Bittersweet
Part Two: Sibling Rivalry--It's Such a Pain 

@}~~}~~~~

Having sent his two remaining servants to their missions, Rubeus remained 
alone in his spaceship to ponder his mission.  Twice now the Sailor Scouts 
had interfered with the plot to capture Small Lady--and twice two warriors 
had aided them.  These two warriors troubled Rubeus deeply.  To the best 
of his knowledge, there were no warriors in the future to correspond with 
these two strangers.  /Where did they come from?/ he wondered.  

The truly puzzling aspect to this mystery was the aura of the Negaverse 
that clung to them.  They didn't have the feel of Negaverse creatures, but 
seemed to have once been a part of the Negaverse, perhaps...

Rubeus shook his head to clear it.  He hated puzzles.
       
"Rubeus."

Startled, Rubeus turned.  "Oh, Wise Man, it's you."

The shrouded figure hovering in the center of the chamber caressed its 
crystal ball.  "Yes, Rubeus, it is I.  Prince Diamond is not pleased with 
you, Rubeus."

Rubeus hid his unease well.  "There have been unexpected difficulties.  
The Sailor Scouts of the twentieth century are more powerful than I 
expected, and they have allies..."

"Allies?"

"Two warriors who carry the aspect of the Negaverse with them, but are not 
of the Negaverse itself.  Like Tuxedo Mask, they come to the aid of the 
Scouts in battle.  I don't know who they are, but they are beginning to 
annoy me." Rubeus grinned devilishly.  "However, I have dispatched Avery 
and Prizma to new missions.  Avery is to find and contaminate the sites 
that will be the Crystal Points of the future while Prizma captures Small 
Lady and the Silver Imperium Crystal.  The Scouts cannot be in two places 
at once, so even if one fails, the other will not, and we still win."

"You have planned well, Rubeus," Wiseman observed.  "Perhaps these two 
will not fail."

~*~

"Chibi Usa, why did you run away?" Usagi asked, more harshly than she had 
really meant to.

"Why should you care?  You're too wrapped up in your boyfriend to pay any 
attention to anyone but yourself," Chibi Usa retorted.  "Go away, Usagi, I 
don't want to talk to you anymore."

Stung, Usagi did as ordered, wishing that Chibi Usa wasn't so annoying.  

~*~

"Hello?  Makoto, come back to Earth!" Minako begged, sitting on the corner 
of Makoto's bed as she and Rei tried to wipe the goofy grin off their 
friend's face.  "Makoto, please, pay attention to what we're saying."

Makoto's eyes lost their far-off, dreamy look as she retreated from 
whatever wonderland she had been visiting.  "All right, if you insist.  
What do you want?"

"We've been trying to talk some sense into you, Makoto!" Rei erupted.  
"What were you thinking, to kiss Kunzite like that?"

Makoto shrugged gingerly.  "He needed to be kissed," she said simply.

Rei slapped her forehead.  "Makoto, he's from the Negaverse!  Don't you       
remember how many times he's tried to kill us?"

"Jadeite's from the Negaverse, too--Both he and Kunzite are helping us       
with these weird Dark Moon sisters," Makoto pointed out.
        
"How do we know they aren't spies who are just waiting for the right 
moment to pounce on us all?" Rei demanded.

Makoto shook her head.  "Really, Rei, you're too paranoid for your own 
good.  You should lighten up a little bit." She grinned.  "You need to 
live a little... I think you definitely need a boyfriend or something."

The smoke could almost be seen boiling out of Rei's ears.  "Kunzite had a 
boyfriend, too, or have you forgotten?" she hissed, referring to what 
Mamoru had shared with Usagi (who had then shared it with all her friends) 
about his time as Prince Endymion.

Makoto blinked, but her sunny smile didn't fade at all.  "And your point 
is, Rei?"

"I give up!" Rei exploded, standing.  "Go ahead, make a fool of yourself, 
Makoto, I don't care any more." She stormed out of the room; the front 
door could be heard to slam.

Minako sighed.  "Makoto, we're just worried about you.  We don't want to 
see you get hurt, and I'm afraid that Kunzite is just too much of a 
mystery to us... We just can't trust him yet, and you shouldn't, either.  
I think you need to forget anything happened."

Makoto took a deep breath.  "Do you really think so, Minako?"

Minako nodded solemnly.  "It's for your own good."

