2014-08-17 - Storms on the Rainbow Bridge! Mako-chan's Heart is Tested

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Title: Storms on the Rainbow Bridge! Mako-chan's Heart is Tested

Makoto has a really, really, really bad day. First Dark Mercury invites her over to ruin it, and then Nephrite stops by to make sure it's ruined, and after all that, the only person who can save a day that totally spoiled is Sailor Moon. Luckily, much to Nephrite's consternation, she's not dead after all!


Sailor Jupiter, Dark Mercury, Nephrite, Sailor Moon, Mamoru Chiba, Mio Kuroki


The Rainbow Bridge

OOC - IC Date:

27 February 2014 - 8/17/2014

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Shoe lockers are always the target of notes -- though this note had been a little on the unusual side. All it offers is a short, clipped command -- 'Meet me at the Rainbow Bridge after school.' Typed, it offers no indication of its potential sender -- perhaps a love confession? Or something else entirely, perhaps...

The bridge is much emptier than it should be this early in the day; indeed, not a single soul seems to be on it. It's possible the note was a prank, of course -- but then, would that explain /no/ people? If ever there was a time to have a bad feeling about something, this was it.

It seems a little cold, even for February...

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

When she first finds the note in her shoe locker, Makoto is more surprised and curious than anything. Such a plain, terse message doesn't really seem to her like a prelude to a love confession - and anyway, who'd be leaving her a love letter? - but if that's not it, what else could it be about, and who could it be from?

Only one way to find out. With all sorts of possibilities running around in her mind, Mako leaves school and heads straight for the bridge, school bag in hand and tiny little hopes fluttering in her heart.

When she reaches the Rainbow Bridge and finds it strangely deserted, however - Makoto's green eyes go sharp and wary as she looks around her. Even in the cold of February, at this time of day there should be someone around. For there to be no one in sight at all... something is definitely not right.

Her fingertips seek out the smooth surface of her transformation pen, and lifting her face toward the bay Makoto closes her eyes, searching for answers in the cold salt wind that blows in off of the water, for some sense of what's coming.

What is it?

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

No cars, no people. It's downright eerie -- and it stays the case. As Makoto reaches for her transformation pen, she feels the vague sensation of a presence behind her for a split second; if she looks, it's gone, of course.

Another moment, however, and the likely source reveals herself -- and it is, of course, Ami, or more accurately, Dark Mercury. It certainly makes sense -- Ami's still been in school, and indeed, seems to have taken to it with a newfound vigor -- but... why?

Her regard for Makoto is much chillier than the wind. "I'm glad you came," she says, with a smile on her face -- one a little too sharp to indicate a sudden change of heart. "I've been looking forward to this."

Though her posture doesn't indicate any loss of her nerve, there /is/ a very slight hitch in her voice as she asks, "... Are you sure you won't come with me? To Labyrinth?" She knows the answer... but knowing the answer and asking anyway is part of good science.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Makoto turns sharply, eyes opening - and when Dark Mercury makes her entrance, she understands just slightly too late what the purpose of the note was, and a look of something like resignation, tinged with sorrow, comes over her face.

Oh. Of course.

She listens to Ami speak, watches that cold, sharp smile on her friend's face with troubled eyes. The wind stirs her hair around her face, but Makoto doesn't move a muscle, swept by a brief but dizzying feeling of deja vu--

(Have they had this conversation before?)

The feeling passes. Mako's hand closes around her transformation pen, but she doesn't take it out yet.

"Ami-chan..." Her voice is steady, quiet. "You know I can't do that. You shouldn't, either." As she searches her friend's face, a pleading note creeps into Makoto's eyes. "I know I don't understand everything you've been going through, but - joining those guys and helping them hurt people - it can't really make you happy, can it?"

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Clenching her fists, Ami says, "It can. It does." She takes a half-step forward, eyes narrowed. "And you're right -- you /don't/ understand." She stays still, but the air starts to get chillier still, just slightly; something's building inside her.

The data diamond that now forms the center of her tiara glints just slightly as she says, "At least when you were alone, you were the /good/ kind of alone. No one /expects/ anything from /you/."

Ami's voice is much less steady as she says, "You don't have to be afraid that if you decide you want to do something else, people will stop caring about you! You don't have to be scared that people will stop loving you if you fail!" Regarding Mako much more coolly than before, Ami finishes, "Mobius-sama let me find a purpose -- one that won't leave me. One last time, Mako-chan. Come with me to Labyrinth." How quickly she's talked herself back out of caring.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Beware, whispers the breeze that swirls over the bridge. Beware.

Ami's words strike home; Makoto flinches, hurt and regret furrowing her brow. "Is that really how we made you feel...?" she whispers. How could they have failed so badly? Even though Ami is such a precious friend--

There's nothing for Makoto do but bow her head in abject apology. "I'm sorry," she says, in a voice that shakes faintly with emotion. "I'm sorry that you felt like that, and we didn't notice. If we'd known, we would've told you right away how that could never happen."

