Flames of Burden

A Sailor Moon Fanfiction

Story & Original Characters 2007 Sarah Ruth Forde
Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon 1992 Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha, TOEI Animation.


Chapter III


The following morning, Ami woke up a few hours easy to do some research on Anya von Faulk and her lecture series. She determined through some internet searches that the speaker had been scheduled for lectures throughout the rest of the year in schools and universities all over the country. However, it was quickly apparent that most of her reoccurring lectures had been located in and around the inner Tokyo area. It seemed clear that whatever her intentions were, she was specifically targeting the city. As she had informed the others, Ami located a lecture that had been scheduled for that afternoon. However, this morning, the school's site listed the event as cancelled. Grabbing the phone, Ami made a quick call.

"Mirgashi University, Riona speaking, how many I help you?"

"Good morning," Ami said, "I am calling to inquire about the lecture cancellation today for 3 o'clock this afternoon. Will that lecture be rescheduled?"

"Unfortunately, at this time we have no further information on that event," Riona said.

"Thank you," Ami hung up the phone and contacted Makoto via her communicator to inform her about the cancellation. "There was no reason given, but that means we won't be able to see her today. It looks like most of the events scheduled for the rest of this month have been cancelled as well. Perhaps she's sick."

"Maybe," Makoto said, "but I doubt it. Just as soon as we start looking into it, she gets sick?"

"I agree. Is there any other leads we can take? It looks like the lectures were concentrated in the city," Ami said.

"I will talk with the others and we'll figure out what to do next," Makoto replied. "We could always go to that hotel and try to find her there. Even if it is a trap, we might be able to get some answers. You go to the hospital and leave it to us today. If anything happens, we will call you."



Minako and Makoto arrived at Rei's place separately, but met at the stairway. As they approached the temple together, the priestess greeted them none too cheerfully. Her face was drawn and she looked like she hadn't slept at all.

"Rei, you look awful," Minako said tactlessly.

"Thanks," she said, too tried for sarcasm. "There is definitely a connection to Sailor Astera from this crystal. "I sensed a very strong aura from it once I began my reading, but the power seems to be dormant now. It has the her resonance, though I wasn't sensing anything dark from it."

"The lecture today has been cancelled," Makoto told them. "Ami says most of the lectures are offline now. We're going to have to come up with another way to find her and that hotel lead seems to be the best option regardless of the circumstance." Just then, Usagi arrived. Though she was a few minutes late, the others refrained from mentioning it. In her hand, she clutched a newspaper clipping. She was waving it around as she came up to them.

"What is that?" Minako asked.

"It's a clipping from this morning's paper," Usagi said, "Dad was out all night covering it." She handed the paper to Makoto who skimmed it in silence.

"Read it aloud," Rei said impatiently.

"Oh sorry. It says, 'Residents of the Juuban district are in shock this morning as they deal with the aftermath of what is being called a meteor strike in the heart of the neighborhood. Officials say the blazing ball of blue fire witnessed by over 20 people late last night at approximately 9:30PM disintegrated before hitting the street beside 5719 Isikawa.

"Witnesses are saying the object appears to have hit the building before falling to the ground with a violent explosion. Officials confirmed this early this morning, and verified that the building sustained significant damage on the north face, including a fire that engulfed several hotel rooms on the 26th floor. The rooms were all reported to have been vacant at the time of the incident and no injuries have been reported.

"Shinjuki Aramani, a first year student at Mirgashi University told our reporters that she witnessed what appeared to be a woman jumping from a balcony just before the explosion near the ground level. "She stood up on the rail, looking out at the city. I didn't think she would jump, but then there was a bright flash and I couldn't see for a moment. I think the meteor might have hit her!" Several other witnesses are claiming they also saw a woman within the flames of the falling object. Officials are saying this was an illusion due to the shape and size of the meteorite.

"Investigators have found no traces of the material from which the meteorite was composed. Sources inside have reported that it likely burned up before reaching the ground. The investigation continues to determine what set off the large, ground level explosion, though speculation that a leaking gas pipe may have ignited the blast." Makoto paused, then looked around at the mixed expressions.

"Well, it could be another coincidence?" Minako said, trying to sound optimistic.

"There's more though," Usagi said. "This is the same hotel Mamoru told us Anya has been staying at."

