"Haruka-san! Michiru-san! Good morning!" Usagi yelled from her
booth in the Crown Fruit Parlor.
"It's good to see you, my kitten," Haruka said, smiling. She patted Usagi on her odango.
Michiru looked around. "Where are the other girls? We rarely see you alone here."
"They went to Mako-chan's apartment to eat cake."
"And you're not there? Are you sick, Odango?"
"No, I'm going to the park with Mamo-chan later, so...nani yo?! You're sneaky, Haruka-san!"
Haruka laughed. "I'm sorry, Odango. Can we join you?"
Usagi nodded happily. "Of course. I'd love the company!"
Haruka, Michiru and Usagi sat in relative silence for a while--Usagi loudly slurped her soda while the other two carefully sipped their tea. Michiru giggled behind the rim of her cup.
"What's so funny, Michiru-san?" Usagi asked, and then returned to blowing bubbles in her glass.
"Oh, nothing really...I'm just happy to see you well, Usagi."
Usagi smiled at her. "Yeah. The Sailor Wars are finally over. Now we can go back to enjoying our lives."
"Yes, I hope so." Michiru put down her cup and looked at Usagi seriously. "Usagi, is Mamoru-san going to leave again for America?"
"No. Mamo-chan said it's okay because he can go there next year. He said he wants to stay with me after all that's happened."
"You must be happy. You really missed him, didn't you?"
Usagi frowned a little and stared into her glass, toying with the straw. "Well, Michiru-san...I get the feeling that he's afraid something will happen while he's away." Her frown deepened. "I don't want him to stay in Japan forever just because of me."
Haruka, who had been entirely silent until then, put her cup down and took Usagi's hand. She patted it affectionately. "Well, my little kitten, you tell Mamoru-san not to worry. We will protect you if anything happens. Right, Michiru?"
Michiru put her hand on top of Haruka's, and squeezed hers and Usagi's hands in her own. "That's right," she said. "You can depend on us, Usagi."
Usagi's frown disappeared, and she smiled happily at them. "Thanks, Michiru-san, Haruka-san," she said. "I'm so lucky to have friends like you."
"You certainly are, Usa-ko."
Michiru turned around in her seat. "Good morning, Mamoru-san."
Usagi leapt out of the booth. "MAMO-CHAN!" She flung her arms around his waist. "I'm so happy to see you!"
"Well, I'm happy to see you, too," Mamoru said. "Are you ready to go to the park?"
Usagi nodded, then turned to Haruka and Michiru. "I'm glad we got to talk," she said. "Will I see you soon?"
"Whenever you like," Michiru said.
"Okay, good," Usagi replied. "See you!"
Once they saw Usagi's long blonde pigtails disappear through the doorway, Haruka turned to Michiru. "Did she seem okay to you, Michiru?" she asked, frowning.
"Yes, she's fine. I just think she really wants things to return to normal," Michiru said. "If Mamoru-san is being protective, she probably feels uncomfortable, as if the war is continuing. And she doesn't like being protected, I think." She clutched Haruka's hand again. "Just give her time, Haruka. She's okay."
Haruka laughed. "Always the voice of reason, aren't you?"
"That's why you need me," Michiru said, and smiled.
Later, at home, Michiru sat in the garden, painting a portrait of Haruka
surrounded by vivid red roses. Haruka impatiently sat still in front of the rose bushes.
She fidgeted with her hands, picking at her nails.
"Michiru, are you going to take much longer? You paint so slowly," Haruka said.
"Do you want me to sacrifice my art because you can't sit still?" Michiru said.
"Well, can your art wait until after dinner?"
She smiled warmly. "Just give me a few more minutes, Haruka."
Hotaru bounced up to them from the house, her jet-black hair springing up and down. "Haruka-papa! Michiru-mama! Guess what I did today!"
Haruka hefted Hotaru up and set her in her lap. "What did you do? Tell me," she said.
"Setsuna-mama and I went shopping and I got this pretty crystal pendant." As she held it up for Haruka and Michiru to see, the heart-shaped crystal caught the red light of the setting sun. "I got one for ChibiUsa-chan too, as a present for the next time she visits."
