Continuing Tales

Full Circle

A Sailor Moon Story
by Meara

Part 4 of 14

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Full Circle

The circle was getting ready to close at last.

He sat alone in the darkness that was his true home and considered the fragmented memories that played in his mind. Long forgotten images had re-emerged as of late. Some memories had not faded through the centuries, though. Those memories had become his purpose and his obsession. They haunted him relentlessly with what had happened before and what would happen once more unless he could master the endless circle.

The moment of triumph was torn away from him. He shouted in frustration, unable to believe that all he had worked for was lost. Then the light came - that terrible all encompassing light. It burned him with its inescapable purity, hurting him a way he had thought impossible. It swept through him; shattering him like the crystal he'd linked himself to.

The shifting tides of time were all around him, but he sat, immune to their ebb and flow. He'd fled to this place, to this ebony corner of the fourth dimension, longer ago than he could truly remember. At first he'd been so weak that the banishment to a space outside of time had been torture. But as they long centuries had gone by, he'd come to appreciate then finally worship the perfect silence that only existed here.


Others, his brothers and sisters, had tried to bring that perfect and eternal silence to the world. They had been rejected, just as he had been rejected, by the imperfect beings that stubbornly clung to the disorder that was life. He, however, had learned the lesson his siblings had not.

A single point of light flared in the darkness. He knew what the presence of that small bit of clear, white light in this land of eternal night meant. The power of the Ginzuishou was being used again. He needed to guide events properly, so that Kunshin could take the next step on a path that would lead to the ultimate victory.

The crystalline ball between his hands gave off a faint glow. He worked the perfect circle around and around, marveling at it yet again. This piece of rock, worn smooth by the caress of his emaciated hands over the centuries had a single, fatal flaw in it. It was symbol of all he had achieved and all he hoped to obtain. He knew that as perfect as the crystal ball seemed, pressure applied to the correct point would cause it to shatter into a million shards. It was all a matter of knowing how and when to do it. As he set to work, he savored the irony of that simple truth.

Victory was just a matter... of time.

Mamoru watched as Usagi called the Ginzuishou to her cupped hands. His beloved was always beautiful, but there was a glow about her whenever she handled the crystal that took his breath away. She looked like an angel come down from on high - his angel he thought with contentment. She put the crystal in the locket she'd brought with her and snapped the lid shut as it seated itself.

"Shall we?" Usagi said as she turned to look at Mamoru with shining eyes.

He gave her a curt nod. "You first."

"Okay, here goes..." Usagi hadn't tried to transform since that last, awful night on earth. Going into the Balance so often had drained her and she wasn't entirely sure what would happen. Taking a deep breath, she shouted the words in a strong voice that filled the small chamber, "Eternal moon power - make up!"

Silver light exploded from the brooch at once. Mamoru never took his eyes from Usagi as her everyday clothes melted away. In a flash of eldritch fire and feathers, her fuku appeared and wrapped itself around her slender body, piece by piece. It was magical, entrancing to watch, a sight he never grew tired of seeing

"Well," she said, turning in a slow circle trying to get a good look at herself, "Is everything there? Do I look okay?"

Mamoru gave a low whistle as he looked at her. "You look like the very beautiful champion of love and justice." He paused to raise a single eyebrow at her, "Was your skirt always that short?"

Your turn," Usagi laughed at him.

Where as Usagi and the others shouted out a henshin phrase, Mamoru simply reached into the pocket of the coat he wore. Without a word being spoken he let the magic flow over him, transforming him and filling him with power. Something was different, Mamoru knew, but couldn't put his finger on what until Usagi spoke up.

"I think you lost your hat, Mamo-chan."

Putting an experimental hand to his head, Mamoru found nothing but hair. "That's funny, I had it last time I wore this outfit. I wonder where it could have gone to?"