Now at last she takes out the Jupiter pen, lifting her hand to raise it over her head even as she almost cringes away from it. She doesn't want to do this. The words come out not as a shout of command, but heavy instead with sorrow and resignation: "Jupiter power - Make Up."

In an instant, electricity blooms from the pen's Jupiter symbol, swirling around her in a rush of crackling energy, transforming Makoto Kino into Sailor Jupiter. As the dazzle of light fades away, she faces her friend with eyes filled with sorrow. "You should know already, Ami-chan... there's no good kind of alone."

COMBAT: Makoto Kino transforms into Sailor Jupiter!
COMBAT: Ami Mizuno transforms into Youma Form Dark Sailor Mercury!

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

The apology comes too late; Ami's stopped listening by this point -- she hears, but she refuses, adamantly, to actually /listen/. Her eyes rest on Makoto as she transforms, and in the light of the rainbow bridge, Ami waits for Makoto to finish transforming. Her teeth grind, and in an uncharacteristically forward maneuver, she rushes straight up to Sailor Jupiter.

"I suppose you'd know best," Mercury chides, as she comes in for a forceful uppercut, wreathed in chilly bubbles. They're just that little bit murkier and oilier than her former waves of pure, fresh water.

"Do you miss it, then? Do you miss having someone helpless to protect?" She's just trying to hurt Jupiter now -- throwing out anything she can think of. "Is that why you won't come -- because in Labyrinth, I'm not weak anymore?"

COMBAT: Dark Mercury has used Dark Aqua Ribbon Upper on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Dark Mercury has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter fails to dodge Dark Mercury's Dark Aqua Ribbon Upper, taking 49 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

She should've been expecting it, but she wasn't. Makoto is still flat-footed as Dark Mercury rushes her; she tries to get out of the way of Ami's punch, but too late, and the fist slams squarely into her jaw, releasing the torrent of dark bubbles into her face. She reels and staggers backwards, knocked so badly off balance that she goes down onto one knee and has to catch herself with a hand to the ground, stars dancing in her vision from the force of the impact.

"--That's not it!" Her sinuses stinging from the rank water the bubbles forced up her nose, Sailor Jupiter drags her gloved hand over her face to clear her eyes, then pushes herself back up onto her feet. This time, she takes a defensive posture, crossing her arms in front of her. The message is clear - she has no intention of attacking. "I've never once thought you were weak! I only protected you because you're important to me!"

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"Do you really expect me to believe that?" Ami asks, watching Sailor Jupiter withdraw into that defensive posture. "I nearly broke your jaw, and you /still/ won't attack me!" She hangs back for a few moments as well, but it's not out of mercy -- just out of anger.

"Of all the people I expected to start crying and whining in a fight... I thought /you/, at least, would be able to find it in your heart. But no -- you're afraid of hurting me. So you won't." Walking toward Makoto slowly and evenly, she levels her gaze at her, saying, "Do you really expect me to be /moved/ by that? That by refusing to fight back, you'll appeal to some 'better nature' in me?"

Reaching out toward Jupiter, she moves not to hurt her, as such -- but just to reach for her chin and cup it roughly. "If you really respected me -- if you /really/ thought I wasn't weak -- you'd come at me with everything you have," she explains, clearly angry... but with just a hint of the hurt driving that anger underneath.

COMBAT: Dark Mercury has used Surgical Wit on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Dark Mercury has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter narrowly braces Dark Mercury's Surgical Wit, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Jupiter is Quipped!  Sailor Jupiter's Block ability activates!  Sailor Jupiter's Parry ability activates!  
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Sailor Jupiter holds her ground as Ami walks toward her, right up until the moment that hand reaches up toward her face - then she jerks back away from the touch, a single half-step putting a small amount of space between them.

Her defensive stance doesn't change, however. Though her shoulders twitch as Ami's words strike home, a tiny breath hitching in through her teeth, she still offers no aggression. "...if that's how you feel, then I can't help it," she says. "It has nothing to do with whether you're strong or weak. You're my friend, Mercury. Even if you hate me now, you're still my friend. I can't fight you."

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Looking away as if in disgust, Mercury spits, "If we were friends, you'd fight harder for me. If you loved me, you'd hurt me." Everyone else who does seems to, Ami reminds herself -- a thought that leaves her muscles tense and her heart all the more in the fight. "I'm ashamed I asked you to come." She continues moving toward Makoto, her pace as even and casual as before.

At point-blank range now, she raises her hands, crying out, "Dark Sabao Spray!!" The world around them fills with bubbles and mist, going from the pleasant blue of the sky and the bay to an oozey, inky green. Cold and clinging, the mist envelops the senshi, making it hard to see save for vague silhouettes...

COMBAT: Dark Mercury has used Dark Sabao Spray on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Dark Mercury has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter fails to dodge Dark Mercury's Dark Sabao Spray, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Blind, Cripple, and Stun applied to Sailor Jupiter!  
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Once again, Sailor Jupiter tries too late to duck out of the way of the attack, only to be deluged in bubbles - even if she could've avoided the spray itself, there's no escaping the oppressive cloud of mist that now surrounds her, stealing away sight and leeching the warmth from her skin.

