Soul's Winter
Part Three: In Which Things Start Getting Weird 

"..." Dialogue
/.../ Thoughts
//...// Flashbacks
*...* Emphasis
|...| Smartass Inner Voices (tm)
<...> Eerie Disembodied Voices (tm)


"Umino... have you seen Naru lately?" Usagi asked, sitting next to the boy 
when lunchtime arrived.

He shook his head gloomily.  "No, I haven't.  It's beginning to worry me."

"Yeah, me too." Usagi picked at her lunch.  "Definitely me too."


"Hey, Rei, about dinner with my parents--"

Rei paused in sweeping the shrine.  /Oh, that./

|I like how you conveniently forgot about that.|

/Oh, shut up, will you?/ "Yes, what about it, Yuichirou?"

"Well, will you be free tomorrow night?"

|Well, will you be?  Or do you have to wash your hair?|

"Sure, Yuichirou, I'm free," Rei said graciously. 

His face broke into a huge smile.  "Great!"



"...huh?" He looked up suddenly from his disconsolate trudge home from 
school.  He could have sworn he'd heard Naru say his name.  Umino looked 
around and frowned.  As far as he could tell, he was alone.  /I must be 
hearing things.  I wish Naru would get over this guy already./


He stopped short.  *That* he hadn't imagined.  Naru's voice had been as 
clear as if she had been standing next to him.  "Naru?" he ventured.

"Yes... I need your help, Umino."

"You do?  Wait a minute, where are you?" Umino brushed aside the moment of 
vanity and looked around, in vain.  He appeared to be alone on the street.

"Follow my voice, Umino.  It's the only way you can help me." As she 
spoke, her voice grew fainter, as if she *were* moving away.  Curious, and 
a little worried, Umino followed.

"Naru, why can't I see you?"

"It's very complicated... but I know you can help me, Umino.  I trust you, 
I really do." The voice led him down the street, turning and entering a 
small alley.  "Umino...?"

"Yes, Naru?" It sounded to Umino's worried ears like her voice was getting 

"Will you help me?  No matter what?"

"Yes, of course I will!  I'd do anything to help you!"

"Anything, Umino?" The voice was definitely weaker, but he thought he saw 
a faint shimmer of --something--in the shadows behind a dumpster.


"Do you promise?"

"Yes, I promise--Naru?" He started slightly--the shimmer was starting to 
look a lot like Naru.

"Umino... will you do what I asked of you... if it will help me?" The 
apparition held out its hand, pleading.

"Yes!  Naru--suki da!" Umino stepped forward, placing his hand on top of 
the ghostly Naru's.

The palm beneath his hand was shockingly firm, but icy cold.

"Umino..." Naru's hand clutched his so tightly that he thought the bones 
might break.  "Umino, will you die for me?"

His eyes grew wide, and he opened his mouth to say something--perhaps a 
question, perhaps a yelp of fear--but the ghostly Naru yanked him forward, 
through the wall, and into blackness, and Umino knew no more.


/Something... feels wrong./ Nephrite stared at the night sky.  /I just 
don't understand what it might be./

"Are you *still* brooding?"

"I am *not* brooding, Zoisite."

"Like hell you aren't." Zoisite leaned against the wall and crossed his 
arms.  "I lived with the king of brooding for a thousand years.  I think I 
know brooding when I see it."

"I guess you would know, wouldn't you?"

"Damn straight I do."

"You... straight?  That'll be the day." Nephrite couldn't see Zoisite's 
face, but was pretty sure which outraged expression that comment would 
have provoked.

Zoisite surprised him by laughing.  "What is it with you people?  You just 
can't seem to get over that."

"It makes for a good conversation piece." Nephrite shrugged and switched 
topics.  "I have a feeling that something's wrong."

"You and your stars," Zoisite sniffed.  "You should be more worried about 
you and Makoto."

Nephrite's smile softened.  "Nothing to worry about there, Zoisite."

"Well, good.  She seems like a good kid.  Little boisterous, but oh well." 
Zoisite shrugged.  "Well, enjoy your stars.  I'm going back inside." He 
did so, and a few minutes later, Nephrite heard him at the piano, playing 
music that hadn't been heard since the Silver Millennium.  

/He certainly seems to be doing better these days... maybe he's finally 


 Metallia approved, savoring the offering of 
fresh energy.

"Thank you, Your Majesty.  I'm afraid it's hardly enough, though."


"Mom?  Mom?"

Mrs. Osaka woke from her light doze instantly at the sound of her 
daughter's voice.  "Naru?!  Naru, where have you been?" she exclaimed, 
looking around wildly.

"I'm upstairs, Mom."

The woman hurtled upstairs.  "Naru, you have no idea how worried I've 
been!  Naru?"

"I'm sorry, Mom."

