She was tired, she was lonely, and she was cold, Usagi vaguely rationalized as she stared blankly at the temple wall. She knew there was nothing physically wrong with her anymore (Ami had said that enough around her for at least that to sink in). She just couldn't seem to wake up, and truth be told, she didn't really want to. After the main demon was destroyed. . . That was the last thing she remembered clearly.
Usagi could see it even now, without closing her eyes: the demon had been sliced in half, but everyone had been too tired from the fight to be excited about their victory. She'd released Mamoru from the support she'd been giving him and turned to where Vegita had stood only a second before. He was gone, vanished. ChibiUsa attached herself to Usagi's waist, and Usagi knew suddenly why he was gone: Koneko. She didn't remember detransforming back to plain Usagi, and nothing after that was clear.
She was stuck in a sort of living nightmare. She felt like a zombie, a ghost stuck in her body's shell. Usagi knew she was living alternately in Lina's apartment and in Rei's temple, which she knew the guys, mainly Gokou, had just finished rebuilding, but little else registered, and what did register never really mattered. It was usually just one of the Senshi checking on her, anyway.
Face. Dark red eyes. Auburn hair. Yellow shirt. Black bandanna. Lina. Not a Senshi after all, per se.
"Usagi-chan, are you even in there anymore?" Lina brushed her blonde hair from her eyes. "The fight with that monster too so much out of you," she paused, trying to get Usagi to meet her eyes, "or is it something else?" She stared at her expectantly, anxiously awaiting an answer.
Long black hair. Violet eyes. White and red robe. Mars. Rei. She felt the corner of her mouth twitch up just slightly.
"Nothing at all," answered Lina.
Rei's face came in closer to hers. "Usagi?" A short, sharp blink was all the response she got. "Damn it, Usagi! Say something!"
"Rei!" Lina returned, protectively putting her arms around Usagi's shoulders. "Don't yell at her! She's going to snap out of it sooner or later."
"Lina, it's been two years! She's a vegetable!"
Usagi winced at the reference, and Lina's arms tightened. "She's not, Rei! Now shut up!"
"This all started when he disappeared! I bet if you find him, she'll wake up! I knew she liked him better than Mamoru-san!"
"Well, Vegita's still missing," Lina returned, making a point of saying his name in front of Rei. "Even Gokou and Ami can't track him down. He might as well have fallen off the face of this earth!"
They hadn't found him yet, she noted. That mattered. She sank back within herself, and the ongoing argument around her faded.
"Any change?" Gohan asked Lina, looking up expectantly.
"The lights are on, but no one's home," Rei dryly commented.
"For whatever reason, she just doesn't want to wake up enough to talk to us," Lina continued, her eyes shooting Rei daggers. If looks could kill. . ., she wished to herself.
"Well, I need to get to school. Dad's out on patrol for now. Ja!" The boy ran out the door with a quick wave of his hand.
Deep within the coldest part of the earth, where no life should stir, the faint illumination glinted upon a piece of black ice. A figure surveyed it coolly, deep in thought. He needed a servant that resembled the people of this universe; this one might do. He had been imprisoned by the servant of his own sister, for failing to accomplish his mission.
There was the tiny problem of those silly Sailor Senshi who had defeated his sister. He had heard that they now had more Sailor Senshi and additional allies from other dimensions. No problem. This warrior he had chosen knew the identity of their leader, Sailor Moon.
With but a thought, he melted the dark ice imprisoning the man. He collapsed to the cold ground as soon as he was free, gasping for breath. "Jadeite. . ."
The man looked up in shock. "You're. . ."
"Who I am is of no matter to you, Jadeite. I have heard that you know the identity of the Sailor Senshi's leader."
He stood tall and looked proudly at him. "I do."
"I want her. I want her on my side."
"It will be, my lord, as you say."
"Well, she has come a little ways," Gourry commented. Everyone looked up from what they were doing at the moment, namely raking leaves, to look toward the temple. "It's been a while since she's even been outside."
Usagi sat down on the bottom step and stared at the sky. Again she did not speak.
"You know what this reminds me of?" Minako asked suddenly. "When Mamoru-san was captured by the Dark Kingdom, Usagi-chan acted just like this."
"Until she got in a fight again," Rei commented. "Then she snapped out of it. A bit."
"Should we stage a battle then?" Gohan asked. "Do you think it would wake her up?"
"It might," Makoto answered hesitantly. "The time we actually get peace, we start asking for an enemy."
"Anything to wake Usagi-chan up," Ami firmly stated.
Gohan's head popped up, and he looked around. "Do you guys feel that?"
Only Lina and Rei nodded. "It feels familiar, like someone we fought before."
"Someone dark and powerful," continued Lina. "He's somewhere nearby, lurking in the shadows."
"How nearby, Miss Lina?"
Lina glared at Amelia. "That's Gokou's department, not mine."
"Everyone!" Luna yelled from the temple steps next to Usagi. "Get ready! It looks like the Dark Kingdom!" Usagi never stirred.
"Here?" Rei exclaimed.
Minako followed her closely with, "Now? I thought after Beryl was toasted, that was it!"
Ami seemed to be thinking more clearly. "Apparently someone else was able to cross over from the other side," she reasoned. "Maybe something like Beryl. We need the Outers and the others."
"I'll get the Outers," Gohan volunteered. "Gourry, can you get Zelgadis and Dad?"
"Gourry?" Artemis said warningly. "You should take your sword."
Lina blinked in surprise and stared at the white cat as the two guys left. "You're awfully worried about this, aren't you?"
"All the Inner Senshi were all killed by the Dark Kingdom. Prince Endymion was kidnapped and brainwashed by them; he fought with them until the Princess healed him, right before his death. It took the power of the Princess and the Moon Crystal and the spirits of the Inners to defeat Beryl, and then the Princess died," he explained. He looked over at Usagi.
Luna picked up. "She isn't in the shape to use the Crystal, and she's the only one who can." She moved into Usagi's lap, but the young woman didn't seem to notice her.
"I'd give five million zenni to know what's going on in her head," Minako commented.
"Who knows?" Rei stated. "I never knew what went through her mind normally. No one could ever figure that out."
"Well, almost no one, Miss Rei," Amelia sadly said.
Rei nodded just as sadly, then straightened, and ordered, "Senshi! Transform! Mars Crystal Power, MAKE-UP!"
"Venus Crystal Power, MAKE-UP!"
"Jupiter Crystal Power, MAKE-UP!"
"Mercury Crystal Power, MAKE-UP!"
In a matter of seconds, the four women had been replaced with the Inner Senshi. Artemis looked at them and shook his feline head tiredly. "It won't be enough. We need a Sailor Moon."
Lina stared straight at him, and he visibly cringed away from her. "Sailor Moon isn't here now. But the Outer Senshi will be here soon, and in the meantime, you've got Amelia and me."
"Miss Lina?" Amelia said hesitantly, apparently not to eager to be included in that declaration.
Those two words had barely left her mouth when a fifteen-foot blue youma with three horns on its head appeared, flanked by four identical but smaller versions of itself done in white, yellow, red, and green.
"What kind of monsters are these?" Lina exclaimed.
Mercury was examining them through her VR visor and mini-computer. "Our kind," she replied. "They're Dark Kingdom youma."
"Piece of cake," Jupiter declared, cracking her knuckles. She was dying for a good fight, had been since they discovered no one could wake up Usagi. "Usagi, get inside!" She woodenly replied.
The green youma moved then, faster than any of the Senshi could see, almost as fast as Gokou tended to move, and slammed its elbow to Mercury's back. She yelled in pain and collapsed to the ground.
The yellow youma came next, a little slower (but still incredibly fast) and attacked Jupiter. She blocked a hit to her midrift with her knee then stumbled back. It hurt a lot more than it should have.
The red youma appeared behind Venus and yanked her hair. "Itai!" she yelled. "No fair! Venus Love-Me--" The youma hit her in the face, and she dropped the chain.
Mars looked around for the last two youma, they seemed to have vanished. She suddenly saw a blue arm heading toward her face. She ducked it and jumped over the leg sweep it attempted next, but only barely. This kind of fighting was much more Jupiter's arena than hers, although she was more than capable at it. Something grabbed her ankle and lifted her high in the air upside-down. She looked to see what had her; the horns had extended into tentacles.
That only leaves the white one, Lina thought, looking around the temple for it. A blast of energy hit her and Amelia from behind, knocking Amelia into her and throwing them both to the ground. She shrugged the young girl off her and briefly studied her opponent. While it was the smallest of the youma, it appeared to be the most powerful. Wouldn't have know it looking at it, she thought to herself. She shrugged and yelled, "Fire Ball!" It held up one hand and deflected the attack back at her and Amelia. She grabbed the girl and called out, "Ray Wing!" They shot into the air, narrowly missing being scorched. I've been around these Senshi too long, Lina muttered in her own mind. I'm starting to think and act like them!
All through the area surrounding the temple, the fighters were losing terribly. The youma weren't hurting them too badly, no worse than they could heal. It was very apparent something else was going on, and all of them could only hope the others showed up soon.
Jadeite stared at the nearly lifeless woman before him and tried to resist the urge to snap his fingers in front of his face. Her eyes were dull. If it wasn't for a slight awareness in them, he might have thought she was blind. Hell, if she wasn't breathing, he would have thought she was dead.
"This can't be Sailor Moon!" he muttered. "Not this lifeless vegetable."
She started ever so slightly, and a bit of the light returned to her eyes.
"So Sailor Moon is still in there," he commented, silently thanking whatever divine beings that still listened to him. His new master wanted Sailor Moon converted, and Jadeite was fairly certain that didn't include as an automaton. He leaned closer to her and grinned wickedly. "She won't be there much longer."
"They're keeping us busy for something!" Mars announced. She'd regained her footing, but she and all the others were still getting pummelled, even Lina. Tuxedo Kamen had showed up and now was fighting the green youma for Mercury as she searched out their enemies' weaknesses.
By now, a crowd had formed at the temple gate, including three television stations and nearly a dozen police officers. They all knew to stay out of the Senshi's way.
Suddenly there was an evil laugh from above. All the fighters looked up. Mars gasped in shock. Above her temple floated their first enemy: Jadeite. He held a struggling Usagi. Mars inanely thought, Well, she finally woke up. I'd be screaming if I was her. But Usagi was silent. "You idiots!" Jadeite taunted. "A few youma, and you abandon the very one you're supposed to protect!" He threw out a blast of dark energy that strengthened the already formidable youma. He looked in the distance, frowned, and vanished--with Usagi.
"Usagi!" Mars yelled.
"Usako!" screamed Tuxedo Kamen.
The news reporters took note of this, and each of them decided to run a special broadcast. One even managed to get world-wide coverage, provided he could find out the identity of the person kidnapped before five o'clock.
"This is impossible," he muttered. Jadeite winced, apparently anticipating great pain on his person. The shadow laughed; he wasn't as petty as Beryl had been. "She just can't be corrupted. No wonder she's the champion of love and justice."
"What would you like me to do with her?" Jadeite still looked nervous.
"Leave her there. Maybe while she's unconscious, she'll absorb enough dark energy to be converted. In the meantime, take a legion of youma and attack the Senshi again. Make sure you get stronger fighters this time; that Gokou guy took care of the last ones too easily." He sighed, an odd sound coming from a shadow. "What is happening in Tokyo?"
"Her," Jadeite nodded at Usagi, "face is plastered all over the city. I've heard she's made world-wide news, as a normal girl that the Sailor Senshi failed to protect. The Senshi are preparing to launch a search for her."
"Then send the youma now, before they can start. And the Senshi are being humiliated because they did not protect her?"
"Across the entire world. People in America and Europe even know about it."
