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PostSubject: [Advanced] Synergy   3rd March 2014, 1:33 pm


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S Y N E R G Y

(noun)
the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents
to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

The Princess destroyed the world. Despite all of their efforts, the senshi were not able to stop her, and the world stood no chance against the Princess’s power. However in the aftermath, Usagi took that same power, and molded it into saving the world. She brought the world back and life continues on once more.

The senshi spend their time after just simply living, and growing closer to one another. To hang out with each other and be normal girls who want to have fun and to simply live.

Destiny does not allow the senshi repreive for long before another kind of evil begins to make its presence known. Minako decides to investigate without letting the other senshi know, but Rei will not allow her to take on the lone warrior role once again and instead, they work together to investigate and figure out how to deal with this new enemy.

Characters:
- Rei Hino/Sailor Mars: played by Sailor Pluto
- Minako Aino/Sailor Venus: played by Sailor Mercury

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   3rd March 2014, 2:19 pm



It was the thumping that caught her attention first.

A constant and steady thud. Quiet at first, but growing in power with every passing second. Soon it seemed so loud that it seemed as though the sound vibrated straight through her, leaving limbs and muscles quaking and weak.

It took a moment before she realized that it was her heart beat.

Her eyes opened, slow and unsteady, and she stared blankly at her surroundings. She recognized nothing in front of her.

Turning her head to the side, she saw two other slumped figures. They looked so familiar, it tickled at her memories. But her memories were covered in a thick fog that she had to force her way through.

Then, it all came back.

The pleading, the fighting, the laughter and the tears.

And the End.

She didn't remember much about that specifically. White light had filled her vision, wiping away everything and it had left her with only one last thought. 'Usagi'.

With that, Rei opened her eyes even more, and fought against her weak muscles to sit up. It looked as though Ami and Makoto were coming around now as well. Rei reached out towards Ami who was the closest.

"Are you okay?" Her voice sounded strange to her own ears. It filled the empty cavern even though she had barely spoke above a whisper. "What happened?"

Ami took Rei's hand and sat up. She looked around, a frown on her lips. "I'm not sure."

"How is this possible?" Makoto had found the strength to get on her feet. She helped both Rei and Ami to stand up as well.

Ami stumbled forward, and wrenched away from Makoto's arms, desperately trying to reach towards something. "Usagi-chan!"

Rei turned and looked in the same direction. The sight of the slumped figure at the end of the cavern made her heart skip a beat, partly from elation, partly from fear. But that fear was pushed away when another fact became clear.

Usagi wasn't moving.

The three of them rushed to Usagi's side. The first one there, Ami fell to her knees and clutched Usagi's hand. A moment later, she got a hold of herself for a moment and checked for a pulse.

The silence in which they waited for confirmation seemed to take years.

"It's there!" Ami smiled, pure and full of relief. She hugged Usagi's hand to herself. "She's alive."

Relief washed over Rei as she and Makoto exchanged smiles of their own.

"She looks weak though. We should take her to her home." Makoto paused. "Or a hospital?"

Rei shook her head. "Taking her to a hospital would bring on too many questions at this point. Besides, I think after all this, Usagi would prefer to wake up in her own bed."

The other two nodded their agreement, and together they were able to lift Usagi up from the ground, and situate her onto Makoto's back. No one spoke about anything, opting for comfortable silence. There would be time to talk later. They moved through the cavern slowly, Makoto carrying Usagi with Ami fretting from behind, and Rei ready to help steady Makoto in case her strength let out.

It would take a while to make it to a place in which they could hail a taxi, but they would take it one step at a time.

As the walked past the place in which they had woken once more. Rei's foot hit something and she glanced down. A blue sword, long and translucent, bits of frost flaking from the blade. Rei went to pick it up, but the icy coldness seeped out towards her, warning her away. It would be best to leave these here for now. They could come and pick them back up some other time. It wasn't as if they could walk down the streets with such weapons in hand.

Turning to rejoin the others, Rei's eyes caught sight of another.

A small bladed weapon, golden and sparkling with power.

Venus's Dagger.

Cautiously, Rei knelt down, and ran her fingers along the flat of the blade. Instead of warning her away by its power, it seemed to warm to her touch, welcoming her.

She had handled this blade once before, and it seemed to remember her. But it hadn't sparkled quite so brilliantly, hadn't seemed so golden and warm.

A thought, wild and impossible, crossed Rei's mind.

Could Minako be alive?

That was crazy to think. Minako had passed away before this final battle, it wouldn't make sense.

But whatever power had brought them all back, surely it had enough power to bring Minako back as well?

Rei stood up. Her heart raced as she caught up to the other two. "I have to go on ahead."

Ami and Makoto both looked at her as if she were crazy. After all, they had all just woken up from death, where could she possibly need to go so urgently?

"It's important," Rei added. "Will you two be okay by yourselves?"

Makoto was the first to respond. "Be careful. We're okay. We'll meet up later at Crown?"

Rei nodded, and then she jogged ahead of them, and out of the cavern. The only place she could think to go was Minako's apartment. As crazy as it was. She was an idiot for even thinking of the possibility.

But what if?

It was a long shot, but she had to check. She had to make sure.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   3rd March 2014, 3:13 pm



Minako was supposed to be done.

She didn’t want to be—don’t get her wrong. In fact, she went down fighting, and thank goodness for that. Any other ending would not have sufficed for her. She was only sorry it didn’t happen on the battlefield.

But she was fighting. She’d been fighting for her life, even if it was too little too late. If she had decided to do the operation earlier, would it have helped? Would she have been able to beat the odds? It was certainly one regret that she was prepared to deal with in the next life, which was where Minako was headed when it happened.

That bright warm enveloping light that suddenly pulled her back. It put all her broken parts back together and healed her until she was good as new again. She’d been floating, ready to embrace death, when all of a sudden she felt solid again. Solid, warm, and very much alive.

Minako blinked her eyes open. The familiar sight of her bedroom felt alien to her. The last thing she had seen before she closed her eyes for good was the pristine white hospital room. She had never expected to be back here again. She had said goodbye to it along with everything else.

And yet here she was again now. Alive. When she was certain she had not been just moments ago.

How?

Minako sat up, looking at her own hands in confusion. Her head felt the clearest it had ever been, and it was as if she could sense the absence of the sickness that had been plaguing her for too long. Was she healed? Nothing short of a miracle would’ve saved her.

So who was the person who was not only capable of one but was also generous enough to give her this?

She knew one person who would move heaven and earth to bring her back if she could. But as much as Minako had faith in her, she knew that person did not have that much power.

However, there was someone who did possess the power to destroy an entire universe, who was the more likely candidate.

Her Princess.

Instantly, Minako felt a rush of gratitude and relief. So this meant the princess hadn’t destroyed the world again after all. She felt an overwhelming pride toward Usagi and the others, because somehow, without her, they had succeeded in fulfilling the mission.

And yet even though she knew Usagi was the one who had somehow brought her back to life, Minako found herself immediately wishing to see another girl on her bedside.

A certain passionate, stubborn, and headstrong miko who had the power to wield fire.

The knock on the door jolted her out of her thoughts.

Rei?

The second after the thought crossed her mind, Minako frowned. Why would she think that? For that matter, why was anyone knocking on her door at all? She didn’t know how long she’d been dead for, but she had the feeling it had been a while. Surely no one would expect her to answer the door?

But perhaps it was someone who hadn’t been reached by the news yet. Minako carefully swung her legs to the floor, feeling like an infant all over again. Like she was learning to walk for the first time and not at all sure her feet could support her weight.

She found herself amazingly steady for someone who’d just come back from the dead. She walked slowly toward the door and hesitated before she opened it. The apartment was so eerily quiet and she wondered where Artemis was. Had he left now that he thought there was no one living here anymore?

With one breath, Minako pulled open the door, and immediately she felt her heart—which had only just started beating again a few minutes ago—almost stop once more.

The figure waiting behind the door was the one she had hoped to see, but she didn’t dare believe her sight.

“Rei?” she whispered, her voice hoarse, but whether from lack of use or shock, she wasn’t sure. What was she doing here?

How did she know…?

Had Minako managed to summon her here just by wishing for her?

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   4th March 2014, 12:31 am



The door in front of her looked large and imposing. As if it solid barrier that would be impossible to break through. She was here, and she was here for a purpose. And yet, stare as she might, glare as she might, Rei could not make herself raise her hand and simply knock.

Stupid. She was being completely and utterly stupid. It was just a door. She had faced many more frightening things in her life without a quiver of , so how was it that a single closed door made her hesitate like this? Rei had often scoffed at people who did not take action when they had decided to do something. There was no use in wasting time being indecisive.

But the idea of the room beyond the door being completely empty kept her from moving. It was a kind of defeat that she wasn't certain she could take.

What if the room wasn't empty?

A flurry of memories raced through her mind: teasing words, pleased smirks full of challenge, tears of loss, songs sung from the heart, and a silly game that left them both collapsed on the ground laughing.  

Rei glared at the door and pushed those memories away, focusing. She raised her hand, poised to knock. Enough was enough. It was now or never.

And she couldn't deal with 'never'.

She knocked.

The sound seemed to echo endlessly around her as she waited, her heart racing against her chest. In that moment, anything could happen. The door could remain closed.

But the door could open.

And she so wished it would. She didn't dare to hope against the impossible, but a small part of her couldn't help but to cling to the idea that anything was possible. Wasn't her own newly-restored life proof enough?

When the door opened, revealing the achingly familiar girl behind it, Rei felt frozen.

