Chapter Three: Shopping Trip

For the first time in what seemed like an age, Minako was able to get a good nights sleep. Indeed, when the morning came she still had her head in the silken pillows and ignored Artemis’s gentle nudges for her to get up.

“Minako-chan” he urged, “How are you feeling today? We agreed that we were going to see how the Princess was, remember?”

Minako half grunted a reply to this. Artemis had been out all night and thus had not heard of what had transpired between Minako and the second king of the Dark Kingdom. As she thought of him, a smile flickered across Minako’s face. Despite Zoisite’s reluctance and her own fears, she was determined to try to make things work.

I think… I know this can work. If only for a little while. Life is short and who knows what will happen to either of us in the future. We can just live for now.

Her good cheer faded as the harsh reality of her illness set in. It did not matter if Zoisite survived to see the end of the war against the Dark Kingdom or not. Minako knew that even if she were able to fight, in a few months time she would be dead.

No, she told herself, I will not think of that today! I just want to live for now as I told him last night and I’m sure Zoisite does not think that we could possibly continue this for too long anyway. I just want a chance to be near him, be it only for a little while.

“Minako” Artemis continued to whine at her, “Are you alright?”

Finally she looked up from her pillows and feigned a yawn, “Fine” she smiled brightly. This simple act caused the plushie to do a double take and Minako instantly regretted her cheery manner. She was not usually like this, she should be especially solemn due to the events of last night, but Minako couldn’t help but feel detached from all that now.

“I should get up” she agreed with Artemis, “We do have a lot to do” Minako forced her smile into a serious frown, “Why don’t you go ahead without me? I will meet you in the hotel lobby in twenty minutes. I just need to clear a few things with Satchou. He thinks I’m going to that press conference at the Tokyo National Museum today, remember?”

Artemis nodded and only when he had left the room, did Minako set about getting changed for the day ahead. She stared hard at her wardrobe full of clothes, unsure of what to pick out. This in itself was ridiculous, as Zoisite had proved to her last night that he new absolutely nothing about the fashions here on Earth, but Minako wanted to look her best for his arrival in a little under ten minutes.

Frowning, she at last decided on her plaid skirt and black cross T-shirt. Then, as an after thought, she pulled on her white jacket. Minako had just finished checking her appearance in the mirror when she felt the breeze that indicated a teleport. She whirled around to see him standing behind her, dressed as always, in his Dark Kingdom attire.

“You really should learn to use the door,” Minako suggested as they embraced, “What if I’d been getting changed?”

Zoisite shrugged, not sure how quite to take this comment and Minako felt slightly insulted at this, but remembered that in the Dark Kingdom they probably did not care for such things, or if they did they had learnt to ignore them.

“And” Minako hated to nag but a part of her was afraid that Artemis, or even worse Mars Reiko, would find out and she did not want to lose her leadership status or Rei’s uneasy trust in her, especially as she would need Rei’s help before the end came. “You should really come dressed and looking like a normal human being. How will I explain the presence of a Dark Kingdom Tennou in my room?”

Zoisite nodded, being unusually quiet even for him, and seconds later the glamour was cast once more and Minako cringed at the jacket. Pursing her lips, she decided that his fashion sense was something that was easily fixed and that she should just be glad that he was here.

“I missed you,” she said shyly as Zoisite wrapped his arms around her waist and leaned down to greet her properly.

“Minako?” she jumped, feeling Zoisite tense, as Satchou entered the room and Minako cursed herself for not locking it again when Artemis left.

“Minako!” he paused, dropping his papers and contracts all over the floor. Zoisite quickly released her and took a step back and Minako could see he was tensing himself for a fight. Stepping between them, Minako smiled and indicated the king.

“Satchou, I… He was going to accompany me to breakfast.”

“I see” the manager frowned upon Zoisite, tilting his head to one side as he did so, “And does he have a name?”

“A name” Minako repeated weakly, feeling her heart pounding in her chest, “Ah…”

“Komoro Seiichi” Zoisite said without flinching, even when Satchou’s dagger like gaze pierced into his own.

“That’s it” Minako said, trying not to let her relief show, “Seiichi-kun.”

“Well then, Komoro-san” Satchou said doubtfully, “Make sure that Minako-chan is at the National Museum at 10.00 this morning. We have a press conference.” With that Satchou flounced out of the room, muttering something about the schedule for the day as he did so.

