"I'll return it," Cadin said as she gathered her navy coat, hat, and boots. "There's no end to this," she sighed.
"Sri," Zoe said, "You are sure there was nothing?" Her emerald eyes were still hopeful. Every attempt they made seemed to make their goal harder and harder to reach. How long could they keep it up now that the senshi of this planet had found them?
Sri shook her head and sighed, "I don't think we will ever find what we are looking for." Zoe pulled the child closer to her and smoothed her violet hair.
"Don't say things like that Sri. We have to complete what we came here to do. There's nowhere else to turn now." Zoe knew that the whole team was feeling this way. She had to do her best to reassure them that they could succeed. Otherwise, what else was there? Zoe reached up to her chest and wrapped her hand tightly around the small gem studded key that hung from the chain around her neck. This is our only way back, and this could also be our demise. She toyed with the timekey and remembered...
"There's no way out now!" Tendai screamed as she clutched Sri who was wailing in her arms. The palace around them was crumbling; a dark and powerful demon had made its way back from the hellish prison dimension, and was not very happy about having been sent there.
"King Nereus!" Sri cried as she tried to break free from Tendai's arms, "King Nereus! We have to help him! Let me GO!"
"Sri! There is no time!" She didn't have the heart to tell the child they had already found King Nereus was dead; their King had been destroyed trying to protect them from this demon. Without him, how could they ever hope to survive?
"We must get to the dimensional gates!" Zoe lead her friends along through the halls collapsing structure as they dodged falling chunks of marble and avoiding burning piles of debris.
"Princess!" Tendai cried, "Where is she?"
Cadin's figure appeared at the end of the long, narrow hall in a glowing blue silhouette. "Hurry! The portal isn't stable!" The three forced through the hall and narrowly avoided being knocked unconscious by a long, heavy beam that fell from the ceiling.
Suddenly, a massive, shadowlike figure emerged directly through the wall of the hallway, blocking the path to escape.
"Tendai! Sri! Zoe!" Cadin wasn't willing to give up that easily, "Sea Opal Planet Power, MAKE-UP!" in an instant, her pale skin fell exposed and was quickly wrapped in a thin blanket of shimmering liquid. A bow seemed to grow from her chest and a diamond shaped medallion formed at its center. A skirt sprouted from her waist with another bow at her lower back. Pointed boots swirled into formation up her legs. She raised her arms and gloves flowed down her arm from her fingertips. A shinning blue diamond gem on her forehead produced a silver tiara that flashed as she stood in a bubble of blue wave energy.
A blue and silver heart wand appeared in her hands. "Cascading Aquatic Enchantment!" she cried as a fury of raging water flew at the dark beast. It vanished before the blast of blue and silver droplets could reach it, leaving the other three girls open for assault from Sailor Amphitrite's attack.
"Fire Opal Planet Power, MAKE UP!" A similar transformation ensued but the light blues were replaced with burning yellows and reds. "Lava Wall!" A strong wall of lava flowed up in front of them and turned solid. Amphitrite's attack disintegrated it, but it did no harm to the others.
"Come on!" Sailor Amphitrite said, "We haven't got much time!" She turned to Zoe and asked quietly, "My Father?"
"This is all we have now," Zoe said lowering her emerald eyes. Sailor Amphitrite didn't have to ask, she understood. Her chest felt like a vice was tightening on it, squeezing the air out. She felt her legs weaken. She knew she had to fight through. Zoe placed a hand on her shoulder and Amphitrite sucked in a breath that filled her with a will to survive. "Let's go," Zoe said.
The four girls clamored into the tiny room in which the portal had been opened. In front of them, two massive and ornate silver doors were opened wide. A strong current seemed to be blowing out from the swirling and flashing lights of the space beyond the door as if to warn not to enter. The other two girls transformed and took one last longing glance at back at their crumbling home. From the depths of the castle, they could hear the dark demon's victorious howl from above.
Sailor Cybele raised a glove hand to the sky, "Forgive us my King, but we'll return!" she said, "Now Sailor Bellona!"