Minako looked small, as if she were too weak for the world and had yet to find herself. Rei stared at her, her mind blank and unable to process who she saw in front of her. She didn't know how to react to this and she half wondered if she were dreaming and that soon she would wake up back at the shrine.

It was the hoarse and whispered sound of her own name that brought Rei crashed back into reality.

Minako was alive. She was here and she was alive, and she was right in front of her.

"Minako..." Her voice was barely above a whisper, and, in an almost detached way, she remembered screaming out that same name in the raw anguish of pure loss and sorrow.

Rei reached out, pulled Minako into a hug and, fighting back tears, she held on tightly.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   4th March 2014, 6:03 am



It wasn’t until Rei said her name that Minako felt truly real.

Even after she woke up inexplicably in her own bed, after she managed to stand up and walk all the way to the door, part of her still felt like she was floating in a dream. A dream that could shatter at any moment and bring her back to where she was supposed to be; the land of the dead. Maybe she was a ghost now. A very solid ghost who could open doors.

But Rei had looked at her. She had spoken her name.

And then she was hugging her. Hugging her so very tightly. Minako instinctively wrapped her own arms around the other girl, finding strength and relief and joy in the solidity of the body before her. She had thought she would never get to hug any of her newfound friends ever again. She knew she would have regretted not doing it more often when she still had the chance.

But here Rei was, in her arms, so very real and warm and suddenly something wet was running down her cheek. Minako was not at all used to crying and it still surprised her every time.

“What happened?” she asked, wondering if this was too good to be true after all. “This isn’t the afterlife, is it? We’re not both dead?” she said half-jokingly. Of course, part of her was genuinely concerned that that might be the case, but if this was the afterlife, it sure felt not at all like she imagined it.

Pulling back a little to get a good look on her friend, Minako managed a smile. “I’ve never seen you cry before. It’s not a look that fits a soldier like you,” she said, despite the fact that her own eyes were shining with tears.

Minako didn’t know what happened exactly, but if she was truly alive, then she had been given the greatest gift possible, and she vowed to not waste this second chance. This time around, she would give her all to be Aino Minako. She wasn’t just a soldier; she was also a girl. A girl with friends who had earned her chance to be happy.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   4th March 2014, 10:22 am



She wasn't certain how long they stayed like that, arms around each other, tight and secure. It didn't matter just how much time had passed, because they were there together.

Rei wanted to say something, but there were no words. What could she possibly say? She was still trying to comprehend that this was not some kind of dream. Once, she had denied Minako's death, over and over again until the flames inside her burned with rage. The hope she carried had fed those flames until there was no hope left. And she was afraid to get her hopes up again.

But here Minako was, warm and solid. Rei hugged even harder, eyes burning. It was difficult to deny that this truly was real, that this was truly happening when they were so close to one another like this.

"What happened?" Minako's questions cut through the silence, though Rei did not have any concrete answers for her.

All she could think to say was one thing: "No, we're all alive."

Minako was the first to pull away from their almost desperate hug, and then she was smiling, tears still lining her eyes as she spoke.

Rei watched the smile light up Minako's face, and at the familiar sound of that teasing tone of voice, a smile tugged at her own lips. "You should see yourself, Leader," she said with a small nudge against Minako's shoulder.

Glancing around as she rubbed at her eyes, Rei's smile turned sheepish, and she couldn't help but to laugh at the absurdity of all this. "How about we move inside and talk more openly there? I'm not sure your doorway is the best place to have these kinds of conversations."

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   5th March 2014, 1:15 am



It was weird being the one who left. Who died, even. Leaving implied she could still look back at the moments before and miss the people she left behind. Dying didn’t give her that chance, and in a way that was a reprieve. But still Minako realized it was just as wonderful to see someone she cared about again even when she hadn’t had time to miss her. She couldn’t imagine how it must’ve been for Rei and the others. She had avoided them for precisely this reason—to spare them this grief. So that they would not be consumed by it and could instead continue fighting the way they were supposed to.

But had they mourn her? Did they even have time, however briefly? These were questions that she never expected to bother her, yet they did. The fact that the world was saved told her that they could do just fine without her, and despite the fact that she was proud of that, she also felt sad. Of course it was important for her to know that the loss of one soldier would not cause everything to crumble. Yet the selfish part of her wished she had not been so… expendable.

Rei’s answer that they were all alive brought Minako peace at last, and she could truly relax. If the princess was alright, then it was enough for her. She couldn’t suppress a tearful grin when Rei teased her back, her heart filled with warmth by the love and support of a friend she never had. “Some leader I am, missing the entire thing.”

She nodded when Rei suggested they get inside, and stepped aside so the other girl could enter the apartment. “Of course, sorry. Come in,” she said, wiping her own tears quickly. As Minako closed the door behind them, she felt suddenly awkward. She only just now realized the absence of Ami, Makoto, and Usagi. Rei said they were alive, yet they weren’t here.

“So where is everyone else?” she asked, moving toward the kitchen. She hadn’t even had so much as a glass of water since she woke up from her very long sleep and was only now beginning to feel the thirst. “Do you want anything to drink, by the way?” she added, grabbing a bottle of water and pouring it for herself.

Realizations were coming one after another, and it dawned on her that this was the first time Rei had been in her home. It felt… strange, for some reason. Like she was letting the girl see further into her most private world. It wasn’t bad or uncomfortable, exactly. She just felt very self-conscious despite the fact that she’d always kept the place pristine and clean. Not that Rei had even had the chance to admire the décor or anything, not with everything happening around them. Still, Minako was curious what she would think about her home.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   5th March 2014, 12:09 pm



Entering Minako's apartment, Rei couldn't help but to glance around, taking in all of the details. It was clean, pristine. But it almost seemed bare, and lifeless. As if Minako's presence hadn't truly soaked in, and this was more of a living space, rather than a home.

She had always guessed that Minako would travel a lot, on top of working for her idol career. It would make sense if she did not spend much time in her own apartment. It was difficult to imagine Minako hosting guests here.

Rei stood in the middle of the room, and wondered if Minako's bedroom was much more lived in and personal.

As Minako went to the kitchen, Rei followed her. She didn't quite know where else to go. She felt out of her depth, uncertain on how to proceed on this visit. Her main concern had been to simply find out if Minako had been revived with the rest of them or not. To get to Minako's apartment and to knock on the door.

She had spared no other thought for what would happen afterward.

Luckily, Minako had more questions to direct the flow of the conversation.

"Water sounds good," Rei said to answer her second question. She hadn't realized just how thirsty she was until now.

Then, she addressed Minako's previous question. "Makoto and Ami-chan are bringing Usagi home." She paused, frowning. "Usagi hadn't woken up before I'd left."

It occurred to her just then that Minako might be disappointed in her for leaving their princess at a time like this. Usagi could be more hurt than they originally guessed, and she should have her friends and senshi next to her just in case.  

"Makoto and Ami-chan will take care of her," Rei continued, unable to keep the defensive tone from her voice. "And they'll call when there's more news."

They didn't even know why Usagi was the only one who had yet to awake, nor even if it would truly be Usagi who remained. What if she was still the Princess of the past? The one determined to destroy the world?

Rei had assumed that it was the real Usagi who had returned with the rest of them, judging by the fact that she wore her normal clothes, and the fact that they were all alive to begin with. However, the Princess had proven multiple times that she was an incredibly powerful source.

The memory of a smile, pure and warm, flashed through her mind, coupled by a light that felt the exact same way, and it soothed all of Rei's sudden doubts.

Usagi had also proven that she was incredibly powerful. It was why they were all here again, wasn't it?

Rei looked up at Minako then, realizing that she had been quiet and lost in her own thoughts. She let out a small sheepish laugh. "Sorry. Everything has been happening so fast since we woke up that it's hard to keep up. Almost like my head is caught in a fog and it's hard to think properly. Is it the same for you?"

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   6th March 2014, 4:57 am



Minako never really realized how bare her living space was. How it was lacking in personal touches. For an idol who had tons of pictures of herself everywhere, she didn’t even put up a single one of them. Nor did she have any other pictures of family or friends. Wait… scratch that. She did have one picture with all the girls, taken in one of the rare occasions when all five of them managed to gather and just hang out together without battles or monsters. She had put it in a frame and placed it beside her bed so that it would be the first thing she saw every time she went to bed and when she woke up in the morning.

But as for the rest of the space, it could have belonged to anyone. Nothing screamed ‘Minako Aino’ here.

She poured another glass of water and handed one to Rei. The normalcy of what they were doing felt really odd in light of what they had just survived and the fact that they’d never done any of these things before. When Rei finally told her where everyone was, Minako looked up in surprise. “Usagi’s not awake?”

Her natural instinct was to panic and chide Rei for leaving their princess when she wasn’t completely okay. And for her to run all the way here, to what could have very well been an empty apartment when she could be needed elsewhere? When her princess needed her? That was sloppy. That was not what a good guardian should do. Usagi came first; that was the code. It seemed no matter how much she tried to drill this fact into Rei, her friend was too stubborn to really accept it.

“We should check on her. She must’ve used up a lot of power… What did Ami say?”

Minako knew if anyone could figure out what was wrong with Usagi, it would be her. Hopefully there was nothing serious. Maybe she was just exhausted.

As Rei quickly said that the other girls would take care of Usagi and that they’d call when they knew more, Minako detected the defensive tone and suppressed an amused smile.

“You’re never going to change, are you?” she shook her head wistfully. “Some days I feel like you never stopped looking at me as the princess despite the facts that show you otherwise. I’m not as important—” she paused in the middle of her speech, knowing that this was actually a lesson she had already learned. She was important, too. But not as much as Usagi.

