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Sailor Pluto stalked through the dim Mist, her senses keeping watch for anything but the fluid vibrancy of the air. She walked carefully around the event horizon of the Rift, knowing that this was the most likely place for any otherworldly intruders to appear. The Rift shrieked like a banshee, promising death to any who were foolish enough to enter therein.

She knew. She had crossed to the other side once. It had taken Saturn, who had been residing with her at the time, to pull her back… at the cost of her own life.

She had been foolish enough to think that having another watching the Mists made it safe to venture into the Rift, but instead it had nearly killed both of them. Pluto had spent nigh two years recovering, despite the advanced healing that all Senshi possessed. Saturn had died, and she had lost a companion that could have helped her keep the loneliness at bay for a time. Not that Saturn could have left, for she had been in the same predicament as Ery'ka was now.

On the subject of the Sorceress-Smith, the last time Pluto had seen her, Ery'ka had given her a cryptic smile and asked if she could see the Rift up close. Pluto had immediately tried to convince her that going into the Rift was sure death, but the other woman merely shook her head and stated that she didn't want to go into it, but to study it.

This had thoroughly confused Pluto and she had asked for some time to think about it. Ery'ka had merely replied that time was not one of her concerns of late. It was for that reason that she was hunting in the Mists now, for she did not know whether to grant the request, especially since it had been so long since she had last found and destroyed the intruders who dared cross over. It was, to coin a phrase, about time for them to send another expedition.

As if on cue, she felt a slight shift in the Mist nearby. The event horizon of the Rift shifted suddenly, and a strange, gangly being was unFolded into this reality.

She waited, silently and motionless, for the imp to move off from the Rift, feeling its perceptions pass over her again and again, never noticing the slight variation in the Mist that heralded her presence. The imp moved forward slightly, and another being unFolded from the Rift. This one was shorter and seemed to have more mass than the imp; it was the watcher, who reported back to the world that they came from.

If it survived, that is.

The imp's search stopped, and it moved away from the watcher, but Pluto knew from past experience that the two were connected magically and would know if the other was harmed. She had grown quite quick at dispatching them.

Waiting until the watcher was away from the event horizon, she slipped behind the imp undetected, and with a quick grab and twist, snapped its neck. Immediately dropping the dead daemon, Pluto rushed to the Rift, only to see the watcher already Folding away into it. Quickly readying power, she called out the command phrase and extended her hand towards the watcher.

"DEAD SCREAM!"

The blast of deadly mana sped from her fingers, impacting with the watcher in midFold. Its body overloaded with death magic, it started to disintegrate while still being Folded. It disappeared before it completely disintegrated, probably falling out on the other side of the Rift.

Pluto sighed, and turned away from the Rift. The body of the imp was being slowly devoured by the Mists, for without the magical protection that kept it at bay, it sucked life-force and sustenance from the living or dead.

She would wait for a time, to see if more pairs came across, but she doubted it. At the very least, she would feel better about letting Ery'ka examine the Rift.


A Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon story
by Dro'gan NiteFlier

Disclaimer: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, Toei Douga, and DIC.

Begin = 20040206;
Finish = 20040208;


I had not thought… That is, I did not expect… the impact friendship had… still has… on both her and me.

I did not expect to form true friendship with her, but when I saw her there… Even though I knew who and what she was, even though I knew that our friendship was vital to alter the course of this timeline back to the way it should have been…

It all doesn't matter, now that I have seen the beautiful smile on my firefly's face.


Chapter 3: Cracks in the Façade


"Setsuna!!"

The weary Senshi of Time looked up from her tea. "Not so loud, please. My head hurts too much."

Haruka stood dumbfounded for a second. "You okay, Setsuna? You look like hell."

The green-haired woman nodded. "Just exhausted from using the Gate too much… But I have to find it."

"Find what?" asked the blonde as she sat down across from Setsuna.

Setsuna raised her eyes to Haruka, and the blonde was shocked to see the red eyes bloodshot and nearly unfocused. "Them. Their entrance. They aren't using the one I know, and I have to find out where it is before they send anything more dangerous than an imp and a watcher."

Haruka blinked in surprise. "You know these things?!"