The shadow smiled gleefully. "Wonderful!"
One of the subjects of their conversation, Usagi Tsukino, Sailor Moon, listened carefully to every word they said. She never would have suspected Jadeite would ever be back, but it made a kind of twisted sense: he was the only one of Beryl's generals they had not know for certain was dead. One of Zoicite's youma had killed Nephrite, she'd weakened Zoicite then Beryl had finished the job, and Kunzite had been destroyed by one of his own energy attacks that she had deflected. They had suspected Jadeite had been killed when Nephrite showed up, but apparently they had been wrong.
She couldn't move at all. Her entire body felt numb. She strongly suspected it was because they were trying to change her as they had done to Endymion.
Endymion! Tuxedo Kamen! The Senshi! Lina-chan! Amelia! Were they all right? Had they survived the youma? Jadeite and the shadow monster certainly talked like they were. But no one from the Dark Kingdom could be trusted. Trusting someone from the Dark Kingdom not to stab you in the back was like. . . trusting a Saiyajin not to eat, she noted almost wryly.
She had to get out of here, but even as she thought it, she knew it was impossible. In her weakened condition, thanks in part to all this attempted brainwashing, she was not going to be able to transform into Sailor Moon any time soon., and she would need Sailor Moon to escape. She would need her wings. She knew she couldn't depend on a rescue. If they were still alive, Jadeite and the shadow monster were sending even stronger youma after them, so that they wouldn't come looking for her. Even if that weren't so, they would never think to look in Beryl's old hideout; it was way too obvious, even for Jadeite.
It was hopeless.
Somewhere decidedly south of Usagi and west of the Senshi, a T.V. set was babbling on, oblivious to the fact its owner wasn't even watching it. In fact, he was all but ignoring it. For as much as he'd paid to get some of these news channels, one would think he'd watch them a lot more.
"Usagi Tsukino. . .," the announcer stated. The man froze in the middle of his training, not quite sure if he'd heard right. His suspicions that he had were proven correct when her face appeared on the screen. In half a second, he was in front of the set, raising the volume, ". . . was kidnapped yesterday from the Sendaii Hill Temple in Tokyo, Japan. According to our source, she was injured in one of the last battles Japan's Sailor Soldiers fought two years ago and has since remained in their care." Still injured? Usagi? No way. They were just saying that rather than announce to the world that she was Sailor Moon. Those Senshi could be devious when they tried. "We repeat that she has been kidnapped. . ."
He stopped listening as the words finally sank in. Usagi had been kidnapped? Her own Sailor Senshi, who were swore to protect their princess, had let her be taken?
". . . footage from the scene."
He redirected his attention to the screen. The Senshi, Tuxedo Kamen, and the two sorceresses were fighting creatures that looked like demons, and they were losing. Where the hell were the others? he angrily thought. A figure appeared above the temple. He looked rather wimpy to him. The man held a weakly struggling Usagi, who couldn't break his grip. Maybe she hadn't been able to recover from all that energy yet after all. The man laughed and said something he couldn't understand; the cameraman was too far away. The man fired a strange dark blast of energy at the youma, and they were visibly strengthened. His head turned to the right, then he vanished with Usagi. A moment later, Zelgadis and the others showed up, and the youma were easily defeated.
The shot cut back to the anchor. "It is believed that Ms. Tsukino may know the secret identities of the so-called Sailor Soldiers. From old footage from a Tokyo news station and from a radion station's security camera, we have identified her kidnapper. Although the name is most likely an alias, it is believed that he always goes by a variation of it: Jadeite."
Jadeite. . . That meant the Dark Kingdom. His mind went back to a moonlit night on a beach near Tokyo. "They sent Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoicite, and Kunzite after us. Once we got past all Beryl's generals, I - we fought the two of them combined at the North Pole." The North Pole. . . It was a long shot (after all, what kind of baka used the same base twice?), but it was worth a try.
A ball of white light formed around him, and Vegita flew north.
Jadeite really seems to be losing his touch, Usagi thought to herself. Only four guards. As Sailor Moon, I could beat them easily. She laughed to herself. Okay. I'm starting to sound like a Saiyajin now.
She tried to move her arms and legs, but they were still dead. She was starting to feel a little cold, despite the warmness of the cavern. It hurt to open her eyes and keep them open, and unconsciousness hit quickly for her.
The head youma, Akan, leaned over to check on her. She knew for a fact this very same procedure had worked on Prince Endymion, replacing Beryl's lost generals with him, but the energy just bounced off this girl.
She looked dead, and Jadeite would not be happy if that happened. She reached between the dark bands of energy and touched the prisoner. A bright flash of light came from the locket, and Akan yanked her arm back. The woman's clothes disappeared, only to be replaced by pink ribbons. After a moment, the ribbons settled, and Akan, like everyone else from the Dark Kingdom, recognized the prone figure: Princess Serenity! No wonder the negative energy didn't affect her; she was the Princess of the White Moon Kingdom and therefore was protected by the Moon Crystal.
Well, at least she wouldn't be going anywhere dressed like that, Akan thought to herself. She would freeze to death in seconds. "Idiotic Lunarians!" she muttered to herself as she walked back to her post.
Only to find it had been taken and her fellow guards destroyed by some shrimp about as tall as Sailor Moon. She'd been told exactly who to watch out for (the Sailor Senshi, Prince Endymion, a group of sorcerers, an idiot swordsman, and two fighters with tails); this guy was not on her list.
He uncrossed his arms and looked up at her. Despite the fact she was at least three feet taller, she couldn't help cowering before that glare. "Where is Usagi?" he demanded.
"Who?" she asked in confusion.
He rolled her eyes in disgust. "Sailor Moon?" He sounded really mad, and Akan really didn't want to end up like her fellow guards.
"There." She pointed to the table the Princess lay on. It looked as if she were inside the ribcage of some great beast, with the sides and foot and head protuding up like ribs. Dark bands of energy moved down her body. Akan knew it would be okay for her to touch them, but to this guy and the Princess, they would be like razor-sharp, impenetrable barriers. "You won't kill me, will you?"
He took his gaze off the unconscious Princess to smirk at her and patronizingly say, "Of course not." She highly suspected he was lying, but her only hope was that he was telling the truth. "Shut that machine down now."
"Only Master Jadeite is allowed to - "
"Do you want to live?" the little man interrupted.
"Um. . . Yes! Very much!" Akan replied.
"Then shut it off before I kill you." His voice was never raised the entire time, but Akan could sense his growing impatience. As she hurried to obey his will, she saw him shrug out of the heavy parka he'd been wearing, revealing a blue long-sleeved jumpsuit underneath it. He was definitely going to try to take the Princess out of here, but no matter how he got in, he'd freeze to death carrying her. The nearest settlement of humans was hundreds of miles away.
Once the machine was cut off, he easily lifted Princess Serenity, and a brown tail snaked out from behind him. That's when it dawned on Akan who he must be: the missing fighter from the other dimension! "You're Vegita, aren't you?" she asked.
He looked up from bundling her up in his parka and glared at her. "So you know who I am, ne?" He shrugged. "I guess you have to die now." He lifted his hand, palm facing Akan, and fired an energy blast at her. She was destroyed instantly, just like the others had been.
He was going to have to fly his fastest to get her to a town before she froze, he realized, looking down with a surprising amount of tenderness at the already pale woman in his arms; he should his head to clear it. Her gown looked pretty thin, but there was a lot of it. It should keep her legs warm, while that ridiculous parka he'd put on so people would stop staring at him would keep her upper body warm.
She moaned slightly and moved even closer at him, one hand grabbing a fistful of his jumpsuit. As carefully as he could possibly be, he lifted her and flew out of the Dark Kingdom sacutuary and south toward town.
Usagi could hear a heater going and told herself Jadeite was trying to trick her now. She cracked an eye open and looked around. She was in a motel room, as best she could tell, alone, dressed as Princess Serenity. How did that happen? she silently wondered.
The Princess slowly sat up, expecting bands of dark energy to rip through her flash at any moment, and tossed aside the blankets piled on her. The room was warm, just this side of hot, and it vaguely smelled like Mako-chan's cleaning solutions. This scent would play havoc on anyone with sensitive senses, she thought, remembering faintly Gokou and Gohan having sneezing fits for days when Makoto had cleaned the apartment all the guys were sharing.
I must be dreaming, she now reasoned. No way Jadeite and that shadow monster would just let me go.
She heard a hand touch the doorknob and almost got ready to fight, despite the facts she wasn't any good at it and she was not dressed for it. The door cracked open, and someone sneezed lightly. Definitely a dream; I know that silhouette. He can't be here.
"So you're finally awake."
I'm dreaming. She threw herself down to sit on the edge of the bed. I'm dreaming. Vegita is not here.
"You're not dreaming. Get that look off your face, or I'll take you back."
"Vegita?" she whispered. After so long in silence, it hurt to speak. "Are you really here?"
"Don't act like a baka, Usagi."
This definitely isn't a dream, she thought to herself. He wouldn't act like this in a dream. She didn't waste any more time with thoughts and flung herself at him, hugging him as tightly as she could. She felt him tense up and realized his first instinct in such a situation would be to kill her. Luna was right; she was too emotional. But she felt like she'd just woken up from a two-year nightmare; she couldn't help it. "Arigatou, Vegita," she whispered.
She shook her head, still not releasing him. "Nothing. Everything."
"You're so strange, Usagi," he stated. But he still didn't move. "You confuse me."
A big confession from Vegita. "I've. . .," she started to say, finally stepping back. "Are you sure this isn't a dream?"
"Usagi," he said warningly, "you're starting to act like a baka again."
"Gomen, Vegita. I'm just confused. All my memories are kind of funny," she explained, weakly sitting down on the bed again. "I feel sort of fuzzy all over."
His eyes swept over her, and she couldn't help looking down at herself in confusion. The way he was staring, one would think she had sprouted a tail. "Aren't you going to detransform, Princess?"
"No. This is warmer, Prince," she retorted, then blinked. Where had that come from? "Where were you exactly anyway, Vegita?"
He shrugged. "France."
She thought back to their second date. It made sense that he would go there. No one had believed that they had actually been flying the whole time. Well, except for when they'd briefly set down on top of the Eiffel Tower to see the entire Paris skyline [A.N.: Which, might I add, is quite lovely.]. She shook her head. "But Gokou said he searched Paris."
"There's more to France than just Paris. I was living in a resort town near the Pyrenees called Biarritz. [A.N.: Which, again, is quite beautiful.] It's amazing how much these stupid humans will pay to be taught to fight."
"Excuse me? Stupid human still in the room?"
"No," he replied, handing her a canned drink, "stupid Lunarian. Luna is the official title of your Moon, isn't it?"
"Wise ass," she commented under her breath. Of course he caught it and smirked.
"I think you developed some spirit locked up in there. Maybe I should take you back."
"No!" she screamed. Both the locket and the crescent moon on her forehead began to glow. "Please, Vegita, don't!"
She was genuinely terrified, that was for sure, and he had the sudden urge to go back and rip Jadeite's head from his shoulders. What does one do with a terrified, glowing Lunarian Princess? he wondered. He'd seen her interact enough with her friends before he'd left to know that some measure of reassurance was in order. "I wouldn't, Usagi. Don't worry about it. I was joking."
"I promise, and the only way Jadeite is touching you, Tenshi, is over my dead body." Where the hell did that come from? he now wondered. She must be rubbing off on him or something. "Drink up. It's a long flight back to Tokyo."
"You're coming with me?"
"Usagi. . .," he said warningly, "you're starting to sound like a baka again."
"Vegita!" For a moment, he wondered if he was rubbing off on her; she looked positively ready to do violence. She quickly calmed herself though. "When do we leave?"
