Minako continued to run, her heart pounding loudly in her chest as she mulled over her words to Rei and the coldness of her decision. It was true. If a sacrifice was to be made, Minako knew it would be her own life. That was no matter or so she tried telling herself. She had always been so lonely. She had many friends, but they never truly saw the real Aino Minako. They only saw her as the singer, the artist and not as a human being. When Minako found out about her illness, it was a relief. She had been in the world a short time and already she had, had enough. She had no want to live and now… she wanted to fight her illness. It would mean giving up her Senshi self and the mission, which was something Minako knew she could never do. Rei could not be trusted. Like the other Senshi, Sailor Mars followed her heart. She would let her feelings for Usagi cloud her judgement. Minako did not have a choice. She was trapped. There was no other way.
“Wait!” they had just joined up with the other Senshi now but Rei had dropped to her knees.
“I sense something!”
“Youma!” Sailor Luna cried and pointed to the black-cloaked creatures that they had fought before.
“Let’s go!” Minako cried as she cartwheeled towards them, the other Senshi following suit. At last, a battle, she thought in relief. Anything to take her mind off of the indecision that was eating away at her soul.
“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 stared down at the tiny plushie in his hand. He knew he had disappointed Minako today, even if she had denied it and, if the truth were known, Zoisite was disappointed with himself. Every conversation, every moment of happiness between them had managed to come back round to the mission in some way or another. They had nothing in common apart from the past and the past was destined to repeat itself. Zoisite knew that he should just end it now, before Minako got hurt. He was not lying when he said that he was going to die. He was sure of this. He was trapped, whether he wanted to admit it or not. Zoisite could only serve Endymion. He knew nothing else and Beryl as the alternative was terrifying.
Zoisite did not mind dying defending the Master. No, this was not what scared him. He only feared for what would happen when he was gone. Jadeite could not be trusted and Kunzite was interested in nothing but revenge. Zoisite was the only one who would protect Endymion, and the one who would pay the price for it.
“What are you looking at?” Zoisite looked up, slightly startled as Jadeite entered the room, closely followed by Kunzite. Both appeared agitated, and who could blame them? Zoisite felt just the same, but he managed to keep his emotions guarded. He quickly made the plushie disappear in a glimmer of purple light as Jadeite took a wary step towards him.
“Nothing” Zoisite replied, “What do you want?”
His tone startled both men, Kunzite tilting his head on one side to frown at the white haired king, whilst Jadeite was taken aback, but it did not stop him from suddenly blurting out.
“I’m going to Queen Beryl.”
At these words, Zoisite bolted up from the piano, Minako once again taking second favour compared to the safety of his Master.
“You do not remember the Master!” he protested, forcing Jadeite to halt even as the blonde shouted in frustration that he did not know which to follow.
“Well then” Kunzite said casually as he walked towards the door, “I will have to take away the source of your confusion.”
Zoisite raced from the room after the black haired king. His only thoughts now were saving the Master.
His footsteps echoed loudly as he raced down the corridor, the one that he dearly hoped that Kunzite had taken. Kunzite would kill the Master, this Zoisite did not doubt and he knew that he did not have a chance of defeating the strongest of the four.
The clashing of swords indicated that Zoisite was indeed running the right direction and in an instant he realised where he was headed; Metallia’s chambers.
“Kunzite! Stop it!” Zoisite’s worst fears were confirmed when he saw his Master, already transformed into his past self, and Kunzite facing off.
Zoisite drew his own blade and readied himself to step between the two men, when Endymion’s voice halted him.
“Zoisite, do not interfere!”
Taken aback, the white haired king paused, “Master?” he asked questioningly as their blades clashed again. Their eyes met and Zoisite understood why Endymion had to do this, though he did not like it.
Zoisite could only watch helplessly as they fought, Kunzite clearly having the upper hand for most of the battle. At one point the young Prince was thrown to the ground and Zoisite again readied himself to intervene.
“Do not interfere!” Mamoru warned again as he managed to roll to the side, snatching up his blade and defending the latest onslaught of attack from the first king. Then it was over. Kunzite raised his sword for the final blow, but Mamoru was quicker. He lashed out with his own weapon and it tore into Kunzite’s arm, causing the man to stumble back slightly in shock. Taking advantage of this, Mamoru struck a final time, knocking Kunzite’s sword from his hand and then pressing his own against the stunned man’s throat.
“You see” Mamoru said, his breath was uneven and his sword hand shook dangerously as he struggled to compose himself. “You thought that it was going to be the same as it was in the past. You see the past as nothing, but a burden and something to be hated and feared. I think we should learn from the mistakes of the past so that we do not repeat them. Don’t you agree?”