Minako sighed in relief, “That was too close” she turned to Zoisite, “What if Artemis had seen you?”

“Do you think he would have recognised me?”

“No…” Minako blushed slightly, “You certainly look different.”

Zoisite nodded in silent agreement and held out a hand, “You mentioned breakfast?”

“You have breakfast in the Dark Kingdom?” Minako asked shyly. She felt awkward mentioning Zoisite’s other life, especially when he appeared as a normal human.

“Yes, but you have to be careful what you eat. Some of the food can poison you.”

Minako nodded and took his offered hand. As she did she felt power surround her and the bedroom disappeared. Stepping back she blushed at the curious looks a few other guests gave her. Minako kept her head down, even as several fans got up and raced to her side holding out notebooks for her to sign. She did so without fuss and they returned to their seats, content to stare and whisper about Minako’s new boyfriend behind her back. Satchou was also taking breakfast, though he kept a healthy distance from them both.

“Is that fashion?” Zoisite wondered as he stared at Satchou’s bright red velvet jacket.

“No” Minako shook her head and guided him to a table at the back of the room, “I wouldn’t want you dressing like that when we’re out together.”

“Why not?”

Minako blushed again, though it had never bothered her before, she was more embarrassed at Zoisite’s ignorance, “Satchou prefers the company of other men, that’s all.”

Zoisite said nothing to this and pretended to be more interested in the breakfast menu. Minako sat opposite him, nervously playing with a napkin and tearing the corners off of it. Her palms were sweaty and her tongue felt thick and heavy as she spoke again: “You will have to get used to the Earth name you gave Satchou” she managed to choke out, “People are bound to talk…”

Zoisite did not seem to understand her reason for concern, though he concurred that keeping his glamour spell going, at least in public, might be a good idea. Minako frowned slightly. Something was different about him this morning. Was it possible that he was regretting his decision where she was concerned?

“It is not that” Zoisite replied when Minako expressed her feelings, “I am worried about the Master. Kunzite is so full of bitterness. I fear what he will do if I let them alone for too long.”

“You can leave” Minako retorted, feeling a little hurt that Zoisite should care only for Endymion’s safety, even now. “I do not wish for you to stay if it is going to get you into trouble.”

“I’ll stay” the king decided after a moment’s thought, “I do not wish to see you unhappy, Minako-chan.”

Minako’s heart melted at this statement, “Just you being here is enough.”

******

“Why?” Jadeite whispered, his entire body shaking as he relived the scene of the day before, “I pledged my alliance to her and she turned on me?”

“I told you” Zoisite said in response, “The one we must serve is Master Endymion, not Beryl. You would do well to remember this.”

And he believed this, Zoisite truly believed that they should serve the Master and fight to stop the events of the past from repeating themselves. Then why was he here? Seated in the crowded cafeteria, Zoisite did not know. He shouldn’t be here. The Master was with Beryl and in danger and Zoisite was having breakfast with the enemy. No, he reminded himself, Minako-chan, not the enemy. Staring at the girl, Zoisite was terrified of the depth of his feelings, despite having crushed his own heart firmly for the want to serve Endymion; Zoisite could not longer deny a thousand years worth of love. And Minako needed him; this he knew. The Senshi of Venus was not as strong as she appeared.

She told him he could go and Zoisite knew he should. Despite what the Master said about not abandoning them, Zoisite wanted him to do so. He knew in his own heart that they were lost and had been from the moment that he recovered his own memories of the tragic past. There was still something inside of him that could be used for Beryl’s will alone and this idea terrified him. No matter what Kunzite thought, Zoisite knew they were not free from Beryl’s control. The events of yesterday had proven that.

So, he decided to stay and Minako seemed relieved of this. In truth, Zoisite did not know what to do. He would do anything to protect the Master. Kunzite was too full of bitterness; Jadeite still served Beryl and Nephrite… Nephrite was gone.

The waiter came over to take their orders for breakfast. Minako seemed slightly embarrassed at the attention he gave her as an idol and even more so by the envious look that he gave Zoisite. Zoisite himself remained silent as Minako pointed to a few lines of the menu and hurriedly dismissed the curious man.

Now, alone again, Zoisite was unsure of what to say. He was beginning to feel uncomfortable with glamour and the fact that they had nothing in common.

“So” Minako began shyly, her innocence suddenly reflecting that of the Princess’s until her smile brightened and she said: “Where did you learn to play the piano?”