"After you get a bit more rest. You look like shit."
"You sure know how to make a woman feel good about herself, don't you?" He shrugged. "Deal, if you show me where you've been living."
"What do you have to bargain with, Usagi?" he reminded her.
"The ability to pout and whine until I drive you crazy."
She had a point there. "Deal, but don't expect anything."
"Don't expect anything, he said!" she complained as he flew her east. "As if the place isn't twice the size of my parents' house!" She glanced down. "Where are we?"
"Someone in the Middle East, I think." He couldn't keep up with these rapidly changing countries.
"I hope we're not over a no-fly zone or anything. The last thing I want is get shot down."
"Your world is so strange."
"As you pointed out earlier, I'm Lunarian, Vegita-sama. I was just born on earth this time around. If you want to complain about conditions on earth, talk to Endymion; it's his planet." Claws in, she reminded herself, when you're flying thousands of feet up in the air and his arms are the only things between you and the ground a few thousand feet below.
Vegita slammed on the brakes and looked down at her in his arms. "Is all that shit you told us about Crystal Tokyo true?"
"Why would I lie about something like that, Vegita? Now you're being a baka."
"And you're being vindictive. That future can be altered though, right?"
"According to Setsuna-san, no future is set in stone. We've altered this future once before," she softly said, looking down as if the desert far below them was the most interesting thing ever. "Already, the future has been changed. Originally, in the next few years, there was supposed to be some sort of massive ecological disaster that would completely freeze the planet."
"Now Pluto's not sure, but she says whatever comes, whatever this crisis is, it will happen before the year is up. Happy Y2K," she joked weakly, finally looking up. He rolled his eyes and started back flying. "I'm glad you're back, Vegita."
He scoffed, and they were silent the rest of the flight. He did not slow down until they were in Tokyo. "It's changed."
"It's been two years." She nudged him softly. "Let's go."
"You said Kakaroto and his brat have their own place now, right?"
"Hai. Gourry and Zelgadis live there too."
"Where is it?"
She pointed. "Over there."
Gohan rubbed his forehead in pain. "I'm too young for this!" he complained.
"It's not my fault you're taking high school level courses," Zelgadis returned. "You should have asked Lina to help you, not me."
The boy's eyes widened. "No way! Not in the mood she's in! She'd probably do a Dragon Slave on me! You're the only one with brains who isn't mad."
Lina was mad, Zel thought, because that Jadeite guy had gotten the better of her, taking Usagi like that. It had made her even madder that Gokou had so easily defeated all five of the youma. The next few batches were tougher; they'd almost given Gokou a run for his money in the fighting department. It hadn't help matters any that Gohan had been in school each time. This work he was doing now was his teacher's punishment for sneaking out.
Someone knocked on the door. Gohan looked up at him and asked, "Is Amelia supposed to come over?"
"No. But given Lina's current mood, I wouldn't blame her."
The knock was repeated, a little more insistent this time. Gohan eagerly abandoned his homework to open the door. He was lifted into an immediate hug by someone wearing a white gown who had blonde hair; she looked suspiciously like Usagi in her Princess Serenity form. "Hey!" he cried out in surprise. "Put me down!"
"Of course, Gohan-kun." It even sounded like. . .
"Usagi-san!" He hugged her now. "You're better!"
"No, I'm faking it." She smiled past Gohan's long black hair. "Hi, Zelgadis. Where's Gokou and Gourry?"
This was definitely a change for the better. "Work."
"Oh. Of course. I'm being a baka." She looked over her shoulder into the hall and stated, "It was your idea to come here. At least come inside."
"Who. . .?" Gohan started to ask. Then a familiar figure slowly stepped in the room, and he could only stare in shock. "Vegita-san?!?"
"I'm gone for two years, and everyone ends up as stupid as Kakaroto."
"Vegita-sama, don't be cruel," Usagi/Serenity complained.
Gohan was just as shocked when Vegita merely scowled at her, but then again, Usagi had seemed to have tamed Vegita pretty quickly, before the scare with Koneko. Vegita's eyes leveled on Gohan. "Keep an eye on her, brat."
"Where are you going, Vegita?" Usagi asked, turning to face him with wide blue eyes.
The smirk actually looked a little bit pleasant. Gohan thought he might die from the shock of it all. "To go knock some sense into the Sailor Senshi and Mamoru."
"Don't forget: the Outer Senshi weren't there and don't be too hard on Lina-chan."
"I haven't forgotten." He redirected his attention to Gohan again. "When will Kakaroto be back?"
"Any minute now."
"Good. Don't you dare let anything from the Dark Kingdom near her." He met Usagi's eyes once more then disappeared.
"Usagi. . . um. . . Serenity," Zelgadis nervously said, "shouldn't you detransform?"
"So Gourry'll recognize you?" Gohan added.
She grinned. "Sure." She closed her eyes, and the gown became the jeans and shirt she'd been wearing when she was taken; the crescent moon remained. "I hope Vegita doesn't abuse the Inners too badly. I'm starving."
"Where did you find Vegita?" Gohan asked.
She smiled at him. It was unnerving with her in normal clothes and a crescent moon. "He rescued me."
Makoto felt about two inches tall. Not only had they allowed Usagi to be kidnapped, they were getting pounded, repeatedly, by Jadeite's youma. None of the Senshi had been able to go into work in two days. It was okay for Rei because she had other people who could run the temple, but Ami had been censured, she had been written up, and Minako's agent had broken out in hives when she had shown up two hours late to a photo shoot with bruises. She sometimes wished they were all independently wealthy like the Outers.
Hotaru walked beside Minako, helping her to bandage a particularly nasty cut that had sliced past her glove. Haruka supported Rei, and Michiru helped Ami along. Setsuna and Makoto were the only ones who walked alone, Makoto's guilty thoughts her only company. She was Usagi's main protector; she should have been able to save her from Jadeite. It didn't matter that the Outers and the others'd had to come save them. What Setsuna was thinking about could only be guessed at.
There was a terrible laugh behind them. The Sailor Senshi slowly turned to face the new threat, a very humanoid-looking youma whose defining characteristics were a dark star over its left eye, fangs, and bat-like wings. "Not now," Makoto muttered. "Can't you just come back later?"
Minako looked up, hopeful, and Mars nodded weakly. She'd gotten the worst of it from the last batch of youma, in which there had been ten; Jadeite seemed to have decided on the quantity-over-quality approach. Saturn had nearly been forced to step in last time. Mars's limp looked ominously like somthing, some muscle in her right leg, had been torn, and she was covered in cuts and bruises. However, she'd given as good as she'd gotten. "Can't you just come back next wee?"
The youma's smile broadened, and it took a step forward. Rei shifted her weight completely onto her good leg, no mean feat in high heels, so that Uranus could use her attacks; Ami did the same for Neptune, and Minako stepped away from Hotaru. Haruka and Michiru stepped to the front with Makoto, and Uranus looked back and ordered, "If anything gets past us, Saturn, use your Silence Wall to block it."
"Hai!" She stepped protectively in front of the injured Sailor Senshi. A very determined expression was on the face of the youngest Senshi. For a moment, Jupiter acknowledged tiredly that Saturn was one of the strongest of them all before she returned her attention to the youma before them and the upcoming fight.
"Sparkling Wide Pressure!"
All three attacks were easily batted away with one hand by the youma. With its other hand, it caught the rose that was flying at it. The deflected attacks headed directly for Tuxedo Kamen, who could not dodge all three, and it threw the rose between the three Senshi. Along the way towards them, the single rose multipied itself into a barrage of them, cutting at the least injured Senshi until they began to resemble the others. Tuxedo Kamen fell to the ground behind Saturn. Jupiter thought tiredly, This one has us. We have nothing left to fight with. It's just too powerful.
"Fire Ball!" Lina yelled, appearing nearly out of nowhere.
It caught that attack as well and this time threw it back at its owner. Lina dodged it, casting a Ray Wing around herself and cursing the whole way.
"It's learned all our powers," Mercury announced, "even Lina-san's magic."
"That should be impossible," the sorceress in question argued.
"We need an attack it hasn't learned," Ami continued, "like Sailor - "
There was a bright flash of light, and the youma was easily disintegrated.
"What was that?" the shadow demanded.
"I - I don't know."
He understood now why Beryl had imprisoned Jadeite; things just had a way of going wrong around him. "It isn't enough your youma let Sailor Moon be taken. Now a new player has entered the game."
"Who was that?" Makoto asked. It couldn't be Gokou because he was supposed to be at work still; Gohan was doing his make-up work undoubtably, and Zelgadis wouldn't let him leave that.
"Look!" Venus yelled excitedly, and everyone looked to where she was pointing. "It's Vegita!"
The Saiyajin Prince floated down to the street and glared at the Senshi. "I thought you were her protectors." He looked directly at Jupiter. "I suppose I was wrong."
"You're right. We didn't protect her as we should have," she answered.
He smirked at her, as if she had confirmed something he was already thinking, then he turned all his attention to the Senshi's companions. "And I thought you were her friend, Lina Inverse." She hung her head in shame. "The world's greatest sorceress," he scoffed. His eyes fixed on Mamoru last. "And you, Prince Endymion, are beneath my contempt."
He turned as if to leave. "Wait!" Minako yelped. "You're not leaving again, are you? We could use your power."
"I'll stay, for now, but don't expect me to keep saving you, especially not you, Mamoru." He never even stopped walking away as he spoke.
"And the rest of us?" Minako asked. Makoto and Rei glared at her.
"Can you help us get Usagi back?" Ami asked, studying the ground. She looked up to see he was gone.
"Damned Saiyajin Prince," Jupiter bit out between her teeth.
"I'm so glad to be back in Tokyo!" Usagi declared once more, hugging Zelgadis now. She'd alternately been hugging him, Gohan, and Gourry ever since Vegita left; Gokou had not yet arrived at the apartment. She'd also been making off-the-wall comments about how happy she was. It was like, Zelgadis notied, she was trying to make up for two years of silence in ten minutes, and it was quite unnerving.
She wrapped her arms around Gourry, grinning broadly. He smiled back. "You're in a much better mood now, aren't you, Usagi?"
"Yes, I am, Gourry. I feel like I've just woken up from a nightmare." She paused and looked around. "I thought Gokou would be here by now."
"He probably stopped somewhere to eat before dinner," Gohan laughed.
"Where does he work?"
"Teaching fighting - " Usagi burst out laughing so hard that she literally fell down. Gohan stopped in midsentence to think over his answer. It didn't seem that funny; maybe she'd cracked. "What?" he asked, just in case.
"Vegita was doing the same thing all this time," she explained, gasping for breath.
Now he understood what she thought was so funny. "They agree on one thing at least."
"Hai, fighting. I'm starving. Is there anything to eat here?"
"No," Zelgadis answered, a little too quickly.
"That's right. Two Saiyajin and Gourry live here; of course, there wouldn't be any food around here; gomen, Zelgadis. I guess I'll have to go out to get some. Be back in a little bit."
Gohan wrapped both arms around her waist and dug his feet into the floor. "No! You're not going anywhere, Usagi-san! Vegita-san would rip me up into little pieces and feed them to Gourry-san and Lina-san if anything happened to you!"
Gourry seemed to be considering whether or not he should be insulted as Zelgadis quelled a laugh. Usagi stopped trying to walk toward the door and stared at Gohan. "He wouldn't do anything that bad, Gohan-kun."
"He's only nice to you, Usagi-san."
She sighed, apparently weighing her empty stomach against Gohan's life, then she brightened. "He didn't say you couldn't let me leave. He just said not to let me out of your sight. Why don't you just come with me? I've got enough money to buy us both dinner," she bribed.