With this Mamoru sheathed his sword and once again de-transformed back into his present self.
Kunzite snarled angrily under his breath and, with a flourish of his cape, turned to leave.
“Remember our bargain!” the young Prince called after him.
Kunzite nodded, “I will help you… but only for now.” He warned before leaving the room.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Zoisite said as Mamoru regained his composure and his breath, “We will follow you willingly, even Kunzite.”
“I know” Mamoru admitted, “But what kind of Master would I be if I forced him to cooperate? I would be just like Beryl.”
Zoisite smiled slightly, Mamoru’s words made a lot of sense, but it did nothing to comfort him and his own feelings. The Prince must have picked up on his discord as he enquired to know if there was anything the matter.
Zoisite debated a reply and in the end settled on one that seemed a mixture of curiosity and indifference.
“When you were with the Princess, did you talk about the mission?”
Mamoru frowned, obviously wondering where this had come from, “No. When I talk to her, I talk to her as Tsukino Usagi for that is who she is in the present. The past has nothing to do with it. We are together to prove that the past will no longer repeat itself.”
“But what else is there for you?”
“She is the girl I loved in the past, but she is now more than that. She is…” Mamoru broke off, his gaze now darkening with suspicion, “Why all the questions?”
“I just want to know where we stand.”
“You’re lying. I can tell something is bothering you. You’ve changed since Nephrite died. You used to be so open and now…”
Zoisite shook his head, suddenly wary about how much he divulged to the Prince. “The kingdom is changing.”
“Did you know that Beryl could still control you?”
“I had suspected. I wanted to be proved wrong.”
Mamoru smiled slightly, though his expression seemed sad at the same time, “Will you ever be free?”
Zoisite did not know. His freedom had not been important. Serving the Master was what mattered and he voiced this to Mamoru.
“Is there nothing else for you? Do you have nothing apart from the past life?”
“I am not like you, Master. When we die… we will always be reborn to serve Beryl. It is our punishment.”
Zoisite looked away, unable and unwilling to divulge Kunzite’s secret. Despite their differences, it was not his place to tell. Mamoru seemed to accept this and allowed Zoisite a sad smile.
“You say that the past will always repeat. You are wrong. We make our own decisions in this life, Zoisite.”
“But your decisions are linked to the Princess. You will always repeat the past.”
“And you too by serving me. Let go of the past. Unless you are afraid” Mamoru turned, and then glanced back at Zoisite once more before leaving, “I won’t hold it against you.”
Zoisite let him go, silently thinking about his Prince’s words. They made some sort of sense, but Zoisite was one of the Endymion’s guardians and he would always be so.
When I talk to her, I talk to her as Tsukino Usagi for that is who she is in the present.
The white haired king smiled, suddenly realising what he must do.
“Don’t come any closer!”
Minako sighed to herself. All night that scene had replayed over and over in her mind. Sailor Moon… the Princess… and how helpless Minako had felt when she simply teleported off of the roof, the sad sound of the Princess harp still echoing in the night air.
They had left after that. Minako had just wanted to go back to her hotel. Even Mars was too disheartened to question her. The Princess was one enemy that the Senshi could never defeat. She was one of them… Sailor Moon would one-day hold the fate of the Earth in her hands and Minako dreaded to think which way it would turn.
“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?”
She would be lying if she said that Usagi was the only reason for her restless night. There were two other factors that contributed to this. One was the nearly always constant pounding in her head. The doctors had said a few more months. Just how many more?
The other was Zoisite. That day they had spent together was the biggest disappointment of Minako’s life and yet she wanted to see him again. Her heart ached when he wasn’t near her. Biting her lip, Minako decided to get up. Artemis was still sound asleep as she pulled on a pair of jeans and a white jumper. These clothes were not usually things that Aino Minako would be seen dead in, but she felt like relaxing in her room today. Satchou could cancel all her appointments. Bitter and saddened by the latest turn of events, all Minako wanted to do was sleep.
Then there was a knock on the door.
At first she ignored it, but whoever it was wouldn’t let up. Sighing, Minako hurried to open it.
“Zoisite?” she gasped softly when she saw him standing before her, his glamour spell once again in place.
He smiled gently, though his brown eyes appeared as overcast and sad as her own, “Minako-chan” he presented her with a single white rose, “An apology for yesterday” Zoisite added as she beckoned him inside. Unfortunately, Artemis was now awake, though he knew better than to say anything in front of someone who appeared to be a normal human.
“Thank you” Minako said shyly, as Zoisite cast a wary glance at the plushie. “But there was no need. This is a difficult situation. If anything I should apologise to you.”
