2021-01-24 - The Crystalline Dreaming, Part 2

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
The Crystalline Dreaming, Part 2

The magical girls do battle with a Black Moon monster over the narrative of Chibi-Usa's hopes and dreams.


Chibi-Usa Tsukino, Usagi Tsukino, Fuu Hououji, Nori Ankou, Setsuna Meioh, Ami Mizuno, Rei Hino


Chibi-Usa's Dreams

OOC - IC Date:

1/24/2021 - 10-28-15


<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Enemy Approaching - Sailor Moon R OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTjKk937iF0

Over the course of this discussion, there are two more lightning strikes. Each is as outsized as the first; and, knowing whose dream it is, there's a sense that they're so extraordinarily horrible because the dreamer is afraid of thunderstorms, that this is how she experiences them, as something larger than life.

So too is Sailor Pluto's tale of a young girl trapped in her own dreams -- a young girl being chased, being HUNTED -- something that feels more true by the second. There has always been a presence drawing near, closer, closer. There has always been a darkness, impending.

Seconds after Pluto's entreaty, a third bolt explodes down from the sky mere feet from the group. Mere feet BEHIND the group.

And now the darkness is here...

The monster that has invaded Chibi-Usa's nightmare may well be, like the lightning, defined by it, circumscribed by her subconscious into her personal parameters for terror. It is a grim reaper indeed who stalks her footsteps now.

It floats soundlessly, a great cowled figure, blacker than black, shadow in shadow, with no sign of any legs. Arms it has, though, emerging from beneath the cloak, bone-white arms that look cold, clammy, and unbelievably strong. They hoist a massive scythe so absurdly sharp that the air keens softly whenever its shining silver blade passes through. It does have eyes; slitted red eyes, set in a white forehead; the rest of it -- him, there's a vague masculinity to his gaze -- is concealed by the cowl, enrobed from the nose down.

There's nothing vague about his hostility. This is a killer, a predator, an incarnate of death; that it is in some ways a child's idea of death does not make it cuter or less horrifying. Indeed, it is moreso. No one Chibi-Usa's age should dream of mortality with such graphic detail. Like the way that the fabric of the cloak is smooth as satin, a very REAL fabric, oft found on the lining of a suit jacket. Like the way his eyes continuously weep red blood...

Though he does not touch the ground, it regrets his passage; frost crystals form instantly on any surface beneath him, a corrosive rime that hastens the degeneration of this corpse of a city. Concrete flakes away like flesh rotting into bone, revealing jagged rebar underneath.

His is the momentary advantage of surprise. In the chaos of his entry, while the thunder still rolls and the already-muted colors of the world are reasserting themselves from having temporarily been washed out to perfect whiteness, he draws his scythe upwards and to one side, preparing a vast and mighty slash that might decapitate these interlopers wholesale, in a single terrible blow.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

The little girl is nowhere to be found. The debris piled up here is obviously impassable, piled up with concrete and stone and metal. There are small spaces within it, sure, but nothing a teenager could likely fit through. She's gone, out of sight through the discussion. She doesn't come out, doesn't hear anything more than muffled words at first, and the explanations even if they would make sense to the dreamer do not. But...

But there is something she can feel, something she can see from her position where some of them are blocked, and it is this. It is the shocks of lightning; it is the horrible, horrible rumbling of thunder. And it is the darkness, not of gloom but of this thing. The Reaper hunts, and for now, it has not seen her. It is distracted by these strange people calling her strange names, and she sees it strike out and claps a hand over her hand to prevent calling out.

She doesn't want to come out, not really. She doesn't want to start running again. But what she 'wants' isn't what the world is right now--it's because of what she wanted that everything happened. What she wants isn't for these girls to be hurt, either, and they cannot fight it. They cannot stop it. They may not even slow it down. So what choice is there? What can she do?

"Luna-P," Small Lady murmurs, "Here we go...!" She steadies herself, and--

A loud noise POPS from the debris pile, and glitter starts to fly out everywhere, like at a party--and Chibi-Usa holds an air horn that HONKS as she rushes suddenly from within the junk and wreckage, across the street.

"HEY!" Small Lady calls. "OVER HERE!" straight at the monster.

They can't fight it. How could they? No one can. Not even her. So she just has to hope they take the hint and run while they can.

As she jumps out, she suddenly sees, "Puu!?"

But she can't stop and talk; indeed, the presence of her dear friend only adds to the horror of the moment. She lifts the noisemaker in her hand, an adorable air horn which trumpets its loud HONK all the way across the street as she sprints off at top speed, trying to draw its attention further, away from these strangers. "Run!"

She doesn't so much as look back at them as she runs. Her steps are loud to start, but she's moving fast.

If she can at least get it away from them, maybe--

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

And the monster hesitates at the crucial moment! Momentarily stunned by the reappearance of his prey in such unexpected fashion, and deafened by her horn, he never follows through on the blow. The scythe sags heavily in his arms instead, twisting a little with sheer weight, unbalanced as he turns to pursue his prey.

Another flash of lightning -- and he is gone, presumably to approach her from another, more unexpected direction.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"Oh! Well then it's easy. If we just pinch her, she'll wake up." Moon says at Mercury's assessment, without seeming to remember that she's in the dream too, and unable to find Chibi-Usa's corporeal body. Mars however, has a bad feeling, "She'd need to stop running first..." And then, Pluto lays it out.

"What? It'd really..." The idea is too terrible for her to even voice. Chibi-Usa, for all of their arguments is a little kid. To think of the Black Moon Clan just endlessly pursuing her and killing her in her dreams.

However she feels about that though is interrupted as Pluto lowers her head, Sailor Moon seems just a little taken aback by the gesture, as she just lifts a hand in mid-air, waving it forward, "O-Of course we'll help save her. There's no need to lower your head..."

Moon thinks that someone such as Sailor Pluto should never have cause to do such a thing perhaps.

Before her expression changes to one of awe, "... you must really care for her, a lot." She'd seen inklings of it before, but perhaps now, she truly knows it beyond any doubt.

Moon cringes as the third lightning bolt descends, before in the afterglow of the flash, she sees the dark shape rise. Then she looks. And goes white as a sheet. "AIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE!" As she points at it with this shriek that would rival any horror movie heroine upon seeing the scythe wielding dream monster.

It's unclear what happens in the aftermath, Mars and Mercury both may feel her cling to them, the pressure of a terrified Sailor Moon holding onto them with a vice grip which may interrupt any immediate action. It's a chaotic split second in that respect.

And then, Small Lady calls out... wielding a noisemaker that HONKSSSSSS.


Moon certainly does run, though perhaps in a way contrary to how Chibi-Usa would have liked. She takes off after in her direction, rather than in some other way. An adrenaline fueled terrified rush. Her legs flailing at the pavement in an uneven terror fueled sprint, her twintails swinging from side ot side. Her hands balled up near her chin, the Spiral Moon Heart Rod jutting out from her white knuckled yet still begloved grip as she sobs out repeatedly:


All things considered, she's taking this quite well.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

When the thunder crashes that close behind the group, the Magic Knight of Wind can't help but flinch away from it; nor can she stifle the instinct to turn and see what might be there - and for one heart-stopping instant, she wishes she hadn't, but she stares at Death as he looms behind the group. Her sword flares into existence once more, ready to offer whatever resistance she can to a merciless fate ...

