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Blood Moon- Part 7
by becca-oneechan

I meant to try to keep this fanfic under 6 or 7 parts, but there's just no way! It now looks like it'll be at least 10 or possibly more. Whatever.

I gotta say, in this Part, I am really flying blind with this Queen Metallia thing. I'm just making it up as I go (not that I haven't been all along, but now I'm really flying blind). So don't judge me to harshly. Please?

"Sailor Moon" is the property of Takeuchi Naoko.

--Blood Moon--
"Pt 7- Puzzling Pieces"

"This is insane!" Usagi declared mentally to Kunzite, gazing hopelessly down upon the sea of youma warriors camped before Queen Metallia. She and her two companions were crouched at the edge of a cliff set high up in the wall of the huge cavern, surveying the situation without the risk of being seen. "There are so many of them!" she continued. "We'll never be able to get through!"

"Well, you're the one who wanted to bring down the entire Dark Kingdom," Kunzite answered irritably, scowling at her. "All I wanted was Beryl's death, and we did that already."

"You were also planning to off yourself in the process," Usagi snapped. "Or were you still thinking that was a good idea? 'Cause I'm sure Venus and I could use you as a grand decoy!"

"You're a nasty little bitch, aren't you?" Kunzite asked, giving her an unfriendly look.

Minako, who was by necessity not privy to their squabbling, nonetheless could feel it like an annoying buzzing in the back of her head, and there could be no missing the angry glares the two were exchanging. She'd had enough, and smacking first Usagi then Kunzite on the arms, she turned and stalked away.

They glanced at each other, then followed, both looking slightly shamefaced. The rag-tag group ducked back inside the secret passage they had taken to bring them to this cliff. Kunzite levered the door closed, then turned as Minako lit into them.

"What are you two thinking?! Are you trying to get us caught? Can't you get along for a few seconds? I thought you had this tight bond! I mean, you can speak mind to mind for God's sake! What's wrong with you?"

Kunzite eyed her suspiciously. "How do you know about the bond?" he asked before Usagi could start spouting apologies or babbling explanations. "We never had a chance to tell you about that."

Minako folded her arms and rolled her eyes -- or, rather, rolled the eye not swollen closed. She made an interesting sight, taking on a cloak of dignity when she was covered in dried blood and clad only in the shreds of a fuku, her many bruises, and Usagi's uniform top, but it was also clear she was quite angry.

"I know because I know," she replied tightly, glaring at Kunzite more fiercely than Usagi had been doing. "I know because she's my princess, and there's a bond between us that's deeper and more natural than your bonding! I know because she's in my heart, and because I'm not blinded like the rest of the senshi, and because I'm just plain not stupid!!"

She was nearly yelling the last, and Kunzite tried frantically to hush her, though he didn't dare to touch her in her present state of mind. So it was Usagi who had to clap a hand over her friend's mouth.

"Minako, please!"

Minako quieted, though she didn't relax. Apparently she was well over her previous trauma. Before, she had turned to Kunzite as the only other person who remembered the past that she couldn't escape. Now she stared at him as though she could barely stand the sight of him, and he was looking at her much the same way. Their brief understanding was ended, and they now each saw the other as a rival.

"Please, you two! Minako-chan, at least when Kunzite and I fight, we don't yell!"

Kunzite smirked at Minako, who stuck her tongue out with such a nasty expression on her face that this looked less childish and more like a real insult than it might have otherwise. He snarled, but held his peace.

"And Kunzite," Usagi turned to her erstwhile ally. "Minako's right. We shouldn't be arguing. This is way too important for that."

The king sighed, but nodded briefly. "All right, all right. I'll try not to argue. But you started it."

"I--" Usagi broke off and gave this some thought as Minako glared at Kunzite as though she might be able to turn him to stone where he stood. "Oh. I guess you're right," Usagi said sheepishly. Minako looked at her in surprise, then her good eye narrowed as she recognized something.

"It's no big deal." Now it was Kunzite's turn to sound apologetic. "It's just that you were always the one goading me on, telling me not to give up, and then you started whining about it being impossible...."

"I know, I know. And I'm sorry. But I wasn't serious. Or, well, not totally. Though I still don't see what we can do about that," she waved a hand toward the door behind Kunzite. "Just the three of us? Even if we found the senshi and convinced them to work with us, I still don't see what we could do!"