Minako raised an eyebrow at Rei’s next words. “I daresay you’ve not been thinking properly, running here when I was supposed to be dead.” But then her expression softened. “But yeah, tell me about it. I died for… what was it? A couple days? And then suddenly here I am, waking up in my own bed again. Bizarre isn’t enough to describe it. I still feel like half a ghost. I still wonder if this is a dream.”

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   7th March 2014, 9:09 am



Rei was glad that Minako did not press for more information about Usagi at the moment. She hadn't realized until then that Minako did not know anything that happened, not truly. The other girl had no idea that they had failed in their mission, that they had failed her.

And Rei wasn't sure how to tell her.

Minako continued on, distracting Rei for the moment. When Minako paused in her insistence that she was not as important, a small smile came to her lips. She'd known that Minako had changed, had accepted her present life, but it was a different thing altogether to see Minako continue on that path, even after everything that happened. It made her glad that Minako still valued Minako.

And hopefully now there would be more time for it to properly take hold without illnesses and impending world destruction to hinder her.

The conversation had taken a darker turn now though, and Rei had to agree with Minako's sentiments. "A dream," she repeated in a soft voice. That was certainly true. All of this was completely surreal. How long would that feeling last?

Rei turned her eyes towards Minako, knowing that since they were on thee topic, she could no longer dance around the issue. Minako should know the truth. She was the leader, and a fellow senshi.

And she was a friend.

"Minako," Rei started, but the words came with difficulty and she trailed off. Images of that time flashed through her mind. And so she spoke of them to Minako. The words were stilted, perhaps even confusing, but Rei had no real concrete memories of that battle, all of it was like a forgotten blur.

But she described it all in the best way she could. She spoke of their fight against Mamoru, who had taken Metallia within himself. Of how Usagi had found the strength to kill him for the sake of the world she promised to save. Rei told Minako of the Princess's face as she overcame Usagi, and how her face was so like Usagi's but different in all the important ways. The Princess who cared nothing for them or for the world, not like Usagi at all.

And then Rei told her of how the Princess had destroyed it all without hesitation.  

Rei paused there, looking down towards the floor and trying to get a hold of herself once more. She hadn't realized that her hands had been shaking from reliving that battle. That utter frustration of not being able to save Usagi from herself, and the fear and guilt of realizing they had failed.

"I don't know how long it took before the warm light brought us back. A few hours? A couple of days? Maybe even longer?" Rei shook her head. "I've no idea. How long does it take to destroy a world, only to rebuild it all over again?"

Rei let out a laugh at her own question. It was a humorless, almost sarcastic laugh, and it left her feeling cold. "It's only thanks to Usagi that we are here right now. That warm light… It must have been her. She succeeded in changing destiny for us all, even though we failed her  as her senshi." Rei looked up at Minako then, ready to face retribution. Always she had used the word 'we', but she felt as though the blame was all on her shoulders. Wasn't she the one Minako had deemed to be the second in command? And she had failed as a senshi, as a guardian, and as a friend.

She deserved to hear whatever Minako had to say in response.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   17th March 2014, 2:48 am



Minako was gulping down water like she hadn’t drunk in days—which in reality she hadn’t. She wondered if her body had simply been reborn like new all over again or… how exactly did this whole resurrection thing work? She certainly didn’t feel sick anymore, so perhaps this was an entirely new body again. It was such a bizarre feeling. And she wouldn’t lie; the extent of Usagi’s power still scared her. Just because this time she had used it to give new life instead of destroy everything, didn’t mean she still couldn’t do both.

When Rei spoke again, her tone was different, and Minako looked at her with sudden dread. Her instincts told her something wasn’t right—that there was something she’d missed. She still had no idea what had happened exactly, just assumed the girls destroyed Metalia and saved the world, and somehow brought her back while they were at it. But looking at Rei’s face now, it seemed like that might not have been how it went down at all.

Her friend started to tell the story, and Minako stayed silent the whole time as she processed it. The real story was beyond her wildest dreams. She went through so many emotions; shocked at Mamoru taking Metalia within himself, impressed and devastated at Usagi managing to do what was necessary and kill him, dread when she heard of the Princess’ emergence, and disbelief when she realized the past had, indeed, repeated itself.

At first she thought she didn’t hear it right. She thought surely the senshi couldn’t have failed again. They should have known better by now. They should have… They didn’t have her.

Minako felt her own hand trembling and she put her glass carefully on the kitchen table, afraid she might drop it. The idea that the world had been destroyed, no matter however briefly, and how everyone had died along with her was too much to bear. She had fought so hard… sacrificed so much to make sure they wouldn’t reach this end again. And yet it still happened.

They were all still alive, though. That was the difference. Last time, they didn’t get reborn until thousands of years later. This time, somehow Usagi managed to fix her mistake. She managed to fight against the Princess, even if it was a little late. But that was what should matter, right? That even though it happened… they still corrected the mistake? That even though everybody failed… they were strong enough to fix their failures?

As Rei finally finished speaking, Minako knew what the look in her eyes meant. It had only been Usagi who had been strong enough. Who had done the impossible and reversed her mistake. Rei recognized their failure, and she must expect Minako to be disappointed in her; the leader she had appointed in her place for when she was gone. Rei had not succeeded at the point where it was most important. When everything—literally the world—was riding on her shoulders.

But Minako now knew that Rei, too, was only just a girl. A very young girl who’d been unfairly thrust into this destiny, to shoulder this heavy burden that she never asked for.

And was somehow expected to succeed.

Minako knew that burden all too well. She had lived and died for it.

And so the only response she could give Rei was a small smile. Not a shout, not a chiding, not the harsh words that she once said to her that first moment they came face to face. A flash of that memory replayed itself in Minako’s mind. Her and Sailor Mars standing in a church, and the fake princess telling her guardian that she’d disappointed her.

How hurt Rei had been then.

“You tried your best, didn’t you?” she said finally. Because it was what really mattered, wasn’t it? She understood that now. “You fought until the end. You tried absolutely everything you could. And… and we’re all right now.” If the senshi had managed to stop Usagi, would Minako even be here right now? She had to wonder selfishly for a moment if maybe she wasn’t grateful the world was destroyed after all. Because if it hadn’t, then she wouldn’t have been brought back.

“It’s the important thing, Rei,” she concluded. “You tried your best. You fought bravely for your princess. And we’re all here now… safe. Don’t beat yourself up too hard about it.”

After all, Minako didn’t even get to do anything about it at all. She was hardly in any position to judge.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   23rd March 2014, 7:44 am



The silence seemed to fill the room in an almost suffocating way. Rei wanted to look away, almost dreading what Minako might say or do. She remembered the severely dedicated leader that had demanded the best from her guardians, and wouldn't stop pushing to make it happen. Rei had always pushed right back, and the two of them had once exchanged harsh words like it was nothing.

But this time was different. A darkness had settled in Rei's chest and it gripped tightly, twisting and filling her with a sense of overwhelming guilt.

What kind of senshi was she, to have allowed the world to be destroyed?

So Rei did not allow herself to look away. Her heart raced in anticipation, and she wanted to defend herself even further. A part of her screamed to cut Minako down before the other girl could do it first. But Rei pushed those urges away. For this one time, she would simply listen and take in the retribution that she knew she deserved.

The small smile that came to Minako's lips caught Rei off guard, and suddenly she wasn't sure what to expect anymore.

As Minako spoke, Rei felt stunned, unable to look away as Minako continued. The words were soothing, and Rei hadn't realized that this was something she needed to hear until now.

The fact that it was Minako Aino saying it only made the whole situation even more striking.

It reminded Rei of when their roles had been reversed, and it had been Rei who told Minako about things that Minako needed to hear in order to properly move forward with her life. If it had been anyone other than Minako, Rei wasn't sure she would believe the words quite as strongly.

But then, she and Minako had always been able to get past each other's walls within just a few words.

A smile came to Rei's lips then, hesitant though amused. "Thank you, I think I needed to hear that," she said. A pause as she tilted her head to get a better look at Minako. "You've changed." Rei paused once more, before deciding, "I like it."

There seemed to be more vibrancy to Minako now. It had been missing when Rei first met her. The cold and distant Minako was gone, leaving behind a Minako that seemed more natural and real. Thinking this only made Rei smile even more.

Before she could say anything more, her cellphone rang, cutting through the air with its highly pitched tune.

Rei answered it, knowing that it must be one of only a handful of people. "Hello?"

"Usagi's awake."

Rei's eyes widened. "Makoto?" She shook her head then, the statement Makoto had made fully settling in. "She's awake? Where are you right now?"

"Come to my house. We decided to bring Usagi here, fewer questions. But Usagi woke up soon after we arrived. She's asking where you are."

Rei glanced at Minako, wondering why Usagi wasn't also wondering where her final senshi was. But then, of course, no one knew about Minako's return. She imagined the expression Usagi would make after seeing Minako alive and well.

With that image added onto the wave of relief and happiness about the news of Usagi being awake, Rei laughed, all of the emotions making it hard to keep up. "Okay, I'll come right over. I have something to show you guys." Makoto was curious but didn't press for information. They said goodbye after that.

As she closed the cellphone, Rei looked back up to Minako. "Usagi's awake," she told her, unable to keep the smile from her face. "And I think it sounds like she's her normal self."

There was an excited energy that completely pushed away the remaining bits of exhaustion and guilt. Rei's smile turned teasing. "You're coming with me to see the others," she told Minako. "You can protest, but I'm not letting you hide yourself away from us again."