Only for the Reaper's *actual* target to make herself known, again, in spite of the danger to herself. And the Reaper *takes the bait*, yet - not chasing after Chibi-Usa (or rather, Small Lady) but simply disappearing again.

"How are we supposed to protect her if she won't *let* us protect her?" the Wind Knight mutters, still more or less good-naturedly despite an audible hint of exasperation. Sailor Moon takes off running before they can try to strategize; with a chagrined look, the Wind Knight crouches briefly, calling on her magic, then leaps in pursuit, trying to call the wind to aid her.

If the wind *answers* - if the stagnant air of this nightmarescape will respond to her magic - then the arc she travels in won't be one that merely intercepts Small Lady; rather, she's trying to get out *ahead* of the pink-haired little girl. Not to cut her off, but with an eye to setting up a moving perimeter. Or trying to, at least. One thing is certain: the Hunter won't give them enough time to strategize, and neither will Chibi--- Small Lady.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

A creature from the Black Moon Clan, pursuing the child. A danger she can only flee, however adroitly; and one which she cannot match. La Sirene's face is a neutral, grave thing as Sailor Pluto explains the stakes.

The flash of lightning has punctuated their conversation but not with dramatic results. But something crawls up the back of la Sirene as she senses something uneasy - which is an easy bet, of course, here in a world of dark and deadly dreams, a small girl pursued by something -

But then there is an air horn. Huge, loud, almost wince worthy, and wincing from that sound is how la Sirene can see the upraised Reaper! Defied, the being sags and draws back from his decapitating blow and turns to pursue the child, small in body but vast in courage.

La Sirene raises one hand to briefly cover her mouth, drawing her fingers down her own cheek as she says, "Accepted," to Sailor Pluto and pivots about sixty degrees to her left, raising up her left hand and forking her fingers in the ancient sign. As her right hand raises she answers the Magic Knight: "I imagine she thinks she is protecting us -- Les Mysteres!"

The right hand crooks, fingers pressed together. "Come!" la Sirene concludes, smashing her hand downwards in a broad lateral stroke. There is the singing, shining streak of silver; the burst of threaded living darkness, a thriving umbral promise far more vital than these cold and gelid nightmares, and aimed, not coincidentally, at the back of the hunter.

"I don't like that creature's tears," she concludes after. "Not one bit - ah! We have to move -" The Magic Knight has the right idea, to her light, and la Sirene leaps and jogs after her.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

'... you must really care for her, a lot.'

Already bowed, that noble head lowers further in mute acceptance of this observation.

Light pulses against Sailor Pluto's eyelids for the second time tonight, now brilliant and white, and if her eyes were not already shut... but they are, and so instead she opens them right after to the darkness which comes in its wake. Surprise and horror then combine to widen them, for she may have fought a great many strange and alien menaces, but it is no common thing to face Death like this.

Small Lady... Small Lady must be so afraid. The thought stabs her.

The group stands beneath the nightmare hunter -- before his wind-splitting instrument of mortality -- and even if they are between it and Sailor Pluto, she can see that will not save her from the hungry arc of his swing. But-

-there is a POP, and a flash of bright cheer in this place which offers none-

-and a heartbeat the universe could set its watch to skips as her best friend steps out of the grey and into harm's way to save her would-be saviors. And she IS afraid, Pluto can see it, but she is not letting that stop her. "Small Lady!" she shouts back.

La Sirene is absolutely correct. She is trying to protect them. Fear and pride bid for primacy in Pluto, and she does not stop to figure out which will win. Small Lady commands her to run and she must obey, the only way she can countenance: and so with the loyal disobedience of any true guardian, she runs after those bouncing pink odango.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"No!" Sailor Mercury is, in a moment of surprise and fear, just a girl in sailor fuku. In that moment she scarcely understands what the Reaper looks like, the primal mind she works so hard to deny reacting instinctively to the fears of her ancestors. Cringing back and shielding herself with her arms, she slips and topples to the ground, which may in fact be the correct response, but seems unlikely to save her.Bringing a glove slowly to her mouth in shock, Mercury beholds the terrible apparition of Chibi-Usa's nightmare. It is one thing to know it is a dream. It is another to find true comfort in that when faced with such a terror.

"She's really trying to draw it to herself?" Mercury asks, awe-struck. She largely ignores Sailor Moon's spasming of panic, simply hunching her shoulders a little to be a sturdier wall for her friend. Only with Sailor Moon on the team would Sailor Mercury's petite form be hidden behind so frequently.

"Sailor Moon!" she cries out soon after, as once again the twintails depart in a dangerous direction. This time, however, she's not certain that isn't the right move.

Perhaps she can MAKE it the right move.

Spreading her feet without spreading her knees, Mercury brings her hands out, fingers forward, her face taking on a determined mien in this delicate stance. Sometimes it seems as though her attacks are braced not with physicality, but with femininity; that it is a necessary element of her power.

"Sabao... Spray!" she announces. Crossing her arms, she weaves one brightly glowing bubble between her knuckles, like a dancer with bangles, then flings it forward into a massive stream of bubbles, which pour around the magical girls and pop-pop-pop into a dense mist of water vapor. Mercury's mist is strangely selective; the magical girls can see through it, but enemies usually cannot. How that plays out here is difficult to predict.

Suddenly, her eyes widen in alarm, as she remembers the lightning strikes. "Um! In case anyone, particularly Chibi-usa-chan, was wondering! Unlike normal water, water vapor is largely deionized and, contrary to what you might expect, is an excellent insulator! Please be aware that would be highly unrealistic for it to attract numerous bolts of lightning!"

Grimacing, Mercury sets off belatedly after her friends, plunging into the mist she created and hoping Chibi-usa appreciated her science fact.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The Black Moon Clan is known to them. There are things Rei remembers about the way they descended down to make that attempt on Chibi-Usa... and things, mercifully, she does not. For a moment there is something soft-stunned to her, as if she has seen Chibi-Usa flinging her tiny body between pieces of rubble in eternal flight with one ending.

Oh, she thinks -- if only she had given Chibi-Usa a baku talisman, to ward the nightmares from her dear pink head.

(But then, this is no children's night-terror, is it?)

Still, it seems Sailor Pluto hardly needs to espouse the danger; a hand to rub her opposite wrist, Sailor Mars's expression is set by the end of her speech, thin lips and intent eyes. She does not do her the kindness of looking away from her bowed head; rather she extends her determination.

It is an expression made silhouette by lightning, backlit by that horror of brightness and noise which carves through the night. Her lips move, but what shape could carry past the report of thunder, louder than a cannon as it bursts through the walls?

Once again she keeps her footing; feet which turn, to look to that strike which fell so close to them. Sailor Mars can call this place unsettling all she likes, but how can she crystallise her intuition -- a simple bad feeling -- into a warning her friends can properly heed?

She draws in breath, steps -- in place. There's something tugging her back, a terrified presence at her arm. She looks back. "This is--!" A monster for a child, but how monstrous it IS; everywhere she looks, a new detail. If this is Chibi-Usa's dream...

... is this Chibi-Usa's reaper?

