Blood Moon- Epilogue
That's all she wrote.
The power of the ginzuishou was wild, raw, primal, but Usagi rode it without fear. It was her own power, after all, the power of her soul, of her heritage. And it bent to her will, even though it was so much more than she. It swept through her, cleansing her of the darkness which had marked her, washing away the changes the darkness had wrought upon her heart, making her utterly herself again. It gave her life and rebirth, where before there had been only death. She passed through the flames and was made clean and whole.
She knew what power she held in her hands. She held the power to remake the world, the universe. And she knew she must use it. There was so much to do, so many mistakes to put right, so many wounds to heal.
A single wish. That's what it came down to. The power was enormous, but it needed a focus. She needed a wish. One wish. And so she spoke.
"Please... make everything right."
Simple words. Simple words, for a complex wish. But the only correct ones. The wish contained every answer. Every answer but one. That one was Usagi's alone. She was given a choice, a choice she had never thought she could make, would ever have to make. A bond could be broken. Not through death, which had gripped and lost her. Not through her own will, which was not that strong. But through the touch of the cosmos, her passage through death, the strength of her will, and the last brilliant burst of power from the shattered ginzuishou. All these combined into one moment, one unexpected chance to choose.
And so she chose.
"Kya! I'm late!"
Usagi jolted up out of her bed and dragged her school uniform on more swiftly than thought.
"Mama! Why didn't you wake me?!" she wailed as she streaked down the stairs.
Tsukino-san looked up from the plant she was dusting. "Wake you? Oh, Usagi-chan, silly girl! It's Sunday. There's no school."
Usagi froze. "You mean I got up for nothing?" she squealed.
Tsukino-san sighed and shook her head as her daughter turned and zipped back up the stairs, golden ponytails snapping. Then she returned to her dusting.
Once back in her dimly lit, strawberry scented bedroom, Usagi stripped off her offending uniform and grasped her pink pajamas. Then she stopped and looked around, her brow creasing. There was something wrong. Something... missing....
Suddenly her pajamas dropped from nerveless fingers and she flopped down on her bed, her blue eyes wide. Memories hit her, and hit her hard. It took a full two minutes before she stirred. She barely seemed to breath, and if she hadn't blinked occasionally, she could have been mistaken for a wax figure.
Finally, something flickered in her eyes. She jumped to her feet and crossed her room. She looked into the mirror, long and hard. It was still dark in her room, only a little morning light filtering through the drawn curtains, but it was enough for Usagi. She was a little afraid of what she might see.
It looked like her, though. Familiar heart-shaped face, young and uncertain, but growing in loveliness. Same wide blue eyes, filled with innocence. There may have been a slight shadowing of their brightness, but it was just a touch of thoughtfulness, for any true darkness had been burned away by her death. She reached up a hand that trembled slightly and stroked one of her ponytails. She'd almost forgotten how nice and familiar, how comforting this hairstyle was. Then her eyes fell to her chest. She had removed her uniform blouse, and the flesh about her bra was revealed. She squinted. Then she dashed over to switch on the electric light, flooding her room with false daylight. Back at the mirror, she looked closely. Above and between her small breasts, where the ginzuishou had been set, was a faint silvery scar. She ran her fingertip over it. It wasn't disturbing. It was just a small crescent shaped mark. A reminder. She smiled slightly.
Suddenly she felt stifled. She flung her curtains apart, and opened the window. A waft of fresh, late spring air wafted in, and she breathed deeply. Then she squeaked, realizing she was standing at her window in her underwear. Diving back into her room, she went to her wardrobe.
She chose her clothes with more care than usual, a feeling of anticipation beginning to stir in her heart, fueled by the breeze that danced through her window, and swirled teasingly about her. Finally she settled on a nice linen blouse of deep blue, and a pair of pale, almost white jeans. She brushed her hair until it glowed, then she exited her room and dashed downstairs once more.
"I'm going out!" she called as she paused to slip on her shoes, then slammed out the door.
Tsukino-san looked after her, startled. She had thought Usagi had surely gone back to bed. After all, it was only nine. On a Sunday, no less!
Usagi made her way swiftly through the streets of Tokyo. She knew where she was going. There was a beacon in her heart, and she followed it with such single-minded purpose that she didn't even hear Motoki as he called a greeting to her. The tall blonde youth watched her go on her way, surprised. There was something different about the girl....
The park. Of course it was the park! Usagi smiled to herself as she strode through the arched gateway.