Sailor Bellona slammed her fist into a panel on the wall which activated the doors of the portal. As they began to close, the entire room began to distort in time and space. Sailor Amphitrite screamed and felt as though she was being ripped apart; she clutched her blue-gloved hands against her head. Sailor Cybele held on to Sailor Castalia as best she could as she ran through the closing doors. "King Nereus!!!" Castalia cried out as she vanished into the swirling surface. Sailor Bellona grabbed hold of Sailor Amphitrite's fragile figure and pulled her through the doors as they slammed shut.
Then there was total silence.
The four senshi found they were drifting through open time and space. It was a dense and heavy silence that seemed to physically fill their ears. Sailor Castalia said something, but the others just saw her lips move and the tears streaming down her face. Then there was a wave of bright light that overtook them, and they found themselves looking out upon a glorious view.
How beautiful it was! An awesome array of colors scattered above and below them. Light danced around them in swirls and cascades of patterns so magnificent they could never be described. They could see reflections of distant galaxies - possibly from different times - showing brilliantly in every direction. This passage was the road to all time and space, and if they were not careful, they could end up in a very hostile environment. It was terribly dangerous to have entered without a guide. For all they knew, they could end up nowhere at all or trapped forever in this eternal space.
After what felt like hours, Sailor Cybele caught sight of a dim white light up ahead. She began guiding the group towards it. In some ways, it was kind of hunch. She was the only one of the four soldiers who knew about the inner workings of the space-time portal because it was she who had discovered their King's frequent use of it many years ago. She knew that she was looking for the Quartz Dimension and from questioning her King, she knew it would be the brightest source of light she could find. That's where they had to go to find what they were looking for: that's where the scroll would be. As they approached the light it grew stronger until it was almost blinding. Sailor Castalia covered her watering eyes. Then as they passed through the brightness, they found themselves once again in total darkness. There was a eerie sound, like a wind through a crack in the door.
Sailor Cybele took a few cautious steps forward, her boots clicking on the marble floor. There was a faint curling mist in front of them which broke the darkness with a deep reddish glow. As their eyes focused, they saw they had come through an intricately carved door, very similar in style to the one they had originally entered. They had reached a portal in another time and place they were about to encounter the one who guarded it.
"Stop there!" a cold, unknown voice called out. Sailor Cybele jumped back at the harsh tone of the voice and heard the whooshing sound of something flying through the air. She found herself pinned against the door by a long staff held in place under her throat by a tall dark figure still immersed in shadow.
"Who are you? Why have you come here?" The voice scowled. The orb at the end of the staff lit up slightly, possibly to reveal her face. With the new light Cybele could see the two angry garnet eyes of her interrogator. She could not make herself reply. Her companions, all three, stood quivering in the corner.
"If you will not reveal your identity, then you do not belong here! Time travel is a taboo that is never to be broken!" She released Sailor Cybele only to lift her staff above her head and swing it down in one potentially deadly swoop.
"No!" Sailor Bellona cried as she finally regained her senses. She broke from her panicked fear and ran at the figure attacking her partner, "Glistening Flame Whip!" A strong fiery whip laced itself around the falling staff and ripped it from the owner's hands.
"There are more of you?" The guardian said in surprise as she flipped backwards across the darkened room and caught hold of her staff before it even hit the floor. "You have no place here! You have broken the taboo and shall be destroyed." The light from its orb grew many times brighter, an eerie hue on the four intruders. The guardian gasped, "Sailor senshi?"
The four senshi gave an equally amazed stare as Sailor Pluto came into view under the light of her garnet orb. There was a moment when they all felt a momentary connection, a shared destiny perhaps, then Pluto's wise face turned cold once more.
"Regardless! You will have to die." She lifted her staff above her head, "Dead Scream..." The quiet incarnation echoed ominously through the room as a massive ball of energy surged towards the girls. Unable to react in defense, each of them dove in separate directions.
Sailor Castalia rolled across the floor and slammed into the wall, her violet bodice tearing along one side. She dizzily stood up, trying to focus. In the haze light of the moving orb, she caught a glimpse of small, shiny objects hanging from Sailor Pluto's waist. Crossing her fingers she said, "Mystic Fade!" and disappeared.
