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A Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon story
Chronicled by Dro'gan NiteFlier

Disclaimer: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC, and I would be a supreme idiot for claiming it or any of its affiliated characters.

Life's Blood: Of Destroyers…

Mercury sat quietly eating her lunch, oddly not sitting outside with her friends as she had become accustomed to, but in the stuffy classroom, alone. On her desk was her computer, and the magical device was currently scrolling through a surprisingly small subject of material.

The Guardian Senshi, Sailor Saturn and Sailor Pluto.

She had talked with her fellows about the pair, had input her own observations of Sailor Pluto, and had reviewed the surprisingly pitiful amount of information carried over from the time of Luna. The two were just too damn secretive, although she could remember some of the long talks she and Saturn had had in her previous life. It was odd; she could remember what Hophira looked like without her concealing transformative magic, but for the life of her, she could not place anyone that she had seen in this neighborhood as the Senshi of Destruction.

Her magic was no help, for whenever she asked a direct question about the Guardians, she got the same "fizzlenot" that she received whenever she tried to learn about Black. It was a defensive measure that she was sure that either Black or White had taught them. She snuffed a snicker at the thought of her teacher. So much he had kept from her about his true nature! Absolutely astounding!

Because of that "fizzlenot", she had been able to play a form of twenty questions, narrowing down whom and where the two Senshi were. "No" answers were the ones she received information on, "Yes" answers were the ones that she got the annoying sensation-sound. There were also the more ambiguous questions, the ones that gave her information in a roundabout manner.

Hell, whatever worked was fine with her.

She looked up from her computer when she heard the door to the class slide open. One of her teachers, Miss Toumo, stood there with an expression that was halfway between exasperated and annoyed.

"And here I thought that you had made some progress, Miss Mizuno, yet I find you backsliding." The black haired woman shook her head. "You should be out there chatting with Tsukino and Aino! Not in here studying." The teacher put her hands on her hips. "Why don't you leave your things there and go outside? It's a wonderful day."

The girl shook her head in resignation. If it was one thing she had learned about this particular teacher, was that she was always pushing for her students to be out and having fun, and always seemed to be on the sidelines, smiling. It was almost as if she was compensating for something.

Mercury sighed, and got up, leaving her computer behind, for she knew its SEP program was running, leaving her secure of its concealing properties.

Miss Toumo watched her young student head down the stairs, and stole a glance at the silver computer resting on the desk. "So confident," she whispered to herself.

Her name as her parents had given it her was Aino Minako.

She and her friends could be called rather extraordinary teenagers, even with excluding their "special" extracurricular activities. While they did not stand out as much as some, it could be readily seen that the very circumstances of their meeting were extraordinary. How else could such a diverse group of young women come together?

Some would say that it was happenstance, or mayhap some incredible accident, for how else could the group form? Others would point out that, while the individuals had their strengths and weaknesses, the group as a whole showed no faults or breaks, forming a complete team. They bonded out of necessity, these people said. Still more would point out that such a bond could only occur in the most stressful of situations, and as such, there was no reason whatsoever for the group to have become such friends.

Only very few outside the circle of seven women knew that they had come together not out of accident, or to cover weakness, or even for no reason at all. They had formed out of devotion to one of their own, and her love for each of them in turn.

She looked around at the five girls near her, reflecting each of them off her own mirror-self.

The brawler with the gentle touch, Makoto, who could fight down the worst bullies without breaking a sweat, but cared for her plants as newborn children, and for her friends even gentler. The visionary with the fiery temper, Rei, who saw things very few mortals are allowed, but still kept her own peace, save when dealing with those who had broken her own strict code of ethics. The measured fighter with deep thought, Haruka, whose skills matched Makoto's, yet she never committed to a fight she did not find honorable. The graceful musician with flowing talent, Michiru, whose calming melodies could sooth any beast.

And, she told herself, the decisive leader, whose quick thinking has gotten us out of more scrapes than it has gotten us into.

But each of them bowed to Her, gentle, loving, ever-accepting Usagi, who would give her own lifeblood for her friends and willing servants.

But lastly, there was the one who had been outside their circle, one trained to become the darker side of any court. Her legal name was Ami, but those of this group called her Mercury, for that was the name that she had chosen, even before she had come to this country and met the others of this group.

But she called Mercury by another name.

She looked up at the sound of someone breathing by her. Soft blue hair in a short queue, brilliant sapphire eyes, and a sense of power quietly constrained.

