2015-10-02 - North Pole, Part Two

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
Title: North Pole, Part Two

The Sailor Senshi, having used the battle as cover, infiltrate the Dark Kingdom, intent upon defeating a foe whose reach has spanned millennia and lifetimes. But a terrible force awaits them -- one which they faced once before, at Tokyo Tower. What must be sacrificed for victory?


Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Venus, Sailor Jupiter
GM: Honoka Yukishiro


The North Pole - D Point

OOC - IC Date:

29 August 2014 - 10/02/2015

<Pose Tracker> Queen Beryl [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsT16TJJ0Nk
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.

The mirror's edge may have offered a worldwide invitation, but the Sailor Senshi have an advantage that the rest of the world's defenders do not, and it lies underneath Game Center Crown, quietly humming and whirring and occasionally emitting a beep.

Luna and Artemis have been patiently scanning for a year, now, trying to find the precise location of Beryl's headquarters. When the pillar of darkness erupts into the sky, that gives them a general area, and with a narrowed search, well. The two living experts in hunting for Dark Activity have their answer in about fifteen minutes flat.

"It's here -- the secret entrance," meows Artemis triumphantly.

Luna is more hesitant. Her eyes are shadowed by a memory so old that she cannot grasp it. It flees from her, as so many do. "Yes... at D Point."

"You should head there right away! We have to end this before things get any worse." Tail held high, Artemis leaps off of his operator's stool to pace around the girls, stopping in front of Minako like a tiny marching band leader.

Which is funny, because he just said 'you', not a more typical 'we'. But even exciteable, passionate Arty knows that this is not a trip for cats.

Luna breaks the silence again.

"...please, be very careful. You all know, better than anyone else, what she's capable of." She flattens her whiskers against Usagi's ankles.

After that, there's little else to do but go back out, under the sky, the rising Moon.

From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.

The Sailor Teleport flattens the snow and ice around arrival in a concentric spiral, a thick mist rising from the ring as though vainly trying to attempt escape from a repeat of history. Once again, the senshi stand upon a blasted landscape, preparing to face a terrible foe. Everything has changed, and everything has stayed the same.

But, like the outward spiral, is it possible to resemble the past while moving forward? Or is this an inward spiral, one that will never lead anywhere but within its existing circumference, prior-held fates?

There is a storm nearby, and in that storm there is a terrible battle raging. Flashes of every conceivable hue burst out here and there, coloring the blizzard with the hearts of those within. But the storm itself is a patently unnatural disaster, cutting across the ice plain with a razor's straightness. It falls like a curtain across that stage, a clear separation. It's possible to tear through that curtain, surely, to join that fight, but...

But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate

...D Point lies in the opposite direction. This place couldn't be more different from that domelike storm; other than the distant howl it is locally quiet, sounds muted and rare. Muffled by endless layers of snow, little, tremulous cracks in the evershifting ice floes sing eternal winter even as they evolve -- another thing that is ever changing and unchanging.

It is foggy here, difficult to see further than a few handspans. And it is cold, cold not like unfortunate exam results which are impersonal, but instead cold like the bitter rival who outscored you, and knows it, the bitter mother who is ashamed, and shows it.

It was surely a lonely, desolate place before it was ever made to serve dark purposes... if such a time ever existed. This is a place that has been nestled in the bosom of a great evil since before times that no longer remain in memory, living or dead. It knows who it belongs to, what it is.

Every step is treacherous, every surface ready to betray misplaced trust, to twist an ankle or gash a knee.

D Point owns its malice, embraces it, embodies it.

And this is just the beginning, the doorstep. The entrance to the Dark Kingdom is yet invisible and at least a few hundred yards away.

There is no welcoming party, no entourage, no ambush.

There doesn't need to be.

The jaws of the North Pole are sharp enough on their own.

To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

COMBAT: Usagi Tsukino transforms into Sailor Moon!

COMBAT: Makoto Kino transforms into Sailor Jupiter!
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Minako Aino transforms into Sailor Venus!
COMBAT: Sailor Venus has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Rei Hino transforms into Sailor Mars!
COMBAT: Ami Mizuno transforms into Sailor Mercury!

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Usagi Tsukino doesn't say much after the briefing. But after... she picks up Luna without warning as her whiskers touch against her ankle, and gives her a hug, nuzzling her against her. There's a bright, cheerful smile on her face. "We'll be back soon." She promises, keeping to herself whether she thinks it's a promise she can actually keep.

Before Usagi Tsukino goes out there though, she exuberantly mentions while leaning into her gathered friends, "So once school starts back up I personally think we should put everything we have into finding romance! This /is/ our last year of middle school after all!" She has a sly look on her face, "What do you all think? Shouldn't we give /that/ our all?"

After that is the joining of hands, of hearts, of power that cracks concrete and smothers snow and ice once her vision clears. Like on the Moon, she surveys her surroundings for a time, thinking perhaps that this place is a dark mockery of Mare Serenitatis... but not quite. It's cold, and even more desolate as far as she can see in this fog, with no hint of ancient warmth. It's simply...


Sailor Moon's teeth chatter, as she crosses her arms and shivers while hunched over, shaking snow off her boots that is only replaced by more. It's like the cold has amped up the malice to the umpteenth degree, to the degree she feels it seep into her more than most, "I-I'm going to freeze to d-d-death out here!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sailor Jupiter can't speak to the future. ...She can only speak to the past because she's been shown it, been shown what the fragments of memory meant. She doesn't know what's going to happen after they arrive.

She knows that last night, she spent her time writing, cleaning, preparing her small home for whatever might be next. If everything goes well, she'll go home and put the papers in their envelopes away, so that no one ever has to look at them. And if they don't...

"Aah, what a great idea, Usagi-chan! Of course, /I/ never stopped!" Makoto beams at her friends, keeping up a bright smile regardless of the worries she has in her heart. "I wonder...!"

Sailor Jupiter can speak to the present, and what /she/ will do. And what she won't allow to happen.

Her hands fall only after they arrive on the landscape, and she looks around, quickly careful. Her eyes linger on the storm, with its bursts of light flashing through. ...And then, of course, Sailor Moon's words get her attention back, and the taller senshi sighs, lightly. "This light breeze?" Jupiter blusters, despite the fact that her arms, too, are instinctively crossed against the chill. "It's nothing!"

She looks over the others, over Mars, over Mercury... and her eyes settle for the moment on Venus.

The cheer's a thin facade. But she keeps smiling anyway.

COMBAT: Sailor Mercury has fully healed herself.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sailor Mercury has likewise stayed silent after the briefing; she hasn't even reached out to Luna. The situation's direness weighs on her -- as does her memory of what happened last time. Her past self marched off to her death when Beryl came knocking... and that fact leaves her cold. It's been a hard road back to the Senshi, and an even harder one getting herself to feel stable in her return. The possibility of losing it now...

... is something she can't let herself think about in this bitter, biting cold. She can't return that facade of happiness at first. It's only when Sailor Jupiter tries to play it off that she manages to say, "As long as we're careful how long we're out here, we'll warm right back up," and gets a smile back on her face.

Her hands, meanwhile, clench tightly, and she gravitates toward Sailor Mars. Perhaps /her/ warmth will help her hold it together as they face down the palpable hostility of D Point.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"This time I'm actually going to find a good boyfriend!" Sailor Venus declares, her gloved hand clenched in a fist in front of her.

Artemis, however, doesn't seem so moved by his partner's words of passion. Brows furrowed, he gazes up at Venus with a look of concern.

"Are you sure that's a good idea, Mina?"

Venus flashes him a peace sign. "Don't worry," she says, practically bursting with cheer. "Shun was an outlier, an outlier!"

Truthfully, Sailor Venus is having a hard time keeping her spirits up. As much as she believed in her team, she knows that there is a distinct possibility that this might be the end of it for all of them. And that niggling thought has settled in the back of her mind.

