End of the Line
Disclaimer: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and various networks. Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi. This was done purely as a creative exercise.
Author’s Notes: This is not going to be a very pleasant story. This contains graphic depictions of violence and death. Do not read this if you are adverse to such. This is your only warning.
The air hung with a bitter, stale emptiness all around them. There was no wind, no breeze, no movement behind the touch of their breath and the displacement when they moved. Even fans, churning and churning on the dying sparks of what had once held the force of storms.
Storms that hadn’t been seen the world over in weeks, leaving the earth to dry and crack. In the distant, the all too familiar rise of smoke, a choking pillar of straight, unflinching ash, rising into the air. Everything seemed so eager to burn now. And as the streams and rivers were starting to run dry, and lakes fell stagnant, the sickly sweet smell of rot had begun to fill the dead air.
No one wanted to say it aloud. No one wanted to really admit it. But the situation could be summed up in four simple words: The World Was Dying.
His face wrapped in a dusty swath of cloth, he moved, trudging on with the familiar weight of an axe, slung over one shoulder, and a shotgun over the other, with a duffel bag settled against his back. For a moment, he let dark eyes scan around them, flitting across the shriveled strands of grass and what had once been shrubbery. Then, just as easily, they slid back to glance at the ones behind him.
“Somethin’ the matter, X?” The throaty voice rasped slight as it struggled to hold a humor none of them had felt in a long, long time.
“Ya mean, besides everything, Faith?” Xander Harris shot back, with a weary shake of his head as he glanced out across the barren streets of what had once been the thriving city of Tokyo.
“Yeah, besides everything.” She agreed with a weak chuckle and a weak little smirk on her parched lips.
“Just everything.” He attempted a lopsided little grin that came out more than a little forced as he shook his head.
“Everything’s gonna be all right, right?” A soft voice spoke up, wide blank, almost dead, hazel eyes looked at them, as brittle, lifeless strands of once auburn hair fell against pallid, cracking skin. “Once we stop them, everything’s gonna be all right again… Once we stop them everything will be alive again…”
For a moment, Xander and Faith glanced at one another, before finally he spoke quietly back to her. “Sure, Wills, once we get the Big Bad, it’ll all be good.”
She smiled with a childlike emptiness back at him. He paused, before slowly correcting himself. No, not childlike, childlike would be filled with a sense of wonder and excitement. This was more of a soulless emptiness.
Again the two shared a look, before moving on, heading steadily forward as they could see the rising husks of what had once been buildings in the distance. With the brittle earth crunching quietly beneath their feet, Xander again glanced around them, glancing at the withered signs of what had once been a thriving forest. With it, the memories came, unbidden.
“Brings back memories, huh, B?” Faith sent a savage grin over to Buffy Summers as she took her axe to the throat of a familiar female, blue skinned demon.
“Yup, almost like being back in high school all over again.” Buffy agreed with a perky little nod of her head, the Slayer Scythe singing as it cleaved one of the Sisters of Jhe in twain, before wrinkling her nose up. “Which, really isn't saying anything good.”
“I don't know, I liked High School.” Willow offered with a small grin on her lips as she sent a demon flying with a wave of her hand.
“Wills, I love you, really I do.” Xander spoke up with a bemused grin on his lips as he blew out a demon's kneecap with a shot gun blast. “But you love books in a scary way.”
“There's nothing wrong with liking school!” Willow immediately protested as the demon she threw suddenly exploded in green flames. “Um, oops, looks like I still need to work on that one.”
“... Kennedy, you wanna back me up on this?” Xander glanced over at the younger, brunette Slayer who was kicking one of the Sisterhood away from another Slayer.
“A little busy here!” She immediately called back with a sarcastic call on her lips. “You know, what with saving the world and all?”
“Ah, much do you have to learn, Grasshopper.” Dawn Summers spoke, taking a momentary break from the murmuring incantation she had been chanting. “For the way of the Scoobie is to quip in the face of Apocalypse.”
“As much as I agree with that sentiment, Dawnie, you mind making with the rest of the ritual?” Xander spoke up with another quip as he grinned back at the girl, his single eye shining slightly.
“Geeze, always in the rush, much?” Dawn whined softly before shaking her head as she rolled her eyes again. “Fine, fine! Impatient jerks.”
Any response that would have come, was cut off, as suddenly the air was split by the sudden scream of one of the Slayers.
Eyes turned, ready to give aid, ready to give vengeance, before suddenly another scream erupted, filling the air as one of the Sisterhood's voice joined the Slayers in a sound of pure agony. In a brief instant, it suddenly changed from a solo, to a duet, to a full chorus as Slayers and Demons alike collapsed screaming in agony. As Xander turned, he watched in disbelief as Willow gave a cry of defiance, anger, fear and pain as she joined them. All save for Faith, Buffy and Dawn.
Only, Dawn wasn’t exactly fine.
Strands of emerald energy had begun to curl off of Dawn, taking with them her flesh in a rapidly quickening process. Her eyes wide, fearful, Dawn spoke up, her eyes and voice filled with a frightened panic. “BUFFY!”
The Scythe clattered to the floor, forgotten as Buffy raced across the room as fast as she could. A human’s speed, not a Slayer’s, as she reached her little sister just in time for the strands to suddenly turned into a stream, and just as she felt her sister’s arms wrapping around her, Dawn simply… unraveled. Unraveled in a sudden explosion of emerald energy that threw Faith and Xander off their feet.
It was a short moment later, that Xander managed to groggily force himself to his feet, his head ringing as his single eye blurrily roamed over the suddenly far, far too silent area. Still as a grave came unbidden to his thoughts as he suddenly turned his head back towards where he’d last seen Dawn and Buffy. Where he now saw nothing but a small crater in the smoldering floor.
As panic started to settle into his mind, he pushed himself up, moving to his feet. “Buffy?! DAWN! WILLOW?!”
And again, he was met with only the silence of the grave as he stood amidst a floor of lifeless bodies. The demons were nothing more than shriveled up, vaguely humanoid husks, curled into a variety of expressions of agony. The Slayers… He reached Kennedy first, and crouched down, moving his hand to her throat, feeling for a pulse.
He released the breath he hadn’t known he was holding as he could feel the faint pulse moving through her throat. Only, he sucked it back in again as he caught sight of her still open eyes. Blank, lifeless, empty eyes, staring back at him without sight, without life, without a mind, without a soul.
He moved from one Slayer to the next, and each he came to was the same as the last. Alive, but empty. Nothing left inside them.
He glanced for a moment towards Willow, feeling the sinking pit of fear hitting his stomach like an icy pick, before suddenly he heard a stirring groan a short distance away.
Moving faster than he thought he had any right to, he was moving, almost dancing over the bodies until he was crouching down next to a slowly rising figure. “… Faith?”
“Ugh… fuck, what the hell kinda demon hit me, X?” She groaned softly as she struggled up, feeling strangely empty, weak as she could feel the way everything simply hurt.
“I… I don’t know.” Xander admitted in a thick, quiet voice as he couldn’t quite bring himself to look at her, unconsciously looking out over the bodies. “One minute, everything was business as usual…”
“What…?” Faith froze as her vision slowly sharpened into focus, and she found herself, staring out across the room of still bodies and a breath was sucked greedily back into her mouth. “THE FUCK!?”
Xander winced as she practically screamed into his ear, feeling the way her fingers reflexively dug into his skin even as he couldn’t meet her eyes. “I… don’t know.”
“The Baby-Slayers…” Faith’s eyes widened in horror as she stared at the group. “Are they…?”
“Gone.” Xander stated in a quiet, half broken voice. “They’re alive… but… it’s like there’s nothing there.”
“B, Red and little D?” Faith spoke up, suddenly gripping, fearfully, on his arms as she struggled to stand up.
Xander raised his hand and pointed, numbly towards the slowly cooling crater as he struggled to form the words. “Dawn… Just… started to… It was peeling off her skin! Then, when Buffy got to her… she suddenly just…!”
“Exploded.” Faith finished as she could feel her mind bringing up a hazy recollection as she could feel the tears starting to course down her eyes. “And B…”
“Yeah.” Xander agreed as he held onto her, his own eye glistening as he finally began to walk towards Willow, half carrying Faith as he moved.
“And Red…?” Faith asked quietly as she just let herself lean, unable to bring herself to try and stand on her own.
“Don’t know.” Xander admitted as he slowly, quietly knelt down next to his oldest friend, staring at her far too pale face, as his arms seemed frozen at his sides.
Seeing his reaction, Faith grit her teeth, then slowly reached down, bringing her fingers down to Willow’s throat, feeling just as Xander had to the other Slayers, there was a moment of silence, as Xander could feel an eternity, digging into his throat as he waited, before finally she spoke. “She’s… Alive.”
“So are they.”
Faith flinched slightly as he nodded around the room, before slowly she reached up, and began to shake against Willow’s shoulder. “Come on, Red… Wake up. This ain’t no time to be sleepin’ on the job.”
The motion was feeble at best as Faith struggled to put more force into the action. She felt weak. Weaker than she had in years. Weaker than she ever had since she’d become a Slayer… And with that thought, a sudden revelation hit her. “X…”
“What, Faith?” He spoke softly, dully as he finally brought himself to stare down at Willow’s inert form.
“I ain’t a Slayer anymore.” The word whispered, fearfully past her lips, as her hand, dug slightly down into the shoulder of the girl she had been trying to wake up.
A slight whimper of pain broke anything further that could be said, as hoarse, rasping words fell past Willow’s lips. “Hurts… Everything… so empty… hurts… Make it stop… Xander, m’k it st’p h’rtin’ pl’s?”
“Willow!” Xander almost sagged in relief as he reached down, and grabbed hold of her, pulling her up against his chest with a ragged sob of relief.
“’S cold… Feel… empty, Xander.” Willow whimpered softly as the tears started to pour down her cheeks as she curled into him. “It hurt… so much…still hurting… Ripped out of me, out of them, out of everyone… taken away, stolen…”
“Willow?” He ran his fingers slowly through her hair, confusion written on his face as he stared wildly from Willow to Faith, his eye damp with tears as he looked to her, completely, utterly lost. “What… happened?”
“She can’t tell ya, kid… She just caught an echo of someone ripping the magic out of anything and everything.” A new voice spoke up as a figure wearing a jacket over a Hawaiian shirt with a fedora atop his head stepped into view. “And lemme tell ya, that ain’t fun.”