"Anhara," she breathed at the standing girl.

The girl sat on the grass next to her and leaned into her. "Meskira," she whispered in return.

And that was the name that she remembered from a lifetime ago.

Rei snorted softly to herself as Ami walked up and gave hardly a glance to any of the others before promptly losing herself in Minako's eyes. Not that Minako was doing anything but exactly the same with Ami's.

"It is a powerful love they share, don't you think, Rei?"

The brunet quirked her eyebrows at the odangoed blonde beside her. The girl was ever-changing as the moon she represented. At one time totally oblivious, and at another, almost frighteningly perceptive.

"Yeah," she replied. "They've fallen for each other so hard that I'm about to start looking for a hole in the ground." She stole a glance at the other "couple" that the group boasted. "Hey, Haruka! Were you two that bad at first?"

The shorthaired blonde smirked a bit. "Not quite that bad. Michiru and I could be knocked out of it by a nearby explosion."

"Hey! That only happened once!" Minako said indignantly. "And you didn't have a mind-to-mind going on at the time."

Michiru smiled at the pair. "Well, I don't think that Haruka and I will ever be able to go that deep. Neither of our talents lean that direction."

Ami smiled slyly at the pair. "That doesn't mean a thing. All it takes is a state of mind, and a willingness. Meskira and I have an easier time because of our talents, yes, but that doesn't mean anyone can't do the same. I'm more in touch with my namesake when doing it anyway, for it is more communication than divination. Meskira has an easy time because of her natural empathy. You two…" She peered at the blonde and her aqua-haired lover. "Yes, you two can do it. Quite easily, if you tried. Meskira and I can show you how."

"Well, that's all fine and dandy, but weren't you going to show us something else tonight?" Makoto asked.

Usagi brightened. "Yeah, our Keys!"

Mercury shook her head. "I'm not sure if you have a Key, Usagi. You're not a Senshi in the traditional sense. I'd have to look deep into your magic and transformation to find out." The girl looked at the others near her. "But for tonight, yes, I'm going to access your Keys."

"About time." Minako grunted. "You promised me a month ago that you would give me my Key."

"Well, I have been a bit busy settling down at the Ten'ou's, and clearing out a few last rats that escaped the cage." Mercury smiled coldly.

Most of the other girls shuddered at this subtle reminder of Mercury's profession. Rei finally threw off the chill that had settled on her soul and asked in a mostly calm voice. "You still haven't explained exactly what these 'Keys' are. Minako and Usagi know because they have their previous memories, but us? We're a bit in the dark."

The others made inquiring noises, but Ami just smiled impishly. "Tonight! Tonight, I'll give you your Keys and explain them to you."

The strident tones of the bell suddenly sounded, warning the students that the lunch break was almost over. The group broke up and filed back to their respective classes.

Mercury sighed as the bell rang one last time, releasing the students for the day.

She packed up her books expediently, not wasting a single movement. It was something that bled over from her training, she supposed. Things like that did, if one were to believe the stories. She still walked soundlessly unless she was thinking about making noise, and had a tendency to project an "aura" of unnoticablility. It was small things like that that she never really bothered thinking about, yet they affected both how other people reacted to her, and their image of her.

She finished packing her bag, and tapped the computer still sitting on her desk. It obediently folded up, closing itself down to a small cube. She picked up the handful of magical technology and put it in her skirt's pocket.

Mercury was moderately surprised to find Miss Toumo standing outside her classroom.

"Teacher," she noised properly.

"Miss Mizuno," the woman replied. She opened her mouth, as if to say something, then shook her head. "I know I shouldn't tell you this, but still… You can't control everything, my dear. Remember that."

With that, the dark haired woman turned and walked away, leaving Mercury wondering what that was all about. Before she could ready a spell, her watch beeped at her, and she sighed, knowing that she had to prepare for more important things tonight.

Obediently she walked down to the entryway, exchanged her shoes, and met Haruka. The two of them shared a nod, then proceeded to their home.

Makoto expected to see many things when she showed up at the Ten'ou residence for Mercury's "Keying", but after Tenmura-san opened the door with a faint smile, and she heard someone speaking in English quite loudly, she decided that she was about to see something amazing.

In the living room, she found several surprises. The first and foremost was that Usagi was there. The blonde had never been on time for a meeting, much less early, so she stood there for an extra shocked second or two before she looked at what her princess was smiling at.