Sailor Pluto continued her assault on the three senshi, but wondered how the smallest one was eluding her. Sailor Bellona, Amphitrite, and Cybele fought back with all their might, but it was clear to them they were up against a much stronger soldier. Suddenly, Pluto felt a small tug at her waist. When she looked down she was shocked to see one of her time keys had been removed. She looked up and saw it quickly floating away as if on its own accord. "What's going on?" she said turning back to her opponents.
"Let's go!" Sailor Cybele said, dragging Amphitrite along, "we're out of here!"
Sailor Bellona forced the time door open and Sailor Castalia reappeared beside them holding the time key.
"You cannot travel time and space! It is forbidden!" Sailor Pluto ran after them, "You are risking so much!" But the door had already closed before she could reach it. Her body slammed against the door and slumped to the ground in front of it. "What have I done...?"
Mamoru stood a few feet from the ice cream stand looking over the menu.
"Thanks for coming with me," Rei said, standing beside him looking around as if she was expecting someone. "I hate to bother you, but everyone else had something to do this afternoon and I just didn't want to come alone."
"You're meeting a classmate, aren't you?" he asked as he bounced back and forth between caramel malt chocolate and blueberry nut banana.
"Yeah, kind of," Rei said. "You know the girls that moved in beside Usagi? One of them is in my class. I helped her with an assignment the other day at lunch and she wanted to pay me back by taking me out for ice cream."
"That's very nice of her," Mamoru said, "sounds like she wants to be your friend."
"Yeah," Rei said, blushing, "something like that."
Just then she heard her name being called as Zoe came running up to them in a flirty top and ruffled skirt. She was wearing little green heels with open toes. Mamoru barely noticed as she scowled at him.
"Who's this?" she asked trying to sound pleasant even though disappointment was written all over her face.
"Oh, this is Mamoru," Rei laughed very consciously. "He's a friend of mine. Small world, huh? I just happen to run into him while I was waiting for you."
"I see," Zoe said, "well, I guess the more the merrier, right?" She forced a smile and wrapped an arm playfully though Rei's. "Let's get some ice cream!" she said as she toted Rei up to the counter. Rei blushed deeply as she contemplated how to break free from Zoe's grasp while Zoe ordered a double banana split for two, one straw.
"Mocha Latte Crunch," Mamoru obliviously ordered from the next window over.
From a distance, a little blonde head peeked up over some hedges. Her two little buns could have quivered with anger. Usagi had finished chores early that morning and had decided to try to catch up with Rei who'd mentioned going for ice cream. However, from where she was standing, she couldn't see Rei on the other side of Zoe's arm. All she saw was Mamoru at the ice cream stand with Zoe.
The sun shone brilliantly as Chibiusa walked the short distance from her door to Sri's house. She had told Sri not to expect her over today because of chores, but they'd whipped through them a lot faster than expected. When she got to the house, she skipped up the steps and knocked on the tall wooden door. She looked up to the curtain in the window beside the door searching for some movement. After the fourth round of knocking with no reply, she tried the door knob and it turned. Cautiously she opened the door a bit and poked her head in.
"Sri?" she called out timidly. "I finished chores early! I'm ready to go to the playground now." She looked back outside. Their van was parked in the driveway and Sri's new bicycle was leaning up again the fence beside the gate she'd come in.
She put a foot in the door and raised her eyes up the stairway in front of her. "Hello? Anyone home?" she said. Light flooded into the stairwell from the living room above, telling Chibiusa the top door was ajar. It would be okay then, she told herself as she slipped off her shoes and tip toed up the stairs.
"Sri, are you here?" she called again as she walked into the empty room. The whole house felt silent except for the ticking clock over the sink. The lights were on in the living room and the hallway door was opened. Through it, Chibiusa could see the stairway to the attic and noticed the light beside it was on.
Curiously, she walked down the hall. As she got closer she became more aware of movement above her and sounds for the attic. She thought she could distinguish Sri's voice too. Perhaps Sri and her sisters had decided to do some cleaning that day as well!
"Sri!" she called out cheerfully, now certain of their whereabouts. "Need help up there? I've still got some cleaning power!"
The attic movement ceased abruptly and the voices stopped.
"Hello-o-o-o?" she called putting a hand on the railing and peering up into the darkness. Odd, she thought, cleaning in the darkness?
