Willow woke with a start, some instinct she couldn't describe immediately telling her that something was very wrong. Reaching over for her clock, she realized immediately what it could have been.
"Almost midnight?" she whispered. "I've slept through most of the evening? But that can't be what's wrong. Unless..."
She thought back to earlier in the day for a brief moment, remembering the last words Luna had said to her before she had left.
"I will be waiting when you are ready to believe me."
Willow wasn't entirely sure she was ready to believe everything the cat had told her, but she also knew that there was no other person who could help her figure out what it was that she was feeling. As she reached over to pick up the cell phone, she was surprised to find that as her fingers brushed against it, it began to ring of its own accord. Quickly moving to open it before the sound of the ring could awaken her mother, who certainly had to be home by now, Willow said in a hushed whisper, "Hello?"
"Willow, this is Luna. I need you to meet me at the mall. And hurry!"
Wondering for the briefest of moments if she was imagining this entire situation, if this was some sort of weird dream or waking nightmare and if what she was about to do was something that she would regret later, Willow quietly got up, got dressed, and made her way out the window.
As she did, she unconsciously grabbed the brooch that Luna had left for her, almost as if some part of her mind knew that she would need it.
Fifteen minutes later, after a hurried run that had left her nearly out of breath, Willow was outside the mall, brooch in hand and Luna at her side, watching as the most incredible scenario played out in front of her. Someone dressed in the most ridiculous outfit Willow had ever seen was fighting against two others in equally strange clothing and a creature born straight out of her worst nightmares.
"What's going on in there?" Willow asked, the question flying from her before she realized how stupid it sounded.
Luckily, Luna didn't appear to mind, shaking her head slightly as she replied, "The Dark Kingdom has struck the first blow. But it appears that things may not be as bad as I feared. It seems that Artemis was able to awaken one of the Princess' Guardians."
"Indeed I was."
Willow and Luna turned and saw an entirely white furred cat with the same crescent moon marking on its forehead as Luna appear out of the shadows. "And it seems like you were equally successful, Luna."
"Indeed I was," Luna nodded before looking up at Willow. "Though if you ask me, I would have preferred to have been in your place."
"How do you figure?" Artemis asked.
"Yours appears to have fully accepted the Sailor Soldier way of life," Luna said, gesturing with her head up towards Willow. "I can barely get this one to wrap her head around the fact that she has a special destiny."
Despite the ridiculous scenario playing out in front of her, with a battle going on inside the mall and two cats talking to one another, Willow couldn't help but feel exasperated, hearing that word again making the situation feel no different than the countless other times that Tara, Amy, her mother and her teachers had used it when talking to her. "Everyone's always telling me that I've got a special destiny and that I need to live up to my potential and accept it. Well, I would truly like to do that. I really would. I just have a hard time accepting that my destiny is to protect the world from evil."
"She thought as such once," Artemis said, clearly speaking of the one currently engaged in battle. "But she has come to accept her new life, as will you."
"There is no time to waste, Willow," Luna said, bringing the three of them uncomfortably back to the present. "Get in there and help Sailor Venus."
"But how?" Willow asked, clearly wanting to help whoever was inside, yet unsure as to how that could be accomplished.
"Do you still have that brooch I gave you earlier?"
Willow held it up. "Yes."
"Good. Then say, 'Moon Prism Power Make Up,' and transform into Sailor Moon!"
Willow, clearly left with no other viable option that seemed reasonable, decided to do as Luna said. Placing the brooch around her neck, she effected a battle stance that felt completely out of character for her, and prayed that whatever was about to happen would be enough to help the one inside.
"Moon Prism Power Make Up!"
Three to one odds were definitely not something that was a good thing to have in a fight, especially if you happened to be on the losing side. Which made Spike all the more glad that, despite the inexperience of his comrade, they had managed to do serious harm to the one who had claimed that she would stop them in their task.
Truth be told, in the first few moments after she had arrived, it seriously appeared as if she would truly be able to best them. But the odds, clearly not being in her favor, had forced the blonde to overexert her abilities, stretching her nearly to the breaking point. Since that time, the three had been able to overcome her, putting her in serious danger. Yet despite the impossible odds she faced, this person continued to valiantly fight against them, almost as if she expected to win despite the odds.
An admirable trait, but one that would prove to be her undoing.
"Quickly," he shouted. "Let us finish her off before anyone else comes to interfere with our plans."