Zoisite frowned, “Why?”
“I expected too much, that was obvious.”
“You have many dreams,” he said simply, “Despite what you may think.”
To Minako, that sentence was beautiful and it brought tears to her eyes. He had summed her up perfectly. She did have so many things she wanted to do. She wanted real friends, she wanted to go to college and marry. She wanted to have her own home… she drew a harsh breath and most of all she wanted Zoisite alongside her. It had just taken her so long to realise this and now it was too late…
“I was about to have breakfast” she managed to choke out, turning away so that Zoisite could not see just how much his words had effected her. “Could you meet me down there? I just need to get ready.”
“You look ready to me.”
Minako managed a small laugh, “I can’t go out in this! What would the fans think?”
Zoisite did not know what to make of this and left, agreeing that he would meet her in the lobby. Now, alone, Minako hurried over to her wardrobe and selected a pleated skirt and a black halter-neck top to wear instead.
“Minako-chan?” as she hurried into the bathroom to get changed, Artemis’s plaintive voice stopped her. The plushie looked so saddened. “W-who was that?” he asked softly.
Minako couldn’t lie to him, but the truth would be so much harder. “He’s my boyfriend.” She allowed finally, “His name’s Komoro Seiichi.”
“I didn’t know.”
“I only met him a while ago” she replied, hating every minute of this conversation.
“I see…” Artemis jumped down off of the bed.
“Artemis” Minako called as he moved towards the open door, but she trailed off when she found that she no longer had the words.
“I’m sorry…” she whispered to herself. For a moment Minako could only stare at the space where the plushie had been. She had suspected that Artemis’s feelings for her went deeper than simple friendship, but he was a toy. How could he possibly expect her to return his feelings?
Sighing to herself, Minako realised that she couldn’t keep Zoisite waiting. He had seemed so serious this morning which couldn’t be good, she decided.
Minako dismissed all thoughts of her friend and hurried into the bathroom. What did Artemis expect from her anyway? She only had a few months left! Wasn’t she entitled to have some fun whilst she still could?
Pulling on the clothes she hurried down to the aforementioned lobby and found Zoisite standing near the reception desk swamped by reporters who wanted to interview Aino Minako’s new boyfriend. Minako had to laugh when she saw the adorably terrified look on Zoisite’s face. Here he was, one of the Dark Kingdom Shitennou no less and he was afraid of a few reporters! Pushing through the crowds, Minako reached him and pushed the microphones aside and grabbed his hand. She winced at the flashing of cameras, but somehow managed to pull Zoisite away from the anxious reporters and they hurried inside the hotel restaurant.
Minako guided him to a table near the back of the room and slumped down in a chair, sighing in relief. The media circus was still outside, but luckily Satchou was there to deal with things and they were granted a little privacy.
“Did your cat suspect anything?” Zoisite asked after an awkward silence between them. Minako frowned slightly at the disdain in his voice at the mention of Artemis and, what she hoped, was jealously.
“He didn’t” Minako replied, giggling at the wary glance he gave the reporters before continuing.
“We need to talk, Venus.”
Not this again. Why can’t he let go of the past life?
“We are the same,” Zoisite said, as though guessing her thoughts, “The past life will always be a part of us, but I think you already know this. But there is also, for you at least, this life. You are Venus, but you are also Aino Minako.”
Minako was stunned and for a moment she could say nothing, tears almost blurring her vision at the hidden sadness behind his words “What about you? You were reborn.”
“This” Zoisite gestured to his current form, “This is nothing. You heard what Beryl said. We were resurrected by her to serve her. Despite my loyalty to the Master, there is a part of me that still belongs to the Dark Kingdom. Had Metallia’s seal not been broken then we would never have been reborn.”
“That can’t be. What of Endymion? If we were reborn to protect the Princess then--”
“Had the seal not been broken there would have been no need for your Senshi selves to awaken. We are the villains, Venus. There will never be another life for us. No matter how many times we are reborn, we will always fight for Beryl.”
“Is this why you came back? To tell me all this! To turn me against you?”
“No. I wanted you to understand and now you do.”
“And I wish I didn’t” Minako turned away, hiding her face so that he would not see just how much his cold words disturbed her. “If the past life is all we have left then… there is nothing for us in the present is there?”
“As I said, you are Aino Minako in this world. You tried to talk to me as Venus, even in this form. The Master said that when he talks to the Princess he talks to her as Tsukino Usagi. He loves the girl that was reborn, not the Princess that she had been.”
Minako slowly raised her head, “What are you saying?”