Setsuna nodded shallowly. "Back then… Far back then, their only portal to this plane of existence was on my planet, Pluto. I was set to watch there, to make sure another invasion could never take place. I stayed there until the day that portal was sealed away, killing any who were sent to test the defenses of the Kingdom."

The blonde listened carefully, for the Senshi of Time had never been this open about the past before. "What invasion?"

"The daemons came in force, billions strong. Humanity was fragmented and broken, and the invasion only served to splinter them more… until Serenity. She came from Luna with the Silver Crystal. She gathered up the peoples of the Sol system, and brought all but one of the Senshi into her fold." Setsuna frowned. "That one decided that she would fight the daemons on her own, and went off to fight alone. But Serenity was merciful, and when the rogue Senshi died, she her spirit and powers were brought back to Luna and set with the other Senshi. Fortunately, she's still sealed away, only coming out when the Silver Crystal deems no other hope is left."

"Sealed? Why would they be sealed?"

Setsuna abruptly grabbed Haruka's arm. "Say not her name! Say not, for her true power was enough to render the legions of daemons into dust. Serenity and her Senshi only fought a small, weakened fragment of the daemon's original strength, and they were still nigh overwhelmed! She… She rendered the rest into nothing before her body was burnt out from the power. To let that power loose would be to destroy all that Serenity stood for."

The Senshi of Time suddenly stood. "I must return to the Gate. I must find where their portal is."

Haruka sat stunned by the information while the other woman teleported away.


"I'm… huuu… I'm sorry, Zan…" She was so weak; she could not even stand anymore!

"NO!" Warm arms, holding her up, keeping her safe. "Don't be sorry, it isn't your fault. I can tell that easily enough, now. I saw fragments then, but I can see it more clearly now! You are strong! You are Hope, the Light in the Darkness."

"Wh-what do you mean?" Confusion, why? Not her…? Fragment?

"Don't you remember what I told you then, my firefly? Esper. Memory?" Realization. Magic different from Senshi. Other stories heard of magi and wizards, hedge-witches and sorcerers. Consigned to urban legend, but was her power any more believable?

"You… Have become trained?" Wonder, at another who could, perhaps, sympathize with her power?

"Yes. I see the lines of power you that bind you, and the great power held within, sleeping." Great power? Only the power of Silence, the End of All.

"Terrible power. Can do nothing but destroy." Was that all she was? A weapon forged?

"No, my firefly. Can you not heal, even as you did when children were we? Not a weapon, but a choice." Not a weapon? But then…

"What choice?"

"To be as they say, to bend to their wishes… or to be as you truly are."


The longhaired blonde reeled in shock as she saw the imp scamper by, and immediately hit the panic button on her communicator.


"What?"

"Oh no! Zan, I must—"

"Go, my firefly, and I will come when I can. Go swiftly!"


The Senshi once again gathered, but this time the imp did not wait for the Senshi to attack. Running zigzag through their formation, it rained blows down on the eight of them, but fell slipping and sliding into Sailor Pluto's grasp as she suddenly appeared. The imp struggled as the white glove choked off its air and crushed its throat.

The other Senshi stood shocked at the casual way Pluto had captured and killed the imp, as well as the disgust on her face.

"There is another! The scouts always reconnoiter in pairs!" Pluto called out. "Mercury, start searching. It may try to hide itself!"

Sailor Moon took command of the situation, "Mercury, go. Everyone else, spread out and search! Pluto, I want—"

"It can wait, Sailor Moon," Sailor Pluto interrupted. "This is not the time. I promise that I will explain everything at a later point, but for now we must destroy the Intruders."

Sailor Moon nodded. "Right, then lets—"

"THERE IT IS!"

Both Sailors looked to the shout, to see Saturn running and stumbling away from a being that looked quite like the imp that Pluto had killed.

Pluto wasted precious seconds in shock. "What?! But the watchers never attack!!"

Sailor Moon was not so distracted. Immediately lining up the target, she forwent pretty speeches and posing with one of her Senshi in danger. "MOON SPIRAL HEART ATTACK!!"

The giant heart impacted with the watcher and both disintegrated instantly. Sailor Saturn looked back and then stumbled to a halt, wearily resting on her Glaive. In but a moment she was surrounded by the other Senshi, all of them wanting to know if she was well.