"That's because you're thinking of it as a matter of force," Minako spoke up suddenly. Her arms were still folded, but she seemed to be mostly over her earlier bad humor, and she was giving the matter some serious thought. Kunzite looked at her and opened his mouth, then prudently shut it again and just nodded in agreement.

"What do you mean?" Usagi asked, perplexed.

"Think back." Now it was Kunzite's turn to answer. "How did you kill Queen Beryl? You didn't carve your way through the youma, like you wanted."

"No, that was me," Minako put in, with a crooked grin. Then she gasped and stared at Usagi. "You didn't!"

Usagi flushed. "Well, no, not really. But I wasn't thinking too clearly, and I didn't want to have to use that awful knife."

"But it worked in the end," Kunzite said, folding his own arms.

Usagi bit her lip, but she couldn't disagree.

"Is there a back door to Queen Metallia?" Minako asked curiously. Usagi looked at Kunzite hopefully, but he shook his head.

"No. Nothing like that. I'm just trying to say that we don't necessarily have to fight our way through all the youma to take her out."

"But you don't have any ideas as to how we can manage it?" Minako sounded disappointed, not belligerent, and she sighed as Kunzite shook his head soberly. "Damn."

"Maybe we should go find the other senshi," Usagi suggested. "Maybe Mercury will listen to us. We could sure use her brains here. And Artemis should listen to you. And maybe Luna won't really kill me." Her face twisted and she bit her lip anxiously. "Jeeze, I've sure made a mess of things, haven't I?" she asked unhappily.

"Not as badly as me," Minako replied, chewing on her own lip, her brows contracting. Kunzite stifled a foolish grin as he noticed how similar the two girls looked. There could be no mistaking their kinship. When he had known them in the Silver Millennium they had both been several years older, and hadn't looked so much alike, but now they were young, their features still soft and uncertain, and there was little to chose between the two of them. Though Usagi's face was sweeter, and Minako's more sharp.

"Well, I think Ma-- I mean, Sailor Jupiter would join us," Minako said, glancing quickly at Kunzite as she stumbled over her fellow senshi's name. "But I also think the less people we have to worry about, the better off we are. Besides, I really don't want to face Mars any time soon."

Usagi frowned in thought. She'd been hurting too much and too worried over Kunzite to take much notice of what had happened after Mars blasted Kunzite and, indirectly, herself, but she thought.... "Did you hit her?"

Minako flushed painfully. "Well, sorta...."

Kunzite laughed. "Sorta?"

Minako bit her lip and glanced at him from under her lashes. "Well...."

"You should've seen it," Kunzite told Usagi, grinning widely, clearly relishing the memory. "She took that moon stick of yours and just whacked Sailor Mars upside the jaw! It was great!"

Minako was bright red. "I shouldn't have done that," she said glumly. "She's not gonna forgive me. Ever."

Usagi was starting to remember a little. "Well, she can't be mad forever... can she?"

She looked at Kunzite doubtfully. He shrugged.

"I have no idea. She's not my friend, and I really don't know why she was ever yours!"

Usagi blinked, suddenly realizing Kunzite was picking up knowledge of her past fights with Rei through their bond, and that he did not find them acceptable. She also realized that, for a wonder, she really didn't mind this sharing, and further, that Kunzite's disapproval of Rei's harsh treatment of her made her feel warm and safe inside. She smiled at him tentatively, and he cleared his throat uncomfortably.

"But if I may be so brash as to change the subject," he said, cocking one brow, "I have two questions for you."


"Yes. The first is this: just what made you start using Sailor Venus' Earth name in front of me?"

"Oops!" Usagi gulped.

Minako looked up, shaken out of her dark thoughts. "I don't mind," she assured her friend, though she suddenly looked a little anxious. She hadn't even noticed when Usagi had started calling her Minako, nor had she really taken in the fact that Kunzite called Usagi by her real name. She recalled her own near-slip with Mako-chan's name, and wondered just why it was so easy to give away the identities they usually guarded so fiercely to this man.

"I... I don't know...." Usagi squirmed where she stood. "This... uh," she looked at Kunzite miserably. "This is different from when you called me by my name, isn't it?"