Zoisite smiled at her enthusiasm, “I taught myself from an early age. I used to watch the musicians at the Master’s court. Of course, I was a true master, unlike those hacks who would play at balls and the like. I found that my music helped me to focus my powers better” his gaze darkened, “And Beryl knew this.”

“Requiem for the Princess” Minako whispered and again the conversation became strained.

“Among other things” Zoisite tried to brush this off as he continued, “I find that the piano helps me to relax. It is an escape. I know you feel this in your singing.”

Minako smiled as the waiter returned with her order and placed two identical plates in front of them.

“What is this?” Zoisite wondered, eyeing the plate suspiciously.

“Watermelon” Minako replied, as she picked up her half of the fruit and took a bite, “I thought you knew what breakfast was?”

“As I said before, you have to watch what you eat” he mimicked her actions and took a hesitant bite.

“Good?” Minako asked.

He nodded, and set the melon back down on the plate. “Why do you sing? Is it not enough for you being a Senshi?”

Minako took a long time to answer this. So long that Zoisite almost regretted asking her. He studied the saddened expression on her face for a moment. Zoisite, as human as he appeared, remembered little about human emotions and reactions. He had been alone in the Dark Kingdom for so long, deliberately choosing to live as an outcast, cut off from Beryl and the other Tennou. He had forgotten so many things. Beryl had taken away more than just his memories. Zoisite shook his head slightly, as though to rid himself of the triumphant laughter of the Queen that constantly rung in his ears.

“Zoisite?” Minako asked softly, daring to lean across the table and take his hands in her own “Is everything alright?”

He nodded, “A memory. It happens sometimes.”

“I know” she replied softly, allowing her empathy to flow into these two words alone. Then she brightened, “I sing because it makes me happy. I think there is more to me than my Senshi self. I want to be someone, do something with my life before I die.”

Zoisite laughed at this, “You’ll outlive me. How old are you?”

“Fifteen.”

“I’m twenty three, and that’s if you don’t count the thousand years on top of that. You have a long life ahead of you yet.”

Minako clutched his hands tighter, “Is something going to happen to you?”

Zoisite saw no reason to deny the inevitable, “Yes.”

“Beryl?”

“The Master cannot protect us forever.”

She lowered her gaze, her grip now slack as her black hair fell in front of her face obscuring it from view and Zoisite wondered if he had gone too far.

“We live for now” she repeated her words of the night before, “And you need some new clothes.”

Zoisite stood, “Then shall we be going?”

“Have you finished?”

“I’m not that hungry”

“Me neither. Satchou will deal with the bills when we leave.”

Zoisite frowned; the thought of actually paying for the food had never even crossed his mind. He shrugged slightly, supposing that he had been out of contact with human society for so long he had begun to forget their ways. Shyly Minako held out her hand. Zoisite took the offered palm and led her from the restaurant, ignoring more envious gazes directed his way.

The Master cannot protect us forever

We live for now

Minako’s words were true, but Zoisite could already see the changes in the girl’s heart, even if she denied them.

*******

Artemis huddled behind a marble pillar in the busy lobby of the hotel room, his green eyes fixed on the stairs as one by one couples came down and then exited the hotel. It had been half an hour since he had left Minako-chan, but it seemed like a lot longer.

She is just taking her time after her episode he tried telling himself, but there was a nagging part of him that was telling him to go back to her room and get her. She could have fainted again… or worse.

The plushie was jogged out of such thoughts when he heard a familiar laugh, though it had been so long since he had heard his young charge laugh in such a way that at first he thought he was imagining things. Craning his neck, Artemis could only stare as Minako pushed open the double doors that led out from the restaurant. He took a step towards her and then pulled back behind the safety of the pillar again when he realised that she wasn’t alone.

“Who…?” Artemis whispered as his gaze fell upon the man accompanying Minako. He appeared to be in his early twenties, his warm brown eyes and tense stance clearly displaying nervousness as Minako led him across the foyer, paying little heed to the reporters snapping away with their cameras and calling out to Minako, enquiring to know if he was her new boyfriend.

Boyfriend… Artemis had not known. Minako was so serious. She was completely devoted to the mission… wasn’t she? Why had she been hiding this from him? Artemis’s face fell. He had thought Minako and he to be close. Ever since the night when he had found her and Minako had confided her illness to him, Artemis had always thought that she would entrust him with anything. It appeared that he was wrong.