"Too late for that hope, foul villains!"
The three villains, along with their fallen foe, found their attention drawn upward once more at the sound of that voice, seeing a female that the villains noted had certain features that reminded them of their newly beaten enemy. This newcomer had blonde hair much like her, and wore a similar outfit that also included elbow length gloves and decorative bows, but that was where the similarities ended. The newcomer's blonde hair was done up in two pigtails on either side of her head, supported by two small buns and decorative barrettes that gave the person the appearance of bunny ears. Red circles with white frames were affixed to those buns, and a red jeweled tiara lay on the person's forehead. And whereas their first enemy had worn orange shoes, this one wore pink knee high boots.
"Queen Faith didn't tell us that we might be facing this much opposition," Xander spat.
"Queen Faith didn't expect us to have any opposition to face," Spike retorted, drawing his sword and pointing it at the newcomer. "I demand to know who you are."
Affixing a battle pose much as their fallen opponent had done earlier, the newcomer said, "I am the Beautiful Soldier of Love and Justice, Sailor Moon. And in the name of the Moon, I shall punish you!"
"I don't believe this," Spike growled. Turning to the creature, he pointed to the newcomer. "Magda, Xander, eliminate her!" Looking down at Venus, he smiled. "I'll take care of this one."
"Yes, Lord Spike." The monster nodded and leapt into the air, hand extended and ready to strike, Xander moving to follow.
As the two departed, Spike looked down at the body of his opponent, the tip of his sword jabbing into her side. "Such a pitiful creature." Raising his sword to deliver a killing blow, he was surprised to find himself thinking how easy this was.
He suddenly became aware of how wrong that feeling was when the girl opened her eyes and leapt to her feet, unwrapping the chain she had around her waist and snapping it towards Spike's weapon arm as if it were a whip.
"Venus Love-Me Chain!"
The tip of the chain impacted against Spike's arm, causing him to drop the blade in his hand and clutch at his wounded extremity with the other. Letting out a snarl that was half due to the pain and half at his disgust over how quickly the situation had turned, he reached out to pick up his sword with his uninjured arm, turning to face the girl once more.
But in the brief moment that he had been distracted, she had apparently decided to take the opportunity to depart.
Letting out a growl that ended in a series of curses, Spike created a portal and teleported back to the Dark Kingdom. He silently hoped that Xander and Magda would be enough to deal with these interlopers, and knew that he, much like them if they survived, would have to face Queen Faith over this failure.
That was one prospect he did not enjoy in the slightest.
Willow couldn't believe what she had just done. One minute she had been confident and brave, prepared to give her best effort to help the one Luna called Sailor Venus. The next, she was giving her best effort no to try and get attacked by a vicious monster that seemed hell bent on killing her.
Luna had said that she had been chosen to be a great warrior. But if there was one thing she was feeling at this moment, it wasn't the heart and soul that a warrior should possess. Indeed, every instinct of her being cried out and told her to run away from the situation as fast as she could.
But she knew that she couldn't. She had to stand and fight. But how could she do that when she felt more afraid now than she had ever been in her life?
The monster had seen fit to emphasize that point by taunting her mercilessly. "Come here, little one. I promise I will make this quick and painless."
Letting out a frightened yelp, Willow dove under a nearby table and tried to crawl away, only to quickly find her path blocked by a second individual. Squealing in fear, she scrambled to try to find somewhere else to hide.
"What do I do?" she said as she came out from under cover and ran towards the doors she knew to be locked, effectively trapping her. "What do I do?"
Willow looked up to find Luna perched precariously on the armrest of the flight of stairs nearby. "Luna," she said in a panic. "I don't know what to do. That...that whatever it is...it's too strong."
"Don't worry," Luna said. "Look within yourself. Find the power that lies within your heart, and you will know what to do."
Willow gave the cat a curious glance, wondering what exactly it was that she was talking about. She was about to reply when she could feel something deep within the pit of her stomach. An almost primal instinct, as if she had left her body and left all control of her higher body functions to the darkest part of her mind. The part of her that subconsciously told her to be cruel to animals, that told her to do naughty things and to fight back against those who had picked on her.
Willow had fought the voice before, telling herself that she was better than that and that she didn't have to resort to her most basic instincts in order to win an argument with someone else. This time, however, the voice could mean the difference between life and death.
So she did something she had rarely done before: she listened to the voice, allowing the power she felt deep inside her to flow from her in waves.