Zoe's face suddenly appeared in the opening of the door way startling Chibiusa. "Hi Chibiusa!" She winked, "We're just putting some boxes of things away. Sri will be right down to see you!"
"Need any help?" Chibiusa repeated, putting her foot on the lowest step.
"No, that's okay," Zoe said, raising a hand outward to ward off Chibiusa's assent. "We're just about through." She disappeared into the darkness again.
Chibiusa heard a thud followed by an angry Sri scream, "I don't want to!" Then she heard some scuffing and muffled conversation before Sri appeared. At the sight of Chibiusa, she burst into tears, ran down the stairs, and went straight into her room. She slammed the door behind her and Chibiusa heard the click of the lock.
Chibiusa followed her and stood by her door. "What's wrong Sri? Do you still want to go to the park with me?"
"Go away!" came the harsh cry from within. Chibiusa jumped back, startled.
"Is there something you want to talk about?" Chibiusa said with concern. "Maybe I can help you out?"
"You should go now," a cool liquid voice said from behind. Chibiusa turned to see Cadin's pale, slender figure coming down from the attic. "Sri won't be playing with you today."
Chibiusa wanted to ask what was going on, but she felt it too awkward of a situation. She turned toward the door, ignoring Sri's sobs as she made her way downstairs. She put on her shoes quickly and as she walked out the door, she heard the lock click behind her.
Cadin walked back up the stairwell and into the kitchen where she put the kettle on to boil for tea. Her brow furrowed slightly. The four of them had all become very anxious, very touchy, and apparently, very forgetful. It wasn't only little Sri that was feeling the pressure of the time as it passed in this foreign place, but each of them dealt with it in different ways. Cadin tended to deal with it internally. She was the type to hold her feelings inside and she really didn’t appreciate anyone trying to talk to her about it. Lately she’d found some relief from her stress through a new habit she could never speak of with her teammates. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice the scars and cuts on her arms as long as she kept covered up. Tendai took out her aggression by being physically and emotionally frustrated at everyone all the time; poor Sri was too small to deal with it in any other way than to throw tantrums, cry and scream. And Zoe, well she was a different story. Cadin could see that she was becoming more and more wrapped up in the world they were now in, and less and less interested in the purpose of their mission. She thought it might be a good idea to mention something about it to her older companion, but she worried more confrontation could make the situation worse.
There was so much she wondered about the other senshi in this time and place. Up until recently, she hadn't even known about the existence of other sailor senshi, and now she had barely enough fingers to count them all! She couldn't help but wonder, should circumstances be different, if they could all get along and work together. The girl she assumed to be their leader, the one with the funny hair, had mentioned the fact that they were all sailor senshi. In the end, they probably did have the same mission. Cadin wondered if that could be true. It was easy to work together, fight together, be friends, and have fun back at home, but being here was so much different. Here they posed as sisters, a lie that was so veil thin anyone should see through it. They were only supposed to be friends, soldiers that fought together and supported one another. It's almost like that label 'sisters' made them more aggravated with one another in this stressful situation. Up until the attack on their kingdom, Cadin had hardly ever had to transform into her senshi form. As the Princess of the Ra System, she spent most of her time in formal events while her team guarded her and their King. These memories of a happier time blurred with her vision as tears filled her eyes.
The shuffle of feet brought Tendai into the living room where she promptly sprawled out on the floor and stared at the ceiling as if searching for her answers there. Cadin wiped off a few tears from the corner of her eyes and considered asking whether or not Tendai would care for some tea. However, before she could Zoe came down from the attic with a look of sudden realization.
"I think I have a good idea," she said.
"I'm listening," Cadin said. Sometimes it bothered her that even though she was the true leader of the four, Zoe still took it upon herself to make a lot of the decisions. Cadin knew that Zoe took a lot of pride in being the smart one of the bunch.
"We have to face the fact that we can't have much time left." Tendai sat up and listened more carefully. "We don't even know how much they know," she held up Pluto's time key, "We don't know how much this tells them."
"We don't know they can trace its location," Tendai said. “If they could, wouldn’t they have discovered us here?”