Mrs. Osaka followed the sound of the voice into her daughter's bedroom, 
seeing the shadowy outlines of the girl sitting in the window.  "Oh, 
*Naru*," she choked, rushing forward and embracing the girl--and 
shuddering at the chill of her daughter's flesh.  "My God--"

"Sorry, Mom."

Downstairs, the telephone began to ring, but there was no one there 
anymore to answer it.


Meditating before the shrine's fire, Rei shivered.  

"What's wrong?" Ami asked.

"I don't know." Rei glared at the flames that simply weren't giving her 
any answers.

"The bad feelings again?"

"Exactly." Rei shook her head.  "No matter how hard I try, I can't get 

"It's just like before... you couldn't see anything in the fires about the 
fall, either... Oh, I'm sorry, Rei.  I didn't mean to bring that up." Ami 
blushed, embarrassed.

"It's so not fair," Rei grumbled.  "Why the hell am *I* the only one who 
doesn't remember?"

"I don't know." Ami shrugged.  "It's really very odd."

"Okay, let's try this.  When did *you* remember?"

Ami's eyes dropped.  "When Jadeite--"

"Oh.  Sorry."

"It's okay." Ami frowned.  "Minako remembered--when Kunzite--and Makoto 
remembered after she saw Nephrite... Serenity and Endymion remembered 

"But I didn't remember.  Why?"

Ami stared at the fire, thinking.  "You--there wasn't anyone at that 
battle--you didn't have a reason to remember, did you?"

"A reason to remember?" Rei repeated.  "Like... someone to make me 

"Yes.  We remembered because there was someone we cared about.  But you 
didn't remember..."

"...because there wasn't anyone at that fight I cared that much about, not 
in that way." Rei scowled.  "Well, great.  *Now* how am I supposed to 
remember, huh?"

"You could hope that Yuichirou will get himself into trouble and you'll 
have to rush in and save him," Ami suggested, smiling.

"That's not funny."

Ami blinked.  "Is something wrong?"

"He's taking me out to dinner so that I can meet his parents tomorrow 
night," Rei said quietly.

Ami looked at her friend.  "I see.  Well, it sounds kind of fun, don't you 

"Yeah.  Doesn't it?"

Ami sighed.  She wasn't convinced, either.


Usagi, after the fifth attempt, gave up contacting Naru by telephone for 
the evening.  "Maybe her mom took her out for the evening, to cheer her 
up," she suggested to Luna.

"I suppose that's possible," the cat agreed, though doubtfully.

"I'm worried, Luna.  There's something going on, and it's not good." Usagi 
fidgeted with a pigtail.  "I just wish I knew what it was."

"Me too."


Metallia had what a less reverent servant of evil might have called a 
healthy glow.  

"Thank you, Majesty.  Will this be sufficient to begin?" Naru inquired.

Metallia pulsed thoughtfully.  

"Sailor Moon is oblivious, Your Majesty, but cannot remain so forever.  I 
would say three days is the maximum before she becomes too suspicious and 
begins to look for her friend actively."

"Yes, Your Majesty." Naru inclined her head respectfully.


"..." Usagi paused in her lunch.  "Rei... has a date?  With Yuichirou?"

Ami nodded.  "And I have a theory as to why she's the only one who didn't 
remember." She filled Usagi and Makoto in on the discussion she'd had with 
Rei the previous evening.

Makoto shrugged.  "I guess it makes sense.  To me, anyway.  And Yuichirou 
certainly wasn't at that last battle." She grinned.

Ami laughed, a little sadly.  "Somehow, I don't that would have made such 
a difference."

"No spark, huh?" Makoto shook her head.  "That's too bad for Yuichirou, I 
guess." They lapsed into silence.

"I wonder where Umino is today," Usagi said eventually.  "It's not like 
him to miss school."

"Naru, either.  She's going to be very behind when she comes back," Ami 

Makoto shifted uneasily.  "I feel *really* bad about this," she said 

"It's not your fault.  If anything, it's probably mine," Usagi objected.

"Well, there's noting we can do about it now," Ami said practically.  "I 
just hope it blows over fairly soon."



In her old life, she would have been terrified by the fact that she was in 
the "bad" part of town, but then, that *was* the old life.

Naru cast a sly glance at the young man loitering a few feet down the 
sidewalk, and was rewarded by an answering smirk.  By the looks of him, he 
was just another street thug, probably too broke to pay for what he was 
looking for--not that she particularly care.  With a flirtatious wink, 
Naru tossed her hair and sauntered down the sidewalk, turning into the 
first alley that she came to.

Not surprisingly, she heard footsteps following her.  Smiling, Naru turned 
and beckoned her prey into the darkness.