"Usagi-san, you're evil. We'll be back in a little while; tell Dad," he told Zelgadis as they walked out the door. "Where did you get so much money?"
"Haruka-san always made sure I kept my wallet on me while I was. . . in that state, and she added some money to it every week. When I was kidnapped, I had practically a fortune on me."
"Did Vegita-san really save you?"
"Yes, he did. I don't really remember too much about it all, but I woke up in a motel room where Vegita had brought me. So much for that 'not rescuing damsels in distress' bit, ne?"
"Yeah," Gohan relented as they stepped out into the brisk winter air. "Won't the Senshi be surprised to see you back in Tokyo so soon?"
"Don't tell them! Not yet anyway. I want to surprise them, in a way." She was silent for a long moment; when she spoke again, she had completely changed the subject. "I can't believe you're almost taller than I am now."
He laughed. "And most of the Senshi too. Rei-san hates it."
"She would. I remember, back in the Moon Kingdom - " She trailed off, her pace slowing. "I shouldn't remember the Moon Kingdom, Gohan-kun."
"Why not?" Maybe she had cracked.
"All my memories of it were erased when I was reborn on earth so that I could live a normal life. Why do I remember it?"
"I don't know, Usagi-san," he answered slowly. "Maybe for the same reason the crescent moon is still on your forehead?"
Her hand flew to the mark, and she stopped to examine it in a storefront window. "Why didn't it disappear?" With some degree of horror, she whispered, "I'm becoming Neo Queen Serenity."
"The Queen of Crystal Tokyo?" Gohan asked, a little confused. Then it dawned on him. "It's almost time, isn't it?"
"The crisis is almost here, and Crystal Tokyo is about to form. I've dreaded this moment ever since I found out about it," she whispered. The crescent moon started glowing, bathing her in a golden aura.
"Usagi-san? You're glowing," Gohan hesistently said.
"She does it when she gets upset," Vegita's voice interrupted. "Once she calms down, it goes away." He stepped into sight around the building they were standing in front of. "What's the matter with you now?"
When Usagi was silent, Gohan stated, "She said the crisis was almost here. She says she's turning into Neo Queen Serenity."
Vegita's eyes widened just noticeably. "Already?" It was clear he was talking only to Usagi.
"Hai. Look." She swept her bangs aside, further revealing the glowing mark. "I'm getting back my memories of the Moon Kingdom too."
"Gohan, leave," Vegita ordered. The boy quickly obeyed; it was, after all, the first time Vegita had called him anything but "brat."
"It's starting," she whimpered. She squeezed her eyes shut. When she reopened them, the glow was gone. "What did you find out from the Senshi?"
"The youma are learning their attacks."
"What about Gokou and the others?"
"They've learned Lina's magic. The Senshi didn't mention Kakaroto or the others, but we should assume so."
"That means they've learned your moves as well, Vegita."
"Not all of them."
"Good. I guess I don't need to use any of my powers for a while yet." He nodded slightly. "Do you feel something strange around here?"
"Something dark and cold like that fortress? Yeah, I do."
"It's probably a youma. Most of Jadeite's youma could appear human until they attacked. The only way to tell is if they act suspiciously."
"Like, for instance, if one should happen to trip Kakaroto's brat?"
She followed his line of sight. "Trip him and then grow tentacles and start strangling him? Yeah, it seems like a safe bet." She glanced over at him. "You know we have to help him, right?"
He rolled his eyes. "You, woman, are more trouble than you're worth." He fired off an energy blast that severed two of the tentacles holding Gohan in the air and draining his energy.
"Good shot," Usagi commented. She looked around her for a weapon and found the perfect one easily. She threw the trashcan lid like a discus and cut off the last two tentacles. "But, don't call me 'woman,' Vegita-sama."
"You didn't use any power, did you?"
"Nope, that was all skill. I can kick butt with a discus. Think he needs anymore assistance?" she asked, her attention on Gohan. He shot up from the spot he'd landed and fired an energy blast directly into the youma's face. It staggered back, and he fired another; this time it dissipated.
"I think he's got it. Come on. Let's go eat. The brat can handle himself."
Usagi watched him out of the corner of her eye as they walked into a nearby restuarant. "When do you think we should tell the girls I'm back?"
"When they've suffered enough."
"You're cruel," she stated matter-of-factly. He shrugged. "When do you think they'll have suffered enough?"
"You're very impatient, aren't you?"
"Strange to hear that from you, Vegita-sama. I happen to be very patient compared to you sometimes."
"He was hiding something," Makoto stated as she put a bandage on a rose cut across her arm. "I know he was."
"Maybe," Minako agreed, "but not for sure." She shrugged carefully. "You know how mysterious Vegita-san could be two years ago."
"Not like that. He would usually answer a question if we asked it to him or at least acknowledge it in some primitive way. He totally ignored Ami-chan, and that was about Usagi-chan."
Michiru looked up at her, apparently having been considering this question for quite some time. "Maybe that was his answer," she quietly speculated.
Makoto blinked. "You think he knows where Usagi-chan is and he's just leaving her there?!?" she exclaimed.
"No. I think he knows where she is, and he's made sure she's safe, but he doesn't want to tell us just yet."
"Well, if Usagi is nearby . . .," Rei began.
Mamoru picked up, "Then why isn't she here?" His eyes hardened. "Where do you think Vegita's staying?"
"The Grand Canyon for all I care," Makoto muttered.
"And for all the good any of us would be able to do," Haruka stated. "He's a Saiyajin, after all; they're just too tough for us to take on."
Michiru smiled. "In our present conditions, anyway."
Hotaru stepped into the room in the act of cutting off a hand-held telephone. "Zelgadis-san is cooking for us Outers tonight."
"No fair," Minako pouted. "Why do you guys get asked to go over there?"
"Because the Inners went there last night," the youngest Senshi answered. "He said it'll be ready in a half an hour, so if we want any, we'd best be there at least ten minutes early."
"Or else Gokou-san will eat it," Michiru said with a smile as she and Haruka got to their feet. "We'll bring you back the left-overs, if there are any."
"With Gokou-san around?" Minako teased. "Not a chance. We'll order pizza."
"Perfect as always, Zelgadis-san," Hotaru announced after they all finished, of course with no leftovers whatsoever remaining.
The door opened without preamble, and Gohan stumbled in. There were four sets of red marks across his body, but he seemed to be all right otherwise. "Gohan!" his father called, nearly appearing beside him he moved so fast.
"I'm fine, Dad. Just tired. Ran into a youma."
"Alone?" Setsuna asked, concern for him in her red eyes.
Gohan grinned at Gourry and Zelgadis, a very impish grin as if they had a secret. "I had some help." He glanced at the empty table. "I guess it's a good thing they fed me too."
"Where are they?" Zelgadis asked.
"On their way up. Something about they didn't want to take the elevator."
"Did you find us some new allies or something, Gohan-kun?" Michiru asked.
"No, I found some old ones."
"Nani?" stuttered the Senshi no Neptune. Haruka shrugged, and the other two Outers looked puzzled. Gokou, on the other hand, seemed completely lost.
The door opened once more, and Vegita stepped part of the way inside, blocking their view of the hallway behind him and not shutting the door. "You!" Haruka yelled, surging to her feet. "Where's - "
Someone shoved Vegita just enough to move him (he apparently let himself be shoved) and stared at them all with brilliantly blue eyes. "Usagi-san!" Hotaru yelled, running and attaching herself to the other woman. Usagi gently hugged her back. "Princess, you're alive! You're all right!"
"Of course I am, Hotaru-chan."
"Who resc-? No one's left-? Vegita-san, did you save her?"
He shrugged. Usagi smiled at first him then Hotaru and answered, "He did."
"Arigatou, Vegita-san. Thank you so very much," she whispered, never releasing Usagi.
The older three Outers all came at the same time to hug her. "I missed you," Michiru confessed softly, enveloping her in a gentle embrace from behind.
Setsuna petted her head, and Haruka touched her face gently. "What's this?" Uranus asked, examining the moon on her forehead.
The smile disappeared off Usagi's face, and she turned to look at Setsuna. "The crisis is almost here."
To her credit, Setsuna didn't argue. "I'll check into it, Princess. It could be that the spell Lina-san and Amelia-san are working on will be the one to send everyone back."
A strange expression passed over Usagi's face as hers and Vegita's eyes met briefly. When she spoke, though, her voice was utterly calm. "Then we don't have much time. It will take all of us to defeat Jadeite and the shadow monster."
"Shadow monster?" repeated Michiru.
Usagi nodded. "It seems to be controlling Jadeite the way Beryl and Metallia used to?"
"How powerful did it feel?" Haruka questioned.
"I was unconscious most of the time." She glanced over at Vegita.
"Pretty powerful," he finally replied. "About the same level as that last monster we fought. Maybe a bit stronger."
"This isn't good," Zelgadis stated blandly.
"Vegita told me how strong the last youma the Senshi faced was," commented Usagi. "It seems pretty likely to me that our next will be Jadeite himself."
"Really?" Gokou looked most interested, like he thought Jadeite would be a good challenge.
"You're sure?" asked Vegita, turning back towards her. He too seemed eager to meet this enemy.
"Unless he's found out how to create a stronger youma than that last one the Senshi fought, but I doubt it. I think Jadeite will be next."
"We should tell the Inners you're back," Michiru suggested as the Outer Senshi prepared to leave. "Makoto and Mamoru were trying to figure out where to come get information from Vegita-san."
"Like that would have worked," Zelgadis scoffed.
"I'll find them tomorrow and let them know where I am." She paused and looked over at Zelgadis. "If there's enough room for me here. If there isn't, I can rent a hotel room."
"We'll make room," Gohan stated, apparently determined to stick to his promise to Vegita. "You can have my room; I'll take the couch."
"You're sure?" He nodded. "Thank you, Gohan-kun." She smiled at the Outers. "I'll be here then if you need me."
"Okay. Take care, Usagi-chan," Michiru continued.
"The Dark Kingdom won't be too happy you escaped," added Haruka.
"I'll be careful, guys. Let Luna know I'm all right."
"I'll check about the crisis, Princess," Setsuna said, gently placing her hand on Usagi's shoulder.
"Thank you, Setsuna-san. Whatever it is, we must be ready."
"When it comes, Princess, I will be by your side."
"Thank you again, Setsuna-san."
"Gohan-kun, you really don't have to follow me everywhere I go," Usagi repeated for the hundredth time.
"I don't want Vegita-san to kill me," answered Gohan for the hundredth time.
"Well, it's his own fault that he's not here," she returned. "Where did he sneak off to this time anyway?" He shrugged, and they kept walking until they reached Usagi's destination. "If I know the Inners, this is where they'll be."
"Is there any food here?"
"Are you kidding? Fruits Parlor Crown? Motoki-san will - " She froze in midsentence and midstep. "That's Jadeite."
"Where?" He could sense something, but with this many people around, it was nearly impossible to narrow anything down precisely.
Usagi pointed at a man with short blond hair. "There. That's him."
Gohan grabbed her arm and pulled her back as far as he could. When she finally looked at him, fear was in her blue eyes. "Come on. Let's go get Dad and Vegita-san."
"Um. . . yeah. Let's go."
The floor beneath Minako's feet started to rumble and shake. "Are we having an earthquake?" she cried.
"I don't think so," Rei answered. "I'm getting some very strong negative vibes."
"Jadeite," growled Makoto. She looked around to see if anyone was watching them then ordered, "Senshi, transform. Jupiter Crystal Power, MAKE-UP!"
"Venus Crystal Power, MAKE-UP!"
"Mars Crystal Power, MAKE-UP!"
"Mercury Crystal Power, MAKE-UP!"