“Are you the …?!” Xander spoke up, his eye suddenly burning down into the figure in front of him, who seemed to be… diminishing somehow with each passing moment.
“Easy kid, this ain’t no doing of mine.” He shook his head before speaking up again. “Look, I don’t have much time, my name’s Whistler, ever heard of me?”
At the reluctant nod the two brunette’s gave, the figure nodded his head quickly and sighed slightly as he winced visibly. “Look… out in Japan, a girl who never grew up inherited an artifact with the power to create and destroy worlds. Somehow, she got it into her head that the world was going to end, so she decided she was going to protect her friends and her city…”
“And what the FUCK does this have to do with us then?!” Faith barked out and glared at him as she gestured around them. “And what does this have to do with what happened to them?!”
“Because she had to get the power for from somewhere.” Whistler answered bluntly as his hair began to visibly grey at his temples. “So, she decided she’d do it by taking away all the magic, used to fight.”
“What…?” Faith froze at that staring wide eyed at the man. “How the FUCK does someone do that?!”
“By having too much damned power and too little sense.” Whistler stated bluntly as visible wrinkles began to form on his face. “Thing is, it wasn’t just the ‘bad’ guys that use it.”
Xander slowly focused on the figure that was visibly aging in front of them, as he took a slow, deep breath, his mind slowly grinding through the thoughts and possibilities before his face froze in realization. Before he could even open his mouth to speak, Whistler nodded his head back at him.
“Bingo, kid. Good guys, bad guys, and…”
“The world itself.” Xander finished as he could feel the icy pit swelling in his stomach.
“X?” Faith looked over at him, confusion written on her face.
“Nature, Faith. The cycle of life. It’s all one big fight to survive, and magic is a part of that… With it ripped out…”
“The world starts to die.” Whistler stated simply with a nod as his hair was visibly salt peppered now. “Not as fast as the ones with magic tied directly into them, but…”
“You’re dying.” Xander suddenly cut in, staring back at the demon with a look of disbelief. “Can’t you just…?”
“Yeah, I could.” Whistler agreed with a nod of his head as his could feel the way his muscles were rapidly atrophying beneath his sagging skin. “But then, who the fuck would be able to tell you this shit? Look kid, I ain’t got much time to tell you what’s the what as you’d put it. You got a small time frame to keep using your cell phones and the internet. Signals are gonna start degrading pretty quickly… After that, well… You’re a bright sort, you can figure it out.”
“Why ain’t I lying there like them?” Faith asked suddenly as she gestured around.
“Because, toots, you and Buffy were The, capital T, Slayer. What you got wasn’t tied into yer souls like theirs was.” Whistler shrugged his shoulders, his jacket suddenly seeming far, far too big for him, as he took out a cigar and brought it up to his lips as he lit it for a moment.
“Where is she?” Xander spoke up softly, his eye slowly flicking around the fallen figures around them as he continued to run his fingers through Willow’s hair.
“X?” Faith spoke up, uncertainty written on her face.
“Where. Is. She?” He repeated, as his head rose up, and his single eye bore up into Whistler.
“Tokyo, Juuban Ward.” He answered simply as he savored a long draw on his cigar. “You won’t be able to miss it.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Faith cut in again as he looked between the two males.
“That’s why he came, Faith. To point us in the right direction.” Xander stated simply as he stared back at the now elderly looking Whistler.
“The Powers, they might be willing to pack it in and give up.” Whistler answered with a shake of his head. “But me? What can I say? I’m too damned stubborn.” He took another slow drag of the cigar. “But it won’t be easy kid… They’ve got power behind them like your witch friend had at her peak… and they throw it around a lot more than she did.”
“Thanks.” Xander stated simply, before suddenly hesitating as he looked back at him. “Willow…. Will she…?”
“Doubt it kid.” Whistler answered back in a suddenly very, very brittle tone as he looked at the three of them, and spoke in a voice as brittle as rice paper. “Well… looks like my time is up… All that’s left to say… ‘Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.’”
And before their eyes, as he finished his quote with one final drag of his cigar, Whistler smiled a brittle smile at them before crumbling into a pile of dust.
The line crackled with static as Xander held it to his ear, even as the ringing chimes poured back to him with angry bursts of static, it took a moment, but, finally, a voice crackled to life, almost distorted beyond recognition.
“Please, please tell me you’re all right, Xander.” The emotion in Rupert Giles’ voice was audible even through the overwhelming crackle of static. “Please tell me they’re all right.”
“I… I’m sorry, Giles.” Xander’s voice was barely a whisper as it fed itself into the static filled line.
“Faith? Willow? Dawn? Buffy…?” There was desperate, pleading hope in a voice etched in pain as Xander swallowed the thickness in his throat before he answered.
“Faith is aching, but alive… Willow’s… almost catatonic. Buffy… Dawn… Dawn was unmade. And Buffy was holding her when it happened.” Xander spoke softly, as he could feel the fresh tears burning down his cheeks. “I watched it, Giles… I watched as Dawn exploded and took Buffy with her.”
“No.” Giles spoke softly, disbelief hitting a sharp staccato as it echoed hollowly through the static. “No, not… No…”
“The other Slayers… they’re just shells. They’re alive… but there’s nothing there anymore.” Xander answered back as he could feel the way his knees were going weak.
“We… we have the same here.” Giles admitted quietly. “When it hit… I felt… I can’t even begin to describe how horrible it was.”
“It hit Willow even harder.” Xander stated softly as he fought back against the urge to curl up and break into sobs.
“Xander… I… all our magic users can’t… That is to say, we will find out who’s responsible for this and…” Giles’ voice grew harder, sterner.
“I know where she is.” Xander stated quietly, almost reassuring himself, before taking a slow deep breath as he could hear the way Giles sucked in his own.
“She? You know who did this to them, then?” There was an mix of disbelief, relief, and hunger in Giles’ voice as it broke through the static filled line.
“Yeah. Got the low down from Whistler before he turned into dust.” Xander answered back as he took a slow deep breath. “We need money, weapons, and a way to get them into Japan.”
“Where in Japan?”
“Tokyo. Juuban Ward.”
“You’ll have it.” Was the simple response, before Giles’ voice continued a moment later. “How….”
“The world’s dying, Giles.” Xander paused a moment, centering himself as he closed his eye before continuing. “Is it bad that I couldn’t care less about that? That all I want to do, is to make them pay?”
“If it is, I’m as damned as you are.” Giles answered simply as he spoke softly. “God Speed, Xander.”
They’d made their way towards Japan by boat when the planes had begun to either fall out of the sky or never leave the ground. It was then that the signs had truly begun to make themselves known. The wind had died completely on the first day out, never to rise again. It was only a few days after that that the sea had turned as still as glass save for the occasional, desperate jump of a fish in the distance, and the ripples left in the ship’s wake.
When the clouds had vanished from the skies over head and never returned, the crew’s whispers had taken on an almost frantic tone. Xander had merely given the men a look, before returning to the quiet care he'd been giving Willow, trying to coax at least some remnant of the woman she'd been back out of her as Faith watched. Day by day, during which Faith seemed to pull further and further back into herself, until finally Xander couldn't take it anymore.
“Are you really going to make me do this, Faith?” Xander stared down at her, with a slight edge of frustration in his voice as he stared at the listless and haggard looking brunette sitting back against a shipping container, the Scythe settled across her lap.
“What're ya talking 'bout, X?” She couldn't meet his eye, her eyes turned to the side as she stared out, refusing to look back at him. “You know me, everything's Five by Five.”
“Right, uh huh...” Xander almost fell down next to her as he leaned his own head back to stare up at the empty sky as he rested against the warm metal. “Seriously, Faith, we both know that's bullshit.”
“What, you expect me to breaking down? To be some whiny little bitch?” Faith growled softly as she glared back at him for only a moment before looking away. “I ain't that kinda girl and you fuckin' know it.”
“Faith, I'm saying I need your help.” Xander answered back bluntly as he turned his head and gave her a look. “Seriously, do you think I can do this all on my own? We don't even know what we're up against, other than they've got mojo major enough to be killing the world, and they have fire power to toss around like Willow.”
“Like Red used to you mean, before this shit sent her to the short bus.” Faith shot back with a hiss as she dug her fingers against her arms. “Before this shit made me the same, useless fuck head I used to be.”
“And what does that make me then, huh?” Xander shot back with a half glare as he shook his head. “You want to put the fate of the world in my hands?”
“Worked out last time, when Red went all end of the world, didn't it?” Faith countered with a slight narrowing of her eyes.
“For some reason, I don't think talking about yellow crayons and letting them throw obscenely powerful blasts of magic at me is gonna cut it this time.” Xander shot back with half a glare before shaking his head. “Besides, you saying you don't want a piece of them?”
“Fuck yeah I do!” Faith shot back with a sudden burst of fire, before flinching a bit as she curled back up against herself. “But, I ain't nowhere near what I was... not like when I was a Slayer.” She paused, before she held up the Scythe. “Now… I’m empty, just like this is. Empty of everything that finally… yeah.”
“The.” Xander corrected quietly as he lightly shook his head.
“Wha?” Confusion was written in Faith's eyes as she looked back at him in incomprehension.
“You were ‘The, Capital T, Slayer,’ remember?” Xander answered back quietly as he lightly let his eye drift listlessly overhead. “That's why you're still here, not....” He paused there, feeling an involuntary shudder rippling down his back as he curled back on himself. “Not like the girls are.”
“Ain't fair.” Faith agreed with a quiet nod of her head. “I'm the one that deserved it, not them.”
“You didn't deserve that anymore than they did, Faith.” Xander shot back simply as he shook his head, before reaching down into his waist and thumbing the chamber of a revolver stuck there with an audible click.
“Packin' now? Never took you for one of those wanna be gangsta's.” There was an attempt at humor in what she'd said, even if it'd fallen flat in execution.
“You know that this is pretty much a suicide mission, right, Faith?” Xander stated bluntly as he thumbed the chamber again, letting it click again, then again in a steady, clicking rhythm. “Odds of us walking away from this are about as low as you can get.”
“Don't see you running anywhere but straight towards it.” Faith countered back as she turned her head and stared piercingly at him. “Got a Death wish, X?”