But there's no time to wonder how much of her is wrapped up in the Black Moon Clan's assault. Because, all a-HOOONK, Sailor Mars throws her free arm up to defend against nothing at all. There is Chibi-Usa -- terrified, glorious Chibi-Usa -- brave enough for five of them, as she offers up just what the reaper is hunting.

"Chibi-Usa-chan--!" Sailor Mars cries, and it isn't that she wasn't listening to Sailor Pluto's explanation -- but simply that this girl is so deeply embedded in her heart as 'Chibi-Usa'. She does not need to correct the Wind Knight on Chibi-Usa's nobility; la Sirene has her back.

Sailor Moon starts running, and Sailor Mars cries after her: "Sailor Moon! Please, take care of Chibi-Usa-chan!" It is as much a vote in confidence of Sailor Moon as it is a plea; she can hear the panic in her voice, and with her own seeks to centre her.

It's what she does.

And what the Sailor Guardians do -- joined by the mystery-light of Les Mysteres, adjudicator of tears -- are not so different to the bravery of one precious little girl. Sailor Mars turns, hands coming together, flame coming into the world at her fingertips. "FIRE SOUL!" It is hers and it is his, now, in vast all-consuming spiral. Rather than being doused by Sabao Spray, it weaves through those bubbles like an old friend; and water heated does produce vapour, after all.

She looks to Mercury, in the wake of her explanation, and on its heels she simply says: "Let's go--!!" And she does, running vanguard behind the group.

Which is not to say she didn't appreciate your science fact, Mercury.

But just like Sailor Moon needs focusing, sometimes Sailor Mercury does too.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Run, run, run. The Rabbit shakes at the next flash of lightning, but does not fall. She keeps up her pace, though the monster has disappeared. It doesn't matter that she can't see it. She needs to keep it that way.

Sailor Moon, whoever she is, is clearly afraid. The Wind Knight's magic sends her sailing over the little girl, making her look up in surprise. La Sirene's magic flashes, but Small Lady doesn't look back. The mist starts to spread... and the small pink girl slows and comes to a stop, looking around in confusion. It would appear that she can't see through it.

Of course she can't; it's mist! Why would she be able to see through it? It's confusing, and it's no more a friendly effect than the fire that rushes through the space where the monster was.

Was, that is; the monster disappears in that flash of lightning, and none of the attacks on it connect that anyone can see.

Small Lady feels around, looks for a place to hide, with growing alarm. "What's with this mist!?"

She can see only a little ways, and that is why she can see Fuu, barely, in outline. She steps back. "Who--" And then in irritation, "What is with that name!?" Small Lady demands of Mercury and Mars, calling her 'Chibi-Usa' again. "Ugh! You all need to run! You jerks are getting in my way!"


There's a burst of light, and the air horn turns into Luna-P again, bobbing along behind her as she starts to try to look for a way past Fuu. "And that's very nice but I can't SEE through this!" she calls to Mercury, wherever she is. She does not appear to appreciate the science fact any more than being called Chibi-Usa. But Pluto--Pluto called after her...

"Puu," she says, concern knitting her features as she searches around for her. "You can't be here. You aren't supposed to leave! You're going to get in trouble--"

She feels around and hits a wall, trying to reorient herself.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The mist is stirred up around the Wind Knight's landing point, then closes once more around her. For a brief moment, she can't help but worry about condensation on her glasses, but there are bigger concerns. Like the fact that the Reaper is bound to manifest again any second now, and if it happens to do so near Chibi-- near *Small Lady*, she reminds herself again - then this dream is going to be cut catastrophically short.

"Small Lady-san," she calls out gently, "*somebody* summoned us to help you. We wouldn't be in your dream ... your nightmare ... otherwise. Besides, your enemies - the ones who seek your death - have made themselves our enemies as well. Will you trust us enough to let us help?"

She turns her back towards Small Lady, but keeps her ears perked, listening intently and looking for signs, even hints, of the next flash of that unwholesome lightning, or any other hints of the Reaper's advent. The Wind Knight keeps her sword at the ready, but in the back of her mind, she's ready to swap from sword to bow in an instant if the Reaper pops up further away from her. She really can't blame the pink-haired girl for being terrified; this isn't even the Wind Knight's own nightmare and *she's* deeply unsettled.

But then, whoever it was that summoned the magical girls here didn't really offer them a choice about sticking around ... or any means of bailing out. For all she knows, if Small Lady dies, it might take the rest of them out as well - one more reason to make sure the Reaper is destroyed or banished empty-handed.

"Hm ... Mercury-san? Isn't there usually some ionization before a lightning strike?"

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There is a rising vapor around them.

Normally, of course, this sort of a fog is a prelude, a shroud to others. But this seems to be different. The glittering opacity seems to purify the area, the airs, the aura of the vicinity. La Sirene's eyes flick round it, before there is an explanation.

La Sirene conceals her mouth again with her hand in thought. Index and middle finger run over her cheek. "I see... so you have hidden us from the lightning... well done, Sailor Mercury! We already have one problem, we did not need two!"

"No, we are hidden," la Sirene tells the Magic Knight, with authority and certainty, before she raises her voice, to address the smaller figure.

"We are here to herlp you - please, come to us! If we can draw the thing out, we can surely defeat it...!"

hat trailing note of mostly-an-encouragement segues into la Sirene mumbling to herself, "Surely we can at least drive it-- out of her dream, right?"

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There is a rising vapor around them.

Normally, of course, this sort of a fog is a prelude, a shroud to others. But this seems to be different. The glittering opacity seems to purify the area, the airs, the aura of the vicinity. La Sirene's eyes flick round it, before there is an explanation.

La Sirene conceals her mouth again with her hand in thought. Index and middle finger run over her cheek. "I see... so you have hidden us from the lightning... well done, Sailor Mercury! We already have one problem, we did not need two!"

"No, we are hidden," la Sirene tells the Magic Knight, with authority and certainty, before she raises her voice, to address the smaller figure.

"We are here to herlp you - please, come to us! If we can draw the thing out, we can surely defeat it...!"

That trailing note of mostly-an-encouragement segues into la Sirene mumbling to herself, "Surely we can at least drive it-- out of her dream, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Mercury's call might have made her slow down if not for the fact that she doesn't know if a Dream Reaper is hot on her heels. Still caught in paroxysms of total panic even as the Mist slips in around her. The faint chill on her skin is familiar, comforting. And with Mars' influence, it feels like early morning on a particularly warm autumn day. It doesn't take away the fear, but it feels like it's some familiar cover.

Thus, her heart palpitates a bit less, and her breathing calms a little as it feels like an intangible hug surrounds her.

Mercury's lecture alerting her to the idea that more bolts of lightning might be coming (!!!) but that she's pretty safe (phew).

"Ah-aha... ha..." She pants, "...H-H-He'll never find us in here..." Moon rubs her arms just faintly, but the stammer is from the fear, not the cold - given the warmed up vapor. "Good going Mercury!" And she keeps on jogging in the Mist after Small Lady, trying to catch up to her.

"I- whatever you want us to call you-!" This is an astounding sacrifice for Usagi to make, because, it could be that Chibi-Usa might ask to call herself Usagi, which might be... something of a giveaway when it's repeatedly used next to Sailor Moon. "Just please, let us help-!"