She found a nice bench near the water, the urgency bleeding away from her now that she was here. It was a lovely morning, with a warm sun, a cool breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. Many others were out enjoying the pleasant weather, and Usagi watched the couples and young families who passed her, her blue eyes glowing with intensity. She took joy in the fact that they were there, and that the world still existed for them to occupy, to delight in. If anyone happened to catch her eye, they couldn't help but smile back and walk on thinking what a lovely, pleasant young girl she looked.
Finally, however, she found herself growing restless again. She rose and strolled slowly along the path, looking about her in wonder. The world seemed new to her, the familiar park reborn. Colors were more vivid, scents more evocative. She hoped she would never take this amazing place for granted ever again.
There! She caught sight of the first of them. Leaning against the railing surrounding the lake, she peered out over the wind-ruffled water. Two figures in a distant rowboat, both with black hair, both with glowing, contented faces. Usagi sighed and smiled softly. She'd miss her Mamoru, miss having her own personal Prince Charming, but there was no pain in the loss of the dream, and only a small twinge of regret. She hoped he and Rei-chan would make each other very happy. They certainly suited one another better now, in this lifetime, than he and Usagi ever would have.
Usagi turned in time to be engulfed in a cloud of dark purple hair and a pair of slim white arms. "Oh!" She embraced Luna tightly, both crying a little. Then Luna pulled away, wiping tears from her cheeks.
"Usagi-chan, you did it!"
Usagi grinned. "Did you ever doubt me?" she teased gently.
"Not for a moment!" Luna declared indignantly. She looked much the same as she had before her death, only her flesh was of a slightly warmer tone, her brow free of the golden crescent moon, and she wore a cheery yellow teeshirt with a pair of navy slacks and a short- sleeve navy jacket. Usagi noted with amusement that there was a small golden crescent moon embroidered on the jacket pocket.
"Ohayo go zyemoss," she said, switching her gaze to the tall young man standing behind Luna, waiting his turn.
"Arigato, Usagi-chan," Artemis said, stepping forward to hug her tightly. He also had lost his mark, and was wearing civvies. His shirt was white, and he had on dark blue jeans and a denim jacket. His hair was cut short in the back, flopping long over his eyes in the front. It looked a little strange, as Usagi had been used to seeing him with straight locks that nearly reached to his waist, but it certainly suited his sharp young face.
"I should be thanking you," Usagi said, as he released her. Her eyes were a bit misty, but her smile was bright. "I never got a chance to before."
Artemis laughed, though the crystal blue of his eyes was slightly clouded as well. He blinked. "I'm alive and back in my body. Luna's alive. We're both free, and have most of our lives before us. And it's all thanks to you, Usagi- chan! If that isn't sufficient, then I don't know what is!"
Usagi blinked back tears. Luna squeezed her briefly. "Usagi, we-- Now-- What--"
Usagi smiled, knowing what question it was Luna was having difficulty verbalizing. "Why are you free?"
Luna nodded silently.
Usagi drew in a breath. "The ginzuishou is gone. Its gathered power was what brought everything, everyone back. I-- Well, let's just say, it's all gone. I'm not Sailor Moon, I'm not Princess Selene. I rejected the last, and so lost the first. And without the princess to guide and guard, you have no need to be my protector!"
"Usagi!" Luna looked pained.
"But that doesn't mean I don't still need you as a friend," Usagi husked, her eyes pleading. "That doesn't mean I don't need you to teach me and scold me. I'd miss that too much--" She choked, and Luna enfolded her in a warm, comforting embrace.
"I'm always here for you, Usagi-chan. I always will be!"
Usagi held her tightly, then pulled away. "Arigato." She scrubbed her cheeks free of tears. Then her eyes widened as she caught sight of another couple beyond Artemis's lanky form. "Look!" she whispered, pointing.
Two golden heads this time. The young girl walked straight and proud, her radiant face shining with love as she clasped the hand of the youth beside her. Minako looked unchanged, except for a faint scar traced in the flesh beneath her bangs. However, Jadeite appeared much younger than before. He didn't seem to be above a year or two older than Minako. His blonde curls were ruffled in the sweet breeze. Minako wore a crisp white shirt and pale yellow shorts. Jadeite was in almost the same thing as Artemis, only his shirt was black, and his jeans were faded and tattered. They looked like a typical teenage couple, except that there was an intensity glowing in their eyes that was unmatched by any around them.
They watched as Jadeite bent to speak softly in Minako's ear. She laughed, the sound free and easy.
"Usagi?" Artemis turned to the girl, somehow knowing....