“You live now as Aino Minako so show me Aino Minako’s life and not the past that had once been. Show me who you are in this world.”
“I don’t like it” Beryl confided to her shadow as Kuroki Mio knelt down before her, “I don’t like this at all.”
Twice Beryl had summoned the remaining Tennou before her and none had appeared. Of course, she hadn’t expected Zoisite or Kunzite to heed her summons, but Jadeite at least… The blonde remained in Zoisite’s rooms, obviously shaken by Beryl’s actions from before. The Queen briefly wondered if she had lost him. This disturbed her to think of it, but it was no matter. Jadeite would always serve her. His loyalty to Endymion had not been as strong, him being the youngest of the four. Kunzite hated the Master and Zoisite… Zoisite was a problem and Beryl had considered killing him that day. But no, Zoisite was Endymion’s weakness. The only one of the Shitennou who truly wanted to serve the Master. Zoisite was still needed to keep her hold over Endymion and, Beryl knew, the white haired king had a bigger part to play.
Queen Metallia was getting stronger. Even in the safety of her throne room, Beryl could sense her powers. If the truth were known, they frightened her somewhat. Because of the Princess the power was getting out of control. She had Endymion… but at what price?
Beryl frowned. Secrets were ripe, even in her own kingdom. She did not like this. The remaining Shitennou thought that they could do what they wanted. It was time that they learnt what defying her really meant.
For the first time, Beryl questioned her decision to do away with the third king. Nephrite hadn’t been the most competent of her kings, but he had been loyal and Beryl needed that loyalty now. A feral smile spread across her lips as she recalled time after time that he would kneel pathetically before her, claiming that she could trust him. Trust had to be earned, Beryl knew and Nephrite had never earned that trust. She had made the only decision that she could have done. They others were too valuable and useful to kill. Still… Nephrite was not dead and could become a useful tool again. It was simply a matter of waiting and Beryl had, had a thousand years practice. She would bide her time for now. A new opportunity would present itself sooner or later.
That moment was constantly replaying in his tortured mind. Over and over he would relive the memory of his Queen’s betrayal. He would lie awake at night and constantly see her vicious smile of triumph as he fell to the ground. That cruel gaze in her eyes as she glared upon the Moon Princess… All he had ever been was loyal and she had thrown him away, cast him aside like he was nothing, and for what? For a man who was revolted by her very presence?
Nephrite didn’t understand. He didn’t understand why he had been punished in this way. He would have rather that he had died than live his life as a human being. This human body was so weak, so vulnerable and he hated it.
When he had first woke, all Nephrite could think about was revenge. The burning desire to destroy the woman who had cost him every thing ate away at his soul until there was nothing left. Such were his feelings at the present time. He wandered the streets of Tokyo during the day. Being unable to do anything, to feel anything but anger and hurt.
So lost in his own thoughts was he, that Nephrite failed to see the human packing all kinds of curious items into the trunk of his car. Indeed, Nephrite was only vaguely aware of a crash and a yell from the man as he knocked into him.
“H-h-hey, you? What did you do that for?” the man called.
Nephrite turned and, disdainfully, replied, “I don’t know” before attempting to walk away, but the strange man followed him.
“Hey! You knock into me and say that? That is too much!” then, in a defeated tone, he added, “This is going to come out of my pay.”
Pay? Nephrite wondered idly, only loosely familiar with that phrase.
His musings, however, turned to anger when the human grabbed his arm and continued:
“Hey! Help me out! Pick something up!”
“Why should it be necessary for me to do that?” Nephrite demanded, not believing the nerve of this man. He was one of the four Tennou of the Da--- he paused, lowering his gaze sadly. Was he? He had no power in this form… he was nothing…
“You knocked it over, didn’t you?” the man insisted, continuing this strange exchange between the two of them and then adding, “Hurry, hurry!”
Nephrite could feel the internal rage building again. Beryl had often told him how much she loved his anger… his anger made the Dark Kingdom proud, she often had said. She had praised them and then cast them aside… Nephrite’s fists clenched in lambent fury as he hissed through gritted teeth, “Why you…” this being directed at his Queen, though the funny human before him took it completely the wrong way.
“Not ‘why you!’ Here, hold this” the man placed a bottle in Nephrite’s now outstretched hand.
He stared incredulously at the item for a few seconds, not believing the nerve of this animal! Furiously, Nephrite slammed the bottle down and smirked at the smash it made when it hit the concrete.
“Hey you! What are you doing?” another voice rang out and Nephrite turned in time to see a security guard racing over to them. This being actually had the audacity to grab his arm. Nephrite hurled the man to the ground, shouting at him to leave him alone.