Wrapping her arms around herself against the chill, she searches the fog, eyes straining to try to pick out Ami's shape in the shifting, indistinct shadows around her. "Fighting for you and fighting you aren't the same thing," she insists. "You're not my enemy, so how could I possibly fight you? It's because I love you that I can't hurt you! Please, Mercury--"

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"You just love the /idea/ of me," Ami's voice says, from the shadows. "If you /really/ loved me, you'd either fight back or come with me! This is just embarrassing!" Her voice seems to come from all around -- making her sudden advance all the more startling.

It's not like Ami to come in this close to fight with such regularity -- she can do it, she's gotten... /more/ comfortable, in close, over time -- but she's gotten much more physical, stepping out of the fog with a forceful kick to the stomach with those long swimmer's legs.

"I wonder if Sailor Moon will be this much of an embarrassment," she remarks, absently, as she comes in.

COMBAT: Dark Mercury has used Standing Medium Kick on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Dark Mercury has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter narrowly braces Dark Mercury's Standing Medium Kick, taking 2 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sailor Jupiter's Block ability activates!  Sailor Jupiter's Parry ability activates!  

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

The kick lands solidly; Jupiter's breath goes out of her in a sharp, startled "--nnh!" and her lips curl back in a grimace from her gritted teeth. Still, though, she doesn't bend or falter, just looks toward Mercury through the blinding mist.

"What would it prove for me to fight you? It wouldn't change your mind, would it?" Makoto's voice is quiet, but thick with feeling. "I can't make my feelings reach you that way. I don't know what to do, or how to help you... I just don't want you to be hurt any more."

Though she can't see clearly, she reaches out both hands, palms up, open and pleading. "Please come back, Mercury. Whatever's wrong, we can make it right together, I know we can."

<Pose Tracker> Dark Mercury [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"..." Makoto brings up a good point. What /was/ Ami expecting? That Makoto'd come with her? That she'd fight Ami, and lose, and then she could carry her off to Labyrinth and she'd see the light just like Ami had? That she'd fight Ami, and win, and... and then what, exactly?

She takes a deep breath, turning her whole body away. "... you really don't get it, do you? There's nothing wrong. Not anymore." ... maybe the only thing she was really planning was to make Makoto miserable.

Mission accomplished, she reflects, as her boots clack-clack-clack back away from the bridge.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.


Part of Makoto screams at her not to just let Ami leave - to go after her, to stop her, to do something to make her understand how wrong this all is. The rest of her flounders in confusion and hurt. Trapped in a storm of conflicting emotions, not sure what to do or if there's anything she can do that would even be of any help, she can only stand helplessly and watch as Ami's figure dissolves into the lingering mist and at last even the sound of her friend's footsteps has died away.

Silence descends, filled only by the sounds of the bay. Jupiter wavers on her feet, and then her legs give out beneath her and she crumples slowly down onto her knees. The air stirs around her, the tiniest crackle of static electricity, and then Sailor Jupiter is gone and it's just Makoto, sitting forlornly on the empty Rainbow Bridge, shoulders trembling with the futile effort of holding back tears.

"...That's not true at all," she whispers, but Ami's long gone.

COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter transforms into Makoto Kino!
COMBAT: Dark Mercury transforms into Ami Mizuno!

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Nephrite has had plenty of time to think since he last visited Makoto Kino.

When he left her humble apartment that night, he had all but sworn that he would track her down again immediately, not wasting any time in unraveling the mysteries surrounding her. Leaving her as a loose end was not only negligent and irresponsible -- it was dangerous. Very rarely did mortal girls move in the circles of magic with no reason. The sooner he hunted her down and wrested the truth from her, the more secure the interests of the Dark Kingdom would be.

And yet...here he is, atop his crystalline throne with a glass of whiskey in one hand. No results, no answers. Simply tracking the map of Tokyo in his observatory, following one very specific speck of light as it moved throughout the day. He has been holding back. *Intentionally*, he tells himself. To plan his next move carefully, to ensure there would be no repeats of catching the girl with a friend.

But is that really--

/Of course that's the reason,/ he thinks as he takes a drink, eyes not moving from the map above him. But he is not as able to efficiently kill the doubt, not like he has in the past. It's a supremely unsettling feeling. And it all started with her.

No more. Stars as his witness, he is putting an end to this tonight. With a flickering of shadow and a last glance towards his location, Nephrite disappears.

Only to land in a chill mist.

"Wh--" he says with a slight startle, bringing an arm to his face to keep away the encroaching cold. This...why would Makoto Kino be in a place like this? Silently, the general summons his Crystal and lets out a dark pulse that sends the billowing mass away. Not dissipating it completely, for he can tell it came from a powerful magic user and he does not feel like wasting his own strength to eradicate it. But it clears the area of the deadly chill, and lifts the shroud on their silhouettes.

He still has not found his mark, but he knows she is there. "It seems you have a knack for getting into trouble, girl."