“Minako-chan” he murmured as she hurried out of the hotel doors, struggling to push passed the reporters and fans who had gathered outside.

“Artemis!” he jumped slightly as his name was called.

“Mars? Luna?” he balked slightly at the sudden appearance of the Senshi and the other plushie.

“Artemis” Luna whispered sadly, “It is terrible. Usagi-chan has disappeared.”

*******

“What about this one?” Minako said thoughtfully as she selected another shirt from the clothes rack and held it up against Zoisite, nodded to herself in agreement she handed it to him. Zoisite frowned and struggled with that and the other ten she had already told him that he had to try on.

“Minako-chan” Zoisite stared doubtfully down at the clothing, “I only need one set of clothes do I not?”

Minako giggled and guided him towards the changing rooms, “Don’t be silly. You can’t go around wearing the same thing all the time. What will people think?”

Zoisite snorted in contempt at this, “If they say anything I’ll just blast them.”

Angered at this, Minako whirled around and snapped, “That is the kind of thing I would expect to hear from one of the other Tennou! Why are you suddenly so angry with me?”

Zoisite sighed, “I hate this shopping” he gestured to the four bags he held in his other hand, “And I hate carrying your things, too.”

Minako rolled her eyes and leaned up to plant a kiss on his lips, “I know. Most guys do, but its part of the fun.”

“It is fun to do something you hate?”

She sighed; for most of the morning Minako had actually forgotten that he was a Dark Kingdom Tennou and had enjoyed the looks that were given as she walked down the street with him, but even she could see that he did not wish to be here and that he wondered what was happening in the Dark Kingdom whilst he was gone. Minako bit her lip. Even she wondered what the other Senshi were doing. No! This is not how it would be today! She wanted to be with Zoisite and enjoy the day for what it was. Was that so wrong? Minako had never known true happiness and now that she had found it, she wanted to experience it for as long as possible and yet it seemed that there would always be her past life to hold her back.

“Is this fashion?” Zoisite enquired as he came out of the changing room wearing a pair of jeans and a black shirt. Minako smiled and reached up to undo the first to two buttons of the shirt, “There.”

Zoisite turned and looked at himself in the full-length mirror, stunned at his appearance, as was Minako. In it he appeared his usual self; white hair and blue eyes, but when she turned her gaze back upon him the glamour was still in place.

“A minor flaw” Zoisite shrugged lightly, “I can probably fix it later.”

Minako giggled at the sight of his normal self wearing normal attire and Zoisite abruptly stepped away from the mirror.

“You look great,” she added when she saw his pensive expression.

Zoisite nodded slightly, “These clothes are so plain, though.”

“Inconspicuous” Minako contradicted him, “The less you stand out the better.”

He had to agree to that, but adding that if he was with Aino Minako, then the chances of remaining hidden were pretty much none existent.

“So” Zoisite said as he once again stepped out of the changing room, this time wearing the clothes copied from Mamoru’s wardrobe, and Minako blushed as he slipped an arm around her waist, “Tell me more about this ‘fashion’? The clothes you have deemed suitable seem no different to these garments that I am wearing right now.”

“The difference is the label.”

“The label?”

“Just take my word for it. Now come on, we should pay for these and leave before I attract anymore adoring fans” Minako nodded towards the large gathering outside the shop window.

Zoisite agreed to this and patiently waited whilst Minako paid for the clothing with a charge card. The idol was bitterly disappointed with how the day was turning out. She thought it would be a real chance to get to know Zoisite better and away from the problems of the mission. Now, she was beginning to wonder if they really did have a past life together and whether or not this entire thing was built on a combination of lies and the lonely heart of a dying girl. Maybe Zoisite felt sorry for her. No, he did not know of her illness, and he did not seem the sort of man who would date someone only for pity. Then why… Minako bit her lip. This was only for a little while and it was an escape she badly needed. They lived for now. Why shouldn’t they be happy for the moment?

Now, away from the busy streets and adoring fans, Minako could feel the despair that had been eating away at her heart take hold again. She sighed to herself and slumped down on a bench. Zoisite sat down beside her and seemed grateful for the rest so that he might put the shopping bags down. For a moment they simply sat side by side, watching the pigeons pecking at breadcrumbs on the ground. Then Minako’s expression brightened as she remembered something. She opened up her handbag and took out a small neatly wrapped package and handed it to Zoisite.