Still, she's determined to combat those thoughts with positive energy! She has to keep everyone's spirits up! That's what leaders, do, right?

When Venus clasps hands with the other girls, though, her grip on their hands is a little tighter than usual.

D Point is cold -- really, really cold! And unfortunately, their sailor uniforms do little to help the sub-zero chill of the North Poll.

"That's what we've got Mars-chan for, right?" Venus looks over at Mars with a grin, then tilts her head to the side expectantly.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqUtcDX7BwM

Rei nods with grim purpose. Artemis is absolutely correct, there isn't any time to spare. If they are blessed then they'll spring an ambush instead of set off a snare..but even if it's a trap, and the adversary obscured treachery within an ostentatious challenge to the world, it doesn't matter. There's only one path to take.

Even distracted by thoughts of war, Usagi manages to reach through her mental helmet to tweak her ear with nonsense talk of boys. She groans and rolls her eyes, but gives a grin too. It's important to stay in the present moment, and Usagi's uncannily good at reminding her to be here, now.

Like five fingers of a single hand they lift..and fall just outside the heart of darkness. The cold is universal and unremitting, a cold that gouges into her and hollows her out. In purely physical terms, her hot blood had never encountered a space less welcoming to her life's nature..and the auras in the air stank worse than a stagnant bog to her spiritual sensitivities.

Her temper frayed by the severe discomfort, she wants to snap at Usagi's chattering reaction from pure annoyance, even though she didn't speak a false word. Instead, she channels her irritation through her, projecting a compact sphere of dull orange light around her to encompass them all if they stay close enough. It does not warm them, per say..managing that for more than a few moments would exhaust her. But it makes the frigid fog merely terrible, instead of paralyzing.

Glancing over her shoulder, she can see the maelstrom very clearly..the inexorable cliffside of churning fury patched with brilliant bursts of magical energy. It seems that the Senshi aren't the only guardians making war..but their unseen allies will have to make do on their own for now. Turning back to her party, her voice cracks under the intemperate wind. "We have to hurry, I can't keep this up for long without tiring myself..and the longer we're here the more likely we'll get spotted somehow."

Her heart burns. Vengeance and justice is just up ahead, and she couldn't bear the distance between she and they. The blood of a murdered planet still shines brightly enough that its red can be seen from its neighbor, and today, maybe, she can help but its anguished spirit to rest.

<Pose Tracker> Queen Beryl [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://soundcloud.com/schrafftvortex/do-it-for-herhim-music-box-cover-schrafftvortex
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die

The journey is interminable, the landscape unchanging in its freezing brutality, until that becomes no longer true.

Figures gradually resolve within the mist ahead, twofold, Mars' firelight making them cast long, sad shadows. They are still, and mostly silent, though the occasional gust of wind tears at their hair or flaps a ragged scrap of clothing.

They are sufficiently far apart that it is impossible to approach one without losing sight of the other in the fog.

Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

To the left: a woman, older. She is no less motherly for all that her white coat is professional, the badge of a practicing doctor. There might be lines of kindness in her face, and sternness too, but right now all that can be seen are lines of pain, pain, as ice from the cross she's pinned to creeps up along her, an inch at a time, a slow, painful death.

Her hair is the same blue as Ami's, and the chin is the same, too. There might also be a similarity in the eyes...

...if they ever open again.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go

To the right: a direct challenge to the idea that anyone left behind is safer for it, a statement of vulnerability, of menace. He was seen not even five minutes ago, halfway across the planet.

It's easy to imagine Game Center Crown a slagged mess, glass everywhere, arcade games spilling their guts with sparks and hot, stinking metal. The screen of the Sailor V game shattered, the whole front ripped open, revealing the secret passageway beneath.

The secret hideout, rare sanctuary for the girls but common hangout for their companions, the involiate violated, found even more quickly than it was used to find D Point.

Artemis -- whiter even than the snow and ice surrounding him -- dangles limply from a cross in the opposite direction. His moon-sigil cannot glint in this mist. The only hint of color comes from purple and red bruises and gashing.

He must have put up such a fight.

Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It doesn't take Ami even half a second to recognize her mother. For all that she's gone, for all that they communicate almost exclusively by whiteboard -- Sailor Mercury would know that woman anywhere, in even the tiniest heartbeat. It doesn't take her long to see what's happened, either; if she's been out here even as long as they themselves have, without magic to protect her...

Sailor Mercury's heart cracks and splinters like so much of the ice she's had to step on to make it here. "M -- mother," she stammers out, weakly. She shifts first toward Mars again... and then after it toward Jupiter instead, as if the larger girl's strength and size might somehow allow her to part sea and sky to undo this.

They have to keep going, she tells herself -- but what's the point? If this is the strength of evil -- if it can hurt so casually, so indifferently, and so decisively... can they even fight back? Her mother, Artemis -- both murdered in what must have been mere minutes...

She looks to Sailor Moon, pleading for... something.

For her to turn back time, maybe.

... For a reason to keep going, maybe.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The talk of romance seems to uplift Usagi's spirits before they go, but between the cold dampening them again until she can only focus on petty comfort... She doesn't mention her own ideal boyfriend. Everyone knows who that is. At D-Point she shakes her head rapidly at Jupiter's comment, twintails covered in Rime, "H-How can you even s-say it's n-n-nothing!"

But then Venus puts an idea into her head, "Oh! That's right!" Suddenly she's looking at Mars. It's only for a few moments before she impacts against Rei's back, clinging her to her! "Mars you should a-absolutely carry me! I w-won't make it o-o-otherwise!" But whether or not Mars tolerates her against her or not, much less the idea of carrying her, Sailor Moon complains a bit less as they plod along on their lengthy journey through ice and fog.

But as the fog parts, she sees two silhouettes, the first a woman that looks just like Ami. So much so that she finds herself looking quickly at her, then back. "Mercury isn't that-?"

The surge of adrenaline as fear grips her causes her to forget the cold on the outside. But she feels cold somewhere deep down, as she then rapidly steps over to her side to squint at the other silhouette, eyes widening in surprise, "Artemis!" Panic seizes her even further, "He looks really bad!"

Sailor Moon starts in one direction, but then second guesses herself, skids to the stop in the snow in the ice a few steps back, and starts back the other way. Then stops again. Artemis was precious to Venus, and a friend, but that was Mercury's mother! "Wh-What should we do!?" Sailor Moon does what people often do in the cold... though not because it's frigid. She freezes, indecision wracking her.

At least for a few moments... but when Mercury looks at her, pleading for her to do something. That look tells her something is breaking inside of Ami, and it makes her feel like she's breaking too. That decides it for Sailor Moon. Without any further warning, she breaks into a run towards the hanging Dr. Mizuno... "Mizuno-sensei! I'm coming!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

When Mizuno-sensei comes into view, Venus' eyes immediately dart towards Ami. And then Ami's words confirm what she suspected --

This was her mother.

She's about to open her mouth, to say or /do/ something, but before she can, she catches a glimpse of a familiar white form hanging from a cross not altogether different from the one Ami's mom hangs on now.

Venus' heart stops.

"Ar..." Venus can feel the rest of his name catch in her throat as she stares out at her companion's limp form. "Artemis...?"

Venus can't say that she's never entertained the possibility of something like this happening before. After all, Artemis had been in dangerous situations many, many times as a result of being her partner. But none of those thoughts had ever prepared her for this.

Without thinking, she races towards him, hoping against hope that somehow, he still clings to life, and that somehow Sailor Moon can heal him.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"See? If Mercury says it, it has to be true," Sailor Jupiter agrees about the cold, nodding confidently, the ice helping her keep her smile in place just for the simple fact that it gets hard to /move/. ...A little less difficult, thanks to Mars's fire.

As they walk, Sailor Jupiter takes up the rear guard, where she can watch the entire group at once, letting herself fall in as her green boots scrape against the jagged ice.

