Continuing Tales

Redeem Me

A Sailor Moon Story
by goldnheart

Part 3 of 6

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Redeem Me

They awoke hours later back in Tokyo.

"Do we just go over now?" Minako asked, hissing as the cold rushed to meet the morning commuters entering the city.

"I know what you're thinking, but it's Ami, not you. She won't be sleeping in until noon." Minako was tempted to make a remark, but let it go, realizing she had little defense, and turned to walk with Rei toward Ami's home.

The tasteful if austere white, blue, and black of Ami's living room made Minako's heart wrench for a moment. It was true that she had willingly chosen to leave home as soon as her income from modeling allowed it, but somehow walking into this space, shared so peacefully by the mother and daughter, made her long for home. Or maybe it was just the warmth of Ms. Mizuno's smile. Either way, she felt a loneliness hit her that she had not been expecting.

"You're both welcome, of course, but Ami isn't in this morning. She went out early for a swim at school." Ms. Mizuno frowned slightly, "She didn't seem herself, is that why you girls are here so early? Did she say something?"

"No, we also felt something was up though. We came to check in, so we should go see her. If we find out anything, we'll be sure to let you know." Rei said in a perfectly poised way that Minako envied.

"You girls have been wonderful friends to her. I can see how much she's grown since you all met. It's truly remarkable." The older woman said wistfully.

"Well, we can't take all the credit for that." Minako said gently. Rei smiled at the weight in those words.

"Still. You're all quite something. Anyways, I'm being sentimental. I should let you all go find her. Come over more often. It's nice to have the company."

"Of course." Rei answered with a bow, which Minako seconded, "Thank you for the help. Goodbye."

"Goodbye, ladies."

The furious beating of the water assured them that Ami was in the pool, although all they could see was a small crowd gathered to watch. They took seats along the edge of the pool and waited for the petite girl to surface. To much applause, a blushing Ami emerged for the pool, nodding politely, before she saw the two forms, one light, one dark, seated at the edge of the water. Grabbing her towel, she padded over to the girls.

"You two look tired. Long night?" She asked, settling next to Rei.

"Understatement. You too?"

"Yeah. A sleepless, endless night before a morning you don't want to face." The others nodded, remembering too many nights that fit the description.

"But you faced it?" Minako replied, looking at the stilling water.

"Yes. I did. And all that came with it, or who, to be more specific."

"What happened?" Minako asked.

"Well, it was he. As beautiful and warm and considerate as I remembered, as the man I loved once. And he and I just talked, for a long time; I asked him questions, and he directed me to you, or to look into myself for the answers. He said I must help redeem him, isn't it strange? The man I once loved, and who betrayed me, to ask me for such a favor." The other two girls looked at her with empathy as she talked almost to herself. "It's not rational. So, why do I feel compelled to help him still? How does that make sense?"

Rei and Minako looked at each other in concern, knowing the feeling well, knowing what was unsaid.

"Ami..." Rei started. "We have some information we think may be useful to you now, that we only learned yesterday. Minako..."

"Can we go to the somewhere more private, please?" Minako requested, seeing the few professors and students starting to arrive to use the early morning swim hours. Ami blinked in surprise, but led them to the locker room where she pulled on warm-ups and then led them out of the building and over to another hall, up some stairs, and into a small room with a piano in it.

"The rehearsal rooms. Sound proof." Minako thanked the gods again that Ami was her logistics expert and not her enemy. They'd all have been doomed long ago, well, again.

"Alright, yesterday, we found this." Minako removed the sword, seeing Ami jump back slightly as a large metal object appeared out of thin air, then take a step forward to read the inscriptions.

"Your sword, Venus? That is what the marker at the top is, correct?" Minako nodded. "And that inscription...who is it by? It was surely not your own."

"No. Jadeite wrote that, sometime just before the fall." Ami's hand, which had been tracing the inscription, trying to place it, drew back as if scalded by the very idea of their lovers in that last week.

"This sword!" Ami said in horror, "The one you two fought with, the one that, oh goddess, the one that you drew blood with Minako. This is it, isn't it?"

"Sadly, the very same."