“Maybe.” Xander agreed with a nod of his head, before turning it to meet her eyes. “You?”
“Maybe.” Faith agreed with a nod of her own. “Still, you know they're gonna be pissed at you for throwing your life away, right?”
“Look around us, Faith.” Xander shot back as he half gestured with his free hand. “Not much life left to live if something isn't done.”
“Just saying, they're gonna be pretty pissed at me for not stoppin' ya.” Faith shot back defensively as she raised her hands up towards him.
“They took almost all of my girls from me, Faith.” Xander stated quietly as he stared down at the tips of his toes. “They didn't even have the decency to kill them all. To put them out of their misery. No, they had to hollow em out and gut them...”
“That's some macabre shit there, X.” Faith noted with a winced as reflexively her hand went down to rub at her stomach. “I mean… ya still got Red, right?”
“No, I don’t.” Xander answered back as he slowly shook his head. “Whatever that was… it took my Willow along with everyone else. What’s left… She’s broken, Faith. Broken in a way I can’t fix, in a way I can’t make better.”
“Guess all your girls are gone then.” Faith answered back bitterly as she curled her knees back up against her chest.
“Nah, still got one.” Xander shook his head as he ignored the stale taste of the air.
“Really? Who?” Faith looked surprised as she turned her head back to him, a quizzical look on her face.
“You.” He shrugged his shoulders slightly as he continued to lean back against the container.
“I ain’t no one’s girl, X, you know that.” Faith almost spit the words back as she shook her head. “You know that. Things with Wood proved that.”
“Nah, you’ve been one of my girls since before…” He paused a moment, wincing slightly as he shook his head. “The incident that will not be named.”
Faith flushed slightly as she looked down at her hands. “Sorry about… ya know… Tryin’ to strangle ya.”
“Eh? I wasn’t referring to that.” Xander answered back with a blink. “I was talking about the whole kicking of me out, naked!”
“Ah.” Faith paused a moment, before a genuine smile curled over her lips. “That I’m not going to apologize for. You had a cute butt.”
“Had? I beg your pardon? I still have a cute butt, thank you very much!” Xander answered back with mock outrage.
“Xander…?” A timid, almost feeble voice spoke up, as Willow’s too pale, and too thin frame almost stumbled forward into view. “It’s dead.”
Before he could open his mouth to speak, he watched as Willow lifted up her hands, showing the lifeless form of a seagull in them. “It just… fell.” She tried to smile, even as her tears began to fall down her cheeks. “I caught it, but it was still dead. All dead.”
Moving quietly, quietly, Xander stood up, taking the dead animal from Willow’s hands as he nodded to her. “It happens sometimes, Willow, you know that.”
“No…” She shook her head, before gesturing toward the side with a quiet, almost empty voice. “All dead.”
Frowning slightly, Xander stood up and walked over to the edge of the ship, before the bird suddenly fell from numbing, frozen fingers down into the stagnant sea.
“X…? What is it?” Slowly Faith walked up behind him, before staring out into the ocean herself. “Holy fuck…”
The placid, unmoving waters were littered with the floating, lifeless bodies of birds and some small number of fish, standing in stark contrast to the smooth, motionless surface. As they watched, they could see how in the sky, as they could see the rising peak of land in the distance, some birds still clung, desperately, defiantly in the sky. In the water below, still they could see a fish, jumping, now and again. Fighting for life in what was becoming a graveyard.
“All dead.” Willow repeated, staring out into the sea as her words hung in the empty hair like the grim shadow of the Sword of Damocles.
They’d made port only a few hours after that. Met by frightened men and women who struggled to hold to the discipline they’d spent years building up. Halting, broken English had been spoken, as they struggled to hold onto duty in the face of growing signs of extinction.
The grim look on Xander’s face had done little to assuage their fears when he looked at them with a single, almost dead eye. But still, when they met his gaze, each of them stood a little straighter. Each of them found a bit more steel to put into their back and into their will. After all, they couldn’t let a gaijin face this with a stoicism they couldn’t muster.
So, they’d been escorted towards the sight, down the eerily empty streets of the usually bustling megatropolis that was known, collectively, as Tokyo. It had all started by vehicle, a seemingly new truck they’d settled into the back of, equipment stowed as Willow shifted nervously, clinging to the grim faced form of Xander as Faith had listlessly fingered a knife.
“Ya know, I always heard Tokyo made New York look like ole Sunny’D in terms of people running around all the time.” Faith noted as she stared out into the empty streets.
“It normally is.” Aiko Kaymia, their escort, spoke up as she shifted uneasily in her seat as the sputtering, too loud engine roared in the background. “Normally, you could never drive like this. But this isn’t normal.”
“No, guess it ain’t.” Faith admitted with a nod of her head as she shrugged her shoulders.
“Do you…. Do you think you can stop it?” The voice was soft as it left the Japanese woman’s lips, her eyes downcast, staring into her hands as she could feel the slight, shifting sway of the road beneath them.
“We’re going to make them pay.” It was Xander’s only response as he stared, stoically forward, saying nothing as he lightly ran his fingers through Willow’s hair.
“But…” Aiko answered back, a protest on her lips, before she could feel Faith elbow digging into her arm.
“He ain’t gonna say anything like that where Red can hear.” Faith muttered softly so Willow couldn’t hear her as she shook her head. “Simple truth? We. Don’t. Know. We could put down the bitch that did this, and everything goes back to right as rain… But…”
“It might already be too late.” Aiko finished as she hung her head, feeling the tears stinging at her eyes. “I… I don’t want everything to end.”
“Ya think we do?” Faith shot back as she glared at the woman before shaking her head as she looked over at Xander. “Well, I don’t at least. X… I don’t think X cares about anything other than putting this bitch down.”
Aiko stared at Xander again, watching the way the man just kept stroking the frail looking woman’s hair, his face a grim set mask before slowly she nodded her head. “He has the look of a man with nothing to lose.”
“Probably feels that way too.” Faith answered back with a quiet nod of her head. “He’d been fighting for B since he was 15 or 16 last I heard… Brought her back from the dead twice . Fought the good fight. Watched their back, saved the world. Now, B’s gone, is everyone but me and G… Red there… not enough home for him to count.”
A light of understanding flashed across Aiko’s eyes as she slowly nodded her head as if suddenly, everything made sense. “Ah.”
“Ah?” Faith turned a puzzled look onto the woman, uncertainty written on her face.
“Samurai.” Was the simple word that left the woman’s lips as she stared back at Xander as if in a new light.
“X? Sorry, he’s not really a sword swinging bad ass.” Faith snorted a bit as she looked back at the one eyed man, before reluctantly adding. “Though, Fang would call him a knight, here and there… He was always a bit of a goof. He just… was the one who was always there. The one who sees us for who we are, our strengths and our flaws.” She said the last as if it left a sour taste in her mouth.
“There is something wrong with that?”
“Nah… just the one who pointed it out to us, is the one that made it so he needs that patch.” Faith stated simply as she quietly shook her head.
“Ah.” Again Aiko nodded her head before speaking again. “Samurai.”
Faith looked at the woman oddly for a moment before shaking her head. “Didn’t you hear what I…?”
“Being Samurai is not about being, as you say, a ‘sword swinging badass.’” Aiko stated simply with a shake of her head. “It is about serving your lord, dutifully, faithfully. Never running from it, never abandoning it. It is said that death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain. Samurai shoulder that duty without complaint and without second thought.”
“What about when their ‘lord’ runs?” Faith shot back with a flash of… something in her eyes.
“Then the Samurai continues to do his duty, faithfully until they return.” Aiko answered before answering the unspoken question in Faith’s eyes. “And when their lord falls, they see that they are avenged, no matter the cost.”
“Huh, fine.” Faith muttered softly as she looked away. “Samurai.”
It was then, that the sputtering engine suddenly gave out one last, coughing protest, before going still as they slowly coasted to a halt, frozen in the middle of the street. Nodding her head in grim understanding, Aiko spoke again. “This is as far as our vehicles will go. Every moment, it gets just a little bit farther… The rest of the way will have to be on foot.”
Xander simply nodded as he lightly nudged the red head leaning against him. “Come on, Willow, time to go.”
“Time to stop the bad guys?” The was a hope that wasn’t in Willow’s voice, a hope she obviously wanted to feel, but couldn’t as she stared back at him.
“Yeah, Wills.” Xander agreed with a slow, thick swallow before he pulled a dusty cloth over his face. “Time to stop the bad guys.”
And again, for he wasn’t sure how many times, Xander glanced out over empty streets, where he’d, on occasion, see a drawn, almost empty face, staring back at him through a window. Again he felt the slow, gnawing uncertainty, eating at edge of his awareness. Everything was wrong, felt wrong as he slowly came to focus on the shimmering, glowing half sphere that was encompassing the entirety of the Juuban ward.
They reached a barricade, Aiko’s voice flashing through a rapid firing of Japanese, brandishing some official looking documents, that the police, or at least he assumed they were police, looked at. A moment later, they cast suspicious glances at the three companions, including the visible weapons on their persons. Then another, rapid fire blast from Aiko and they were reluctantly waved through.
As they moved, he could feel the way that Willow suddenly seemed to be coming alive next to him. The way a kind of nervous, almost bouncy energy had started to fill up her steps. For a moment, a brief moment, he allowed himself to believe that she was finally healing from the damage that had been done to her.
It was then, when he turned his head to look at her, that he realized just how wrong he was. Her eyes were filled, not with life and joy, but held instead a gnawing emptiness, aching to replace the void inside her. Eyes that never once left the shield as she stared at it like a woman dying of thirst and it was her Oasis.
They finally stopped, ten short feet from the shimmering surface, before he turned his head towards Aiko, who stared at him with a penetrating stare that comforted some part of him he couldn’t identify. “Anyone tried to get in?”
“Many.” Was her short response as she shook her head. “It does not rebuff them, but… it does not open to them either. Nothing scratches it, nothing dents it, nothing seems to affect it at all.”
“It’s everything.” Willow spoke up, almost lovingly as she stared back at the surface. “Everything stolen, everything taken… all bundled up and tied down so tightly…”
“Uh, Xander? Is she saying what I think she’s saying?” Faith spoke up as she stared back at the shield while adjusting her own bag, and the lifeless Scythe on her back.
