Continuing Tales

Full Circle

A Sailor Moon Story
by Meara

Part 10 of 14

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Full Circle

Mamoru was trapped in the cold, unyielding darkness. An animal ferocity took control of him and he struggled violently, seeking to escape from the unseen force that held him in place. This was his most primal fear and his first true memory. It evoked a terror in him that threatened to swallow him whole. He was lost and alone in a world of darkness.

Then Usagi came.

The silver light that flowed from her was warm where it touched him, melting away the dark forces that bound him and Mamoru fell to his knees. Usagi put her arms around him, holding her beloved close. His body was still stiff and frozen, but he managed to reach up and stroke her hair. Usagi's lips brushed his, her kiss holding both passion and tenderness.

"Mamo-chan…" she whispered, "I love you. I will always love you."

Mamoru felt Usagi move away from him. Her arms slipped off him and the warmth they brought faded. He struggled to regain enough control of his rebellious body to rise, but could only thrust a hand out to her.


She paused, turning to look back at Mamoru, resigned sorrow on her delicate face. Behind her the darkness rippled parting like a curtain. A strange, shadowy man emerged from it. Silent as death the Dark Man opened his arms and beckoned to Usagi. She went to him unwillingly, but she went, and Mamoru's heart started to pound in panic.

The Dark Man moved behind her, arms wrapping around Usagi possessively. A hand slithered up her throat to slowly caress then encircle it. The light that was Usagi's life energy ran into the hand then up and into the shadowy creature that held her. Mamoru lurched to his feet, throwing himself at the creature that had Usagi only to slam into an invisible barrier. Stunned, he slid back to ground, the mocking and triumphant laughter of the Dark Man filling his ears.

"I told you that her life is mine to take. Destiny cannot be denied."

Tears slowly fell down Usagi's face. Her eyes met Mamoru's for an instant and she soundlessly mouthed his name. Crystal blue eyes grew clouded, awareness faded from them. Usagi gave a shudder then collapsed into the fatal embrace of the Dark Man.

"Usako! Usako!" Mamoru screamed her name, but she couldn't hear him. He pounded his fists in desperation against the barrier that cut him off from Usagi.

The Dark Man gathered Usagi up in his arms, cradling her close while he killed her. The silver light that surrounded Usagi slowly dimmed. It flickered once then went out. The hand around her throat was removed. With a careless toss, Usagi's limp body was thrown towards Mamoru and the Dark Man vanished into the black mists from which he'd come. Mamoru lunged forward, the barrier now gone, and caught her before she hit the ground. Going to his knees, Mamoru's hand cupped Usagi's face, looked into her unseeing eyes and knew the awful truth.

Usagi was dead.

She was gone and he was trapped in eternal darkness. He pulled Usagi's cold body to his heart, feeling his soul shatter like glass. A low moan of pain escaped Mamoru's lips. He was alone now, alone forever.

"No," he whispered still holding her, trying to will life back into her body. "Don't leave me, Usako. Don't leave me all alone…"

Chiba Mamoru woke with a jerk, the blood pounding in his ears. His hand reached out and found Usagi still asleep beside him. She was flopped on her stomach, arms over her head and snoring softly. Gentle hands pushed aside her silver gilt hair so that Mamoru could look at the now healing markings on Usagi's throat. They were unchanged, the skin warm to his touch, Mamoru noted with relief.

Usagi grunted, eyes cracking open to look sleepily at him. "What s'matter?"

He stroked her head. "Shhh, sorry, it's okay. Go back to sleep."

Usagi needed no further urging. With barely a sigh she slipped back into dreams. Mamoru watched her sleep for a moment then got out of bed. Shrugging on a robe, he moved stealthily across the darkened bedroom and through one of the French doors. The stars still shone brightly above but the first dim light of the approaching dawn was evident on the horizon.