"Then if he had it to inscribe it that last week, he had it after it was cursed!" Ami's voice got progressively more frantic. "But how did he get it? Why was it there?"

Rei, pale as death, raised a hand, "I believe that dubious honor is my own. I didn't know that part of the legend, we had only been told about the effects it had on the battlefield, like salting the land...I never" She swallowed hard, taking a deep breath and looking up at the ceiling, blinking hard, and then met Ami's eyes, swallowing again, "I didn't know what an object like that could do. I never heard the story." Ami's eyes met hers, hard shards of ice.

"And you never asked me, never checked before sending a curse on the men we loved, no, on an entire kingdom?"

"I had no idea that I should even have been suspicious of it, no basis to ask. I knew nothing, Ami. You kept the old lore, not me. I had no idea such evil could come of this. I sent it in anger, a threat, but not as a weapon. I meant no harm to them. Honestly, Ami."

"Only because you all never bothered to learn the old stories, you were too focused on your own tasks-you to the temples and the oracle, Minako to the palace guard and security, and Makoto to the infrastructure of the castle-to share the weight of my burden with me. And now see what it has brought us to!" Ami cried in fury; an anger buried for a thousand years, the old grudge, brought to life again.

Rei and Minako reeled back as though slapped, the memories long suppressed remembered.

"You were just as bad, Mercury. You always ignored my warning as guesses and speculation. Superstitions. If you had listened to me, we would have changed the water supply flowing into the barracks that last morning. The half of our soldiers would not have died that night from poisoning instead of defending us from Beryl! And what of Minako and I's battle...did you raise on hand to stop us? Did you make any mention of the consequences?"

"Enough." Minako said definitively, the leader not the friend. "Enough of this. We made mistakes the last time. Dividing up the labor as our mothers did clearly did not work for our team of senshi. But we are not the same in this life. We were not trained apart first, on our own planets, only to be brought to the moon to live lives which relied on one another but which rarely intersected, as we each performed the tasks assigned to us without help. In this life, we all trained together, we all solve the problems together, and we all face the consequences together. We made mistakes, but this is not just the Shitennou's second chance. It is our own as well."

The three looked hard at one another. Finally, each lowered their eyes, aware of their own role in the death of paradise: the one who drew the blood, the one who sent the bomb, and the one who said nothing to stop it.

"I need to think about what to do now." Ami said, her voice gentle again, sitting down on the floor. "Now that I know this, I have to figure out what he wanted me to do. To 'renew our promise, to bless our love, and reverse our luck. Then I will know that love does not fade in dark times, or in separation. This is the last thing we hold on to. That such a love is still a part of you, not your past.'" Ami repeated back the phrase for the other two. She smiled at them wanly. "You're right, Minako, we are not who we once were. You never would have come to me with this problem in our past lives, unless you could not read the inscription. And I never would have told you what I just did. I'm sorry Rei."

"I am too, Ami. I just got defensive and I lost my temper, I never should have said that."

"No, it was true then. Let's not get into argument with versions of ourselves that died for their weaknesses." Ami replied.

"Right. We all failed last time, but we'll never be better than that if we give in to old anger." Minako replied, smiling.

"I'll let you guys know when I figure something out, I need some time to think." Ami relied, standing again, picking up her bag. "And you two get some sleep, you look terrible."

An hour later, Minako was all settle in her bed, trying to rest. Rei had gone home too, muttering something about needing to talk to her idiot, the shadow of the argument and all the memories hanging over them both. Still, Minako found something to smile about in their odd endearments.

She sat up, unable to rest, the meaning of the sword and the knowledge of her own failing too fresh in her mind. She glanced at the dresser nervously. If anyone could understand how guilty she felt, it was he. To be the leader, and to fail so monumentally.

She padded to the dresser, and thought briefly about changing into something more attractive than sweats. She shook her head, and promised to never tell that to Rei or she would never stop calling her vain. Instead, she grabbed the bag and removed the stone, calling him back again. In a less dramatic flash, he was back again, flesh and bone, as Ami had said, so much the man I loved.

"You look so tired, beautiful. You should rest." Kunzite said, his eyes gentle. Minako shifted slightly at the affection that was too genuine to feel safe.