“That whoever is behind it… used everything she ripped out of everyone, out of the world, to make it.” Xander stated simply as he stared back at the shield, before the words came thick with disgust past his lips. “They killed the world to protect one little scrap of land.”
Before the others could respond, Willow suddenly pushed her hand against the shield. Before they could speak, they could only stare as somehow, she pushed her hand, into the shield. Then, the air was rent as her voice awoke, releasing a sudden cry of pain, relief, release and joy all intermingled into it.
Xander moved, suddenly trying to reach her side, only to find himself rebuffed as the very air itself seemed to thicken against his straining muscles. He watched, helpless as the very air itself crackled to life and burned around him. The scent, filled his nose as he strained and pushed, watching helplessly as tendrils of surging magic coiled around her.
Then her voice filled the air. “Oooh… oh Goddess! So much… Everything… everyone..” Streams of silver, glowing tears fell down Willow’s cheeks as she was lifted into the air, her feet leaving the suddenly cracking street as she let it all just course through her. “I can see them, Xander! I see Kennedy! I see… I see Angel! And Spike! And… Oh Goddess…”
“Willow! Come back! Don’t!” Xander spoke up, tears suddenly leaking out of his eye as he struggled to move forward, pushing himself, fighting back against the magic that held him at bay.
Then, there was a sudden moment of clarity in Willow’s eyes as she turned her head back to Xander, and smiled a sad, knowing smile at him. “I’m sorry…. Xander…”
“NO!” The word tore past his throat as he fought even harder, his eye going wide, feral as he clawed at the very air that defied him.
And then the power was curling through her, into her, joining with her, invading her, consuming her. As she was pulled up, falling back into surface, she looked at him with a soft, sad smile on her lips as she spoke. “I have to do this, Xander… Otherwise, the way will never open.”
And with that, she gave him and Faith one final, sad smile, before her face vanished entirely and again the shield went still, and whatever force had been holding Xander back, retreated. He collapsed down to his knees, tears falling down his cheek as he stared for a moment at the calm, unmoving surface. Helplessly, hopelessly searching for some small sign of his oldest friend. “No…”
Then, the shield shuddered. A rippling, twisting distortion that split a jagged line down the shield, before splitting back into a gateway. When it finished, Xander and Faith suddenly heard a voice, whispering into their minds.
His eye widened then, staring over at Faith as the familiar touch of Willow’s voice echoed through his mind.
Hurry, we can’t hold it for long!
There was a growing urgency in the words, and he found himself, rising, shoulders squared as he tightened his grip on his bags and weapons, then started to run forward, straight for the entrance. Dimly, a part of him noted Faith was right on his heels. Moving the scant distance between them and the shield as Aiko watched them, they suddenly almost dove through the waiting hole.
Before the Japanese woman could respond, could act, the gate way folded back on itself, and once more the shield was a completely flawless surface.
They could feel a sudden shift as they breached the scant distance of the barrier. All of a sudden, they were hit by a cool, soft breeze as the air itself was suddenly something they hadn’t felt in weeks. Alive.
It’s up to you now. Free us.
The words echoed into their minds for a moment, before Xander managed to speak. “Willow…?”
Instead, the words that answered him back, were weak, faded as nothing more than the briefest of echoes.
… free… us...
“Fuck.” Faith whispered in shock as she stared around them, her fingers tightening on the handle of the Scythe. “We actually got in.”
“So it would seem.” A woman’s voice spoke up, immediately drawing their attention, and the barrel of one Xander’s guns on a green haired woman with tan skin and red eyes dressed in what seemed to be an abbreviated version of a school girl’s uniform.
“So, you the one responsible for this?” Faith asked, as she was more careful about pulling her own pistol out, slightly awkward in how she pointed it towards the woman.
“No.” There was a haggard, haunted look in the woman’s eyes as she leaned against a tall, slender metal staff capped in a heart shaped twist of metal. “This isn’t my doing.”
“But you know whose it is.” Xander finished the unspoken part of what she’d said as his eye narrowed.
“Yes.” She agreed with a nod of her head before clutching her staff more tightly. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. They didn’t tell me it was going to be like this.”
“What, they didn’t tell you you’d be killing the planet?” Xander shot back, his eye narrowed into a slit as he cocked back the hammer on the revolver. “They didn’t tell you that you’d be ripping the souls out of young girls, killing people who fought with every last breath to save this world? They didn’t tell you that you’d be killing each and every other living thing on this planet?”
Her knuckles reflexively tightened on the staff as she slowly shook her head. “No, they didn’t. And now… It’s too late. It’s much too late.”
“Fine.” Xander spit out the word as he kept the gun leveled at her. “She dressed in an outfit just like you?”
“What…?” Confusion rippled across the woman’s face, not quite seeming to understand the question as she numbly answered. “Yes, all the Sailor Soldiers are… We… wait.. why?”
“Because I need to know who to kill.” Xander stated quietly as he started to walk past the woman, only to freeze as he suddenly felt her hand on his arm.
“You can’t!” A panic had filled her eyes then, a sudden, desperate thing. “If the princess dies… I can’t… I can’t let you.. They don’t even know what they did! She doesn’t know! It’s my duty to protect her! I… I…”
Xander’s eye stared back into hers, watching the wild, burning desperation, before some of the cold chill left his eyes and he nodded his head slightly. “I understand.”
The woman relaxed, visibly at that, before the barking report of a single shot filled the air and a shower of crimson erupted from the woman’s back as she toppled backwards, her face written with shock as a swell of crimson blossomed beneath her.
“Jesus Christ, X!” Faith swore, her eyes wide as she stared from the woman to Xander. “What the fuck?!”
“She couldn’t have let us go, Faith.” Xander said softly as he stared down as the dying woman met his eye with hers and gave her a quiet nod. “As much as she wanted to stop it, she couldn’t. For whatever reason. So, I did what I had to. I freed her from her duty.”
“Jesus.” Faith swore again as she stared from him to the woman as she watched him start to walk away.
“Come on, we don’t know how many of them there are, and how many of them heard that.” He spoke so softly, so quietly, trying to put the slight smile he’d seen curling on the dying woman’s lips out of his mind.
“Fuck.” Faith swore again as she took one last look at the dying woman, before quickly moving after Xander.
“I know what I heard, Rei.” A girl with long, straight blonde hair insisted as she glanced around. “That was definitely a gunshot!”
“Please, like there’s anyone around right now that would be shooting off guns, Minako.” Rei was a black haired young woman with piercing blue eyes, that were currently rolling on her face. “Seriously, besides I’m sure that Setsuna can deal with anything that might be a problem.”
“I don’t know.” Minako bit down into her lower lip as she slowly shook her head. “I just… got this feeling, you know?”
“I swear, if you’re going to make one of those screwed up metaphors of yours…” Rei growled back before frowning as she stared ahead, before raising her voice. “SETSUNA! Where are you!?”
“What the hell, Rei?! Are you trying to tell anyone out there where we are?” Minako whined softly as she shifted around, nervously.
“Oh, shut up already.” Rei shot back and rolled her eyes. “Usagi’s shield keeps everything and everyone out, remember?”
“No buts!” Rei growled back, before her eyes caught sight of a glint on the street before she saw a familiar set of legs sprawled out. “Never mind, I see Setsuna. Why on Earth is she lying down outside like that?”
“Rei… I really, really…” Minako repeated as she started to shift warily as she moved a little bit closer to her companion.
“Stop being such a baby.” Rei muttered softly as she glared back at Minako. “I can’t believe you used to be Sailor V.”
“Hey! I’m still Sailor V!” Minako protested, even as she stopped, a good distance from where they could see Setsuna’s legs, The rest of her hidden behind a parked vehicle.
“Whatever.” Rei shot back before she stalked over behind the car. “Setsuna, quit lying down and tell Mina-…” Rei’s tirade broke into a scream as she caught sight of the blood covered chest of the green haired woman.
“What?!” Minako froze, her eyes widening as she saw the look of horror etching itself onto Rei’s face, before she could feel a light tapping on her shoulder.
The blonde girl almost jumped as she twisted her head around, just in time to catch sight of the barrel of a shotgun, before it erupted and turned most of her head into a splattered mess of scattered flesh.
The barking blast of gunfire ripped Rei’s attention to its source, as she numbly registered that splattering wash of crimson was once her friend’s head. She barely registered the tall gaijin’s cold eye, frozen there as she watched the way the barrel was already shifting. Immediately, instinctively words came to her lips as she could feel the fire form in her hand. “Flame Sni-AAAAAIIE!”
The Scythe, while no longer mystically empowered, was still a weapon honed to a razor’s edge, which Rei quickly found out as Faith cut down into Rei’s arm, disrupting her aim as it cut into the muscle and tendons in her arm, but did not penetrate bone. The resulting lance of fire was thrown off from its original course, flying through the air in a screaming hiss. It detonated against the car behind Xander as it sent a blast of metal scraps digging into his side.
Xander’s jaw clenched as he could feel the way muscle and skin tore beneath his jacket, shards of metal biting deep as he began to move, dropping the shotgun as he unslung his axe. Faith was already pulling the Scythe free, a spurt of blood filling the air as she then shifted the weapon slightly, snapping it forward into the face of the screaming woman. As Xander neared, he could hear the solid crunch of bone as the girl’s nose caved in.
A snap kick then, and Faith grunted, folding slightly under the force, before instinct took over as she reversed her grip on the Scythe and rammed the wooden stake at its base straight up into Rei’s rib cage. As she felt the girl, stiffening in shock against her, Faith let her hand dig back, pulling out a K-bar knife from its sheath behind her back, and shoving it up into the soft flesh beneath the young woman’s jaw with both hands. Faith could feel the way her lips were curled back into a vicious, angry snarl as she watched the light simply vanish from the other woman’s all too human eyes as she went limp and lifeless against her.
Xander was behind her an instant later as he placed a hand, dripping with his own blood on her arm. “You ok?”
“Five by five.” Faith muttered quietly as she stared down at the woman then at her own, bloody hands. “Just… I didn’t wanna have to kill a human again.”
“I know.” Was all he said, before he reached down, put his foot on the girl’s chest, before roughly wrenching the Scythe back out of her dead body and handing the weapon back to Faith, along with the knife. “Grab my gun, would you?”
“You’re bleeding.” Her voice was distant, quiet to his ears as he reached into his duffel back, pulling out something he placed on the ground, before carefully removing something she couldn’t quite see, before adding in something else.