"All right..." Makoto sighed, mentally crossing her fingers.

~*~

Avery studied the image of the small temple.  It seemed like such an 
innocent place--Probably the reason it was going to become a Crystal 
Point, she decided.  It shouldn't be too hard to take it over with 
Nega-energy, she mused...

~*~

Jadeite, greatly disturbed in spirit, retreated to his apartment after a 
tumultuous day.  Not only had Greg disrupted his interlude with Ami (a 
matter of extreme personal regret on his part) in more ways than one 
(although he supposed that she was in no way obligated to inform him of 
all her relationships), there had been another battle with the Negaverse 
to deal with, and then...

His mind skittered away from the thought of Kunzite and--No, he wasn't   
going to thing about how wrong that had been.  It simply wasn't natural to 
think of Kunzite with anyone but Zoisite, and especially not Kunzite 
kissing a girl... 

There was the bad thought again.  It just kept creeping in, and there was 
nothing he could do to stop it.  Poor Makoto.  She probably had no clue to 
the exact nature and extent of Kunzite's individuality.  Jadeite sighed.  
Poor Kunzite.  The look of absolute stricken horror on his face was clear 
proof that it hadn't been a premeditated thing for him.  Idly, Jadeite 
wondered if the thought of kissing a woman instead of a man bothered 
Kunzite as much as the thought of kissing another man bothered him.  

He sighed heavily, his thoughts taking a morose turn.  The image of a pair 
of blue eyes in a pert, smiling face floated tantalizingly before him, 
only to be replaced by the unfriendly scowl of a jealous boyfriend.  Just 
who was this Greg person, anyway?  Was he really Ami's boyfriend, or was 
that just wishful thinking on Greg's part?  Ami had certainly seemed 
pleased to see him, but had only introduced him as a friend.  Of course, 
she had only introduced Jadeite as a friend, too...  /That's probably all 
she sees me as,/ he thought gloomily.  /A friend... and a responsibility, 
to make sure that I don't turn on them all.../ He frowned, an unpleasant 
truth dawning on him.  How could he have thought that Ami might have ever 
seen him as more than a former slave of the Negaverse who could never be 
fully trusted?

/At least Greg is fully human... Ami deserves someone who hasn't been 
contaminated by evil.../

~*~

"Hey, Meatball-head, what's wrong?" Mamoru asked, finding his girlfriend 
at his door.  

"Mamo-chan, I'm not too wrapped up in myself to pay attention to anything 
else, am I?" Usagi asked tearfully.

"No, of course not!" Mamoru exclaimed.  "Come on in; you look like you 
need to talk to someone... How does some cocoa sound?"

Sniffling, she followed him in to the apartment.  "Chibi Usa yelled at me 
because she says I don't care about anything but me and you."

Mamoru sighed, torn between taking the part of his girlfriend and 
defending the five-year-old who was too lost and scared to be kind. 
"Usagi, don't take it so hard... Chibi Usa needs a lot of attention, and 
she doesn't want to share it with anyone else... I think she's especially 
jealous of me and you..." He grinned.  "I can tell you that she really 
looks up to Sailor Moon, though... Sometimes she talks in her sleep, and 
she calls out for Sailor Moon to help her save her Mommy."

"I just wish she'd open up enough to tell us where she came from and what 
she wants," Usagi sighed.  "And I'd really like to know why all those 
creepy people are after her."

Mamoru nodded in agreement.  "I have a feeling that when we find out one, 
we'll find out the rest."

~*~

"Oh, hi, Greg!" Ami said brightly, only too happy to hear her friend's 
voice on the other end of the telephone line.  "I'm really sorry I had to 
run out on you this afternoon."

She could hear the shrug in his voice.  "It's all right, I understand.  
You have certain commitments that have to come before everything else.  I 
take it everything went all right?"

Ami smiled, glad to have an understanding friend like Greg.  "Yes, it did. 
I really hate that I had to cut our meeting short this afternoon.  Maybe 
we can try to get together again-we have such a lot to catch up on."

"Yeah, we sure do," Greg agreed.   /Like where and how you met and became 
friends with that creepy guy from the Negaverse./  "Maybe tomorrow will be 
good?"

"Well, we're going to do a fire-reading tomorrow at the temple, but after 
that I'm going to be free," Ami said thoughtfully.  "There's a new 
bookstore opening, too... I've heard that it has a coffee shop and big, 
comfortable chairs in addition to all the books.  Do you want to check it 
out?"