"She... she won't remember," Usagi answered his unspoken question, hot tears springing once more to her eyes. She blinked them back and cleared her throat. "She won't remember... not you, not me, not being a senshi, or Sailor V. Not the other life on the Moon Kingdom. Not dying by the hands of love. It was... it was the way she wanted it."
"She chose?" Luna gasped, sliding against Artemis and wrapping a bracing arm about his slim waist.
Usagi bit her lip, regaining control of herself. "The same as you did, Luna."
"I? But-- But I didn't--"
"A part of you did. The deepest, most honest part. I think... I think Minako-chan had had enough of pain and painful memories. I... don't blame her. I think she made the right choice."
"But she remembers Jadeite?" Luna asked in confusion.
Usagi smiled, shaking the last of her sadness away. "They have a new history now. One set here on Earth. One without any betrayal or death between them."
"But Usagi," Luna protested. "Minako and you--"
"I can always reintroduce myself," Usagi said, suddenly grinning. "It'll be kinda nice to meet her without anything between us. When she's not my idol, and I'm not her inept leader. When we're not secretly half sisters." She shot Artemis a mischievous smile as she said this.
He had been quiet, but he wasn't as upset as he had expected. He suddenly grinned back, drawn into the bright sparkle in Usagi's blue eyes. "It feels good to be normal, ne, Usagi?"
She blinked, taking a moment to think this over. "I-- I guess... yes. I wonder why I didn't forget too. I've always wished so much to be just a normal girl, never to have anything to do with Sailor Moon. Just to be a normal, oblivious girl. I wonder...."
"Baka," Artemis said gently, his voice affectionate. "How could you wish to forget your greatest accomplishment? Your closest, dearest friends? Your one true love?"
Usagi turned bright red. "Um... er...."
"Where is Kunzite?" Luna asked curiously.
Usagi shrugged, but didn't answer. Luna and Artemis exchanged a glance.
Minako and the youthful Jadeite strolled past the small group, chatting quietly. Minako paused to give Usagi a sparkling, friendly smile, then walked on, looking as though she was wondering why she had done that.
Usagi, however, brightened visibly. "See?" she said cheerfully, her good mood restored. "I told you!"
"Do you want to come with us and get some breakfast?" Artemis asked her.
Usagi shook her head. "Gomen. But I still have to see...."
"The others," Luna supplied. Usagi nodded.
"Well, we'll be going then," Artemis said, smiling warmly at her. "Usagi-chan, we'd like you to come visit at our apartment sometime...."
Usagi grinned. "I know where it is."
"You do?" Luna asked in surprise.
Usagi merely nodded again, then hugged the small woman briefly, offering no explanation. "Maybe I'll come by after school tomorrow."
"If you don't have detention," Luna said dryly. Then she winced. "Ooh, gomen, Usagi-chan! Old habits die hard!"
Usagi made a face, then giggled, her eyes shining.
Slowly, Artemis and Luna walked away, his arm still wrapped about her slim shoulders. Usagi watched them go, a wistful look on her face. Then she straightened and drew in a deep breath.
She took a few more steps, then she caught sight of Mamoru and Rei, returned from their boat ride, walking across the grass.
"Hey, odango-atama!" Mamoru called, waving a hand.
Usagi stuck her tongue out at him.
"Who is that?" she heard Rei ask. She bit her lip.
"Oh, a girl I know a little. She's one of Motoki's fans."
"Ah." Usagi tried not to blush as Rei peered at her. She offered a friendly smile.
"She looks nice," Rei said, smiling back. "You'll have to introduce us sometime."
"Okay," Mamoru said indulgently, and they passed on.
Usagi resumed walking, thinking the encounter over. Why had Rei chosen not to remember? Had she disliked Usagi that much? No. Usagi shook her head sharply to drive that thought out. That wasn't right. Maybe she had wanted to start on a clean slate, without the bitterness and sharp words between them. That felt more right. And perhaps they could be friends now, now that Rei wasn't expecting Usagi to be more than she could be, and itching to prove she could do better. Usagi sighed happily. A fresh chance with Rei. That made her feel good, and she looked forward to their future introduction.
She was so deeply lost in thought that she almost missed the last of the senshi. Former senshi, that was. But there they were, under one of the spreading oak trees, about eight feet away.
Mako, wearing a green teeshirt and a pair of striped pink and white shorts, leaned back against the tree trunk, her face bright, her eyes glowing. She was speaking animatedly to Yuuichirou, who lounged on the grass beside her, his shaggy head propped on his hand. Occasionally he would reach up and tug gently at one of her dangling tendrils of hair, until she playfully knocked his hand away. But they looked very relaxed and intimate, and Usagi's eyes widened in surprise. There was something she hadn't expected.