“You dirty human!” he snarled. He could literally feel the disgust creeping across his skin and Nephrite shivered, even as the funny human reached out to try and calm him.
He, too, was thrown to the ground and Nephrite smiled in curious satisfaction. He turned, again with the intension of walking away, ignoring the man’s angered shouts when…
You being alone like this… I don’t like it…
He bit his lip in dismay at the memory. Dark Mercury… she had shown him kindness after Beryl had humiliated him in front of Kunzite and Jadeite. Nephrite’s sorrow deepened and he felt immense despair eating away at his soul once more.
He had nothing… she had taken away everything he knew… he was nothing…
“Hey you!” the strange human had once more got to his feet and was at Nephrite’s side in seconds. “You have to pay me for those things you broke!” he declared angrily, and Nephrite had to admire the foolish courage of the man.
Still, he shook off the hand on his arm, but offered no further objections when the man ushered him to the car and bade him to get inside.
“My name’s Motoki” he introduced himself, somewhat gleefully, “What’s yours?”
“Neph---” ‘Motoki’ pulled a face and started the car engine, “What a funny name” he declared.
Nephrite sighed. His life couldn’t possibly get much worse than this…
“So this is your world?” Zoisite commented softly as Minako led the way through a crowd of excited fans, every so often signing an autograph book that was thrust her way. She nodded enthusiastically as she smiled upon her boyfriend in his civilian form. Today had been a much better day than their first ‘date’.
Firstly they had visited her recording studio where Minako had performed her new song ‘I’m here’ for her third album. Zoisite had seemed especially interested in the different instruments used and Minako had tried to convince Satchou that they might want to put a ‘piano version’ of ‘I’m here’ on the album, too, with Zoisite playing the instrument, of course. Satchou admitted that he would think about it and Minako was confident that she could win him over. She was not so convinced about Zoisite.
Secondly, she had a radio appearance scheduled just before lunch, but had decided that it would be too risky to allow Zoisite to sit in with her as the DJ would naturally ask questions about her new boyfriend, Komoro Seiichi, and Minako didn’t feel ready to lie her way through the interview. Of course, ‘Seiichi’ had been a topic in the interview, but Minako had glossed over the truth by explaining that he was a friend. If this hurt Zoisite he kept it hidden well.
Now, as they left the radio tower, Minako thought it would be a good idea to greet some of the fans and persuaded Zoisite to come with her. Not liking all the noise and attention, she felt him brush against her a few times and she could feel him mentally urging her to hurry up and thus looked rather nonplussed when a little girl with pigtails thrust her notebook under his nose.
“Minako-chan” he tried to hand the book over to her, but the little girl wouldn’t let go. Minako noted that she had signed that exact book earlier.
“What is it?” Minako asked her.
The girl smiled shyly, “I just wanted Aino Minako’s boyfriend’s signature, too.”
“Do you mind?” Minako asked softly, a part of her was worried that he would refuse and a bigger part of her was worried about the repercussions if he did so.
Her fears were in vain.
Zoisite smiled slightly and took the pen that was offered and wrote ‘Komoro Seiichi’ next to Minako’s name. The signature wasn’t the neatest Minako had seen and she supposed that he had made it up on the spot, but the girl seemed happy enough and melted back into the crowds.
Now, finally, they had reached the waiting limousine. She smiled when Zoisite hurriedly got in; seemingly glad to have escaped the fans. Minako got in beside him and struggled to ignore the ever so familiar pounding in her head and, for a brief moment, her vision swirled before her eyes. Placing a hand to her forehead, Minako leant slightly against him and this caused Zoisite to enquire if she was okay. Minako nodded and made the pretence of snuggling into his arms; “A little tired” she yawned to accentuate this and smiled when she felt Zoisite tentatively place an arm around her.
They stayed that way until they reached the hotel. Back in the safety of the room, Minako was able to take a morphine tablet, managing to swallow it before Zoisite even noticed as he was too busy looking round the room, almost warily, for Artemis. The cat was not present and Minako supposed that he was still hurting. A wave of sorrow washed over her and tears almost sprang into her eyes. She didn’t want to hurt him… Artemis was her friend and confidant…
Satisfied that they were alone, Zoisite sat down on the sofa and was content with the silence until Minako broke it by saying:
“So. You’ve seen how I live my life. Did you like it?”
Zoisite nodded, “You have helped me see… that there is more to you than Sailor Venus.”
Minako nodded and, somewhat pensively, sat down beside him, “I have. Now it is your turn. Show me how you live your life.”
“Show me the Dark Kingdom.”
contince on to chapter 5!