"That sounds great!" Greg exclaimed.  "Why don't I pick you up at the 
temple after your fire-reading?"

~*~

What had he been thinking?  Had he honestly believed that the past had 
returned to life--that he had been holding the past in his arms again?  
How could he have been so blind to reality that he would take advantage of 
a helpless, injured girl to fulfill his own deepest desires?

The questions pounded at Kunzite relentlessly, offering no respite from 
the guilt as he restlessly wandered the derelict halls of Beryl's palace.  

For a moment, it had seemed so very real-it had felt as though he had been 
embracing his one true love again, and all had been right with the 
universe...

He shook his head, loathing himself and not completely understanding why.  
He was a creature of the Negaverse, after all.  What should it matter if a 
foolish Sailor Scout thought the sun rose and set in his eyes?  She was 
nothing to him save his worst enemy.  The fact that he had come to her 
aid, and to the aid of her comrades, meant nothing, save that any time he 
appeared, it would throw them off balance, for they could not know if he 
came as friend or as enemy.  With her adoration for him, Sailor Jupiter 
might even prove to be an asset, a crucial wedge driven deep into the 
tightly knit group of Sailor Scouts...

Kunzite paused in the ruins of Beryl's vast audience hall, where throngs 
of Negaverse warriors had once congregated, waiting for the command to 
stream forth in battle once again.  It was desolate now, deserted ever 
since Beryl's defeat.  The shattered ruins of her throne remained on its 
dais, and Kunzite could almost see her still sitting there, as she did in 
his memories... There, on the floor, were the faint scuffs that marked 
where Zoisite had been standing for his final audience with Beryl.  She 
had left them there to serve as a constant reminder to him that failure 
was not an option.  How he had hated Beryl every time he had gazed at 
those faint marks!  

Kunzite stared at the empty hall, knowing in his heart that he would not 
use Jupiter's misguided affection for him against her or the Scouts.  Like 
Beryl, like Zoisite, like the hordes of soldiers who had once haunted this 
hall, the Negaverse he served was dead.  He was an entity unto himself 
now, and as such, he chose not to resurrect that portion of his past.  

Still deep in thought, he left the hall.  It occurred to him to wonder why 
he had even gone to aid the Sailor Scouts a second time in spite of his 
determination not to do so.  The first time had been out of curiosity, and 
a sense of gratitude to Jadeite for his offer of friendship, but it had 
been no more.  Of that Kunzite was certain.  Yet he had rushed to the 
battle again, desperate to battle against the darkness... desperate to 
protect someone--anyone...

No.  He would not accept this transference of his affection for Zoisite to 
Sailor Jupiter.  Allowing his own loneliness to take advantage of Sailor 
Jupiter in such a way was the lowest form of self-indulgence; it 
dishonoured him, his memories and love for Zoisite, and Sailor Jupiter 
herself.  In this new life that he was forging for himself (and Kunzite 
could not deny that he was beginning, at last, to live again), he would 
not degrade himself or anyone else in such a way.  Nonetheless, the 
problem of what he was to do now remained.  Jupiter still possessed his 
cape like it was some sort of love token, and he had done nothing to 
discourage that particular image.  

Gazing at the bleak wasteland that was the Negaverse, Kunzite shook his 
head in despair.  He had done despicable things in the past, but none 
seemed so repugnant as the thought of hurting Sailor Jupiter did now.  
Should he allow her to delude herself, hoping that it was a phase that she 
would pass through without incurring lasting harm?  She was hardly more 
than a child, really, surely her feelings couldn't run all that deeply.  
It was just a passing infatuation that would quickly fade... Then again, 
Sailor Moon was of an age with Sailor Jupiter, and her love for Tuxedo 
Mask was a marvel.  It was unfair to deny Sailor Jupiter the capacity for 
the same depth of feeling.  It might just be an infatuation, but if he 
didn't discourage it, it could very well become something far more 
complicated...

/I could simply disappear from her life forever and hope that eventually 
she accepts that I won't be back.../ Kunzite discarded the notion.  Sailor 
Jupiter was nothing if not persistent and determined, and he couldn't 
count on her to passively accept his absence.  It might take time, but he 
had no doubt that she'd hammer on the gates of Hell to find him, should 
the notion strike her.  Besides, what if the mysterious compulsion to 
sally forth into battle struck again?  Somehow, he knew that it would.  
Sooner or later, he was going to have to face her again...