Mercury stood in front of the coffee table, saying something in English to a silver block that was resting on it. From her tone, it didn't sound as if she were politely asking, is sounded more like she was swearing imprecations at the cube.

Makoto shook her head, and saw that she was the last to arrive, and handed off her basket of goodies to Minako, who had come to claim it. Makoto put a questioning look on her face, but the longhaired blonde merely smiled and shook her head. It looked like she was straining to keep from laughing.

She sat down next to Haruka, and asked, "What is she saying, and why is she saying it to that thing?"

Haruka just shrugged. "I can only understand maybe one word in three, and that's just because she's working on several variations of a theme. I think that box is her computer, and she's trying to get it to do something it doesn't want to do."

Makoto blinked at this. "Her computer is alive?"

"Not alive per se," came the huff. Mercury looked up at Makoto. "It's intelligent, but not sentient, but it's following its rules to a tee. Someone in the past programmed it to not show its capabilities to non-Senshi and the Queen, so it's having fits about Tenmura." She waved her hand at the man. "And don't think about leaving, Ten'ou; you need to see this just as much as your daughter does."

"I don't see why," the policeman said. "This isn't any kind of business that I can see me having much impact on."

Mercury rolled her eyes. "You will, Tenmura. Once this blasted thing starts following commands and realizes that you are an ally!"

The assembled blinked as the cube suddenly folded out, and a wire-framed screen came up. Mercury read the screen and a twitch developed in her left eye. "What do you mean 'You should have said that earlier'? I did!" Several more lines appeared on the screen, but most of them couldn't read it backwards, or if they could, couldn't understand the English. Mercury sighed. "Skip it! Go to presentation mode, and bring up Template.Venus."

The variable computer folded down its screen, and strange protrusions formed around its top. It now resembled a slightly flattened cube with an arc of a sphere taken out of the top, and little conical-shaped spikes coming out at angles on the top four edges. Once this transformation was complete, the basin in its top glowed, and a flickering image formed in midair. The image steadied, and the group was presented with a wire-frame picture of Venus in her uniform.

"This," Mercury began, "Is your basic Template, as pioneered by Sailor Moon." She waved at Usagi. "Because she was the first to be activated, plus the fact that she had no template to carry over from the past, she set the basic Template for each following Senshi, even Venus, who was activated shortly after Moon. Now then," she waved at the image of Venus, and it changed from wire-frame to a visual picture. "Things like color and symbol override this 'faux' Template that Moon created, else you would all look the same down to your makeup and those things in Moon's odango." Rei raised her hand. "Yes?"

"If only color and symbol were supposed to be different, why do I have high heels instead of boots?"

"Very, good. If it had been a real Template, you all would end up looking like clones, color and symbol aside. But, since it was a 'faux' Template, your own desires crept in with her original idea, and 'tweaked' the Template to more match your own selves. One of the basic, and most obvious things about the Keying, is that each Senshi has their own Template." She waved at the visual again, and it changed to a picture of her own transformation. "This is my Keyed transformation. Quite obviously different from Moon's, but still obviously following the guidelines of color and symbol. It also does a good job of blending in, and despite its differences makes me look like a Senshi." Mercury turned back to her audience and the visual changed back to that of Venus. "Now, that's the obvious changes. Here's the not-so-obvious change. Display Booster values."

The visual dimmed and several lines of text appeared beside the figure of Venus.

NAT. ARMOR: 4.0000
STRENGTH: 2.0000
MAGIC ATT.: 0.0000
MAGIC DEF.: 0.5000
OCCULAR: 0.0000
AUDITORY: 0.0000
TACTILE: 0.2500
S. APPEAL: 1.5000

The Senshi blinked at the data. Haruka raised her hand. "Okay, but what does all that mean?"

Minako chuckled. "What it means is that I haven't been receiving as much help from my transformation as I could have. I seem to remember those stats being much higher before."

Mercury nodded. "Yes, the first four were in the teens at least, and the others were four plus. What this is," she said, pointing at the stats, "is what 'help' your transformation gives of your 'normal' abilities and senses. All of you have the exact same Booster stats currently, but they all reflect differently because some of you are better naturally than others. Display Template.Mercury and Booster values."

The image changed to show Sailor Mercury, and her values.