"That's okay," Usagi assured him as she took his arm. "You look great without it. I'll let you in on a secret." She looked around as they left the chamber of prayer to make sure they were still alone. "I never really liked that hat. I could swear the thing kept changing sizes every time I looked it. Almost like it was alive or something."

Mamoru enjoyed the feel of Usagi on his arm as they went through the halls of the palace. For a moment it was like the old days before all the troubles on earth began. "Confess woman, you got rid of it didn't you? Just like my favorite vest."

"I did you a favor by dumping that awful vest," Usagi protested in mock anger. "It made you look like you were wearing a cow! But I did nothing to that wretched hat. For all I know it went back to whatever hatbox from hell it came from in the first place."

They were approaching the room where the other Senshi waited. Mamoru tightened his grip on her arm slightly. "Are you sure you're up this, Usako? If you're still feeling tried or weak we'll manage without you."

"I'm okay Mamo-chan, really." Usagi didn't say that she knew they couldn't make due without her and keep to the plan. "I feel good since I transformed. Besides, you'll be with me, my dashing hero and I'm always stronger when we're together."

Mamoru stopped just outside the closed door. He pulled Usagi into his arms. She tilted her delicate face up to look at her husband as he spoke. "I know, I feel it too," he whispered lowering his head for a kiss. "The limitless power of two as one."

Usagi's arms crept up his back, pulling him as close as she could. The magic his touch held for her made her grow warm and flushed. She could tell Mamoru felt it too, and with reluctance they parted. A tender hand cupped her cheek and she leaned into it, bringing up her own hand to cover his.

"Ready?" he asked one more time.

"All right," she said with a sigh, "Let's go kick some bad guy butt!"

The night was very pleasant, warm without being sticky. The sweet sound of insects singing in the darkness combined with fireflies to make the evening seem almost magical. It was a perfect night for lovers, the man thought as he looked at the full moon. It was a night for lovers and here he was, kilometers from the nearest village and any available women.

A new English word he'd heard sprang to mind and he decided it fit. This whole situation sucks, he thought to himself. He was young, handsome (in his own mind, at least) and un-married. He cursed once again the luck of the draw that had sent him to be a guard for new "Protective Facility". He also cursed the morons in Beijing who had the idea for setting up the camp for those who might be of lunar origin. He should be in the city meeting new women, not stuck here in the middle of yak country watching over two-dozen people!

He was so intent on the misery that was his current situation that the guard almost failed to notice the figure that came up the long dirt road. When at last he did see the person, he pulled his rifle from his shoulder and called out in a very irritated voice.

"Stop! What do you want? Don't you know this area is forbidden?"

"Please, sir..." the voice that came from the figure was female, soft and sweet.

This caught the man's attention. "All right, come here." He watched as the petite woman came shyly towards him. She bowed low, as if he was someone of great importance. As she raised herself, he could see that she was young, maybe sixteen or seventeen. Her skin was as white as the alabaster, framed by straight black hair that went to her shoulders - and her eyes! She had the most incredible purple eyes, large and hauntingly exquisite. A lump formed in the guard's throat at the fragile beauty of the young woman before him. "What do you want?"

"Please sir," she repeated; shyly casting her eyes back to the ground. "Forgive me for coming here, but I had to! My uncle is in there and I must see him at once." Tears formed in the large eyes, adding the delicate beauty of the girl. "My aunt is dying, you see. She begged me to give my Uncle this last letter from her. I have to give it him, sir! My aunt and uncle are all the family I have left! Please, I'll do anything..."

The guard's eyes raked her tiny form. She was so small, barely coming up to his chest, and so beautiful. He glanced up at the moon and licked his now dry lips. A quick look told no one else was around.

A sly smile came to the man's face. "Perhaps we can work something out, my little flower. Why don't we step away from this gate and discuss it?"

The girl's eyes widened as she divined his intent. The guard was afraid for a moment that she would scream, but all she did was cast her gaze back to the ground. "There is a place, not far from here, by the river. The grass is thick and the reeds very high..."