And with that, Willow was on her feet, moving about in ways she had never before been able to do. Dodging the attacks of the monster, she performed a back flip, sending the toe of one of her boots directly into its chin, knocking it off balance. She followed this up by delivering a swift roundhouse kick to the creature's midsection, knocking it to the ground.
Reaching out with one hand to prepare herself to deliver another blow. Willow felt some of the energy she had found coalesce itself into an object which formed in her hand. Bringing her arm down, Willow was surprised to find a strange looking pink wand in her hand. It was decorated with little jewels and was topped off by a silver crescent moon.
Without knowing how, Willow knew that this was a powerful item, and that it was definitely needed now. Affecting a defensive stance, Willow let out a breath and spoke the phrase she knew would activate her newly acquired weapon.
"Moon Healing Escalation!"
Light emerged from the wand, cascading itself over the monster, who let out a terrible shriek that took all of Willow's willpower to withstand. Within moments, it had been wrapped in the light, the scream fading as it shifted back into the recognizable form of Amy's mother, who collapsed to the ground unconscious.
Looking at the wand in shock, almost as if she couldn't believe that she had been responsible for what had just happened, Willow let out a squeal. "I...I did that?" Surprise soon gave way to unbridled excitement, and she jumped into the air. "That was cool!"
Coming down the stairs, Luna paused as she reached the bottom. "Well done, Sailor Moon. I knew you could do it."
Willow turned to look at Luna, allowing a smile to form on her face. Unfortunately, this left her back exposed to the remaining enemy, who, seeing his foe exposed, withdrew a small knife and threw it at her.
"Sailor Moon! Look out!"
Willow turned to find the knife coming at her, and knew that she wouldn't be able to move out of its path in time. She closed her eyes and prepared for the end, but was instead surprised to find herself knocked off her feet and sent sprawling several feet away, safely out of the path of the incoming knife.
Opening her eyes, Willow looked into the face of her rescuer, a person she quickly discovered to be a female clad in a tuxedo, with a top hat on her head and a cape draped across her back. Willow couldn't tell who she was, as her face was obscured by a white mask over her blue eyes.
"Are you all right?" this person asked, helping Willow to her feet.
"Ye...Yes," Willow managed to stammer out as she looked for the one who had thrown the knife. Finding him gone, she brought her attention back to her rescuer, fighting to control a blush that threatened to turn her face a deep red.
With a nod, the tuxedo clad figure began to walk away, the cape billowing behind her. Willow moved to follow, watching as she walked down the hallway towards the open window nearby, obviously how she had managed to get inside. Willow couldn't figure out who this person was, but there was something about her that felt somewhat...familiar, as if, despite the fact that she had never seen her before, they knew each other.
"Who are you?" she called out.
The person turned, tilted her head, and smiled, if ever so slightly. "A friend." And with a tip of her hat, she stepped out the open window.
Willow stood rooted to the ground as Luna approached, looking down the hallway at empty air.
"Sailor Moon...is everything all right?"
Willow nodded. "Yes, Luna. It's just that....that person. She saved my life, and I don't know who she is."
"I think that it would be best not to dwell on that," Luna admonished. "We have more important things to worry about."
"Indeed we do," came the voice of Artemis, coming towards them, the one Luna identified as Sailor Venus at his side. "I think that it's time for our Soldiers to reveal to themselves their civilian identities."
"I don't think that's a good idea, Artemis," Venus said. "From the look of things, she isn't exactly the type of person I could see being worthy of my trust. You saw how she handled herself in battle. If that's the type of person whose hands I'm expected to put my life in, I'd rather work on my own."
"But you have to look beyond appearances, Venus," Artemis replied, his tone of voice neutral. "Remember how you behaved the first time you had to face an enemy."
"That was different," Venus scoffed. "I was facing petty criminals and thieves. That allowed me to prepare for this sort of battle. I had the experience that allowed me to handle what happened here tonight." She gave Willow a glance that appeared to be positively disgusted. "She doesn't."
"But she will," Luna said. "And the best way to help her will be to have the help and support of her fellow Soldiers. And in order to trust one another, I think that the first thing that the two of you should do is reveal who you are in your daily lives."
Venus reluctantly nodded, a light shining from her body as her Soldier uniform reverted back to her civilian clothes, Willow's uniform following suit. Several seconds later, the two were back to their normal selves, looking across at the person in front of them, almost as if they couldn't believe who they were looking at.