Kunzite ran a hand through his hair, seeming almost to regret having raised the subject. "Yeah, a little. Don't worry, I'm not planning on using it against either of you. But I just wondered why you'd gotten so careless. You can't really trust me that much--"

"Well, maybe I do!" Usagi glared at him, her little chin coming up in defiance.

Kunzite looked at her in surprise, while Minako became speculative.

"Still, it wasn't your secret to give away. I know her name from the Moon, but that's not the same thing, or the same name for that matter. A name grants power over its bearer, if someone knows how to use it right."

Usagi blushed, and struggled to form words. "I-- I...."

"I know," Minako said quietly, suddenly struck with the answer.



The ragged, bloodied girl quirked a brow at them and grinned, finding a bit of amusement in her disturbing realization, or, rather, in the fact that she of the three had been the only one to make it. "Don't be so silly, the two of you. It's so clear."

"Please, enlighten us, o brilliant one," Kunzite said, his voice sardonic, but his dark face curious.

Minako grinned more sharply, but she also looked a little pained. "Usagi used my real name because it's how she was thinking of me. Face it, I don't have much left to me of my Sailor Venus persona. Just the tiara and a bunch of rags that used to be a fuku. And the reason she didn't mind calling me by my real name in front of you is because her instincts didn't place any distinction between you and herself." Of course, that didn't explain her own slip, but she was coming to conclusions about that, as well, and these were ideas she wasn't going to pursue too deeply. She tried to ignore them as Kunzite sputtered.

"What? Tha-that's ridicu...." Then he thought about it. "Oh. Maybe you're right. Shit."

"Don't swear," Usagi said primly. Her mind wasn't really on the conversation between Minako and Kunzite. She was ready to take her friend's explanation at face value, and didn't dwell on the implied ramifications for even a moment. She dismissed the entire matter with a flippant wave of her hand. "So what's the other question?"

Kunzite still looked shaken, but he gathered himself and returned his thoughts to the situation at hand. "The second question is the important one."

"So spit it out already!"

"I was wondering... just what in the *hell* are we accomplishing, standing here, shooting the breeze?"

The two girls stared at him, wide-eyed, then they both blushed, almost in unison.

"Well, we can't just run out and start attacking youma," Minako said seriously. "I did that before, but I didn't have to worry about my princess, and even though I had the ginzuishou with me, that part was a mistake."

"Besides, you're hardly dressed for battle," Kunzite added dryly. Minako blushed as he gave her long, lean legs a close look. Usagi scowled and hurried to distract him.

"What about Prince Endymion?"

"He's down there," Kunzite answered, his face twisting distastefully. "He's in the center, camped directly in front of Queen Metallia. Unless we come up with something brilliant, we're going to have to go through him to get to her."

"But--" Usagi frowned. "But the main reason to do this is to free him!"

Neither Kunzite nor Minako looked very pleased to hear this declaration.

"I thought the main reason was to protect your world?"

"I-- uh...."

"Besides, I only said we have to get through him, not that we have to kill him. And if we can come up with some way to get *around* him, that's even better."

"I could take him," Minako sneered confidently, folding her battered arms.

Kunzite cocked a brow, but didn't argue.

"Minako-chan...." Usagi wasn't quite sure what to say.

Minako flushed. "But I guess we should still try to come up with something brilliant," she added quickly, then sighed. "Go for it, Kunzite."

He gave her an exasperated look, but said nothing.

"Well, whatever we decide, we better do it quickly," Usagi said anxiously. "Every minute we waste, Queen Metallia comes closer to waking, and Prince Endymion assembles more forces against us!" She looked at Kunzite. "Uh, right?" she asked uncertainly. He and Minako were staring at her in shock.

"Well, yeah." Fortunately Kunzite left it at that, so Usagi merely beamed and didn't become offended or hurt. Minako swallowed quickly and tried to smile.

"So, what do you think we should do?" she asked Usagi.

Usagi's pale brow furrowed in thought. "I have no idea," she finally declared.

The other two let out their breath. Well, it had been too much to hope....

"I have an idea," Minako said suddenly. "But you're not going to like it."

"Why not?" asked Usagi innocently.