This was better than he could have hoped for! There were several more hours until his replacement showed up. He could take his time and enjoy the tiny treasure that presented herself to him. He let her lead him a good hundred yards away. They moved into the high rushes and he began to take off his shirt.

"What is your name, little flower?" he asked in a conversational tone. His hands were shaking as he moved to undo his belt buckle. This was the best night of his life!

The clouds hid the moon for a moment and the world faded to an almost pitch-blackness. He could still hear her breathing, even and steady. "Come now," he said, "don't be so shy. What are you called?"

The clouds parted once again. The guard had his shirt off and was in the process of dropping his pants. They puddled around his ankles as the moonlight returned. He gave a short gasp at what he saw. The young woman was now in a sailor fuku, and no longer appeared shy. She had a long, pointed weapon in her hand that she swung towards him. He tripped on his own pants and fell onto his backside with a thump. The blade of the weapon was now at his throat.

"I am called the Soldier of Destruction. I am life, death and rebirth," Hotaru said, eyes as cold as her guardian world. "I am Sailor Saturn of the Outer Senshi."

From out of the reeds came three other women in sailor fuku's. They stood behind the tiny soldier. One of the women was tall and graceful with green hair that fell to her hips. She gave him a look of disgust. "We require information, little man."

"But I can't...I can't just..." he stammered.

Another of the warriors, a woman with short sandy hair, had wolfish grin on her face. She crouched down beside him and he saw a blazing sword in her hand. "Or perhaps we should stay right here so I can show you exactly what it is I do with men who take advantage of young girls?"

The guard would rather have had a kidney removed without anesthesia. "Maybe I could help you..."

"See," said the third woman. Pastel green hair framed her face, a smile playing at her lips, "I told you he'd be reasonable."

There was a very old true-ism that Kunshin Tetsu liked to live by. "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer". He'd made it his habit to always know what the other men in the Circle of the Chosen were up to, especially Goruden Kobushi. He was first on Kunshin's long list of those who stood in his way to power. There was something about the young man with golden eyes and the easy manner that made Kunshin continually suspicious of him. Perhaps it was the younger man's rather naive adherence to principles Kunshin found cumbersome at times. Duty and honor had their place, Tetsu conceded, but that place was always just behind his needs of the moment.

"May I ask you a question, Kobushi-san," Kunshin asked as the Council adjourned.

Goruden inclined his head politely in Kunshin's direction. He didn't trust Kunshin Tetsu. He knew the older man considered him to be something of a young fool. "Of course, Tetsu-san."

"You still think that Chiba Mamoru is the true prince, don't you?"

A thoughtful look came over the face of the younger man. "Yes," he finally replied, "I do. What's more I think he's still alive."

Kunshin gave his head a shake. "Even if you are right and Chiba is the prince, no one could have survived the explosion at the gajin church. We have to proceed on our own now. The Golden Crystal is out there somewhere, waiting for the man who can use it."

"I'm surprised at you Tetsu," Kobushi said with a sly smile. "You of all people should know that underestimating the enemy could be a fatal error. The queen of the Moon is a powerful foe. After all, she managed to escape the cleansing that hallowed Beryl attempted a thousand years ago. She's a clever witch, that one. We need to learn to think as she does before we can hope to understand our enemy."

That Goruden was capable of this kind of insight was disturbing to Kunshin. Was he more than the simple, duty-bound puppet Kunshin had always thought him? Before he could ask another question though, a summons rang in the back of Kunshin mind.

"Forgive me Kobushi-san, but my pager just went off. I've just been called to an urgent meeting."

Goruden gave him a bow. "Of course. Have a pleasant evening, then Kunshin-san."

A strange smile flickered across Kunshin's face. "Oh, I intend to."

It was an odd sound, so out of place in the Chinese countryside that it caught the attention of the soldiers patrolling the camp's perimeter. There was a rush, like the wind before a thunderstorm and a soft voice full of power. It was everywhere at once.