Surrounded by the latest in home entertainment systems, the greatest 
novels of mankind, more music than he knew what to do with, a kitchen full 
of interesting gadgets, and a computer that begged for his attention, 
Zoisite heaved a sigh.  "I'm bored," he announced, to no one in 

He frowned, assessing his situation.  Yes, he was definitely bored.  
Nephrite was with Makoto, and Zoisite had no intention of being the fifth 
wheel for that particular sap fest.

|You could always go hang out with Endymion.|

Zoisite made a face.  "He's my liege lord, not my social life.  Cape Boy 
can hang out with his princess."

|You shouldn't be so hard on him.|

"The hell I shouldn't.  Who else is going to keep his ego in line?  It's 
like Rei and the princess."

|If you say so.|

"I'm still bored."

|You're pathetic.|

"Yeah, I know." Zoisite contemplated his environment for a moment, seeking 
inspiration.  "Oh, hell, let's just get out of here and find something 

|Do you ever wonder why the world trembles in fear when you say things 
like that?|

"Oh, shut up."


Metallia had not known such a feeling of--contentment--in a long time.  To 
have a servant so dedicated and so capable was a novelty.  To have a 
servant so adept at collecting energy... Were it possible, Metallia would 
have rubbed its hands together in glee as Naru brought in yet another 
offering of energy.


Yuichirou's parents were *not* precisely what Rei had expected, given her 
acquaintance with their scruffy son.

His mother was tall and slender, with dark hair (that Rei secretly 
suspected was the fruits of an expensive dye job) coifed elegantly into a 
smooth coil at the base of her neck.  She wore a discreet string of pearls 
and a dress that screamed of chic good taste.  Rei had a faint suspicion 
that Mrs. Kamada was a woman who'd blanche at the merest suggestion of 
poor manners.

Yuichirou's father was of the class of bluff, hearty businessmen who spend 
too much time in the office, and pretend that the deficit can be fixed 
with enough expensive gifts and "quality time," never realizing that it's 
not the quality of time that has value, but the quantity of a father's 
presence.  He talked and laughed loudly (but not too loudly) and managed 
to work most conversations back to himself and his business acumen.

Smiling politely across the table at the two, Rei was beginning to find a 
better appreciation of why Yuichirou was the way he was.

"So, Rei... how did you and Yuichirou meet?" Mrs. Kamada inquired.

"He... drifted into the temple where I live with my grandfather," Rei 
answered, sneaking a quick peek at Yuichirou to make sure she was saying 
the right thing.  He seemed okay, so she continued.  "Grandpa took him in, 
and it's been that way ever since."

"Well, it's about *time* he started settling down," Mr. Kamada declared, 
"even if it is only at some rinky-dink little temple instead of a proper 
job.  Why, at his age, I was already working my way up the corporate 

/RINKY-DINK?!/ Rei tuned Mr. Kamada out, silently clenching her fists.  
/It is NOT rinky-dink!/

|It isn't?|

/Well, maybe it is, but that doesn't give him the right to say so!/ Rei 
realized belatedly that her smile was fading, and recovered her composure. 
/Just who does this guy think he is, anyway?/

|Just think, right now you could be at home, washing your hair.|

/I hate it so much when you're right./

|Well, look at it like this.  There's only the entree and dessert left.|

Rei evaluated the way Mr. Kamada paused after every bite to talk and 


"Now how on earth did I get here?" Zoisite wondered out loud, staring at 
the entrance of Rei's temple.

|You went six blocks east, crossed three streets, went eight blocks west, 
turned right three times, left once, and went two blocks south.|

"Thank you for that *lovely* travelogue," Zoisite muttered.

|I live to serve.|

"Don't remind me." He regarded the temple for a few more minutes, then 
shrugged.  "Let's see what Pyro-slut's doing tonight."


The most convenient thing about her new life, Naru mused, was that she no 
longer tired as easily as she had used to.  Given the limited time she had 
allotted herself for collecting energy before Sailor Moon figured out the 
truth, this was very useful.

Following her established routine, she lured another hapless victim to her 
side, dispatching him methodically and draining away his energy.  Metallia 
had more than enough energy at this point to make larger operations 
feasible, but Naru was more concerned with remaining anonymous until the 
last possible moment.

/Soon... very soon, Sailor Moon./


|Well, you did say you wanted something to do.|

Zoisite flicked an annoying lock of hair out of his eyes and grimaced.  
/This is *so* not what I meant./

"After you get done sweeping all these floors, my boy, we'll start 
mopping!" Rei's grandfather, in Zoisite's not-so-humble opinion, was far 
too excited about this prospect.

When he had discovered Rei wasn't home, Zoisite had intended to find 
something else to do.  However, Grandpa Hino had entertained vastly 
different ideas, and had drafted him to help clean the temple.  Zoisite 
*had* protested, but the old man insisted, since it had been Zoisite's 
fault that Rei was behind on the cleaning anyway.