Kunzite gave Minako a sharp look, suddenly suspicious of her grim expression. "Oh no you don't," he said, almost angrily.

She glared at him. "If it's the only way--"

"We don't know that yet! We still have a little longer to try to think of something else!"

"You guys are doing it again!" Usagi said loudly, more put-out than simply whining. "I thought Kunzite and I were supposed to be the ones who understood without explanations! Now, what are you talking about? Tell me! Now!"

"In a minute."

She scowled blackly at Kunzite, but he was lost in thought. Minako just stared down at the stony floor, turning red and white by turns, and refusing to meet Usagi's eyes. Usagi snorted furiously, but then she decided certain things outweighed her own frustration, and she also began thinking as hard and fast as she could.

Sailor Jupiter slumped dejectedly against the tunnel wall, her arms hanging, her head heavy. She was feeling rather useless and particularly hopeless. "This stinks!" she sighed.

Artemis, sitting at her feet, looked up. Then he blushed as he realized he was staring up her skirt. Even if it was only a fuku, that was still too much. He gave a mighty leap and landed on the girl's shoulder.

"Cheer up, Jupiter," he said, trying to sound full of comfort, not prickly with anxiety like he really felt. "Things could be worse."

"How?" she asked bleakly.

"Well.... No one's dead yet."

She cast him a dark look. "Gee, thanks," she said dryly. But she seemed to shake off her deep funk a little, and glanced over to where Sailor Mercury and Luna were huddled together over Mercury's computer.

"Whatcha looking for?" she asked.

Sailor Mercury looked up fiercely, ready to defend herself against sarcasm or accusations, but Sailor Jupiter only looked curious, and rather weary. Even a little sad perhaps. Mercury's face softened, and she smiled sweetly, trying to be as reassuring as she could. Under the circumstances, it was more the thought that counted, but Jupiter's stiff shoulders relaxed a little.

"It would be more correct to ask who we were looking for," Sailor Mercury said, lifting Luna onto her shoulder and standing.

"Yeah? So, who ya looking for?"

"Everyone. That is, I have a trace on Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars, Sailor Venus, and Prince Endymion. I haven't got the information to search for Kunzite, but I think it's fairly obvious by now that wherever Sailor Moon is, he will be nearby."

"Venus should be with her too, right?" Sailor Jupiter asked anxiously.

"Oh, I rather think so," Mercury said, distracted by a small flashing light on her computer screen.

"You can count on it," Artemis put in. "Now that she's found her princess, nothing but death will part her from Selene's side."

"Who? Oh, you mean Usagi." Jupiter straightened as she caught the frown on Mercury's soft face. "What is it? Did you find someone?"

"I-- Yes. That is, it's found Sailor Mars. And I think it's picking up Prince Endymion, but the signal is flaring, as though a stronger force is interfering with the reading."

"Well, duh!" Sailor Jupiter said, not unkindly. "If he's been taken over by the Dark Kingdom--"

Sailor Mercury was shaking her head. "No, no. You see, I compensated for that. I got some new readings on him earlier, and I should be picking him up as clearly as I am Sailor Mars. Except that there's that interference I spoke of."

"It must be Queen Metallia!" Luna suddenly realized.

"Oh, of course!" Sailor Mercury smiled, relieved to have the puzzle explained. Then her face darkened as she looked more closely at her readings. "Oh no!"

"What is it?"

"According to this, Sailor Mars is rapidly moving closer to the position held by Prince Endymion."

Sailor Jupiter grimaced. "That's not good. We better hurry and catch her up, huh?"

Artemis was frowning. "What about Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus?" he asked.

Sailor Mercury tapped a couple of buttons, then shook her head. "According to this readout, my computer is drawing a complete blank on Sailor Moon. It's almost as though she didn't even exist any longer. As for Sailor Venus, her signal is even more patchy than Prince Endymion's. It would take me days to pinpoint it." She looked up, her dark eyes confused. "What is going on?"

"I'm afraid I have no idea," Artemis said. It didn't sound as though he was speaking the entire truth, but no one was inclined to try calling him on it.

"Well, then, it sounds to me like Mars is our best bet," Sailor Jupiter said, cracking her knuckles. "Come on, Mercury. Lead the way, and let's go see if we can't keep her from killing herself off in whatever fool plan she's got in her head."

