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Pluto approached the lean-to cautiously, the hammering sounds from within warning her to stay back.

The lean-to itself was fetched up right against the west tower, the one she herself lived in. Pluto saw that the tent-like structure was actually made of wooden slats, probably from box parts. As she circled the new assembly to its open north side, the hammering stopped, and Ery'ka stepped out.

"Thinking of setting up your trade here?" the Sailor asked. "But there's only you and me on this planet, and not much more needful of anything else."

Ery'ka smiled lopsidedly. "There's a few things I think I could make. What took you so long getting back?"

Pluto walked calmly to the door in the tower. "What do you mean, 'long'? I was only gone…" And here she thought a moment. "…some fifty-two hours. I've spent months traversing the mists around the Rift." She gestured to the valley to the east. Deep within it, mists roiled around as if alive. On the far side of the valley, and to the north and south of it, three more towers could be barely seen. As she turned to enter the squat tower, she saw past a small dip behind the building.

Ery'ka came up behind her as she stared. "I thought it might put us on better terms if I did something for you. Thought you might like not having to drag all that stuff all the way here."

The cargo that the ship had dropped with Ery'ka and her things had left more than enough supplies than Pluto could need for the next century. All of it, every single crate and box, had been transported over fifteen kilometers to the tower.

"But… but why?" Pluto almost helplessly gestured towards the supplies.

Ery'ka looked very confused at this. "Because it needed to be done, and you were busy with other things. Because I could do it, and it did not interfere with anything else I was doing. Because among friends, there is no such thing as too much kindness." She paused for a moment. "Pluto, there are still those people who will do things for one another without being asked or commanded, and do it without thought for reward or payment."

The Senshi almost staggered back, but Ery'ka caught her and helped her sit down against the wall of the tower. She stared at the shorter woman who, in less than half an hour of being in her company, had amazed her no less than three times. "Have I grown so used to the intrigue and power struggles of the Serene Court that even after a separation of thousands of years and many different rulers that I have forgotten the simpler life?"

Her question went unanswered but for the look of compassion on Ery'ka's face.

The Sailor smiled. A real smile, like she had not in ages. "Show me your mysteries then, blacksmith, sorceress, friend."

Ery'ka laughed. "Alright then, but I must tell you that I am a maker of Weapons, and I plan to make two here." She stabbed a finger down to the surface of the planet. "One for the famed Sailor Pluto of Death, and one to close up the Rift of Worlds and change it into a different portal: a Gate!"

A Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon story
by Dro'gan NiteFlier

Disclaimer: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, Toei Douga, and DIC.

Begin = 12-09-2002;
1draft= 12-21-2003;

Intriguing as my work is here, I doubt that I'll be able to stay away much longer. I have the feeling that those events I set in motion in my attempts to correct the problems Ery'ka inadvertently created will soon come to a head. Mum can always get another of the girls to help cook.

Chapter 2: Friendship Founded

Hotaru walked slowly home from school, her feet dragging despite the fact that she was now away from her schoolmates. The teasing that she had endured earlier in the year had let up some, but there were days like today that it seemed worse by tenfold.

Her mind was occupied by several problems, not the least of which was Ami's amazing discovery yesterday. The Senshi of Ice had duplicated the effect of her magic once more, creating a thin sheet of ice on the floor of the shrine.

The rest of the Senshi had decided to try to duplicate Sailor Mercury's accomplishment with their own powers, with mixed results. Mars and Neptune had been able to conjure up a bit of flame and water, respectively, but Jupiter, Venus, and Uranus had no luck summoning up their elements. Although in Venus's case, it might have been because she kept shouting out different phases and not really concentrating on casting an attack. When Sailor Moon had tried to call on her power, she had reverted to her form of Princess Serenity, causing a ruckus when Prince Endymion came rushing to her "rescue", having felt her transform and expecting her to be in danger.

With the commotion Mamoru had caused, they had never gotten around to seeing if she, Sailor Saturn, could use magic without calling out a focusing mantra. Hotaru was rather glad for that, since she already knew that she could do that, and had indeed, gone one step farther.

For was not she capable of healing injuries even while not transformed?

Which led her back to the reason that she was glad to be out of school today; once again, one of her peers had hurt themselves, and Hotaru had healed it without a second thought. That one act of kindness had set off the entire class, causing much more grief for her.

Hotaru had retreated from the insults and jibes by seeking solitude, but several of the larger boys in the class had sought her out, and began pushing her around. If it had not been for a teacher stumbling across the confrontation, she might have been seriously hurt.

While not as frail as she as she had been before, Hotaru was still a sickly young girl, not capable of defending herself from the trio of bullies that had descended to punish her for not being like the rest of the class.

Hotaru had thought that perhaps one of the other students had clued in the teacher about what had been happening, but when she asked discreetly, none of them would even talk to her. Despite that, she persevered, going even so far as to ask the instructor herself, but receiving no useful input other than, "Why don't you make some friends?"


That was another thing weighing on her mind, for that was what she tried to do whenever she met a new student, or a new person joined the class. But every time she tried, the other students, led by the three bullies, quickly convinced any new person that she was a freak because of her abilities.

When was the last time that she knew someone that she could really call a friend? It must have been years ago, long before she was adopted by Michiru-mama and Haruka-papa. Perhaps even before the accident that nearly took her life, and changed her birth father so much.

Hotaru thought about that time, and shuddered as she walked. The simple exercise of going to and from school did not tire her too much anymore, but there had been a time that she could not have gone a quarter of the way without dropping in exhaustion. She had become stronger, but still not as strong as she had been even when she was younger, before Mistress Nine took up residence in her.