When the Senshi of Silence bid them away, Sailor Moon immediately noticed that Pluto had disappeared again, without answering her questions. Sailor Uranus immediately started grumbling about this, saying something about "nailing her feet to the floor", before telling the Senshi what Setsuna had conveyed to her earlier in the day.

The rest of the Senshi nodded, and Sailor Moon requested a meeting the following day. After the time had been set, the Senshi parted ways.


Michiru slowly walked home with Haruka and Hotaru, the young girl needing to rest every so often from her flight. She was only halfway surprised when Zanitia abruptly appeared and sat by Hotaru. The silver-eyed girl seemed to personify coincidence and happenstance. "How did you find us?" she asked.

Zanitia merely slipped an arm around Hotaru as she answered. "There are more things in the world than can be explained in simple terms, Kaiou-san."

Haruka snorted. "You sound like a friend of ours. Always speaking in cryptic riddles."

"Maybe we just don't speak the same language?" Hotaru said. "Enigmas concealing a different way of speaking."

Both Michiru and Haruka blinked at this, but before they could gather their wits, Hotaru stood, and took Zanitia's hand. "I think I want you to show me what you promised, Zan. Haruka-papa, Michiru-mama, I'll be back for dinner!" And with that, the pair ran off.

"Well," said Haruka. "It seems she feels better."


"Do you think… that I could learn how to do that?"

"Of course, my firefly. Although you may have to change it up a bit, because not all systems of magic are the same."

"How so?"

"Well, my magic is freeform, with every spell being made new every time I cast, but at the cost of the time to make it, and my reservoir of power. The advantage is that I can alter spells on the fly, and come up with new ones at relatively little cost other than time and experimentation."

"What about a more constrained system?"

"Constrained? There are systems that do not rely on a reservoir, but rely on memory, so that each time a spell is cast it is taken from memory and must be relearned. It is a rather more silent, though. Of course, in this system, you can't cast the same spell twice without relearning it, and it's very hard to come up with new spells. Puts a damper on throwing more than one fireball."

"Um… can you memorize, yet still use a reservoir?"

"Yes… I think. Someone could probably have an 'active memory' of spells, yet limited by the reservoir of power. Probably wouldn't have as easy a time coming up with new spells, but if you want to repeat a spell over and over, you would only be limited to the reservoir."

"You said something about silent spells?"

"Oh? Yes, the unreusable spells… They tend to be silent to magical senses because they don't draw on power. If I wanted to cast a spell silently, I might have to use double or even triple again the power to keep it 'soundless' to those listening for it. Fortunately, it's not too useful outside of covert operations and getting to places quietly. It's a nice way to keep someone from tracking you when teleporting, I'll give you that."


Setsuna looked up from where she had placed her head on the table. The front door had admitted someone, but since she had not heard the screech of tires, or the soft humming of classical authors, she correctly assumed that it was the youngest member of the household, and put her head back down.

"Setsuna-mama? Are you okay?" The hushed voice and light touch on her shoulder informed her that Hotaru had gotten much quieter lately.

"It's nothing that you can help with, I'm afraid, Hotaru." She sighed and leaned back in the chair. "I'm just using too much of my power to scan for that blasted portal, but it's hidden too damn well."

Hotaru nodded and left as quietly as she had come. It was a good time to see if she could be silent in other areas as well.


It was almost no surprise the next afternoon that when the Senshi had finally all gotten together again to discuss what Setsuna was hiding from them this time, another daemon made its appearance.

Only this daemon wasn't like the others.

Where the imps and the watcher had been small, relatively human-sized, this daemon was huge. Where those before had not caused any real damage to the landscape, this daemon was ripping trees out of the ground, and throwing them around the park. Where the others had been silent, this daemon…

"Come out, come out! I shall see if you are as bold as you were then! Come out, Serenity's dogs, for I shall destroy, and keep destroying until you do!"

"Stop right there!"

The giant looked to his left, and then turned to the shout and gave a horrendous grin. "Well, so you have finally come!" The daemon looked closer at the five Senshi, and frowned at the one in the middle. "So you are the new one, eh? What do they call you? Sailor Terra perhaps? Or have you taken… Her place?"

Sailor Moon took affront to being called Terra, but wondered briefly at the daemon's mention of "Her". Who in the world could it be talking about?

"You only need to know that you never should have come here and ruined a perfectly good park! I am Sailor Moon, I in the name of the Moon, I shall punish you!"