~*~

"Makoto, should you be out of bed?" Rei demanded, astonished to see her 
standing in the doorway. 

Her tall friend shrugged.  "I'm okay... I heal pretty quickly, you know, 
and I wasn't hurt all that badly.   Besides, did you really expect me to 
stay away from a fire reading?"

"Well, it will be better if you're here with us," Rei admitted.  "Now, if 
only that scatterbrained Usagi would get here, we could begin."

Minako scooted over on the mat to make room for Makoto.  "We're going to 
try and figure out what these weird Negamoon creatures want with Chibi 
Usa," she explained.

"Hi, guys, sorry I'm late!" Usagi breezed through the door.  "Hey, Makoto, 
how are you feeling?"

"Usagi, you were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago," Rei complained.

"Sorry, Rei, had to bring Chibi Usa along.  Mom insisted.  She's in your 
room, reading your manga," Usagi, blithely unconcerned, explained.

Rei's face went dangerously red.  "And just who gave you permission to let 
her in to *my* room?" she growled.  

"I had to do something with her--I, for one, don't want her hanging around 
and snooping," Usagi snapped.  "Your manga were the best thing I could 
think of to keep her busy and out of our hair." 

"She does have a point, Rei," Ami volunteered.  "There's no sense in 
revealing anything to Chibi Usa that she shouldn't know, especially since 
we still don't know why she's here and what she wants."

Rei controlled her temper through prodigious effort.  "Fine.  Let's just 
get this over with." She flopped down before the sacred flames.

However, even as she began to slip into her meditations, there was another 
interruption.  "This is our fire room," Rei's grandfather announced 
proudly, standing in the doorway and speaking to someone behind him.  

"Grandpa!" Rei sighed wearily.  "Can't you see we're busy here?"

"Oh, hello, ladies, I was just showing Miss Avery here around.  She's 
interested in becoming a novice here," Grandpa said happily, gazing up at 
the shadowy figure behind him happily.

Rei's scalp prickled uncomfortably; she masked her unease with irritation. 
"Grandpa, were you going to discuss this with me?" she asked sharply.  

"I'm still in charge around here, young lady!" he reminded her.  "Miss 
Avery, this is my rude granddaughter, Rei... Rei, this is Miss Avery-um--"

"Avery Darkmoon," she said, stepping fully into the light.  Behind Rei the 
sacred fire leapt high, then subsided into a sullen glow.  "I look forward 
to working with you, Rei."

"I'm sure you do," Rei said, through gritted teeth.  "Grandpa, we were 
busy.  Please, go away."

"All right, I'll show you the courtyard," her grandfather told Avery, 
leading her out of the room.  "You can meet Yuichirou, our other novice 
here..."

The five girls shot each other anxious looks.  "If that's a would-be 
priestess, then I'm from the Negaverse," Makoto declared, voicing the 
thoughts of all present.  

"Well, I *am* from the Negaverse, but that was no holy lady," Jadeite 
observed.

The girls shrieked, startled by his abrupt appearance.  "How long have you 
been here?" Minako demanded.

He shrugged.  "I came when I felt her show up--thought I'd investigate and 
see what was going on."

"Oh, no!  Do you think she's come here for Chibi Usa?" Usagi gasped, 
horror-stricken.  She sprang to her feet and raced out the door.

"What a meatball-head!" Rei shook her head in despair.  "Jadeite, Minako, 
Ami, you go check out this Miss Avery--Makoto and I will go check on Usagi 
and Chibi Usa."

"What I'd like to know is when Usagi got so worried about Chibi Usa," 
Minako muttered as she raced out the door after Jadeite.

~*~

"Chibi Usa!" Usagi shouted, barreling into Rei's bedroom.

"What do you want, Meatball-head?" the little girl demanded, glancing up 
irritably from a stack of manga.  Usagi answered by scooping her up and 
stuffing her into Rei's closet.  "Hey, put me down!  Let me out of here!"

"Be quiet, Chibi Usa--you'll be safe in here," Usagi hissed.  

The intensity in her "cousin's" voice apparently impressed Chibi Usa, for 
she subsided into silence.  "What's going on?" she whispered.