There's that nickname again... and... Sailor Moon tries to move closer to Chibi-Usa to try and say gently, still scared herself. She recognizes the nickname of course, having heard it before - but she doesn't understand the rest. Why would Sailor Pluto get in trouble? For what? The only difference between this and other times feels like it's because it's in a dream, "Sailor Pluto... she told us that we were brought here to help you. I don't..."

Taking a moment's rest, trusting to the fog for cover, she takes a deep breath, then another.

"... I know you haven't... really trusted us much." Even now, when it seems like they've made great strides in trust, there's still so much being held back, "... and if you can't trust us... then I understand. I won't be upset. But please... Sailor Pluto asked us to help her save you from that... thing. She even bowed her head... so she's really serious."

Sailor Moon still seems both touched, and awed by the gesture from a Senshi that despite being close, still feels so distant, held at arm's length by so much she can't understand.

"... so if you can't. Then, please... trust her." She says, with her soft, gentle, yet still fearful plea.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Sailor Mercury's science-laden voice carries through the Sabao Spray haze to at least one fellow nerd, and Pluto might smile if things were not so dire. In the moment she can certainly appreciate the intent behind the mid-mist lesson. Interwoven flame immediately complicates any question of physics, meta- or otherwise, and so it gets mentally shelved in favor of running even harder.

The jagged grey edges of the fallen city go from hard to soft all around them, but she does not need to see detail or even shape through the mist to know which way to run. She needs only see the faintest smudge of a certain shade of pink.

"Do not worry about me," she calls back to that distant impression of hue, through the veil of fire and water. No use trying to explain that her transgression against this particular taboo is not new. "I am here, and that all that matters."

Pluto catches up with La Sirene and the Wind Knight on feet driven by fear. "You are so brave, but you do not have to face this alone!" She cannot explain to Small Lady who all these people are, there is not enough time -- but she can make it clear they are here together, and hope that is enough. "We all are here for you, Small Lady, so please...! Let us help!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The Reaper is gone, and Sailor Mars isn't about to wait around when they all know what it's hunting. It's possible she's just lost track of it in the mist, but...

Well, they're not that lucky. This is a nightmare, after all.

"Ah..." Sailor Mars starts, as Chibi-Usa -- the Small Lady? -- demands to know what they mean by her name. She looks to Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury, in concern. In this is written her own uncertainties; Sailor Mars speaks with conviction, but don't think she has all the answers.

Desperately she wishes to help Chibi-Usa; but how? She doesn't even seem to recognise who she is.

You jerks are getting in my way!

It's the exact sort of thing she could have said herself, around that height.

The Wind Knight tries using Sailor Pluto's nickname; Sailor Moon opens up the field for any name at all. (And here her heart skips a beat, trust cutting both ways.)

Sailor Mars crouches down behind Sailor Moon, on her heels, closer to eye-level. "You've probably handled all kinds of things on your own, so it must be a pain for us to show up," she says, conciliatory, side-stepping the issue of her name. She looks up to their leader in silent cue: "But Sailor Moon always comes through for us."

Looking back to Chibi-Usa, she smiles, a hint of wavering at its edges. "Listen to them," she urges her, on the heels of Sailor Pluto's plea. "We want to help you."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mercury [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Sailor Mercury startles at Fuu's objection. She knows the hairs raising on her arm are probably just fear, but suppose it is an electrical phenomenon...? Suppose Fuu just convinced Chibi-usa that lightning ought to land here? Time may be short. The way she swings her head around at Fuu is a bit like a horror movie itself.

"When the ionic channel forms, it will do so to equalize the charge between the ground and the cloud! As a conventional electric current it will seek the path of least resistance between the two, and there is no reason that should be here!"

She throws her fists down at her sides, worked-up now, emotional. "Just TRY to run a current through distilled water!" she challenges Fuu. "Trust me, you'll wish you had a solute to ionize!"

Mercury unclenches her hands slowly. "Ah..." she murmurs. "I'm sorry, Hououji-san. I got a little carried away..." Given her transgression she clearly struggles before saying it, but she feels that duty compels her to say, in a painfully polite little voice: "Please don't try to make lightning hit us in the future."

As her running feet slowly come to a stop, Sailor Mercury allows her white-ringed shoulders to sink, another emotion coming to her eyes as she watches Sailor Moon interact with the girl Mercury knew as Chibi-usa. With a glance behind her to watch for the Reaper, she sinks to one knee, near Usagi.

"Friends do get in the way sometimes," Sailor Mercury says (as well a friend of Usagi might). "But travelling along 'the way' isn't as fun without them, right?"

She glances away, for a meek coda: "Sorry about the mist..."

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Chrissie's Death - John Williams - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBWdoz3Eh_c

Everyone looks stranger and spookier in the flame-lit mist...

The Magic Knight of Wind is like a warrior of old, and La Sirene a mysterious sorceress; neither of them of this time, but of another, bygone era, and mythic lands over the far horizons...

And the Sailor Senshi are anonymized a bit -- minor features aside, their outfits become truly uniform, softened by the fog, colors muted, just like the buildings themselves...

But there's one too many shadows in the fog.

The ONLY reason--

--the ONLY one--

--that the scythe didn't just take Sailor Moon, Mars and Mercury's heads off at the shoulders--

--is that it was swung a bare moment after they all knelt to address Chibi-Usa. Mars, tallest of the three even in this position, feels the blade slice off the top millimeter of her hair, and when next she moves she will shed a little bit of fine black silk.

It was otherwise a perfectly aligned strike, by a creature that floated up to mingle with the group in perfect silence, covered by mist that obviously didn't impede its vision at all.

Mist that is gone now, blasted away semicircularly by the force of the blow.

Death doesn't laugh.

Death screams.

Pluto got that part right. Or maybe it's BECAUSE of Sailor Pluto, the only one here that 'Small Lady' seems to even recognize...

It screams an unholy shriek far less kind upon the ears than the astraphobic thunder had been, a primal shriek, an ancient, terrible, hungry sound.

It doesn't mind that it's surrounded. Quite the opposite.

And already it's slashing a second time, a hand-to-hand circular arc unimpeded by the laws of physics -- a buzzsaw spinning amid a field of daisies, red and blue and gold and green and black -- and pink.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Small Lady is slightly mollified by Fuu using her title, even if with a -san, enough that she turns back towards her for a moment and then--well, then she mostly looks confused. "Dream? Summoned? Somebody? What??"

Small Lady looks between Mercury and Fuu('s general directions), gaze bouncing like a pinball as they discuss lightning and ionic channels and lightning strikes. "I--I don't like lightning..."

"It's nice that you want to help," Chibi-Usa says, looking around nervously in the fog as she speaks to Fuu, and then stops to listen to la Sirene who says too that they can defeat it. Chibi-Usa doesn't know about that, no matter how elegant la Sirene might be. She seems dubious, hesitating still, as Sailor Moon starts to say to let them help. 'Whatever they want her to call them.' "My name--...My name is..."

Before she answers she trails off, and as Sailor Moon talks about Pluto she seems to worry more rather than less in the moment. "I don't--" Her eyes waver in distress. "I don't know who you are..."