"I can't, though, not after last night."

"Did something happen?" He asked.

"We found my sword." She looked at him for a response, but got none. "And then we fought about it, about how we had let it happen, sent something to make you so vulnerable. How had I been so poor a leader that it came to that? How could I have done that to you? What was it like, at the end there?"

"Trying..." He said hoping to ease the truth when she'd already had such a day, "I just didn't understand why I distrusted my brothers, my prince, why I even began, at the very end, to doubt you. It is better now, to understand why it was so easy for Beryl to turn us against one another and against you. But you will need to explain it all to my prince, at the end of all this."

"Of course, it was my own fault."

"No, it was not your fault alone, all of us were weak. We should have been more careful, accepting gifts from the moon, when we knew chaos was affecting people's minds. But let's not forget, this was not what any of us intended. Ultimately, we were all Beryl's pawns."

"But I was leader, it was my job to see those weaknesses and overcome them."

"I've wrestled with that too." Minako felt strangely comforted that he did not try to tell her to just not blame herself, as all the others would. "But I had to accept that this was a power greater than me. I was too weak to overcome it. We all were." Minako nodded.

"We're better now, do you know that?" She asked him, a hint of desperation in her voice, a need to hear him say it too.

"I know you are. You could never have found the sword or known what it meant if you were not a better team now. And that would not be possible if you were not a better leader."

"Usgai is more a leader than me." Minako quipped.

"As she always should have been, as my prince was for us. " He sighed, "And it does not mean you are not a better leader just because she is there. The chain of command is just in place again, where you answer directly to your master."

"Did we do right, Rei and me, to go on that mission alone?" She asked, changing the subject, which she needed to mull over more.

"You were the only two who needed to stop denying their memories, and the only two who had to atone for that error."

"So what do I do now?"

"You followed Rei's path, now you need to follow Ami's. She will tell you what you need to know. Her task is also yours." She nodded, walking over to her bed, and sitting in it, shrinking into a ball as she pulled her knees to her chin. She looked at him blankly. His heart ached for her. "You really need to sleep. I will go now, but I'm here if you need to talk again."

"No, wait." She lifted her head, and focused on him. "Don't go. Stay with me, just for a little while. I'm not ready to be alone with my guilt yet. Please, just sit with me." She patted the bed. He inhaled sharply at the gesture he had seen so often before, an invitation. He hesitated, knowing where that led. Then he walked to sit with her; he would not let it go where it always did. They were not the same. As she said, they were better. So instead of falling on one another, he stroked her hair, she laid her head on the pillow, and he watched her fall into an uneasy sleep.

Too soon, in Kunzite's mind, the communicator on her nightstand began to flash. He put out his hand to steady the golden senshi as she rolled toward the communicator. She murmured thanks as she pressed the central button.

"Venus, go Mercury." She frowned as she was met with giggles.

"You were dead to the world there, weren't you Minako. This is more of a personal note than business." Minako sat up, shaking her head.

"Yeah, sorry about that Ami. Old habits die hard."

"No problem. I just told Rei to meet me over at your place in half an hour. I think I know what I need to do, but I'd like to discuss it with both of you."

"Of course. I'll see you in a few. Bye Ami."

"Bye Minako. Oh, and tell Kunzite I say hello." Minako blushed, as the man next to her smiled slightly. The screen went dark.

"Hi there." Minako said shyly, walking up with this gorgeous man smiling down at her.

"Hello to you too." Kunzite murmured, trying to keep from laughing at the self-proclaimed love goddess, suddenly a blushing girl. Minako caught the tone and smiled up at him brightly.

"No exactly as you're used to seeing me, huh? Needing a bath and in sweats."

"Sweats?" He asked.

"Never mind." She laughed, "I guess that's this century. It's what I'm wearing. I doubt I ever let you see me anything less than perfect."

"You know you're always beautiful. Even when you say you could be better, it's wrong how lovely you are. Positively dangerous."

"Oh?" A blond eyebrow arched. "Dangerous how?" She purred, without thinking, the response so natural. Kunzite raised an eyebrow in reply.

"I think you know very well how when you ask like that." A rush of images made Minako blush again, and Kunzite smirk lightly, wondering exactly how much she remembered.