"Are you sure it was this hotel?" Rei asked.

"The article says those rooms were all empty," Minako said. "Don't you think they would've reported if someone was killed?"

"Not if she wasn't registered as staying there," Makoto pointed out.

"He saw her go into the building with the room key," Usagi insisted. "It was this hotel; there has to be a connection. I'm willing to bet Anya caused that explosion."

Minako sighed and leaned back against a tree. They all considered the situation carefully for a few moments. "It's our best lead," she finally said. "It might be a trap, but we have to go check it out." The other's agreed.



___________________________


Sailor Obsidia had canvassed the whole city all night long and hadn't found a hint of her sister. Not a sign, not a sense - nothing at all. Frustrating couldn't truly describe the levels to which her emotions reached. Standing on the charred remains of her hotel balcony, she stared off into nothing as her sailor outfit disintergated and reformed as civilian clothing. Anya von Faulk was absolutely livid. Pieces of glass and metal crunched beneath her heels as she began to pace back and forth in the early morning sunrise. Her hands twisted around one another, pressing and dragging. Her whole life had been upturned only a few short months ago.

"That night," she recalled to herself, "I thought I was crazy." Anyone would have, she reasoned.

When the young orphaned girl in Germany had woken up in the middle of the night to a booming voice in her head, she had been terrified. Demanding, loud, and obtrusive it had commanded her to get up, get dressed and go to Japan. Yet it all seemed reasonable, once she remembered everything. In fact, she was ashamed she had forgotten at all: the beautiful velvet skies of Astera, Jupiter on the horizon, her sister with her royal crescent mark. Anya placed a hand to her forehead, tracing the shape of a crescent stone there. She peeled it from her forehead and stared at the back of the gem; a false mark she used to emulate her sister, the true queen of the Solar System. True, they had not been sisters by blood, but they shared a bond that went so much deeper into their being.

When the planet Astera had been destroyed, they had spent days on the dark moon Nemesis with no word of their father's fate. The oath the Dark Moon had made to the father to keep the girls together was determined to be null by the destruction of his kingdomm, so they were seperated to contain any potential power. They were alone and terrified. Finally, their father contacted Astera through a vision. Somehow, Astera was able to break free from her captives and find Obsidia. They experienced something spectacular when they reconnected; Anya could barely recall it. It was painful, shocking, and left the two of them unconscious for days. It was a true nightmare; however, it had filled them with power. Anya clasped her hand around her obsidian crystal and recalled the first time she had felt the urge to call out that magical phrase.

Something deep inside her had changed that night. She and Astera were bound by fate from that point on, not just as siblings but as linked souls. They could have continued in their father's stead, but fate had it they would be torn apart once more.

The Dark Moon Family on Nemesis were aware of the change in the two refugees they harbored and they were furious the two had been allowed to come in contact again. An arrogant man with blazing red hair was then commanded to take the younger of the two as his servant to 20th century Earth to seek energy points. He could care less about her fate and he was irate to have her dumped on him. So, he abandoned her there on Earth, in Berlin.

Alone and terrified, cut off from the last of her home, Obsidia had run for her life. There was a traffic accident - she spent days in the hospital with no memories of who she was - and then, her new life, and her new name. Still, she always knew that she had lost something more precious than her memories, something deeper that she had totally forgotten. When those memories came back, her purpose in life had returned.

"Sailor Astera, I know you are here. Just give me a sign."



___________________________


Ami's volunteer service would be generally limited to keeping patients company and checking vitals. She really enjoyed the atmosphere of the hospital and found the training challenging and exciting. She was also meeting new friends.

After a morning session, they were given a break and told to walk the floor they would be working on to introduce themselves. Ami was on her way there when she passed a room that caught her attention for completely non-volunteer related reasons: something from inside was releasing a strange energy that she could sense. Looking up and down the hall, it seemed no one was paying much attention to the young volunteer, so she slipped into he room quietly.

The patient on the bed was asleep or unconscious, Ami wasn't sure. The monitors were beeping quietly, keeping track of the patient's vitals and administering fluids. Ami could see the back of the girl's head, covered in blonde hair that had been tied into a loose bun. Her heart was pounding in her chest; something about this girl felt unnatural. A soldier?