"I fear I must concur," Sailor Mercury said, craning her neck to peer at Luna anxiously. The small black cat didn't look any too happy, but she didn't argue.

"All right then, girls," Artemis said. "Let's get this show on the road. Cheer up, Luna. If Mars is headed for Endymion, we may run across Usagi and Minako yet!"

She nodded thoughtfully, and the last remnant of the once solid team of Sailor Senshi moved off.

Prince Endymion knelt and bowed deeply before the pulsing red mass that was now his sole ruler. He hung his dark head in shame.

"I allowed my queen to be killed," he told Queen Metallia, his voice low. He was more upset over his failure than he was over Queen Beryl's death, but then, he had never actually loved the woman. "And I was beaten by a mere slip of a girl." That was a wound that weltered far deeper and far more painfully than Beryl's demise.

"Cry me a river," Queen Metallia replied derisively. Prince Endymion's head shot up and he stared at the trapped being in shock.


"If Beryl was stupid enough to allow her own death, then her passing is of no concern to me. You did not fail her. She failed me, and is better off gone. And as for that 'mere slip', she is one of the greatest fighters you will ever face, for she has the whole force of her spirit, and the whole hatred of her heart behind her. You fought well, and it is lucky for us both that you escaped with your life."

Strangely, this didn't seem to make Endymion feel any better about his near-defeat by Sailor Venus. But he wasn't foolish enough to argue with Queen Metallia. "As you say, great Queen."

"You needn't toady up to me any longer. You're all I have left, now that Beryl got herself killed and that rat, Kunzite, has turned on me."

Endymion snarled. He still had it in for the one remaining king, in addition to Sailor Venus. "Please, great Queen, grant that it is my hand that deals the final blow to that traitor!"

"No! He is mine. You shall be avenged upon the warrior of Venus, but the renegade worm who dared to turn and strike back at his mistress shall perish by the hand of none other than that same mistress!"

Endymion was pissed, and forgot to be less than utterly respectful. "But you have no hands! Let me do it for you! Great will be the glory of--"

"Shut up!"

Wisely, Prince Endymion shut up.

"Now, listen to me! I am ready to emerge. All I need now is the proper vessel in which to quicken myself, and I will do what I want with my hands! Find me such a vessel, and quickly, and I may forgive you your insolence!"

"Yes, great Queen," Endymion answered meekly, properly cowed. "But where shall I find the proper vessel? None of these lowly youma will do for your magnificence."

He may have been sucking up, but as it happened, Queen Metallia heartily agreed. "Darkness forfend! No, I shall not take one of those weak and repulse bodies! Bring me a strong, young, beautiful body. A female in the first blush of her womanhood!"

"Majesty, I mean no disrespect, but where am I to find such a person?" Prince Endymion asked anxiously. "I know that once you are freed we need have no fears, but until that time you are vulnerable, no matter how many youma there are to protect you. And our enemy are sly and ruthless. I fear for your safety."

"And thusly for your own." It was a statement, not a question, and Endymion shrugged, seeing no need to deny it. Queen Metallia approved. "Good. I know you shall try all the harder when you know your own life hangs in the balance. But fear not. Providence may serve when plans go awry. Behold, a perfect subject approaches even now, intent upon finding you. If you can reach her before the youma kill her, she shall come to you willingly. I shall have my new form, and we shall fight side by side!"

Immediately into Prince Endymion's mind sprang an image of Sailor Mars making her way cautiously toward the great room holding Queen Metallia. She had so far encountered no youma, but she was on the alert, ready to attack, and her eyes flamed with stubborn fury.

"Perfect," he hissed, grinning sharply. "Great Queen, it shall be as you command!"

He stood and bowed briefly to the pulsing red mass, then warped away. Sailor Mars was nearly to the first ambush, and if he wanted to get Queen Metallia's new body to her undamaged, he must reach the senshi before the youma guard did.


"But, Usagi-chan--"

"No! It's a stupid, stupid idea, and I won't let you do it!!"

Usagi stared at Minako fiercely, her eyes flashing, her cheeks flushed, her chest heaving with barely contained fury. Minako stared back stubbornly. Kunzite was, for the moment, keeping out of it.