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

She's really not sure how long she stays there alone, shivering in the lingering mist of Dark Mercury's power, drowning in her own emotions. Maybe it hasn't been very long at all, although it feels like it's been hours since Ami walked away.

All that Makoto knows is that suddenly she snaps back to awareness to find herself no longer alone - and somehow she knows that voice, knows who it is even before the pulse of dark power rolls back the fog enough to reveal her sitting there.

"--Nephrite." She breathes out the name before it can even occur to her to think better of speaking.

The memory of everything that happened that night in her apartment rushes through her head, and in an instant she's drawn so tense that she almost vibrates with it. She should've been more careful - he'd said it wasn't over, she should've known he'd be back, but for him to find her now, like this--

Her chin lifts, mouth tight, eyes hard despite the lingering glimmer of tears. "Go away," she says mulishly, voice flat and heavy and more tired than she'd like. "I don't have time for you today."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

He has not yet seen the Kino girl -- though his teleportation skills were exact, the mist had thrown him off some, unfortunately losing him the element of surprise and a preliminary survey of their surroundings. Now that he has a slightly less hindered view, his tactician's mind begins scanning what he can see, peering through the dispersing clouds to see the horizon. The Rainbow Bridge, if the multicolored lights coming into view are any indication. An odd place for a student to be so late at night, especially enshrouded by magical fog.

"I'm afraid you don't give me orders, Makoto Kino," Nephrite says with a single, harsh laugh, beginning to turn around to look her in the eye. "If you had given me the answers I sought the first time, perhaps I wouldn't--"

He is not a man easily surprised, but he feels the words die in his mouth as he takes in the battered form of the girl, finally putting together the evidence of the scene. The remote location. The remains of magical combat. Her wounds and exhaustion, not only in body, but in spirit, if her eyes and voice are any indication. Makoto Kino had just been assailed by someone and left for dead.

A curious change comes over the man. Not any kind of softness, nor a dampening of his drive or cruel intentions. For a brief moment, he closes his mouth and maintains a taut, almost emotionless expression. And his eyes glint with...pity?

If it was, it morphs quickly into condescension, and he adopts the mien of a predator who decided the prey was not worth stalking. "Tell me what transpired here. Immediately."

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

"No." Makoto's answer is quiet, immediate, and stubborn beyond all reason. Her heart is racing, her body is stiff and aching and she has to get up, she can't just keep on sitting here like this waiting for him to get around to finish what he started before.

With this thought, she draws in a deep breath and begins to pick herself up, getting slowly and ungracefully back onto her feet and wavering for a moment before she braces her stance enough to be sure that she can stay upright. She's not in much of a shape to fight, and even if she were she's already had it demonstrated in abundant clarity just what the difference in their strength is, but--

"We went over this already, didn't we?" Mako says, and can't keep herself from wincing a little, sure that this is not going to help her situation even as she pushes right along and keeps talking. "I'm not going to tell you anything. What difference does it make to you, anyway?"

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

No? She stands before a conduit of power greater than anything she has ever known -- and she chooses to say no?

Nephrite's eyes alight with surprise, though that is almost outweighed by the anger that such a simple response sparks in him. What unimaginable audacity, what great stupidity compels her to keep standing up before him? Beaten and broken, chilled to the core, she should barely have any strength left in her. And yet she chooses to fight.

His expression hardening again, he closes the distance between them and shoves her roughly to the ground again, not abiding them standing even near the same height. No, he is the superior here. /He/ is the one with power, she the one choosing to tempt fate with her defiance. She would do well to remember that, as well as the fact that his actions are /merciful/ compared to what they could be.

The man tries to sound calm and composed when he responds to her, but he can't quite manage it. His baritone voice is live with righteous fury, and he can barely contain the strain behind his words. Showing emotion like this to the enemy is a weakness, but as it stands, it is one he has no control over.

"You dare to ask questions of me? You are a /worm/ compared to the might of the Dark Kingdom, and yet you continue to spit in my face. What will it take to demonstrate my full strength?" he all but yells, standing menacingly above her as a rumble of thunder sounds in the distance. "Should I crush this bridge with a thought? Should I command my ghost to possess your mind and wrest each secret you've ever kept until I find what I'm looking for? Should I find this friend of yours and show them that, in this world, there are many, many worse things than the anonymous Mobius you claimed hurt them so badly? Should I perhaps do that while you *watch*?"

A lightning bolt streaks across the sky, and Nephrite takes a deep breath and swallows, fighting to contain his rage at her insolence. He should not be the one upset in this situation; the fact that he is is a terrible sign. It means she's winning, just by standing up and saying no. He can't have that.

He takes a step backward, a veneer of icy neutrality once again coming over his expression. "You have no reason to hide what I'm asking of you, Kino. You were clearly attacked. What allegiance do you owe the attacker?"

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

--running her mouth was clearly a mistake.

Alarm flashes across Makoto's face; wide-eyed, she begins to recoil as Nephrite closes the space between them, but her reactions are far from at their best and in seconds she's sprawling, flung backwards onto the hard surface of the bridge.