The dream of being trapped in the darkness was an old one. Mamoru knew that it had to do with the accident that had claimed his parents and all his memories. He'd been told that he was pinned in the wreckage of the car, spending almost an hour in the cold rain and twisted metal before the firemen were able to free him. While Mamoru had no conscious memory of the accident, the feeling of being small and trapped in the dark was one that still haunted him. Add in his concerns for Usagi and you had the makings for one whopper of a nightmare.

"You can't have her back – not when I'm so close to my destiny!"

That was what the Dark Man shouted at Mamoru when he discovered the creature feeding on Usagi's life force.


Mamoru had thought a lot about destiny in the past few days. At one time Mamoru thought that he knew what his destiny was. He and Usagi would someday reign over a united Earth; have a beautiful daughter with cinnamon eyes who inherited her mother's caring heart and enchanting smile. There would be times of trial and times of peace, but Usagi would always be with him, his shining light in the darkness. So much had happened in the past year that now Mamoru wondered if they future they'd seen was what truly lay ahead of them. This new and enigmatic enemy was working towards his own destiny. Two paths to the future were on a collision course and Usagi was at the center of both of them. Over the years the last crown prince of Earth had learned a simple but sometimes brutal truth. One way or another, destiny always won.

But, he thought in the coming light of dawn, just which destiny that would be was still anyone's guess.

The last few days had been full of surprises for Furuhata Motoki and he decided in a moment of reflection that he didn't really like surprises anymore. People who said they did never had anything remotely resembling his life as of late.

Surprise number one was Makoto showing up in his office to tell him about the visit to the UN that Mamoru and Usagi were going to make in about a month. While the powers-that-be had never completely figured out how close his connection to Mamoru really was, counting on the Government to remain stupid wasn't the best way to live. No one had bothered him thus far, but that didn't stop Motoki's mind from concocting several very nasty scenarios about what would happen if they did. His current plan was to pretend to be shocked at the idea of his good friend being Tuxedo Kamen. He'd even spent some time in front of the bathroom mirror trying out various lines to say the men in the bad suits from the Government ("Of course I didn't know!" Motoki planned to say, "That's why they call it a 'secret' identity!"). Reika teased him about being paranoid.

Just because you're paranoid, he thought slightly miffed, doesn't mean that they're not out to get you.

Makoto had assured him that he and his loved ones would have sanctuary within the Moon Kingdom if ask for. That though was beginning to be very appealing to Motoki, but it wasn't just his life that would be changed. Reika and his family would have to come too. Could he really ask them to give up everything?

As if to confirm that the universe was having a really good laugh at his expense, surprise number two came less than two hours after Makoto left. A woman named Chiba Megumi had shown up in his office saying that she thought she might be Mamoru's mother. He had stalled and put the woman off, saying that as far as he knew Mamoru was dead – and so was his mother.

That was when she made a request that stunned him.

"As a doctor and his friend," Megumi said, "You have access to Chiba Mamoru's medical records. I know that there are tests that can be done to compare DNA and the like. I thought that if you took a blood sample from me and compared it to one of his…"

Could this woman be for real, Motoki wondered? "And if it's true? If you are his mother, what then?"

The pain in the woman's eyes haunted Motoki. "I can't allow myself to think that far in advance. Right now, I need to know the truth." She lowered her head as if praying silently for help. "More than you can know, Dr. Furuhata, I want this all to be over. One way or the other, I desperately need all of this to be over."

Three days and the princely sum of 20,00 yen had yielded the biggest and most unpleasant surprise of all - number three. Using false names, Motoki had arranged for a DNA test to be done at two different labs. It was as detailed a test as he dared ask for without attracting unwanted attention.

There were enough similarities to conclude that the two people could be related. Unfortunately, the degree of relation was unclear. Megumi could be Mamoru's second or third cousin. She could be the child of one of his second or third cousins. They could have a great-grandparent in common.

Or she could be his mother.

Gathering up the reports that littered his desk, Motoki reached for his coat and shrugged it on. He'd done all he could from this end to try and get at the truth. As much as everyone liked to believe that pure science could divine the answer to any given question, Motoki had learned that there were very few hard and fast answers. And the only person who could decide if it was worth the time and effort to get an answer was Mamoru.