"I've already been through this with him!" Usagi said angrily, flinging out a hand and nearly catching Kunzite in the eye. He dodged and took a step backward, but prudently held his peace.


"NO!" Usagi nearly shrieked the word, but neither shushed her. Even if any of the youma heard her, there was no way to open the secret door from the outside. Besides, she wouldn't have listened to them. Usagi continued in fury. "Minako no baka! If I won't let one of my enemies kill himself off, what in the HELL makes you think I'll let one of my best friends -- my sister, for pity's sake! -- do the same thing?! Because that's what it amounts to in the end, and you damn well know it!!"

Minako's eyes suddenly filled with tears. "It would be worth it if you were safe! It would be worth it if you were happy!"

Usagi stared at her in shock. "But how could I be happy if you were dead?" she asked softly.

Minako burst into tears and threw her arms around Usagi's neck, sobbing against her shoulder. Usagi held her tightly.

"I just want to be at peace!" Minako sobbed. "I just want to escape!"

"You mean because you remember?" Usagi asked hoarsely, seconds away from tears of her own. Minako nodded wordlessly, her face buried in the crook of Usagi's neck. She didn't seem to want to pull away, but that was all right, because Usagi wasn't about let go of her.

She glanced at Kunzite, her lashes damp. "Not that we're still enemies," she assured him huskily. "But we were when I yelled at you about killing yourself off."

He nodded shortly, his mouth twisted. He was obviously very uncomfortable, and he moved a few paces back down the tunnel, then leaned against the wall and turned his face away, waiting for the two girls to finish.

"Minako, I know I can't know how bad it is for you," Usagi said. "But I'm certain death would be a whole lot worse! I don't-- I just--"

"It's okay, Usagi-chan," Minako said, straightening and sniffing as she scrubbed her cheeks. "I know what you mean, even if you can't find the words."

"I want to," Usagi said helplessly, reluctantly releasing Minako. She grabbed one of her friend's hands in her own. "I want to tell you all that I feel inside me, but I just can't get the words to come together in my mind!"

Minako squeezed her hands. "It's all right, Usagi-chan, really. I can feel what you mean."

"You can?"

Minako nodded soberly. Then her face lighted up with the rush of love and well being Usagi sent to her, heart to heart. She almost smiled, though she couldn't quite manage it.

"Arigato," she said softly, and embraced Usagi briefly, but tightly.


Usagi looked worried as Minako jerked back and clutched at her chest. "Maybe you better take the ginzuishou for just a little longer," she said, flicking her wrist, then holding the moon stick out to her friend. "After all, it's not like we're in battle right now, and you're not going to be able to face any youma with three cracked ribs!"

Kunzite glanced over in startlement.

Minako was embarrassed, but she accepted the moon stick. "I guess it's true what they say about adrenaline," she said.

Usagi grinned, restored to good humor. "Yes, but when it wears off, then you're in trouble."

"So, are we over any foolish ideas of taking on the entire youma army on our blessed little own?" Kunzite queried cautiously, moving back over to where the two girls stood.

Minako made a face at him. "I guess we are. If I can't even hug my friend, then providing a distraction is definitely out."

"I don't want to reopen wounds here," Kunzite said, frowning anxiously. "But I wanted to say something."

"What?" asked Minako.

"Well, I know you have several years to go yet, but you do realize that it will probably get a whole lot easier for you once you get beyond the age you were at your first death?"

Minako blinked, then blinked again. "You're right! I hadn't thought of that! Only four years...."

Kunzite grimaced, but the girl seemed greatly cheered. And of course, if Minako was now happy, Usagi was now happy.

"How come you remember so much more than anyone else?" she asked Minako, sensing that it was now a fairly safe subject.

Minako frowned in thought and irreverently scratched her chin with the point of the moon stick. The ginzuishou was really doing its work. She looked better already. It couldn't do anything about the blood that coated her almost head to toe -- about equal parts youma blood and her own -- but her bruises and deeper cuts were rapidly fading. She could nearly open her blackened eye, and the thick scab above her left eye had faded to a smooth, pink scar beneath her tattered bangs.

