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 IV


Sailor Moon kept moving through the darkness, calling out to Sailor Mercury. She was losing energy fast and she felt tired and worn. Finally, she could not move any farther and she collapsed to the translucent floor. She forced herself to focus as she tried to catch her breath.

"Pay attention," she said aloud to herself, "find Ami." After a few moments, she felt renewed energy and tried to get up and keep moving, but a stiffness had taken hold of her legs. They felt like lead weights anchoring her body down. She shouted at herself to get up. She tried with all her might to move her legs but nothing budged.

"Damn it!"

"It's hard for you, isn't it?" a voice asked. Usagi looked up in shock, that was Ami's voice.

"Ami, where are you?" Usagi replied. "Are you stuck somewhere too?"

There was a giggling reply, "I'm not stuck anywhere," she said, "just relax and you will see how much easier it is." Sailor Moon tried to see into the misty darkness around her to find the source of the voice, but when it spoke it sounded like it was all around her.

She took a deep breath and tried to relax. Leaning back, she spread her body out along the dark surface and took deep calming breaths.

"That's the way," Ami's voice said. "Now just let your mind drift."

It was more of a command then a request, for as soon as she heard those words Sailor Moon felt her consciousness being drawn away from her. She was slipping and she sensed it: this was not a good idea. Fighting against the pull of unconsciousness, Sailor Moon rolled on the floor, trying to retain control. "Let go of me!" said tried to say, but no sound came from her mouth.

"It's too hard to keep working like this," Ami's voice said. "You give and give, but what do you get in return? Don't you deserve a break? Don't you want some time to relax? You have all this pressure on you all the time when all you want is to just live in peace with the ones you love." Sailor Moon considered this. It was true - that was what she wanted. And she did work so hard, but what was it all for? She relaxed a little and felt peaceful and comfortable. It would be so nice to just stop fighting all the time and just ignore the problems. If she just lived her life how she wanted, wouldn't she be happier?

"NO!" she jumped at the sound of that shout. She realized her eyes had closed, so she forced them open. Straining against cumbersome weight, she forced herself to her knees, and then to her feet. Her breathing was labored, but she was determined to find Ami. There's no way that Ami truly felt that way! She continued working through the heavy darkness until she saw the faint outline of something ahead. When she reached her friend, she found her in her regular clothing, unconscious. Using every ounce of energy she could muster, Sailor Moon lifted Ami onto her back and began slowly moving in the direction she thought she had come from.

"Sailor Moon," Ami's voice said faintly with strain.

"It's okay," Sailor Moon said, "we will get out of here. Can anyone hear me?" she shouted.

___________________________


As Demitrius walked away from them, a faint shift of the wind caused the other soldiers to turn with a start. Tuxedo Mask had just revealed himself.

"Wait," he said. "Please, there must be a way to reach her."

The senshi watched as Demitrius turned back to them and stared into the masked face from a distance. He held his voice for a few moments uncertainly. "You can try to reach her," he finally said, "if you bond is strong enough. You can try to call out to her."

Tuxedo Mask walked to the edge of the gap and knelt there on one knee, peering across into the broken hospital. "I can feel her calling to me all ready," he said. "Listen!" The three other soldiers moved closer to the edge of the pit and closed their eyes, focusing on the space in front of them. Very softly, a sound came to them. At first it was just a feeling, then a murmur, then a whisper: "Can anyone hear me?"

"I hear her!" Venus said, "Sailor Moon, I hear you!"

"Sailor Moon!" Jupiter called out, focusing on the growing sound in her mind. Sailor Mars' brow crinkled as she focused all her power, crying out within her mind to her friend. Demitrius watched, his heart filling with hope. Perhaps these soldiers could really could save his princess.

In the darkness of the attack, Sailor Moon was losing strength. She felt as though she had been wandering for many hours, and Ami had not spoken again. Still, somehow, the burden of Ami's weight was actually giving her strength. When she faltered, it wasn't because of the friend she carried, but because she began to doubt. When she remembered who she was carrying and why it mattered to fight, she could take another step. It was a dance of will power; she wouldn't give up.

