Rei Hino kneeled on the floor with her eyes closed, and dressed in her red and white-robes. In front of her roared the temple's sacred flame, and to her right sat a black cat with a crescent-shaped spot on her forehead. Kneeling next to the shrine maiden was a girl with long blonde pig-tails, who was looking back and forth from the fire to the chanting girl. Usagi's expression conveyed worry as well as cautious optimism. Suddenly, the flames changed as a transparent picture appeared within.

"She's alive! Ami is alive!" the blonde let out a relieved cry even as she seemed to blur from her spot, tackling Rei in a joyful hug. Ears flattened against her head, Luna managed to jump aside just in time when the impact of the blonde missile sent both girls sprawling. Much to the cat's chagrin, the vision in the fire disappeared.

"USAGI!" the black-haired girl's temper flared. "Look what you have done now," she scolded, but her heart wasn't really in it.

The blonde, upon being reminded that her interruption had broken Rei's concentration, blushed and scratched her head in embarrassment. "Oops, sorry! But Ami isn't dead! Can you find out where she is?"

"I'll do my best," the taller girl promised and took position in front of the blazing flames again, closing her eyes and chanting a sequence of monosyllabic words. In response, the fire seemed to straighten. The shrine maiden began to speak. "Ami seems to be somewhere underground. A cave maybe?" Suddenly, her eyebrows shot up, and her voice was tinged with worry. "I sense that an enormous source of evil is with her."

Usagi's eyes widened in fright when a new picture appeared in the flames. This time, it wasn't her friend tossing and turning in her sleep. A monstrous, red-skinned devil with long, straight horns on its head was stalking through the underground chamber on massive, armour-clad hooves. In one hand, it held a wicked scythe. Suddenly, it stopped, and then slowly turned its head into the watchers' direction, until it seemed to stare straight at them with cruel yellow eyes, revealing a fanged grin and a dangling nose ring.

Rei opened her eyes with a start, and the image dispersed. She felt her heart beating rapidly.

"Rei! What was that thing? Did it see us?" Usagi blurted out, having scuttled backward from the sacred fire involuntarily.

"I don't think it could see us, but it felt someone watching," the priestess replied, absently petting Luna, whose hackles were standing on end.

The blonde thought about what they had seen. "But, if that youma is in there with Ami, that means - WAHHH! Ami has been taken prisoner by the Dark Kingdom!" As fast as the crying fit had come, it was over when a look of steely determination appeared on Usagi's face. "We have to help her!"

"How? We don't even know where the Dark Kingdom is!" the raven-haired girl snapped.

"But Rei..." Usagi whined, tears in her eyes. Suddenly, Luna found herself snatched off the ground and looking into Usagi's eyes. "Don't you have something we can use Luna? You have to come up with a plan!"

"I don't think so..."

"Try to remember! Ami needs our help!"

"Put poor Luna down, meatball head!" Rei shouted, saving the cat from being shaken by the desperate crybaby. The moon cat landed on all fours, somewhat shakily. "We will just have to take the fight to the Dark Kingdom! We should try to capture the next youma and force it to answer our questions!"

"Don't call me that! And how do you suggest..."

As the bickering started in earnest, Luna shook her head sadly. Why did it have to be the level-headed of her soldiers who got captured?

Ami awoke after a night of half-remembered nightmares to the sound of high-pitched squeals and stomping footsteps. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and got up, feeling rather stiff from sleeping on the barely padded floor. A twinge from her chest was an unpleasant reminder of her cracked rib. She stopped at the very narrow opening leading to the main chamber to see what all the noise was about. A squealing imp rushed past, little legs moving as quickly as they could. Hot on its heels was the Reaper, a gleeful grin on its face and scythe held high.

Ami grimaced. Why did she have to deal with something like this so soon after waking up. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!" she shouted, just as the Reaper cut the bug-eyed servant in twain from top to bottom. The two halves fell apart and then dissolved into motes of green light, and even the blood disappeared.

The red demon turned to look at the Keeper. "Just having some harmless fun. Don't worry, new ones just keep appearing as long as you have less than four." True to his words, a new imp was already jumping out of the dungeon heart's pit, surrounded by a greenish glow.

"That's not the point! You can't just go around killing them! They are intelligent beings that never have done anything to you!" once again, Ami felt herself horrified by the casual brutality of the Reaper.