/I think I'm getting a blister./

|Oh, poor baby.|


|That wasn't so bad, was it?|

/No, it was awful./ Rei smiled politely as Yuichirou's parents drove away, 
and then heaved a huge sigh.

"I think that went well, don't you?" Yuichirou asked.  "They liked you, I 
can tell." From his eager expression, Rei could tell that he wanted her to 
say she had liked them, too.

"Um... that's nice," she said vaguely.

|Ooo, good one, Rei.|

Yuichirou blinked.  "What's wrong, Rei?"

"..." Rei looked away from his concerned expression, fiddling with her 
hair.  "I... Yuichirou, I like you a lot..."

"There's a 'but' coming, isn't there?"

"I like you a lot, Yuichirou, but... I don't think it's the way you want 
me to." /There.  I said it.  And now I feel awful./

"Then why did you act like you did?" He sounded stung, and a little angry.

"I..." Rei shook her head.  "You wanted it--so much, and I *do* care about 
you, so I thought maybe it would turn into something more... but it 
didn't.  I'm sorry, Yuichirou."

"So I was some kind of pity case?  Gee, thanks, Rei, I really appreciate 
that." Now he *did* sound angry, and hurt.

"Not, it's not like that--I'm sorry, Yuichirou, I really am.  I didn't 
mean to hurt you," she said unhappily.

"It's a little late for that, Rei." She heard him turn and stomp away into 
the darkness.

"Well, shit," she said eventually.

|I couldn't agree more.|

Rei shook her head and went inside to let her grandfather know she was 

She stopped short in the doorway upon finding a disheveled, dusty, sweaty 
Zoisite sipping tea with her grandfather.  "What are you doing here?"

"Is that any way to greet an honored guest?" Zoisite inquired mildly.

"No, but you're not an honored guest," Rei snapped.

"Rei, be nice," her grandfather chided.  "Zoisite just happened to 
volunteer to help me clean the temple, since you haven't done it properly 
in a while."

Zoisite made such a horrendous face that Rei snickered, much against her 
will.  "Volunteered, huh?"

"Volunteered, enslaved, there's no major difference," Zoisite said 
blandly.  "How was the date?"

Rei's face darkened immediately.  "It wasn't a date, and don't ask."

"Um... okay, that's my cue to exit stage left.  I'd better go make sure 
Neph is behaving himself.  Good night." Zoisite vanished in a flurry of 
hasty petals.

Her grandfather patted a seat.  "Sit down, Rei, and tell me what 


|Just so you know, this qualifies as being nosy,| his snotty inner voice 
reminded Zoisite.

/Oh, shut up./ Exercising precision timing, Zoisite fell in step next to 
Rei as she walked to school.  "Good morning, Pyro-slut."

"Go away, Zoisite, I'm not in the mood," she grumbled.

"You wanna talk about it?" he offered.

"Not really."

"It'll make you feel better," he coaxed.

She said nothing.

"Okay, let me guess.  It has something to do with last night, right?" 
Zoisite frowned when she failed to acknowledge the question.  "You went 
with that Yuichirou boy to meet his parents, and something went wrong.  
They didn't like you?"

"They liked me," Rei said grudgingly.  "*I* didn't like *them*."

"Ah.  Well, bad in-laws can be survived, or so I've heard--what?" 

"I don't like Yuichirou, either.  At least, not romantically."

"Oh... I see.  Have you, uh, told him?"

"Last night.  He left early this morning."

"And that's what has you all gloomy?" She nodded.  "Don't worry, he'll be 
fine.  Trust me, it's better that you told him fairly early on.  It's 
easier that way."

"What do you know?" Rei demanded, a little annoyed by the pontification.

"Hey, I've been there.  Had a huge crush, but she didn't return the 
affection and let me know.  You get over it, sooner or later." Zoisite 

"Are you sure?"

"Negacreep's honor."

Rei smiled tentatively.  "I hope you're right.  Wait a minute.  You had a 
crush on a *girl*?"

"Uh-huh.  So what?"

"I thought you liked guys!"

"You, my dear Pyro-slut, never asked." Zoisite smirked.  "I'm a very 
versatile fellow."

Rei shook her head.  "That's not fair, you jerk.  Does this mean I can't 
call you Gay-boy anymore?"

"I dunno.  Bi-boy doesn't have quite the same ring to it."

"Point.  Gay-boy it is, then." Rei laughed.  "Oops, this is my stop.  See 
you around, Gay-boy."

"Ja, Pyro-slut." Zoisite waved her off, then ambled down the street.

|You two are quite the pair, aren't you?|

Zoisite snorted.  /Bite your tongue./


 Metallia hummed with barely contained glee.  

"Yes, Your Majesty.  I will begin at once."

"I look forward to it, Your Majesty." Naru bowed deeply, then vanished in 
a stir of sparkles to engage the next phase of the operation.



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