"Dead Scream."

A bolt of purple fire shot at the front gate and it exploded. The concussion from the blast sent pieces of the metal fencing high into the midnight sky. Bits of charred metallic shrapnel whistled through the air as they came back to earth. The guards, who were very busy covering their heads, finally looked up and caught a glimpse of figures rushing into the enclosure through the smoke and dust. Before anyone could react to that, another blast of energy was released.

"Sparkling Wide Pressure!"

The wooden logs that made up the legs of the two-story tower on the left of the entrance shattered under the force of Jupiter's attack. The whole structure gave a creaking groan, collapsing to one side. The machine guns that were mounted on it were buried in the rubble, useless.

"World Shaking!"

Uranus slammed her fist to the ground and sent a bolt of power churning through the earth and towards the right hand tower that held the searchlights. The base was blown away and it too crashed to the ground, spilling out the three men who were in it.

The soldiers who had been asleep in the nearby barracks came boiling out of it like a nest of angry wasps. They struggled to pull on various articles of clothing and pull out weapons at the same time. One of the senior men barked out a command to start shooting.

"Bubble Spray!"

Visibility inside the camp dropped to zero with frightening suddenness. People, whether friend or foe, were now just gray shapes in the fog. The mist was icy cold, freezing exposed flesh and making it hard to hold onto weapons.

"Love Me Chain!" Out of the mist came a golden whip. It lashed at the hands of the men, causing the guns they held to go sailing off into the fog. The guards shouted in pain and surprise.

"Fire Soul!"

Before anyone could react, a wall of fire came at them. Mars crafted the power and it formed a blazing circle around the now defenseless soldiers. They found themselves being herded together like sheep.

The fog and fire dispersed as quickly as it had appeared. The men found themselves surrounded by Senshi. Pluto presented the perfect picture of timeless, martial grace. In her hands was her staff and it glowed with lilac energy waiting to be discharged. Mars had her flaming bow drawn and stood with legs apart, ready to release her fatal arrow. Haruka had her blazing space sword in her hand. The light from it cast eerie shadows across the face of the Senshi of Uranus. Lightning sparked and crackled around Jupiter's form and the look in her eyes dared any of the men to take her on. Both Ami and Michiru had their water attacks powered up. A column of flowing water danced around the petite body of Mercury. Behind Michiru a roiling wave rose and hovered, waiting for her command. Mina was suffused in golden light. The power of Venus shifted and flowed, racing to her upright hand. There was a fatal stillness in the energy that Saturn held in her glaive. It pulsed, waiting to be freed to do her will.

Mina's voice rose above the murmurs of the soldiers. "Now, you boys behave yourselves and play nice." The stunned look on the men's faces made her smile. "The rules of this game very simple. If you don't give us any trouble, then you won't get hurt. Everyone got that - good!"

"How dare you say that, miserable woman! Who are you people?" came the outraged voice of the most senior officer. "What do you want?"

"Geez," Mina grumbled, "gone less than a year and all ready they've forgotten about us."

"We are the Sailor Senshi, guardians of the Silver Millennium - you misogynist jerk!" Mars called back, swinging her bow to aim directly at him. The men around the officer told him in strident whispers that it was, perhaps, unwise to anger a woman who had a flaming arrow pointed at him.

Usagi's voice came from in back of them all. "In the name of the rightful Monarchs of the Moon Kingdom, we've come to get the people you have imprisoned here - our people."

Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen walked carefully into the middle of the now shattered campgrounds. Usagi took a second to glance around the area. It was a shambles, rubble from the collapsed towers and their contents spilled in every direction.

"Looks like you guys had a good time," she said. Usagi was still annoyed that the others had insisted that she not be in the middle of the action. Sometimes being Queen took all the fun out of life, she mused.