“Just a scratch. I’ve had worse.” He shot back without looking at her, as he rolled the girl on top of it, covering her wounds and most of the blood from sight.
“We should bandage it.” Faith answered back with a quiet insistence in her voice.
“I don’t really think it’s gonna end up mattering too much in a bit, Faith.” Xander shot back as he finished doing whatever it was he was doing. “And we need to get out of sight again.”
As he stood up, she reached out, and grabbed hold of his arm. “And if you just die before you finish this?”
He paused a moment, glaring slightly back at her before shaking his head. “Fine, I’ll deal with it.” He paused, his eye flashing. “Once we’re out of here.”
A reluctant nod answered her back as she let go, whipping off the blood from her blades before sheathing her knife and slinging the Scythe over her shoulder. She followed, a short distance behind him as he stooped down and picked up his dropped shotgun, quickly looping it back into place before shouldering his duffel back and setting a brisk pace. For only a moment she looked back over her shoulder, staring at the three dead bodies behind her, the three dead women, one by her own hand, before her head fell and she pushed on after Xander.
“Haruka, Michiru,” a blue haired woman spoke up as she focused on a palm sized device in her hand, “I just picked up a spike from Rei. Like she was fighting something.”
“Eh, she was probably just blowing off some steam, Ami.” Haruka, a short haired blonde answered with a dismissive wave of her hand. “You know how she gets. Just give her a call and ask her if everything’s all right.”
“I already tried.” Ami answered back with a frown. “She’s not answering. I can’t reach Minako or Setsuna either.”
“Well, you know how Setsuna can be.” Michiru, a sea haired woman with elegant, flowing locks offered before frowning a bit as she shifted a violin delicately against her shoulder. “And it wouldn’t be the first time that Minako just turned off her communicator. I’m sure if they were having trouble they’d let us know.”
“We still should investigate.” Ami answered back with a firm nod of her head as she tapped over her keyboard. “I… after that spike, I can’t detect them. At all. I can’t find their signatures anywhere in the shield.”
That immediately made Haruka stiffen as she quickly stood up. “Wait, you can’t find them at all?”
When Ami nodded her head in confirmation, Haruka pulled out a blade and nodded her head as she glanced at Michiru. “We need to check this out.”
Seeing the determined and almost worried glint in Haruka’s eyes, Michiru slowly nodded her head as she set down her violin and stood up. “We’ll find out.”
“Just stay in on your communicators, all right?” Ami added insistently as she nervously bit down on her lower lip.
“I’ll go with them to make sure.” A new voice spoke up as a white cat padded into view, a golden crescent curled upwards in the middle of its head. “Minako is my responsibility anyway.”
Haruka gave the woman a curt nod as she firmly gripped hold of the scimitar shaped blade and gave the cat a look. “Just make sure you can keep up, Artemis.”
The cat nodded his head before shifting slightly, transforming into a silver haired man with the same mark on his head. “Where?”
In response, Ami flicked a few keys on her device and a map quickly projected up, a location displayed prominently on it. “Here.”
Xander hissed slightly as he could feel Faith tightening the bandages on his arm, and gave her a slight glare in response. “I think that’s enough, Faith.”
“You’re the one that let himself get filled with pieces of a flaming Honda, X.” Faith shot back as she tightened the bandage snugly into place.
“It was a Nissan, actually…” He paused slightly, his lips lightly quirking just a bit before grimacing quietly. “I think.”
“Uh huh, laugh it up.” She shot back before shaking her head. “So, what’re we gonna do, just keep moving, killing off any girl who’s dressed in a pervert’s wet dream’s excuse for a school girl outfit?”
“What I was planning.” Xander admitted with a shrug before affixing her with a hard look. “Besides… most likely place to find the ‘princess’ is right in the middle of this mess.”
Faith stared at him for a moment, struggling to comprehend the way he calmly stripped down his weapon and calmly cleaned it with his bloodied arm. “How the hell can you be so calm?!”
“Because I can't let myself feel.” He stated softly as he sighted down the barrel of the shotgun before setting it back into its place. “Because if I do, if I stop for even a moment and let myself take it in, I will break, I will shatter and all of this will be for nothing.”
He raised his head at that and bore his gaze into hers. “Because all of them are dead and gone. It's just you and me and I have to make those bitches pay for that before I can stand before whatever fucking higher power I'll end up in front of, and be able to stand unflinching because I did my duty.”
“Fuck.” Faith rubbed against her arms, feeling the way she suddenly felt so very, very small next to the man she was only just now beginning to truly know.
“Faith.” He spoke up quietly, not looking at her now as he chambered a fresh round in the shotgun. “If you need to... I will do it alone. If this is too much for you...”
Faith flinched as she could feel the hot flush of anger rising across her cheeks. Not because he said it out of pity, not because he said it out of dismissal of her abilities. It was the fact that he said it without any of those, with nothing but quiet acceptance and understanding that brought up the bile to the back of her throat.
“Fuck that noise.” She stated simply as she angrily threw her jacket back on, brushing away some of the flecks of dried blood from its surface. “I told you I was in this with you. And I'm stayin' in.”
He managed a slight smile back at her, and a nod as he brought up a finger to his lips. “Then, be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits.”
And Faith couldn't help it, she threw back her head and laughed and laughed as the tears fell streaming down her face.
Haruka fought down the bitter tang of bile rising up into her mouth as she slowly approached the blood caked street. She fought even harder when she heard the quiet hiss of breath that left Artemis' mouth when he caught sight of the limp, nearly headless body of his charge. Fingers clenched back, curling over the sword, tightening on it as she stood over pale face of Setsuna, struggling to understand how she could have such a serene smile on her lifeless lips as she stared, with empty eyes up into the sky overhead.
“Haruka, I'm tracking you in the area I last picked up Rei's signal. Did you find anything?” Ami's voice cut into the air as Haruka's face slowly tore itself away from where she'd been trapped, locked on the expression on Setsuna's face.
“Ami... We...” She struggled for words, to find some way of describing the scene in front of them as Artemis' wail filled the otherwise empty air for a long, soul wrenching moment. When it finished, Haruka fought down the swelling lump in her throat. “They're... They're dead.”
“... What...?” Ami's voice was hushed, stunned, disbelieving as she couldn't help but repeat her question. “What did you say?”
“I said they're dead!” Haruka hissed back as she clenched tightly back down on the communicator, anger burning into her throat. “Setsuna has a HOLE in her chest, Minako is missing most of her head, and Rei... Michiru is...”
Haruka turned her head towards where Michiru was almost timidly reaching down, her breathing forced, labored as she visibly steeled herself, before she grabbed hold of Rei's cold, limp shoulder, and jerked back to roll her over in one quick motion to be done with it.
Michiru had only a moment to register the punctured hole in Rei's ribs and the slit jammed up under her jaw before she heard the quite ting of a pin hitting the asphalt.
Haruka only had a moment to catch a glimpse of a flash of silver, and the device revealed beneath it before she watched Michiru, her lover, her heart, her soul, ripped apart by a sudden, violent explosion that knocked her and Artemis backwards, catching their bodies in a rain of shrapnel.
She barely heard the hollow echo of her own scream, as she started to feel the lightest drip of blood flowing down her face as realized she'd had bits and pieces of Michiru and Rei's body covering her. Her sword clattered uselessly to the street as she stared. Utterly, completely unable, unwilling to process what had just happened.
“...ruka... wha... s... ..at?” Dimly she realized that she still held the communicator in her hands, only vaguely catching brief bits of conversation sent through it. “'d.... ke.... splo.... n't … Michiru!”
“Michiru's.... Dead.” Haruka flinched back at her own words as she couldn't quite remember when she'd brought the communicator up to her lips. “They... they set something on Rei's body... when Michiru... it exploded... she... I...”
“Haruka...! Haruka....! Are you hurt?” Ami's voice came through, pleadingly through the communicator, begging her in a voice filled with emotion.
Vaguely, Haruka looked down at herself, her whole body feeling heavy, numbed, disconnected as she dully answered back. “I don't know. I'm covered in blood. I don't know if any of its mine.”
“And Artemis?” There was another insistence in that voice as she could feel it pressing her through the communicator.
Haruka considered Ami's words carefully. Was it worry? Concern? She couldn't tell, she thought, vaguely, she remembered the concepts behind them, what they meant, but she wasn't sure. “I don't know.”
“Find out!” Ami's voice cracked, even as she struggled to bark the order through the device to a numbed, shocked Haruka.
“Ok.” Out it came as a quiet dulled response as she stood up, swaying, stumbling to her feet as she forced herself to concentrate. Was it supposed to be this hard to stand? She could feel the way the question echoed through her mind, before she pushed it away, shaking her head as she followed one step uncertainly after the other.
It took her a moment to move behind the car. To bring herself to stare down at the blood covered face of the human looking moon cat. Raising a shaking hand up to her lips, she spoke once more into the communicator. “He looks... bloody. Like me.”
“Do you see anything bad? Anything visible?”
“No.” And she didn't. A part of her screamed out that she was supposed to get closer, that she was supposed to examine him again, more carefully, closer, but she couldn't bring herself to will it to action.
“Haruka, listen to me, very carefully. I need you to make sure that Artemis doesn't have anything too badly injured, and you need to stay right there! I'm on my way.”
“Ok.” Again, another dulled response as Haruka slowly dropped down to her knees, ignoring the way the cold asphalt dug against her skin, as she started to move her fingers against his body, searching numbly for possible leaks.
The sound of the explosion in the distance brought Xander's head up with a snap as he reflexively tightened his grip on his shotgun. “Well, looks like they found my little present.”
“You booby-trapped that chick's corpse?” Faith stared at Xander for a moment, before slowly shaking her head. “Man, that's cold.”
“You were expecting what, milk and cookies?” Xander shot back with a half glare before shaking his head. “Come on. Hopefully left some of them alive enough to drag themselves back to wherever they're all holed up.”
“We're going back there, again?” Faith stared back at him incredulously as she tightened her grip on the Scythe. “Then why the fuck did we leave it in the first place?”
“Because, if you stick around to watch a trap going off, you're that much more likely to get caught. Especially if something goes wrong.” Xander stated simply as he shook his head and thumbed the side of his shotgun. “Coming?”
“I already told you I was, didn't I?” Faith stated back as she bit out a hiss of breath and half glared back at him.