NAT. ARMOR: 15.3333
STRENGTH: 16.5000
MAGIC ATT.: 22.2222
MAGIC DEF.: 13.6667
OCCULAR: 8.7851
AUDITORY: 7.5500
TACTILE: 10.4510
S. APPEAL: 6.2973

The others gasped at the difference in the two sets of data.

"Wha… wha… Damn, you're powered!" Makoto whispered in the shocked silence.

"That's because I need it," replied Mercury. "I'm supposed to be support for larger confrontations, and when I need to get by on my own, I'll need every bit of that power." She chuckled. "I can tell you that your sense stats won't be as high. Those derive from my position as Divinator and my probable use for my assignments."

As the others digested this, Minako stood up. "So how about I go first? I've been waiting for this for a while!"

Mercury smiled. "Right, right. You remember how?" At Minako's nod, she waved at the hallway to her room. "All right, we'll be right back."

"Wait a second," called Michiru. "Is it possible to alter the Templates after they are made?"

Mercury paused. "Yes, but the difficulty of it varies as to what you want to change. The easiest thing is the Obfuscation Factor, which is what keeps others from recognizing us. When I first transformed, it was at level Alpha, lower than what you have now, and I could tell that Tenmura made the connection quite quickly when we showed up here that night. The Senses are harder, and the Power attributes quite difficult, but the hardest thing to change is the visual Template."

As the Senshi mulled this over, Mercury and Minako went down the hall and into one of the rooms.

"'Kay, I think I remember exactly how this went." Minako said.

Mercury smiled. "Its all right if you don't. I can help you through it."

The two linked hands, Mercury standing before Minako, and each closed their eyes.

"Just keep in mind what you want, and the Keying will convert it into the Template."

Mercury drew a breath, and whispered her activation command. "Zeroth…"

Minako shuddered as she felt the room go colder, and then called out her own command. "Venus Planet Power, MAKE UP!"

The room was suddenly filled with light, and Sailor Mercury squinted her eyes against it, her own transformation complete. When the light died down, there stood before her Venus, in…

Venus felt the power flowing though her form, more power than she had ever felt in this lifetime. As she settled to the floor again, she smiled. Then she frowned, as she heard the tiniest of snickers from in front of her. The sound was so quiet, she would have never had heard it in normal form. She opened her eyes to see Sailor Mercury before her, fighting to keep from bursting out laughing. "What?"

Mercury kept in her snickering long enough to ask, "And that's what you wanted, Venus-chan?"

Venus looked down at herself, not knowing what Mercury was laughing about. She gaped. "Ah- ah- ah- This wasn't it!! This is… is…"

"Sexy, Meskira, my love." Mercury laughed. "Oh, what were you thinking of, love?"

Venus quickly explained what she had envisioned, but Mercury laughed again.

"You forgot to take in stats, love! Here, give me a moment." Mercury stood silent for a moment, then laughed again. "Oh well, only to be expected, seeing as how it was then."

"An explanation, please?"

Mercury smiled. "One of the stats, 'S. APPEAL', remember? And you traditionally represent a world that the main motto is 'Love as thou wilt'? Figure it out, Venus-love."

Venus gave a sickly smile. "What is it exactly?"

"17.3715," replied the Senshi of Divination.

Venus acked.

Mercury patted her lover on the shoulder. "Come on, let's go see the others."

"What do you suppose the new Venus Template is going to look like?" wondered Michiru.

"It could be anything," Usagi said. "It all just depends on what Minako wants."

The computer on the table suddenly sounded out a resounding "BEEP!" and displayed a new line of text.


"She had to transform?" Haruka asked the air.

After a round of shrugs, Rei frowned. "I wonder if we can use her computer to see what Venus' new Template will be like?" She stood, and walked over to the strange device. "Um… Could you show us Venus's Template again?"

Again, a new line of text appeared.


"Well, it was a good idea," Rei grumbled.

A voice came from the hallway, "Oh, put it up. No harm in that."

The display changed, but the attention in the room was no longer focused on it. Two women stood in the door to the hall, one was easily recognizable as Sailor Mercury in her icy silver and blue, but the other was dressed quite differently.

Where Mercury was covered in what appeared to be soft silks, this woman was clothed in iron. Gauntlets covered her hands to the elbows, as her boots reached up to her knees. A breastplate covered her chest, and wrapped around her shoulders, but left bare most of her back and stomach, down to where more armor encircled her hips and draped down to cover her thighs. Across her back was slung a bared European longsword, the topaz jewels in its hilt winking in the artificial light. Both the armor and her skin were covered in orange runes that seemed to blend over flesh and iron. Her long hair was bound only by a single red ribbon, keeping it out of her sight.