The secretary for the small group of residents smiled at Motoki as he headed for the elevator.

"Leaving for the day a little early, Dr. Motoki?"

"I'm afraid so," Motoki tightened his grip on the folder that contained the test results. "I have to give a patient some…" he groped for a way to say it, "…upsetting information."

"And you're going to do that personally?" The secretary gave Motoki a look of admiration. "That's very good of you."

The elevator doors slid open and Motoki got in. "Oh trust me," he said with a sigh. "With news like this the only way to deliver it is in person."

Kunshin watched Mina Charles preparing to leave for the day, careful not to let her see him. He'd tried all of his standard tactics to get her to notice him in a more favorable light. The flowers, flattering words and charm had failed Kunshin Tetsu for the first time in years. That Mina wanted nothing to do with him only whetted his appetite for her all the more. His original plan had been to seduce her away from Goruden Kobushi. Having the very lovely Ms. Charles clinging to him in a public fashion would have humiliated the Golden Boy. Since that wasn't likely to happen, Kunshin immediately moved to his second option. The mental anguish the mysterious disappearance of Mina Charles would create in Goruden might almost be as entertaining to witness.

With Kobushi away at a rally in Kobe, this was the prefect time to act. The memory of how vividly he'd been able to feel Mina's life flowing through her the one time he'd touched her was fresh in Kunshin's mind. He had every intention of slowly savoring her over the course of an evening. Kunshin's only regret was that Goruden wouldn't be there to hear the object of his affections scream while the last of her life was pulled out of her.

It was tucked into a corner of the palace grounds that Mamoru had found on one of his extended runs. That the area hadn't been properly tended to since long before the fall of the Silver Millennium over a thousand years ago was quite apparent. The trees and shrubbery were overgrown into a wild tangle of plants. What made the place memorable was that here and there among the thickets of plant was the occasional odd piece of art – if "art" was the correct word. Fountains decorated with cherubic figures urinating in public, plump half naked ladies carrying jugs of water on their beefy shoulders and over endowed men wearing little more than a strategically placed fig leaf positively littered the place. Luna seemed to think that this was where Queen Selene had put the worst "gifts" received in the name of the Silver Millennium. Usagi had dubbed the spot, "The Garden of Bad Taste" and the name had stuck. It was because all of these pieces of so-called "art" were considered expendable that the Ami suggested it as the prefect spot to make sure Usagi's henshin powers were still working properly.

Eternal Sailor Moon stood at attention. Her eyes closed in concentration and she extended a hand. The Moon Power Tier came to her calling, the small wand settling just above her palm. The tier glowed and shifted as she handled it, extending into a staff. Eternal sailor Moon started the series of movements to power the weapon up.

"Silver Moon…"

Feathers whiter than snow filled the air, a sign of the gathering power. The mystic winds ruffled her hair and fuku, but she concentrated on focusing the power in the staff. A burst of light signaled that it was ready for use. She spun, aiming at her chosen target.

"…Crystal Power – Kiss!"

Rays of lights shot from the staff, moving with unerring precision and impacted. Feathers flew once more, replacing the light and the statue of a little boy merrily peeing into what might have been a small fountain exploded into dust.

"Yes," Usagi hissed with satisfaction. She tossed the Moon Power Tier up and down in her hand. "I've still got it!"

Sitting primly on a downed tree limb, Luna cocked her head at her one time charge. "I can't begin to tell you how much better I'll sleep at night knowing that you can easily defeat any piece of tacky statuary in the galaxy."

Ami was staring intently at Sailor Moon through her visor. She continued to type in data on her small hand held pad as she spoke. "That took more out of you than it should have. How do you feel?"

"A little drained," Usagi replied, "but not too bad."

Rei had been sitting beside Luna and stood up, tugging at her fuku. Ami assured her that it was stretching to accommodate her growing abdomen, but it still felt too tight to Mars. "Well you certainly blew the hell out that piece of bad art. Did you have fun?"