“I know.” He stated quietly, nodding his head just slightly as he stared out into the distance. “... I... Thanks for not leaving me alone on this.”
“The fuckers gotta pay.” It was said quietly, more to herself than anything as she tightened her grip on the Scythe and nodded her head. “Come on, let's just go, you don't wanna let them get away, do ya?”
“Right.” Xander nodded his head quietly, the sudden coldness falling over his eye once more as he started to stalk forward. “Let's go.”
Ami bit onto her lip again as she ran through the empty streets, knowing the people were safe and secure in their homes, sleeping through the nightmares that were going to be happening outside. Nightmares that weren't supposed to reach in here. They were supposed to be safe! That was the whole point of putting up the shield early!
She took a slow, deep breath, before shaking her head as she steadied her hands. It was just a little further. For a moment, she wondered, just how it was they'd gotten in. Obviously somehow, the thing that was destroying them, their world, was in here now. Doing what no one else had managed since their final battle against Beryl.
Someone was killing them.
She shuddered at the thought, before swallowing hard as she caught sight of Haruka, kneeling over the humanoid form of Artemis as she slowed to a halt. Both of them were covered in drying splatters of blood and bits of gore. Pieces, a dim part of her mind noted, most likely of Rei and Michiru.
“Haruka?” She spoke up quietly, afraid to raise her voice any higher, not trusting what she might be able to say as she forced herself to ignore the orange skirted body of Minako tossed haphazardly a short distance away.
“He's... got stuff in his leg, and in his chest...” Haruka stated quietly as she didn't look up at Ami. “I can't get it out.”
“Artemis...?” She spoke up glancing down at the man, his white clothing stained almost completely in the color of drying blood.
“Still here, Ami.” He muttered softly as he winced just slightly. “Just hurts... to do much of anything.”
“Don't worry, we'll get you to Usagi, and get you healed right up.” Ami stated quietly, nodding her head almost to herself as she glanced at him. “Can you stand?”
“Probably.” He admitted before looking up with almost empty eyes as he stared at her. “They're... There was so much blood... I... I had forgotten how much a human can bleed. Minako... her face was just...”
“We'll figure something out.” Ami responded quickly back and nodded her head quitely. “Usagi brought us back once... Maybe she can do it again for this?”
“She might be able to bring Michiru back?” Haruka spoke up, a desperate hope, shining in her eyes as she stared back up at Ami.
“Maybe?” Ami offered, biting down on her lip again as she shook her head. “Let's... Let's get Artemis back to the others, we'll... we'll come back for them when we get everyone.”
“But...” There was a sudden spike of fear, as Haruka stared back at Ami before glancing back. “I... I...”
“We can't do anything for them here.” Ami stated quietly, insistently as she reached out and gripped ahold of Haruka's shoulder. “And I can't get Artemis back on my own.
“I... I....” Haruka stared back at her, empty, lost and uncertain as she slowly shook her head. “But...”
“Stand up and help me!” Ami suddenly almost snapped out as she half glared at the woman, who stiffened in response, but none-the-less stood up, pulling Artemis up with her as she brought herself underneath his arm.
Seeing Haruka actually acting, Ami breathed a sigh of relief before moving up underneath his other arm. “Thank you.”
“Let's just... Hurry.” Haruka murmured softly as she began to mechanically walk down the street.
“Don't suppose you speak Japanese?” Xander asked curiously as he glanced over at Faith.
“Sorry, I skipped that day in Slayer school.” Faith shot back sarcastically as she half glared at Xander.
“Just figured I'd ask, I mean, you had that hunt here...” His voice trailed off as he shrugged softly while his eyes returned to the girls helping the male back down the street.
“Satsu did all the talkin'.” Faith answered back quietly as she tightened her grip on the Scythe, staring defiantly forward. “So, we just gonna let em wander off to get reinforcements?”
“No.” Xander answered back with a shake of his head. “We follow them until we know where they're going.”
“And then?” There was a touch of apprehension in Faith's voice as she stared back at Xander.
The immediate 'what do you think we're going to do?' look he gave her made her swallow down and slowly nod her head again. “Right, sorry.”
“It's... fine, Faith.” Xander stated quietly as he nodded his head again and then began to quietly trudge forward.
A moment later, and Faith was following after him again, watching the slight little limp in his step as she could see the visible way he was forcing himself to ignore the pain.
Ami sighed in relief as she caught sight of the gleaming crystalline structure Usagi had created to act as the focal point for the shield, and for them to base their operations out of. Smiling softly she turned her head to Artemis. “See? Almost there, soon we'll have you patched up good as new.” She lifted her arm, gesturing towards building.
“Yeah...” Artemis smiled slightly and nodded his head. “I'm just glad whoever it was didn't-”
A crack sounded through the air before the right side of Artemis' chest exploded in a sudden explosion of messy gore. Ami stared, gaping in disbelief before she turned her head, dropping Artemis' body as she sudden crab walked back wards. Just a few inches over and it would have been her chest not his. “They followed us!”
“Fuck.” Xander growled softly as he attempted to track the blue haired woman with his revolver. “Missed.”
“Didn't look like a miss to me, X.” Faith answered back as she gripped the Scythe tightly and started to move to flank the remaining pair.
“I wanted to take the blue haired on out, not the one that was already useless.” Xander shot back with a hiss, before raising his pistol again then cursing. “And now I don't have a shot of her!”
“Then we do what we gotta, get in close and do the deed.” Faith shot back as she tightened her grip on the Scythe.
“Just... be careful.” Xander winced slightly as he lifted his arm. “We've only seen a little bit of what they're able to do.”
“You know me, X.” Faith shot back as she started to run.
“That's why I said it.” He muttered back before focusing his eye on the blue haired one again.
“They followed us!” Ami's voice didn't quite register for a moment, what she meant kind of flashing over her mind as Haruka felt Artemis going completely limp, lifeless next to her. Then, she saw it, a flash of moment, a head of dark hair.
And she knew. With a sudden clarity as she saw the bladed weapon in the woman's, a gaijin she idly noted with confusion, hand. This was one of the ones who'd taken Michiru from her.
A strangled, primal scream left her lips, and she gripped tightly on her blade as she found herself, suddenly moving to meet her. Blade, in hand, as she could feel the sudden, surging feeling, burning through her veins. A dull roar filled her ears, as the rest of the world faded to darkness, everything save for the woman she was rushing to meet.
“I'LL KILL YOU!”
Ami stared in horror as she watched Haruka completely dump Artemis' body, almost carelessly onto the ground as she started racing towards a figure she could only vaguely make out. She scrambled again, just in time it seemed as another crack sounded through the air, the concrete next to her cracked from the bullet's hit. Staring, wildly around, she knew she couldn't keep this up, not for long.
Instinctively, she pulled out the oldest of her abilities, and suddenly a thick mist-like fog surrounded her, hiding her from the unseen enemy's sight. It would give her time to think, time to pin point where whoever it was shooting at her was. She breathed in the cool, moist air before pulling out her computer as she could feel her visor sliding into place.
As the mist suddenly emerged, surrounding the blue-haired girl, Xander fought down the urge to curse in frustration. Fine. The revolver was holstered quickly as he reached down, pulling out a pair of grenades from his pants. She wanted to play hide 'n seek? He'd just change the rules.
After all, one pin was pulled, then the other, before he chucked them both in the general vicinity of where the girl had been, a pistol might need a degree of precision the mist blocked, but grenades? Grenades had no such limitations.
Ami heard the first impact, then the second, the Mercury computer registering two objects had just landed near her. Instincts screamed at her then, as she instinctively pushed herself away from them, only to scream as the explosions suddenly erupted, throwing her even further through the air. Pain, like nothing she'd ever felt burned through her limbs, her chest.
Dimly, she recognized that her fog was dispersing, as she tried to force herself up. Trying and trying, only she couldn't seem to get her right arm to move, and her left... just kept slipping. As she turned her head, she suddenly came to a numbed realization of why.
Her right arm was missing almost entirely.
Rolling over, she couldn't help but stare up, seeing the sky over head as she tried to use her heavy, almost leaden legs to move. It was then, she saw the vague, blurry form standing over her. A man, she considered as she saw the flash of what she recognized was a gun, pointed directly at her.
As she felt the coppery taste of blood reaching her mouth, she managed to cough out a question. “Why?”
He frowned slightly as he heard the word, before shaking his head as he couldn't help but answer back in a gruff, thick voice as he cocked back the hammer of the revolver. “Sorry, don't speak Japanese.”
There was a light of recognition in the girl's eyes, and for a moment, he stilled his hand as he watched the way she simply bled out from the missing arm and the massive lacerations on her body, as her voice choked out a thickly accented word. “Why?”
He paused, as he couldn't help but feel a sudden caustic fire lighting in his veins as he stared back at her, before the words hissed out like a cold bile on his lips. “Why? Because you killed the world. Because you killed almost everyone I cared about.” There was a pause, his eye hard as he stared down at her. “Because you killed her.”
Confusion exploded across the woman's face as she slowly shook her head, weakly as she answered back. “No... Protect... Save People... Stop... Evil...”
“No.” He answered back as he set the hammer back, a fury burning through his veins as he holstered his gun, and suddenly grabbed hold of her bloody hair, forcing her, ignoring the whimpering gasp of pain, to look up above them as he pointed to the shield. “That doesn't protect. That killed the world. You stole their lives, you trapped their souls in that abomination.”
She tried to shake her head, another denial on her lips, until she looked into his eye, and couldn't help but flinch back from the simple, burning certainty she saw there. She struggled, she fought to keep herself awake, to answer him, to tell him he was wrong. But, the darkness was so strong, and she, she was so weak.
“No...” It was gasped out, whimpered almost, a poor final defiance as he watched her eyes finally roll up into her head as she succumbed to the blood loss and lost consciousness.
Snarling softly, he dropped her head, then stood, leaving her to lie there, bleeding away the final moments of her life in oblivious ignorance.
Faith ducked, almost frantically away from the savage swipe of the woman's sword as it tried to take her head off in one, swift, brutal motion. Swinging back at her with the Scythe, trying to disable the woman quickly as she had the previous girl. Only, to quickly find the Scythe almost carelessly batted away by the woman's hand.