Haruka pinched herself when she saw this vision of beauty. Then she managed to tear her eyes away long enough to glance at Michiru, to see that she too, was entranced by the buxom knight. Michiru turned away long enough to see Haruka's eyes, then the pair gazed longingly at the lovely woman.

Sailor Mercury caught Haruka and Michiru's actions, and noticed also that Rei and Makoto had begun to drool over the sight of Venus. Tenmura, too, was gaping at both of them. The only one without stars in their eyes was Usagi who was looking at both the transformed Senshi, and the others with astonishment.

Venus grew more and more embarrassed by the attention, until she raised her hand to her mouth and whistled sharply.

This startled the others enough that they stopped ogling for the most part. Tenmura shook his head, stared at the two Senshi, shook it again, and kept staring.

Usagi stood up, and looked over Venus. "What happened?"

Venus rolled her eyes. "I forgot several factors of my past, as well as the preprogrammed calculator. I've got to turn it down before we go into battle, or else the enemies are going to be chasing me around, and for once it's not because they want to kill me." The others nodded, their eyes still drawn to Venus.

Mercury walked over to Tenmura, who was rubbing his eyes. "Something wrong, Ten'ou?"

He shook his head again. "Are you… Mercury? I mean, the one that's been staying here? You… You can't be! You two are just so… so… different?" His voice ended on a plaintive note, as if asking whether or not he was sane.

"Poor, poor Ten'ou. Venus, come here," she said over her shoulder. "You remember the imprinting?" At the blonde's nod, the two of them placed their hands on Tenmura's shoulders, and concentrated.

The man blinked, as if a veil had been lifted from his sight. He gaped at the two women he could now easily recognize as Mercury and Minako. "But… How? Just a minute ago you two were complete strangers to me!"

Mercury turned and pointed to the display, still hanging patiently. "Obfuscation Factor, Omega plus. Basically it's our disguise factor. 'Alpha' for easiest, 'Omega' for hardest. The plus means we can designate non-Senshi who can recognize us. With out that, at Omega level, we could transform right in front of you and you wouldn't have a clue." She patted him on the cheek, and turned to the display. "Lets see now, what are the rest of your stats?"

NAT. ARMOR: 18.6392
STRENGTH: 17.0093
MAGIC ATT.: 16.8432
MAGIC DEF.: 15.9747
OCCULAR: 5.3628
AUDITORY: 4.8762
TACTILE: 3.9768
S. APPEAL: 17.3715

"Wow…" was the collective sentiment.

"Hey!" called Rei. "Me next!"

Mercury sighed softly and rubbed her eyes, slowly getting up out of her seat, even though all the others in her class were gone. She didn't have any plans for the night, but she could always see if Meskira was free. It had been far too long since their last tryst, in her opinion.

Last night, after she had activated all the Keys, with only Usagi left without Keying, the troupe had gone to a nearby park to "practice". The others had been amazed by the strength of their abilities, and even Sailor Moon had gotten into the fun of things. They had attracted quite a crowd before they had decided to pack it in, and surprisingly the crowd had been able to pin each Senshi despite their altered appearance.

They had been quite pleased to see her, as well, for there had been rumors of her existence since the early days of the Senshi's activity, and unconfirmed sightings of her in the month since she had ascended to the position of Sailor Mercury. The only reason she could figure was that it finally let some doubts rest. The same doubts that plagued the Senshi before her arrival.

Mercury chuckled a bit as she remembered nearly all of the males at that gathering, and no few females, had been quite taken with those Senshi with higher Boost values in S. Appeal. "Heh," she whispered to herself. "Makes for a whole new meaning to the phrase, 'Magical Attraction'."

Stretching her arms, she loosened muscles made stiff by sitting all day. She was still surprised that she was always the last one out of the classroom, even the teacher made it out before her. Perhaps it was her training; she always loosened herself up before doing anything. Less chance of damaging herself.

Picking up her bag, she exited the classroom, and made her way out of the building. What to do today?

Just outside of the gates, she stopped. Looking over her shoulder, she saw what was becoming a familiar sight to her.

"Good afternoon, Miss Toumo."

The older woman gave a small smile. "Good afternoon, Miss Mizuno. Going to spend some time with your friends?"