"Oh yes. I just imagined that it was that thing, that…that…" Usagi was angry enough to be tongue tied at a way to describe the Dark Man in less than vulgar fashion.

"Creepy psychic vampire," Rei supplied helpfully.

Brandishing her Power Tier Usagi started to slap it against her other hand. "Thank you Rei-chan - that creepy psychic vampire. If I ever get the chance, I'm going to dust him but good." She got a little too enthusiastic and winced as the rod rapped her hand sharply. "Owww!"

Rei decided that venting a little anger at the Dark Man sounded like a good idea. "Just blasting him to dust lets him off way too easy." She spun around, throwing her arms open wide. Her hands slapped together and Mars furrowed her brow in concentration.

"Fire Soul!"

Flames erupted from her hands, shooting to encompass a small metal gnome like figure. It wilted under the heat, melting to white-hot slag. With an expression of satisfaction Rei causally blew the tip of her still smoldering finger.

"I say you slow roast him over an open flame for a while first."

With a flick of her wrist, Usagi sent the Power Tier back to its magical subspace pocket. She sucked on the one knuckle that was turning red. "I'll let you have that job, Rei-chan. Man, that bloody Tier is heavy! Luna why is it that my rods keep getting heavier as their power increased?"

"I'm sure that's just your imagination, Usagi," Luna replied dryly. "Besides, what does it matter if the Power Tier is heavier than, say, the Crescent Moon Wand? They're mystic tools, not war clubs. You're not supposed to pound them over an enemy's head after all."

Ami nodded sagely. "Besides, brute force isn't always the answer to winning a fight. Let's face it, you've always considered my 'Bubble Spray' attack to be fairly lame, ne?"

"I wouldn't go so far as to say lame, Ami-chan…" Usagi began diplomatically.

Mercury raised a hand to stop the inevitable protest. "Watch," was all she said.

Looking around Ami wanted to pick the biggest, ugliest statue she could see. Spying a huge bull carrying off a buxom maiden, she turned and summoned her oldest attack.

Arms crossed, a soft whoosh filled the air as the power gathered at her call. "Bubble spray, freezing!"

Bubble of icy fog danced around Mercury. She gestured with her hands, concentrating on what she was doing. The mist raced for the statue and enshrouded it before seeming to dissipate. Ignoring the confused expressions, Ami walked slowly towards the stone bull that was now coated with frost.

She stopped in front of it and turned to look at her friends. Ami reached out and with a single finger tapped the frozen bull on the forehead - hard. It shattered into a millions shards of ice at her touch.

"True strength doesn't come from having the most firepower," Ami said, "It comes from knowing how to use the power you have to its best advantage."

It was an odd quirk of the very technologically advanced Gate used to get from the Moon to Earth that it couldn't be opened indoors. To engage a portal from a lesser Gate inside a building was considered monumentally dangerous for reasons that Setsuna had tried to make clear. Most of the alien techno-babble was lost on everyone but Ami. The petite Solider of Wisdom paused and thought a moment before translating it in a manner that everyone could follow. The minutely detailed description she gave of what would happen to a body if the Gate's portal deposited a person inside a solid object, like a wall, was very easy to understand. So they had chosen the relatively open space of Juban park as the place to use the portal.

Minako had been in the Juban park a hundred times, but never had the place virtually to herself before. The lack of people was almost eerie, but Mina was too lost in her own misery to let it bother her too much. A thousand and one thoughts ran through Minako's mind as she walked through toward her destination – the large memorial fountain at the park's center. When Mako had called asking Minako to meet her in Juban Park, Mina knew instantly what the summons was about. Her assignment with the Sons was over and it was time for her to come home.

She liked Kobushi - a lot. To be honest she way all ready half in love with him. He was kind, handsome, intelligent and oh so charming. In short he was everything Minako had ever wanted in a man. Unfortunately, he was also the very public face of a group that considered the Moon Kingdom a dark den of (and Minako's imagination supplied the dramatic voice) "eeeevil". How did she get herself into situations like this?