In seconds the four women were replaced with the four Inner Senshi. Not one of them looked able to defeat a weak youma, much less Jadeite himself, but far be it from the Senshi to not try to defeat their oldest enemy. "Let's go!" Venus yelled.
Outside, they saw Jadeite hovering a few feet off the ground, glaring down at them. "So you finally decided to show up," he taunted. "I thought I might have to destroy Tokyo first."
"We're a lot more powerful than the last time you faced us!" Mars returned.
"And there are more of us!" continued Jupiter. "Jupiter Oak Evolution!"
He stopped the attack easily with one hand. "Pathetic, Sailor Jupiter. I have learned all your moves, all the Senshi's moves. Along with your friends'," he stated, turning his attention briefly to Lina and Amelia. Those two had been getting the worst of the attacks because they didn't have the Senshi's healing ability, at least without casting a Recovery spell. "Face it, Senshi; your days are numbered."
"Where's Sailor Moon?" Mercury yelled, startling everyone.
Mars recovered first. "Yes! What have you done with her?"
Jadeite looked a little confused. "You mean it wasn't the Senshi who took her?" He shook his head. "No matter. No matter where Sailor Moon is, she can't save you now."
Jadeite absorbed the Outer Senshi's attacks without ever turning to face them. "Pitiful, but it was good of you to all be at the same spot at the same time. It makes it so much easier for me to destroy you."
The Inner Senshi's heads rose; they knew that voice, that opening line. Behind Jadeite, hovering in the air, supported by her white wings, was Sailor Moon, alone. "Sailor Moon!" the Inners called as one.
"Usagi-chan," Lina whispered.
"Usako," Tuxedo Kamen whispered as well.
She smiled down at them. "Hi, minna."
Uranus smirked. "Took you long enough, Sailor Moon."
"I was sending Gohan-kun for back-up." The smile left her face, and her eyes narrowed. "Jadeite."
"How the hell did you escape?" he hissed.
"I had some help," she stated plainly. Under her breath, as her feet touched the ground between the Senshi and Jadeite, she whispered, "Hurry up, Gohan-kun."
"Are you here to die with your Senshi, Sailor Moon?" Jadeite taunted.
"No. I'm here to stop you once and for all."
"You and what army, as they say?"
"As they say," Gohan answered, earning him a smile from Sailor Moon for his impeccable timing, "this one."
Her smile grew and the Senshi's eyes lit up to se Gokou, Zelgadis, and Gorry with Gohan. Sailor Moon tapped Gohan softly. "Where's Vegita?" she whispered.
"I couldn't find him right away."
"I'm going to have to hurt him for this one." She returned her attention to Jadeite. "Believe me now?"
"I know all their moves. With the exception of Gokou's Taiyoken, they're all easily countered."
"You don't know mine." She turned to the Senshi and ordered, "Senshi, scatter and use your strongest power on him!"
"But-" Jupiter started to object.
"Do what she says!" Neptune yelled. "She's our leader! Deep Submerge!"
"That's telling her, Neptune," Uranus commented, pulling out her talisman, a short sword. "Space Sword Blaster!"
"Jupiter Oak Evolution!"
"Ra Tilt!" Zelgadis and Amelia called out as one.
"Mars Flame Sniper!"
"Masenko!" Gohan yelled.
"Gokou, use the Taiyoken!" Sailor Moon called out. "He can't cancel that!" A second later, nearly everyone was blinded by the brilliant flash of light.
"Mercury Aqua Rhapsody!"
"Blast Bomb!" shouted Lina. There was a huge explosion as the fire bombs hit Jadeite's shield. "It's not doing anything, Sailor Moon!"
"Yes, it is, Lina-chan. It's weakening his shields," returned the leader of the Senshi. "Now it's my turn! Moon. . . Halo. . ."
Jadeite fired off a dark blast of energy at her quickly while she was vulnerable in the middle of her move. A white light hit it and knocked it up into the sky. Vegita set down next to her. "Hurry up, Sailor Moon."
She nodded. "Illumination!"
The light brought Jadeite to his knees, literally. "I'll finish him off," Vegita stated, glancing briefly at Sailor Moon. Again she nodded. "Big Bang Attack!"
As energy exploded from Vegita's palm, Lina whispered in shock, "Holy shit. I didn't know he was that powerful."
When the blast ended, Jadeite seemed to be gasping his last breaths. What parts of his shield that had survived Sailor Moon's attack had not survived Vegita's. After all, he hadn't been able to learn either of their attacks fully. A few of the Senshi glanced away from him. Sailor Moon herself almost did so as well but stopped when she caught Vegita's eye on her once more.
A dark mist started to creep out of the cracks of the pavement, surrounding Jadeite. Sailor Moon looked over at Vegita, beneath the goggles her blue eyes dark with worry and fear, and stated simply, "The shadow monster."
"It feels that way," he replied.
"What shadow monster?" Mars yelled.
"The one that's controlling Jadeite," Sailor Moon replied. "From what I gather, it's a lot like Metallia."
Jadeite fired off a huge blast of dark energy as he got to his feet, aiming it directly at Vegita and Sailor Moon. As fast as a thought, he moved in front of her and her energy shield flared to life, both protecting her from the blast. When it subsided, Vegita wasn't moving. "One out of two isn't-" Jadeite began in a raspy voice, his normally blue eyes glowing red.
"No!" Sailor Moon screamed, interrupting him. Her entire body began to glow a golden yellow, her goggles flew off her face, and her tiara shattered, revealing the crescent moon on her forehead, which glowed more than the rest of her body. She floated up in the air a few feet, raising the Moon Staff above her head in a two-handed grip, and yelled, tears threatening to spill over her eyes, "Yurusunai! Cosmic. . . Moon. . . Power!"
The flash of light that came from her entire form and from the top of the Staff was, remarkably and perhaps unbelievably, brighter than even the Taiyoken. Jadeite screamed in pain and actually seemed to dissolve as everyone there watched in shock. Mars picked up Sailor Moon's fallen goggles and regarded the readings. "Impossible. No one's this strong."
"Are the goggles showing her power level right now at nearly seven hundred thousand?" Mercury asked, checking out their leader with her VR visor and mini-computer.
"It seems impossible, but that's what I've got too."
Jadeite's form finally dissipated, releasing tiny blue sparkles that floated up past Sailor Moon into the sky. Her attack ceased as those too disappeared from sight, and she fell toward the ground, unconscious. Gokou caught her before she hit.
He was still alive; he knew that much for certain at least. He couldn't be dead and still feel so horrible. Unless, of course, he was in hell, which would explain why he felt like he'd been barbequed.
Someone was holding his hand, someone with very small hands, and that someone was also using his shoulder as a pillow. He cracked his eyes open painfully and saw a yellow blur. He squinted to focus; the yellow remained, but it was now apparent that it was blonde hair and a lot of it too.
"You're finally awake," a soft, sweet voice said. The light pressure lifted off his shoulder, and he was confronted with a pair of big blue eyes surrounded by blonde hair. "How do you feel?"
"Like hell," he muttered.
She let go of his hand and hit his shoulder. "Good!" she yelled, shaking her sore hand. "That's what you get for showing up late then scaring the hell out of me, you baka!"
"You're calling me a baka?"
She hit his shoulder again. "Of course! Only a baka would forget about my energy shield!"
"Please stop yelling."
"Onore," she finally said, quieter than the rest of her tirade. Maybe the "please" had worked. She stood up and then sat down on the edge of his bed. "Kono yarou."
"Who taught you all that?" Something was different about her, and his exhausted mind couldn't quite place what it was.
"Lina-chan. Gourry stole her food, and. . ." She let her voice trail off. The rest was pretty apparent anyway.
Wincing to himself, he sat up. That was when he noticed the difference. Her face seemed different somehow, more mature, and her hair lay on huge piles on the floor. "Usagi. . ."
She looked down and lifted part of the mass. "It grew almost two feet while I was out, and I look more like Neo Queen Serenity."
"Why were you unconscious?"
"I used too much power destroying Jadeite, but I wanted to make sure he was gone for good. So, I disintegrated him," she finished with a smile.
"Tenshi. . ." He stopped, at a loss for words. She reached forward, leaning towards him.
"Ohayoo, Usagi!" Kakaroto's all-too-cheerful voice echoed, and her hand dropped like lead on the bed beside him. It felt like someone had just shoved a sword through his brain. "Is he - Hi, Vegita!"
"I'm going to kill you, Kakaroto," he muttered.
"Everyone's waiting on you two."
"Tell them we'll be right there," Usagi stated, and Kakaroto left. She stood and asked, "Do you need help, or can you make it?"
"I can make it."
A few minutes later, they all sat in Rei's living room at the temple. Rei and Minako had insisted, loudly, that Usagi sit between the two of them; she'd given in rather quickly once their voices started getting loud.
"My lady," Setsuna began, "I have found out what the crisis is." Usagi nodded for her to continue, an eager expression on her face that nearly everyone shared. "To defeat the dark energy that this shadow monster has released on the earth, you shall have to cleanse the planet with the Crystal. In order to do that, you must put everyone into suspended animation."
"Everyone?" Rei repeated.
"Every person on the earth, even the Sailor Senshi."
"Then who will protect the planet?" Usagi asked, clearly very worried.
"You will, from the Moon."
"Alone?!?" Haruka exploded.
"I'll be with her as much as possible, Haruka," Setsuna calmly stated.
"Setsuna-san," Usagi asked next, "how long will this cleansing last?"
"The same amount of time as the earth would have been frozen: nine hundred years. Before you ask, yes, you are now immortal again, my lady."
"Well, that answers my next few questions. Next, am I becoming Neo Queen Serenity, or am I returning to being Princess Serenity?"
"Neo Queen Serenity. After the cleansing is completed, the Crystal Utopia will already be formed. I must warn you now, my lady, that not everyone will survive the cleansing."
Usagi nodded then turned her head. "Lina-chan, this spell you and Amelia are working on, tell me about it."
Lina shrugged. "Not much to tell yet. We're still trying to reverse the spell that brought us all here."
"Do you think this one might be the one to do that?"
"Could be. Like always, we won't know for sure until we try, Usagi-chan."
"I think it will work," Amelia stated confidently.
"For your sakes," Usagi said with a sad smile, "I hope so. You don't want to be stuck here during the cleansing."
"Can she handle the planet for nine hundred years?" Gohan asked, glancing nervously at first Vegita then his father.
"I'll be there with her," Setsuna stated, "and if needs be, we can always call for the Starlights to help."
"Setsuna-san, how can I defend the earth from the Moon?" Usagi asked suddenly. "It's not habitable. There's no atmosphere. Ever since Metallia destroyed the kingdom at the end of the Silver Millennium, the Moon hasn't been able to support life."
Rei looked at her best friend in shock. "You really did grow a brain."
"Claws too," Vegita muttered under his breath. Usagi glared at him then looked back over at Pluto.
"I believe that when you start the cleansing of earth, my lady, it will, for lack of a better word, fix the Moon, return it to its former glory."
"In fact, my lady," Hotaru added, "you may start finding that your old powers are returning. It shouldn't be too much longer before you can fly back and forth between the earth and the Moon."
"In space?" asked Gohan.
"It's magic, not technology," Hotaru answered. "My lady, can you still form Sailor Moon?"
Usagi closed her eyes in concentration.
"This may be a dumb question," Gourry began, and Setsuna looked his way, "but yesterday, you were calling her 'Princess'. Why are you calling her 'my lady' now?"
"Because she is somewhere between our princess and our queen," Michiru answered. "Setsuna, how much time do we have left?"
"A month, tops."