Mercury paused. "No, I think not tonight. I have a bit of research I need to get on." The blue-haired girl turned, then paused, and faced the teacher. "If you don't mind my asking, I've noticed you've been paying a bit more attention to me than anyone else. Why is that?"

The woman hesitated, her sky-blue eyes troubled. "Let me pass this, and answer with a question. Do you think you are worthy of special attention?"

Mercury narrowed her eyes. "A question for a question then. Why do you notice what I conceal? What matter is it to you?"

"It matters because you are a very special girl, Miss Mizuno," Toumo replied.

"I can name several others, one especial, who are more special than I," shot back Mercury.

"True," said the woman. "But does that mean I cannot watch over you all? Tsukino and the others have not had the same sort of life as you."

Mercury blanked, then scowled. "I never said who was special! Who are you?" she put power into the statement, using her magic to learn the truth, even if the woman would not say.

Mercury shuddered as she heard/felt the familiar "fizzlenot" that answered her. Her eyes grew wide as Miss Toumo scowled.

"You…" the girl whispered. "You are Guardian."

The woman closed her eyes and nodded. "You took more time than I thought you would, Mercury. Have you abandoned the skills Black taught you in favor of exclusive use of your magic?"

Mercury ground her teeth. "I have not strayed from my lifework, Guardian." She paused. "Hophira, yes?"

Hophira smiled. "Yes, but I go by my mother's name now, Hotaru."

Mercury looked back at the school. "Does Pluto work here as well?"

"No, she watches the Gate while I work here. She's… more comfortable there, with probability and past to keep her. I care not for such imaginings." Hophira drew herself up. "So, more questions, Mercury?"

Mercury nodded. "If you would spare me your evening, Elder?"

"It was quite a show you all put on last night, Anhara." Hophira said. "I was surprised that you Keyed them, especially when most of them don't remember what they went through to earn it in their other life."

Anhara smiled. "Well, I'll remind them eventually. Or else I'll just make them go through it again." She took a sip of her coffee, and looked out the cafe window. "Matter that, I need to go to my world again, but I don't think she will want to do without me for an entire year anytime soon."

"Well, that, and Usagi would probably not want you to kill yourself either," Hophira said with a smile.

Anhara looked back at the older woman. "So many questions I want to ask, and yet I know that you either won't answer them, or tell me to look to my own memories."

Hophira nodded. "Yes, most of them I think you could ask would fall into that category." She suddenly looked out the window. "Are you going to take care of that?"

Anhara sighed. "He's already dead, he just hasn't realized it." The Assassin sighed as she felt the sniper's life being snuffed out by the crystals of ice in his blood. "Another Assassin come to kill me, like Crow said they would. How did you know?"

The Senshi of Saturn looked up at where the Assassin's corpse was concealed. "Where you are a diviner, I am a destroyer. If there is will to follow my directive, I know." She winked at Anhara. "How else do you think I followed your escapades about Honshu? You spent a great deal of time hunting down those Yakuza."

"A great deal? I only spent a month!" Anhara scowled. "I realize that you could have done it much quicker, but I was a bit constrained then. And I had to worry about those four idiots from the Guild interrupting my work."

"Only four Assassins so far?" inquired Hophira.

"Oh, five now, but come summer break, I'll turn the tables on them and begin my hunt." The Assassin's eyes almost glowed. "I have much hunting to do. Too many of my fellows have abandoned Tradition without reason. Once I find Black, I'll ask him to help me."

Hophira raised her eyebrows. "So sure that he would help? For that matter, so sure that he is still alive?"

Anhara smiled knowingly, and leaned in towards the older Senshi. "He may choose not to help me, but there is no doubt that he lives. I remember what he is, and his kind is quite hard to kill, true?"

Hophira nodded. "So you remember White as well?"

"Yep! You are White's daughter, as Pluto is Black's." Anhara paused, thinking. "Why was Pluto still wearing Moon's Template? I would have thought that she would change it."

Hophira sighed deeply. "Sera is… Not quite in touch with the present. She spends so much time gazing at Infinity that she's…"

"Slightly insane?" opined Anhara.

"Quirky, more like," replied Hophira. "Her quirks are small in impact, but great in number. Once she saw that Template, she promptly decided to make it permanent. I," she pressed her hand to her chest, "have gone back to my accustomed dress, and spare me the damned short skirt!"

Both of them broke into laughter at that.