She stops, when suddenly the wasteland is not so featureless. The chill reaches deeper than her skin, reaches into her heart, at looking left... And then looking right. Her eyes widen, the taller girl left speechless in the moment at this sight. Mercury looks to her, and Jupiter's expression softens. "Mercury..."

Whatever she might have said breaks off, however, as she looks up to find Sailor Moon running in one direction, Sailor Venus suddenly going the other--

It's too awful. But--

"No!" Sailor Jupiter calls, and wrenches herself away from Sailor Mercury to rush out, reaching her arm and sprinting to try to catch Sailor Venus before she goes too far. "Venus! We can't--We can't separate like this! We--"

Her heart goes into three words, forced through her frigid lungs, "She needs us!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5rRZdiu1UE

Shequawking in surprise, Usagi very nearly bowls Mars over, and while it's true that the blonde brat isn't gonna be any warmer than at the source of the meager heat, there's no way under the moon that Rei's going to lug her friend around before a battle. Taking the chill off already risked tiring her, acting like a parent to a teenager that's forgotten she's older than four would seriously hamper her stamina. So she shrugs her friend off, her own teeth chattering as she assures her that she'll be warmer if she gets her body moving...so get moving! r

Soon enough Mars stops in her tracks, her body jerking back and incensed with twitching horror, a bright flash that stuns her in its tracks. She recognizes what she sees and is sickened by it..but her sickened strickened state is burned away by a boiling rage, incinerating her astonishment and filling her with wrath.

It's Artemis that made her doubt. Artemis, whose fur she could still smell, she'd seen him so recently. She had just travelled halfway across the planet and did not believe that her friend could have been abducted, tortured, killed, and strung up so quickly. Although she's far from sure it's a trick..it just made more sense to her that the odious scum who'd brought them here would deceive them once again.

But maybe..maybe it's true..but then..

She shakes her head violently, snapping herself out of her head. If it's true then she'll grieve, if she can. If it's not then...either way, it's a trap. Either way..only ruin could come from any course but continuing forward.

Her heart sinks when she sees Ami's traumatized gaze..but its descent catches when she stays with them, and doesn't run. If Sailor Mercury could stay strong even now, then they might have a chance to sneak through the alligator's waiting jaws.


But then..she can't curse Usagi's big heart..or fault Minako's terror for a friend she's had longer than any of the rest of them had known her. But the blood drains from her face and into her limbic system in fear, and she can imagine the bear trap snapping up around them all. Looking quickly to Jupiter for a heartbeat, she sprints towards Usagi, desperately trying to catch up to the girl and tackle her if need be.

"It's a trick! Stop!"

<Pose Tracker> Queen Beryl [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJoIYjkX74E
Turning and turning in the widening gyre

It's a trap.

I mean, come on, really.

It's obviously a trap. It's even the /same/ trap that has been used once before, a lifetime ago when there were Four Heavenly Kings instead of zero, when the Moon Princess was a mystery and the Silver Crystal only missing history.

But it doesn't matter. It works because it always works because the greatest strength of the descendents of the Moon is also their greatest weakness. They are smart and they are experienced and they are protective...

...and they love with all their hearts.

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Venus may be the fastest runner of all of them, and she reaches her cross just in time for it to vanish without a trace, leaving them stranded, alone, in the fog. Perhaps the greatest insult of all, for her and Jupiter, is that they are not challenged, they are not faced, but for the faint echo of mocking laughter.

They are left with nothing in their hands but the peeling wind, the shifting shards of ice that burn, then melt, on contact. The truth will surely set them free but it is no less a tragedy.

They can see nothing of what follows, but they can hear it all.

Down to the very last detail.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Sailor Moon is almost to Mizuno-sensei when Ami's mother, too, disappears. But unlike Artemis, it isn't so much that she vanishes as it is that the veil is lifted, Mars-cum-Cassandra proven inevitably correct. There is no icy cross, there was never a cross, but there is an old enemy, her solidly black eyes gleaming with cruelty.

Her skin is lavender, her bikini, which highlights their home turf advantage in the most extreme way possible, magenta.

She has wings for eyebrows, with strange little feathers, and her hair is black and done in the same style as Sailor Mercury, if Sailor Mercury took more time each moment to massage in fluff and curl.

Her diaphonous wings might have been plucked from a dragonfly.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The DD Girl smirks, and rolls her shoulders forward, baring her wrists. Vines erupt out of them, black and strange and awful, and they might have choked the life out of Usagi, wrenched her instantly from this world and into the next, a darker, fiercer place.

But Sailor Mars tackles her in the nick of time, and the vines fly past the two of them, instead, carrying with them the rushing sharpness of abused air.

There will be no such rescue the second time, not with the two of them sprawled out in the snow, helpless in the face of what comes next: more vines, these rising directly from the ice all around them, bursting through in a tormented rite of spring.

They will kill whoever they touch, there is no question of that. They crackle and burn with dark energy, distorting colors into monochrome, sizzling with danger.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

But there is one teammate still close enough to intervene.

The ceremony of innocence is drowned

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Though it's Sailor Moon who runs ahead at Mercury's pleading, it's Sailor Mercury herself who moves to meet the DD Girl once Mars and Moon find themselves sprawled in the snow. She moves in toward the girl, swooping in with some force. "Sailor Moon! Sailor Mars!" she calls to her friends, as a wave of bubbles sweeps out from her, slowing the vines, giving them even less clear of a path than the howling wind and snow already have. "Move!"

Just as she did in the past, she dances. A whirl of icy blades appears around her waist as she cries out, "Shine Aqua Cutter!" as she moves in toward the DD Girl, through the vines. She doesn't have her past counterpart's fine control over those icy blades; she can't lance out with them and simply destroy her. She can start, at least, by stopping those vines. The blades cut the first wave of vines in short order.

A second wave begins. She ducks and weaves, closing the remaining distance but down to a single blade -- one which she pulls from that telekinetic whirl into her hand. That one she'll need for something far more important than defending herself against the vines -- the vines that have started to cut off all of her paths but forward.

With a final spring forward, she drives that blade right for the DD Girl. It's at about this point that the vines snap inward, catching her in their draining embrace. The final blade of her Shine Aqua Cutter pierces the DD Girl -- but the vines already have her.

Sailor Mercury dies just as she did in a dream at Hokkaido: looking to Sailor Moon, secure in the utmost certainty that her sacrifice has bought her Princess's safety.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV3DgWKrQ4g (Up to 2:20)

When Mars says it's a trap... Moon, slows from her dash, but she's far too late. In the place of Ami's mother, another figure takes its place, familiar in its malice... "You...!" Realization of an old foe dawns. And while she's not frozen by the realization, but she is slower to react than she ought to be.

Thankfully, Mars is there, because of course she is. Even if the two argued frequently, they were always there for each other when it counted. She tackles Moon, sending her face down in the snow with flailing arms, the displacement of air from the killing vines coming close enough to cause her long hair to swirl in the currents. She impacts roughly, having her breath forced out of her lungs and ice crystals shining on her face.

But Mercury is there, calling out to them. The Soldier of Intelligence was always so in control of the situation... Moon trusts her call completely, and rolls out of the way while clinging to Mars, the killing vines crashing causing a geyser of ice and snow in the absence of their intended targets.

It takes her some time to get up, pushing up to her knees, and her feet. Enough time to catch moments of Mercury's dazzling dance, which she doesn't think for even a moment is her last. While this a lone DDGirl, the Senshi acted with teamwork, and thus a hand moves to her tiara, "Mercury! I just need a clear shot!" Her tiara gleams, a becoming a disk of sparkling moonlight in her hand, "Moon Tiara-" But the vines have cut her clear shot and Mercury has drawn in too closeclose.

