skidded to a halt by the curve and Hotaru leapt from the back seat, followed quickly by Chibiusa, all smiles. They latched on to Taiki and Yaten and refused to let go, while Seiya was left to face Haruka, who looked as if she had seen a ghost.
Rousing herself, Haruka quickly got out of the car and sauntered to stand before the Three Light's.
"You have been a sneak indeed, Hotaru," she said softly.
Hotaru blinked innocently as she pulled the Three Lights toward the car and opened the door.
"Oh no you don't! Not in my..." Haruka protested, but it was too late. The Three Lights were pushed into the back seat while Chibiusa and Hotaru squeezed into the front. Then they just waited for Haruka to finish spluttering and drive, which she did, albeit reluctantly.
"Why are you here?" Haruka asked once they were safely away from the places frequented by Sailor Scouts.
"We were invited," Seiya replied quickly, smiling wickedly at Hotaru who blushed a dark crimson when Haruka glared darkly at her.
"You have a lot of explaining to do, my little kitten," Haruka hissed before turning her attention completely to her driving. In fact, her attention was so completely captured by the wheel, Seiya waved his hand before her eyes and she didn't even blink. It was then Seiya noticed Chibiusa's strange toy ball floating very close to Haruka's head. Seiya hoped the small pink-haired girl did not make it a habit; doing that to people on a regular basis would be cruel to say the least.
"You were right," Yaten said quickly. "There is danger spreading rapidly through this whole system."
"How powerful is it?" Hotaru asked just as quickly, her eyes suddenly a darker shade, more attentive and focussed.
"We could not measure its strength. Individually they are as strong as we are when we are separated, but together... they seem to know one another better. To work as one rather than as a team." Seiya and Yaten nodded as Taiki explained this. It had confused them for some time before they realized all those powers were identical, powered by the same thing, whatever that was, and fuelled by one singular desire.
"Sailor Uranus can stand against it," Chibiusa interjected suddenly, her eyes locked on Seiya's. "Pu said it would be Uranus alone."
The Three Light's shared a knowing look then slyly looked Haruka, her eyes still locked on the road before them, her foot heavy on the pedal as she pushed the car to its limits in her silent rage at their presence. It was possible...
"I am afraid of what will happen soon," Hotaru said softly, curling up against the back of the seat. "I see horrible things in my dreams, and I sense danger all around us. I do not understand what is happening. Before I always understood."
Chibiusa, better than the Three Lights, knew exactly what Hotaru was speaking of. She had had similar dreams when the Dark Moon had taken Crystal Tokyo, and she had seen strange things in her sleep those last nights before her mother had sent her back, once more, into the past with Pu's important message and her Senshi locket in hand.
"Don't fear, Saturn," Seiya said with a reckless grin. "Whoever they are, I bet they aren't expecting us."
Hotaru grinned, turned in the seat laughing as the Luna Ball fell back into Chibiusa's hands and Haruka looked at the Three Lights through the rear-view mirror.
"Where are we going anyway?"
Screams. Blood. Destruction. Death. These were the memories of her life. This was what her war had left to her; a legacy she would never outlive, a curse she could never outrun. Those who saw her looked through her and saw these things, the terrible river of blood at her heels, the crumbling ruins of the cities she had passed, the lingering screams of those who fought, and the bodies she left in her wake when they fell. Screams. Blood. Destruction. Death. This was her, or what she had been. In the eyes of others what she always would be.
Yet, this time it was different. Always before the screams, blood, death and destruction had been accompanied by a intense sense of guilt; a heavy wave that threatened to wash her away, held at bay only by those who still believed in the person she had been before Chaos. This time there was no guilt, only an intense dread that could not wash her away, but instead pushed her forward, drove her toward... something.
Sailor Galaxia looked out across the thick field of flowers; her home which she had returned to after Sailor Moon had finally freed Chaos from her body and returned it to the minds of all people. No matter how many days passed, Galaxia still felt Chaos within, still sensed that small piece of Chaos that would forever reside in her mind as it resided in all minds, and she loathed it, a constant reminder of all the lives she had destroyed.
Still, there was a stronger sense, not unlike the Chaos she had known when it lived entirely within her. A wave of hatred, an ocean of dark desire lay waiting far away, threatening to strip away the peace bought with such incredible strength and heartache. Of all the things in the galaxies, Galaxia could deny all but one; Chaos. Never again would she allow it to dig its talons into a human being, for those talons reached out and encircled too many hands, bloodied innocent pure hearts. Galaxia would give up her Senshi stick for eternity for any other reason, but with Chaos she could only stand and fight as she had tried to do so long ago, and failed.
"Crow," she said softly, turning away from the window and the beautiful garden they had slowly rebuilt. Sailor Lead Crow slipped from the shadows on one side of the room, quickly followed by Aluminum Siren, the two never apart, their deaths somehow bringing them irrecoverably together.
"Galaxia," the pair bowed despite Galaxia's constant request for them to do nothing of the sort.
"There is trouble in the galaxy."