“In exchange” she explained when he shot her a confused glance, “For the music box. I believe I am still in your debt.”

Zoisite chuckled softly, “It appears that we were thinking along the same lines” and he handed her a velvet jewellery box. “In exchange for the clothes.”

Just when you think you know a person…

Minako frowned, “I didn’t see you get this?”

“I would have thought you of all people would learn to watch me more closely.”

Minako giggled and opened the box. Inside was a small V shaped pendant on a silver chain. “I love it!” she couldn’t help but throw her arms around him, nearly knocking him off of the bench.

“I’m glad” Zoisite choked out and she released him and gestured to his present.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

Zoisite nodded and did so. Pulling the paper away, he found small teddy-bear plushie dressed in a Sailor V outfit.

“How appropriate”

“That’s what I thought” Minako replied shyly, “Do you like it?”

He only nodded and placed the gift in one of the shopping bags. Minako couldn’t help but show her disappointment of this and then chided her stupidity. What on Earth could she give him that would truly mean anything to him? He was a Tennou of the Dark Kingdom, no less. She sighed unhappily. Gifts meant nothing to the king and she should have known better.

“You are disappointed with today,” Zoisite said after a few moments of awkward silence between the pair.

“No” Minako started and then hung her head as his eyes gazed into her own, “Just a little” she allowed herself to admit, “It wasn’t how I imagined it. I thought you’d have fun.”

“Venus” he spoke carefully, as though choosing his words as to not hurt her feelings, and using her Senshi name so Minako’s disappointment deepened, “This is not an ordinary relationship. We both understand what is at stake. We cannot allow ourselves to become too attached to each other. I might not be around forever. Beryl has a hold on Endymion for now, but her hold on Jadeite strengthens each day. Nephrite is already gone.”

“Are you saying that she would… that she would do the same to you?”

Zoisite shrugged, “Perhaps” he said this lightly as though it was nothing important, but Minako’s heart clenched at this thought and she suddenly felt as though she was going to be sick.

“Why not leave the Dark Kingdom?” she settled on a tone that was supposedly one of indifference, but with enough curiosity that Zoisite might answer her.

“Beryl has proved that she has a hold over us still. I do not know the limits of this hold. To leave could be even more dangerous than to stay.”

“Are you saying I could be in danger if you left?” for a moment, Minako thought that he actually did care for her, but he ruined it by saying:

“The life of an individual is of no consequence. The fate of the world is what matters.”

His life… my life… Is this truly how he sees me?

“You said you loved me once before? Was that nothing but words?”

“I do not remember much of my past. We live for today.”

“Then why are we even together? If we are not even in love with each other?”

Zoisite stood, “I should go.”

“But you haven’t answered my question!”

He leant forwards and kissed her, very lightly on the lips before whispering in her ear, “Yes, I have.”

He teleported away leaving Minako sitting in the park alone. Her hand closed tightly around the pendant, even as tears threatened to overwhelm her once again. Minako took a breath; she was not one for allowing despair to overcome her so easily.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become too attached to each other. I might not be around forever. Beryl has a hold on Endymion for now, but her hold on Jadeite strengthens each day. Nephrite is already gone.”

“Are you saying that she would… that she would do the same to you?”

“Perhaps”

Was he protecting her? He said he was not, but if something happened… Minako bit her lip. If something happened… The nausea returned and Minako doubled over ever so slightly on the bench. The pendant was warm to her touch and suddenly felt as though it was on fire.

Fire…

“Minako!” she jumped, releasing the gift and standing as Artemis and Mars Reiko hurried towards her. Rei was already transformed and seemed to be looking to Minako do to the same thing. Thankfully, Zoisite had taken their shopping back with him, so Minako would not have to explain that (and she could only hope that it meant that he would come to see her again).

“Where have you been?” Rei snapped angrily, “Usagi-chan has disappeared. What kind of leader are you?”

“I had things to do. Unlike you, I’m popular and have to be places at certain times.”

“Really?” Rei raised an eyebrow, “Then why was Satchou going crazy looking for you?”

She lowered her head, “Did I say I was working?”

“No, but you implied it.”

Minako tossed a lock of hair over her shoulder, “I do not have to answer to you, especially if the Princess is in danger. Venus power… make up!”

Once transformed, Minako felt better about herself and more able to stand up to the scathing countenance of Mars Reiko.

“Let’s go,” she said coolly, “The Princess needs her guardians.”