Ami was nervous as she moved around the bedside. The girl's body rose and fell steadily with breath, but Ami felt her chest tighten. The face looked familiar, but Ami couldn't place it. She stood there silently, analyzing this feeling.

A sudden noise from the hall caused Ami to jump. There were footsteps drawing closer; someone was coming in. Ami shot a glance around but there was no where in the room she could hide. Instinctively, she reached into her pocket and clasped her transformation pen while simultaneously thinking, "What good would that do?"

Many things happened all at once. As Ami's hand grasped her pen, the patient on the bed began writhing in a violent seizure. At the same time the door opened and a nurse rushed in. In all the commotion, there was an inexplicable flash of light that blasted through the room and knocked out all the power on the equipment in the room. Two more nurses rushed in shortly after and Ami slipped back against the wall and moved quickly from the room. Walking briskly towards the training room, she ran through the scenario again and again. Her heart was pounding. Turning a corner, she collided with one of the other volunteers as she was exiting the training room.

"Oh, Miss Mizuno! I'm sorry, are you all right?" the girl asked. "You look like you're in shock!"

"It's okay," Ami muttered, distracted. She slipped past the girl quickly without an apology and searched the hall frantically until she found a small waiting area that was empty. Slamming the door shut behind her, she opened her communicator.

___________________________


Anya's entire body tensed. That flash of power! That energy! "Obsidian Crystal Power, Make up!" In a flash of blue flames, Sailor Obsidia burst from the balcony towards the signal she had been craving. Finally, to be reunited at last!



___________________________


A bright chirp-chirping of Usagi's communicator interrupted their conversation. When she opened the cover, Ami's frantic face filled the screen.

"You guys have to come quickly, fourth floor," static broke into the communication and there was loud screaming and a sudden, explosive noise as the picture faltered and the screen turned to static.

"Ami, what's happening? Where are you?" Usagi asked as the other girls crowded around terrified.

"She's at the hospital," Makoto said, "let's go!" As they started running, Usagi kept the communicator open. When the picture cleared, she could see Sailor Mercury's back running from it; the communicator must have been dropped. A moment later, the connection was lost completely.

Usagi slipped the device back into her pocket and tore on behind the others. Just as the reached the top of a hill, the four of them were sent tumbling to the ground by a trembling of the earth that made the light posts sway and the sidewalk splinter.

"An earthquake?" Minako said in shock after the rumbling stopped.

Rei was the first to her feet. "No," she said with darkness in her voice, "There was definitely something more sinister in that."

"A powerful presense of darkness?" Makoto asked, "Sailor Astera?"

Rei shook her head, "No, it's something else. Come on." They started off again, this time avoiding small crevices that had formed now and then in their path. Rei reflected on the sensation she had just felt and tried to place it. If only she had met Anya, perhaps she could have drawn the connection. As it was, the four girls raced on towards the unknown.



Makoto was clutching her transformation pen tightly in her left hand as she lead the girls across the roadways towards the hospital. "This way!" she shouted, as she rounded a corner. Minako, Rei and Usagi, in that order, plowed on behind her trying to keep up. Each one of them was brimming with concern for what they would find once they arrived. As they were running towards the hospital, it seemed like everyone else they encountered was running away from it; the looks on their faces didn't give the girls much hope.

"Everyone, stay back!" Minako said as she pulled up along side Makoto as they neared the last corner before the hospital. They paused at the edge of the building to listen. It was totally silent.

"Let's transform," Usagi said, lifting her brooch.

"Wait!" Rei stood very still, her eyes narrowed. "There's something coming closer. Over there!" The other three girls remained still, waiting with intense anxiety with eyes towards the direction Rei pointed. The sun slipped behind a cloud, drenching the road in shadow and chilling the air noticeably. They shivered. A sudden brown blur zoomed by the girls, moving incredibly fast past them towards the hospital. "What the heck was that?" Minako shouted.

"I think it was a cat!" Makoto said.

Another explosion threw the alleyway into harsh shadows, lighting up the opposite wall a brilliant blue. "Ami!," Usagi shouted. "We can't just stand here! Moon Crystal Power, MAKE UP!"

The other three girls followed with their transformations, and the four sailor soldiers raced around the corner towards their friend. Bits of concrete and glass were still falling from the crumbling wall of the building as they ran towards it. No one else was in sight. They had been trying to reach Ami on the communicator again, but to no avail.