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   23rd March 2014, 9:01 am



Rei’s scrutinizing gaze made Minako nervous. She felt immediately embarrassed for the incredibly sappy and decidedly not Minako Aino thing to say. “Well, don’t get used to it,” she said, even as she fought a smile. “You’ll have to find ways to make up for it. If I stopped being so hard on you, you might get the crazy notion that we’re friends or something and I can’t have that.”

Minako was not doing a very good job of looking stern and dismissive. The truth was; she was just really glad to be alive. And about being able to have this conversation with Rei. Whom before now had only ever been Sailor Mars to her, just like she herself had only ever been Sailor Venus. Minako didn’t know how to have friends. She had been so careful not to befriend the rest of the girls because she was afraid of what would happen when she was gone, but now…

Now she didn’t have to do it anymore, right?

And the enemy was gone. Did it actually mean… did it actually mean she could be a normal girl again now? And hang out with Usagi, Mako, Ami, and Rei as… friends?

The thought had a strange effect on her. A couple of emotions hit her all at once; nervousness, fear, hope, and very reserved joy. Minako had never been much of an optimist and she had gotten used to preparing for worst-case scenarios. She was not used to the world being okay, to her being okay and the potential of happiness with no burden of duty.

It felt so strange. Like a part of her—a limb—was missing.

The sound of Rei’s cell phone startled her out of her thoughts, and she watched as the other girl received the call. She straightened when she heard the news; certain that Rei could only be talking about Usagi. Immediately relief washed over her; the princess was okay.

The moment Rei ended the conversation, Minako felt the nervousness creeping in again. As happy as she was that Usagi was fine, she didn’t know how she felt about meeting the other girls. She couldn’t help but let Rei’s joy infect her, though. This was certainly good news. Everyone was fine! Well, as long as the princess’ soul was gone for good and wasn’t going to threaten the world anymore.

Minako was already opening her mouth to protest when Rei said she needed to come with her. “I… But they think I’m dead! I don’t know…” she shifted nervously, realizing that it was so absurd to be able to face down monsters and yet be so afraid of meeting the girls that were supposed to be her comrades.

She was just so used to fighting alone; she didn’t know how to do this. Everyone already had such a tight bond because she’d kept her distance, what if there was no room for her? Every time Minako saw the four of them, she saw a united team—four people who loved each other very much—and she almost felt like she couldn’t possibly intrude on that.

Sure, they had been happy to include her and even throw that welcome back party before she ended up dying, but… so much had happened since then. She’d died. She hadn’t been there for everyone when they needed her most. She, their leader, had disappointed them all. Surely they would have changed their minds about her.

The four of them now had a huge experience to hold them even closer, and she had not been there at all. She had no right to be among these girls now. She hadn’t deserved her position.

“Are you sure it’s a good idea? I mean, Usagi might be in a fragile state and everything… Maybe you should go and tell them first. Alone.”

She was making excuses now, and she knew it. But damn it, Minako never thought this would be scary. She supposed this was what happened when she opened her heart to people. She started to care what they thought of her. It was perhaps the real reason why she’d stayed away; it was her who was afraid of being hurt, not that she was afraid of them getting hurt.

She’d been protecting herself all along.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   26th March 2014, 6:44 am



At first, Rei couldn't figure out why Minako was reacting so poorly to the idea of coming with her to Makoto's house. Her initial reaction seemed so flustered, and perhaps a bit nervous? Was it possible for Minako to even get nervous?

This was the first time Rei had seen Minako in such a state. She was more used to the cool and collected, always in control Minako Aino who had fought both with her and against her. The Minako Aino who wasn't afraid to get into Rei's face and order her to be better.

But then, that Minako Aino had changed. Hadn't Rei just admitted that only a few minutes ago? They all had changed throughout their battles and time together.

And it all was for the better, wasn't it?

Minako continued to try talk her way out of going. It was all excuses and Rei knew it. She even knew that, were she in Minako's place, she would have possibly reacted in the exact same way. But it was that last word that bothered Rei the most.

Alone, Minako had said. Alone.

It cut like a knife, and it cut deep.

But Rei refused to listen.

She stepped closer to Minako, and took the other girl's hands into her own.

"No," Rei told her, her voice strong and only with a hint of the anger she felt at the word 'alone'. She had wanted to reign herself in, to be soft and compassionate. Understanding. But all that came out was the harder side that refused to listen to Minako make these excuses.

These excuses that would only serve in keeping Minako alone all over again.

Rei squeezed Minako's hands as she continued. "Not this time. You can't hide away. Usagi cares about you. We all care about you. Everyone will want to see you, to know about you." Rei paused for a moment. The memory of holding that goodbye letter stung at her eyes, but Rei forcibly blinked the tears and the memory away.

"You're one of us, Minako, whether you like it or not." Rei looked straight at her, hard and feirce, as if she could force Minako to realize all of this. But then she allowed a small smile to come to her lips. "This is our chance to start over again, and we need you with us."

One more pause, and the smile grew even as Rei continued to blink back tears. "I can force you to come with me. I'm pretty sure I'm much stronger than you."

It was a poor attempt to ease away the stark seriousness of all this, but at the same time, Rei meant every word. She refused to let Minako remain alone this time around.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   26th March 2014, 1:40 pm



Minako was surprised when Rei took her hand. It was such an easy, intimate gesture, and it wasn’t like they’d done it a lot before. Usually it was shoving or playful pushes, not sincere and earnest motions. Despite her gentle hands, though, her words were stern and firm. Minako had not seen this part of Rei ever since the girl showed up on her door, and she felt strangely relieved to see that it was still there. It felt easier to be back on familiar ground with Rei, not in that new uncharted territory where they were being nice and friendly to each other all the time. It gave her comfort in a way, to know that no matter what their relationship might become—and it was changing even now—Rei herself would never turn into a different person.

She felt a bizarre urge to cry at the notion that these girls loved her; the ones she had pushed away time and time again and whom she had failed. The ones she was supposed to lead yet had left much too soon. It was hard not to believe what Rei was saying because Minako had always observed them from afar. And she knew how much love Usagi had to give. And Ami and Makoto, too.

Start over?

The words felt like heaven to her, and she realized there was nothing she wanted more in her new life. To finally become a part of the group, and to share that happiness and love she had always yearned for. She no longer had any reason to stay away, after all…

Minako had to laugh at Rei’s next words, and her heart felt lighter at the idea that maybe she would find the acceptance she had longed for at last. “Yeah, right. I’m definitely stronger than you. I’m not the leader for no reason, you know.”

She looked around her empty home, thinking how she didn’t want to spend another hour in there without anyone around. How she already dreaded Rei leaving her to the emptiness once again. Meeting the other girls was scary, but it could also be wonderful. If she didn’t take this chance, she knew she would forever regret it.

“All right,” Minako took a deep breath and steeled herself for whatever questions and reactions she might get when Usagi saw her alive and well. “But I’m not doing it because of you.”

The moment she said it, an echo of the words played back in her mind, words she had once said in a different place, in a different time. Minako smiled, realizing that she was not being entirely honest now, just like she wasn’t then.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   28th March 2014, 4:56 am



Rei wasn't normally the type to give such a heart-felt speech. She didn't like to put herself in the position of trying to rouse another person through soft words of compassion and understanding. When she wanted to get someone to do something, Rei opted for harsh words that cut like daggers through a person's defenses until that other person had no choice but to realize that Rei had been right all along.

But after having just spoken like this, almost pleading with Minako to see things in the right way, Rei felt strangely vulnerable. This wasn't even about her, but it was a feeling she couldn't shake. But she couldn't help but to expect Minako to laugh at her gushy words, despite the seriousness of their discussion.

But when Minako did laugh, it was at the right time. Rei had wanted to get her to laugh at the end of her little speech, and so it was kind of a relief to see that it had worked. The atmosphere around them lightened instantly.

Minako turned her attention to their surroundings just then, and Rei's eyes followed, taking in the empty spaces and the lack of any kind of real personal belonging. The place did not truly feel like a home.

It was too empty for that.

Minako began to speak again, and Rei turned to look at her once more. She smiled in return after she also remembered hearing those words once before. It felt like a lifetime had happened since then, when it had been only a few days at most.

Rei laughed then, pushing away any other thoughts. "You have changed," she said again with more conviction. "Though maybe you should try to be a little more honest, hm?"

With that, Rei moved over to the entrance door of the apartment. She stopped in front of it, with one hand gripping the doorknob, and the other extended towards Minako.