"Good evening Ms. Charles."

Still lost in thought, Mina merely waved at the voice as she continued to walk. If only she could somehow show Kobushi that he was wrong about those of the Moon Kingdom. There had to be a way to do that. If she could somehow stay another couple of weeks, she could work on him some more.

Kunshin Tetsu was shocked when Mina walked right past him, not registering his presence at all. Not a man to be ignored, he reached out and put a hand on Mina's shoulder as she strolled by him.

"I said, Good Evening, Ms. Charles."

The hand squeezing her shoulder finally broke through the whirlwind of plans that occupied Minako's mind. She stopped and turned, brushing the white gloved hand off her. A look of surprise on her face, she immediately recognized the man

"Kunshin Tetsu? What do you think you're...?"

Faster than her eyes could follow a single hand latched onto her throat. Kunshin squeezed, choking Mina and pushing her backwards into the shadows of a nearby tree. The hand proceeded to causally lift her off the ground.

"I think that you're going to join me this evening," he said calmly to her. He held up his other hand and Mina's eyes widened in shock. It glowed with green black fire that also flashed in his eyes. "So beautiful. I'm going to take my time and enjoy you."

Grabbing the hand that was strangling her with both of her own, Minako twisted then slammed her feet into Kunshin's chest and pushed as hard as she could. Surprised by the resistance, Kunshin lost his grip and Minako somersaulted to the ground.

"Keep your hands to yourself, eechi! Back off before I have to hurt you!"

Kunshin laughed at the display of bravado. "You have no idea who you're dealing with." The gathering shadows of evening flowed at his command, running up his body to obscure his face. The temperature around them seemed to drop to zero in seconds and the darkness spread out like a wave. "No idea at all."

While her opinion of Kunshin Tetsu had never been good to begin with, his action confirmed for her that this man was much more than he let on. "Mina Charles" wouldn't stand a chance against the kind of power he was displaying. Her time in that role really was done after all, Minako acknowledged grimly. With a thought, her henshin wand came to her hand.

"Neither do you. Venus eternal power – make up!" In a flash of golden light, Mina Charles disappeared forever, replaced by the soldier of love.

The unpleasant laughter that came from Kunshin was the last thing Minako expected. "Goruden's paramour is a Sailor Senshi – a servant of the Witch Queen of The Moon Kingdom? This is just too good! Think how utterly humiliated he'll be when I show your dead body the to Council!"

"Sorry, but I have other plans," Venus shot back. She summoned the power of her guardian planet, channeling it into her hand. "Crescent Beam!"

Golden light exploded from her hand. Kunshin raised a single hand, warding off the attack with apparent ease.

"My turn," he said. His hands were unnaturally fast, moving in a fluid and boneless manner.

Venus jumped, but not quickly enough. One of the dark, mottled hands wrapped around her throat. A blast of dark energy ran from it and into Minako. She screamed in pain, the frigid power tearing at her. The demon hand yanked her back to Kunshin, letting her feet dangle off the ground, her face mere inches from his. His eyes glowed with a black fire.

"Sleep," his voice was everywhere at once. Minako could hear it in her ears, feel it rip through her body and invade her mind. She was being turned to ice by the power in that voice. "You want to sleep. You need to sleep."

Her struggles started to slow, Minako's eyes taking on a dazed appearance. With a decadent sigh Kunshin Tetsu began to channel Minako's life energy into himself. "Wonderful," he whispered eyes closing in bliss. "So sweet and warm, almost like Usa."

Minako was in agony, feeling as if she was being torn to pieces by razor sharp claws of ice. A surge of adrenaline shot through her when Kunshin's words sank into her mind. He was absorbing her life energy – this was the same creature that had attacked Usagi! Minako fought as hard as she could, but could still feel her mind being pulled down into the cold and darkness. Even the knowledge that she was as good as dead if she fell asleep couldn't seem to stop the process.

Then everything exploded and the pain stopped. Warm arms held Venus, and her body was released from the frigid paralysis that had overtaken her. The jarring thud of hitting the ground was welcome. If she could feel she was still alive.