Usagi finally released the breath she'd been unconsciously holding, and everyone's attention shifted back to her. "I can still form Sailor Moon, but my Princess Serenity form is completely gone. Excuse me; I'll be right back," she apologized, standing and going back further into the temple's living area. Gohan jumped to his feet and followed her. She smiled at him weakly. "I won't need a bodyguard in the bathroom."
"Usagi-san. . ."
She sighed, nodded, and allowed him to follow her. "What's with that?" Minako asked in complete confusion.
There was no verbal answer, but Zelgadis did glare at Vegita rather pointedly. Vegita, on the other hand, seemed to be completely ignoring them all, though his eyes did seemed to fasten on the door Usagi had just disappeared through.
"I didn't even get to tell her the strangest part of all this," Hotaru complained.
"It gets stranger?" Zelgadis muttered.
"Hai. While the Senshi are frozen in this state of suspended animation, her own powers will be boosted."
Rei went white. "H-how much stronger?"
"About four times, I believe, and some of the powers will appear that did not have time to awaken when she was a princess before Beryl and Metallia's attack."
Gohan stepped back in the room alone. When all eyes, even Vegita's, leveled on him, he finally reported, "She locked herself in the bathroom and started crying. I couldn't get her to stop. She told me she needed to be alone for a little while." His gaze never left the floor the entire time.
Luna ran past the boy to check on her young mistress. Even from outside the room, it was apparent that this wasn't Usagi's normal wailing. The noise was very faint - and a thousand times more disturbing for that fact. With the side of her paw, she tapped very lightly on the door. "Usagi-chan. Let me in. It's Luna."
The door opened a crack, and Luna slipped inside before the door was closed again. "Luna," Usagi whispered softly, "I'm not ready for this. I just wanted to be a normal girl. Was that too much to ask for?"
"I'm sorry, Usagi-chan. I woke you up as a Sailor Senshi."
Usagi smiled even through her tears and picked Luna up. "It wasn't your fault, Luna. This is my duty, and I've enjoyed my years as a Sailor Senshi. I'm just not ready to be the ruler of the earth yet."
"Usagi-chan. . ." Luna let the crying woman hold her.
There was a little tap at the door after what seemed like hours. "Usagi, are you still in there?"
"Is that Vegita?" Luna asked softly, whispering it in the woman's ear. Usagi silently nodded as she climbed to her feet, obviously exhausted from crying so much. "He's being so nice."
Usagi set Luna on the floor and opened the door. "I'm still here, Vegita." A tear slipped from her eye, down her face, and hit the ground next to a staring Luna. "I'm just scared." She shivered then threw her arms around him.
To Luna's amazed eyes, Vegita's normal scowl actually seemed to turn puzzled. "Tenshi, you'll be all right," he said quietly, almost reluctantly returning the hug. Luna smiled at the pair; he must have been waiting for everyone else to wander off before he came to check on her; the man did have his pride, after all. She looked past the pair at the tall figure at the end of the hall, noticing him now for the first time. Mamoru's glare was openly hostile; he was jealous. And probably for good reason too.
Usagi and Luna sat on the temple steps and watched Vegita and Gokou spar high above their heads. "They make it seem so easy," the human commented.
"What? Fighting?" the cat asked.
"No. Flying. They don't even really have to think about it; they just do it."
"Why don't you go up to the Moon, then and see the place you'll be spending the next nine hundred years?"
"It's awful to know the future. How does Setsuna-san stand it?"
Luna did the cat equivalent of a shrug. "Perhaps she's used to it." She stared up at her friend. "Can you handle this, Usagi-chan?"
"The cleansing? Hai. I can, and I will. The cleansing," she paused as one of the two fighters above them threw a disk-like circle of energy at the other's tail, "will be the easy part, if I can figure out how to start it. The hard part, I think, will be ruling the Crystal Utopia."
Luna nodded. "You're not sure how to begin the cleansing?"
"It's probably some variation of 'Moon Healing Escalation', I suppose, but I can't figure out what just yet. It'll come to me when I need it like everything else, I guess."
"That's reassuring, Usagi-chan."
Usagi laughed. "Gomen nasai, Luna." She hugged the cat. "Let's go see if there's any food. I'm starving."
"You should be a Saiyajin," Vegita commented as he and Gokou set down on either side of her. "You already eat like one."
She winced as she looked at them both. "Finished?"
Gokou grinned. "Heard you mention food. Hungry."
"I'll get Mako-chan to make some rice or ramen or something. I'll be right back. Just don't eat Luna." She almost literally ran inside, Luna right on her heels.
"Don't argue with me!" Lina threatened, desperately trying to control her temper before she accidentally set the temple on fire or something. "I watched you do the damned spell twice. I know--"
"But, Miss Lina," Amelia whined.
"Hi, Lina-chan!" Usagi greeted. The two sorceresses turned to see the blonde-haired woman step in the room with Luna trailing her every step. The cat was looking over her shoulder rather nervously. "How's it coming?" she asked, winking at Lina.
"Princess of Seyruun or not, I may just have to murder Amelia if she doesn't start listening to me."
Usagi giggled at the panicked look on Amelia's face. "Have you guys seen Mako-chan?"
"No. You're hungry again?" Amelia seemed surprised.
"And I'm afraid for my life," Luna added. "Artemis and I might both end up as snacks for Gokou-san."
"I think she went to work so that she wouldn't get fired," Amelia offered helpfully. "She probably won't be back until late."
"No!" Luna exclaimed.
Usagi grinned evilly. "No problem, Luna. I've got a plan."
"What? You're not going to steal Haruka-san's money or anything, are you?"
"No. I just want to test out my new powers before the cleansing. I remember being able to do this when I was little." She closed her eyes and concentrated. A large serving bowl at the time, three bowls of ramen and four bowls of rice appeared. Lina stared in shock. Usagi peeked out of one eye. "Think it'll be enough?"
"Might be pushing it,:" Vegita's voice commented from right behind her. She jumped and nearly stepped on her own hair turning to glare at him.
"Onore. It's very hard to do. If we want any food, we'd better start eating now, before Gokou finishes it." They all looked over at the table; Gokou had almost finished one of the bowls of rice and even now was reaching for his next.
Lina snatched one of the bowls of rice and retreated to the far corner of the room. Usagi claimed one of the bowls of ramen and sat on the counter to eat it, the look on her face promising great pain to whoever tried to take it from her. Vegita took another of the ramens, even as Gokou started to reach for it, and joined Usagi at the counter.
"That's my hair you're leaning on," she informed him between mouthfuls.
"Well, you shouldn't have so much of it," he returned.
"We tried cutting it," Lina offered, slapping Amelia's hand with her chopsticks as the girl tried for her food. "It just kept growing back."
"What did you ever do with all the hair you cut anyway?" asked Usagi.
Amelia smiled, rubbing the twin red marks on her hand. "I made it into a pillow for Artemis."
Usagi nearly choked on the ramen when she started laughing. "You used my hair for pillow stuffing?"
Amelia nodded. "Was that bad?"
Usagi was laughing too hard to answer, but her laughter was completely cut off by a beeping sound from her pocket. "Not now," she muttered, pulling out her communicator. "Usagi here."
Ami's face appeared. "The shadow monster is infesting people. We could use Sailor Moon."
"Where are you?"
She sighed. "I'll be there in a minute."
Without a word, she repocketed the communicator and jumped off the counter. "Leaving without us, Usagi-chan?" Lina commented.
"You and Amelia need to keep working on the spell," she stated. "And I didn't want to try to separate these two from their food."
"Baka woman," Vegita commented.
"Umm. . . hai."
"Transform, and let's get going."
The situation before them was getting close to the point of clich? from what Sailor Moon could see through the skylight. The Senshi were getting thrown around by possessed humans, who weren't as reluctant to hurt the Senshi as the Senshi were to hurt them, particularly the two Inners present: Mercury and Mars. As usual, the Outers weren't holding back, but as soon as one possessed human was toppled, at which point the dark energy left them, three more took its place.
Sailor Moon grinned up at Gokou. "Care to get the door?"
He smiled back then dropped through the skylight, raining glass below. Vegita followed, and she brought up the rear, surprising herself by actually landing on her feet and completely avoiding her hair. Mars grinned weakly at her. "Not too shabby, odango atama."
"You look like a pin cushion, Mars."
"One of those humans was throwing knives at us. She came pretty close to hitting a few times."
"More than a few, I'd say," Sailor Moon stated softly. She glanced over at Gokou and Vegita, noting how poorly the humans were doing against them and nodded once, smiling. "All right. I think this has gone on long enough." One of the humans ran at her, and she called out, "Moon. . . Halo. . . Illumination!" He dropped in his tracks, and as he hit the ground, a wave of dark energy rolled off him. "Time to get this over with." She raised the Moon Staff high above her head and called out, "Moon Healing Escalation!"
Four white beams of light shot out of the prism on top of her staff, each shooting in one of the cardinal directions. From there, they reflected off anything they hit until they touched every person there, possessed or not. One by one, people dropped to their knees, releasing dark energy through their screams, until only two Saiyajin and a few Sailor Senshi stood.
"Sugoi," Gokou commented, staring as Sailor Moon lowered her Staff and it vanished into thin air. "How'd you do that?"
"I . . . don't know. I'm getting stronger every time I use my powers," she answered slowly.
"That must mean our time's almost up," Pluto commented. "Perhaps I should--"
"Yes. You should return to the Time Gate, just in case. If Lina-chan and Amelia's spell doesn't work, perhaps you can just pull everyone through from there."
"I'll leave a Time Key with Gohan then, in case we have to do it that way." The Senshi of Time disappeared as she walked away.
"Almost out of time," Mercury said softly. "I can't help feeling we should warn the world about this."
"They'll never know the difference," Mars commented. "It'll be like they go to sleep one day, and they'll wake up, purified and in the Crystal Utopia."
"We'll know the difference," stated Saturn.
Uranus and Neptune were silent, but they drew closer to each other. Uranus's arm stole its way around Neptune's shoulders, and Neptune's was around Uranus's waist. Sailor Moon was also quiet as she stared at the floor. She kicked at a piece of glass with just the toe of her boot. She suddenly looked up and simply said, "I'll see you guys at the temple later."
Her body seemed to become pure white energy as she stretched forth her angels wings and flew up to the sky. To the Moon.
Almost twelve hours passed, and then Usagi returned without warning. One moment she was missing; the next she was walking out of her room at the temple. Gohan was the first to spot her. "Usagi-san!" he yelled, racing up to her but stopping a few feet away when he saw the expression on her face. "What's wrong?"
She smiled weakly at him. "Nothing I can't handle, Gohan-kun. Did Pluto give you the key yet?"
"She tell you the right phrase?"
"Usagi?" Rei's voice said softly. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Queen Serenity helped me."
"She's still up there?" Rei asked, glancing up as if she could see the ghost of the Moon's former queen.
"A little. She told me about the bits of my past I didn't remember, and she showed me how to start the cleansing." She shook her head lightly, and Gohan and Rei noted that her hair had grown perhaps another foot. "How's the spell coming?"
"Lina seems to think they've almost got it," Rei answered softly. "We were worried about you, Usagi."
"Gomen nasai, Rei-chan. I just needed to be alone." She smiled at Gohan. "Is Vegita around anywhere?"
"I haven't seen him in hours, since right after you left. Gomen."
"No problem. I just. . . Never mind." She stepped past them and headed into the living room, sinking down into a chair. "I can feel how close the crisis is. It gets closer every time the shadow monster uses its power." She sighed. "And there's nothing we can do to stop it."
"Not 'we'; you can," Rei answered.
"Only at great risk. Only the very strong will survive the cleansing; the others will die or have to leave."