The demon considered that point. 'Intelligent' wasn't the word he would use to describe imps. He shrugged. "Fine, I'll leave them alone." For now. He was feeling rather mellow after several hours of fun. How he had missed random mindless slaughter during the centuries of boredom. "Also, someone was scrying on us earlier," he added in the hopes of changing the topic. Slaps were annoying. "This means the location is no longer secure. It is about time that you stop fooling around and build this dungeon up to something respectable, raise an army, and build up your defences."

The blue-haired girl in the sailor fuku narrowed her eyebrows at him. "And what if I only want to find a way to get home?"

"Well, that would be a foolish waste of the opportunity to become rich, powerful and feared. In any case, you will need time to find a way back to wherever you came from - not an easy task, as you do not originate from this plane of existence, if my guess is correct. I have never before seen creatures like the ones in your book, and your type of magic is foreign to me. You do not have time. Someone is bound to show up sooner, rather than later. You need to be ready do defend yourself and your dungeon heart by then."

Watching the girl's expression, he concluded that she still seemed unconvinced. "Of course, if you just want to roll over and die, that's your prerogative. I will be free either way." "Why are you so convinced that anyone who shows up will automatically be hostile?" Ami asked finally, after mulling things over.

"Simple. You are a Dungeon Keeper. The best you can expect from other Keepers is being enslaved and becoming their loyal pet, if they see any potential in you. Unlikely, with the current state of your dungeon," the Reaper chuckled. "As for all others, they will see you as evil. Capital 'E' evil. And why should they not? As a dungeon keeper, you are already damned. Any good you do can only be a trick to enable greater evil at a later point. After all, the dark gods will claim your soul, and there can be no redemption for you. Much better for the heroes to just destroy you outright and make the world a better place."

Ami was silent for a long time after this, staring at the ground as her fingers clenched into fists. When she looked up, blue eyes flashed to red in anger for a moment. "And it's all your fault that this is happening to me," she snapped.

The demon leaned on his scythe and made a dismissive hand gesture. "I'm sure you'll come to appreciate it in time, once you have gotten used to it."

Frustrated, the furious senshi pondered whether the loathsome creature would die if she dug a deep enough pit and dropped him into it. Instead, she forced herself to calm down and get more vital information. "Is there any technical reason that necessitates that a dungeon heart be only used for evil?" Ami asked, crossing her arms in front of her chest defensively. The idea of being forced into the role of the villain still didn't appeal to her at all.

The Reaper made a face as if he had just smelled something vile. "Not using it for evil? Where would be the fun in that? But to answer your question: the process of creating a dungeon heart requires the blessing of at least one of the dark gods. Committing the blasphemy of using it for good," he snorted dismissively, "would ensure that they call a dark crusade against the fool attempting it. No single Keeper could hope to survive against the united might of all others."

His grin widened, and his yellow eyes shone with unholy glee. "In short, all you have to do is crush all the other Keepers before attempting such a thing! Go right ahead, it shall be glorious!"

Previous chapter: Next chapter:
Chapter 4: Some Unfortunate Truths Chapter 6: Basic Functionality




Annoted Comments

  • I recently re-watched anime season one, and was surprised to find out that Beryl did NOT do all of this to get Endymion/Mamoru. Sure, she's evil, but her goal was conquest. Capturing Tux Boy was Metallia's order (Beryl says so in episode 34), and Metallia later confirms this in a later episode during one of the brain-washing scenes. Something about him having compatible energies. Beryl also never shows any romantic interest in him. Even during the final confrontation with Sailor Moon, she treats him just like a minion. He seems to be around for gloating purposes mainly.
    Also, the youma are smart enough to operate in human society without raising alarms, well above animal intelligence. The idea of a mind-link with the generals is also far-fetched. If there was a mind-link, Jadeite should have known that Sailor Moon was the one who was killing his youma. He only found out about her in the third episode. Also, if he could direct them mentally, he wouldn't have gone through the trouble of using a pile of discarded television screens as a communication device to update the bat-youma's orders.
    Good point on the pamphlet language, though. However, if he doesn't know Japanese, how is he talking to Ami? Gift of Tongues, perhaps? But if that's the case, communication with other minions will be problematic at best.
    As for magical knowledge - what magical knowledge? Ami doesn't know any magic, beyond the pre-programmed senshi abilites. And secret information about the inner workings of dungeon hearts doesn't go into a library where any ambitious minion can just stumble over it, for obvious reasons.