"Are you okay, Minako-chan?" Mako's anxious voice was sounded like heaven in her ears.

"World Shaking!"

The familiar, bright power churned the ground, throwing up chunks of sod as it rammed straight into Kunshin. Haruka was here too, Venus's mind automatically noted.

"Oh God, so ccc…cold…" Venus stuttered, shaking with a cold that ate at her. It was still hard to think clearly, almost impossible to move yet, but Minako managed to grab Makoto's forearm and squeeze it as hard as she could. "He's the thing that…" she struggled to get the words out of her frozen mouth, "…that attacked Usagi."

"He's the Dark Man?" Jupiter's anger was evident in her voice. "Stay down, we'll handle this creep."

Uranus had her talisman unsheathed and the eldritch blade glowed. She snapped her head toward Jupiter when she heard Makoto's statement. "This is the Dark Man?" Her Space Sword started to pulse brighter as the power in it began to build.

Kunshin was back on his feet and looked at the two warriors with a growing sense of trepidation. Uranus thrust the sword at him.

"Space Sword – Blaster!"

He barely managed to deflect the fireballs that came from it. This was taking too long, requiring too much energy and Kunshin was out in the open. The sounds of this battle would attract unwanted attention. Discretion was the better choice here. He wasn't prepared to face two or more Senshi in an arena not of his choosing or risk public exposure at this time.

A fissure in the fabric of reality opened up in back of Kunshin. The wind that blew from it was frigid and stale. "We'll continue this another day," he called out, stepping back into the darkness.

"Stand and fight you coward!" Her arms crossed, Makoto called down her oldest attack, holding the charge in her body, letting it build along with her rage. Jupiter's body was incandescent with the power she carried. "Supreme Thunder!"

The intense blue white light stripped away the shadows from Kunshin Tetsu's face for a moment. He gave a cold smile, sheltered from the attack by the darkness around him.

"Not today, I think," the aperture began to close. His eyes were the last thing to melt away into the darkness. "Oh, and do say hello to Usa for me. Tell her I'll look forward to having her in my arms again soon."

If there were any doubts that the man who attacked Minako was the same creature that had so relentlessly stalked Usagi they vanished once Mamoru saw the welts on Mina's neck. They were raw, vivid and an eerie match for now fading marks on Usagi's throat. His beloved sat on the bed next to a bundled up Minako and Mamoru's hand strayed almost unconsciously to Usagi's neck. She turned to look up at him as he touched her, sadness and worry on her face. The expression was so much like the one from his dream that Mamoru had to suppress the shiver that ran through him.

"His name is Kunshin Tetsu," Minako said, her voice strained and tired. "And he gave me the creeps from the first moment I met him."

"How is he connected to the Sons?" Mamoru asked, trying to concentrate on the affairs of the moment.

"He's a member of their inner circle. Someone who was always included in the hush, hush meetings that kept so many people on edge. Everyone seemed to defer to him – everyone except Kobushi, that is." Saying Kobushi's name caused a sharp pang in Mina's heart.

Artemis had settled on top of the covers next to Mina, as if to try and warm her with his small body. "Now that Kunshin knows who you are, you can't go back there. It'd be suicide, " he said as gently as he could.

"And now that we know just who the Dark Man is, I say we pay a little visit to these Sons of the Golden Kingdom and make a few things clear to them," Makoto was still keyed up from the aborted fight and slapped her fist into the palm of her other hand.

Standing quietly towards the back of the room, Setsuna was there to represent the Outers at this impromptu bedside meeting. Ever the voice of reason (and unable to resist the urge to play the devil's advocate), she spoke up. "We can't know for sure that Kunshin is acting on behalf of the Sons. He could be using them to his own ends."

"You'll have to forgive me if I have very little sympathy for a group that publicly calls us the 'font of all evil'." Rei was in no mood to be diplomatic.

"There are good people within the Sons," Mina said, a note of desperation in her voice. "We can reach those good people, I know we can. Most of them are just…misguided."