Tuxedo Kamen spoke up, his strong baritone voice rising above the murmurs of surprise from the now corralled camp guards. "We have a message for your leaders in Beijing." He had an envelope in his hand and tossed it casually in the air. As it floated back towards the ground, he produced a rose and with a toss, sent it flying. The letter was impaled and moved unerringly towards the officer who had spoken to land at his feet.

Mamoru heard Usagi whisper, "show off" in his ear as he spoke again. "The Moon Kingdom won't tolerate any of its people being held against their will. That kind of provocation will never be forgiven or left unanswered."

As Tuxedo Kamen finished his speech (one of his better ones, he thought with satisfaction - they actually listened to him!), the Inner Senshi moved to join Usagi. If any of the guards had the idea to rush the remaining Senshi, it was short lived. Sailor Saturn raised her glaive.

"Silence Wall!" A gray, opaque barrier formed around the astonished soldiers.

While Uranus and Neptune went to get the people being held within the camp, the five Inners joined hands. They bowed theirs heads and closed their eyes in deep concentration. A faint breeze stirred, coming to life as the five women in the circle invoked the power that was theirs to command. Rainbow light suffused them, flowing from one to the other and playing about their bodies like bright, gossamer veils. Sailor Moon was the first to snap her eyes open.


The other answered her call in a single voice, "...Teleport!"

The rainbow light exploded from them, shooting high into the air. The women in the circle blurred and faded from sight. A second later a glowing ball of light appeared where they had stood. It pulsed, then settled into the shape of a door.

Mamoru saw Neptune and Uranus herding a small group of about two-dozen people towards them. He called out once more to the suddenly very quiet camp guards behind the gray wall.

"Tell your leaders about what happened here tonight. Tell them that we can go any place, be anywhere we need to. No walls can keep us out. No security system can stop us. The people of the Moon Kingdom are a peace-loving race. But don't confuse our desire for peace with weakness. To do that is to make a dangerous mistake."

The image came from the crystal ball that sat between the hands of the Dark Man. It showed the five young women as they pooled their power together. It circled them, shimmering and dancing around their bodies before running into a glowing door. The power flowed from them effortlessly, as if it was as easy as breathing for them.

"So beautiful..." Kunshin whispered aloud. He considered for a moment what it might feel like to channel off some of the power from one of the exquisite creatures he saw.

"Pay attention, Tetsu." The voice of the Dark Man broke into Kunshin's thoughts. He motioned with a bony hand to the glowing door that consumed the power the women generated.

"The device is known as a 'Gate'," he said. "It was created by a rather bothersome race called the S'Eyre. This is what allows people from the Moon Kingdom to travel to Earth and back without being seen. This is a lesser Gate, more like a proto-Gate. It has no human Keeper and only enough power to move one or two people at a time. Any more than that, and the it needs to be augmented by a compatible outside power source."

Kunshin ached with the desire get his hands on the women before him. It made his temper short and he snapped, "What has that got to do with what you promised me?"

"Everything," said the Dark Man. "The key to victory is knowing when to strike - and at whom." He lifted the crystal ball above his head. It roiled with black fire between his hands. A single beam of that murky light shot from it.

The refugees from Earth had moved through the portal and onto the moon. Setsuna had just stepped through when the shining door. Pluto smiled at Lorilei, who was waiting for her, when she stopped short. She jerked as if she'd been hit.

"No!" she shouted, turn abruptly back towards the Gate and the people still inside it. "Get out of there! The portal is..." the glowing door convulsed once, then seemed to explode. The Gate snapped shut, trapping those still left inside.

Pluto was thrown into the air and landed hard. Lorilei screamed Setsuna's name and ran for her twin. Rei and Makoto had their backs to the portal, and took the full brunt of the explosion. They were unconscious before they hit the ground. The other three Senshi were blown of their feet by the force of the discharge. People around them shouted in confusion.

Ami was the first to stumble back to her feet. There was a cut on her forehead that was bleeding sluggishly. She put a finger to the stud to activate her computerized visor. She blinked and used the hand to wipe away the blood as it trickled towards her eyes.