Tenmura sighed and stretched out on his couch, luxuriating in the feeling of his muscles unwinding. Last night had been like a great deal of his evenings lately. Being kept late at work filing reports for his boss, one of the few things he was allowed to do outside of "officially" meeting with Mercury, then coming in and not even making it to his bed before falling over, was becoming far too much of a habit for him. After all, what work was there for an undercover cop when A: his cover was blown, and B: the people that he was supposed to be keeping track of had either up and died, or left Tokyo and then died.

It was a tad annoying that the reason for their deaths was living in his house.

He felt someone near him, and opened his eyes to see said person standing above him. "G'morni' M'cry."

The young Assassin smiled. "Good morning to you, too, Tenmura. Should I ask Haruka to help me move your bed into the entryway? You keep sleeping like that, you'll hurt your back."

Tenmura covered his eyes with his arm. "You'r' entir'y too p'rky."

"Maybe so, but then again, if you had come home early last night, you probably would have been kept up."

Before Tenmura could muddle his way through that answer, he heard someone else enter the room.

"Good morning!!" came the cheery greeting.

Tenmura paused. That really didn't sound like his daughter. It didn't sound like his daughter's lover, either. That only left…

He levered himself up, and gazed soberly at the longhaired blonde. She waved at him, then exited in the direction of the kitchen. Tenmura turned his gaze back to Mercury. "Oh."

The blue-haired girl laughed. "Oh, I told you! Ah, get to bed, Tenmura, or go take a shower. It's Saturday! You've got the whole day off!" With that, she followed after the taller girl.

Tenmura heard giggling coming from the kitchen, then it was muffled by something. As he stood and moved off to his bedroom, he sighed to himself. "And I thought it was hard coping with one daughter."

"It was nice of you to pick up the tickets for us, Ami," Michiru told the girl.

The seven of them were heading back from the theaters, all of them chatting away, easy in each other's company. Usagi had hit on the idea earlier in the week, in order to spend some time together away from school and Senshi meetings, and it had worked wonderfully.

Then only hitch was when it turned out that neither Rei nor Usagi had enough of their allowances left to buy their tickets, so Mercury had just bought them all in one fell swoop.

"Nah, easier that way, since we didn't have to bother her seven different times for the same thing." Mercury shrugged it off. "'Sides, I was able to get out of buying snacks, so it evens out!"

The aqua-haired woman smiled at that. "So what's on your mind?"

Minako sneaked nearer, and wrapped an arm around Mercury's waist. "She keeps thinking another one of those idiots is going to show up and kill her."

Michiru paused at this trying to find a suitable reply, but Haruka interrupted. "So? You told me that they've been coming at what? Once a week? Like clockwork for a month and a half now!"

Mercury nodded. "Yeah, but this week's is missing. So I'm a bit worried that he might show up when I'm around you guys, and we'll have another hostage situation." She snorted. "I still can't believe Crow was stupid enough to do that."

"Well, I hope that you won't be bothered by it anymore, Anhara," chimed in Usagi. "It's just… sad, I guess, that they think that they need to throw their lives away at just a chance…"

"We always work alone, Usagi. Their mindset is such that if one fails, you just send in another. And another. It gets tiring… But you're right, it will end soon." Mercury smiled grimly. "Just as soon as the summer break starts, I doubt many more will have the opportunity to come after me."

Many others blinked at this, and shuddered upon realizing what she meant. "It still seems so weird that someone our age could even talk about killing so easily, never mind going through with it!" Makoto said.

"It's the way I was trained, Makoto," she said as she disengaged Minako's arm. "Death is no stranger to me, for I have delivered many into his embrace."

Haruka sighed at this. She had been trying to get the girl to act more… girlish, however hard that was for even herself to do. She turned to say something to Mercury, but caught sight of someone dressed in black stepping out from the alleyway behind them. Before she could cry out, Mercury had already acted.

The blue-haired Assassin had planted her right foot and pivoted on it, her hand coming up from her side holding her folded warfan, her left foot planting itself on the ground as she brought her right hand down and released the weapon at the stranger.

By the time the rest of the group had turned and stared at the stranger, he had caught the warfan, pivoted completely around, and released it back at the group, speeding faster than on its original throw.


To be continued.

Author's notes: I said that I was going to make a few small vignettes to tie up loose ends, and here's one of them. More questions will be answered in the conclusion, Life's Blood: …And Dragons

Chapter 8
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