"I'm sure they're lying," said a nanny-like British female voice. The slender black cat the voice issued from jumped up on the young man's lap. He didn't pet her. He was too angry. He had remained quite angry since losing this battle.
"Where could the Senshi be if Akari-san and Yanei-san aren't lying, Luna-chan? They can't have just disappeared from Tokyo." The japanese youth scowled. He ran a hand through his short black hair, the knowledge that his greatest fear born to reality consuming him from the inside out. He didn't know where the Sailors were, and he couldn't protect them. How could it get worse?
"If Akari-san and Yanei-san are involved, then the Senshi could be anywhere." Luna was feigning calmness. She'd already spent her tears some days ago. This was her greatest failure, losing the Moon Princess to an unknown force. Luna was quite certain that it wasn't Akari and his consort, Yanei. They didn't seem to have that kind of power. She was lying to Mamoru, and herself, in the hopes that she was wrong.
The similarly slender, white cat regarded Mamoru sternly. "I don't know what's going to get done with you guys just sitting around," Artemis' cool deep voice stated evenly. "Mamoru-kun, you've got to face them."
"How?" Though he had successfully destroyed four gem beasts, the idea of fighting their creators made him somewhat hesitant. Quickly, he brushed that hesitation aside. If Akari and Yanei had the Sailors, he would save them!
"Go to the moon. I think that between the three of us, we can channel enough energy to get you there," Luna said, her tail twitching nervously.
Mamoru could only nod.
The strong pitch of the wind tossed and pulled at the heavy clothes and coat he wore. He squinted his eyes behind a pair of thick goggles, looking into the distance ahead. That distance held little of interest, as it consisted mostly of white powder, and the light that reflected brightly from it. Save for the existence of a small cave, Mamoru might otherwise have left the life starved scene.
"Nani? A mortal in our realm?" She nealt down the pool of seeing. She was a long, slender creature of some beauty. She wore a simple dress of pale gold, none to elaborate in it's style, but well suited to her simple beauty. Her ashen red hair flowed to the small of her back, no lower. Flaccid orange eyes gazed into the pool, and then to the focus of her life, her love; Akari.
"He is shinsetsu, my beloved."
Akari smiled as Yanei gazed at him. Akari was a tall, well built humanoid male who prided himself on his supernatural strength, and his abilities in battle. His blue eyes followed his love as she took a scroll from the shelf near her. He ran a hand through his short green hair, and smoothed out his long dark blue robe, the grin fading from his face.
"What to you intend to do, my love?" He asked gently.
She smiled deceptively, "I intend to bring him to us." She bowed her head, and chanted a few words under her breath. "Come Uyline-sama, take the lost one, bring him to us, show him his fate."
As her voice fell silent, a large shadow grew to cover Mamoru's form.
"Mamoru-kun!" Luna cried, noting the snow beast before him, and attempting to warn him of it's presence.
"Silly man-thing," the creature observed. "Do you really think my masters sent me here to harm you?" Mamoru dodged the grasping fist that came at him, indicating exactly his thoughts on the matter. The ten foot tall snow woman 'tsked' and grabbed him.
"Come along," she said in almost motherly tones, "Or I might have to hurt you!"
Mamoru struggled as they approached the cave, certain that the snow beast would throw him over some cliff to his death.
"Now wouldn't that be a silly thing for me to do," she chided his thought. "I might get in trouble with my masters! I do not think I will do that."
Mamoru remained silent, trying to think as little as possible. The cave carried into darkness, not allowing Mamoru to see much. "Luna-chan! Artemis-chan!" He called.
Both cats struggled to keep up, even though they knew that they were slowly losing him, as well. "I think we're going to be a little late, Luna-chan," Artemis panted.
"Mamoru-kun!" She cried, as if having not heard him. "No! I won't lose him too!" she snarled, "Comon Artemis-kun!"
The snow beast set him down carefully, nearly chilled through to the bone. He shivered violently.
"Thank you Uyline-sama, that will be all. Why don't you go and watch out for other lost humans?" Yanei smiled.
"If it yorokobaseru my masters, I will do it." She bowed, water trickling from her femininely snow bound form, and left.
"So what bring this most foolish human to our domain, do you think, Akari-san?" She started, her face bearing a confident white toothed smile.
"W-what have y-you d-d-doneŠ uhhh," he got to his knees slowly, still shivering.
"Done?" Yanei barely halted her laughter. "Akari-san, this silly mortal thinks we have done something!" She giggled lightly, like a bird.