The startling realization of what this truly is, still hasn't set in yet as the blade drives into the DD Girls, and crackling dark energy surges through Sailor Mercury. It's only then that she realizes it...

The first to join her, was the first to fall.

Within herself, she feels the last gasp of a part of her that hasn't yet acknowledged it's own death. She dashes forward, hurling her shining tiara to carve through twisted vines that have already gone limp. She catches her as she falls. It's denial that takes her at first. She laughs, a tinny broken sound, "Wow, I really fell for that! But you-you saved me Mercury!" A hand creases across Ami's face, then pats her cheek twice. "Come on Ami-chan. We're all waiting for you to get up!"

When no response comes, she grabs her by both shoulders, and shakes her once, "Ami-this isn't funny anymore! It isn't!"

But only once, tears were already streaming down her face, her voice cracking, "Idiot!" The only harsh word she's even dared to send Ami's way, as if the mere thought of calling her less than intelligent might wake her up, "Y-You were supposed to become a great doctor! Change the w-world with your research! F-Find love! Raise a f-family!" Then selfishly she adds, "You a-absolutely aren't supposed to leave me A-Ami!"

She hugs her friend and wails with trembling sobs, considering in some part of her mind offering up the Ginzuishou to the DDGirls in exchange for sparing the rest of them. But... in her mind, she remembers the terrifying visage of a Dark Queen, sending rapier thin energy at her casually. And she knows. She knows, the most time that would buy her is enough time to say goodbye.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Jupiter is right; reminding her of her duty is the only thing that could possibly pull Venus away from Artemis. Mars' voice rings out through the cold air, and the cross -- along with Artemis' body -- dissolves into nothing.

Relief rolls over her, but is quickly replaced with panic; how could she have been so foolish to have left her princess alone?!

"Jupiter!" With a thankful nod of the head towards her companion, she sifts through the fog blindly and back to where she's sure the others are --

And finds that she can't find them.

"Sailor Moon!" she shouts out.

Venus can feel her shoulders tensing. She glances behind her at Jupiter, her face wrought with anxiety.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Somehow, Jupiter didn't even think it could have been... this illusion, this trickery in the ice and the snow. She saw what was there, and she knew it had to be real. But she failed once, long ago, and /this/ time--

This time, she catches Venus, but not quickly enough, and all she can see is wind while she hears that echo of awful laughing. The ice outside is nothing to the cold she feels as she turns to look back--

She can't see, but she can hear. She can hear more than she ever would have wanted to.

"Ami," the tall girl whispers, staring transfixed, eyes locked on the ice and snow. She can feel the crack in her heart, like it's stolen the next breath from her already. She's sworn to herself that she would protect all of them, with her life if she had to.

Instead, the storm is just thin enough before her eyes to let her look at her friend's body, trapped among the vines.

Venus's voice forces her back to reality, and she blinks away her feelings as best she can, trying to stay strong for the others. "We have to go back," she agrees, and begins moving backward immediately, turning to go towards the others...

"...Sailor Moon! Sailor Mars!" Jupiter calls out, too, but she can't... Find anyone. She can't see anyone. Likewise, she turns to look at Venus, unable to keep the fear out of her green eyes. "We... We can find them," she says without the confidence she's trying to impart.

She turns to start looking again, walking again, almost immediately, hand outstretched behind her.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIQXmvtY9xo

Whatever misgivings Mars had held about her take on the situation shed from her mind alongside her confidence. She'd seen the truth of the matter and it didn't matter one bit. The Senshi are a union of five souls, and just one of them giving way to impulse or error will always poison the others. Their unity and their compassion will always be their greatest strength. For now, at least, it is perhaps their greatest weakness.

As Sailor Moon slowed, Sailor Mars sped up, all the moreso as crackling razors of malice slice towards them both. Only barely making it in time, there's little softness to the snow, and as she's belly down against it its unfeeling frigidity seeps into her like a plague. Grunting softly, she struggles to pull herself to her feet, shaking frost off of her numbing face, but confident that this is the end.

And it is..but not hers. There's no time to spare. Sailor Mercury told them to move, and they'll move. With Usagi's arms around her, Rei grips back and hurls their joined bodies out of the way as best as she can before coming to her own awkward stand.

Her hair flashes out behind her as fire bursts along her forearms, but midway through her pitch she can see that the game's already over, and Ami Mizuno lies dead in a frozen hell. Falling to her knees, which jam painfully against the ice, her eyes screw up in tears that freeze in midfall. Catching her panicked, quickened breath and shooing aside the vicious memories of lunar slaughter, she shoves herself back up to her feet with shaky poise and curled fists that cannot unfurl.

She swallows, and her voice rasps. There's an unintended harshness as she wrings the words from her gullet. "We have to keep moving. We have to honor her sacrifice by purifying this place. She died so we could, so we must. We'll mourn her when it's time but we have to keep moving. They know we're here and they know we're coming, every second counts now."

Distant cries sound out. She turns, the chillwind scouring at her soft features, chafing them fiercely. She can't see a thing beyond the awful storm of this place where all life seems forbidden. Joining her hands together to form a faux-gun with her fingers, she points up in the sky, and blasts a flare of vivid red light high into the air, willing it to fall slowly, and straight down. She prays it cuts through the haze.

<Pose Tracker> Queen Beryl [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJd2QJQM7sI

It all happened so fast, but now things are slow again. Sluggish, even. The silence draws longer and longer, broken only by the memory of an echo of that horrible, horrible laughter.

Afterwards, the only sounds on the plain are those that the senshi make--


--the soft background crackling of the ice floes become noticeable in their absence--

--and then with a boneshattering snap, the entire surface shreds--

--and a chasm yawns underneath--



It is not darkness, but light, that rushes up to meet them. This ghastly cold cavern, entirely composed of glistening silver ice, possesses its own brilliance. It's strangely beautiful, but beauty is not always good.

There are innumerable pillars, icy jaws that have bridged from above and below to slice this space into many smaller spaces, many of them invisible from each other, but for the reflections.

For this ice is a place of seeing, sharper than any mere mirror. There are handfuls, dozens, of senshi here, mostly together but sometimes apart, each of them visible across this kaleidoscopic space. Each, that is, except for Sailor Mercury, who is nowhere to be found. She did not fall.

Presumably, she did not fall because she was lifted, instead.

As Sailor Mars' flare descends -- straight down -- it turns the silveriness of the space to red, recoloring everything with the palette of hell. Newly-sprung shadows interact strangely with these infinite reflections, distorting them, warping them long and skinny or short and stout or two-headed or six-armed.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sometimes great strength can be found from the depths of grief. But sometimes one can only plunge ever further into despair as she looks up briefly to the others, in particular Mars, "H-How can you say that!? Mercury is dead! Ami is dead! Im not l-leaving her!"

She finds the moon stick with a hand, presses it against Mercurys heart. "Ginzuishou... p-please!" But with deep love alone, without strong faith and firm resolution, the crystal does not so much as glimmer. A pretty ornament without a focused heart in control of it.

An echo of howling laughter chills her to the bone, shaking what little resolution she has left, annihilating her faith. Its only in that moment that Usagis heart starts to say the goodbye that her lips wont say, as if Mercurys spirit were ranging further and further away from her. The uncaring ground breaks, and with a shriek she falls, still holding onto her friend, and the Moon Stick.

All sight of Mercurys body is lost, perhaps Moon was forced to let go of her mid fall. But Moons spiraling descent is all over the place amongst the many mirrors. The myriad of reflections of the tumbling girl, warping all over the place resolve into the form of Sailor Moon as she impacts and rolls.

She gets up to her feet, then slips on ice and barrels right into Jupiter and Venus after hopping twice. Theres a sharp yelp, but no tears. Perhaps shes cried herself out after Mercury? She gets up slowly, waving a hand, "I'm f-fine! I'm fine! The only thing to d-do is to avenge her now right?"