And leaning casually back against Mako's long legs, deeply immersed in a thick book, sat Ami. Her dark hair fluttered in the breeze, and she ran an impatient hand through the short strands, but didn't lift her gaze from the printed page. She was wearing a nice long sleeved white shirt, and a short red skirt with white tights. Usagi thought that was the most colorful outfit she'd ever seen the quiet girl wear. She liked it. It brought a bit of brightness to Ami's pale face, that the drab blues she usually wore never would have done.
She gazed longingly at her two friends, but walked quickly past, half hiding behind a young couple pushing a stroller. She knew they would remember her, remember some of what had happened -- though not as much as Luna and Artemis -- but she didn't want to disturb them just now. Mako and Yuuichirou were deeply involved in a conversation, and Ami looked happy and comfortable with them. There would be time enough later for tears and embraces, when there wasn't any outsider present. After all, the three of them would all be meeting at Juuban Junior High tomorrow morning. It wasn't as though Usagi could avoid them, even if she wished it. Which, of course, she didn't.
Before Usagi knew it, she found she had made a complete circuit of the lake. It was nearly ten, by her watch, and she suddenly remembered she hadn't had anything to eat yet. "Ooh, I'm starving!" she exclaimed to herself. Maybe now was the time to go find Mako and Ami. She could ask them to join her for a late breakfast.
She started running, her empty stomach goading her on, but she just had time to catch a glimpse of the tree, no girls under it, when her toe hit a crease in the pavement, and she took a face-first dive onto the walkway.
"Ouch," she grunted, lying there a moment, attempting to catch her breath. There came the sound of a low chuckle, and a pair of heavy black boots appeared before her tearing eyes. She blinked at them, then slowly raised her gaze.
Tight black jeans. Nice white silk shirt. Heavy brown leather jacket. His silvery hair was caught back in a neat ponytail, held by a red band, a few strands falling loose about his dark face. He held a large hand down to her, grinning. "Graceful as ever, I see," he said dryly.
Usagi had never thought she'd be so glad to hear those mocking tones. She grasped his proffered hand, and he pulled her up, then tightly against him. His arms were strong and warm about her waist, and she gazed into his silver eyes forever.
"Did you hurt yourself when you fell?" he asked, allowing a little concern to flavor his words.
She shook her head mutely. He looked younger too, though not as young as Jadeite had become. About nineteen or twenty, maybe. It looked good. All the lines of bitterness were smoothed away from his dark flesh. His eyes flashed with bright life, and he lowered his head to hers.
This time when they kissed there was no interruption. Usagi wished it could go on for all time, so that she would never have to lose the warm tingling sensations that sparked the length of her body, melting her against Kunzite as she wrapped her arms tightly around his broad chest beneath the jacket.
But they both had to breathe, and they finally broke the kiss, though not the embrace, their cheeks flushed, their eyes glowing. Passers-by cast them amused or wistful glances, but no one seemed to mind the rather public display of love.
"True love..." Usagi breathed.
Kunzite made a face. "You always have to over-romanticize things," he said, but it wasn't really a criticism.
Usagi giggled. "Is that really a word?" she asked, tucking herself closer and resting her head against his shoulder. He didn't answer, but tightened his arms, and they stood together several long, comfortable moments.
"I think we're blocking traffic," Kunzite finally commented, a smile in his voice.
Usagi grumbled, but released him. "I guess you're right. Let's go, and get something to eat."
Kunzite grinned sharply, but held his tongue. "All right," he said amiably. He tucked Usagi's hand through his arm, and they started down the path.
"Usako...." He sounded uncertain.
"The-- The bond...."
"I broke it."
"I know. Why?"
She frowned in thought. He deserved a truthful answer. They were nearing the gate, and Kunzite pulled her aside, into a shaded, heavily- flowered nook, where they could have some privacy. He wrapped his arms lightly about her waist once more, quietly allowing her to bring her answer to the fore of her mind.
"I -- Because I'd had enough of my life being controlled by others. I want to make my own choices, even if they're the wrong ones. I need to know-- If I want to be with you, I want it to be because I love you. Because I want to, not because of Allandrey's Trust."
"You love me?" Kunzite breathed, his silver eyes widening.