Even now, faced with the Dark General's towering wrath, she refuses to stay down - Mako pushes herself back and away from him, scrambling to get her feet back underneath her with her pulse hammering in her ears in an echo of the distant growl of the thunder. As she lurches back up to her feet, her thoughts race: what should she do?

(Be strong, says the storm wind that's picked up to whip across the open bridge.)

(Fight, says the flash of lightning across the heavy black clouds.)

In the midst of Nephrite's litany of furious threats he can see it on her face when a shot hits the mark - it's only the very last threat, to find Ami and make Makoto watch her suffer, that sets Mako's eyes alight with shock and fury and horror, and whatever course of action she might possibly have entertained before, rather than be cowed she faces him with more fierce determination than ever.

Her shoulders twitch just slightly as Nephrite asks what allegiance she could possibly owe the one who attacked her. This time she doesn't dare say a word. The answer is too close to the surface, far too close to being right there for him to put together if she gives anything away and she knows she can't trust herself to lie, so instead she presses her lips tightly together and stares back at him.

As she does, her hand finds her pocket amidst the pleats of her skirt and closes once more around her transformation pen.

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

He'd been out walking by night with a book, a flashlight, an umbrella under one arm, and an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. No matter how many times he read that third paragraph on page two-hundred-forty-seven, he couldn't actually parse it.

Cutting across via the rainbow bridge, that uneasy feeling starts to solidify; the lingering chill on its outlying edges and the mist that clings to everything despite being mostly dispersed by Nephrite's power and the night breeze, they solidify it.

Stopping in his tracks at what he sees up ahead -- Nephrite's back, Makoto's ragged appearance -- he swiftly crouches to put down all the things and shoves up his sleeve to get at the communicator Luna never took away from him.

Mamoru Chiba sees trouble, and with the press of a button and a quiet little beep, he calls the one person that can help them.

"Sailor Moon!" he whispers urgently, pressing up against the rail, making himself one with the architecture. "Come help! Please! It's Nephrite -- he has Makoto! I'm going to try to buy her some time -- we're on the Rainbow Bridge! Hurry!"

And he has to buy time. And he can't buy time with a rose: with the amount of coincidences stacked up against them in the first place, and the fact that Nephrite's so determined to harsh on Makoto without having any idea she's Sailor Jupiter, he can't. But going in swinging would be even dumber than anything else he's tried to pull lately, would only make her pull her hand from her pocket with a pen in it.

There's no dramatic entrance here, no spanish guitar and castanets: just a swirl of mist and the rumbling of distant but approaching thunder, and Makoto's friend from last time Nephrite hassled her is standing tall in the middle of the bridge, taking his glasses off and putting them in their case.

"Why do you keep going after her?" demands Mamoru, voice ringing out across the expanse.

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Beneath the bridge, the sea roils, waves crashing ominously against the supports and blowing thin mists of ocean spray onto the bridge. He cannot tell if this is his influence, or if the sea is that agitated by the brewing storm. Though it would be a true testament to his power if the very planet was responding to his emotions, he dearly hopes it is simply nature showing her wrath. To be this impassioned -- this /unhinged/ -- by a mere human girl is unacceptable.

Not even a word now. No, with nothing more than a glance, she stands up once more, against the pain he knows she is feeling. Against his might as well, for he has no doubt made it abundantly clear what he is capable of. Not even a word. Just a crackle of thunder and a defiant stare.

Nephrite snaps.

"Answer me!" he shouts, near-screaming, propelling her backwards with the force of a magic blast. "You idiot girl, I will not be mocked! Play at being a hero all you like. It will get you nowhere. It will get you nothing except your own doom!" He casts the same magic again to hurl her backward ever further, almost reaching the edge of the bridge itself. Beneath them, a wave breaks violently against a support. "If you are so desperate to seek death, I will give you what you want!"

He almost does. A second or two more, and the man is not sure what he would have done, blinded by fury and foaming at the figurative mouth. But the sound of another familiar voice breaks through the noise of the turbulent sea and sky, and Nephrite looks over to see Mamoru Chiba.


With a half-maddened glance towards Makoto, he disappears. And a nanosecond later, he is behind the boy, a strong hand chopping the sensitive place where neck meets shoulder. In a barely visible flash, he is in front again, bringing a knee up into his gut like a battering ram. Then, hand like a vice grip, he takes him by the collar of his shirt, leaps onto the railing of the bridge, and holds his hostage forward, one flick of the wrist away from meeting the all-too-angry ocean.

"Look on, Makoto Kino! Look on and see as your friend pays for your sins!" he calls out, eyes affixed on the beaten girl, unmoving.

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

It's amazing how quickly the weather can change.

By luck or chance Makoto sees Mamoru over Nephrite's shoulder through the faint remaining traces of mist, close enough to recognize, just as he's crouching down and pushing up his sleeve in a way that she knows can only mean one thing.

Her empty hand leaves her pocket.