"Are you ready to go?"

~~~

Though she knew where Makoto lived, Rei couldn't remember ever having come here to visit. She didn't generally go around to her friend's houses for a friendly get together. Crown had always worked much better for that than anything else.

Rei hesitated for just a moment with her hand poised to knock. It had only been a few hours since she had been in this exact same position, with her hand ready to knock against a different door. But this was different.

Rei glanced over to Minako who stood a bit behind her. "It'll be okay," she said. But then she felt embarrassed about saying those words, and so Rei put her attention onto the door once more and knocked.

It only took a few moments before Makoto opened the door. "Hey, Rei," she said in way of greeting. But her eyes glanced over to the person behind her, and her eyes widened. "Mi-.. Mi-," she began to stammer out, but it seemed she couldn't get the words out.

Before Makoto could try again, however, Usagi was suddenly in the doorway, and Rei found herself with her arms full of the smaller girl as Usagi squeezed and held on tight.

"Rei-chan!"  

Rei wasn't sure how long the embrace lasted, but she hugged Usagi back, that feeling of relief washing over her once more. Usagi was okay. She was perfectly fine, and she was right here, real and warm.

And she was herself.

It was more than Rei had dared to hope for.

Usagi pulled away to look properly at her friend, a brilliant smile on her face. She opened her mouth to say something, but her eyes slid over to the other person in the hallway.

Her eyes widened to an almost comical degree. "Minako-chan?!" The name was yelled out in disbelief, echoing throughout the hall.

There was a still and silent moment, before Usagi launched herself towards Minako, arms spread wide in the beginnings of another hug.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   30th March 2014, 9:56 am



In the face of something so familiar, Minako didn’t expect for Rei to take the incident as something that would further convince her that Minako had changed. The idea that she was becoming a different person after being reborn once again was also slightly disconcerting. Sure, she was technically reborn, but it had happened in a much shorter time than the last time. She was still Minako Aino, and yet… maybe she was just rediscovering that part of her after being exclusively Sailor Venus for much too long.

So when Rei extended her hand toward her, instead of making some kind of remark about how she didn’t need hand-holding, she took it without protest.

The walk over to Makoto’s house gave Minako time to get used to the idea of being around the other girls and prepare herself mentally. She could handle one-on-one time just fine, but she hardly ever had the chance to be with all four of them at once. Even that last time, she had only been at Crown with Makoto, Ami, and Rei, and had found Usagi elsewhere later. She had never hung out with the girls when they were all together—as a unit—and with no mission or enemy to vanquish.

When they were just girls.

It still sent nervous thoughts racing through her mind, but Minako steeled herself. She had faced down monsters and evil and death. She could handle a group of girls.

Girls who were meant to be her friend.

She finally stood in front of Mako’s apartment, trying not to let her anxiety show. Rei gave her a reassurance anyway, and Minako smiled her thanks. At least both of them felt embarrassed about that exchange. She wasn’t the only one who was changing, it turned out.

Minako didn’t have a lot of time to think about what would await her beyond that door before it opened, and Mako’s smiling face greeted them. She said hi to Rei first, and Minako almost wanted to shrink behind the other girl or run away as fast as her feet could carry her.

But Makoto’s eyes caught hers, and immediately it was like they both became deer caught in the headlights.

Before Makoto could finish her sentence or Minako could say anything, Usagi had appeared in front of them, throwing herself at Rei. For a moment Minako’s worries immediately vanished, and her heart lifted with the joy of seeing their princess alive and well, and so happy too. Minako watched them hug each other for a long time, slowly feeling like she was intruding on a private moment.

But before she could turn away, Usagi’s eyes caught her, and the ensuing yell was a lot like all the other times Usagi found her in unexpected places or unexpected times. It was almost just like one of those other moments, as if they’d ran into each other accidentally on the street and Usagi was as shocked and delighted as always.

It was only then that Minako realized the depth of Usagi’s love for her, and it almost floored her.

The realization came at the same time the hug did, which was appropriate, and by the time Usagi’s arms were around her, Minako was fighting back tears. She embraced the other girl tightly, no longer acting like the famous idol being nice to her fan or the soldier loyal to her princess, but as a girl who had missed her friend terribly.

For it took until that moment for Minako to realize that Usagi was, indeed, her friend too.

“I can’t believe you’re really here! How?!” Usagi exclaimed, after what seemed like forever and yet too soon for Minako to break the embrace.

“You did it,” she said with a tearful smile. “You brought me back, Usagi-chan.”

“Me?!” Usagi’s eyes got even wider, and the look of innocent surprise on her face brought such unexplained happiness to Minako. Even after the destruction of the world… if there was one person she hoped would never change, it was Usagi.

“The ginzuishou probably had something to do with it. When you restored the world… you must have wished to bring me back as well… because here I am.” She smiled even wider. “It’s all thanks to you that I’m here, Usagi.”

By this point, Ami had peered around the door as well, no doubt worried by the commotion. Her eyes widened upon seeing Minako, but she didn’t say anything. However, when Usagi moved for a second hug, this one filled with blubbering tears, both Makoto and Ami joined in, and suddenly Minako felt that maybe being surrounded by this much love wasn’t such a terrible thing after all.

Her heart felt lighter than it had ever been in years.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   31st March 2014, 12:57 pm



Rei remained quiet as she listened to Usagi and Minako's conversation. It almost felt like she was imposing on a private moment between the two girls. But the conversation was over before Rei could think twice about it, and then the two of them were hugging once more, and then Makoto and Ami were joining in.

Well, it wasn't as if Rei could stay away from all of that.

Moving in, Rei wrapped her arms around the others, smiling just as hard as the rest. There had been a time not too long ago when being in such a situation would have sent Rei into a defensive mood. She would not have let herself get too close to anyone. And yet, here she was.

Sure, it felt crowded, and it was hard to get her arms positioned properly. It was perhaps a little awkward to be continuously standing like this. But it was nice, and it was warm. She could practically feel the emotions from her friends radiating off of them all.

It felt good, to be this close with all of her friends once again.

There was no way of knowing just how long they all stood like that. It reminded Rei of her recent reunion with Minako. There had been a hug in a doorway at that time, too.

It felt good though. Standing here, surrounded by her friends, calm and still. There were no thoughts of princesses with far too much power, and there was no talk of their hardships in trying to save the world, and not one mention of past lives coming to haunt the present.

They were just girls, reveling in being with each other once again. As a whole.

A loud rumbling sound broke through the quiet reprieve, and there was no questioning whose stomach was the culprit.

"Usagi," Rei's voice was admonishing, but her smile never faltered as they all pulled away from each other. "Now we know for certain that you're completely better."

In response, Usagi stuck out her tongue, but it wasn't long before she looked over hopefully towards Makoto. The pleading expression and the pitiful gleam in her eyes made quick work of the tall girl.

"Okay, okay," Makoto gave in. "I'll make something to eat for all of us."

"Mako-chan, you're the best!" Usagi went in for another hug, this one solely for Makoto, but it was quick and she pulled away soon after in order to into the apartment. "I can help."

Rei and Makoto exchanged looks for a moment.

Makoto followed quickly after Usagi. "Uh, Usagi, do you cook a lot?"

"Not really. Mama doesn't let me into the kitchen."

Rei couldn't hear the rest of the conversation, so she turned her attention back onto the remaining two. "Maybe we should go help Makoto before Usagi turns the kitchen into a disaster area," Rei said with a smile. "Or at least we can get front row seats."

She paused and glanced teasingly at Minako. "Hm, unless super famous idols don't go into kitchens?"

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   8th April 2014, 1:40 am



Minako must be dreaming. This was all she could think about as she stood there, wrapped tightly by four other girls who couldn’t be happier to see her. For so long she had fought alone, afraid to let anyone else in. Afraid to truly let them become her companions. She could only watch from afar enviously as these four girls became a team and shared their love with one another.

But now… she was one of them.

Maybe this whole being reborn thing really was about a second chance at everything. And Minako made a promise to herself that moment that she wouldn’t squander it.

When suddenly an odd sound broke the silence, Minako looked up in surprise, her deep thoughts scattering in an instant. It sounded like… Was it…?

Rei spoke next, and as the girls all stepped away, Usagi looked sheepish. Minako couldn’t hold back her own laugh. “Well, she did use a lot of energy. Restoring the world and everything. Not to mention bringing me back to life.”

“See, Minako-chan understands!” Usagi latched onto her defense gratefully and encircled her arm around Minako’s shoulder like they were old friends. All these casual intimate touches still surprised Minako, but she could totally get used to it.

As Mako agreed to make them all something to eat, Minako realized that she, too, was quite hungry. When was the last time she’d eaten? She didn’t know anymore.

The girls started filing into the apartment again, as if someone coming back to life was just something they saw every day, and in a way, Minako was glad they didn’t make a big deal of it. All she wanted now was being ordinary again. She smiled to herself listening to Usagi and Mako’s conversation, her heart lifting at the idea that this would be the kind of conversations she could listen to every day.

When Rei spoke again, Minako was tempted to do what Usagi did and stick her tongue out to her. “I’ve been feeding myself all this time, thank you very much,” she said with mock arrogance. “What, did you think Artemis was cooking for us or something?”

She followed a giggling Ami into the apartment, feeling like this might be the best day ever. And the biggest reason wasn’t even her being alive again.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   23rd April 2014, 1:25 am



At the mention of Artemis doing the cooking, Rei was reminded of when she had left Artemis to care for children at the shrine after their mothers had passed out. He had mentioned that he would find them something to eat, and though it had seemed like a strange thing to say, Rei hadn't questioned it at the time.

But now the image of Artemis cooking things made her laugh and shake her head.

Saying nothing, Rei followed the others into the apartment before making her way to the kitchen.

Makoto had already pulled out a few pans and bowls, and was currently looking through her cupboards and fridge for ingredients. Usagi attempted to search as well, but every time she found something she liked, she was more inclined to eat it right then and there, rather than to save it for something that Makoto could use.

"Usagi," Rei called towards the other girl, "if you're not careful, there won't be anything left for Makoto to cook with."