Oh, it had cut her, the line of crimson she saw on the Scythe's edge proved that, but the woman barely seemed to feel it. Damn, she was fast. The sword had cut down, and she could feel the way it had cut through the thick material of her jacket like it wasn't even there, drawing a line of pain against her skin.
She tried a sudden, spinning kick, aiming to take out one of the woman's knees, only to find her blocking again... with her sword this time.
Biting down a scream of pain as she quickly pulled back, almost rolling her way to her feet as she unsteadily brought herself up to stand on the now bloody leg, she stared again at the seemingly possessed woman who was throwing herself at her once more.
The Scythe was thrown up, catching the blade on its haft as she could feel herself buckling, driven down to a knee beneath the force of the blow. She could feel the way she was steadily forced to give way beneath the force, the way she was steadily losing before a pair of rapid fire explosions nearby made the woman falter.
Immediately seizing the opportunity, Faith kicked up, brutally against the woman's knee, this time fighting back the urge to grin as it connected with a solid impact before she pushed away. An urge that quickly fled as the woman focused her attention again on Faith. Seemingly completely unaffected by the blow as she raised up the blade once more.
Faith rolled, and rolled, and rolled. Dizzying herself as she fought to keep out of the way of the blade hacking towards her body. Fighting back the scream when she could again feel it hitting the same leg that had already been injured.
As sweat poured down into the wound, stinging even further, Faith pulled back., rolling away as the woman finally seemed to pause, taking a breath. Not wasting a moment, she tried to put some distance between them, to give herself a chance to maneuver again. Only to immediately catch a wave of confusion as the woman didn't pursue her.
Rolling to her feet, she brought the Scythe defensively up in front of her, only to stare in shock as the woman's hand began to glow with what could only mean one thing. She was about to start launching a magic spell. “Shit!”
A gun shot rang through the air suddenly, and crimson exploded against the woman's chest. But still the glow didn't dissipate as she raised it up higher and higher. Another shot rang out, then another, then another, each blasting into the woman's body, until the click of an empty chamber sounded.
Bloodied, the woman stared back into Faith's eyes, the light rapidly dying out as she opened her mouth to say something almost bringing her hand back down in a rush towards the earth. Only, to finally falter, toppling over. Almost the instant she hit the ground, the magic she'd gathered, released and an explosive pulse filled the air as it tore apart her body, and sent Faith flying again.
Landing, rather violently against the side of a car, Faith hissed out an angry breath as she continued to hold the Scythe defiantly in her hands even as she let loose a string of curses. “FUUUUUCK! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
“Can you stand?” It was Xander's voice, a hint of concern in it as she heard the sound of brass hitting the pavement before she could see him quickly sliding six bullets back into his revolver's chamber.
“You think... I'm letting a little thing like that, stop me?” She forced the Scythe into the concrete, the pushed herself up, standing uncertainly as she gave him a smirk back. “See?”
He smiled slightly back at her and nodded his head before glancing around. “Well... I think it's safe to say we lost the element of surprise.”
“Gee, ya think?” Faith shot back bitterly as she hissed her breath softly and glanced around. “We'll probably be...”
The air suddenly crackled with the sound of burning air as a blast of electricity tore towards them in a collection of leaf like shapes. If Faith had been in full form, she would have been able to dodge it. If her leg hadn't been injured repeatedly by the short haired woman, she might have still had a chance.
Instead, she screamed as the electricity burned through her. Cooking her flesh and clothes alike as she convulsed where she stood. Then, it was over, and she collapsed down to the ground.
“Faith!” Xander turned his head, pistol already raised, bullets flying in the direction the blast had come from.
His eye widened as he saw the almost statuesque brunette glaring back at him, his bullets bouncing off the air in front of her as she was flanked by a thin, almost sickly looking woman carrying an almost parody of a glaive that seemed far, far too large for her, with a look of determined concentration on her face. So focused was he on the pair, that he almost missed the man, decked out in armor, sword drawn slashing for his head.
“Shit!” He swore softly, abandoning his pistol as it fell with a clatter to the ground near Faith's body, throwing himself backwards as he quickly reached back and unslung his axe.
The second blow was caught on the axe's haft, Xander offering up a grunt of exertion as he could feel the strength behind the man boring down onto him. As he looked up, he could see the cold, burning anger focused down onto him. And in response, he suddenly smiled back, before ramming his knee up into the man's groin as he let himself fall back from the pressure.
He pushed away the relatively limp force behind the man's sword, before thrusting the blunt edge of the axe straight up into his opponents throat, grinning grimly as he felt the cartilage crushing beneath the force as he collapsed the man's wind pipe. As he rolled around the now faltering man, he raised his axe up, dropping it to finish him before he bit back a scream of his own as disc shaped blast of electricity impacted his weapon, causing him to only rip a thick gash across the man's neck instead of taking his head off completely as the axe was wrenched out of his hands.
As he watched the lightning woman apparently charging up another attack, Xander immediately began to run, dimly realizing he was quickly approaching the spot where he'd shot the white haired man coming up on his left. Immediately he turned, sharply to his right. Reluctantly turning his back on the women as he raced down the street.
“He's getting away!” The dark haired girl spoke up as she raised up her glaive and started to aim it towards him.
“Hotaru, NO!” The brunette next to her quickly reached out, pushing the glaive down shaking her head. “There are innocent people down there!”
“He killed them!” Hotaru shot back, tears streaming down her cheeks as she struggled to pull the glaive back up. “He killed Haruka-papa and everyone else, Makoto!”
“I know.” Makoto answered quickly nodding her head. “And I won't let him get away, but you need to save Mamoru while you still can.”
Her eyes widening Hotaru turned her eyes over towards where the armored man was kneeling over, blood spilling out of his neck, before glancing again towards the retreating man. “But...”
“I'll get him, GO!” And with that Makoto started to run, almost leaping towards the direction the man had left.
Struggling for only a moment longer, Hotaru quickly ran over towards where Mamoru was caught in a race to see if he'd die first of exsanguination or asphyxiation.
Xander felt more than heard the girl racing after him as he poured himself into running, pushing himself harder and harder as he could hear her charging up another crackling blast of electricity. Just a little further. Then, he bit back a scream as he could feel a blast of electricity hit his arm, sending him roughly across the concrete.
He slid, feeling the way the concrete and asphalt ripped into his flesh, tearing apart his clothes. But, he refused to stop, rolling, staggering back to his feet, before lunging forward to close the last distance between himself and his goal. As one arm hung limp and useless at his side, he grasped hold of his prize, a rifle, resting atop his previously discarded duffle bag and turned it around towards the girl.
The resulting burst of bullets flew only in her general direction as he struggled to force his numb arm to respond. But still, it had the desired effect. Forcing her to dive out of the way and seek cover.
Hotaru had brought her hands down on Mamoru's neck just as she heard the bark of the rifle fill the air. Startled her hands jerked back as she quickly glanced back towards Makoto, only to sigh in relief as she watched her friend dive out of the way, safely finding cover from the wild spray of bullets. Biting her lip, she firmed her face before turning her hands back towards Mamoru, only to freeze as she heard a slight clink and a thud.
She turned her head, just in time to see Faith's dull smirk as she dropped the grenade down in the scant space between them, and she knew only a brief roar, a flash of pain, then nothing more.
Makoto almost wished then that she'd kept Hotaru with her. Still, she just had to wait, patiently, for him to run out of ammo or reload, so then she could knock him down. She turned her head then, looking to make sure Hotaru was taking care of Mamoru.
A slight smile curled on her lips when she saw the girl looking back at her, before staring at something she couldn't see. Then, everything shattered as an explosion consumed Hotaru and Mamoru in a violent ripping force. She could see a chunk, larger than most, landing a few, short feet from her position.
She gaped. Staring back at it in sheer disbelief as a simple revelation hit her. She was the only one left. These people, whoever they were, had slaughtered them, and now it was just her. She was the last line of defense between them and the princess.
Eyes hardening, she listened again for the barking blast of the gun as she could feel herself charging up her power once more. A sudden swirling column took form, like leafs floating around her as she stood up, power pouring through her body. She stood then letting the field surrounding her swirl faster and faster as she prepared her attack as she locked her eyes on the man who she'd seen gun down Haruka.
Only to see him hold up a wad of what looked like a grey rock from the duffel bag he'd reached and with his remaining, good hand, throw it straight at her. Her mind registered a moment of confusion, unable to quite believe he was resorting to throwing a...
Any other thoughts she'd had, were cut off as the grey material connected against the swirling course of electricity, and exploded, into a violent eruption of force and heat that tore into her body. For an instant, she felt nothing but a massive wave of pain crashing into her flesh. And in an instant, she was dead before the scream could leave her lips.
Xander fought down a growl as he shook his head to clear out the growing cob webs. His arm was still refusing to respond as he dug down into the duffel bag, and snarled slightly as he found mainly little of use. That had been the entirety of his C4, all to take down one lightning tossing girl that reminded him uncomfortably of Gwendolyn Post. He had a grenade or two left, his revolver was likely toast along with his axe, and he doubted he'd be able to use the rifle effectively at all.
Grunting softly, he adjusted the strap of the shotgun, maneuvering it to catch his still limp arm, allowing him to get at least some use out of it as the strap held it up enough for him to rest the gun on. It wouldn't help for cocking, but at least he could aim it with a modicum of control. Gritting his teeth, he focused on the numbed fingers for a moment, and nodded as he was able to twitch them, ever so slightly.
Slow and deep came his breath as he steadied himself, forcing the pulsing beat of his heart to calm as he slowly advanced on the electric girl's body. It took him a moment to step over the rubble and debris before he sighed softly as he looked down at her still smoldering corpse. Nodding his head, he took another, deeper breath before making his way towards Faith's remains.
He found her, half bisected by the blast, her eyes staring vacantly up into the air, her body ripped partially to pieces. Tears again falling down his face, he carefully crouched down, letting his fingers brush over her eyelids, closing them one last time. Then, when he stood, he again, he saw it.
The Scythe, almost completely unharmed as it lay a few feet away, strap still hanging limply against the light breeze in the air, almost calling out to him.
Wordlessly he stood, and just as silently did he walk to it. Standing over it, studying it for a moment before kneeling down. He touched it, only for a moment, half afraid to feel it biting back at him, to feel a sense of rejection, of dismissal. Instead, he felt his heart twist as it felt like nothing more than a cool, lifeless weapon.