Suddenly, a bright point of light pieced the darkness and washed over her. She shielded her eyes and peered through her fingertips. A rainbow of orange, gold, red and green washed into the dark space, filling it with light and lifting the weight of doubt completely. "Sailor Moon!" she heard clearly through the light.

She ran!

The three soldiers and Tuxedo Mask watched as the space across from them rippled and bulged as if the air were liquid. A sudden white light burst forth from the space, the force and brightness of which threw the four of them back into the corridor.

Sailor Moon burst from the light at full speed. As her eyes adjusted to the fading light, she realized a new peril: she was running full speed off the edge of a cliff.

"Sailor Moon!" Tuxedo Mask shouted. She leapt in the air at the last possible second. Sailing across the gap with eyes wide, she stretched her arms forward towards his outstretched hands as he ran to the edge to meet her.

As their fingers wrapped around one another, Tuxedo Mask threw his weight back and pulled her towards him. He slammed into the floor with her on top of his chest as Ami's unconscious body was thrown over their heads. Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Mars both threw themselves forward to catch her, each wrapping their arms around her torso as they also fell back against the floor. At the last moment, Sailor Venus slipped her hands under Ami's head to protect it from a nasty collision with the tiled floor. In the chaos, Demitrius had slipped away silently.

"I'm so glad you got out," Tuxedo Mask said.

"Thank you," she replied, pressing her head against his chest.

A few hours later, the six of them were back at the temple to meet up with Artemis and Luna. Ami had come to on the walk back, sustained by Mamoru's touch. She had no recollection of her encounter with Sailor Obsidia and was surprised to hear about all the trouble Sailor Moon had gone through. They all agreed she could be filled in on the details after she was fully well again. Not used to being doctored, Ami reluctantly went to rest. The other girls and Mamoru tried to debrief and make sense of the afternoon's events.

"What do you make of that being Sailor Astera's sister?" Minako asked.

Makoto shook her head, "I never saw it coming. I thought for sure we'd be dealing with Astera herself. Do you really think she was that blonde girl?"

"I could only see the girl's hair," Rei said. "And I couldn't sense much from her other than confusion. It was as if she didn't even know herself."

"It was definitely her," Usagi said, "we are going to have to save her."

"Save her? Wait a second, are we talking about the same person here?" Makoto said. Usagi stared in disbelief and said, "Of course! We can't just let Obsidia take her! Who knows what she will do!"

Minako put a reassuring hand on Usagi's shoulder. "We know you are concerned," she said carefully, "but there are other things to consider here."

"That's right," Rei said, "could be a trap."

"But there's no way Astera is still evil," she said with frustration. "I saw her myself! She was totally reborn!" She turned to Mamoru with a pleading look, "You believe me, right?"

"We all believe you saw her," Luna said, "but that doesn't mean it wasn't an illusion or something meant to deter us from the truth."

"Even if she was truly healed, we don't really know what we are facing against Sailor Obsidia," Artemis added. "There's no question they are linked."

Usagi bit her lip and stared at the ground. It wasn't an illusion, she thought to herself, there was just no way. And they had to act, didn't they? She felt like it was their obligation to help Sailor Astera just like it was her obligation to go after Ami in that attack. Soldiers protected one another. The other's continued to discuss the battle, but Usagi didn't feel like taking part anymore. She sulked for a while, then went to check on Ami.

Her blue-haired friend was awake and sitting on the edge of the bed when Usagi walked in. "Ami," Usagi said, "do you need anything?"

"No," she replied, "but something is bothering me."

Usagi sat down beside her and their eyes met. "What is it?"

"Sailor Obsidia knew that Astera had been healed, and she was able to find her instantly." she said. "I remember now, when I rushed back to Astera in the hospital room, she was terrified. She said to me, 'Please, don't let her find me!' when Sailor Obsidia arrived, I tried to defend Astera, but before I could even think, she had attacked and I was trapped. I failed her completely."

"Sailor Obsidia is not an easy opponent," Usagi said. "You did your best, right?" Ami nodded in reply. "Then, that's all you could've done. I believe Astera was really healed and that she's in great danger now."