"It's okay, Minako-chan," Usagi gave the solider of love a reassuring pat. "We'll work it all out."

Standing and giving a long stretch, Artemis looked at his one time charge. "Okay, now that you've told everyone what you had to it's time you rested." His tone implied that he'd brook no argument on the subject.

A smile flickered across Usagi's face. "Artemis, you sound just like Luna," she said with amusement. The white feline raised a whiskered eyebrow in mock rebuke at her. "But he's right. You should rest Minako-chan," Usagi amended quickly. "We can talk again once you've slept."

"Sleep sounds good," Mina had to admit. Despite a long, hot bath the chill of Kunshin's touch still lingered deep inside and she shivered again.

"You shouldn't still be cold Minako-chan," Ami said with concern.

"Unless…" Rei moved to the bed and Usagi stood so she could sit down. "Just lay still, ne?" she said to Minako. Closing her eyes she let her hand slip onto her friend's neck, noting that skin was indeed still cold to the touch.

"There are definite traces of negative energy," the priestess said, slowly shaking her head. "I'm willing to bet our Dark Man left himself a backdoor into Minako's mind when he touched her."

"Well, then let's just close that door." Usagi's voice caused every head in the room to turn. The Ginzuishou appeared and pulsed softly between her hands. The light from it infused Usagi and she glowed softly with the same radiance as the mystic crystal.

"No!" Mamoru bit back the word at the last moment, but it still came out much sharper than he'd intended. "You aren't strong enough to be using the Ginzuishou yet," he added in a more modified tone.

"I don't want you taking any chances," Minako added. Her eyes were getting heavier and she was losing the fight to stay awake.

"And I won't let Kunshin do to you what he did to me." Very little got Usagi angry faster than one of her friends being hurt. "Don't worry, it'll be all right." Usagi caught Ami's eye and gave her a smile. "Just today it was pointed out to me that it's not how much power you use, but how you use the power you have."

Raising a hand, Usagi called her scepter. The Ginzuishou settled into it and the shaft extended. Taking the staff in her hand, she looked first at her friends, then at a glowering Mamoru.

"All I'll do is access the healing properties of the crystal and I've been able to do that for years now without dropping dead each time I try it. Please, I really need to do this."

Midnight blue eyes met crystal blue ones. Mamoru folded his arms against his chest, clearly unhappy with what he about to say. "I've never been able to stop you before have I?" he grumbled.

Usagi leaned forward on tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek, "No. But you're very cute when you try, Mamo-chan."

She turned to Minako and gave her a questioning look.

"Oh all right," Minako replied sleepily. "But as much as I love you Usagi-chan, please don't kiss me, ne?"

The staff was all ready glowing with power. "Promise," replied Usagi with a wink.

Light, like living stardust started to pulse through the scepter. The twinkling aura encompassed Usagi, and she held the staff tightly between her hands in front of her. Head bowed and eyes closed, her voice was soft, yet full of authority.

"Moon Healing – Escalation!"

The luminescence flowed from the staff to Minako, enveloping her in the silver tide. Sky blue eyes closed, letting the magic of the White Moon work through her. The welts on her neck seemed to move, shifting under the assault of the healing magic of the Ginzuishou. They faded to gray then, like a shadow, lifted from Minako's body.

A single tear of joy escaped from Mina's closed eyes. "I feel warm…" she mumbled, feeling so safe and loved in that moment.

The shifting shadows of dark power squirmed in the air for moment, causing a collective gasp among the people watching. The darkness fought against the power that had banished it from Minako. Black fog shifted, roiling in place.

Rei jerked, her sixth sense suddenly screaming at her. A hand went to her belly as the unborn child within her leapt in alarm. "Usagi, look out!"

Before Rei had finished speaking, the black mist darted towards the surprised Queen of the Moon. In a heartbeat it coiled around her legs, racing up her body. It shifted again, taking the shape of hands that curled around Usagi's throat.

Ah, how I've missed you...