"Then the future has changed a lot, even the origin of the Dark Moon Family," Ami stated, joining them in the living room.
"It hasn't changed enough that they don't exist, but a lot is different. When we face them in Crystal Tokyo or whatever emerges from the cleansing, they will likely be stronger than we remember them being," Usagi explained.
"Usagi-chan!" Lina's voice echoed throughout the temple. A second later she appeared in the room and tackled the blonde into a hug. "I think we've got the spell!" she cried, releasing the other woman.
The blonde woman seemed to liven up at this statement. "Do you really think so?"
"Maybe. We're going to test it on Gourry first thing tomorrow."
"Is that safe?"
"Does it matter? It's Gourry."
Early the next day, nearly everyone stood outside watching the two sorceresses and the blond swordsman. No one really listened to the words of the spell; most people's attentions were focused on the dark glares Lina was sending Amelia, as if she were daring her to mess up. Amelia seemed to be wilting under the glare, but she was reciting the spell wholeheartedly.
"Do you think it'll work?" Usagi whispered to the cat on her shoulder.
"I hope so. You remember what Koneko said would happen to Lina if she stayed here," Luna answered.
"Yeah. I remember everything Koneko said. I just hope nothing like that happens."
Amelia finished with a flare and stared at the sky expectantly. A dark circle formed over Gourry's head, and he began to rise into the air. Everyone's breath caught in their throats as he reached the portal and--
--and the spell broke, dropping him to the ground on his head. Lina seemed to grow fangs as she whirled on Amelia. Everyone moved to take cover, both Usagi and Gohan ducking behind Gokou. "Mono Volt!" Lina yelled. Amelia didn't even scream as the electricity ran through her. "What the hell went wrong here?"
From behind a tree, Ami called out, "I'm working on that!"
"Well, work faster!"
Usagi grinned sheepishly as she stepped out from behind Gokou. "I think I'm going to get out of here for a while."
"Where to?" asked Gohan.
"I don't know. Find Vegita maybe."
"Usako," Mamoru hesitantly began, "can I talk to you? Alone please?"
Gohan stepped closer to her. "I can't leave her."
"It'll be all right, Gohan-kun."
"I can't. Vegita-san said to. . ."
"Just stay out of hearing distance then, Gohan," Mamoru cut in. The boy nodded, though apparently not too happy, and the pair moved away from him. Usagi kept silent about Saiyajins' over-sensitive hearing as they stopped next to the temple wall. "When this is all over and they all go home, Usako, will we still be together?"
He means when Vegita is gone! she realized suddenly. "I just don't know, Mamo-chan," she slowly answered. "So much has changed between us. We are both totally different people than we were two years ago."
His voice was very soft as he said, "I'm not the one who has changed so much."
"Did you prefer me as a spineless, airheaded crybaby?"
"Sometimes. At least then I knew what to expect from you." He sighed. "I preferred it when it was me you were always hanging off of."
"You took me for granted!" she accused, stabbing her finger into his chest. "I had to come save you so many times, but you've never once thanked me! We were together all those years, yet I know more about Vegita than I do about you! I can be myself with him; I don't have to be the perfect princess it took for me to gain your attention. We may be destined to be together, but. . ."
"We are supposed to be together, Usako."
"I know," she admitted softly, "but sometimes I want to live my life my own way, do what I want to do, act how I want to act, see who I want to see, and just say, 'Forget destiny'."
"You don't really mean that, Usako."
"What to bet? You may be content with Fate, but I'm not. I may never be."
"Usako. . ."
"That's it?!?" Lina exploded, drowning out the rest of what he would have said.
Usagi ran back over to the assembled group, stopping with Gohan directly beside her. "What's it, Lina-chan?"
"All we're lacking is power," the sorceress answered a little more calmly.
Usagi frowned as she thought this over. "So why don't you cast the spell then, Lina-chan?"
"Aren't you more powerful than Amelia? Can't you just do the spell?"
"Well, yeah. I'll just have to redo it a little bit for me, but I should be able to do it. I need to get to work on it right now." The sorceress went back inside with a contemplative expression on her face.
"My lady," Michiru said softly, "Haruka and I are going back to the mansion. If you need us for anything important, call us."
"Yes. You two take advantage of what time is left," Usagi answered. "I'm going for that walk now to think about some things. You don't have to come along, Gohan-kun."
"Yes, I do," he replied. "I value my life."
She smiled and shook her head. "Come on then. Let's go." They hadn't gotten three blocks from the temple when she stopped and said, "You can come out now."
Gohan stared at her like she had flipped. "Usagi-san. . ."
"How did you know?" Vegita's voice asked. A second later, he almost literally appeared.
"I just did, Vegita."
He smirked then looked over at Gohan. "Get out of here, brat."
"I'll see you back at the temple later," Usagi continued.
He got about twelve feet away before he heard her start. "Where the hell have you been, Vegita?"
Over the next week, everything was fairly calm. Gokou ate nearly everything in Tokyo. Zelgadis continued helping Gohan with homework. The Inner Senshi tried their best to get out of trouble at their jobs. Two of the Outer Senshi, Haruka and Michiru, were not seen in public. Hotaru declared rather loudly that she was a Sailor Senshi and she should not have to master algebra; Gohan tried, unsuccessfully, to explain the finer points to her. Mamoru was rarely seen. Lina and Amelia continued to work on the spell. And catching Vegita or Usagi around became increasingly difficult. There had been some discussion between Ami, Minako, and Amelia if the pair were or were not hitting every tourist bar and/or restaurant in Tokyo before the cleansing began, but the rumor had not yet been confirmed. There were no enemies during the entire week, a both relieving and disturbing fact because it left everyone wondering when the next attack, which was sure to be the big one, would come.
Usagi was almost out the door with the full intention of eating everything on the menu at the new American restuarant on the other side of town when she heard someone yell, "Usagi-chan!"
She turned to face the owner of the voice. "Yeah, Ami-chan? Are those the same scrubs as yesterday?"
"No, they're not. Rei's washing them. Where are you going?"
"What?" Ami sounded shocked.
"To eat American."
"No. I just meant, you're eating out again? Didn't you have Chinese for lunch?"
"Well, ramen, but yeah." She grinned. "I think I've got Vegita hooked on it. What did you need?"
"Nothing. Is Vegita going with you?"
"A Saiyajin not eating? And free food at that? Surely you're kidding, Ami-chan." She sobered. "Of course Vegita's coming with me. I couldn't leave him behind if I wanted to. I'll be fine, Ami-chan," she assured her friend. "Go to work."
"All right. Be careful, okay?"
"Daijoubu, Ami-chan. It's okay; don't worry so much." She smiled broadly. "The worst that can happen is Vegita may blow up another gas station or waiter or car. . ."
"He's blown up a waiter?"
"Yeah, at lunch three days ago. He messed up the orders."
"Oh Kami-sama. If Vegita's still here after the cleansing, remind me to stay on his good side, okay?"
"Sure, but really, Ami-chan, he's not that bad."
"Keep telling yourself that, Usagi," Zelgadis commented from where he sat with Gohan, Hotaru, and a huge stack of books.
"Shut up, Zelgadis!" she yelled in return, a huge grin on her face. "I'll see you guys laer. Ja mata!" she stated, slipping out the door.
Ami shook her head slowly. "Usagi-chan has changed so much," she muttered before grabbing her jacket to head up to the hospital.
"Not too bad," Vegita admitted as he and Usagi left the restuarant with half the patrons and all the employees staring after them. "It was almost good."
"As much as you ate, I should hope you enjoyed it," Usagi commented dryly.
He glanced down at her. "You ate quite a bit too."
"But I didn't have thirds then fourths."
"You did on desserts," he reminded her.
She shrugged. "I can't help how much I love ice cream. What do you want to do now?"
He opened his mouth to reply, but if he said anything, neither of them could hear it over the thunder. When it died down, he asked, "Do you feel that?"
She shivered and rubbed her arms in a vain attempt to warm herself. "That feeling that's colder than it was at the North Pole? Yeah." She glanced at the pitch-black sky.
"It's that shadow creature," Vegita said with absolute certainty. "It feels exactly the same."
"I'm going to call the Senshi."
A lightning bolt streaked towards her. Before it hit, though, Vegita tackled her, barely getting her out of the way in time. She winced at the twinges of pain along her back, then she looked up at Vegita as he still lay over her. They were both still for just a moment, looking at each other. He got up slowly then helped her up. "They've probably felt it," he stated, almost as if nothing had just happened.
"Probably." She glanced at the crater the bolt had left and shivered violently.
Vegita's hand touched hers very lightly before he said, "That one almost had your name on it."
"It probably thinks if it can't convert me, it might as well kill me."
He nodded slightly then glared at her out of the corner of his eye. "Hurry up and transform, Tenshi."
"Hai! Moon Cosmos Power," she glared at the sky threateningly before she yelled the last word, "MAKE-UP!" She was a bit shocked when the transformation took less time than Mercury's. She was lifted in the air and ribbons exploded around her, blue instead of pink this time. They swirled briefly around her then settled into her fuku, and her wings spread out beside her. "Sugoi," she whispered. She glanced up at the sky and squinted, hoping she wasn't seeing what she thought she was seeing. She pushed herself up into the sky. "What the hell are you doing, Vegita?" she yelled to be heard.
"Just checking it out. Stop screeching, woman," he returned.
"Kono yarou," she muttered. "Is there a center to this thing at all then?"
"Over the temple."
"Rei-chan!" she screamed, almost starting to fly in that direction before a hand closed around her wrist, holding her back.
"She's probably on her way here," Vegita commented, slowly releasing her. "It would help if your Sailors had energy levels to speak of."
Vegita glanced at her briefly, looking a bit irritated. "Once you transform, you have some power. Not as much as a Saiyajin, of course, but. . ."
"Sailor Moon! Mr. Vegita!" a voice called through the winds.
"Amelia?" Sailor Moon yelled. A second later the young sorceress came into view. "What are you doing here?"
"Well. . ."
"We thought you might need some help," Lina interrupted, showing up as a lightning bolt faded. "Garv Flare!" A ray of fire hit the center of the storm and was absorbed by it. "Damn it!"
"Elmekia Lance!" Amelia called out. The white light was absorbed as well.
"Jupiter Oak. . ."
"World. . ."
"Deep. . ."
". . . Evolution!"
". . . Shaking!"
". . . Submerge!"
"Damn it!" Uranus yelled loud enough that Sailor Moon could hear it from twenty feet above. "We're not powerful enough!"
"Call the others!" Sailor Moon ordered. "We'll hold it! Moon. . . Halo. . . Illumination!"
Vegita shrugged and powered up. "Big Bang Attack!"
Before their combined attacks, the storm condensed to a thick, electrical mist. "The shadow monster," Sailor Moon muttered, absently moving a little closer to Vegita.
It cackled evilly; no one looked particularly impressed. Hundreds of thousands of tentacles shot out of its center, and even Vegita was hard-pressed to dodge them all.
One of them wrapped around Sailor Moon's wings and squeezed. She screamed as pain shot through her entire body. The louder her cry grew, the tighter it squeezed. Her tiara shattered again, and the crescent moon on her forehead glowed brilliantly, almost like a beacon.
Without warning, a streak of red crossed her vision. The tentacle's grip eased, but it did not let go. Looking behind her, she saw a red rose buried deep into it. "Tuxedo Kamen!" she yelled in surprise.
"You can fight better than this, Sailor Moon!" the masked man called back to her.
"As much as I hate to agree with that human," Vegita stated, "you can do better than this, woman!"
"Onore!" She held out her thumb and forefinger like a gun, and a bright discus formed over it. "Moon Tiara Action!" The discus cut through the tentacle holding her and a dozen others before it dissipated. "How was that?"