In the next instant Nephrite's blast of magic slams into her, knocking her backwards off her feet and sending her sprawling with an impact that awakens a whole host of aches old and new through her body. Clenching her teeth against the pain, she begins to struggle up once more - only for the next blast to hit her, and this time she goes flying, tumbling several yards across the surface of the bridge before she comes to rest near the edge with her eyes watering from pain.

And still she refuses to stay down, though every joint seems to scream in protest as she gathers herself. She's halfway up, on her hands and knees--

--and then Mamoru is there calling out to Nephrite and the color drains from Makoto's face in a sharp spike of sheer panic. "Mamoru-san, don't--!"

Too late, too slow, Nephrite is already in motion, doing exactly what he'd threatened to do, and Sailor Moon must be on her way but there's no telling if it'll be in time. Makoto lurches to her feet, throwing herself toward Nephrite and Mamoru with her hand outflung before her and no idea what she's going to do but she has to do something or--

A scream rips from her throat as lightning splits the sky. "STOP!"

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mamoru blinks, pocketing his glasses case, and is in the process of whipping around to see where Nephrite went when the pile-driver of Nephrite's vicious fury slams into the space between his neck and shoulder; he sees white for a second, and tries to bulldoze through the pain to brace for whatever next hit is coming--

--but that's teleportation, he has no time. He has no time before Nephrite's knee is jamming into his guts and he's instantly doubling over, and before he can even form the half-coherent beginnings of a reaction, his shirt collar is bunched up in Nephrite's hand and everything hurts and he's not standing on anything and everything's so much colder.

Everything except for his heart, beating hard and fast, as he rallies his faltering focus on that bright star of emotion he can feel rocketing toward them. He brings his hands up, ignoring his shoulder and his midsection in favor of gripping Nephrite's arm to allay some of his own weight and give himself a little air.

And then lightning splits the sky and Makoto's rushing them, and Mamoru sets his face and wills her to meet his eyes. He's hurting, he's in danger, but it'll be okay. She's coming, it'll be okay. They're not alone, it'll be okay. There's pain, god OF COURSE there's pain, but that calm that he lent her in the last fight, it's all over his face, trying to reassure.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

It takes nights like this to keep Usagi alive.

It's not that she hates being Sailor Moon. She knows how important she is now. Without the moon and stars and planets in the sky, there would be only city lights and violent storms to make the night safe. She has seen the city go dark. She has seen storms kill.

It makes moments like this mean more. The storm was outside, made comforting by the rhythm it beat through the house. The lights inside were a cheering glow against the dark. She was so glad to share it all with a friend. Maybe Mio could somehow feel Usagi's thankfulness for it all. Maybe it came through in a warmth in her words and her smiles. She wanted it to be true. If she felt joy, she wanted to give it to someone like Mio. Mio is saving her right now. It is her friendship that keeps Usagi awake.

There is a line through all this, right to her heart. It is a useful connection. The cold it let inside her woke her up and made her ready. It was still cold. Usagi listened to message and put her phone away. She said sorry to Mio, but the meaning was in her eyes, not her words. She went into the night.

This is Nephrite's storm. It is angry and cruel. It holds people hostage in their homes. Now more than ever, Usagi wanted to believe that there is good in everything. A storm like this also drove people into each others arms.

Mamoru pleads. Makoto rushes. Nephrite rages. When they meet, everything will fall apart. Unless--


A metal shape strikes the bridge before Makoto's feet. It sparks, disappearing into the night on a ricochet. The clouds are forced apart. In the moonlight it reveals, a small shape stands atop the nearest grand arch. Sailor Moon leaps, taking blind faith in her descent.


She reaches out. Her white glove glows red with her heart's longing. It splits into silken shapes, a dozen ribbons to pry apart Nephrite and tenderly hold Mamoru Chiba. Her tiara comes flying back. She catches it without looking.


The space-dark gem set into its center gleams with her light. She raises it high, still in her hand, still gripped with intensity. Sailor Moon lands between the unawake senshi and the dark general, feet spread in a strong stance that Makoto taught her. She pulls hard, using her skill to turn Nephrite's strength against him and take Mamoru away. Usagi does not have Makoto's strength, but Makoto also has finesse. Usagi saw that in her and never forgot.

She calls to the moon, and her patron answers. A beam splits the sky, a thin light that falls to tiara. There, Sailor Moon can give it all her feeling. It grows powerful then, brightening, brighter still, a silvery-pale lightning bolt crackling with love and courage. She almost can't hold it all. If Makoto wasn't behind her, if she wasn't in the very way she carried herself now, she wouldn't be able to.

In one arm, she holds Mamoru Chiba. In the other, she holds justice. The ribbons of her half-formed sailor suit fly wildly behind her, catching the moonlight.


Sailor Moon brings it all crashing down. When she slams her tiara downward, the silvery pillar of her passion becomes a sword of legendary might, a sword with which to seal away Nephrite's malice.

<Pose Tracker> Mio Kuroki [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Mio Kuroki has lived and breathed drama when not in class for quite some time. It was welcome to go over to someone's home for a while.