Only Artemis’s saddened look as she turned away managed to ruin her confident attitude, well that and a certain white haired king.

****

When Zoisite materialised back in his chambers, he barely had time to hide the shopping bags in his bedroom before her heard footsteps outside his rooms. He quickly seated himself at the piano once more and struck a few notes to keep up the pretence as the door opened.

“You’ve been out” Kunzite observed as he entered the room, Jadeite not far behind him. Zoisite should have known that he could hide nothing from his superior king and chose not to answer him.

“Beryl forbids us to leave without her permission” Kunzite spoke again, coming to a stop before the piano, “Where have you been?”

“Why do you suddenly obey Beryl?” Zoisite answered the question with one of his own.

“I do not” Kunzite sniped somewhat angrily, “It would not be good to anger Beryl at this time, if you value your life that is.”

“You wish to erase the past. What does it matter to you if I’m dead? You will not tell her, will you Jadeite?” Zoisite had a slight concern with the blond king. Jadeite had told Beryl things before. Despite what Zoisite said to Kunzite, he was not interested in dying just yet; not until the mission was completed.

Jadeite thought this through for a moment, and then lowered his gaze to the ground as though reliving a terrible memory, “Beryl-sama… even to me she… no” he decided finally, “I will not tell.”

Zoisite, satisfied, moved to play the piano once more, but Kunzite slammed a hand down on the keys and demanded to know exactly where he had gone.

“That is of no concern to you.”

Kunzite smirked, “I would have thought that the Master’s safety came first, especially with you?”

“It does” Zoisite was uncertain by Kunzite’s interest. Could he know? Impossible. Zoisite was pretty sure that Kunzite was speaking like this in order to trap him into admitting more than he cared too.

“Where have you been?” he demanded again, this time accentuating the point by drawing his sword and pressing the tip lightly against Zoisite’s throat.

Zoisite did not flinch. Indeed, to do so would be a foolhardy move. “It does not concern you, Kunzite.”

“The kingdom is changing” Kunzite said, “I need to know who I can rely on. Which side are you on?”

“I serve the Master and no one else.”

“Then prove it, tell me where you went!”

“Kunzite!” a forth voice rang out across the room, “Stop this! Lower your sword.”

“Master?” Zoisite was relieved, just a little, as Mamoru entered the room, dressed as he had been the last time Zoisite had seen him. The king was glad that Mamoru appeared unharmed… but who knew how long this would last.

“Do you still fight among yourselves?” Mamoru declared sadly, “Why is this?”

Kunzite lowered his weapon and stalked away to the other side of the room, “I do not answer to you in this world.”

“Zoisite?”

Zoisite shrugged, he could not answer, and he would not answer unless Mamoru forced the issue. This was not in his nature and as Zoisite guessed, Mamoru did not press him for details and said instead:

“I’m glad that you are safe… all of you.”

His eyes saddened as he stared at them, knowing that there should be one more among them and that he was somehow responsible for this.

“Master” Zoisite spoke, “There is no need for you to stay here now. Escape now, do not worry yourself with us.”

“If I meant to leave you to your fate, I would not have obeyed Beryl from the start.”

Zoisite smiled, “Master” he nodded, Mamoru was the same as he had always been. Images of that day in the gardens flashed before his minds eye, as did Minako’s face. Zoisite bit his lip and turned away. It was all such a mess…

“I suppose you expect us to be grateful” Kunzite sneered, drawing Zoisite’s attentions away from his own problems.

“Kunzite” Zoisite could feel the tension suddenly leaking into the air. He stood, as though expecting a confrontation and this was exactly what Kunzite had in mind.

“I will not become in your debt” Kunzite continued, walking towards Mamoru, even as the Prince tried to explain that it had not been his intention and he just wanted them to be safe.

“I betrayed you?” he asked Kunzite uncertainly, “You said the planet was destroyed. What do you mean?”

“What of it?” Kunzite said uneasily, “What will you do once you know?”

“I don’t know” Mamoru admitted, “I might allow you to kill me or…”

“Is that how you wish this to be? Then die” he drew his sword and pointed it at the Prince’s throat.

“Stop it!” Zoisite stepped forward, “Kunzite, the Master gave up everything for us! He is the same as he was before.”

Kunzite hesitated slightly, as though reliving something else, something that Zoisite could not remember. He held the older king’s gaze uneasily, readying himself to come to Mamoru’s aid should the need arise.