"There's a bad person out there, but don't worry, we'll protect you," 
Usagi told her, forgetting for a crucial moment that she had not yet 
transformed into Sailor Moon.  She whirled on her heel and ran out of the 
room.

Chibi Usa frowned in the muffled darkness of the closet.  "That meatball 
head is going to protect me?  Not likely.  I'd better go see what's going 
on for myself." Standing on her tiptoes, she opened the door and crept out 
of the hallway.  

~*~

Contrary to Grandpa Hino's assumption, Yuichirou was not working in the 
courtyard.  He was, in fact, busy cleaning out the martial arts room when 
he heard first Usagi, then Rei and Makoto, thunder past the partially 
closed door.  "Whoa, dude, what was that?" he asked himself, putting down 
his broom to go have a look.  

"Is Chibi Usa all right?" he heard Rei ask.

"Yeah, I stuck her in your closet, Rei--you really ought to clean that 
thing out, y'know," Usagi admonished her friend.  "It's a real mess in 
there."

Rei sighed impatiently.  "We can talk about that some other time.  Come 
on, let's transform and go trash that Negasleaze!"

"MARS STAR POWER!"

"JUPITER STAR POWER!"

"MOON CRYSTAL POWER!"

His eyes bulging, Yuichirou couldn't have averted his eyes from the 
transforming girls if his soul had been at stake.  Aghast to find that Rei 
Hino was really Sailor Mars, Yuichirou forgot that he was not supposed to 
be seeing this and fell forward into the hallway.

"Oh, no, it's Yuichirou!" Sailor Jupiter exclaimed.  "He didn't see us 
transform, did he?"

"You're the Sailor Scouts?" Yuichirou asked, sounding even more dazed than 
usual.  

"He sure did," Sailor Mars answered grimly.  "Yuichirou, if you ever 
breathe a word of this to anyone, I'll--I'll--I'll rip out your spine with 
my bare hands... through your nose, that's what I'll do!"

"Don't worry, Rei--I mean Sailor Mars, your secret is safe with me." 
Yuichirou grinned.  "Wow.  I can't believe you guys are the Sailor 
Scouts!"

"I can't believe he found out," Sailor Moon muttered darkly.  "Come on, 
let's go kick some Negabutt!" They raced back down the hallway.

~*~

It couldn't be--Usagi was Sailor Moon?  That self-centered, 
meatball-headed, clumsy brat was Sailor Moon?  Chibi Usa shook her head 
violently, wanting nothing but to deny the horrible truth.  She had to 
rely on Usagi to help her save her mommy?  "Oh, no..."

~*~

Towering over the tiny, lecherous old priest, Avery allowed herself to 
laugh triumphantly as she watched her dark crystal power infuse Grandpa 
Hino.  "Soon this place will be mine, and Crystal Tokyo will fall!" she 
sneered.

Grandpa Hino grimaced and staggered, pawing at the tiny pin that clung to 
his robes.  "You're no novice," he gasped, struggling against the 
pervasive darkness that threatened to overwhelm his soul. 

"How can this be?" Avery marveled, not knowing that Rei's grandfather 
didn't succumb to Negaverse influences easily.  "No one can stand against 
the Negaverse!"
        
Grunting with the effort, Grandpa Hino reached up for the pin that had 
been a gift from his would-be new priestess, knowing somehow that this was 
the source of the evil that he now sensed so clearly.  Seizing the pulsing 
object, he ripped it from his clothes and flung it with all his might at 
Avery.  "Aroint, demon!" he shouted at her.

Avery smirked.  "You may have resisted my Dark Moon Pin, old man, but you 
cannot hope to save yourself from the taint in your soul... This temple is 
mine!"

"Hey, lady, I don't know what 'aroint' means, but when he says to do it, 
you'd better listen!" shouted Sailor Jupiter.  "This temple does not 
belong to you!"

"I think it means 'begone'," Jadeite commented mildly.  "As in, go away 
and leave us alone--A wise idea, don't you agree, Miss Avery?"

"I think you should aroint, pretty boy," Avery snarled.  "Droid Cheeto, 
come forth!" 

A monstrous, lumpy, brilliantly orange monster appeared, grossly 
disproportioned and extremely ugly.  Roaring like a cheetah, it sprang at 
the six warriors, launching portions of its own body at them. 

"It's very brittle!" Sailor Mercury shouted.  

"JUPITER... THUNDER..."