"He must know something of us to think such a thing, my love," Akari observed calmly, stepping forward.
Suddenly her brow tightened, making her look very distempered. "Who are you to know of us, mortal!" She snapped.
Mamoru did not reply. He merely shivered in place, trying to recover some warmth, but not succeeding.
"Calmly, Yanei-san, calmly," Akari urged softly. "I think he might be a littleŠ" he paused, searching for a word, "cold. Humans tend to suffer from that when without warmth." His hand indicated the cave about them.
Yanei pouted, looking very much the child, and sighed. "Hai. If I must," she said. She muttered a few more words under her breath and Mamoru finally felt a gentle warmth surround him.
"Baka!" She snapped, glaring at Mamoru. "Who are you, and what do you know of us, mortal?" She demanded, looking at Akari for reassurance. He smiled and nodded.
Mamoru struggled to his feet. I guess now isn't a good time for this facade, he thought. Numbly, he pulled open his coat, and pulled out what appeared to be a rose.
Yanei gave a little gasp.
"I am Tuxedo Mask," he declared weakly. Only moments after this statement, Mamoru's water soaked clothes were replaced by a complete formal outfit; tuxedo, cape, cane, hat, and mask, all but the latter being black.
"The Earth Guardian!" Akari said, standing, sounding impressed. "I knew no ordinary mortal could reach our realm. Only a consort to the Moon princess."
Tuxedo Mask's expression turned sour. "I want to know what you have done with the Sailor Scouts!"
Yanei looked at her love, face placid for a moment. Then she giggled. She glanced at Tuxedo Mask and smiled. "Done? My you are a foolish one, aren't you? Even for such a beautiful warriorŠ"
Akari looked irritated as he approached his intended opponent. "We have done nothing to your precious Scouts," he snapped, angered by his love's flirtations.
Mamoru ignored Yanei's attentions, adamant on his answer. "You have them!"
Akari took a moment to clear his mind. Foolish Yanei-san, he thought, will you look at that mortal? Remember the one who loves you.
She glared at him, and sighed, frowning prettily. Hai, love. You are right. Shall we end this?
Akari nodded. Tuxedo Mask took a step towards the two, confused by their silence.
"We have nothing that would interest you here, Earth Guardian," Akari stressed softly, walking backward towards Yanei. "Perhaps some of these might entertain you." With a gesture, four youma swathed in shadow dropped down from the darkness above.
The masked gentleman did not hesitate in his attack, knowing that the youma would not in theirs. Pulling a rose from his coat, he pierced the nearest youma with it, thrown, like a dagger. There was a dry hiss, and the form of the youma turned into streams of smoke.
Akari chuckled to himself, wondering if he would find a chance to battle the masked one himself. A good battle, as short as it might be, would be a refreshing change. Approaching his love, the sounds of hand to hand combat clearly audible in the background, he leaned over and kissed her softly.
When his lips left hers, she stood, and bid him towards the elaborate thrones of ice they had abandoned in their interest of the human. "Do you expect him to win, my beloved?" She asked.
"Hai. Against the darklings," he mused, "but not me."
She blinked and smiled, tossing back a length of hair affectatiously. "Of course not. I have yet to see a human best you in combat."
He frowned slightly, "The potential energy wasted while we bicker over his silly Senshi."
She nodded, empathic in his concern. Silence drew a veil over the two. Yanei found herself watching the human, the smoothness and grace of his movements as he struck down the third youma. As the fourth took care to sneak up from behind, the black haired human turned aptly and hit the youma with what would have otherwise been a winding blow. As it was, he merely knocked the darkling aside, setting up for his next attack.
He's good, she reflected, closing her mind from that of her love. Good enough to best Akari-san? She shook her head. Such foolishness. He is a mortal. No mortal has ever beaten my love.
She studied him for a period longer than she had intended. Slowly, she came to see that his heart was bound to another. Even if he was to defeat Akari, I could not have him. He would not love me as Akari-san does.
She closed her eyes. Such foolishness. I will help Akari-san to end this. Abruptly she realized that the battle had ended. The beautiful male human had defeat the darklings, sending them back to their native realm.
"Now I will challenge him," Akari decided, sitting forward.
Yanei put a hand on his arm, silencing him. "No, my beloved. Why do we not send him to his Senshi? We will waste no more time. If he is out of our hair, then we can have his Earth."
He gazed at her, an uncertainty on his face. Consideration dwelled for some time in the reaches of his mind.