"I'm not sure..." she said finally. "I was remembering parts of it even before Artemis found me, but mostly it came to me as dreams. I kept dreaming about the final battle and my death. My parents even took me to see a psychiatrist, but it didn't do any good. It just taught me to keep my dreams a secret."

Kunzite looked at her sympathetically. "And I'll bet when your guardian found you it got worse."

"Well, worse and better," Minako said thoughtfully. "The first time he had me transform into Sailor V, everything flooded back. All the memories, tangling in my brain, fighting with my current memories. I thought I might go crazy or something. But it was also sort of a relief, to know that those awful dreams I'd been having most of my life were actually memories, not some kind of psychosis."

"Oh, poor Minako-chan!" Usagi cried, throwing her arms around Minako's waist. "Oops! Did I hurt?"

Minako shook her head and smiled lovingly at her friend. "No. I guess my ribs are fine now. Do you want this back?"

Usagi refused the moon stick. "We still haven't decided what to do. Just keep it a little longer, until I know you're totally healed!"

"All right," Minako said agreeably enough. Usagi remained at her side, resting her head against Minako's shoulder. She yawned.

"I wish we had time to take a nap," she said plaintively.

Minako and Kunzite shared a small grin. There was the Sailor Moon they were used to.

"Afraid not, Usagi-chan," Kunzite said absently, losing himself in thought once again. Minako's brows rose, but she didn't comment. Usagi merely closed her eyes and pretended to herself that she was trying to think.

"Isn't there something all three of us can do, together?" Minako asked Kunzite. He looked at her in surprise. She flushed. "Well, I mean... you've got the bond to Usagi through whatever means you used."

"Allandrey's Trust," Kunzite supplied absently.

Minako gasped. "Holy-- You used the Everblade?! How dumb are you?!"

Usagi opened her eyes anxiously, but Kunzite didn't grow angry. He just shook his head wearily. "I know, I know. Don't start on me, okay?"

Minako bit her lip -- which had healed completely -- and shook her own head in turn. "All right," she said softly. "Well, anyway, you two have that bonding, which is complete and irreversible, by the way."

Kunzite scowled and Usagi looked worried. Minako continued. "And then there's my bond with Usagi-chan, which is due to the fact that she's the leader of the senshi, and...." She hesitated.

"And I really doubt that the fact that the two of you are half-sisters hurts," Kunzite added.

Minako nodded. "That too," she said without thinking.

"Ne?" Usagi queried, looking up at her.

"Hm...." Kunzite gave her a piercing glance as she turned bright red, then, gallantly, he came to her rescue. "I see what you're saying. There's power to be tapped through these connections."

Usagi pulled away from Minako and bounced on the balls of her feet. "We're gonna do it!" she crowed, her eyes glowing. She clapped her hands together. "We're really gonna do it!"

Kunzite and Minako looked at her, then at each other, sharing a matched pair of broad, affectionate smiles. "You bet your ass!" Minako said, rather inelegantly.

Ah! There was his quarry. Prince Endymion grinned wickedly to himself and then quickly wiped the expression from his face as he stepped from the shadows.

"Sailor Mars!"

Sailor Mars, who had jerked into an attacking stance faltered and almost fell. Prince Endymion felt a flash of disgust. She was leaving herself open to a weakness so deep that he could easily destroy her, if he so wished. But that wasn't what he was here for.

"Mamo-chan!" she cried, her dark eyes widening.

Prince Endymion restrained a grimace. There was that name again! Why did all the senshi insist on calling him by it? It was such a foolish, weak name. And it wasn't even his!

"Sailor Mars." He plastered a false expression of concern on his face. "I need your help!"

"My help?" At least she had the good sense to be suspicious. But not suspicious enough.

He held out his hand. "Please, come with me. I need you."

Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Mercury, and the two cats arrived just a little too late. They weren't in time to see Prince Endymion warp away with Sailor Mars' limp body, but on Mercury's computer the other senshi's pattern suddenly disappeared, then began flickering fitfully, the same as Prince Endymion's.

"Oh no!" Sailor Mercury cried woefully.

"Shit!" Sailor Jupiter spat.

"Damn!" Artemis cursed.

"We're in trouble now," Luna summed up.

: : Part 8: Traitor's Return : :

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