Sailor Moon clenches a gloved hand into a fist, causing the sound of leather grinding against leather, "I-I'm going to..." Her voice cracks once, before it resonates with inferno hot anger theyve never seen before out of their friend, "...I'm going to execute them all! The DDGirls and /then/ their Queen!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

A shiver goes up Venus' spine as the earth splits up beneath them, a brilliant light shining beneath her where once had been solid ground. Desperately, her hands search the walls as she falls, searching for some purchase, but there's none -- only images, reflections of the other sailor guardians as they fall to the ground below.

Venus does not fail to notice that one person is missing from the myriad of reflections.


Venus' heart clenches tightly -- and as she bites back the tears, she lands on her feet in a crouch.

She rises and looks at Moon, visibly startled. "Sailor Moon," she murmurs softly.

And Venus is not sure what else to say.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The chill hasn't gone; it's gone into Sailor Jupiter's bones. But then it's gone, in an instant, because all she can feel is the ground cracking below her and then, falling. Falling, until she hits the ground, boots loudly impacting as she lands feet-first, and stumbles lightly, not quite possessed of the same grace as Sailor Venus in the best of times. It's bright down here, and she finds herself looking up and around. ...Only briefly, though. The reflections, bizarre as they are, can't hold her attention after Sailor Moon--

Her own tears can wait. "Sailor Moon," she says, right after Venus, turning to look at her, to see her face...

To hear those words.


Jupiter takes a breath, calming herself, letting herself breathe the awful, cold air down here. Then, she looks up, resolute. "Venus!" Jupiter calls, as she /lunges/, reflections bursting around her as the nearest ice explodes with the power of electricity crackling into being around the Soldier of Protection. Her words aren't out before she collides with Sailor Moon, swinging one punch across and hurling out her arm to take hold of her friend--

Who turns to face her in surprise. Blinding flashes of lightning obliterate all sight, and a thunderous crash echoes through the cavern as Jupiter's fist impacts Sailor Moon's face, as she pulls in for the foe's grapple, as Sailor Moon is able to get one hand down in her surprise, not even crying out.

The flashes subside, seconds later, and Usagi's body hangs limp in Jupiter's arms. Hangs... as Jupiter herself stumbles back. Both are badly burned, but when Sailor Moon's body falls, the vines piercing Jupiter's stomach are visible.

A burst of them has gone all the way through, like her strength was nothing. "I-It's... It's up to... You, now..." She coughs out her words with the last of her breath, and falls, sinking to her knees, and then backward, eyes closing after a final look up into nothing.

The purple skin of the youma she faced reveals itself in death; winged eyebrows raised in rage, her blue bikini only seems to add to the cold of the room... And her clawed hand is covered in Jupiter's blood. Whatever passes for vitality in the youma, though, is gone in cracked bones and burns all over her skin.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXEpSc7mCSs

Mars wouldn't get the chance to find out if Jupiter and Venus could make out her signal from the noise. Shrieking in momentary surprise, she wishes she could make some sort of cushion as she plummets down into who knows what..but fire cannot create matter, only transform it.

Were she not a Senshi, the fall would have been disastrous, but the Princess of Mars is made of sterner stuff than the shrine maiden of the Hikawa. Pulling herself up for the second time in moments, she looks around with wonder and trepidation.

She's been in a house of mirrors..but nothing like this. Although she's sure there are similar places in nature, she doesn't believe for a moment that this is one of them. It was made for a reason, and they were brought here for a reason too..she blinks, her mind attempting to process all the flickering motion scattered all around her.

Now she can see her friends..Venus and Jupiter don't seem so far removed anymore, but all around her, she's no closer to actually finding them among the specters. It would be easier if the frozen columns were uniform, and their reflections following suit. Instead they seem random and organic, and the images they cast follow no rhyme nor reason.

Her flare falls down, and washes the space red as though its lights are filtered through crimson film. She glances down and sees that Usagi's fallen to her side, dazed but not dropped. Mars puts a hand on her shoulder, her breathing clipped and coasting above panic. The enemy's in firm control of the situation, it seemed too strong a coincidence that the ground gave way as natural accident.

With all of the dancing distortions draining her brain in its struggles to keep up with them, it occurs to her that this is a perfect place for an ambush..even in plain light, motion could go undetected, concealed in the cacophany.

Looking around in the unsettling cavern, she's peering between the pillars at first..the ambiguous, imperfect reflections seem like they'd be little help. But the corner of her eye catches something that her brain doesn't quite notice. Following her vision's lead, she focuses in on a constellation of light. She can best make out the different senshi by their colors..Usagi's blonde and blue, her red, Makoto's green and Minako's orange. No colors stand out among them, nothing out of place...and yet there's something that seems out of place.

She furrows her brow, and focuses intently..sifting through the warps and whorls and taking stock. Usagi, and Makoto, and Minako, and Rei, and Usagi, and Minako, and Rei, and Usagi, and Makoto, and Rei, and Minako, and Usagi, and Rei, and Makoto, and Usagi, and Minako..

That's..odd. There seem to be more of..one of them, than the others. Mars ignores everything but the Usagis...and on closer look things get stranger. As difficult as it is to tell, some of the reflections seem to be facing different directions from some others. And when she makes out Usagi's eyes in one, contorted in rage, she only has to look down to see her companion, regaining her composure but without a drop of fury, to understand.

Her blood goes cold.


And things go mad, red light cast orange as it mixes with yellow lightning. The reflections go into a frenzy. Grabbing Usagi's hand, Sailor Mars dashes forward, desperate to find the others in time..and only just managing to see two corpses fall. A wavering wail tumbles out of her lips as grief slams into her gut like a hammerblow.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

While distant across the room, there are a half dozen reflections of Sailor Moon which seem off from the ones near Jupiter and Venus. Muffled sobbing of pain and grief that can't quite carry.

She hadn't let go of Mercury at all. A tortured soul, that says farewell to Mercury with a briefest brush of her lips against her forehead, before laying her arms across her chest. "D-Dream fabulous dreams Ami-chan. Wake up to better ones."

But then she hears it, the sharp cry of alarm as Jupiter realizes something is wrong. And Sailor Moon finally tears her eyes away from Mercury to look... at herself from a hundred different perspectives, joining with distorted images of Venus and Jupiter. Not even a moment later her scream echoes after Mars' declaration, "THAT'S NOT ME! JUPITER!" Sailor Moon from her kneeling position, points the Moon Stick at herself... desperately willing that this time it'll be different, "MOON TWILIGHT-"

But Jupiter shines so brightly. Brightest before she... falls. With all the sound and fury of the greatest storm that Sailor Moon had ever seen. And another piece of Usagi's heart dies as she sees the explosion. This time, it knows it's dead, as she watches the violet skinned Youma fall away, to reveal the vines in Jupiter's belly.

As if superimposed within her memories, Usagi watches Princess Jupiter fall too. She gets up to her feet, stumbling on the way over to her, running towards her. "J-Jupiter! No! Don't be so s-selfish! You can't l-leave it up to just us! We need you! I NEED YOU!" Proving perhaps through her words that she didn't really think Jupiter was selfish at all, but that instead it was her. Trying again to shame her into living.

By the salty streams which have become tiny ice crystals on her chin, it's proof that Sailor Moon hasn't even begun to cry herself out. She stumbles over to her knees once near Jupiter's fallen body and crawls the rest of the way, "Mako-chan! You told me you were never going to s-stop looking for r-romance!" She puts her arm around her inert body and shakes her once "Y-You're not supposed to lie a-about something so important!"

She pounds her other fist on the ground again, and again pulping ice, and dashing it against rock. As if the sight of seeing Usagi in physical pain, true physical pain would be enough to snap Mako out of it, that she'd come out of it and hug her and laugh with a silly Mako laugh to play off the seriousness of the situation, and say something like, 'I guess it wasn't really so bad after all!'