But there is one she knows. Small Lady looks at her dear friend, who tells her not to worry about her. "But--Puu, you have to stay by the Door! You've never been allowed to leave..." Not in her experience, anyway.The pink-haired girl looks at Mars moving closer to her eye level, and stares wide-eyed at her. It must be a pain... "I..." She is so afraid, and her heart beating so fast. "I-it is!" she answers Mars. But Mars speaks a language she understands. Mercury speaks, too, likewise down on her level.

"I-I don't know," she answers Mercury's talk of how friends make travel. "I've ne--"

SLICE. "AAAAAAAAAH!" The little girl screams, too, calls out in terror and dismay and a hundred other ways to say fear and misery. She sprints immediately, taking off as fast as her little legs can carry her to get away, to flee. But--

As she runs she thinks--They are with Puu. They want to help. But she just doesn't know. She doubts; she's afraid. And in her fear she looks back. She looks back towards the strange knight and sorceress, the Senshi there... the dark shadow. "--Please!" she calls back, stopping only a moment. "Please, run!" the little girl calls at her would-be protectors. "I--I know you want to help, but--But I don't--I-I don't think--"

"I don't want anyone else to die because of me!"

She scrambles back up but feels almost rooted to the spot, staring at the awfulness that is about to come. There's no way... Surely they'll see that, and run with her.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy4HA3vUv2c - It's time.

The Sailor soldiers step forwards, sink down low to speak to the young girl. La Sirene does not press herself forwards. She is sometimes a little eerie, she knows (and revels in it, honestly, at least at times) and in this already-terrorous realm, there is no need to heap that high.

La Sirene does smile, however -- and the smile freezes like breath in an antarctic winter when there is a shadow that moves, and a glint of a reaper's blade.

It is so close. It could have taken the heads of the three warriors. La Sirene knows some of them are taller - it might have gotten Sailor Jupiter if she had been there just now.

What would happen to them if that had come to pass? La Sirene does not know. They are not in their own dreams, they are in the dreams of the Small Lady. But whatever would happen to them, she knows that something awful would happen to Chibi-Usa! For though there was no ritual and no contact -- nor, thanks to the small girl's profound reserves of courage, the physical representation of such -- la Sirene can taste, feel, hear the tears in that one phrase! A single statement: I don't want anyone else to die because of me!

WHO ELSE HAS BEEN HERE? la Sirene wonders (perhaps not quite threading the needle, but moving in the right direction). How many horrors has this poor girl seen under the tutelage of the cruel blades of the Black Moon Clan! This shrieking and horrible thing, this darkling ghoul unleashed into already-tortured dreams?

The determination gleams inside of her, a sudden surge of spiritual hydraulic force. As the reaper's blade snaps forwards she steps FORWARDS and lets her hand move in accordance with this spirit - she dips low, a sudden deep squat that almost puts her knees on the ground to avoid the blade, her diamond-clad glove held up in a guarding posture to shield her own neck from the threat of immediate severance.

"you have DOne ENOUGH," la Sirene pushes out as she tilts her head forwards, sweeps her body round in her crouch and snaps the left hand up again, that same ancient gesture. The right hand raises even as she brings her body upwards, wavering with an ethereal distortion as she speaks with swift resolve: "SENT here to make that GIRL WEEP or TAKE HER AWAY and spawn a thousand sorrows without need or purpose to fulfill a dread ambition I SHALL not HAVE it to me attend LES MYSTERES COME -"

Another slam, another song of tension held taut, the burst of force barely having time to form into its wonted sphere as the sparkling linear back-scatter echoes behind her against the stone and the fog and the shadows.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Mercury and the Magic Knight of Wind's conversation goes wayyyy over her head. She certainly has her bets on Mercury being right though! In this case it's rather blatant favortism, because she has no facts to base it on. Unless Ami Mizuno being a genius at the top of her class counts as a fact though it's not one she can exactly divulge.

Right now the concern is Chibi-Usa though, and trying to convince her to place her safety under their care. A difficult task.

It's one though that Pluto, Mars, Mercury, La Sirene, and the Magic Knight rise to the challenge though, quite thoroughly.

Sailor Moon, just as thoroughly charmed by it has her eyes shining with admiration rather than fear for a moment... as they all try to soothe a frightened(yet still defiant) bunny. It's something she can empathize with so well.

She doesn't try to prompt Chibi-Usa anymore, just letting her speak.

It's a good thing that Sailor Moon is extra short while kneeling, pint sized even. It means that even her odango have a little more room. Thus when the deadly scythe passes over her head, it splits a few errant hairs of that odango.

Fractions of blonde strands hit the ground.

Followed by Sailor Moon's posterior hitting the ground as she looks, eyes wide, and scootches her butt back, mouth working to even form... a shriek and not quite even able to do that... knowing she was just so close to death. However then Chibi-Usa screams, and then she runs. "Ch-" Still too scared to work her mouth beyond that, the child runs away and she's still on the ground. She hears her calls to run though, and forces herself to crawl forward, then stand, then run after her in a stumbling gait.

And then there it is. Sailor Moon's bright blue eyes suddenly grow wide in shock. And then her mouth presses together and she pushes herself back up.

Because those are feelings she can understand all too well. Forcing one's self to be brave, in the face of those feelings.

And if Chibi-Usa was going to force herself to be brave, then Sailor Moon is going to force herself too, to be brave once again...

"I won't." She whispers, nearly inaudibly at the idea of running. Then she corrects herself, with words from a lesson learned on that day. "We won't."

La Sirene perhaps gives her an opportunity. Rushing to interpose herself, between the Rabbit and Death itself, she already has a hand to her brow as she cries, "Moon Tiara-" Imbuing it with glittering power, she flings it to try and use the sacred projectile as some kind of barrier between herself, Chibi-Usa and the sacred scythe in it's trajectory. "-ACTION!" She can't spare more than a glance over her shoulder right now, as her Tiara flies, but she does, looking at the rooted girl out of her periphery...

"Fighting is scary. I worry that I'm going to die all the time." She tries her best to smile a little. It is not easy right now, "But some things are scarier. Like thinking of going home without someone truly important to me."

The thought of her mother's tears when Chibi-Usa never wakes up. The thought of dealing with that gnawing ache of loss and grief. Of seeing Chibi-Usa's bedroom permanently empty, and all those mementos of her life and time with them left behind - inert, a shrine to a girl that once touched their lives.

"So I'm going to fight. Please... don't tell me not to."

Maybe right now, Chibi-Usa doesn't know her. But she feels the feelings might get through to her anyway.

"You're worth it."

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The Wind Knight winces a bit as Sailor Mercury dissects her question in the space of a couple of sentences. It's not that Mercury's wrong - and in point of fact, the Magic Knight of Wind is grateful for the details, at least in the abstract. "It's all right, Mercury-san; that's not what I was wondering -"

What she *was* wondering was whether they could monitor for ionization and predict the next lightning bolt, but the Reaper's next slash kills that question deader than the cityscape around them, even as three Sailor Senshi survive the attempt. And the Reaper is already swinging again ...

Blade clashes against blade, the Reaper's scythe met with the Magic Knight's Escudo sword. For all that the Reaper seeks their deaths, the Wind Knight clings stubbornly to life and its protection, especially the lives of innocents, and she pits her will against the intruder's for that sake.