Back then, she had run and played, carefree of the world, and enjoying life, happy to share time with—

Hotaru stopped suddenly, as she remembered something. Then, a joyous smile broke out on her face as she recalled that once, there had been one that she had called friend.

"Hey! You came again!"

"Yeah, well, couldn't really not come."

"Come on 'Taru, this is gonna be fun!"

Two friends, smiling, go off to do mischief.

Haruka looked up from the kitchen table when she heard the front door open and shut. A quick mental checklist proved that Michiru was up getting changed, Setsuna was, for once, at home, but her daughter was late coming back from school.

"Welcome home, Hotaru!" she called out.

Shortly the petite girl came into the kitchen. "Hello, papa."

Haruka hugged Hotaru carefully, "So why so late coming home?"

Hotaru just smile brightly, "I just made a little detour, papa. I wanted to see someplace that I hadn't been in a while."

"Oh, really?" Haruka held the smaller girl in her arms, keeping her from escape. "Where was this place?"

"It’s nothing really, papa. Just a place I used to go with someone."

Now the older Senshi's interest was piqued. "With someone? You mean Chibi-Usa?"

Hotaru shook her head. "No, papa, it's someone you've never met. The last time I saw her, she had to move away, and it was before father…" Here the young girl trailed off.

Haruka's face showed her understanding. She released Hotaru, and the dark haired girl left the kitchen, her smile dimmed.

Haruka cursed herself silently for taking that smile away from her normally somber daughter. She wondered if Hotaru's old friend was still around, and if so, where?

Setsuna was rather surprised when Michiru told her about what Ami had found, and was even more interested when Michiru transformed and performed an attack without calling out a focusing mantra.

But both those things paled quite rapidly in the face of Michiru's description of the enemy that they had fought.

"Setsuna, what’s wrong?" asked Michiru at the Time Senshi's reaction.

"It sounded like… like… But that's not possible! I would have felt it if they came through the Gate!" Setsuna paced back and forth, agitated by the report. She turned suddenly, summoning the Garnet Staff, and disappeared into the time stream.

Michiru stood there for a second, blinking. "Well, that was odd."

Sailor Pluto appeared before the Gates of Time, staff at the ready and prepared to fight, expecting hordes of daemons to attack her on her arrival.

What she found was nothing more than what she had left, several hours before: the Gates of Time, standing solidly in the Mist, alone.

She ran to them, and opened the great doors so that she might peer into the past, to see the fight that Michiru had described.

One look at the Imp was all that was necessary to confirm that it was what she feared, but that they had not used their normal portal to enter this side of reality.

She quickly fell to searching for the Rift that they now used, not noticing another entry unto the universe.

Hotaru came home from school on Monday in a bad mood. It had started the day before, when Haruka had been gone for the entire day, and had not spoken a word of what she was up to even to her lover. Then there was Setsuna, who had popped in about lunch, grabbed something to eat, then disappeared again. That was standard Setsuna behavior, but the almost harried look that she had worn worried both Michiru and Hotaru. Then there had been today, where she hadn't gotten a moment’s peace during class, with all the murmuring and sly winks from one student to another.

She had been imminently glad when the bell had rung and she had escaped the classroom and made ready to go home, away from all unpleasant surprises. When she had arrived home Michiru had welcomed her with open arms, and an apology that Haruka had to go out early.

Hotaru was puzzled by this development, since her papa was obviously continuing yesterday's furtive search for something, but for the life of her, she could not figure out what.

Some time after she had gone up to finish her schoolwork, she heard the front door open again. She rushed downstairs to greet Haruka, but stopped when she saw that the blond was accompanied by a dark haired girl about her own age.

The girl looked at Hotaru with her silver eyes, and drew in a breath. "'Taru?"

Hotaru's eyes grew wide as saucers. "ZAN!!" she cried as she lunged at her oldest friend.

Michiru and Haruka sat in the living room, listening to the sounds of the two young girls becoming reacquainted up in Hotaru's room.

"I'm telling you, love, I really don't quite understand it," complained Haruka. "I had a good description from Hotaru, but halfway through the day I realized that there was no way in the world I could find her. It’s been nearly ten years since they last saw each other. They both must have changed… But did you see them when we walked in the door? She had only to say Hotaru's name and our daughter latched onto her like she would just disappear in a wisp of smoke."

Michiru snuggled closer to her lover. "It might be that she reminded Hotaru of a better time. You know that she hasn't had many friends, if any. Chibi-Usa aside, I don't think she has had any since she was reborn after Mistress Nine took over her body. Is it such a bad thing?"

Haruka nodded. "No, it isn't. But… Remember that I said that I was just about ready to give up? I was walking out of the Family Registry office to come back home, when this girl came up to me and asked if I had been looking for her."

The aqua haired woman leaned back and looked at the blond oddly. "Just out of the blue?"

Haruka nodded. "Yeah. She did look somewhat like Hotaru's description, but so does most kids their age… except for her eyes. Did you see them? Silver eyes…" Haruka trailed off. "She just said that she knew that someone had been searching for her, someone she didn't know. I asked her if she knew someone named Tomoe, and her eyes lit up just like Hotaru's when she saw her. After that, I asked her where she stayed, and whether or not I could bring her here, but she said that today after school would be better than then."

Michiru shook her head. "I don't understand a lot of what you've told me, but I get the feeling that you don't understand it either. I wonder if Setsuna could figure it out."

In the Pit, two small gangly beings stood before a carved arch of fire-blackened stone. The pair looked to one another for a moment, then stepped through it into the Mists.


To be continued.

Chapter 3
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