She saw that Minako and Usagi were trying to get back up again. "The portal matrix has destabilized," Ami called out to them. "If we can't get this end open again fast, the whole Gate will collapse on the people still inside and crush them!"

Mamo-chan - where is he, Usagi thought still dazed. Her eyes scanned the crowd that was gathering around them. Lorilei was crying like a lost soul, huddled over an unconscious Setsuna. Haruka, Michiru and Hotaru were missing. They hadn't made it through before the portal collapsed. Panic grabbed at her heart as she finished looking around. Alarm cleared away the last of haze from her stunned mind. Oh God, no! He's still in there!

"Makoto and Rei are down," Minako called out. A terrible fear welled up inside Minako and she longed to rush to see if they were all right. "Without them we don't have enough power."

In that instant Usagi knew what she had to do. A strange calm came over her. "Yes we do," she said. She cupped her hands in front of her and the Ginzuishou came to her call. She moved to raise it above her head.

"Usagi-chan, no!" Mina called out.

Ami shouted, "Don't do this! Using the Ginzuishou could kill you!"

The crystal was all ready shining brighter between Usagi's hands. "There's no other way Ami. You said we have to get this end open and using the Ginzuishou is the only way to produce that kind of power quickly enough." She raised it above her head. It pulsed once, twice, then a beam of the purest light shot from it into the Gate. Usagi grimaced as quicksilver fire filled her veins, but still she poured herself into the crystal.

The portal stopped writhing and snapped to life for a brief instant. Usagi caught a glimpse of Mamoru inside. Their eyes met before the Gate's doorway collapsed once more. There still wasn't enough power to keep the threshold open long enough for them to escape, Usagi knew. Unless...

She reached for the perfect Balance with the Ginzuishou knowing that it would probably kill her. It didn't matter Usagi decided and if that was selfish then so be it. If Mamoru and the others got out of the Gate, he could call her back. If not, she'd rather die in an attempt to save him than try to live without him. The last thing Usagi heard was Mina and Ami screaming her name, begging her to stop.

Usagi's fuku melted away to stardust, leaving her clothed only in the brilliant silver luminescence from the Ginzuishou. Usagi closed her eyes, arms slightly raised as if soaring on an invisible wind, and let the great power of Moon Kingdom fill her. The seductive song of fatal rapture called to Usagi, pulling her into its sweet, deadly embrace. Before she lost all ability to think clearly, Usagi directed a massive burst of power at the collapsing portal and tied herself to the Gate.

Mamo-chan , Usagi called out to him with her heart, then began to drown in the sea of all-consuming sensations.

Kunshin watched, utterly spellbound by what he was seeing and feeling. A female figure, eyes closed and bliss written on her face, was suspended in the blazing pillar of light before him. Waves of the most incredible sensations rolled from her as well as unbelievable power.

"It's her," he said, moaning as he began to channel some of the power into himself, "I can feel it. It's her!" His eyes widened as her figure started to resolve within the light. "She's one of the Senshi?"

"Much more than that," replied the Dark Man. "She's the Queen of the Moon."

That bit of news disturbed Kunshin. "The... Queen? I've been channeling the power of the Witch Queen of the Moon? Why didn't you tell me that?"

"Would it have made any real difference? You seemed to enjoy what you could take from her before." The Dark Man beside him was unmoved, physically or emotionally by Kunshin's moment of distress. "Think how much better it will be when you can touch her."

That statement snapped Kunshin back to reality. "I thought you said this was just a reflection of her. How can I touch a reflection?"

Hands, mottled like a snake's skin and painfully thin reached for Kunshin. "With the right tools, anything is possible."

The heady thought of having access to the power he could all ready taste in the air overcame his caution. Kunshin Tetsu reached out with his own hands and touched the Dark Man's. As he did, some of the mottling roiled and came to life. It slithered from the Dark Man onto Kunshin's hands and he nearly screamed. Kunshin's hands were cold now - as cold as death. The need to stop the icy pain made him lurch towards the woman in the light.