"MARS... FIREBIRD..."

"CRASH!"

"STRIKE!"

Sailor Jupiter's thunderbolt, working in conjunction with Sailor Mar's 
firebird, struck the loping, misbegotten creature straight on; it 
shattered into a thousand flaming bits and pieces just short of a 
terrified Sailor Moon.  Avery pouted, deeply annoyed by this failure on 
the part of her droid.  

"Nice job, little sister," Prizma, materializing just behind Avery, 
purred.  "I'm sure Rubeus will be so pleased with this success of yours."

"I haven't lost yet, Prizma!" Avery snapped.

Prizma smiled gleefully.  "Oh, but you already have, my dear," she 
whispered, sliding a dark blade between her sister's ribs.  "I shall be 
taking over for you now, Avery... It's such a pity that the Sailor Scouts 
beat you, too."

Avery, her eyes wide with pain and betrayal, gasped slightly and collapsed 
before the amazed Sailor Scouts.  "You killed her!" Sailor Moon gasped.

Prizma smirked at the Scouts with evil pleasure.  "Haven't you ever wanted 
to murder your siblings?" she murmured.  "Avery was just in my way to 
glory... Now I'll be the one to poison the Crystal Points and capture 
Small Lady--and Rubeus will be certain to reward me--as will Prince 
Diamond.  All I have to do is dispose of you Sailor Brats, and nothing 
could be simpler." She snapped her fingers, summoning her allies.

Four towering figures appeared--the first was scaly, slender, and fanged, 
resembling nothing more than a gigantic king cobra.  It hissed at them 
menacingly.  The second was more massive, nearly as broad across its chest 
as it was tall--it roared, shaking its bear-like muzzle.  The third droid 
seemed to be made of quicksilver, reflecting the daylight in a chaotic, 
ever-changing pattern.  The fourth and final droid was gaunt and tall, 
shrouded in robes cut from the darkest night.  In one desiccated hand, it 
cradled a scythe.  

Horror-stricken, the Scouts and Jadeite stared at the grim line of 
enemies.  A red rose hit the ground between the two groups, a symbolic 
gauntlet thrown down before battle.  "Fear not, Sailor Scouts!  It's a bad 
situation, but nothing we can't handle!" Tuxedo Mask shouted, coming to 
stand next to Sailor Moon.

"Well, well, Prizma, isn't this interesting?" commented a tall, lithe 
redhead who suddenly appeared to float off to the side of the face-off.  
"Avery appears to have gone the way of her other sisters... With a little 
help from you, perhaps?" He seemed less displeased than curious.

"She cramped my style, Rubeus," Prizma smiled.  "I've never enjoyed 
sharing the glory, you know..."

"Indeed." Rubeus glanced at the Sailor Scouts.  "They've caused no end of 
trouble, haven't they... I think I shall join you in this little clean- 
up--But for them, we'd have had Small Lady a long time ago."

"You'll never get her!" Sailor Moon shouted defiantly.  "I'll die before I 
hand her over to a bully like you!"

"That can be arranged, Sailor Moon," Rubeus observed dryly, launching a 
barrage of small, purplish spheres of Dark Crystal energy at her.
        
A wall of blue-grey force stopped them just short of hitting the Scouts.  
Sailor Moon glanced over at Kunzite, whose timely arrival had just spared 
them a painful attack, sighed and handed another bill to Tuxedo Mask.  
Sailor Jupiter smiled happily at Kunzite, who refused to look directly at 
her.  

"Oh, look, the gang's all here," Rubeus laughed.  "That just saves me the 
trouble of hunting you down later.  That was very thoughtful of you..."

The bear-like droid stepped forward, crushing Tuxedo Mask's rose as it 
snarled at the line of Sailor Scouts and Knights.  "Don't worry, Rei, I'll 
save you!" Brandishing his broom, Yuichirou rushed forward, utterly 
heedless of the danger, and clobbered the dark-robed droid.  

"That's my boy!" Grandpa Hino shouted, leaping onto the back of the 
death-like droid as it staggered beneath Yuichirou's blow.  The droid, 
more annoyed than injured by Yuichirou's blow and only slightly hindered 
by its new burden, struck the broom with its scythe, shattering the weaker 
wood easily.  

"Uh-oh," Yuichirou muttered, holding a handful of splinters.  Snarling, 
the droid backhanded Yuichirou, sending him reeling into a tree.