But it doesn't, and she that up after a few strikes. She just makes a pained and broken whisper as she presses her close to her, "You were s-supposed to be my l-love advisor and b-bake my w-w-w-edding cake...and I was g-going to be your maid of h-honor and we were... we were..." She devolves into incoherent sobs at that point.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

It's what Venus feared -- one by one, each of them is dying. Even now, she's having a hard time holding back the tears that are stinging at her eyes. She's scared -- really scared -- because this might really be the end for all of them.

This time, there was no Queen Serenity to rescue them.

As she gazes down at Jupiter's body, she inhales, then exhales, her shoulders rising and falling with the action.

If she had to die, she'd do it a thousand times for their princess. But right now, the last thing she wants to see --

her eyes dart to Sailor Moon

-- is Usagi crying because she died unnecessarily.

Venus crouches down beside Sailor Moon and presses a hand against her shoulder.

"Usagi-chan," she says gently. "We have to keep moving forward. For Jupiter and Mercury's sake."

She squeezes Sailor Moon's soldier one last time, then rises to her feet.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAhpPTNbdQE

Sailor Mars' shoulders jerk back in a series of small, trembling spasms. Drawing in a deep lungful of boreal air, she releases it with a miserly slowness, willing herself to her best approximation of calm.

Staring down at Sailor Jupiter's corpse, this time she doesn't try to snap Usagi out of it, not yet. The gentle girl is not made of stone. They're all princesses, but she's the only one who isn't a soldier, too. The other Senshi have the conduit of duty to channel their panic into. Princess Serenity, the recipient of all of that duty, must bear the weight of setting its orbit. If she breaks, then all is lost.

The more important thing is that they're all together. Calamity had befallen them because of impulsive rushing and separation. Any chance for an element of surprise seems utterly lost, and maintaining cool heads seems far better than charging forward.

There could be no retreat, though. Rei had long ago drawn upon her religious learnings to make peace with the idea of death..at least as well as a child of her age could manage. She drew upon that now, knowing that this is a time, the time, to don that shroud of readiness.

The important thing is to keep Usagi safe..to make sure she makes her way to Beryl..and to channel the Silver Crystal and eradicate her evil from the world. There could be no worthier demise than that.

Her voice is flat and sounds a little distant as she speaks. "We have to keep moving..and stay together." She smiles down at them both. "Our fates lie deeper. The best we can do is to meet them head on. If worse comes to worse..we've risen from the dead before. We need to keep moving. There's a whole world of Usagi's out there, and Ami's and Makoto's and Minako's and Rei's, and all of their parents and brothers and sisters, grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles. We need to keep moving for them, not just ours."

<Pose Tracker> Queen Beryl [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NTydEronEg

The need for illusion is past, now, and besides that the intimidation factor is so much greater with the remaining DD girls -- the red one with long gray hair, the green one with long black hair, and their leader, cyan-skinned and blond and wearing a whaletail tiara somewhat evocative of Sailor Moon's -- allowing their own reflections to swarm through the cavern as they approach.

There are hundreds of monstrous visions, but even the knowledge that in truth there are merely three in the flesh brings no great comfort. These monsters are totally different from the rest of Beryl's legion, spent willy-nilly by generals in Tokyo and the Queen on her chosen battlefield, up above. Perhaps the way that they reflect the senshi through a mirror darkly is not happenstance. Perhaps the Queen wanted her own Court to rival that of Serenity's, of old. Certainly the Four Heavenly Kings are no true substitute.

Regardless: they burn with malice, with energy, and their eyes are turning red with rage as they look upon a second fallen sister. The senshi are not the only ones taking losses here. Spreading their wings, they buzz towards the group of three girls from across the cavern, weaving in and out of icy pillars as they close the gap.

Venus is the one who sees it first, both the threat and the solution: behind them is an exit, leading to parts unknown. Where the ice-cave is spacious and airy, rendered moreso by the mirroring effect, the tunnel is black as Beryl's heart[1].

It's the only way out.

  1. Which is very black, indeed.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Venus' eyes are on the DD girls, her hair whipping in the breeze behind her. Mars and Moon are to her back now and a small part of Venus is glad that she can't see them. Somehow, she's sure it would make this all the more difficult.

"Sailor Mars, Sailor Moon!" Venus' voice is sharper than normal, like an instructor barking out orders.

"I'm going to delay them. The two of you need to get to the exit."

And before Sailor Moon can protest, Venus continues:

"Don't worry," she says, her voice gentler now. "As soon as it gets too difficult for me, I'll run to meet up with you."

It's all Venus can do to hope that Sailor Moon won't see through the lie.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

When Sailor Moon looks up at Sailor Venus, her arm still around Jupiter, she appears to be seeing but unseeing. There's something hollow and dead in her eyes. Perhaps it was part of her innocence. A piece carved out and laid to rest at D-Point, where noone had time to even mourn it, least of all Usagi. "Y-You're right Venus. You're..."

The hesitation, it's like forcing the word up again was like forcing razors up through her throat, and out her mouth. Just as painful, "...right." She whispers, before she she presses a kiss against Jupiter's forehead and lays her against the ground gently.

But... she doesn't affirm what Mars' has to say with that flat voice, as if Sailor Moon were turning around an alternate idea in her head, one that is far from 'staying together'. "Mars I don't think... I do think..." There's something dissonant, her tone confused... she can't sort out the buzzing in her head.

But the reflections of the DD-Girls are overhead, spinning around her like she was looking straight into the facets of the silver crystal, containing insects in amber. She almost says, 'I can handle this!' but Usagi Tsukino, she who failed at making curry not long ago and had to order take out substitutes because she couldn't manage it alone... wanted to tell the others she can handle three of the deadliest foes they'd ever face.

But she couldn't.

Somewhere deep down, she absolutely wants to believe that the Pretty Guardian once Codenamed Sailor V, now Sailor Venus, could handle this. She was her hero after all. Right now she didn't feel like she could handle tying shoes in her grief. And Sailor Venus was assuring her that she could.

She believes.

"T-That's a promise! You r-remember that! If you give up on your dreams for duty I'll..." A harsh note, "...I'll /never forgive you/!"

Usagi Tsukino could lie too. She'd forgive her in a heartbeat. Because that's who she is, and because Minako Aino means that much to her. She looks towards the black tunnel only once, starting that way.

Mars may need to drag her though because... unlike Orpheus, who only looked back at the end of his journey throughout hell, Sailor Moon can do nothing but look back during her journey into it.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aWCKVEGvWI&list=PL5C894E719DEECEB2&index=32

Nothing doing here..a phantom host of fiendish monstrosities swarmed towards them. Knowing that they're evenly numbered doesn't do much for Mars' confidence..not in a room like this. For a moment she considers a half baked act of desperation, pouring enough fire out in all directions to melt every last pillar. But even if she could do it, let alone safely, there's no guarantee that it wouldn't collapse the cavern in on them.

Venus' glance back led her to a way out she hadn't seen before though. When her comrade urges them on, Rei nods sharply. Even though Minako's back is turned, maybe she can make out her reflection giving assent. She recognizes the sacrifice for what it is. Her heart swells with admiration for her bravery, as it did for Mercury and Jupiter before her.

Thank the kami that Usagi runs too, and Mars doesn't need to drag her. Even still, as they sprint off, she loops an arm under Sailor Moon's shoulder, sure that a little extra support would be helpful. Without looking back, walls of flame snap behind them, blacing a path like a waved torch, flickering out in instant puffs like a released lighter, but hopefully shaving off a second or two of pursuit.

This is it. She's running on pure adrenaline now. All's not yet lost, but she doesn't believe for a moment that she'll make her way out of this in one piece. Rei gives herself hope that, with the last of the DD girls out in the open, she can take one or two if her back's to the wall. But now she's the last line of defense, none other. If there's one more grenade, just one, it'll have her belly's name written on it.