Without thinking Kunshin reached out for Usagi. He hissed softly in surprise as he found that, as promised, he could touch her. She was warm, he thought as he slipped his arms around her body, so wonderfully warm and soothing against his frigid hands. The pain gone he let one hand move up and over her face, finally brushing her lips with his fingertips. He smiled as he saw her eyebrows twitch in reaction. Witch Queen or not, Kunshin thought, she was very beautiful. Slowly the hand slid onto Usagi's neck, caressing it once before curving around her throat.

"Can you feel my touch, I wonder?" he asked her as he started to channel off her energy. He absorbed the sensations that poured through the angel in his arms. The strength in Kunshin's strange, new hands gave him allowed him to take more than just the surplus energy that flowed from Usagi as she used the Ginzuishou. Using the new knowledge that came unbidden into his mind Kunshin started to pull on Usagi's life force. He savored the "taste" of it as it filled him - sweet and warm like a fine wine he couldn't get enough of. Kunshin could sense that an even greater reservoir of energy just beyond his reach. He suddenly knew that the woman in his arms was the gateway to power beyond anything he'd ever imagined.

How long he stood there channeling her energy into himself Kunshin couldn't say. One moment of ecstasy flowed into the next, making everything a blur of intoxicating pleasure. Usagi began to tremble, head rolling slowly back and forth in mute protest. Her body gave a weak jerk in an instinctive attempt to free herself.

"Enough, Tetsu," came the voice of the Dark Man. "Let her go for now."

If Kunshin heard the Dark Man he showed no sign of it. Lost in the terrible rapture of feeding, Kunshin's only response to Usagi's movement was to tighten his hold on her. The Dark Man gave a low growl of annoyance. A single bolt of black power lanced from the crystal ball between the emaciated hands. It hit Kunshin in the back, staggering him.

"I said, enough!" The Dark Man's harsh voice cut into the flood of incredible sensations. Kunshin finally noticed that Usagi was shaking in his arms. With a final stroke of his fingers on her neck, he released her. She fell away from him, floating limply within the light that danced around and through her

Kunshin Tetsu, still riding the amazing high from the power that surged through him, stepped away from the light. He turned to look at the Dark Man. "That felt so incredible," Kunshin said, his voice ragged with the desire for more, "Why did you stop me?"

The strange man in the tattered robes continued to run his hands around and around the crystal ball suspended between them. "Any more at this point will kill her, and I don't want her dead quite yet. Patience Tetsu, you will have her again soon enough. The future cannot be denied. Everything will happen just as I have told you. You will have more power than any other living creature."

"Does that crystal ball show you the future, then?" he said to the Dark Man, never taking his eyes off Usagi. She drifted silently in the radiant pillar, her head still moving slowly back and forth. He could see a mottled pattern on her neck where his fingers had touched her. "What are you, some kind of fortune teller, a sideshow wiseman? Since you won't tell me your name then perhaps that's what I should call you - 'Wiseman'."

Though no face was visible, Kunshin had the distinct impression that dark man in the tattered robes smiled. "Perhaps you should."

Usagi burned with a brilliant silver fire that consumed her even as Ami watched. Part of that fire poured into the Gate. Ami tried to focus on re-calibrating the portal matrix, but it was hard to do knowing that her dearest friend was getting closer to death with each passing second. A crowd was gathering, drawn by the sound of the explosion.

"Come on, come on," Ami muttered at the portal. "Open up all ready."

As if in answer to her prayer, the Gate burst to life. A door took shape, painfully slowly to Ami's mind, and settled. No sooner had the mists obscuring the door cleared, than Haruka, Michiru and Hotaru, followed closely by Mamoru tumbled roughly out and onto the ground.