"I'm sure she'll love it, Hotaru," Haruka said.
"Now that's a beautiful sight," Michiru said. She removed the unfinished portrait from the easel, and set up a fresh canvas. She began to sketch Haruka and Hotaru, who was still holding up her necklace. "This will be a wonderful painting," Michiru said happily.
"Michiru-mama, what are you doing?" Hotaru asked, cocking her head to one side, as Michiru sketched rapidly.
Haruka sighed. "See what you've done, Hotaru?"
"Now we both have to sit still."
Michiru laughed. "Don't worry, I'll work off the sketch. Let's go inside."
Haruka picked up Michiru's easel and canvas. "I'm sure it will be a great painting, Michiru."
"Only because it will have wonderful people in it," Michiru said. "When I paint, I only draw from the warmth of the subjects."
"Really? You think I'm warm?"
"I know so. You have a warm touch."
"I'm blushing, Michiru."
The sea was calm and dark under the nighttime sky, and covered in a deep gray
mist. Sailor Neptune stood alone atop the ocean, her shoe tips brushing the water's
"Uranus? Where are you?" she cried.
A tall figure with honey-blonde hair emerged from the fog. "I'm right here, Neptune. What's the matter?"
"Oh, Uranus. For a moment, I felt that something terrible had happened to you."
The mist began to thicken and swirl. Underneath the blanket of fog, Neptune felt the sea churning wildly, but with the mist as a cover, the ocean still looked completely calm.
Slowly, a shadowy body rose up out of the mist. It swirled around him, clinging to his cloak, as if on command. He spoke.
"Your intuition is off, Princess of Neptune," he said, in a deep, mysterious voice. "Nothing has happened to her...yet."
"Who are you?" Neptune demanded. "What do you want from us?"
"You don't remember me?" the figure asked. "Really, I'm insulted."
The mist thickened and swirled even more as he spoke to her.
Neptune narrowed her eyes. "If you won't tell me who you are, then I'll have to see for myself."
She closed her eyes and stretched out her arms in front of her. The Deep Aqua Mirror slowly materialized in her open hands.
"Oh Deep Aqua Mirror, symbol of my pure heart! Show me the evil intentions of this creature!" she yelled, and the mirror shot a blazing white light at the man.
The mirror's face remained blank.
"What? Nothing? How could it be blank like this?"
"Ignorant Princess," the man said, laughing triumphantly. "It won't work on me! I am the very essence of the sea's mist! Even the seer of all things, the Deep Aqua Mirror, can't penetrate my fog!"
The man then turned to Uranus.
Uranus shot the figure a menacing look. "I don't know who you are, but I know I can get past your defenses." She unsheathed her Space Sword in a brilliant flash of light and charged.
"Space Sword BLASTER!"
The misty figure disappeared with a mighty swipe of Uranus' sword.
"There. That's the end of him," Uranus said with a grin.
"Did you really think you could get me so easily? What a fool you are."
The figure re-emerged from the fog about twenty yards away.
Uranus kneeled in the fog, and glared at the man. "Who are you?"
Through the mist, the figure's eyes glowed a bright sea green. "I am your worst enemy, Sky Princess," he said.
He then raised a mist-cloaked arm above his head. "Element at my command, mist of the sea, I command you! Destroy her." And he vanished into the night.
At the command, the mist grew to immense proportions and began to swallow Uranus. Neptune, who was unaffected by the fog, ran to her side.
"Uranus! I'll pull you out!" she cried, pulling on Uranus' arm.
"Michiru," Uranus said, as her body faded into the haze, "it's no use. Please beware of that demon. He is after you..." She trembled. "This mist is...cold...evil..."
"Haruka, please...don't give up..."
"Michiru...don't...worry...about me...I'm warm...right?" And her fingertips disappeared into the fog.
Tears welled up in Neptune's eyes.
She stared angrily into the fog. "Why me?!" she screamed. "Why Haruka?!" She looked into her mirror, still blank and dull.
She screamed into the mirror...
~***~"WHO ARE YOU?!!!"