But she only contests that lethal edge the once, leaping back out of range of the next swing. "Winds of Admonishment!!" she shouts, attempting to bind the Reaper where it stands (floats?), even if it might only buy them a few seconds to flee and re-organize. An instant can make all the difference in the world ...

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It is! It is hard. Mars dips her head in a nod --

-- she couldn't have known, of course. She doesn't know, for a moment, feeling only a brush of what could well just be mist. But her head follows through with the motion, and she watches as hair flutters down, in front of her, disturbed by the motion.


Her noise is not quite a scream, not the way Chibi-Usa's is. It's not until she turns, the concern on her face draining away to reveal the horror, that a cry escapes her lips. "Aaah--!"

It's not that Sailor Mars hasn't seen ghosts before. The ofuda she carries are proof enough of that. But how could she not scream, confronted with an image crafted perfectly in the horror of Chibi-Usa's dreams?

These horrors she has dreamt --

Sailor Mars rolls to her feet, and hears behind her that desperate cry -- anyone else! -- oh, her heart will shatter.

She doesn't tell Chibi-Usa, 'I won't die.'

She wouldn't lie to her.

What she says instead is, "La Sirene!", because it is that girl's bravery which gives her time to find her feet and scramble away from that scythe. When she lands, there's one of those paper slips in her hand.

"Evil, begone!" Is the declaration she makes, as she casts that ofuda towards the thing which would hunt Chibi-Usa; it is no baku charm, to call a friendly spirit to eat her nightmares, but it will have to do.

La Sirene means to grapple it -- Sailor Moon right in its way -- the Wind Knight trying to keep it in place --

"We're here because we want to be here!" Sailor Mars cries out, to the girl behind her. "If we didn't feel this way, we wouldn't have let our dreams lead us here! This is my Star Power, and this is how I'm using it--!!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

She cannot worry for secrets spilled -- and it helps that there are far greater ones than her already-broken taboo which lie yet covered -- but she thinks she sees how the strangeness of her being away from her post can only contribute to Small Lady's confusion. At least, it cannot help... considering this place, and what it means.

"I know," she says, and her sadness is as genuine as it ever has been. "I know I was not supposed to leave. Some decisions are impossible, but must still be made. I cannot regret it, because it means I can be here, with you!"

Both Death and girl scream, but she only listens to one of them.When she gets a clear view of Small Lady again it should be a relief, but that's a tough sell considering it's courtesy a scythestrike which has barely missed. She, they, are all in such terrible danger -- and though she spoke the situation's truth to the mahou as she understood it, she does not know how they will save Small Lady, only that they must. How to kill a dream of Death?

Dread drives Pluto to run even faster, and though she can only wish for the swiftness of her wind-heeled sister... she gets achingly close to the kneeling senshi. To Small Lady.

To the arc of that next reaping swing.

Everyone is moving, and shouting, and magics fill the air. "You will NOT have her!" she cries, whirling on one bootheal in the rubble, and the Orb leaves a sparkling arc through the air. Garnet flares: and the streak of magic flies free, toward Death.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Night On Bald Mountain - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5pnoSgIuVo

The monster's face is shrouded -- only his eyes are visible -- and yet the sound of Chibi-Usa's scream so obviously makes him smile... even the cowl is distorted by it, as though something uncannily wide is beneath it...

And then wider still, when all of the magical girls evade his second sweep... save one.

Sailor Mercury is blasted backwards by the force of the blow, and where she falls, she does not rise. Perhaps this is fate. She has been killed in a dream world before, after all. It did not end well for her, or for any of her friends. This could easily be that; or it could be that she is only unconscious -- unconscious within someone else's dream. That might not end well either...

The others duck and weave and counterstrike.

They also have things to say.

It turns out that Death not only has a voice, but words of his own...

"Oh yes," he rasps, that invisible mouth made further strange by the way that it distorts its words, a sloppy mouth, better-suited to screaming.

La Sirene bursts upwards, Les Mysteres in hand -- and passes straight through. She emerges out the other side suffused in bitter cold, that coating, wintry rime.

"Watch, Small Lady."

With a flick of his scythe, he slices Sailor Moon's tiara in half. Disempowered in its separation, two tarnished brassy halves clatter onto the broken sidewalk.

"Watch them fight for you."

Alone among her allies, Fuu tried to parry rather than avoid the strike, and the scythe passed straight through her Escudo blade -- not shredding it like paper but simply ignoring it, as ghosts do -- and then the flat of it impacts her chestplate and sends her flying. Like Sailor Mercury, she sprawls, then sags. There will be no more discussion of lightning.

"Watch them die for you."

It's a nightmare. It would have been more comforting if Sailor Mars' ofuda had also simply passed through, but it does not. What could be more horrible? Why, it sticking directly to his forehead, squarely between the eyes... and then igniting. But not with the purifying fire of Mars, but an ill flame, a flame that burns darkly, Blackly. Ash falls away, and the monster smiles even more widely.

Suddenly it takes a Garnet blast full in the face.

Has the tide turned? It's a shocking thing in the moment, after all this terrifying invulnerability and savage, brutal violence. A heartening thing. Sailor Pluto is not the soldier of death, but the lonely existence Chibi-Usa describes is, at the very least, Underworld-adjacent. Perhaps she has some special edge against...


...monster, who is absorbing the energy into its eyes, until nothing is left but a glittering overlay of raw color. It blackens. Slowly. And then detonates, laser eyebeams of corrupted Garnet power, searing in every direction.

And then he says the most terrible word of all, recleared eyes locking with the pink-haired child behind the others, even as he floats inexorably towards her, his slow pace an invitation to the others, daring them to try to stop him, daring them to perish.


<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Small Lady is sure that they cannot prevail. The elegant la Sirene is among them--she calls defiance and her magic. The Wind Knight swings back her blade, and of course she must fall. Sailor Mars even cries out. Sailor Pluto...

"You mean..." An impossible decision that was still made. Pluto doesn't deny her worry, doesn't pretend it doesn't exist. Fuu's winds crash towards the monster. La Sirene is still there, saying she won't have it. Sailor Mars wants to be here, she says, as she begins to coordinate with another.

Sailor Moon makes a promise, though she does not use that word. Small Lady stares at her as she interposes herself, listens to what she says. This talk of knowing her is strange, it slides right off of her, but she's going to fight, even though she's afraid. Sailor Pluto is here to defend her, despite the fact that she could be in trouble. She does not and cannot realize what Sailor Pluto has called together here, still does not understand the concept that she is dreaming, but she sees her here.

Her fear is all the stronger here and now as the monster speaks. That awful, raspy voice. Each one, the ones fallen and the ones still standing, has her attention. Each one is watched, especially Fuu and Mercury in the moment. The monster instructs her. The monster speaks to her. Yes, it's a nightmare. Of course, even Pluto cannot defeat this monster. Those words echo into her, and this time she is transfixed for certain, staring at the monster before her floating her way. Is it over? Is it finally done? What can any of them hope to do against something like this? She'll have to watch them all fall, not just some of them. Through awful fire, and frigid cold. And that scythe coming closer--

Tears sting her eyes. Will it hurt? Of course it would. The monster is floating closer, slowly, inevitably closer, and...

"You're... You're not running," Small Lady says, in disbelief.