"I'm...I'm sorry. I shouldn't have. I just, it just, well, I didn't even think before I said it."

"Don't worry. I understand, you're still Venus, Minako. Some things are in your blood."

"Old habits..." Minako started the phrase again, before laughing, "Theme of the week, huh? At least in some ways. Hopefully only the good."

"I'll second that wish. I can already see you're different from Venus, both softer and stronger."

"How so?"

"It's hard to explain. Venus was magnificent, but she could be so cold. She could just shut off her feelings and act without emotion. I respected that then, but now, looking back, it was terrifying at times. And her commitment to her job seemed shallow to me, when she explained it, that she was committed to her job, but not to her princess, who she barely knew." He looked in her eyes, "You can be, and in ways already are, so much stronger than her because you believe in who you protect and because you lead with your heart and your head."

"Really?" Minako positively glowed under his praise, leaning toward him. Kunzite held his breath. Her proximity, her beauty, and that expression left him weak. She could only have one intention, getting that close to him. And as much as he wanted to pretend he was immune to her now, being technically dead and all that, she was still Venus. And she would always have him at her beck and call.

Her lips curved into a smile at his frozen form; a part of her, long held back, demanding free reign. Kunzite frowned, knowing that if she kissed him, they'd both want more. Knowing that anything more would break the promise he made which allowed him to come back.

"Venus, please, we can't. I can't." He begged softly.

"I'm not Venus now." She said in sultry whisper, "As you said, I'm better." Kunzite swallowed hard at the implications.

"You're doing this because of what I had with Venus, not because of what you, Minako, wants now. You'll regret this." He cautioned as she slid into his lap.

"I'll decide that."

She touched the back of his neck. But destiny intervened in the form of a doorbell, giving Kunzite the presence of mind to return to the stone quickly. Minako snapped out of it, and ran to open the door thinking to herself 'what the hell was that? Since when do I act like that? I loved him then, but I don't know him now! What was I doing?'.

Rei, when the door opened, looked pretty bad herself.

"Hey." She muttered as she walked in, avoiding Minako's eyes.

"Hey." She sat in the armchair. "How did things go with the idiot?" Rei looked murderous.

"They were fine until he started questioning me. He sat there very patiently and listened while I told him about the sword and about my guilt and about remembering loving him then. But then he had to go and ask me if I wanted him still, me, not Mars. And how am I supposed to know that! I barely know what it means to be me rather than Mars right now. I thought we were the same, but now, after what happened with Ami, I have no idea."

"I know the feeling. I didn't know who I was before at all until this happened, or any of us. From what Kunzite was telling me, I don't know if I like that Venus so much."

"And me that Mars. I was so much more insecure and desperate to prove myself, like how I was when Usagi and I first met. I don't know who I am, now that I know what I was."

"Maybe this is what Kunzite mean when he said this would push us to grow in ways we never imagined."

"Maybe. Was that today he said that?"

"No, but it just occurred to me. Today did not go so well, I, I tried something I would never try. It was like this thing inside of me I'd forgotten."

"What?" Rei asked, concerned.

"I tried to seduce him, the first time it was just a comment, but then later..." She shook her head at the memory, "Since when have I been that bold!" She laughed a little.

"I..." Rei bit her lip, "I did the same thing. We were fighting and he was yelling and then all of a sudden I was kissing him! I don't know what came over me; I just did it. He returned to the stone immediately. I don't know if I can face him."

"Somehow, I have a feeling you've done that before with him."

"But does that mean I love him now? I don't know if it does. I don't know if I've forgiven him still for" She couldn't say it, but Minako knew, touching her own stomach as though deflecting the blade. "I know I weakened him by sending the sword but how could he just forget loving me and be able to do that still?" Minako nodded, but said nothing, the same thoughts in her own head. Mercifully, the doorbell went off a few minutes later.

Ami patted Minako's shoulder as she walked in, and sat next to Rei.

"I think I know what I need to do." The other two looked at her nodding. "The clue was in his wording, if I'm right, 'blessing'. I think he wants me to leave an offering for our love to be renewed, for me to, as myself in this life, accept our love and pray for the strength to forgive him."