Still he bowed his head almost reverently before it, before quietly lifting the strap, slinging it over his shoulder, securing it into place before again standing up.
With a hard, glinting look of determination in his eye, he purposely strode towards the waiting, crystalline structure.
“Usagi.” A black cat, spoke up, almost timidly as it looked up at a blonde woman, her hair done up in a pair of buns with pony tails trailing down from them, before swallowing hard. “I... I need to...”
“Luna?” Usagi blinked a bit as she lightly rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and yawned a bit before staring at the clock in horror. “Ugh, did I sleep in again? I'm so sorry! Oh man, Rei is gonna kill me!”
Luna flinched back at the words, feeling the lump growing in her throat, quickly steeling herself. She didn't have time for this! She could mourn later! “No, princess, we need to leave. Now.”
“Huh?” Usagi blinked back at her adviser, confusion written on her face. “Why?”
“Because... Because...” She struggled with the words, feeling the way she tripped over them as she stared up into the woman's entirely too innocent eyes.
“Maybe I should go get Ami? She can probably...” Usagi began as she started to inch towards the door.
“No!” Luna hissed out before she could finally feel the tether on her patience snapping. “She can't!”
“What're you talking about, Luna? Ami can always...” Again the confusion was written on her face as she stared back the cat.
“Because she's dead!” Luna hissed back, her eyes suddenly brimming with tears.
“What...?” Shock hit Usagi's voice as she froze in place, staring back at Luna as she slowly shook her head. “Come on, Luna, that isn't funny.”
“It wasn't supposed to be, you idiot!” Luna practically screamed at the woman as her eyes burned with tears. “They're DEAD! ALL OF THEM! We're the only ones left and we need to get out of here, NOW!”
“No.” Usagi whispered, staring back at the cat, disbelief written on her face, shaking her head. “No, there's no way that could happen. We're safe here. SAFE! That's why I made the shield! To keep us SAFE!”
“Well it didn't work!” Luna almost screamed back. “Artemis is dead! Your precious Mamoru is dead! We're all that's left!”
“Mamoru isn't dead.” Usagi shot back, slowly shaking her head. “Mamoru can't be dead! We... Everyone, we still have to found Crystal Tokyo! We... we have a whole future to save!”
“Well, it didn't happen!” Luna snapped back and hissed at the girl. “We need to GO! NOW!”
“I... No... I...” Usagi struggled for a moment, before staring down at her hands, before nodding her head as her face hardened into a resolve. “I... I can fix this. I can bring them back.”
“Princess, we don't know what could happen if you use that much power underneath the shield!” Luna cut in, staring incredulously back at the girl. “We...”
“I'm not going to do this alone. I'm not doing this without them.” Usagi repeated, staring back at Luna, before suddenly transforming into her uniform, holding a shining crystal in her hand. “I won't do this alone!”
“This isn't a game, Princess!” Luna insisted as she stared up at the determined look on Usagi's face. “This is real! They aren't....!”
“It's never a game.” Usagi stated back, before she slowly swallowed. “Where.... where are they? How, how did they....?”
“Die?” Luna bit back angrily. “I don't know how Setsuna, Rei, or Minako died. From what I can tell on the communicator, they put an explosive on Rei's body that killed Michiru and wounded Artemis. The others were all either shot, or had some manner of explosive used on them while I watched!”
“And you didn't wake me up?!” Usagi stared, horrified at her adviser.
“It happened too fast! Haruka, Ami, and Artemis were coming back, then all of a sudden...” She suddenly sobbed as she curled back on herself. “All of a sudden they were just dying!”
“I... Fine!” Usagi grit out and stared back at her. “Where are they?!”
“Most... most of them are outside, but Usagi, we have to go!” Luna practically shouted as she started to look around, almost completely terrified.
“I'm not running away.” Usagi stated simply as she head her head up high and squared her shoulders.
“You don't understand!” Luna hissed softly. “He's here! In the building! We need to get away now!”
“No! I am Sailor Moon! I am the Pretty Suited Defender of Love and Justice! I will stand and I will fight! I will save my friends and I will defend the world for peace, love and-” Usagi's speech was cut short as a blast of the shotgun filled the air, and the girl let off a strangled scream as she flinched back, dropping the crystal in her hands to the ground.
It bounced, with an almost melodic ting as it hit the cool crystalline floor, once, then again, and again, bouncing several times as it rolled away, falling through the open door and rolling a good distance before it was caught against the boot of a figure that send absolute chills down Luna's spine.
He crouched down, his fingers releasing the haft of the gun for a moment to pick up the glowing crystal, before dropping it into his shirt pocket as he reached down and let the shotgun rest against his torso as he cocked it almost purposely.
Xander stared down into the too intelligent, and terrified eyes of the cat, before flicking his gaze over to the girl who was struggling to prop herself on her elbows as she stared up at him with wild, panicked eyes. He shifted the gun again, pointing it coldly at her as he could feel the cold pit of anger starting to well up in his stomach. She was dressed, just a bit differently than the others, a bit more ornately, with a fallen scepter laying on the ground next to her.
“So, you'd be princess I'm guessing?” He watched the look of incomprehension blossoming across her face as he leveled the shotgun purposely at her head.
“STOP!” His eye flicked down to find the source of the voice, to find the cat staring up at him with glistening fearful eyes. “Why... why are you doing this?! What... what did we ever do to you?!”
“What did you do to me?” He repeated the words, his single eye burning as his gaze bore down on the blonde who found herself staring up to find only the cold promise of death in his eye. “What did you do to me.”
“Yes!” The cat repeated, her eyes shining as she stared up at the man. “What could we have possibly done to make you, you... slaughter us?!”
“You killed them.” He stated coldly as his finger tightened on the trigger. “You killed almost everyone I cared about. You ripped out their souls, you destroyed their minds, you made me watch them die.”
The words were hissed out, burning past his lips as his eye burned down into utterly confused looking girl in front of him. “You made me watch as they were ripped away, and you made us all watch as you killed the world.”
“We did no such thing!” The cat immediately protested as she angrily stared back at the man. “We made the shield to protect us, everyone here, from whatever was coming to kill the world!”
“The shield is what's killing the world you fucking idiot.” Anger, burned down in Xander's eye as he continued to glare back at girl. “Do you know what it's made out of? What she made it out of?!”
“Magic...” She began as if she were speaking to a child, before she was again cut off.
“Stolen magic and stolen souls. All of the world's magic. And tell me, do you know what happens when all of that magic is ripped away?” The finger, tightened millimeter by millimeter as he stared back at slowly calming girl in front of him.
“But... no... It... it can't... it was... was only supposed to take the magic out of things that were... were fighting...” Again the cat protested as she stared up at the man. “Not...”
“Fighting? FIGHTING?! That's how you determined it?!” He almost squeezed the trigger then and there, almost ended it before another word could be said. “What about those that were fighting to save the world? What about the ones who fought against the darkness? Who had saved the world by fighting the demons that wanted to rip it apart or dump it into Hell?!”
She faltered again, staring up at him as a look of slowly dawning realization began to cross her features. “... No...”
“And here's another clue for you. It's called survival of the fittest for a reason! Nature is one of the biggest conflicts of all! Where things are always fighting for survival!” Xander sneered now as he held the trigger even tighter almost, almost there.
“No... No... NO!” The protest turned, suddenly into a scream as Xander suddenly felt a digging impact in his side as suddenly the little cat was a full grown woman, stabbing a nail file into him with an almost insane force, jabbing it into his side again and again before he could force her off.
The blast took the cat turned woman straight in her stomach, blasting her back as she blood sprayed out across the room, splashing across the wide eyed blonde woman in its wake. The former cat stared back at him, trying, desperately to stand, to claw her away back at him as the blood poured out from her shredded midsection. And he cursed, loudly as he abandoned the shotgun and unslung the Scythe with his good arm, struggling up to his feet as he growled, ferally at the downed creature and planting the blade in its head.
As he planted his foot on the now still body, he could hear how the blonde girl suddenly began to scream. He refused to wince though, as it tore down into his ears, his side bleeding profusely from the still buried nail file. Dipping forward, just a bit too quickly, the glowing crystal he'd picked up earlier spilled out, landing in the growing pool of thick, red blood.
The instant the girl saw it, her screams had halted. The next, after a brief flash of hesitance had washed across her face, she lunged for the crystal with all her strength. A simple flash of hope and desperation.
Only to scream out loud as his boot smashed down on her wrist just before she could grab hold of it. Gripping hold of it, just below the stake still imbedded in its base, he swung the Scythe, smiling almost grimly as he could feel the back of its blade catching against the woman's face, and knocking her head back. Then, he flipped it around, and shifted slightly as he swung it once more, and suddenly the woman's screams rose to a new, almost fevered pitch as she jerked back and away from him, her arm now missing a hand at the wrist.
As she huddled back, clutching at the bloody stump of her wrist, his eye stared down, almost negligently kicking her severed hand away, as suddenly Whistler's words echoed fresh in his mind again as he fought back the wave of vertigo washing over his senses. Into possession of a powerful artifact. One that could destroy or create worlds.
“This is it, isn't it?” The words came thick and slow past his lips as he turned to glare at the girl for only a moment. “This... is what you used to make it... what you used to kill them.”
He ignored the way she stared back at him in terror, fear and incomprehension as he took a step back. Focusing, he pulled his limp arm up, forcing it to, demanding that it work as he let it help him guide the Scythe back, raising it above his head. “Well... Fuck that.”
And with that, he poured everything he had, everything he was, everything he had left into a sudden, brutal swing down as the girl began to scream in another protest.
Then, the Scythe struck the crystal, and the world went white.
The city of Tokyo stared as one as the massive, shimmering shield that had sprung into place when everything started to stop working, suddenly shuddered, buckled, and broke as a savage beam of light, erupted out, bursting the shield into a glimmering rain of sparkling shards that poured out into the waiting emptiness of the sky.
A column that seemed to light up the heavens themselves for a brief, impossible moment, before going still and vanishing again.
When it faded, a crater could be found, in what they would eventually deem the exact center of the dome. A crater the size of a small building. A crater, empty of anything save a strange, axe shaped weapon imbedded in the earth.
When the first investigators had arrived, driven beyond caution by the need to know, they felt the cool touch of a breeze lightly whispering against their skin.