Usagi turned to look at her, still munching on whatever it was that she had last found. She pouted a bit, but Rei's words seemed to have done the trick, and she put the food onto the counter instead.

"What should we do?" Usagi wondered out loud. She moved out of Makoto's way and instead stood next to Ami. "Should we play a game? Maybe we could have a sleep over!"

Ami smiled, though she looked hesitant. "Wouldn't you prefer to go home, Usagi-chan?" She paused for a moment before continuing. "I would like to see my mother's messages, and sleeping in my own bed would be nice."

"Mm, I do miss Mama and Shingo." Usagi agreed with an emphatic nod. She clasped her hands together, her smile bright. "Okay! We'll eat Makoto's yummy food, and then go home!"

Rei returned the smile, though she didn't want to admit that she wasn't all too excited to go back home. Being back in her own room would be nice, but it wasn't as if she had anyone waiting for her. It was nicer to stay here with her friends instead. But she knew that it was a little selfish to want everyone stay here for the night. They had families to see and to hug after all of this.

A thought occurred to her. "I think I'll head back to the cave before I go home, just to retrieve the weapons we left there. I can leave them at the shrine for now."

It wasn't something she was entirely pleased about. The idea of going back to the cave sent shivers through her as memories flashed through her mind. But those weapons couldn't just sit there unattended. And it was better that she face her own fears rather than let them rule over her like this.

Wanting to keep the conversation light, Rei grinned and changed the subject completely. "We'll have to make sure you don't eat everything, Usagi, or else the rest of us will go hungry." The resulting pout was ignored as Rei turned towards Minako. "You'll have to keep an eye on her. She's like a vacuum."

Rei smiled then, even as she wondered if Minako still felt anxious about all of this. Everything felt so natural and warm. They were just a group of friends having a small gathering, nothing more and nothing less. And whether she believed it or not, Minako was fully a part of it all. It was good to have her here.

It appeared outwardly that Minako was okay, but Rei also knew that Minako was a master at masks. It was why she kept trying to pull Minako into the conversations. Better to keep Minako busy with talking than to let her get too burrowed into her own thoughts.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   4th May 2014, 3:34 am



Minako had never really gotten to watch the girls in their element. She had never seen them outside of battle, just being with each other… hanging out. The easy way they talked to each other and teased one another made her envious, and she felt like she needed to catch up, in a hurry to be a part of the group as well. Would the others feel awkward now that they had a virtual stranger among them? Okay, so they knew her as Aino Minako, the idol. But that probably made it all the more awkward, having someone famous and in a different ‘level’ among them. It certainly didn’t seem to be the case with Usagi, but then again Usagi was Usagi. She was everyone’s best friend.

And Rei… well, Minako had already forged her own relationship with Rei, whether she liked it or not, so at least she was comfortable with that. But Makoto and Ami? She felt like those two were still out of her reach. She didn’t know what they thought about this—how accepting they really felt about her. Was it rude of her to just expect to be welcomed into the circle just because she was another senshi? Especially with the way she had distanced herself from them all this time? Maybe they wanted to be her friend once, but after she had rejected them… she wondered if she could earn that second chance.

Her eyes widened in surprise at the mention of games and sleepover. Those very normal things were causes for alarm for her. She didn’t know if she was ready to do these activities… what kind of game would it be? And sleepover? Could she really sleep comfortably among these girls after being on her own for so long? Did all of them even want her there during their most private moments? Despite what Rei said, Minako couldn’t help but still feel like an intruder. What did Rei really know about the others’ feelings anyway?

Thankfully, Ami said she would rather go home, and Minako assured herself this was not a tactic to avoid having to spend more time with her. Still, she couldn’t help but sigh in relief when Usagi declared that after they had their meal, they would go home. Minako still needed to get used to… well, being alive again. She didn’t know if she was ready to jump straight into pajama parties with her new friends. It was all a bit much on her first day back.

She turned to Rei and noticed her expression—one that was the opposite of her own. She looked a tad disappointed, probably because she missed the rest of them. When she said she was going back to the cave, Minako knew that a) there was no way she was not going to visit the scene of that fateful final battle and b) it was the least she could do to accompany Rei a little bit longer if she was feeling lonely. Besides, she didn’t mind spending a bit more time with the other girl. While the other girls still unnerved her, Rei’s presence oddly made Minako feel more… balanced.

“I’ll come with you,” she said. “I want to see what I missed. And make sure there’s nothing… well… make sure everything’s really okay.” She didn’t want to bring up the possibility of it not really being over in front of the others, especially since they were just getting to rightfully celebrating their victory, but the soldier part of her couldn’t help but want to be 100% sure.

Maybe she also wanted to make up for missing the whole thing. It was the least she could do.

She smiled at Rei’s comment about Usagi, remembering that time they ate cake together quite fondly. Despite the vast differences between the two girls—Usagi was an open book as much as Minako was a closed one—they had figured out that they had some things in common, and that moment had been special.

“That’s not true, Minako-chan! Don’t believe everything she says. Rei-chan is mean,” Usagi replied quickly, even as she was putting another cookie into her mouth. Makoto had to confiscate the bowl from her before she finished the whole thing.

“Well, you’re quite right about that one. Rei can definitely be mean sometimes,” she said with a playful wink at Rei. Usagi grinned in triumph.

Time moved quickly as they all tried to help Makoto prepare a meal fit for queens—which was what they all felt like that day. They all took turns distracting Usagi from the food, and Minako used her turn to give insights about some of her planned future singles which kept Usagi enraptured for at least fifteen minutes straight. She held the record for the longest time she managed to make Usagi stop thinking about food.

The resulting spread was so impressive it almost didn’t fit in Makoto’s dining table. Usagi could hardly contain her glee at the sight of it all, practically jumping from one end to another trying to decide which to eat first.

“Shall we dig in?” Mako said with a satisfied grin.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   15th May 2014, 6:45 am



It came as a bit of a surprise when Minako volunteered to go with her to the cave. Rei looked to her, feeling somewhat relieved that she wouldn't have to go there alone. She would have done so, without hesitating, because she had already made up her mind that she would go, both for the weapons, and also for perhaps extra closure. But the fact that she didn't necessarily need to be alone while doing so made her feel better in a way she couldn't quite explain.

There was something in Minako's statement, however, that caught her off guard. It was the certain way she phrased it that made Rei feel worried, just a little bit. It brought up thoughts of her own that she had been refusing to listen to. There was definitely nothing to worry about.

Right?

The conversation was playful again, and that was all that mattered. Even Minako seemed able to get in her usual kind of teasing, and Rei raised a questioning eyebrow in response both Usagi and Minako. "Mean? I'm only telling the truth," she said with a nod of affirmation. She mimicked looking a little insulted, but then she smiled. "It's for your own good, Usagi."

As time continued to pass, they all worked together to help Makoto with the dinner, and Rei found herself impressed by how easily Minako was able to keep Usagi distracted. But then, it was a little unfair. She was a famous idol that Usagi adored, after all. Rei wasn't one to let go of a challenge, so she would need to think of a way that she could distract Usagi even better than Minako Aino.

When the food was finished, there was so much of it that it would be impossible for all of them to finish it all, even with Usagi taking second, third and fourth portions.

"Makoto, you're amazing," Rei said, as she reached over to being the task of filling her plate.

Usagi had already started eating, unable to stop herself for long. She was grinning from ear to ear. "It's delicious, Mako-chan!"

Rei was going to reprimand Usagi for talking with her mouth full, and to tell her to slow down before she choked, but she stopped. Usagi looked so happy, so content, a direct contrast to everything that had been going on before they all woke up in that cave. After everything they had been through, surely Usagi had earned the right to completely stuff her face for a little while.

Instead of saying anything, Rei turned her attention back onto the food. She wouldn't lecture Usagi this time, but next time Rei would make up for it.

The food was as delicious as it looked, and even more so because of the warm feeling in the little apartment. Rei felt pleased, and full. Eating something had been a great idea, it was if her body needed the extra energy and sustenance. It had needed some down time with her friends, too. But the time was turning late, and if they didn't head out towards the cave now, they wouldn't reach it until late at night, after the sun had set completely. Already it was dark enough that they would need to bring flashlights in order to see anything properly.

"Thank you for the food, Makoto. It was really good." Rei then looked over to Minako. "I think we should start moving to the cave now, if you're still up for accompanying me."

"Aw, but it's still so early," Usagi complained, a dramatic pout on her lips.

"Usagi-chan, it's getting dark," Ami told her. Amusement was easy to read in her soft voice.

Makoto spoke up before anyone else could say anything, turning her attention fully onto both Rei and Minako. "Be careful," she said. "Just in case, okay?"

Rei nodded. "We'll be fine. We're just going to be there for a few minutes at the most." Rei paused, glancing to Minako once more. "Are you ready to head out?"

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   19th May 2014, 5:35 am



Minako had only heard of Mako’s cooking skills, but now that she got to experience it firsthand, she realized just what exactly she’d been missing. “This is amazing,” she commented sincerely, and when Mako smiled at the compliment, half proud and half embarrassed, Minako felt like she was making her first step toward forging a real relationship with her. She wouldn’t be opposed to more lunches or dinners like this. Not if the food was always going to be this good. Minako was capable of cooking for herself, but she never bothered making anything elaborate or gourmet. Her skills were mediocre; enough to feed herself and not more than that. And for her first meal in her new life to be this wonderful… she dared to say she was off to a great start.

Makoto’s apartment felt like a home in the way that Minako’s own place never did. As she soaked all the new pleasant feelings in, she wondered if the novelty of having real friends was ever going to wear off. She sure hoped not. Maybe she just needed to remind herself to never stop appreciating it.

She didn’t even notice time passing until Rei spoke again. With surprise Minako realized that several hours had passed since she’d arrived here, and it had only felt like minutes. To think that she had dreaded this visit so much and obsessed about how she would fill the hours before… And here she was enjoying all of it already. She smiled to herself, thinking that change might not be so bad after all.