"Hai, my love!" He agreed, a smile creeping across his well muscled face. "We will send him to the Earth, to find his Senshi, and be lost with them!" He stood, kissed her again, and approached the edge of the ice platform.
"Well fought," Akari smiled approvingly. "Too bad I won't get to challenge you myself."
Tuxedo Mask glared at him icily, "You afraid of losing to me?" He said with a slight grin.
"I fear no such thing. What I do have, is a matter of much interest to you, mortal." Without further ado, pointed towards the pool of seeing. Tuxedo Mask approached the limpid waters warily, unsure of the intent.
"Mamoru-kun!" A voice cried.
Tuxedo Mask turned towards the source of the voice. "Luna-chan? Artemis-kun?"
The two small cats stopped as they realized who else was in the room. "Akari-san! Yanei-san! What have you done!"
Yanei sniffed, indicating her distaste of cats. "We are showing your baka Earth Guardian his Scouts."
Luna thought; she must be lying. How could she know?
"Don't think you're fooling us Yanei-san!" The black feline growled determinedly.
Artemis whispered to her; "look at her, pretty kitty, I don't think she's bluffing." Luna looked back at him, "I'm not taking any chances," she snarled. Artemis conceded, a stern expression on his face.
"Foolish mortal. Look to the image, see what it will show you," Yanei snapped impatiently.
Mamoru glanced nervously at Luna, who did not appear to even see him, and then at the pool. He was not quite sure what he was seeing. After several moments, he slowly came to recognize a scene. It was a dock. There wereŠ he squinted, eleven girls, only five standing. As he watched them, one of the five in fukus shot the two remaining who stood, wearing skin tight body suits.
Mamoru trained his eyes on the pair of blond haired girls, not believing what he saw. "NoŠ" he started. Her hair style couldn't be mistaken. Mamoru did not want to see the hole where her shoulder should be. He did not want to think about the blood running from the wound. Facing the possibility of that reality was almost worse than having lost them.
"Usagi-chan!" He cried, tears rising to his eyes unexpectedly.
"Mamoru-kun no! It's a trick!" Luna implored, quite certain she had lost him already to the image he saw, whatever it was. She studied him. Was he crying?
As he watched, the girl wielding the weapon continued firing. In his heart, he knew it was them. His Scouts, his Sailors. They were alive.
"If you wish to join your beloved Sailors, be our guest. All you have to do is touch the pool of seeing," Yanei offered, knowing he was sold to her proposition already.
"Mamoru-kun!" Luna snapped in a panic, "You can't abandon the mission like this!"
"I'm supposed to protect the moon princess," Mamoru said in uneven tones. "How can I protect the one I love if she's not here?"
Luna looked at Artemis, hoping he had an answer. He did, but it was not one she expected.
"He can't go alone, Luna-chan," he said coolly.
For the first time in her feline life she did not know what to say. She knew, however, that she had no choice now. If the Moon Princess was alive, she had to be next to her, to guide her, and protect her.
"Mamoru-kun!" Luna snapped, frightened and uncertain. "We are coming with you."
Mamoru nodded, and picked them up in his arms. He gazed solidly at Akari. "If this is a trick, youma, I will return and destroy you both."
Akari was having a hard time not looking smug. In one fell swoop, he had won the battle for the NegaMoon! "I assure you, it is no trick."
Mamoru gave him a hard look, then turned and reached toward the water of the pool. For a moment he felt wetness surround his fingers before the world about him swirled and faded.
He landed on his stomach. The voices where clear to him before he became aware of his location.
Despite his weariness, he fought his way to his feet. He opened his eyes, his vision blurred and fogged. Slowly, as it came into focus, he saw them. Usagi lay in Minako's arms, blood running freely from the gaping hole in her side. Minako was in tears, Rei and Ami were hurt, and lay motionless at the edge of the dock. Makoto appeared to be the only one left standing. Mamoru wanted to run them, to protect them, to fight whatever it was they were up against.
But he could not make himself move.
Whether it was shock, fear, or something else, Mamoru could not seem to get his mind to work to figure it out.
"Mamoru-kun..." A familiar voice whispered weakly. He looked down. In the place that Luna had fallen, there was a small humanoid woman. She had long black hair, and a long, slender form. Beside her was a white haired man. He had neither clothes nor consciousness. The woman had the latter, but not the former.
"Luna-chan?" Mamoru dropped to his knees, confused, angered, and lost. He did not know what to do.
Just as his mind began to toss with the revelations brought, an explosion consumed the small dock.
Next: Luna and Artemis: Escape