"Yuichirou!" Grandpa Hino shouted. With the ease of a high priest, he 
plastered an ofuda onto the back of the droid's head, shouting the 
mystical formula that banished all but the strongest of the arch-demons of 
hell.  

Prizma's droid, being only a minor demon of hell, withered into dust, 
dropping Grandpa Hino soundly onto the ground.  Dazed, he didn't move.

"Grandpa!  Yuichirou!" Sailor Mars shrieked, fearing the worst.  Her 
training as a warrior--her grandfather's legacy to her--kicked in.  
Channeling her rage--her grief--her love for the two men, she rounded on 
Prizma, the immediate cause for all the pain.  Prizma, busy laying about 
with her dark whip, never even noticed Sailor Mars' anger.  

Sailor Mars screamed the same formula her grandfather had used, hurling an 
ofuda at the cosmetic-abusing sister of deception.  "This is for Grandpa 
and Yuichirou!" she screamed as Prizma stood frozen in place by the 
scroll.  "MARS... CELESTIAL FIRE... SURROUND!"

Prizma screamed, being a mere minor archfiend, and withered into a pile of 
dust.  "Whoa, good one, Rei," Yuichirou commented weakly.  

"Yuichirou, you're all right!" Sailor Mars cried, rushing to his side.

"Um... I guess so..." he muttered.  "I think I hit my head kind of 
hard..."

"Oh, you'll be fine," she sighed, immediately relieved.

Meanwhile, as Yuichirou and Grandpa Hino had attacked the gaunt droid, 
Jadeite and Kunzite had assessed the situation and separately come to the 
same conclusion: Rubeus was the direst threat in the field of dire 
threats.  They both rose into the air in order to meet the officer of the 
Dark Moon Family on his own level.  "Think we can take this guy?" Jadeite 
called to Kunzite.

"Zoisite could have taken this guy," Kunzite snorted.  Jadeite looked at 
him disbelievingly.  "Well... with a little help from me..."

Jadeite coughed, trying to cover a laugh.  "Then I guess we'll be fine."

Rubeus rolled his eyes.  "It's no good to congratulate yourself before the 
battle's won," he pointed out.

"I do believe you were gloating yourself, though," Kunzite told him.  
"Believe me, I've been on your end--it never turns out quite like you 
expect it to--just thought I'd warn you."

Rubeus rolled his eyes again.  "So, you've been on my end, have you?  Then 
you ought to know just how gratifying I'm going to find this!" He blasted 
them with a stream of dark energy.

Gritting their teeth, Jadeite and Kunzite withstood the blast.  With a 
growl, Kunzite hurled a glowing bolt of energy back at Rubeus.

Rubeus snorted contemptuously.  "Is that all you can do?" He blasted them 
again, only to be distracted by Prizma's dying scream.
        
Jadeite teleported himself closer to Rubeus and hit him with a close-range 
barrage of crackling scarlet lightning.  Cursing, Rubeus rounded on the 
impertinent warrior, striking him with the spheres of dark crystal energy. 
Crying out with the pain, Jadeite lost his hold on his levitation and 
tumbled the nearly twenty feet to the ground.  He lay where he fell, 
oozing dark blood and not moving.
        
Rubeus glanced casually at Kunzite.  "It looks like it's just you and me 
now, doesn't it?  It's too bad your blond friend couldn't stick around 
long enough to finish the party."

"He always has been impetuous," Kunzite replied.  "I seem to find that 
it's a common failing in those I work with."  The two of them circled 
about each other warily in the air, seeking a weakness to exploit.  

Drawing inspiration from, but improving upon, Jadeite's original idea, 
Kunzite teleported himself to float behind Rubeus's back.  As the Negamoon 
general whirled around, launching another blast of negative energy at the 
surprise attack, Kunzite buried one of his blue-grey energy blades deep 
into Rubeus's back.  

He wasn't quick enough to avoid the last attack from the badly injured 
Rubeus, and staggered back in the air as Rubeus, too weak to sustain his 
levitation, fell to the ground ten feet from Jadeite.  Gasping with the 
effort, Kunzite descended to sit next to his fallen friend, noting faintly 
that Sailor Mercury was attending Jadeite.  As the world began to turn 
black, he felt himself falling backward.  Mercifully, the world went dark 
before he felt his head strike the paving stones.

@}~~}~~~~ 


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