"Not too bad."
"Smart ass," she muttered as she shrugged off what was left of the tentacle. She moved her staff defensively in front of her as dozens more shot towards her.
Those two attacks alone cut the number of tentacles down considerably. "Gokou! Gohan-kun!" she said in relief. "You made it!"
"Zel!" Lina yelled. "Gourry! What the hell took you guys so long? Burst Flare!"
"Palm--" Amelia began. She was cut off as one of the tentacles bounced off her on its way toward Gokou; her concentration was broken and Ray Wing lost.
"Amelia!" Zelgadis yelled, running forward even though he knew he'd never reach her in time.
"Venus Love-me Chain!"
The shining chain of hearts wrapped around Amelia's waist, and she jerked to a stop, quickly casting a Levitation spell. Sailor Venus jumped down from on top of a nearby building to land near Uranus and Neptune, no mean feat in high heels.
Sailor Moon glanced nervously around her, both at the fighters in the air and the ones on the ground, and stated, "I think it's waiting for something."
"Like what?" Gohan asked.
"Shine Aqua Illusion!"
"Mars Flame Sniper!"
The shadow cackled again and drew its appendages back in. "I was," it explained in a deep metallic voice, "waiting on all of you to be in one place at one time." Electricity shot out of it.
Sailor Moon heard Lina and Zelgadis both call out an Air Valm spell. Gokou shielded Gohan from the brunt of the attack [A.N.: And, as usual, lost a majority of his shirt.]. She was able to hear Saturn yell, "Silence Wall!" and hoped that it was fare better her own barrier was.
Something warm wrapped around her back, and she was suddenly facing away from the monster. Almost without thinking, she formed another discus and yelled, "Moon Tiara. . ."
"What are you trying to do, woman?" a voice asked very near her ear. "Take my tail?"
"Vegita?" The discus disappeared, as did her wings, as she relaxed around her. "What are you--"
"Shut up," he growled, and for once, she obeyed. She felt him twitch, just slightly, so little it wouldn't have been noticeable if they weren't so closely pressed together, as bolt after bolt hit his back. Apparently he and Gokou were getting the worst of it, and apparently Gokou didn't mind screaming if the pain got too bad.
A sharp streak cut across her side, and she couldn't hold back a short scream. Light exploded and formed a bubble around them both. "Vegita?" she whispered in the suddenly near-perfect silence. "Are you--?"
"I'm fine, woman."
"You're bleeding," she argued.
"Well, you're bleeding on me." She tried to turn around and found it nearly impossible; she was only able to move a few inches at the time. That she was able to move at all was amazing. He must have been hurt worse than he was letting her know about.
The barrier was nearly soundproof; when she could hear what was going on outside, it was at a fraction of its original volume. So when she heard Gokou call out his son's name so loudly it startled her into releasing the bubble, she couldn't help wondering if everyone else might not be deaf now.
Apparently the shadow monster had decided Gokou and Gohan were the only fair game left. It had snatched the boy from his father and pulled him towards itself. That was when Gokou had yelled, breaking her concentration. For half a second after the bubble popped, they were in freefall. She probably wouldn't have even noticed it if her wings hadn't reappeared. Vegita released her, and she hovered next to him, glancing every so often at the way he was holding his side.
Gokou was still yelling, wordlessly now, then everyone felt something in the air pop almost audibly. A golden flame sprung to life around him. His hair stiffened and turned gold, and his black eyes turned aquamarine.
Sailor Moon could only stare silently in shock until she heard a voice beside her say very, very quietly, "Masaka."
"What's happening, Vegita?" she asked in just as low a tone.
"He's really turned into a Super Saiyajin."
"A Super Saiyajin?" she repeated in shock.
The shadow monster could only stare in shock as well. The electricity ceased, even what was holding up the unconcious Gohan. Uranus caught him before he could crash to earth and set him on the ground for Saturn and Mercury to look after.
Both Mercury's VR visor and Sailor Moon's goggles were trying to get comprehensible readings on Gokou's new power level. The visor declared it did not have enough memory to compute it and shut down. The goggles merely got close to a million and exploded; she had the feeling she'd never see them again.
"Lina-chan!" Sailor Moon yelled in the sudden quiet. "Start the spell!" The sorceress nodded, lowered herself to the ground, and started whispering words she could not hear or understand.
Gokou smirked as if he understood her plan; the expression was rather terrifying on his face; and let loose with power. "We keep it busy while Lina does the spell and you start the cleansing?" Vegita commented.
It took her a second to think of a good retort. "No. Actually I was thinking you might teach it to play patty-cake while Jupiter bakes it some brownies."
She ignored the insult and closed her eyes and mind in concentration. She cupped her hands in front of her locket and waited. With agonizing slowness, the Moon Crystal began to take shape. As soon as she felt it beginning to become solid, she allowed herself to hear what was going on around her. The first sound she heard was, "Big Bang Attack!"
A second later, she heard, "Kame-hame-ha!" That was definitely going to hurt it with Gokou at this new level.
Through the midst of all the Sailor Senshi's attacks as they all called them out at once, she heard Lina say something about someone or something called Phibibrizo. She was getting toward the end of the spell; she needed to hurry up and have the Crystal ready at the same time.
"Are you alive in there, Usagi-san?"
"Gohan-kun?" she whispered, opening her eyes. "You're okay?"
"Better. Lina-san told me to tell you she's ready."
"Good. So am I now." She glanced down at Lina and nodded briefly. Lina returned the gesture with a small salute and apparently finished the spell. The sky erupted into thunder yet again, and a familiar (though much larger) dark circle formed. Zelgadis, Lina, Amelia, and Gourry were yanked through the void almost too quickly to be seen.
"What happened?" a young voice asked from near Sailor Moon.
She didn't, couldn't, take time to answer. The shadow monster had apparently divined the purpose of the huge portal and was moving towards it. She raised the Crystal above her head and yelled, "Silver Crystal Power!"
The world exploded in light. The creature released an unearthly shriek of pain. Gokou had to drop out of Super Saiyajin to stop the light from attacking him as well. Twenty feet below her, the earth began to crystallize. Each person on the ground was absolutely still as they were each placed in protective crystals. She could feel herself changing forms, turning from her final form of Sailor Moon into Neo Queen Serenity.
It felt like she held the Crystal above her and prayed for this planet's salvation for hours; it was maybe ten minutes. She let herself lower the Crystal and sigh. She jumped and almost screamed when she heard Gokou whisper, "Sugoi."
She stared at the three remaining people in nothing short of dumbfounded shock. The four of them were the only living moving things on the entire planet; even the shadow monster was encased in crystal, where it would be completely destroyed over the next nine hundred years.
"How are we still here?" Gohan asked very softly.
She hit herself on the forehead lightly, which made Vegita smirk. "I should have thought of it sooner! You came through so much later than Lina-chan and the others; it's not surprising that you should have to wait a little while."
She jumped and turned to face Vegita. "A few more minutes maybe." She bit her lower lip in worry. The planet was still being encased in crystal; if they were here too much longer, they might end up either being stuck here for nine hundred years or going through the portal in crystals.
"What're you thinking about, Tenshi?" Vegita's voice was very soft and very close; he was behind her again, and for him to call her that could only mean Gokou and Gohan couldn't possibly hear him.
"Just worrying. That's all," she replied more calmly than she felt, slowly turning in midair, completely unable to meet his eyes. "I'll miss you, Ouji."
"Don't start getting mushy on me, woman."
She smiled then looked down at the crystal ground below them. "These years should have made you a lot stronger," she commented. "The Ginyu Force and Freezer shouldn't be any problem for you now."
"Not that they were to begin with."
She laughed shortly. "How's your side?"
"I'll be fine." He still held it tightly though, but she pretended not to notice.
"I will miss you," she repeated. "We worked well together, ne?"
A slight wind came from the open portal, pulling the four of them closer to it. "I think our time's up," Vegita commented softly. "Sayoonara, Tenshi."
"Sarabada, Vegita-sama," she returned. As quickly as she could, Serenity leaned forward and briefly kissed him. "Ai shiteru."
He didn't get a chance to say anymore. The portal flexed briefly, and its vacuum began to pull them all towards it. Neo Queen Serenity wrapped the Crystal's power around her to stop her movement and watched silently as they went through, silent tears streaming down her face.
Lina opened in her eyes and looked around her. Gourry leaned against a tree, wide awake and glancing around wildly. Zelgadis was near him, an alarmed look in his wide eyes. And Amelia stood exactly where she had been when she cast the spell that had changed all their lives.
Someone was coming. They were all instantly on their feet. White hair appeared through the trees, then the form of Martina took shape. "Where did you go?" she scolded loudly. For half a second, Lina was oddly reminded of her old partner, Naaga.
"What?" Lina asked, trying to look innocent and confused. The confusion, though, was far from an act. "What do you mean?"
"Don't play dumb, Lina! I stepped away for a moment and you all disappeared. You couldn't have been gone over a minute, then you reappeared. Well?!? Where did you go?!?"
The four exachanged curious glances among themselves before Lina finally stated, "Well, that's kind of a long story, Martina."
Rekoome was in the middle of his attack when Gokou suddenly changed clothes. He briefly noticed that Gohan and Vegita had also, not that it really mattered. He was going to squash them, although the ability to change clothes in an instant might be useful. Rekoome decided once he was done with the big guy, he'd force the brat to teach him that trick before he killed him too. It could prove useful around the ladies.
Suddenly he felt Gokou's arm in his solar plexus, and he doubled over. Pain ran through his insides, and he fell.
Klillyn stared in shock as Rekoome fell to the ground. It wasn't that Gokou had beaten him with a single blow, although that was certainly some of the reason. No, it was because Gokou was suddenly wearing different clothes. Quickly he glanced over at Gohan and froze. Gohan was not wearing the clothes he had started out in, and he looked so much older, like a year or two had passed; his hair had grown back out, and he was taller and more built. Then he noticed a brown furry thing wrapped around Gohan's waist. As he glanced at Gokou again, he noticed he also had one. Then he turned his head toward Vegita. They all had their tails back. What did he miss, he wondered as the next fight, the one against Jeez and Burter, started.
A lone woman sighed as she stared before her, at the castle made of crystal which loomed on both sides to the very edges of her vision. "Tsuki," she whispered. "The Moon. My home."
She collapsed to her knees as she cried so hard it shook her entire body. "Lina-chan," she sobbed, "Rei, Ami, Minako, Mako-chan, Michiru, Haruka, Luna, Amelia, Artemis, Zelgadis, Gourry, Gokou, Gohan. . . my friends." A fresh wave of tears struck her, and she fell on the edge of the lake. "Vegita. . . atashi no itooshi. . ." [A.N. - Translation: "my love. . ."]
She sniffled as she sat back up, not even caring how impolite it sounded; there was no one to hear her, not in this universe. "You'll have to forgive me, my friends, if I can't do this. . ." She sighed then smiled. "But I'll do my best, minna, for you." Her eyes looked up, though crystalline tears continued to fall. "After all, I am earth's last hope."
She looked down at her reflection in the water that rippled with each tear that hit it and sighed, closing her eyes. With a slight effort, she changed forms, from Neo Queen Serenity to Cosmic Sailor Moon. She stood silently and slowly, soft white wings folding back behind her with a grace she did not currently feel.
Sailor Moon turned and stared at the light blue planet before her that took up so much of the Moon's skyline and reached up as though to touch it. "In the meantime, though, good night, my blue."
Coming soon, in Tales of the Cleansing:
All earth's defenders save one are imprisoned on the planet, and one soldier is left to protect her planet for 900 years. These are the tales of Usagi during the black times, when she fought alone.