"So do I," Ami said. They nodded in resolution; the other's would have to be convinced.



After school the following day, everyone met up at Crown except for Ami. She had taken the day off classes to continue to rest and recover, and she'd promised everyone that she would actually stay in bed. She was upset though; it would be her first absence in over eight years.

"I think she'll get over it," Makoto said.

"It's really important that she rests after a trial like that," Luna said, "especially if we are facing more challenges ahead."

"It's hard to say what we should do next," Makoto said. "I guess I just didn't expect anything to happen so soon."

"Or like this," Rei said.

"Sailor Astera was shocking enough, so close to the end of the battle with the Dark Moon," Luna said.

The mood was pretty tense. Artemis watched as Minako whirled her straw around and around in her thick milkshake. She was eyeing the trail of its path as it formed and melted, formed and melted. He could see she was deep in thought - a dangerous situation for a bubbly blonde.

"Are you all right, Minako?" he asked.

Minako sighed, and took a long sip of her drink, draining the glass of thick liquid halfway. She put the glass in the center of the table, but kept the straw in her mouth, chewing on the delicious end of it. Everyone stared at the glass.

"So..." Rei said uncertainly.

"The glass is half there," Minako said with serious significance.

"You mean, 'the glass is half full'?" Luna asked with a sigh.

"Whatever. What I'm saying is, there's a fifty-fifty chance, right? Either Astera is healed and she needs our help, or it's a trap and these two nutty sisters are going to try to come and kill us. Either way, shouldn't we try find them first?"

Though she hadn't quite gotten the point across as intellectually as she had intended, Rei and Makoto could see where she was coming from. Either way, it wasn't as if ignoring the problem would make it go away. If there was some action they could take to catch Sailor Obsidia off guard, get a preemptive strike against her, maybe they could beat her - or at the very least, get some answers.

"Yeah," Usagi said, sensing the others were coming around a little. "You know, we could check out that hotel and go scope out the room she was in! Maybe we can find something there."

"It's at least somewhere to start," Luna agreed. Minako reached for her glass and downed the rest of the milkshake.

"Let's go."

___________________________


Sailor Obsidia was pacing in a dark, silent room around a long, obsidian slab supported by ornately carved, spiraling arms that extended above into the darkness. The slab rose to her hips on one end, and dipped near the floor on the other. The center of the slab was hollowed out and lined with plush, black fabric patterned with deep blue currents that gave off an optical illusion of movement as she walked around it. Nestled in the fabric, a blonde girl lay wrapped in thin gauze of similar, shimmering material. It seemed tightest around her thin wrists and torso, as if it were trying to hold her there forever.

"I can sense your energy," she said to the silent figure. "You really are weakened. They took everything from us once already, and now they tried to take your great power and they tried to take you from me!"

Sailor Obsidia placed a cold, delicate hand on the forehead of the sleeping figure. Astera stirred slightly and whimpered. "I know, it's very troublesome," Obsidia continued, "but don't worry, my sister. Neither of us have to be alone or powerless any longer. I will bring you back to your full potential! Together, we will kill them!" She shouted now, reaching up into the darkness above her. "The full power of darkness shall be yours again, dear sister!"

A crackling noise grew louder and louder as streaks of dark fire poured down from above, dancing down the arms of the obsidian slab. "Come dark fire! Bless my sister with your great energy!"

As the fire engulfed the girl in the bedding, her eyes flashed open. She let out an ear piercing scream as the fabric around her limbs tightened and kept her locked in the flames. "Let the fire fill your soul sister, let me save you!"

In her pain, Astera could see through the flames to a face that was familiar but distant. She knew the features, somewhere deep in her heart. Still, the sight of that face pained her more than the dark energy that was being fed into her, giving her the sensation of burning from the insides. Sister, she had said - could it be? She could only fight the pressure of her restraints for so long. Eventually, she weakened, gave in, and her cries were silenced. The pain subsided as she gave way to the numbness and slipped into uneasy unconsciousness.

Chapter Five