Usagi has to reach Beryl. Sailor Mars has poured her life out into holy fire before. She'll do it again in a heartbeat.

<Pose Tracker> Queen Beryl [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv5n9teTUNM

When the DD Girls come for Sailor Venus, they come with a vengeance.

These fights have been desperate and brutal enough one-on-one. Now there are three of them, weaving in and out, using all the confusion of the icy reflections that they can muster. It is a protracted battle, more cautious than the last two, for they do not wish to lose another sister.

They don't just fight with those shocking vines, though they do often burst out at the most frightening times and difficult angles. They also summon blasts of dark energy, when bid to fight earnestly and honestly. They flick poisonous spores off of their iridescent wings.

And like all of their bretheren, no matter how far removed, they have vicious and terrible claws.

There hasn't been much talking until now, but now they screech battle cries, mostly wordless, sometimes with phrases in which familiarity cannot ever breed contempt, not here, not now, not with Mercury and Jupiter lying at Venus' feet. "Death, death to the senshi, in the name of Queen Beryl!"


Sailor Mars' light, though eagerly swallowed up mere feet from their faces, is the only thing that saves the tunnel-run from ending precipitously. There are precipices and chasms. There are dead ends and mani-pronged forks.

And always, always, the path leads down. One would think that, sufficiently far beneath the ice, things might begin to warm up, but that is not the case. There is no memory of Earth's core, here, because this is not Earth, not anymore. They have passed beyond, to another place, a realm of shadow.

But just when the labyrinthine tunnels seem to have no end, the end comes up so quickly that it surrounds them instantly. It is a dank place, this room, with chains that have seen many terrible fluids and never, in any era, received a proper scrubbing. There are shelves and shelves of devices that defy description, other than that they shout their purpose from their place, to render agony.

There was no light in this place until the girls arrived, but now that they have banished the darkness, the huddled figure on the ground can moan weakly and squint his night-dark eyes against the glare. Tears spring to them unbidden at the loveliness of this sight.

His evening wear was never meant to endure treatment such as it has, but despite being reduced mostly to shreds, there are still remnants of finery; a sharply diving lapel, the end of a bowtie, the glimmer of a cufflink.

And a mask, which is a kindness, as it does a little to shield the distressingly thorough bruising his face has endured.

He can't believe his eyes, though his tone is delirious beyond mere incredulity, high with fever. Some of his wounds must be infected.

"It--" His voice breaks from disuse in any volume lesser than a scream. "It... can't be. No. No, not here. Please... not here. You... must... run... Sailor Moon..."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Venus [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Venus can hear the sound of Mars' and Moon's retreating footsteps as the DD girls make their approach. Relief rolls over her; she was worried that Sailor Moon would argue -- that she'd refuse to leave.

But Sailor Moon believed in her. And Venus would make sure now that her faith was not ill-placed.

Two of the DD girls begin their assault; she barely dodges out of the way of a ball of dark energy, while the spore attack makes its mark. As she rips the spores off her uncovered arm, she catches sight of one of the DD Girls racing off after Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars.

And suddenly, the spores still on her skin are forgotten.

"Venus Love-Me Chain Bind!"

A long line of yellow hearts races towards the youma, binding her tightly. She struggles against the chains, visibily injured, but still held tight by Venus' magic.

The spores that are still stuck to her skin are seeping at her energy; she knows she's got to move fast. Still clutching the Love-Me Chain, she directs a single finger towards one of the other DD Girls.

"Rolling Heart... Vibration!"

The spinning metal heart is powerful enough to obliterate the youma entirely. For one second, Venus feels a surge of confidence -- a belief that maybe she will really make it through this.

Another ball of dark energy spins towards her from the youma not bound by her magics, but Venus realizes too late that its target isn't her; it crashes through her Love-Me Chain, breaking through and freeing her companion.

You can do this, she urges herself. Her teeth are clenched now. She has to move faster. "Crescent..." Venus holds a single digit to her tiara as energy begins to gather at her fingertip.

From behind, one of the DD Girls spews even more spores; as Venus struggles to maintain her footing, she can see that the youma in front of her has the same idea. Dark Energy is gathering in her hands.


She directs a finger at the creature, shooting a blast of pure energy at her just as she returns fire with a dark attack of her own. It's too late for her to dodge it; both attacks hit their targets, and two bodies drop to the ground.

Blood is coursing out of her now -- ugly green welts are forming where the spores have latched onto her skin. For a full fifteen seconds, Venus' eyes are skyward, as she struggles to stay conscious.

And then she hears it -- the sound of footsteps retreating.

Venus lets out a groan, pushing herself onto her stomach; she can't get up now, but she knows she can't let her escape.

"Venus... Love-Me..."

Her voice is cracked and hoarse now. She doesn't ever manage to get that last word out; a chain of yellow hearts races towards the DD girl, intending to bind her as she did another before, but it falls to the ground well short of its target and dissolves into yellow sparkles.

The tears that stung her eyes earlier are flowing freely now. She'd tried her best, but she failed her mission, just as she had a millenia before.

"Usagi-chan... sorry..."

Venus' body falls to the ground for the last time.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Down, down they go, Mars' arm around her not allowing her to stumble. Sailor Moon stares past the infernos that Mars rapidly creates at the silhouette of Venus wrapped in orange, red, until even that is swallowed by the darkness. Leaving only sounds and echoes, then nothing but footsteps. For a while, Sailor Moon says nothing. Every so often there's a sniffle, a cry.

Every second that passes she loses a little more hope that Sailor Venus is going to catch up with them. She sees a flash that for a moment... for just a moment, returns hope. A purifying brilliance that she could barely comprehend. And then in her perception, that brilliance fades, little by little... until it's gone leaving nothing but the sickening taint of this place behind.

She knows Venus broke her promise. A promise Usagi immediately feels ashamed of trying to strongarm her into making. A selfish thought, as one arm rubs against her eyes, 'She never got to take the world by storm, with her hit single of C'est la Vie. She never got to be anyone's idol but mine.'

That thought causes Sailor Moon to become more depressed with each passing moment, it builds up, and builds up in ever growing despair... and determination.

She couldn't save herself, but maybe she could save... someone.

Within winding, serpentine tunnels, she speaks seemingly out of nowhere, "Stop! Mars! S-Stop for a moment!" There's something broken there. But there's also affection, as bright as these abyssal depths are dark. She puts on the brakes, forces Rei to slow or risk Usagi falling then without warning steps in front of her putting her hands on both her shoulders, "I can take it from here! So you need to head back ahead of me! I can make it to Queen Beryl on my own and I-I'll beat her! I'll do it! T-Then I'll come home! S-So you... you need to go back home ahead of me!"

There's growing desperation there... "You can do that for me right, Rei-chan? Go home and w-wait for me? T-That's a royal decree from your P-Princess!" Her hands clench around her shoulders for a moment to savor what she feels is one last moment of closeness, then release her. And Usagi takes a few steps backwards, trying to keep her eyes on Rei... trying to make certain she stays put. Stays here. So that Mars would have a chance of living. So that Mars wouldn't have to watch her die.

But she takes no more than three steps back, not realizing the error in stopping, in alerting the enemy to their exact location here. Her eyes fasten to the tortured form of Tuxedo Kamen. The man who was there from the start, cheering her from afar. Her first love... before the stars crossed them in such an act of defiance that it could only be the result of the darkest of curses.

While some part of her registers it could be a trap, after all, Tuxedo Kamen had already harassed her as the Dark Kingdom's newest of Dark Generals, a greater part of her wants to believe the man who once protected her past life so gallantly had managed to break free through sheer force of will alone. "T-Tuxedo Kamen-sama!" It's the only warning she gives Rei. She turns on her foot, staggering once, then breaks into a run. The only part of her. "W-Who could think of running when you're hurt like that-!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mbKjV5OChA

Bit by bit, step by step. The emotional fatigue hasn't smashed into Sailor Mars, but it hangs over her brow like a self-suspended guillotine. Her spirit grins with bloody teeth and laughs before headbutting the reaper. She shakes her head at Sailor Moon's grief.