Mio's own home is cold and empty. She had seemed wondering, curious, to see things. Eating a light supper with the parents, the younger sibling, of Usagi Tsukino was something which seemed to strike a genuine chord with Mio; her pleasantries were heartfelt and she had even been shown a spare room or two with all due honor, and with all due impression.

Not that long ago, this would have been a black day promising of darkness beforehand. Maybe someday it will be otherwise.

In theory, she had studied, but after an hour of perhaps surprisingly piquant revision she had gotten bored. She had eaten a shrimp cracker and watched television on a small set. She had remarked on the costumes on a variety program, and on the fury of the wind outside.

And then came a call.

Her eyes had been knowing when Usagi apologized. She had demurred - and said there was nothing to apologize for. She would not be there when Usagi returned, she had said - but she'd see her after school, she was sure.

And then she was gone.

Stepping out into the storm despite the offer of a spare futon, Mio Kuroki walks away from that house, her heart peculiarly warm. The wind whips around her, but the rain does not touch her. Tilting her head back, she savors the wind.

With no one to hear, she speaks her heart. "A new world... only the tiniest shred of that past remains. Once it is gone - yes; then, perhaps, I will make the world truly wonderful."

She inhales, sharply, her eyes pricking with tears. "It will be the perfect memorial of you. I will call it for you, I think. May it last a thousand thousand years; they will call this world,"

But thunder rolls, hiding four syllables that fall from her lips.

Mio Kuroki returns home alone.

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

That. That is what he wants. That shout of desperation, of fear. It is the sound of his approaching victory. When the boy's body hits the water, she will talk. She will--

It comes out of nowhere; he hadn't even thought to look at the hostage he holds, much too focused on the true goal of this psychological torture. But it's as though a lightning bolt strikes his hand, and before he can so much as turn his head, his vision is divested from reality and he is plunged into a sea of white light. It's not real. It's a trick, some sort of last ditch effort to outwit him. If he simply holds steady, there will be nothing to...to...

("This one," a hand gloved in white gestures down at a scroll of parchment dotted with constellations, then rises up and points to the sky. They are on a balcony of cream-white marble underneath a canopy of night, the stars sparkling like diamonds against black velvet. That is one of the greatest blessings of the Earth -- the atmosphere is so pure, one can see the galaxy with unmatched clarity. "This one is Cassiopeia, the vain queen. Here," Nephrite once again points to the starmap, then back to the crystal-clear sky, "you can see the outline of her throne. And -- here, if you look a little to this side," the man continues, shifting his focus to another grouping of stars, "you will see Orion. He is especially easy to spot by his belt."

He turns his gaze towards the youth beside him, several years his junior but coming into manhood as gracefully as a prince could. His eyes are filled with just as much wonder as his own were when he first began mapping the stars, learning their language and surveying the galaxy from his chambers on Earth. Nephrite can't help but smile, though. Even with an infinity of stars and galaxies, the boy still trains his eyes on the Moon.

"Endymion, do you know why it is I study the skies?" he asks, standing by his side as both their cloaks billow in a slight breeze. "We can hardly tell from here, but each constellation -- each single star, nebula, and galaxy -- each of them is alive. Alive with billions of people just like us, alive with histories and kingdoms that rise and fall. The beauty of life that sustains our Silver Millennium is not isolated to our corner of the universe. It is everywhere, as vast as all of existence. And though the stars are not historians, they are storytellers. It is easy to forget that we are not alone. But when you do -- and we all do sometimes," he says solemnly, but then smiles gently once again, and lifts his arms in an arc to the sky, "we only need to look above us, and we'll find our way.")

...no. No. It was an illusion, a trick. He is a Shitennou of the Dark Kingdom, the great Nephrite. He who could command the stars to his will, conjure mountains and lakes, take away the very essence of life if he desired to. He /knew/ his memories of the life before, of the Kingdom that starved his people, levelled his forests, and sat in their ivory towers to laugh at their plight. He'd dedicated his life to fighting that regime, as well as the Prince who could not find the strength to break their silver shackles.



The roiling of his emotions -- the rage, the frustration, the bloodlust, the /doubt/ -- comes crashing over him once more as the sea of light and illusion-memories fades from his sight, and with a cry to shatter earth itself, Nephrite lets the boy drop, needing to see him fall to his doom to ensure that his underhanded tactic dies with him.

Instead, red-pink ribbons come out of nowhere, and a circlet of light collides with the ground in front of his feet. His eyes go wide with shock, then confusion. Then...trepidation.

/It can't be./

He slowly turns his head towards the sky, and there stands the silhouette he knows all too well, bathed in the silvery moonlight.

"I...killed you," is all he can manage as the boy is pulled from his hand, and the Senshi of the Moon lands directly in front of him, an untold amount of power gathering around her and her half-undone fuku. "I saw you fall. How.../how/--"

The flash of light and pure energy nearly knocks him backward, and he has to bring his arms up to his eyes to keep himself from being blinded. When he can finally (barely) see again, he sees her, holding a sword, backed by the mortal girl who knew too much and the young man who almost paid the price.