“Of course I am,” she replied to Rei’s question, quickly piling up the dirty plates to help clean up. She didn’t get far before Mako took the plates over easily and practically blocked the way to the sink, giving her a clear no-way-you’re-doing-this signal. Minako surrendered and turned to gather her things instead.

She looked back at Makoto and nodded at her warning, knowing better than ever of what she could lose all over again if they let their guard down. She had just gotten back her life and this wonderful day and there was no way she was ever giving it up now. Whatever enemy—if there were still any—that could be lurking would have to face the new and improved Sailor Venus.

“You guys also get home safely, okay?” she said to Usagi and Ami. She still felt like she should say something to Usagi, but what words could be enough to convey her gratitude for giving her a life back? She squeezed Usagi’s hand one last time, who gave her a cheerful goodbye, and headed for the door.

“Let’s go,” she said to Rei, finding herself reluctant to leave now despite her fear of stepping into this apartment before. She was leaving the warmth of friendship to face the remnants of a battle she hadn’t been present for… and she was a little apprehensive about what she might find there. Absent-mindedly, she toyed with her transformation bracelet, half wondering if she could even still summon the power now that there might not be anything more to fight.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   24th May 2014, 6:36 am



The walk was spent mostly in a comfortable silence. It was not often to find such a calm balance like that, not feeling the need to fill the air with aimless chatter. Instead, they only spoke when something caught their interest, or if they had something to say.

It was nice.

Rei kept glancing over to Minako, unable to stop reassuring herself that this was truly happening. That yes, Minako was real. Minako was alive.

It had been hours now since they had reunited, but most of those hours had been spent in the presence of the other girls, or in Minako's apartment, away from anyone else. It had been a special kind of seclusion.

But out here, walking down the streets and passing numerous other people, it made it all seem even more real.

Realising that she was staring again, Rei forced herself to look away. She was acting worse than a star-struck fan.

"We're almost there," Rei said, as she took a turn into a more beaten path that lead towards a forest. "It's not too much further now."

It felt good to be walking this far, using her body in a physical way once again. It helped remind her that she was alive now too.

As the scenery changed around them, going from a bustling rural city into a quiet thick forest atmosphere, Rei breathed in deeply. The smell of the vegetation around them left her feeling invigorated. And it was a good distraction for the task they were soon going to undertake. With the sun setting, it was getting darker by the minute, but luckily Makoto had been able to give them a set of flashlights before they left. Rei held hers in her hand, but she didn't turn it on just yet. The colors of the setting sun were a pretty mix of crimson and gold, and she didn't want to disturb the beauty of it just yet.

But soon enough, they reached the cave entrance. Rei turned on her flashlight then, glancing over to Minako. "The weapons were left in the deepest part of the cave, but I don't think it will take us too long to get there."

She took the first step inside. The cave was just how she remembered it from hours before. The chilled air prickled at her skin, and the only sound in the entire cave was that of their footsteps. Luckily, the cave was not much of a maze, so Rei remembered where they needed to go.

The light from the flashlights bounced off the slate grey rock of the cavern, and it created a spooky vibe. At times, Rei almost thought she saw movement within the dark depths of the cave, but she knew that she was only imagining things.

It brought back memories, being here. Memories of the desperation to keep Usagi from losing herself, and the devastation when the Princess emerged for the final time. Rei frowned, but continued forward. She wouldn't let herself get caught up in memories.

When they finally reached the end of the cave, Rei paused just at the entrance of the wider, almost room-like, area. She shined her flashlight around the floor, and saw the glint of blue and green from Makoto and Ami-chan's weapons. Over to the right were the orange and red glint of the two daggers that Rei had used in the final fight.

It was strange to think that she had died here in this very place.

"This is it," Rei said. Her voice sounded unnaturally loud within the silent confines of the dark cavern. "This is where it all happened."

This was where she had failed as a senshi.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   26th May 2014, 3:54 am



After the constant chatter with the other girls, the occasional silence felt nice. It gave Minako time to think—which she’d barely had since Rei pretty much showed up on her door immediately after she woke up in this new life. Not that she wasn’t grateful about it. If there was one person she hoped to see first upon coming back to life, it was definitely Rei. (Not that she’d ever admit that out loud. To anyone.) But Minako hadn’t really had time to think about what this all meant.

Had news about her death had a chance to spread? Did people even know she’d died at all, beside the other senshi of course? What about those doctors in the hospital, who would have pronounced her dead? That could be tricky. She couldn’t very well resume her idol life if her fans thought she was dead. It would be impossible to explain. And she still wanted to live her dream, especially if now she had no senshi duties anymore and was no longer hindered by her sickness.

Had the world mourned for Minako Aino?

She would have to check the headlines later.

Minako’s thoughts turned back to that final battle that she hadn’t witnessed or participated in as their walk ventured deeper into the woods. She immediately felt selfish for thinking about her career before she even made sure that she was done being a senshi. She should put that to rest first before considering how to handle her private life. Sure, she had understood that both were important now, but protecting the world still came first in the scale of priorities.

When they stopped in front of a cave, Minako flipped on her flashlight, nodding at Rei’s words. Just being here made her feel strange. None of this was familiar to her, and yet this was where supposedly the world had been destroyed. She still didn’t like thinking about that. She suspected Rei liked it even less. If there was one thing both of them shared it was that they both strongly disliked the sense of failure. She wondered if she could have made a difference had she been there. Would four senshi have been more successful in bringing Usagi back to the forefront?

Or was the princess simply not a match for any of them?

Cautiously she followed Rei inside, shining the light in front of her steps to be sure nothing was in her way. Minako wasn’t sure what she expected to find here; signs of struggle? Burnt marks? Destroyed rocks? For the most part, the cave seemed just like an ordinary cave, though it was unusually chilly. She felt as if she’d traveled far into the core of the earth, a long distance away from the brightness of the sun and the real world outside.

As Rei stopped, Minako came to a halt beside her, turning her light toward the stack of weapons lying abandoned on the cave floor. She realized that she had never seen these things before, and though she instinctively knew which was whose, and her own was calling out to the part of her that was its wielder, it still amazed her.

Mercury had a sword that looked like it was made of ice. It was beautiful; her light bounced off of it when she shone it that way.

Jupiter’s spear was incredible; it practically radiated strength and barely contained power, even in its inactive state.

Then, slowly, she walked toward the pair of daggers and picked them both up.

“Twin daggers, huh?” she said, caressing her weapon, nearly identical to Rei’s. The weapon she had never had a chance to wield.

She wondered why they manifested this way—why they looked as if they were two parts of a whole. Was it her will that had shaped them so? Her subconscious that wished to be in this fight even if she herself couldn’t be? Maybe that was why her weapon had manifested itself as something that Mars could wield alongside her own perfectly.

Maybe a part of her had yearned to fight alongside Rei so much.

“They’re beautiful,” she said softly, handing the red dagger toward Rei. Then she picked up the other two weapons, feeling their weight in her hands.

It wasn’t until then that she noticed the expression on Rei’s face. She must’ve gone back to that moment in time, and she must not like what she had remembered.

No one liked to remember they’d failed, after all.

“Hey… remember what I said?” she nudged her gently. “I know it didn’t turn out the way we all hoped it did, but… it still kind of did in the end. We still won. And if you feel bad… I feel worse. I couldn’t even be there. I should have been… it was my entire destiny to fight alongside you all… but I failed even worse.”

Okay, so this wasn’t meant to be a competition, but Rei just always seemed to bring that side of her to the forefront.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   18th June 2014, 1:26 am



She heard the sounds of Minako speaking, her voice echoing through the cold cavern air, but the words were indecipherable. She vaguely registered the fact that Minako had given her the red dagger, but not much more than that. Her own thoughts held her in place, her own memories seemed to taunt her, and she found it difficult to come back to the present. Over and over, her mind replayed those last moments.

Over and over she relived that same guilt and sorrow.

Until Minako nudged her, breaking the unending loop of memories, and Rei looked over to her. She blinked back the tears that threatened to fall, and mentally berated herself. She hated dwelling on past mistakes. There was no reason to dwell on anything, as it was much better to focus on the here and now, to do whatever was needed to complete the goals she set for herself.

And yet, it was difficult to let this go. Her mind would not give her rest.

As Rei listened to Minako speak, she frowned at the words. "It wasn't your fault. You did everything you could to be there." The golden gleam of the dagger caught Rei's eye and she gestured towards it. Her words came out in a rush, unfiltered as she struggled to work through what she wanted to convey. "Even when you were gone, you found a way to be there with us. So you were there, even if it wasn't in physical form. But I was there too, physically, and it made no difference. I failed in everything, and --"

Rei stopped there, hearing herself. She shook her head, a smile coming to her lips. But then she was laughing. It sounded unnatural in that cave, but it somehow made the atmosphere feel less dark.

"We're hopeless, aren't we?" she said. She had stopped laughing now, but the wry smile remained. "Here we are, alive and well, sitting in a dark cave, competing on who should feel the worst about something that we can't change."

It wasn't too surprising. Their whole haphazard relationship had started with a competition over which food to feed a stray dog, after all, and competition had continued to be a strong theme throughout the rest of their interactions with one another. It was fun; Minako kept her on her toes, never letting her get too comfortable, always challenging her.

Rei enjoyed it more than she would ever admit.

Though this particular topic wasn't something Rei felt much like competing on.

She nudged Minako with her shoulder, smile still in place. "Maybe we should call it a truce for now. If we continued, we'd be here all night. "

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   29th June 2014, 5:03 am



Minako wished so much she could give Rei peace. But she suspected that she herself would not be getting it anytime soon. After everything, to suddenly just embrace it felt… anticlimactic. Especially since she wasn’t there at the climax. She died… and then everything was okay. It felt so disjointed and absurd. To start living as a normal girl now would definitely take some getting used to. She expected she’d still be having nightmares about this whole thing for a while, too. Dying certainly fell under one of those things that could elicit trauma.