"Baka! What do you think?" Usagi asked, torn between laughter and tears at the shocked look on his face. "That I just go around kissing strange guys in the park? Although, I will admit, I certainly couldn't find much stranger than y--"
She was interrupted as Kunzite suddenly pulled her close and kissed her again, forcefully, almost bruisingly. She was more than a little breathless when he finally released her lips.
"I love you too!" he said fiercely.
She smiled, her blue eyes glowing. "I know."
Suddenly she sobered. "Kunzite, do you-- Do you have any regrets?" she asked hesitantly. "About-- I mean, about Zoisite?"
Kunzite thought for a moment. "No. I loved him, and a part of me will always love him, and miss him. But I'm a different person now than I was then. You changed me, Usako. I bled some of my dark into you, but you filled me up with light. Your power was the stronger, and I fell to it, and was glad for the change."
Usagi's eyes were misty, but she was smiling. Now it was Kunzite's turn to grow uncertain. "What-- What about how... how Zoisite and I-- I mean... well, what we were to each other. Can-- Can you...?"
Usagi smiled brilliantly. "I love you, Kunzite. You. Nothing can change that, nothing can taint it. You are who you are, and everything you've done, everything you've been, adds into that whole. You felt love in a place where love was taboo. It made you strong, not weak, and you are my strength."
He pulled her close, but this time they did not kiss, merely held each other.
"I kind of miss it," Kunzite said after a while, his voice husky with emotion. "I feel a little scared, not knowing what you're thinking, what you're feeling."
"Me too," Usagi said, holding him more tightly. "I miss you at the back of my mind. I feel less than whole. But I think... I think we can rebuild the bond, if we both will it. And this time we won't need any magical blade."
"Blade," Kunzite murmured. "Blades. Blades! Oh hell!" Usagi pulled away and grinned as he clapped a hand to his brow in anguished realization. "My weapons collection! Nephrite's wine collection! All that good booze, gone!"
"You're lucky to be alive," Usagi pointed out, trying to sound sharp while she bit back laughter. Kunzite didn't miss the sparkle of amusement in her bright blue eyes, but he suddenly sobered.
"Luck had nothing to do with it, Usako," he said softly, his voice a caress. He lifted her chin with a gentle hand as she blushed and cast down her gaze. "It was you."
She smiled a rather wobbly smile, and he bent to kiss her again, briefly. Then he gazed down at her silently.
"You're too young."
She stiffened, bridling. "I'm old enough to know my own mind!"
He quirked a half smile, though his eyes were flat with pain. "And just how would your parents react to me?"
Usagi winced. She could remember how her father had gone ballistic when she had just hinted at having a boyfriend. Her mother hadn't been worried at the time, but now there was the age thing. Kunzite was at least five years older than she was. That would surely get to her mother, and she didn't even want to think what her father would say. In three or four years it wouldn't make too much trouble, and in five it would cease to matter, but right now....
Kunzite smiled warmly, causing her heart to flutter and her troubled thoughts to scatter. "I'm just thinking you should wait a few years before you start wearing this."
She gasped as he drew his hand out of his jacket pocket and pressed a small velvet-covered black box into her fingers. Gulping, she snapped the top open.
It wasn't big, but it wasn't small either. It was cut into a perfect shape, and it shone with an inner fire that declared it to be a diamond of the highest quality. Her own miniature ginzuishou. Her hands were shaking as she closed the box. She didn't dare to put it on her finger, not even to try it on, for she knew that if she did she'd never be able to force herself to take it off again. And *then* what would her parents say?
She clasped the box tightly to her chest and stared up at him, tears trailing bright down her smooth cheeks. "It'll be hard not to wear it," she husked.
Kunzite gently brushed the tears away with warm fingertips. "I know." He pulled her close and rested his cheek against the top of her head as she leaned on his broad shoulder. "But I had to make the promise real."
Usagi blinked back further tears and wrapped her arms about his waist. They fit together so perfectly, belonged together. She still had the ability to choose, the responsibility for making her own decisions. But she had made her choice long ago, and just because it was fated didn't mean she wasn't in control.
"How about that breakfast?" she asked, straightening.
"Hai," Kunzite smiled, grasping her hand and leading her out of the nook. His dark face glowed with love and life. Usagi felt more happiness than she had known a heart could hold.
She may not have her Prince Charming, but here was a Shadow Knight of her very own. If he had ridden in darkness, well, so had she. And if his armor had been a little tarnished, it was bright and new now. The maiden had slain the dragon, and won her own freedom and the freedom of her hero.
"I love you," she whispered into his mind.
"Forever," he replied.
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