"She was everyone's idol. She took the world by storm. IF, she died, then she died beautifully. I know you're in grief but don't pity her." She stops when she's beckoned, out of love as much as loyalty. But she isn't fooled for a second..not that there's much of a lie there in the first place. Just naked optimism, too delusional to take wing unless borne on a wind of her own willingness to flee. Rei Hino bore no such appetite.

Tears burst past the dam of her ducts, not from sadness nor fear but from a terrible gratitude for the loving and foolish gesture that she could only ever reject. Her hands clap to Usagi's as they snap to her shoulders, and she shakes her head. Her eyes are enlarged with liquid mass as they grow vitreous with an unburst layer of latent saline. As Sailor Moon steps back, Sailor Mars steps forward.

Her voice is quiet and pinched, and she's so thankful that she manages the words while she has a chance. "There's no place I'd rather be."

And what a place it is...no more traps, no more bait. They're in the outer perimeter of the inner sanctum now, the arrayed props not here for their benefit. A kingdom of black mold, more poison in the air than not. Instruments of torture stretch out in maddened order beyond all practicality, a gridded matrix of a diseased mindset.

And before them, center stage, is a piteous bundle of ragged silk and enflamed flesh. Her instinctive self recoiled at the sight but she knew better, now, than to allow even a moment of doubt. If it seemed unlikely that Artemis had been crucified minutes after parting ways, it seems impossible that Tuxedo Mask, Endymion, whose corrupted presence has made itself known already should just so happen to lay in a beaten heap on their very path forward, clear of mind and begging for aid. So what if "he" told them to run. Too tidy, too neat. Too Disneyland. An animatronic along the track.

As Sailor Moon just begins to turn on her heel, Sailor Mars is already dashing forward..but not for her charge. Not for her friend. A woman she loved had already died tonight because Rei made the mistake of tackling Usagi aside, rendering them both prone and vulnerable. Now she gallops straight past her friend, rushing for the man on the ground. Holy fire bursts along her forearms, transforming each limb into a white serpent, each finger forming its fangs.

She knows, even now, even under her certainty, that..perhaps it really is Tuxedo Kamen. A slender sliver of a possibility in her mind, but one she doesn't discount..but it doesn't matter. She'd sooner risk killing the boy then risk blundering into another trap. If she murders Endymion here and now then she'll live a life in guilt, and probably not for long. A fair price when she's the only line of defense. She will trip every mine before she sees Usagi's eyes go glazed and lifeless.

Usagi's concern for her love, with all of the power in her steps, is still no match for the blind fury of purpose propelling the Soldier of War. The /thing/ before them both recognized as much, and the pale prince became several shades greender by the time the ivory immolation of Rei's grip clapped around his, her, it's throat. Gurgling with rage, all disguise, all pretension of helplessness is banished like mists against the lighthouse's torch.

The youma doesn't look so different from her, all things considered. It sickens Rei and inspires her pity at the same time. Unlike so many of her craft, the priestess doesn't hate demons simply because of what they are. There is a place for everything in nature...and if this being was created to emulate her, then there is a kinship with it that she cannot deny. She strangles it as venomous barb-tipped vines explode from its torso and burrow into hers.

The glassy layer of water finally leaks out of her orbs and streaks down her cheeks, stinging her skin in reddened lines of irritation. Her blood dribbles to the ground all around her, mixed with her opponent's life fluids in an intimate dance. She's stabbed again and again and again and again and again...not once or twice like in a film, but dozens of times, a rapid staccato delivery more similar to a machinegun's bursts than a Shakespearean blade. Throughout it all she doesn't release her grip, the flesh of her foe's neck scalding off by the strip.

The aberrant reflection died first, its head connected by a morbidly inadequate thread to the rest of its twitching form. Rei's head whips around to find Usagi with the urgency of one who knows there's no need to walk back from a motion. Her life leaves with her last word.


<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWSNrlaknMQ

There's no place Rei would rather be, but there are /so/ /many/ /places/ Usagi Tsukino would rather Rei Hino be. There was only this faint hope. A desperate one, that Usagi Tsukino, the Princess who had never once given anyone a true command, would be able to command Rei to do anything with her first, and perhaps only ever. Please live. Please don't make me watch you die.

She might as well have commanded the stars to fall from the sky.

It would be more likely to be followed, because as Rei streaks past her, so quickly that she who is a bit clumsy trips, imagines her as a fiery crimson comet, lighting up a sky. A falling star. A wish within her heart that never reaches her lips.

As she impacts, bruising elbows, she has no time to let out even a horrified cry at Rei roasting Endymion alive. Nor one as venomous barbs emerge from Mars' back, revealing the truth behind the veil of deception she should have seen right through. She gets up, sees Mars convulse. And runs towards her just as Mars' head whips around. She wonders in that moment if the fire of Rei's life was too hot for even the strongest of foes to snuff out.

A word from Rei's lips, one last word, and Usagi Tsukino knows better.

She catches her mid-slump, awash with the life's fluids of her friend and foes alike. She'd thought the last contact they'd made was her last, but she was wrong. She disobeys Rei's command just as Rei disobeyed hers, to hold her again in a final moment of intimacy between friends. One of which might never know it even happened. She murmurs, with tears that for the first time since they've arrived, feel hot, scalding hot. "You were r-right you know, I'm just... I'm just too good at getting caught up in my own sprint." She squeezes tightly, "And it's my fault that this time s-someone so p-precious to me paid the price for it."

She doesn't shriek, she doesn't scream. She doesn't wail. Usagi Tsukino feels emotionally spent, exhausted and dead on every level. Like the only thing that's keeping her from joining them right now is the fact that pure despair alone wasn't enough to cause her heart to cease beating. But she does feel the darkness close in around her as the flames fade from the dead Youma's corpse too... as if it were a quiet, deadly lullaby.

"This is a dream..." She feels the dissonance in her head again, the disconnect. She sounds abstracted. "When I wake up... I'll c-call you up and ask you to explain what it means and you'll call me silly Usagi again... you w-won't have all died for me a-again. I won't have failed to protect you all... I won't be... I w-won't be... alone..."

She imagines, at that moment, an ephemeral sword nearby the corpse that was Endymion in illusion, beckoning her, enticing her to make the coward's choice again.





Suddenly the buzzing stops. And Sailor Moon in one distinct moment of clarity and courage lays Rei Hino's body down. She tears her eyes away from the spot that she imagined a sword lay. She stands up straight, as if imagining Rei commanding her to straighten her back. And she makes the hardest decision of her life. To keep moving.

To obey the last command of Mars. Anything else would make her death would make the deaths of all the Senshi meaningless. She walks only because these tunnels are treacherous, else she'd run... deeper, and deeper into the heart of the Dark Kingdom. To face Queen Beryl not as a the helpless Princess she was, but as a proud Sailor Senshi. Even if it meant her doom all the same.

<Pose Tracker> Queen Beryl [None] has posed.

The vicious contralto bursts from nowhere and everywhere, without and within.


The howled incantation wracks reality, rending the nature of the world in a cruel inverse, banishing those magical lucky girls who have somehow survived their battles from it, wholesale.

All but one -- the one who has what Queen Beryl needs, even if in this time of need it seems most strongly to resemble a worthless hunk of glass.

Here in the depths of the Dark Kingdom, after all this impossibly personal devastation, Beryl's jagged, blood-dark wish feels like almost an afterthought, but instinctively, like a shiver on her skin, Sailor Moon can tell that her terrible loneliness is now literal, absolute solitude.

She is really -- truly -- completely -- alone.

Usagi Tsukino is the last magical girl on Earth.