"An offering." Rei, said, looking at Minako. The blond shook her head.

"You don't think..."

"I do."

"What?" Ami asked, confused.

"We found the sword at a shrine, and if the wording is any indication, you're meant to go to a shrine too. If he wants you to 'pray' and seek a 'blessing' and leave an 'offering', he must mean a shrine."

"Exactly," Ami agreed, "That was what I had been thinking, although it is a little coincidental that both would be a shrines." She paused, brow wrinkling.

"Think of it this way, these shrines are all newer than the fall. So, the objects were not all left at shrines originally. What if the shrines were just put up around places of power, with a great draw, and that is why both will be found at shrines." Ami nodded again, looking slightly uncomfortable with it still.

"But where? There are so many shrines."

"One known for love!" Minako said with flourish, Rei went to slap her for being stupid when she stopped.

"Oh my god, AMI! The Kiyomizudera shrine in Kyoto, where Okuninushi Kami is honored."

Ami's big blue eyes widened further,

"No. It's too perfect. It can't be. It's not logical." Ami said. Rei put her hand on her shoulder and smiled.

"No, friend, if it's destiny, it's possible." Ami smiled back, their argument in her mind.

"You're right. I won't forget to listen again, Rei."

"What are you talking about?" Minako asked, her Japanese history always less complete than the other two girls.

"The love kami is honored at a shrine called the Kiyomizudera, the shrine of pure water."

"Oh for heaven's sake...what are we waiting for? Any clearer, and they'd have just told us where to go. Another long night on a train, ladies." Minako said, grabbing her keys, and going to the door, flinging it open dramatically. Her stomach growled loudly. She shut the door, looking disgruntled for a moment before lifting up her finger and declaring, "But first, ramen!"

Back on the train, the three huddled together whispering.

"God, we couldn't just wait a day, Minako? Couldn't just sleep and start out fresh tomorrow?" Rei asked sharply, trying to get comfortable in the window seat.

"No, we have one week till the New Year, and we have to still help Makoto when we get back. And what if that takes more time? And what if this takes longer than a day? And we still need to tell Usagi and Mamoru about all this." She ticked off the events on her hand.

"Fine, fine. I get it. I'm here, aren't I? Hey, Ami?" Rei called.

"Yes?" The blue head of hair leaned into view.

"Have you thought of what your offering will be yet?"

"I…" Ami, flushed slightly, "I was going to see what there was when I got there." Rei looked concerned, but kept quiet. Brushing off the worry, she smiled at Ami

"Hey, did you hear what Minako did today...she tried to seduce Kunzite!"


"Oh my, well, that's hardly news, is it?" The both started to laugh


"Young lady! Some of us are trying to work!" An older man ahead of them reprimanded Minako.

"Oh, sorry, sorry..."

One asinine trip later, which continued much along the let's-tease-Minako-until-she-threatens-unending-training-sessions line. When they arrived in the later afternoon sun, and made haste to get to the shrine just before it closed. Ami stepped to the side to buy some sheets of paper and flowers to make offerings with. Rei again made a face, but walked with them up to the inner shrine that held honored the love Kami.

Once inside, Ami sent fog all over the grounds to give them some privacy as they sneaked offered their prayers. Ami dutifully scrawled the character for forgiveness, love, and luck and then them before the altar and offered prayers silently. When she finished, she stood.

"How do I know if it worked?" She asked the other two.

"I think you should know." Minako said gently. "We knew pretty quickly yesterday."

"Rei?" Ami asked the silent miko. "What do you think?"

"She's right, we should have seen something." Rei paused before continuing, "Did that offering mean something to you, Ami?"

"What do you mean, did I write something wrong? Was my flower choice incorrect?"

"No, I mean, did it come from your heart, from your soul? An offering has to have meaning, be infused with the power of your desire for your wish to come true. Did you do that?" Ami looked uncomfortable with the idea. Rei smiled at her. "Give an offering of your true feelings, then maybe we'll see if this was the right place."

"But what should I give, I don't know what would be appropriate. I only know what I feel." Rei looked pensive for a moment, then smiled, grabbing up some of the paper Ami had bought.