...And they haven't all died, standing against it. Obviously, their attacks couldn't defeat it, but they're still alive even after facing it. The child behind the others looks around, hesitant, at each. Sailor Pluto, forever her friend. Sailor Mars, who spoke to her like she might understand some of it. La Sirene, eerie yes but beautiful. And Sailor Moon, who acts like she knows her, who is afraid but will fight.

"Puu, you... Y-you brought all these people, and..."

And they aren't dead. They still stand. Maybe--maybe there is a way. That maybe, a slim golden hope, grows within her. "You..."

"You'd better--k-keep... your promise," she says, still so afraid of the monster approaching her. But almost, it sounds like she believes it's possible. That as she stares at the monster again, and takes another step back, that maybe...

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Mars [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Sailor Mercury!" Sailor Mars cries out to her, as she falls. The implications set her jaw, as she turns back to the Reaper. "Why, you..!"

It's an impotent threat, as it turns out. Moon Tiara falls in two pieces. That is a horrific show of strength -- but still one she'll fight against. If the Moon's light cannot cleanse it, the light of flame will --

Of course there was a moment of certainty, there, in her eyes; hers is all the ferocity and fire of War, which dances hand-in-hand with Death, crows scattered across a battlefield. There is a moment the ofuda catches between his eyes, and Mars knows surely that evil cannot stand against the blessings inscribed there.

And then the next moment passes.

And the names of the kami of Hikawa Shrine light up in sickly flame, and that blackened fire burns the paper to ash at its edges. Even the remnants seem dark and tainted, to her eyes, as the ash crumbles in the air. Her hand lowers; her mouth ajar. "No way..."

She swallows; her hands grip to fists as she straightens up, takes a step in front of the girl that horrible creature is staring down.

He's not talking to her, but she's sure talking to him, with all the building rage of a bonfire.

"Where are you looking?! We are your opponents!"

No, Chibi-Usa, she's not running. Sailor Mars does not run from death. She may not have the answers but she will speak as if she does, with hands clenched to fists to hide the way they tremble.

No, it's not until those halting words from behind her that those fists unfurl to spread fingers, chest filling with air. Chibi-Usa asks, in her fashion. It is shaped like a demand, but she knows the form of a plea made sharp better than most; she has heard enough of them from her lips.

"I won't let you down," Sailor Mars promises, and there is something of her own fears in the assurance. There is an astounding honesty to those five words, to this little girl who has fought so hard not to let them in, from an older girl who recognises the battle.

She raises a hand; she raises up flame.

Perhaps the arc she swings is the face of a clock, or the surface of a snowflake, or the silhouette of a full moon. But what burns in this circle is flame, and those flames collect together to orbs, each marked with a symbol of the Womb Realm. "BURNING..."

All together they come to her hands, and as discs she looses them, each one seeking Death itself with flame holier than the black. "... MANDALA!" This is the invocation; this is the first part of the invocation.

The second is a different kind of magic, as Sailor Mars springs back. "-- Sailor Moon! Now!"

Didn't she tell Chibi-Usa, not so long ago? Sailor Moon always comes through for them. The light of Mars shines a path to walk.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"MERCURY!" Moon calls out, horrified. She even takes a step away, before remembering herself. This isn't like the God among Men, she tries to tell herself, over and over. Because it's the only reassurance she has right now. Yet she can't move, lest she betray the reason why Mercury was risking herself in the first place.

And then her tiara gets cut in half. Sailor Moon couldn't be more startled by the scythe slicing her tiara in half. Certainly she'd had it blocked, but severed so completely? It sends a spike of fear right down her spine in ways that only Queen Beryl has managed to thus far. One that's quite different from fear for her friends.

It's a bit more primal than that. Like knowing the Boogeyman exists, and you're looking at him, as he seems to pause at Pluto's attack only to suck up the energy like a sponge. "Ah-ah..." Though then his words reach her. What he's saying, it's addressing Chibi-Usa's fear.

That fear of people dying for her.

It's happened at least once, no wonder she was so scared of the idea of trusting them to begin with - despite them fighting for her again and again.

And she's not unused to these words, the idea of taunting her with the lives of those around her. It's been done to her time, and time again.

Her fingers flex over the rod in her hand, squeezing it so tightly. And the child behind her declares an idea that's intrinsic to her actions, driving it so thoroughly out of her head... the idea that she must run from this thing floating towards Chibi-Usa.

She doesn't answer Chibi-Usa at first, though when she says she better keep her promise. Sailor Moon's expression grows fierce, as she raises her rod. Right now it's like Chibi-Usa doesn't know her. And yet despite all the secrecy between them, Usagi Tsukino would never say that those secrets prevent her from really knowing this brave girl that fell literally out of the sky and into her life.

"You've got it." She says, with a certainty born out of a desire to protect this girl from the dark and terrible things pursuing her - because despite all their differences and arguments...

... she would never choose a life without her in it. She tries to draw strength from this momentary glimmer of belief in her.

"Knock it out!" She calls at the terrible effigy of death as if they were on a schoolyard. "I won't- I won't let you bully her anymore!" It is far too close, and she has not much time. Perhaps not until Sailor Mars sets desire aflame. And sends it at the creature. Mar's words tell her now is the moment. She may not get another, "Right!"

Raising her rod, she does not take her eyes off the creature, does not pivot, or spin - or do anything but face it down as it comes closer to her as she simply points it forward at the figure, "Moonnnn... SPIRALLLL... HEARRRRTTT-"

A split second pause. A wing. A prayer. A leap of faith. A desire to protect. A promise to keep.


And what springs forth is gleaming bright, an aura of pink, a shock of hearts and stardust that forms together into an amalgamation of feeling given form. Yet one predominates above all. The simple love of this small girl that she wants to remain in her life.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

And so, through the spectre of death itself, the Siren passed; through, and cold, and chilled to the bone. The black gems of her garb shimmer with hoarfrost; pale skin seems momentarily like it had become snow itself. A contortion of pain washes through her as she skids, turning partway to face the creature, at least side-on. She pushes breath through her teeth. She shivers once, violently.

Her breath catches at the Garnet Blast. A catch of hope.

But there is more there; and in the end, whatever hollows reverberate inside of the reaper's head, they are sufficient to echo the blasts outwards. A streak of sizzling color strikes her shoulder and she hisses again, and she swallows dryly, and she feels her stomach tremble, and -

She answers Chibi-usa.

"You have been brave," la Sirene says, "to hold them in, but I can feel the tears in your heart. This evil spirit seeks to double and redouble them. I have sworn a great oath, young lady. I shall not deny it in the face of a spectre such as this!"

I still don't have an actual plan or idea on how to blast it tho, thinks la Sirene, even as she sweeps her right arm round, her left feeling number, from fatigue, from that streaking blow. Les Mysteres will not abandon her so casually, but she suspects a third trial would reach the same results as the others, and to fail resolutely is small comfort.

"And AS for YOU," she says, forcing herself to step forwards - and the first step is the hardest, shaking off the feeling of frost clinging to her skin and no small amount of actual frost, thanks to the works of Sailor Mercury - "be ye corrupted person or some devilry put together for the sake of tormenting this child, there is NO PLACE in this world for those who would seek to shatter the hearts of the innocent!"