But at least she’d died peacefully. She couldn’t imagine what kind of nightmares would be haunting Rei’s nights. Replaying that last battle over and over… watching the world get destroyed before her very eyes—the very world she was meant to protect—Minako would never understand what that felt like. And for that, her heart broke for Rei.

As her friend spoke about her weapon, Minako couldn’t help smiling a little. She was stubborn that way, she supposed. Maybe her spirit really had been there, together with Rei along the way, and she just didn’t remember it. When Rei’s words took a dark turn again, Minako felt a strange urge to hug her again. But before she could do anything, Rei had shaken it off with a laugh, albeit a humorless one.

Minako let out a short laugh upon hearing her last sentence. “Yeah, that’s us all right. Got to compete in everything, even though which one of us is worse is definitely a first.” It was another way they had changed, wasn’t it? In the beginning, it was always about besting each other, proving who was more capable. Neither would let their pride admit that they were wrong or that they were unable to do something. Minako especially, and she wondered if that had to do with her posing as the princess. She had both encouraged Rei to be better—so she could take her position once she was gone—and get riled up whenever Rei stepped up to the plate and brought a new challenge for her. They were kind of bad for each other, but she also couldn’t imagine living in a world where Rei did not exist anymore.

“You’re right about one thing. It’s not something we can change. The competition is over, whether we like it or not or whoever won. Truth is, we both lost. But we’ve been given a second chance. I think what’s important is to not waste it. And in order to do that, we only have to look forward.”

She gave one last look around the cave. “I definitely do not want to spend the night here. Come on, let’s go home and try to put this behind us. I promise to try if you do too.” She entwined her arm with Rei’s, a gesture that felt spontaneous and easy which surprised her as well. But they were joined now, and to pull away would be awkward. Just like the daggers, though, it felt right to be like this.

Minako had only walked one step back toward the exit when she felt it. A chill so sharp it made the hairs on the back of her neck rise, and a bad feeling washed over her. Immediately alert, she stopped short and looked around more closely, trying to identify the source. Everything looked the same as before, but she was certain something… dark, something evil was here. She could feel the presence of it, albeit only very briefly, as if it had come out of hiding then realized it had exposed itself, then hid once more.

But it had been clear and unmistakable. It was the same feeling she always got whenever there was a youma nearby.

“Did you feel that?” she asked in a whisper. Rei was more attuned to her sixth sense than Minako was, and if the other girl felt that too, then Minako would know for sure something was wrong.

Suddenly, she felt really, really cold.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   5th August 2014, 10:57 pm



The atmosphere between them was significantly lighter than it had been moments before. Rei was thankful for that, as she agreed with what Minako had said.

I think what's important is to not waste it. And in order to do that, we only have to look forward.

Yes, looking forward instead of being held back in the past was exactly what they all needed to do. They had so much ahead of them, and Rei was glad that she and her friends had been given a second chance. There was no need for her to feel guilt about something that could not ever be changed.

And whenever she slipped back into those darker thoughts, she knew Minako would be able to get her thinking straight again, just as she would do for Minako in return.

It was a comforting kind of reassurance.

As Minako entwined their arms together, Rei's eyes widened in surprise. It seemed like such a playful thing for Minako to do, and Rei's surprise quickly turned to amusement. She had known Minako to have a playful streak before, but it was nice to see it manifest in a different kind of way other than putting Rei in awkward in positions.

It felt good to be like this though. Close and happy and comfortable.

That comfort did not last for too long as every sense in her body was suddenly on alert, and Rei quickly glanced around the dark cavern. Even with her flashlight, she couldn't see much at all. There was too much darkness, and every time she thought she saw something in the corner of her eye, it was gone by the time she shined her flashlight towards it.

The instinct of knowing that a youma was nearby was something Rei had assumed she would never feel again. The feeling was gone now, for the moment, but it still left her tense and on edge.

"I felt it," Rei whispered back.

She closed her eyes, tuning in to deeper senses, trying to feel out where the initial sensation had originated from, but it was gone. She couldn't feel anything now.

Rei shook her head. "It's gone. I can't feel it at all." She paused, and looked away from the empty darkness of the cave, and focused on Minako instead. "I thought all of the youma would have been destroyed."

Was their fight not truly over?

Her mind was racing now, and Rei realized she was clutching at Minako's arm a bit too tightly, so she loosened her grip. "Sorry," she said, sheepishly. She hesitated, before coming to a decision. "We should go home. The presence is gone now, and there's nothing we can do right now. We can barely see in this cave, and it's been a long day. I'm sure you're just as tired as I am. Maybe it was just a remnant of what was once located here. Maybe there really isn't a real youma here, but just a lingering energy."

Rei wasn't sure if she truly believed what she was saying, but a part of her wanted to believe in it. Had to believe it. That part of their lives was over. Wasn't it?

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   8th August 2014, 10:33 pm



Minako did not need Rei to answer. Her friend’s body language was already telling her all she needed to know. Rei had tensed up the way she herself had, and she was looking around suspiciously. Minako’s happiness and peace dissolved in that one moment. They were so close. They were just about to leave all this behind, finally get that new start they both wanted… and now this. The past… refusing to let them go.

The irony that she had been the one eager to leave it behind while Rei had been so concerned with it hadn’t been lost on her. Back in the old days, it was the other way around. Minako was the one obsessed with their past duties and how their present lives did not matter. But dying had changed all that. Dying had made her realize how precious her life was, even if it was too little too late. Then she was given another chance by Usagi, a chance to make something good out of what she learned.

And Minako wanted it so badly. To embrace her life as Minako Aino and… hopefully put her senshi duties to rest. Because she genuinely thought, for a moment there as she entwined her arms with Rei, ready to go home to a peaceful rest, that the battle was over. That they’d really closed that past life chapter.

And now this. Rei’s words confirmed her fear, and Minako, for the first time in her life, felt her body seize up. Like she had no idea what to do. The instinct to fight and eliminate evil was momentarily gone, which made her panic. She could not lose her senshi part. Not again. Not being able to transform once had been horrible, and she hoped it wasn’t a side effect of dying and coming back to life. She hadn’t actually tried to access that power again at all and had no idea if she still had it. She had thought she wouldn’t need it.

She waited in silence while Rei tried to sense it again, practically frozen in fear and uncertainty. She didn’t release a breath until Rei said that it was gone. A part of her was relieved that they didn’t have to fight right this second. It took until the possibility became almost real for her to realize that she wasn’t ready. Not so soon after she just came back to risk her life all over again. Her life had never felt more precious to her.

“I thought so too,” she replied somberly, trying not to show how unsettled she was.

She didn’t even realize that Rei was as tense as she was until the other girl loosened her grip on Minako’s arm. She smiled to wave the apology away. Minako gave one last look around the cave as she listened to Rei, not quite sure what she hoped for. For the evil to show up again so they could attempt to finish it once and for all? Or for it to just disappear so they could pretend it was never there in the first place?

A lingering energy. That was a good explanation. Minako wanted to latch onto it as if it was a lifesaver. She knew it was probably her being in denial, and it was dangerous to dismiss it as such. She knew that the right thing to do would be investigate further. It was her responsibility.

But Rei was right. She couldn’t do it tonight. She just wanted to rest and remember this day as the most wonderful day of her life. She wanted to sleep and still be able to wake up tomorrow, and then she could figure out what to do.

“You’re right,” Minako nodded decisively. “Let’s go home. It’s probably nothing.”

She moved toward the cave entrance, eager to be out of there before something jumped out at them while she wasn’t ready.

But in the back of her mind, she already knew that tomorrow she would be right back here again.

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PostSubject: Re: [Advanced] Synergy   24th August 2014, 6:15 am



With Minako's agreement, Rei was able to push her own doubts away. That had to be it, right? Lingering energy. It made enough sense, but a part of her still had a hard time truly believing that it was the truth.

Perhaps she was just trying to fool herself into thinking that their lives could ever be normal.

For now, however, it was late and it was dark. Investigating anything right now would be futile and potentially dangerous. They both could use a good rest after everything that had happened today. After having woken up alive once more, it wasn't unlikely that they would overreact to certain things.

Especially in a cave full of past ghosts.

Rei followed Minako towards the entrance of the cave, though she kept herself on alert the entire time. Just in case.

She was relieved that, by the time they were out of the cave altogether, there had been no other strange incident. That was a good thing, right? Even if there had been something truly there, Rei wasn't certain she was ready to start fighting again already. She had just woken up today. Couldn't she at least have one day without worrying about monsters and evil?

Perhaps that was too much to ask for a senshi. It was her duty, after all, to fight monsters and protect people. But still, her heart longed for just one day. One day of normal and ease, never worrying about friends being attacked. Never worrying about friends dying to creatures full of evil intent .

It felt calmer being outside of the cave, though, and Rei breathed in deeply, letting the cool night air fill her lungs before letting it out slowly. It helped calm her thoughts, as well. For the moment.

Rei then turned towards Minako, a faint smile on her lips. "I guess this is where we part ways." She paused for a moment, before continuing. "We'll probably all gather at Crown tomorrow. Well, I'll be going there tomorrow, anyway. You should come too, if you want."

The last time Minako had been at the headquarters, Rei had felt that something was off. And when Minako had left, waving goodbye with a smile on her lips, Rei had been struck by the feeling of emptiness, as if Minako was gone. The feeling had been over in an instant, and she wondered if she had imagined it.

Rei shook herself out of those thoughts. They didn't matter anymore. Minako was here, and she was alive. They were all alive, given a second chance. Now, Minako was free to come to Crown at any time, with everyone. Where she belonged.

"It'd be good to see you there. I'm sure Usagi would love that. Makoto and Ami-chan, too." Rei smiled again. "Just don't be a stranger, okay? You can't hide away from us this time."

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