Then he seemed to shake this off and declare again that he would kill everyone that was connected with the past.

With that he struck, lunging forwards, but Mamoru expected this and dodged the first blow. Kunzite whirled around and grabbed the Prince by the shirt, even as Zoisite raced forwards to pull the man away.

“Kunzite!” a new voice barked out. The king paused, as did Zoisite, and turned to focus his gaze on Kuroki Mio. Zoisite shuddered at the sight of Beryl’s shadow. She appeared to be a sweet and likeable school-girl/idol, but underneath that innocent façade was a snake. Her true self made Zoisite’s skin crawl. Mio’s gaze flickered to him for a brief second and the corner of her mouth turned up in a gleeful smile. Zoisite shivered slightly and took a step backwards as she reached out with a hand and pulled Kunzite away from Mamoru.

“I do not know what would happen to you, if you hurt Mamoru-kun” she threatened lightly. Kunzite lowered his sword. To look upon the beast was vile enough and Zoisite did not care to imagine what it would be like to be touched by her.

“Mamoru-kun” she turned to the Prince, her voice now taking on a sugary sweet tone, “Metallia is awaiting in her chambers. Let’s go.” She took a hold of Mamoru’s wrist but he pulled away and her countenance darkened, though she did not dare pursue her anger here.

Mamoru gaze them a sparing glance as he followed Mio from the room and for a second Zoisite debated killing Mio then and there. The Master would be free and Beryl’s shadow would be gone. Along with that came the realisation that Zoisite did not want to kill Mio for that reason. Endymion would be safe in the kingdom, perhaps even more so than himself. No, the reason was simpler than that. Kuroki Mio had been Aino Minako’s rival.

******

“I don’t understand!” Rei was frantic as she ran alongside Aino Minako, her eyes searching everywhere for Usagi. “Why is the Princess so different? She is not the same as she was in the past life!”

Rei felt as though her heart was on fire when Luna told her of Usagi’s disappearance. The lively and sometimes clumsy girl loved Mamoru so much and Rei had literally seen her heart be broken before her eyes when the man had chosen his guard over his love. No… chosen was a wrong word. Rei couldn’t blame him for his decision. The Shitennou meant as much to Mamoru as the rest of the Senshi did to her… even Venus.

“I think it was what happened to Endymion. The Princess, Sailor Moon and Usagi had merged into one; Princess Sailor Moon.” Venus replied, being unusually open regarding the past life. Rei could only suppose it had something to do with her illness. Minako would want Rei to know as much as possible before the time came…

But how can she say her life is meaningless? Surely she knows that there is more to her than being Sailor Venus?

“The Princess is too powerful,” Minako continued, “Without Mamoru-san to bring her back I dread to think what might happen… The past… it will repeat itself!”

“The past? You keep referring to it. What does it mean? What happened in the past?”

“The Prince and Princess’s love was forbidden. It started an uprising on the Earth. This brought about a war. The war ended the kingdoms on the Earth and Moon. Everyone blamed the Princess and Endymion.”

“What about the Shitennou?” Rei asked and Minako stumbled slightly for reasons that the black haired girl couldn’t fathom, “How do they and Beryl fit into this?”

“As you know, the Shitennou were Endymion’s guard back in the old kingdom. They were somehow turned against him by Beryl. Beryl, with Metallia’s powers, started the uprising on Earth.”

“So they are not truly evil?”

Minako nodded and Rei added:

“Then how can we fight them? They are precious to Mamoru-san. We cannot destroy them!”

“Baka!” Minako cried suddenly, “It was this attitude that led to the disaster before! It doesn’t matter who stands in the way. If saving the Earth requires a sacrifice then we must all be prepared to make one!”

“Is that why you are so keen to die?”

“The past must not be repeated! Do you understand me? I have seen what happened. I will do anything to protect this world.”

“Even at the cost of someone dear to you?”

This hit a nerve, though Rei did not know why and Minako refused to answer directly, instead repeating:

“The past must not be repeated.”

Rei lowered her gaze, not content with the answers that she was given, but she did not have the heart to push Minako either. There was an underlying meaning in her words and Rei suddenly felt an empathy with her. Artemis had said that Minako was with a boyfriend. Was she afraid that she might lose him, too?

Rei did not know, and now was not the time to think of such things. Usagi was what mattered. Venus could do what she liked… for now.

 

contince on to chapter 4!