"We will find it," they replied in unison, their thoughts identical, not even needing to face one another to know the other would do the same. They were as one. Galaxia smiled despite her deep sense of dread. With such Sailor's to guard them, no galaxy could lose to evil again. She could not understand how they had lost to her. Only their previous fear of death had kept them from her certain defeat. Now, they were indestructible; Crow and Siren.
"I will be coming with you, if you don't mind?"
"Of course not Sailor Galaxia. It will be a great pleasure to once again travel the galaxy at your side." Now Crow and Siren did share a look; a bright smile as they each grabbed one of Galaxia's hands and pulled her toward the great double doors. People scattered as the great doors burst open and the Sailor Senshi ran down the front stairs and Galaxia couldn't help but laugh as she was hauled into the air by her companions and for the first time in too long she truly took her place once more as a Sailor Senshi.
"I have to go north for a concert. It should only take a few days. Will you be alright looking after Hotaru?" Michiru looked up from the suitcase she was quickly shoving clothes into and raised her brows.
"We'll be fine, Michiru," Haruka responded sulkily.
"Oh, so I am not needed after all?" Michiru pouted, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. Haruka spluttered, a pink blush spreading over her cheeks while Michiru went back to her packing, giggling.
"I am a little worried though," Haruka said suddenly. The way she said it, as if it was nothing, caught Michiru's attention and the aqua-haired woman narrowed her eyes on Haruka, took in the way she was standing, her head flicked to the side carelessly, hands deep in her baggy pockets.
"There is nothing to worry about Haruka. Look," she said sharply, pulling out her Mirror. "See, blank! I sense nothing, you sense nothing but your imagination. Do not go ruining this peace with your itch for a fight!"
"My..." Haruka protested loudly. "Is that what you think this is? Me wanting some action?" Haruka seemed truly shocked, but Michiru feared what the woman might do while she was away if this was not stopped now. She would not miss her violin recital because Haruka was bored!
"Yes, Haruka. I know you too well!"
She slammed the suitcase shut and hauled it out the door. As if by reflex Haruka grabbed it from her and carried it out to the sleek black car outside, ready to take her and her manager north. Haruka looked from Michiru to the car but said nothing so Michiru took the suitcase back and dumped it in the boot.
"Be good!" She said sternly, standing on tip-toes to kiss Haruka hard on the cheek. She wanted to do more, but out in the open she felt vulnerable, especially with her manager watching, so she settled for a wink and the friend's kiss and jumped in the car.
Haruka watched the car for some time, empty and rejected. Michiru hadn't even asked her to drive.
She hadn't even mentioned the recital until Haruka and Hotaru had finally come through the door that afternoon.
Worse, Michiru hadn't even tried to listen! She had simply rejected Haruka's feelings, belittled her senses with her talisman mirror and left. Haruka hadn't had the chance to tell her the Starlights were here, that she sensed invaders, muted as they may be, getting closer every hour. Trouble was coming and Michiru backhanded it away as Haruka's imagination. It was the worst betrayal Haruka could imagine. She wanted to be angry, but she could only feel hurt. She could never be angry at Michiru.
In time she walked back into the house and fell back into the large lounge. It still smelt of Michiru's perfume and Haruka grabbed one of the cushions and curled herself around it, trying to blank out Michiru's parting words. The more she tried, the firmer they held, and other words began to enter her mind as well. Words she knew just as well, in a voice she wished more than ever to hear.
"Only you will see it coming..." Setsuna's voice echoed through her mind. Haruka covered her ears as if to block it out, but it was trapped inside her, echoing again and again until Haruka thought she would go mad, then it would come again. And again.
Would they all turn away, all believe she was making it up? Not even Michiru believed... would not even listen! Haruka pushed it all away. Someone would listen; they had to, and if they didn't Haruka would fight alone. Whatever it took, Sailor Uranus would not leave the Earth unprotected. She could not.
Chibiusa and Hotaru slipped back into Hotaru's room as Haruka collapsed on the lounge. Hotaru couldn't keep her hands from shaking. She had seen Haruka and Michiru fight before, but this time Michiru was particularly harsh... Hotaru realized Chibiusa was pacing madly from one side of the room to the other as she stared out the window at the sleeping world. The wind was still lazy, the earth silent; all resting. But the Starlights had seen it, the new danger approaching, just as Haruka had sensed it coming and Queen Serenity had known it was coming and sent them Chibiusa.
"Chibiusa?" Hotaru asked quietly, a little worried.
"I told her to be nice," Chibiusa mumbled under her breath. "If that is Michiru's idea of nice I don't want to be here when she is being nasty." Chibiusa paced more, chewing on her thumb. Finally she stopped, stared at the door and let out a great sigh that shocked even Hotaru who was used to Chibiusa sighing when Usagi did something stupid, which was most of the time.
"Chibiusa?" Hotaru prodded again.
"Mum said I had to get to know the Outer Senshi, and so I will," Chibiusa replied as she grabbed the door handle and slipped into the hall, creeping up silently on the unsuspecting Haruka. Hotaru didn't say anything, but sat in her doorway, the door slightly ajar, watching. This was for Chibiusa to do, but that didn't mean Hotaru couldn't watch!