"LOOK AT ME WHEN I SPEAK TO YOU!" la Sirene then says, coming up sharp -- putting her entire self, the luminous black-light around her flaring outwards as her eyes tremble for a moment. Trouble focusing? No - she can see Sailor Mars and Sailor Moon. "Your mission is over - failed! If it takes me a thousand years I will not allow you to bring a single tear more to this innocent heart! She shall awaken - into another day, for what weal or woe it may bring!"

La Sirene's aura sparkles then, drawing into her - she raises her right hand and snaps her fingers, once. The snap makes an emphatic sound, but going with it is a surge of that living darkness, as if shadow can contend with shadow -- to streak against the thing's face. She takes one step forwards then, closer to the creature, a little further from Chibi-usa-- or perhaps giving more space BETWEEN them, lest her words should prove false.

But for this moment she puts her faith in Moon and Mars alike. This fierceness in tone and in posture is a mask -- a performance from the part of la Sirene which has heard what everyone has said and who greatly mislikes the implication that this girl has seen a great many people killed in her defense at least once -- but that doesn't mean it isn't real, either. Especially in a dream...

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

They each make their stands, and -- seasoned soldier that she is -- Sailor Pluto keeps moving, keeps summoning her magic even as she sees them each go down in the most disheartening, nightmarish ways possible. She has to try. She cannot do otherwise, cannot even allow herself a skipped beat for shock when Death slices Sailor Moon's tiara in two. Later, if there is a later.

There may not be one for the Wind Knight... or for Sailor Mercury.

So she tries.

And almost, she thinks she has done it. Desperate relief is cruelly ripped from her, half a moment before Pluto's own corrupted magics blow her off her feet. It is the combination of these two things which drives a cry of pain from the stoic young woman as she flies. "Eeeeyaaahhh--!"

Pluto lies where she falls. She is very still, save for the smoke which rises from scorch marks on skirt and shoulder.

Then that shoulder shifts, as if testing to see it still works -- and it does.

How dare this thing prey on Small Lady's heart, on the fears rooted in her very caring? A rare anger burns in Sailor Pluto, and it burns in her voice, too. "Leave..." She is facedown, and her first word comes muffled as lips drag through grit. Pluto coughs, then pushes herself halfway up, back hunched, head still hung low. Her body is eloquent in her determination. "...Leave her alone!"

She gets up as quickly as she can, which is not as quickly as normal; but the slow advance of Death means it is enough. The Garnet Rod steadies her.

Sailor Pluto does not know if her Scream can summon the Dead here, but she knows she will not try. It is not a question of whether such an assault could do anything to a nightmare representation of Death Himself. It is simply an unconscionable action, because she will not bestir the spirits which may answer (even in a dream of this place). Not in front of Small Lady. Not now.

'Puu, you... Y-you brought all these people, and...'

Puu looks over her scorchmarked shoulder, until she can see Small Lady's eyes, so large and round and red. She nods; and she smiles.

Even here, even now. No -- especially here, especially now. "I brought them, but I am not why they came."

A moment more, and she turns back to face Death. He does not get her smile.

She will not call on the spirits, then. Well -- she will not call on these. There is another, more personal appeal she can make.

"Chronos... Typhoon...!"

How does time flow in dreams? She does not know, but grasps hold of it nonetheless, or tries. She throws her very soul into the effort, pushing through the Orb to focus all these whirling energies into a silently howling vortex -- and invites Death to its center. Can the inexorable be slowed, or even stopped?

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Sailor Mars will not let her down, and the little pink-haired girl believes that it might be true. Sailor Moon answers her talk of promises. La Sirene speaks of an oath she has taken, so certain. and Sailor Pluto, dear Puu, falls--but starts to rise again. Small Lady looks to her, above all, wishing that she will stand and fearing that she will not.

This Small Lady does not offer any elaboration on the horrors she has seen. She does not offer insight into why this monster looks as it does, any more than she offers insight into what became of this city. But she watches sparkling light, brilliant fire, Mystery itself in shadow, and then the power of Time.

She doesn't recognize that La Sirene's boldness is performance. She does not know or understand the depths of Sailor Moon's reasons. She doesn't recognize her similarities to Sailor Mars. And she doesn't understand how Sailor Pluto is here at all, let alone what she does not call upon here. But she recognizes soemthing else--she recognizes Puu's eyes, and she hears... that she is not why they came. This, she doesn't understand, but there is something in it.

She has seen death, and horror, and fear, and frankly she is still afraid. ...But that fear is less and less the only thing she can feel, as something else grows--that little golden hope sprouting like a tree, if there could be trees in this world. If it takes La Sirene a thousand years; Pluto has left her post to save her, and while that is a worry of its own, she is here, the one Small Lady can trust. Sailor Mars is this monster's opponent, and she calls to Sailor Moon, who is radiant with pink.

It shows in her wide red eyes, still filled with tears but brightening with all the light reflected in them. Can Death itself be stopped? By these...

The small, pink-haired girl here believes they can.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

"You'd better--k-keep... your promise," Chibi-Usa whimpers.

And a hidden door opens, just a crack.

At first it isn't enough. Sailor Mars commands the attention of the child's hunter, and pours her passion into him -- her honesty, her protectiveness, her flame. Arc after burning arc slices into the shroud, and yet nothing is set alight.

But scraps of satin are beginning to flutter to Earth. There is nothing inside to see but more satin and more shadow. But when each little ribbon touches the ground, it is transformed, silently, not into rime but into rose, a single black rose petal.

Sailor Moon's initial results are even more disheartening. Her heartstorm initially passes through the reaper entirely. It coalesces into a single straight line, heart after heart after heart, which emerge out the other side...

...Chibi-Usa's eyes are shining...

...which emerge out the other side, a little bit more slowly, every time...

La Sirene faces a foe wielding words and shadow, and at first neither seems to take much hold. What is darkness to threaten darkness? But, gradually, she elicits a response -- the first to do so, to hear that horrible voice directed at someone other than his prey.

"You shall not live... a thousand years..." he rasps. But was there the slightest hitch in his voice?

The hearts are taking several seconds to pass through, now. That means there are more of them inside the space he occupies with every passing second. A faint pink glow radiates from inside the cloak. And the fabric no longer makes it to the ground; it burns on the way down.

Sailor Pluto hastens the end. With her Chronos Typhoon, surely. But also simply by meeting her beloved ward's eyes.

They share a glance, and the vortex descends--

--and the creature is halted at last.

He cannot move forward.

He can only watch as flame and time engulf him, and then he cannot even do that, as darkness eclipses even his shadow. He cannot see it, when the multitude of hearts inside him merge into a single, gigantic symbol of love and justice, exploding outwards...

He can speak, and his last words are memorable.

"...Wiseman..." he pleads. It sounds like both a name and a title. "...I..."

When he is no more, neither is the black sky. The storm clouds evaporate in an instant.

The Moon is gigantic, beaming down silver from high above.

And silhouetted against it in the distance, it's just possible to see a city's skyline. Just a hint of a hint. Surely it isn't Tokyo, it couldn't be; they aren't even towers, those buildings that climb higher and higher, stretching to reach the Moon that blesses them with her radiance.

The only proper word for them is 'Spires'...

...or was it 'shards'?

It's the last thing anyone sees, before they all wake up in their beds--

--except for Chibi-Usa's smiling face, as her nightmare becomes a sweet dream.