"We don't know that they can't either," Cadin replied. “Maybe it just took a while, maybe they are just waiting for an opportunity.”
"Right," Zoe said, "so we need a change of plan. We’ve been looking to people with outward talent, people that we figure might have the blood of your father, Cadin. We can sense these people are special because of their good hearts and ability to do their best." The others nodded. "But what if we've been going at it all wrong?"
"What do you mean," Cadin asked.
"What if instead of looking for someone with outward traits of King Nereus, we look for someone with inward traits of his. What if we look for someone with strong compassion, someone that spreads their friendship freely?" She let the idea settle for a moment.
Sri walked solemnly into the kitchen, dragging a tear soaked blanket behind her. "Why couldn't I go play with Chibiusa?" she said with a sniffle. Her friend: compassionate, worried, caring. Chibiusa.
"Sri," Cadin said carefully, looking to the others for support, "I think that we need to talk about Chibiusa." She looked to Tendai who got up and came into the room with the others. Sri looked up attentively.
"You see, Sri, we need Chibiusa to help us." Zoe said.
"You mean I can tell her who I am?" Sri said hopefully.
Tendai bit her lip since the only comments she could think to make would have been terribly cruel and out of place. For once, she was able to check her sarcasm.
"Sri, we think that Chibiusa might be the key to going home, to saving the King," Cadin said. Sri stopped sniffling and looked up at the three of them with wide eyes. She began to understand what they were planning, to take Chibiusa's scroll, and undoubtedly, she realized she would be the bait.
To their surprise, Sri did not violently rebel against the idea. Instead, she solemnly bowed her head then turned around and walked back to her bedroom. She paused for a moment at the door, then walked in and shut it behind her.
Usagi sat awkwardly on the floor across the room from Mamoru, the coffee table between them a seemingly vaster distance than ever before. She hadn't touched the tea he'd prepared for her, nor the tasty little cake that sat on the little white tray covered in whipped cream.
"So you are feeling better?" she asked, knotting her hands together under the table and out of sight. He didn't appear ill, however it was past noon and he was still in pajamas.
He nodded in reply, shifting his weight and forcing a small smile, "Much."
She nodded back, and hesitated at the question on her mind. "Zoe seems like a nice girl, you two have some classes together," she looked for a reaction at the mentioning of the woman she had seen him with at the ice cream parlor, "perhaps she could help you make up some of the work you might have missed."
He stood up, "Yeah, maybe. I think I'll get dressed now. Eat some cake, will you?" He smiled as he walked off into his bedroom and closed the door.
Usagi sat there, staring at the wall across from her. She wasn't thinking of anything at all, just waiting, waiting for something. The phone ringing startled her.
"Mamo-chan?" she called, standing up. "The phone's ringing. Should I get it?" She heard the sink water running, perhaps he couldn't hear her. She walked over to the telephone and picked up the receiver, "Hello!," she said cheerfully, "Chiba residence!"
There was a moment of silence, "Hello?" Usagi asked again.
"Hi!" a voice finally replied, "May I speak to Mamoru-san?" It was a woman's voice.
"I'm sorry but he is unavailable right now," Usagi figured it must be one of his professors calling to check up on his health. How considerate of them, she thought. "I could take a message," she said.
"That would be great," came the reply, "Just tell him Zoe called, and that I had a wonderful time getting ice cream the other day. No hard feelings about the interruption. Thanks!" and she hung up.
Usagi held the receiver to her ear for a moment after the line was disconnected. Then she placed it on the cradle and returned to her spot on the floor. Zoe? The interruption? She thought about the day they four sisters had arrived at the house next door, and in her memory she could suddenly recall looks they had never actually exchanged. Her mind severely exaggerated the situation. Poor Usagi was the victim of circumstance! And going out for ice cream? ALONE?! She began to sob, and gather her things. Mamoru came out of his bedroom to find a tear streaked Usagi look back at him just long enough to shoot daggers with her eyes before she slammed the door as she left.
Mamoru stood there, completely confused until he noticed the little red light blinking on the telephone. He flipped to the last incoming call on the ID box and understood what has probably just happened. He grabbed his jacket and went after her.
Continued in Chapter Seven!