The Dark General clenches his fist and grinds his teeth, dark auburn hair billowing about him as the storm picks up once more. No matter. Her time will come, and she and every Senshi will fall.

But it is not today. He has let himself unravel, touched upon a well of emotion within himself that he scarcely knew existed, and even now, it threatens to overwhelm him. The soldier of the Moon is clearly in her element -- he is not. Though he will face censure from his Queen, surely he benefited the Dark Kingdom more living than dead.

He could only hope.

Nephrite looks over the small assembly once more, hair blowing in the wind that sweeps the bridge they stand on. How the clouds have held in their storm so long, he will never know. "You have not won, Sailor Moon. Treasure this moment of victory well, for you shall not have another from me." With a mighty leap, he clears a hundred feet easily, hovering above them for a few seconds more before vanishing completely.

Makoto, and Makoto only, will hear the whisper in her mind: /You will be seeing me again, girl./

A few drops fall tentatively from the sky, and the downpour comes at long last.

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Makoto screams, Nephrite bellows and lets go, and there isn't even a half-second for Mamoru to calculate how soon he can henshin on the way down before there's that breathtakingly unmistakeable PING of tiara on asphalt and he's abruptly cradled by ribbons--

--ribbons like light--

--but it's nothing at all like when Mami Tomoe or Sailor Vega entangled and bound him; he's being held, gently, as his head spins and he tries to clear it from whatever else just happened. He still hurts, but he can breathe, and he feels



there's such brightness

and all of a sudden he's held against Sailor Moon, leaning his tall form on her diminutive and heart-stoppingly powerful one, and she has PUT. HER. FOOT. DOWN.

His heart's beating so fast, so loud, he's sure everyone can hear it. All he can do is watch, wide-eyed, as he works on catching his breath, on healing himself, on trying to parse this avenging angel's beautiful fury.

Still wide, his dark blue eyes are clear by the time Nephrite's telling Sailor Moon she's not won, and when the Dark General leaves and the downpour starts, his breath hitches and he lets out a tiny, disbelieving laugh, still hanging on. "Like hell you didn't win. Th-thank you, Sailor Moon. That was... that was incredible..."

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

For Makoto, it's as though the space of a single second plays out in agonizingly slow motion. As the scream leaves her she can see Nephrite holding Mamoru out over the bay with perfect clarity, every detail sharply illuminated by the unforgiving flash of the lightning. Too far, too slow, too weak - even as she pushes her body to the limit, she knows there's nothing she can do, knows it with an absolute and unbearable certainty.

(--sharp as the blade of a sword through her body; she can almost feel it go through her--)

Then the tiara PINGs off the ground in front of her feet, interrupting her headlong run as sharply as the snapping of a wire, and the heavens open and the storm gives way to moonlight.

And everything's okay.

...Almost. Nephrite's gone, but Makoto hears his voice as though he's right there beside her speaking into her ear, and it's like a jolt of static discharge right up her spine. Her breath catches in a sharp little indrawn gasp and for a moment she just stands there, frozen in place, wide-eyed.

Only when the first drops of cold rain from above splash against her cheek does the spell break. It's all right. Nephrite's gone (for now), and Sailor Moon is there and she is glorious and Mamoru is right beside her and Makoto's breath goes out of her in a shuddering sigh. She crosses the space between herself and her friends in a few steps until she can throw her arms around both of them. "Usagi-chan!"

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Sailor Moon is resolute in the face of Nephrite's vicious incredulity. She says nothing, but holds fast to her tiara. Its brightness is still painfully pure to an evil eye.

He leaves.

The rain falls.

Mamoru says something. She wobbles. Her ribbons grow slack. Just as Makoto comes to take them up in her arms, Usagi begins to fall backward. There is no one but Usagi now, a middle school girl in bunny pajamas. Her hair isn't even in odango.

"I think I forgot my phone," she murmurs. She sounds out of it, though it's hard to believe that she's in danger of falling asleep in this very place. She slumps into Makoto, heedless of comfortable position.

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There's a faint smile on Mamoru's face as he finally relaxes, standing straight-- and then his warm ungloved hands are on their shoulders. Won't do anything for sleepiness, but the dim golden glow might at least do something to help Makoto.

"Are you all right, Mako-chan? Do you two need me to take you home?" he asks, and then Usagi mumbles something about her phone as they proceed to get absolutely drenched, and a look of horror crosses his face. "Oh god DAMN it," he says as he glances back behind them at his forlorn pile of stuff on the bridge. "My book!"

<Pose Tracker> Makoto Kino [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Makoto is none too steady on her own feet, but somehow she manages to brace herself enough to support Usagi's weight, arm curling protectively around her friend. The warm golden glow from Mamoru's hand on her shoulder helps, giving her strength enough to hold up, driving back the bone-deep chill.

Her school bag is getting soaked, too, but oh well.

Mako draws in a deep breath, lets it back out. "...Sorry, Usagi-chan. Mamoru-san. I'm okay. We should..." The rain pours down around them, soaking everything through, and Mako can't hold back a shiver. "...we should get out of here."