The daemon snorted in disbelief. "The Moon? Which moon, child? Do you really think that you could possibly stand up to Norgrath of the Sixth Circle?"

Of a sudden there were two shouts from behind the daemon and an onrush of power as the daemon staggered from being hit. "Now!" cried out Sailor Moon and she and the others attacked as well.

Norgrath bellowed in pain under the six combined attacks, and roared to shake the heavens as Sailor Moon's bright magic flooded through him.

But when the attacks were over, the Senshi stood gaping as the daemon smoked, but still stood. With a great shake of his shoulders the daemon turned to Uranus and Neptune, who had snuck around behind him while Sailor Moon had distracted him.

"You shall pay for that, Senshi!" With a great wave of its hand, a ball of energy crackled through the air and hit the ground in between the two Outer Senshi.

As they flew through the air, the daemon fielded several more attacks from the original five, but froze as he heard a shout to his side.

"SILENCE GLAIVE SURPRISE!"

With light-quick reflexes, the monster threw itself backwards away from the Senshi as the ground where it stood quite simply ceased to exist. He stood shakily as he turned to the source of the shout. There stood Sailor Saturn, her Glaive poised in the final sweep of her attack.

Norgrath stared for an instant. It couldn't be, could it?

Unfortunately, the daemon was distracted yet again by the Outer Senshi reappearing and attacking. As he casually blocked their blows, and the attacks from the Inner Senshi, he advanced on the one that reminded him too much of…

Sailor Saturn looked up to see that the daemon's charge had brought it almost to her and she was about to be run over. The monster was reaching out with one blackened hand when she heard a whisper from over her shoulder.

"…dead scream."

The other Senshi looked on as the daemon flew back from Saturn and the now-revealed Pluto. After they saw it getting up once more without any signs of damage, they despaired.

"YOU!" cried out the daemon. "You, the Guardian! Ha! Some Guardian you are. I barely felt that blow! I see now! You are all so weak! I can take you out with no help at all! The old fools were wrong after all!"

"Sailor Moon, we have a problem!" Sailor Mercury studied her visor's display carefully. "It's too powerful. It has more power than even Galaxia at her strongest. I don't know if we can kill it!"

Sailor Pluto cautiously stepped to the ranting daemon. "You should not have breached the barrier between worlds yet again. Go back to your own plane, and never let any return!"

Norgrath smirked, "So sayeth Sailor Pluto! I see the truth! If you had the power, I would be dead now, and you would not bother with asking where our portal is. But since you insist, I shall give you a clue! Who is there to say there is but one portal, besides the Gate? Ha! NOW! Now you shall face your doom!"

"No, daemon!" hissed Pluto. "Not my doom, but yours!"

The Senshi drew herself up and leveled the Garnet Rod at the daemon. Beads of sweat appeared on her brow as she concentrated her energies, working her way around the constrictions place on her long ago.

"…mists of doom," she whispered.

The daemon's bellowing laugh cut off with a startled squawk as a strange mist appeared from the ground under his feet, but as he tried to move out of it he felt strange clawing feelings from his feet.

The Senshi watched in horror as from the mists rose dark lights and skeletal hands, all grasping and clawing at the daemon, dragging it down into the ground. The daemon's cry of terror brought them all to their knees, as the mists sunk into the ground without a trace.

Then, thinking it was over, they turned to Pluto, whose face bore an expression of extreme pain.

Suddenly from Sailor Moon's chest, the Ginzuishou flared brightly and the Senshi fell to the ground, unconscious.

 

To be continued.


Author's notes: Now that I'm done with this chapter, I can almost feel people breathing down my neck wanting to know certain things, like for instance: "Usagi's got a brain??"

To put it shortly: "Yes." A more complete answer would reveal that Usagi is older, calmer, has more battles under her belt, and that Ami forced her to read several books on tactics and leadership.

Oh, and I don't like stupid characters. Wait, let me rephrase that: I don't like stupid good characters. And since Usagi is (nominally) on the side of good in this story, I decided not to make her stupid.

Now then, I hope that you all will be waiting patiently for the next chapter wherein Setsuna has to fess up what in the world is going on:

Shades of Gray Chapter 4: Lies and Betrayal.

Chapter 4
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