"Mars, let's go around this side," Sailor Jupiter said, motioning towards the nearest entrance. "Venus, Sailor Moon, you guys go around to that side entrance." They all nodded and made their way to the doorways. Ami's communication had told them she was on the forth floor so they agreed to meet up there.

Mars and Jupiter encountered a collapsed staircase a few seconds into their entry. "Let's go back around the other way," Mars suggested. The two girls made for the other entrance.

Meanwhile, Sailor Moon and Venus had already scaled the stairs and had come to a halt at the edge of a collapsed section of hallway. Across the gap, blue flames danced frantically around hospital beds and curtains.

"Ami!" Sailor Moon called out into the blaze. There was no response and they couldn't really see through the flames.

"Let's see if we can get over there," Venus said. "Look, there's a ledge along the inside wall!" Sailor Moon nodded and followed Venus to the narrow ledge. Venus slid a foot out onto the remaining thin, tiled flooring to test her weight; it seemed to be holding. I'll go first," she said.

Sailor Moon watched anxiously as Venus slid along slowly. The smooth surface of the hospital wall did not offer much for grip. Venus opted to face the chasm to the floors below in hopes that she could balance by leaning slightly back. After a few steps, she grew more confident and started moving faster, now halfway across.

"Don't take another step," a cool voice said. Venus froze in her spot and peered into the flames for the source of the voice.

"Who's there?" Sailor Moon asked nervously. "Where's Ami?"

"Ami?" the voice asked. "You mean that nuisance I disposed of?" The flames parted, reveling a sailor senshi clad in black and blue with long dark blue hair. The soldier walked forward slowly, inspecting the two figures before her. Sailor Moon gasped at her appearance: that outfit, those eyes, that cresncent mark upon her forehead...

"What do you mean by that? Who are you?" Sailor Moon asked defensively.

"Sailor Obsidia, a pleasure to meet you, I'm sure."

"How are you linked to Sailor Astera?" Venus asked.

Obsidia raised an eyebrow. She wasn't expecting them to know anything about her. "What do you know about my sister?" she asked darkly. "Did you have something to do with her being like this?" Obsidia gestured to the open space beside her. Neither Sailor Moon or Sailor Venus had seen the blonde young woman lying beside the wall, unconscious and wrapped in hospital bed sheets.

"Tell us where Ami is and maybe we will tell you," Venus replied with spite. Could that really be Sailor Astera? she thought, looking at the crumpled figure on the floor. Sailor Moon was thinking the same, but right now their priority was finding their friend.

Obsidia scoffed at them. "I don't have time to deal with your little games, so just get out of my way."

"Where's Ami?" Sailor moon asked again defiantly, her eyes furious. As if in response, a scream echoed from the depth of the fire. Venus and Moon tensed.

"For a soldier of water, she really isn't quenching her death very well." Obsidia said with the sly grin. Then she moved quickly towards her sister on the ground.

Venus ran the last few feet of the ledge as if it were as wide as a sidewalk, and Sailor Moon followed without flinching even as the ledge fell away under every step. Sailor Jupiter and Mars arrived at that moment and witnessed Sailor Moon's plunge past the new soldier into the flames. Sailor Venus stepped between Obsidia and the girl on the floor, prepared to fight.

"Don't even think you will leave here that easily," Venus said. Mars and Jupiter stood with furious faces along the ledge, stranded on the other side.

Sailor Moon fought through the dark flames that singed her skin and outfit. They didn't seem to emit light at all; in fact, it was quite the opposite. As she moved further in, it felt like she could see less and less as shadows played around her in shades of black and blue. Past the first few feet, the burning ceased and there was just dense darkness all around. She knew she had to find Mercury fast. The darkness was suffocating, drawing out her breath and causing her chest to tighten and her skin to frost slightly. Mercury must have used great effort to have called out to them, who knew how much energy she could have left in this place.

Meanwhile, Venus continued to face off against Obsidia. There was a tense moment in which no one spoke or moved while the soldier of love stared intently into the dark eyes of her challenger. Of course, part of her thoughts were with Sailor Moon in the dark flames. Her instinct was to follow her Princess into the fire, but she knew she could not let this enemy get away.

"I have no intention on sitting here with you debating my departure," Obsidia said. "Move away from my sister."