"Then do what makes sense for you, write it out, honestly, then leave it with the flowers." Ami looked skeptical, but took the paper and a pen and sat with her backs to them for some time, writing, at first slowly, and then furiously. At length, she put down the pen and folded the paper, putting it with the flowers.

A faint glow began around the statue in the middle.

"I think it's working!" Minako cried happily. Ami stood, turned around, smiling through her tears.

"But it should be brighter. Last time, we both had to do something to make the sword react. I think we need to follow Ami's lead." Rei said, sitting down in Ami's relinquished seat. "Come on Minako, let's finish this before we kicked out."

Minako joined her, taking another pen, as offered by Ami, and the pair wrote out all the pain, all the misconceptions, and all the insecurity. In writing it out, both felt a weight lifted as they realized all of that mattered less than how much the men had given them, and helped them remember in these few short days, than the better women they were for knowing them, than how much they needed them, and loved them, still.

The two, much lighter, left the notes, forgiving the men, both on the paper and in their hearts, and stood back as the figure of the deity glowed more brightly and bowed, revealing the wall behind him, which was glowing in the cracks between the layers of plaster and paint.

"Ami! Look!" Minako whispered, grabbing her arm as the light started.

"Hold on." The small girl tapped her earring, the visor descending. She whipped out her compact and began typing. "There is something under there. I think I can, yeah, wait a second."

In a moment, the visor flashed and projected red letters onto the old plaster. No one breathed as the four passages materialized on the wall.

"Kami!" Rei said in an agonized whisper, sinking to her knees. Minako's hand's fisted, but she stayed standing. Ami bit her lip as she kept pushing buttons on the laptop, avoiding the letters. Then she stopped.

"Oh my god, Minako, it's..."

"Blood." The leader finished. "One for each of us. Make sure you take down Makoto's for her, Ami."

"Minako, will you read it? I can't." Ami said, returning to her typing. "I just can't do it. And I need to save an image of it for Makoto, and I want to take some readings."

Minako, always the strongest at times like this, braced herself and read.

"What am I to do, here in this impenetrable darkness, without any star to guide me? I cannot hear anything but the screams of my men dying because I won't accept her will. And you, I fear I'll never see again. My heart is barren without your love."

"I am nothing without your warmth to sustain me. I know this now, for I am growing numb inside. I can't remember my name but I know the color of your eyes."

Rei began to sob silently. Minako took another deep breath.

"Everything is death and blood. I know you're dead, I saw it happen. The world must have ended, because there is nothing of beauty left with you gone. What will I become without your love to cleanse my soul?"

The message started to warble as Ami held her hands over her eyes.

"Ami, please, just a few more moments!" Minako cried, desperate. Frantically, she read the last part:

"Morning star, yours is the last light calling me back from the edge. I don't know if you are still out there, if I need only wait till the night ends, and there you'll be. I've seen you die so many times now, I don't know what to believe. Forgive what I become in this darkness, for I cannot see what I do."

At that, Minako leaned back against the wall behind her, everything coming together.

"You can left it go, Ami. Thank you for holding on so long." Her logistics expert nodded, and let the image go.

"They were chronological, Minako, all a day apart. The last one was the day before the attack." Ami said, touching her earring again, the visor fading away.

"This is what they were thinking as they gave into Beryl. This is what they wanted us to see, to understand." Minako replied. "How they lost touch with anything good they could have held onto, to save them from evil. How they were deceived, believing us dead."

"That could have been us, if circumstances had been different." Ami said softly, "How can you blame them for something we could have done?"

"It's worse than that, Ami." Rei said, tear marks on her face, now eerily calm, "We did do what they did. We gave into darkness too, let it weaken us; let it make us fight one another. Only we had not been held and brainwashed for a week, so we were still able to stand and fight for our homes that last day."

The girls fell silent, looking at the wall, knowing what lay underneath by heart.

"Come on," Minako said standing, "we need to get to Makoto. She needs to know, and she'll need our help."

The girls rose and followed. Together, three figures stepped out of the shrine and into the fog.

Redeem Me

A Sailor Moon Story
by goldnheart

Part 3 of 6

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