Mamoru lifted his head. He saw what he'd feared since he'd caught a glimpse of Usagi through the shattered portal. She was in the grip of the Balance, totally lost inside the siren song of lethal power. But even as Mamoru got to his feet, the look of joy left Usagi's face. She stiffened then swayed, almost toppling to the ground. Mamoru lunged for Usagi, grabbing her before she could fall.

"Usako, Mamoru said, "listen to me. You've got to hear me. You have to stop."

Still locked in the Balance, she began to roll her head back and forth. Her entire body shuddered and shook. Mamoru closed his eyes and called on the Golden Crystal. It erupted to life inside him and he slipped free of his body. The unbreakable bond between the two led him to her.

Usagi floated in a column of light, eddies and currents of the power gently dancing around her while she trembled. He went into the quicksilver fire and for a fleeting instant Mamoru thought he saw the ghostly outline of someone or something holding Usagi. The figure faded away, leaving Mamoru to wonder if he had imagined it.

Something was wrong Mamoru knew as he embraced Usagi, something was terribly wrong. He could barely "feel" her body and what he could touch was cold. She was growing rapidly weaker with each heartbeat. He had to reach Usagi and get her to come out of the Balance as fast as he could.

Usako, come back to me.

Her reply was soft, as if she was speaking from a great distance, Mamo-chan?

He kissed her chilled lips, and called with all the strength of his heart. Remember our promise to each other. Come back to me, Beloved.

Her arms slipped slowly up his back, her lips returning the kiss. I remember now - 'together whatever happens'. I remember!

Mamoru fell back into his body with a jarring bump. "Aishiteru, Usako," he said. "Come back to me."

The silver light retreated into the Ginzuishou. It stopped spinning above her heart while Mamoru whispered to Usagi and moved back into the locket when her fuku reappeared. She collapsed against Mamoru's arms gasping for air and shivering violently.

"Easy, easy, I've got you," Mamoru said, oblivious to the crowd gathering near by. Her body felt like it was made of ice in his arms as he gently lowered her to the ground. "I need a medical team - stat!" Mamoru shouted towards Ami.

Usagi turned her head towards his voice, her eyes cracking open. "Mamo-chan..." came the barest of whispers. "I'm so cold," she shivered uncontrollably against him.

He reached for his cape, nearly ripping it off his back. "Hold on, everything's going to be all right." Mamoru said to Usagi, starting to wrap her in the voluminous black fabric. "You shouldn't scare me like you just did, Usako" he said, trying to keep her awake and focused. "You're going to make my hair turn silver, too."

Usagi looked up at him and laughed weakly. Her shaking suddenly stopped. "So cold..." she mumbled again, going limp in Mamoru's embrace. Usagi's eyes grew distant and her breathing more labored. "...cold..."

Mamoru pulled Usagi close, trying to warm her with his own body, but knew it wasn't nearly enough the stop the fatal downward spiral she was in. Usagi's life was slipping away even as he held her. In desperation, Mamoru decided to try something he'd only done a few times before. He called on the Golden Crystal and willed the power into his hands. Pulling the cape open, he placed a hand above Usagi's heart and let the power flow into her in a sudden, healing burst. She leapt in his arms, a rush of golden fire racing through her slender body. Usagi coughed and gasped, but he could feel her growing warmer. Relief surged through him when felt Usagi stir in his arms.

Mamoru was as oblivious to the crowd that gathered near them as he was to the fact that he and the woman he held glowed like the sun. He didn't see that a man in the crowd had a small camera filming everything. He couldn't know that those pictures were being sent back to Earth. All Mamoru cared about right then was the feel of Usagi in his arms and the sound of her voice as she spoke his name.

"I feel warm when you hold me, Mamo-chan. Please don't let go," Usagi murmured against him.

"Never," Mamoru assured Usagi as he held her to his heart, "I'll never let you go."

Full Circle

A Sailor Moon Story
by Meara

Part 4 of 14

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