"This isn't a debate," Sailor Venus said. She charged her powers to attack but Obsidia sensed it impossibly soon.

"Obsidia Illumin Sear!" the dark senshi cried out. Venus could not react in time and as the force of the dark fire hit her, she slid backwards along the tiles and over the edge of the cavernous hole in the floor.

"Sailor Venus!" Jupiter called to her, reaching down.

"Venus Love-Me Chain!" Jupiter caught and grasped the end of the metallic orange chain of hearts and pulled all her weight against the impact of Venus' body hanging from the other end. Sailor Obsidia laughed as Venus swayed back and forth like a sailor pendulum.

"Really, was that even worth the time?" scooping up her sister, Obsidia vanished in a flourish of blue fire just as Mars' attack reached the spot she'd been standing.

"Damn her!" Mars said, "What was that all about? Her sister? Astera had a sister?" Jupiter worked on pulling Venus up as Mars paced back and forth ranting furiously. The blue flames on the opposite side of the chasm had ceased when Obsidia had vanished, but Sailor Moon and Mercury were no where in sight. The ruins of the hospital were eerily silent. On the opposite side of the open floor, a small shining eye peered out from under one of the hospital beds. It were wide and watery with tears.

"All you all right?" Jupiter asked.

"A little shaken," Venus said, "but yes, I'm all right." She turned to face the empty hospital room across the chasm. "Sailor Moon..."

"The fire vanished after she left and there's no sign of her," Mars said.

"Mercury was trapped in there too," she replied. "We heard her voice from the flames."

They looked across at the open space on the other side. "What should we do?" Jupiter asked. Sailor Mars tried to spread her field of sensory to the area across the room, and moment she did, she was jolted with a sense of deep sorrow.

"Someone is still over there," she told the others. "Show yourself! Where's Sailor Moon?"

"Your friends are trapped in Sailor Obsidia's burden of darkness," a deep, mellow voice said. From under the hospital bed emerged a dark brown cat with tufts of light fur on his chest and paws. One of his violet eyes was sharp and alert; however, the other eye was glazed over white and obviously blind. On the same side, his ear had noticeably sustained injury. The fur on half of his face, neck and left shoulder had turned stark white.

Sailor Venus gasped when she saw him. She recognized him as the cat that had been accompanying Sailor Astera when they had last encountered her. The change in his appearance was striking.

"I'm sorry to approach you this way," he said. He kept his head bowed as he spoke and it was clear that he felt uncomfortable in their presence. "My name is Demitrius."

"You're Sailor Astera's cat!" Sailor Venus said. "What happened to you?"

Demitrius turned his head away for a moment, self conscious of his deformed body. "This was my appearance when I awoke from the battle at the ice rink," he told them. "Because of Sailor Moon's power, I was not killed as I should have been, but my sins have been too grave. Even the holy power of the moon could not remove this mark from me."

"Why are you here now?" Sailor Mars asked. "What do you mean they are trapped in the attack?"

"They are secluded within the darkness of the attack, even though the attack is no longer visible. They are here, in this space, but have slipped into an alternate dimension."

"Can we help them, or can we get to them?" Jupiter said.

"It is up to Sailor Moon to find her way out," he replied. "She must overcome the burden that has been placed on her."

"Why should we trust you?" Mars asked with frustration.

Demitrius walked to the edge of the chasm and looked across the pit towards the soldiers. He straightened his shoulders and forced himself to face them directly. "You have no reason to trust me," he told them. "I have gambled and lost that which has been most precious to me. I am desperate now, and you are likely my only hope. I don't ask for your forgiveness or your confidence, but please, I beg you to help me save the Princess of Astera."

"You're damn right we have no reason to trust you!" Sailor Jupiter said, raising a lighting ball fist. "Get away from here!" Sailor Mars and Venus stood by, unsure of their reaction to Demitrius' speech. "I understand," he said, "I didn't want to come to you this way, I never expected this. I'm sorry." He turned tail and began to move back into the other side of the building.

"Wait," Sailor Venus said uncertainly. "What kind of burden are they facing? Inside the attack, what is it like?" Demitrius spoke without turning towards them, his head hung low. "It is the darkest of places, it sucks the life from you," he said. "They will have to overcome that which lays most heavily on their conscious."

Chapter Four