Crystal blue eyes snapped open in surprise as Usagi heard the voice in her mind, felt it echo through her entire body. The marks on her throat flared to life, writhing and vivid and she gave a strangled scream of pain. Usagi was aware Mamoru shouting her name, her friends calling out to her, but could feel her grip on reality slipping away. The power of the voice in her mind was freezing her body.

"Let her go!" A rose formed in Mamoru's hand, waiting to be thrown, but the shadows were so tightly entwined around Usagi that there was no way to do it without hitting her. He reached out, trying to pry loose the darkness that was strangling Usagi.

There was the sensation of laughter in Usagi's mind and Mamoru heard it when he touched her. Not this time! A tendril of the black fire whipped at Mamoru, sending him flying.

Kunshin's voice in her mind dropped to a hypnotic whisper and Usagi reeled under the strength of the psychic assault. Sleep, Little Usa, sleep...

"No!" she shouted, calling on the power of the silver crystal. "Moon Healing – Escalation!" Usagi pulled her scepter to her chest. She was not going to allow Kunshin to use her again – not ever again.

Quicksilver fire erupted in her veins, burning away the cold darkness that tried to control her. Usagi heard the voice in her mind curse then give a shriek of shocked pain. The black mist lifted from her body. A pool of darkness floated before her, glowing, angry eyes visible within the murky cloud. Crystal blue eyes looked directly into the shadowy face, unflinching and resolute. The darkness grudgingly retreated from her light and Usagi increased the power flowing from the Ginzuishou into her. She could feel the eldritch fires burning her inside but was uncaring of the pain, willing to pay any cost to drive the Dark Man out once and for all.

"Get out," Usagi called out defiantly to the Dark Man. She raised the staff above her head. "Get out or this sacred light will burn you to dust!"

The power started from deep inside her heart, a small star of light. That star grew, shining brighter until her body glowed with the ultimate magic of the White Moon. The frantic need to be free from the taint of Kunshin's touch possessed Usagi. The markings on her slender throat writhed and twisted in an effort to subdue her once more, but were quickly overwhelmed by the purity of the silver light. They quivered, rising from her skin to shatter to a dark dust. The light continued to expand, relentlessly pushing the malevolent shadows before it until the room with filled stardust of blinding brilliance.

Usagi, still glowing with the power of the Ginzuishou, slowly narrowed her link to the crystal. The scepter shrank until no longer a staff and it disappeared. Only the softly pulsing stone was left between Usagi's hands. With a flick of her wrist, the Ginzuishou went back to its resting place in the prayer room. The last of the power it had given Usagi left her and she started to collapse. Mamoru caught her when her knees buckled.

"Usako," Mamoru asked in a hushed, worried voice. "What did you do?" The whole encounter had lasted less than a minute, but that was long enough to drain Usagi dangerously.

"What I had to," she whispered weakly. She looked at him and the faces of her concerned friends, trying to give them a reassuring smile. "I'm okay."

The words were less than convincing. Usagi sagged against the arms that held her and, eyes rolling up into the back of her head, fainted from her exertions. Lifting her onto Minako's bed, Mamoru allowed himself to wonder just how much worse things could possibly get.

The buzzing of the doorbell was as insistent as it was annoying. Her hair was dripping wet and Lorilei struggled to get the towel wrapped firmly around her head. This was the last straw, she decided in a moment of rare pique – no more dyeing her hair black. Having to touch up the green roots every two weeks was a major pain in the posterior. Taking a quick breath to calm herself, she cracked open the door carefully. With all the people who'd been disappearing lately, she wasn't about to take any chances.

"Motoki-san," she said, surprised. She knew he had her name and address as an emergency contact, but the handsome, young doctor had never been to her apartment before. "Please, come in."

"I'm sorry to bother you," he said, glancing at the large towel adorning Lorilei's head. "But I have to talk to Mamoru as soon as possible." Motoki looked at the file folder in his hand.

"I have some interesting news for him."

Full Circle

A Sailor Moon Story
by Meara

Part 10 of 14

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